Students worried for interdisciplinary programs

With an academic review underway at the Faculty of Arts and Science, student groups are expecting large spending cuts to interdisciplinary programs at U of T. A previous external review in March 2008 had recommended that the university re-evaluate the role of traditional interdisciplinary programs and take steps to control the growth of new programs. The three-member committee, comprised of faculty from other universities, noted that U of T had added 15 new interdisciplinary programs since 2005 and argued that such expansion was unsustainable.

At a town hall meeting organized by the health studies and equity studies student unions on Tuesday, students saw the review as part of a general trend towards undervaluing interdisciplinary programs at U of T, especially following recent cuts in South Asian Studies.

Attendees discussed how to respond to the review. In attendance were members of academic student unions for women and gender studies, Caribbean studies, and South Asian studies, as well as TYP students and UTSU execs. (Disclosure: Two Varsity staff members are also execs of the South Asian Studies Students’ Association.)

“The decisions being made in the review are affecting every single aspect of student life on campus,” said Faraz Vahid Shahidi, a third-year student. “Everything from what sort of programs are available to how many faculty we have and what kind of research is available to us.”

The current review calls on each college to submit a five-year plan to the Dean’s Office by Dec. 15. Colleges are asked to argue compellingly for their programs and “not to assume that the status quo will necessarily apply in the future.”

“If the university were to lose the more critical programs that focus on things like equity, the diversity of programs offered at this school would really suffer,” said Marrison Stranks, president of the Health Studies Student Union.

University officials, however, cautioned against speculating about how the review will affect individual programs.

“It is very important for students to understand that there are no foregone conclusions in this process,” wrote professor Suzanne Stevenson, vice dean of teaching and learning, in an e-mail.

Stevenson, who sits on the committee that will evaluate the colleges’ plans, said that the allocation of funds will depend on a case-by-case evaluation.

“We expect detailed and feasible plans that clearly indicate how the unit will help us to achieve the Faculty’s goals in the areas of undergraduate and graduate education and research,” she wrote.

In response to objections brought forth by the student groups stating that they have not been appropriately consulted in the process, Stevenson said that individual programs were explicitly required to speak with students.

Stranks said many students are still not aware that their programs are on the chopping block.

“I think because [Health Studies is] a small program, and we have a director who’s informed about these issues and wanted to involve students, we were given more background information than other course unions,” she said. “[I]n other course unions, having spoken to them, it was a much more passive process where students were giving feedback and not aware of the repercussions of the review.”

Stranks said she thinks student participation in this process should be mandatory.

“We should have voices in what programs are offered,” she added.

Professor Paul Hamel, director of health studies at University College, also felt that the review would entail significant changes for the faculty.

“I think [the review] does have some very strong bearing on what programs are going to be mounted and the type of university it’s going to be in the near future,” he said. “What it’s doing is providing people with an opportunity to cut things that they’ve wanted to get rid of for a long time.”

The prospect of such cuts drew impassioned reaction from the attendees at Tuesday’s town hall.

“Really, though, why we advocate for [critical and area studies] programs is just the emphasis on what’s intrinsic to the mandate of the university,” said Shahidi. “In the university’s mandate, it talks about critical thinking and engaging with one another in ways that are challenging and novel. These programs cater to this sort of environment.”

The committee that evaluates the planning submissions will meet from January to March next year and implement any changes on an ongoing basis.

Lieutenant Werner

Werner Herzog would like to make something very clear about his new film, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. You know that 1992 film called Bad Lieutenant? The one directed by Abel Ferrara, starring Harvey Keitel, and the “inspiration” for Herzog’s film (at least according to the studio press notes)? Forget about it. There’s no relation.

“I know you changed the location from New York to New Orleans,” says a journalist at a roundtable interview with Herzog during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, “but how else did you make this remake your own film?”

“Explain ‘remake,’” intones Herzog gravely in his deep German accent.

“Uh…”

“What is a remake? Explain it.”

“Uh…uh…”

He leans forward, and continues talking in a foreboding monotone. “Explain it. You are the one who is challenged now.”

“Uh… well, it’s based on the film by Abel Ferrara…”

“No, it is not. How is it based on the film by Abel Ferrara?”

The journalist is practically quivering. “Uh…well, it has sort of a similar…I mean…”

“It is not. What is similar? Not one scene.”

“You’re right. It’s not similar,” she interjects.

“Okay, so why do you use that term?” A pause, before his voice lightens. “Because it is floating around?” Herzog’s famously frowning mouth breaks into a smile, and everyone laughs. “It was just a title that was owned by one of the producers, and they hoped to own some sort of a franchise. It’s nothing to do with the other film.”

No kidding. Both films centre around a corrupt police lieutenant plunging into sex, drug, and gambling addictions, but where the original was gritty, intense, and charged with Catholic guilt, Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is more of a weird, over-the-top ride. If the lieutenant were asked to make a film about himself while at his most intoxicated, it would look something like this.

The film is set in a pungently atmospheric post-Katrina New Orleans, a nightmare version of the city where prostitutes are on every street corner and the sun shines on the demolished Lower Ninth Ward so brightly that it’s almost cruel.

“The screenplay was written either for New York or Detroit,” says Herzog, “and there was a purely financial reason. The producer, Avi Lerner, said, ‘Could you consider to do it in New Orleans? Because we have these fantastic tax incentives in Louisiana.’ And I said, ‘Sure! Wonderful! Can’t get any better! Let’s move it along!’”

“You can see that the city in a way is a leading character,” he continues, “but I always avoided [having] the kinds of New Orleans clichés: Bourbon Street, and jazz musicians, and you just name it. There’s dozens of clichés that I circumnavigated…I think New Orleans apart from the postcard clichés becomes very palpable.”

This is one of the best movies of the year, but here’s the real surprise: it’s the funniest movie Herzog has ever made. Framed by a brilliant, maniacal lead performance by Nicolas Cage, Bad Lieutenant starts as a standard police procedural drama and quickly, unashamedly descends into crazy-town. Who but Herzog would fill a cop drama with lines like, “Don’t you have a lucky crack pipe?” Who else would have the lieutenant say, “Shoot him again! His soul is still dancing!” and then actually show a corpse’s soul dancing? Who else would be mad enough to have our hero hallucinate iguanas, and then linger on the iguanas in extreme close-up for a full minute?

Herzog describes Bad Lieutenant as a new kind of film noir. “In the classic ’40s, ’50s film noir, the darkness is an all-pervading, oppressive force that stifles everything. In this film noir, it’s all joyful: a bliss”—he practically licks his lips on this word—“a bliss of evil…[Cage] asked me why is [the lieutenant] so bad? And I said, ‘Oh come on, don’t bore me with conceptual questions! Let’s focus on one single thing: there is such a thing as the bliss of evil.’”

“It seems to me,” I say, “that you took the archetypes of film noir and sorta kicked them into high gear.” He smiles broadly. “It’s probably in overdrive! It’s somewhere beyond it. It spins not out of control, but it spins into a different stratum.”

An octogenarian journalist chimes in. “I don’t understand this ‘bliss of evil.’ I’ve never felt it. I’ve felt bliss of goodness, but I don’t get ‘bliss of evil’ at all.”

For a moment it appears that Werner Herzog, that fearsome warrior of cinema, willing to risk life and limb to pull a steamship over a mountain in Fitzcarraldo or climb an active volcano in La Soufrière, is actually at a loss for words. He smiles again. “Uh…you are speaking of personal life, and I am speaking of movies—figments of fantasies. So, sure, we have to make a distinction.” A pause. “And you have probably lived a blessed life so far.”

She shrugs her shoulders and shakes her head. Herzog sighs. “Well, whatever…”

*Bad Lieutenant is in theatres Nov. 20.*

Got an idea?

If you have an idea that would improve student life on campus, there’s a fund with your name on it. The Good Ideas Fund gives students and student groups awards of up to $1,000. The application requires background information, a project description, a budget summary, promotions plans, and intended outcomes. Those who receive funding also have to submit a final report upon completing the project.

“It’s really about us fulfilling our mandate to the university to provide student engagement and student programming,” said Jennifer Newcombe, coordinator of programme and assessment at Hart House.

Fund applications are evaluated by a five-student committee, selected every August based on past involvement and diversity in demographics and faculty affiliations.

Priority is given to activities or projects that are open to all students and promote cultural diversity and collaboration among student groups. Applications for the fund have been steadily rising. So far, 26 have been submitted this academic year.

“The most challenging piece for students is the timeframe. Either they haven’t heard about the fund, or they haven’t submitted an application far enough in advance […] to use the resources to the maximum,” said Newcombe. “Budgets can [also] be a bit of a challenge for people.”

The fund currently has an annual budget of $20,000 and finances everything from small undertakings to large conferences. It also provides guidance on organization. “The fund is really committed to making sure that students who apply are aware of other opportunities on campus,” Newcombe said.

A day-long conference on “Decolonizing our Minds,” held by the Equity Studies and Caribbean Studies student associations on Feb. 21, received funding from the Good Ideas Fund as well as the Arts and Science Students’ Union and the New College Student Council. The conference featured academics, community activists, and artists in a series of panel discussions and presentations.

“The conference was looking at education and the space that we have for critical thought […] and re-analyzing it from an equity studies standpoint and looking at it as a site of oppression for many people,” said Isabel Lay, the current president of the Equity Studies Student Association.

“It was very important to have access to this fund. Especially the location that our union and [where] the students that we work with are coming from—our students are the most marginalized body of students at this university—it tends to be tricky to get funding,” said Lay.

Oxfam U of T also received funding, for a Women’s Day documentary screening of Sisters on the Planet and a candle-making workshop for 30 attendees. The event received $80. Participants had the option of donating candles to a local women’s shelter.

“One of the big issues of us getting money for this is that we wanted to get materials that are ethically sourced, which obviously can cost a little more sometimes,” said Leanne Rasmussen, co-president of Oxfam U of T. “It was nice having the Good Ideas Fund. We could get the best materials from a good source and not have to worry about how we were going to come up with the cost to cover that.”

Grecian dream

“The way I see it, I’m directing Shakespeare for my 70-year-old dad,” laughs Jeremy Hutton, director of Hart House Theatre’s upcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “My dad always falls asleep during movies, he always has, ever since I was a kid. So basically when I’m directing, I stage it as if I’m trying to keep my father awake for the whole show. And if I can do that, I feel like it’s a success.”

Hutton sits in the bowels of the theatre, stroking a newly-sprung scruffy beard and smiling nervously. In the brick-laden underbelly of Hart House, the sounds of a matinee performance of Romeo and Juliet echo from above, prompting Hutton to pause every so often and scan the room thoughtfully. Hutton has worked for Hart House Theatre for five years, directing their annual Shakespeare show. This year, he takes on the energetic and beloved comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream with what he describes as the best cast he’s ever had at Hart House.

“The cast is big, and I feel pretty lucky to have this kind of talent. They’re strong actors who make strong choices. I mean, we’re not just standing around and resetting Shakespeare.”

His rendition of the well-known tale of crossed lovers and fairy tricks takes place in Athens in the late 19th and early 20th century—a period which Hutton believes exemplifies the paternal and repressed society that Shakespeare portrayed.

“It’s barren, stuffy, dark, mean, patriarchal, and then this gypsy caravan pulls up onto the stage, and this chaos of colour enters the world. The lovers leave this world into the forest, where they have license and possibility,” Hutton explains. “With possibility comes licentiousness. And the fairies give them freedom. It’s free, transient, moving and flowing. They go to a place where anything is possible and everything is permissible.”

Hutton explains that they’ve hired specific dancer/actors to play the roles of the gypsy fairies. He also promises that by the end of the play, all four of the lovers will have lost most of their clothing. But, he continues with a wry grin, there won’t be any breasts or genitalia in the show.

“I mean, my original idea was just to get them all naked and covered in body paint, but the theater wouldn’t go for it,” he deadpans. “I mean, boobies!” He stops.

“No, there’s no boobies, and I didn’t actually want them naked,” he back-peddles, as a member of the publicity team looks up from his desk with a concerned glance.

“But seriously, the show is energetic, dead sexy, and not your grandmother’s Midsummer… there’s obviously a lot of sexual humour, and I have great actors who are ready to exploit that aspect. And I’m ready to go down that road as long as it’s hilarious—and not awkward. It’s a hard line to toe, especially because we have a few high school matinees lined up, with grade nine-ers. If things get too risqué, we get some teacher complaints.” He pauses for a moment. “I think we might actually get a few this time around.”

“As a director, I like a sense of play,” he explains. “I find that if actors aren’t enjoying what they’re doing, the audience can definitely tell. Even if I’m doing a horribly depressing tragedy, I want the actors to have fun, and I want the energy to spark.”

All in all, Hutton has come a long way from his first experience with A Midsummer’s Night Dream, where he led a chorus of Pucks and donned bright green trousers, a silver cape, and nothing else.

“I got quite a few bruises during that show,” he muses.

*A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at Hart House Theatre from Nov. 20 to Dec. 5. Student tickets are $10-15. For more information, visit harthousetheatre.ca.*

Best poets’ society

“I don’t like the idea of characterizing my own poetry. I like sitting in the middle of it and thinking of it as being incomprehensibly vast and various.”

Professor Albert Moritz speaks slowly, searching with determination for the perfect combination of words in conversation. As the poet, academic, and former journalist speaks about the written word, Moritz’s reverence for craft and passionate opinions about the role of poetry in society almost mask a disarmingly wry sense of humour.

The professor of Victoria College’s Vic One program, who has written poetry his entire life, recalls with irony his first poem: a lyrical eight lines written in ballad form, celebrating the pastoral pleasures of working in his garden.

“I was very close to nature,” he states solemnly, before breaking down into a small smile.

His passionate undertakings have taken him from his career as a poet working part-time gigs in journalism and advertising to get by to a successful publishing career. Moritz was awarded the Griffin Prize in poetry in June for his collection The Sentinel. The award honours one Canadian and one international poet a year, and past winners have included Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje.

More recently, Moritz just finished working as the guest editor for the second annual collection, The Best Canadian Poetry in English, which launched on Nov. 11.

Moritz gestures to his packed bookshelves, cluttered with stacks of literary magazines covered in post-it notes.

“You can see some of the remains of the project on my shelf,” he explains. “I went through all of the issues printed in 2008 of about 54 magazines. It was a hard work, because it was a lot of work. But it was good to survey a year’s work across Canada. And while you can’t claim that there isn’t a lot of material that’s mediocre and boring, there’s a surprising amount that’s very good.”

“I look for the combination of energy or power with perfection,” he continues. “Often people think those two things are separate. But that separation is a cliché of our time, and represents nothing but weak thinking. Something that is excellent is going to maintain the maximum power within the maximum finish. It will have both energy and beauty.”

The Best Canadian Poetry in English contains 50 works by 50 separate Canadian authors. A list of the magazines surveyed appears in the index of the collection, as well as a note from each author represented. Moritz also authored an introductory essay about the state of Canadian poetry today.

“Although there’s many things that you can discover in the anthology, there is a kind of theme of a great respect for being. This respect comes through a focus on a specific subject, and a respect or veneration for the things that exist, and that we see. It might be a person observed in the street, or some kind of an old abandoned building, but there is this respectful attentiveness towards the ‘thing’ and its relation to reality,” he says as he begins to explain the role of poetry in society.

“Poetry is the combination of looking with venerating attention at reality, and at the same time, by that same method, provoking shipwreck in human concepts,” he explains. “Poetry is freer than other human endeavours. It’s the place where you’ll find truth spoken. You’ll see inspiring things, and terrifying things, and you’ll go beyond reality into a realm of concepts. In this way, poetry is the most central human endeavour. That is also why it is the most ignored.”

Moritz explains that for him, the hallmark of good writing or creating is complete absorption. Writing poetry is his entrance into “a time that is both outside of time and before time.” His passion and reverence for the craft is refreshing, and his rhetorical awareness of the meaning of poetry is compelling.

Ultimately, Moritz explains that poetry is not limited as an intellectual endeavour, and that no creator functions under the pressure of considering the impact of their creation on society. Instead, poetry and poetical inspiration are available to everyone, all the time. Often there are moments of awareness that some notice, and others miss.

“I might be standing somewhere—and I think that almost everybody has had this kind of experience—and suddenly, from up in front of you flies a bird, and maybe it’s a bright red bird, but because you’ve been startled, or because of your receptivity at that moment, it suddenly seems to you an appearance out of nowhere like a messenger sent to you. And at least for a moment, you think, you’ll remember it always. And maybe you’ll realize that in every moment, and in every appearance, there could be the vastness and wonder that you felt. That’s inspiration.”

*The Best Canadian Poetry in English is published by Tightrope Books.*

Sex, food, and climate change

Roughly two centuries ago, British thinker Thomas Malthus famously predicted that human overpopulation would result in food shortages and mass famine. “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man,” he said. For a long time, his idea that mass famine would overtake humanity was rejected out of hand by those who pointed to industrial agriculture and vastly increased crop yields. Industrial agriculture proved him wrong, or so the textbooks said.

Malthus’s ideas are now back in vogue as global food futures are uncertain, due to a devastating combination of fresh water depletion; drought caused by climate change; the collapse of the world’s oceans; an increase in fuel prices (as global oil supplies peak); soil erosion caused by excessive pesticide use; and the replacement of agricultural lands by biofuel crops.

From 1940 to the present, the world’s human population more than doubled to about 6.6 billion, and is projected to be about 10 billion by 2050. An International Panel on Climate Change report says that by 2080, 1.1 to 3.2 billion people will experience water scarcity, 200 to 600 million will be starving, and 2 to 7 million people each year will experience coastal flooding. The population is expected to plummet after the year 2050 due to famine, drought, disease, and war, exacerbated by climate change and peak oil.

Curbing overpopulation to mitigate climate change is also contentious due to the widely held view that reproduction is an inviolable right, and fears that coercive measures will be used to limit populations, like those used in China. The counterview holds that reproduction ought not to be considered an inviolable right when we’ve already exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet, and the consequences are inevitably so tragic.

One solution is to simply prevent unwanted pregnancies. Contraception is widely viewed as a viable and necessary solution by most people who write on this subject. According to the London School of Economics, contraception is almost five times cheaper as a means of preventing climate change than conventional green technologies.

But there’s a dispute over whether efforts to curb population growth should be a priority while those in the industrial north are still consuming many times more than those in the global south, and are responsible for global warming to a much greater degree.

George Monbiot, columnist for The Guardian and environmental activist, recently criticized those who talk about overpopulation while neglecting to mention the north-south inequity on greenhouse gas emissions. “While there’s a weak correlation between global warming and population growth, there’s a strong correlation between global warming and wealth,” he said.

Responding to Monbiot is Ryerson physics professor Helmut Burkhardt. He says, “It’s important to expose the misconceptions that only overconsumption is the cause of ecological problems, and not overpopulation. A drastic reduction of the few overconsumers, and reasonable and just increase in consumption by the numerous poor will raise the world average consumption of resources in a planet already suffering from ecological stress near the tipping point.”

In other words, even if we greatly reduce our carbon footprints in Canada while China and India continue to urbanize and industrialize, we will not be able to avoid the much-feared “tipping point” of catastrophic climate change, with disastrous consequences for all.

The reality is that if the practice of contraception is not widely adopted, another type of population control will be implemented: mass murder. Richard Heinberg, author of Powerdown, posits several types of future communities. The type he calls “Last Man Standing” neatly describes an all too common attitude among the over-privileged of the world: let the developing world—namely sub-Saharan Africa—die, and we will hoard all the resources for ourselves. This might also be called the fascist solution to overpopulation. The reality is that corporate and government inaction on climate change—including the Harper government’s failures on this front—already represents this morally callous depopulation program, albeit indirectly.

A study titled Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost, says that every seven dollars spent on family planning over the next four decades would reduce global CO2 emissions by more than a ton. We are still at a critical point in history when we can rationally discuss sane options, such as contraception and family planning education, and implement them with relatively little cost.

Science for Peace presents a Public Forum on Food and Population on Friday, Nov. 20, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Koffler Auditorium, 569 Spadina Ave.

Khadr come home

The Supreme Court of Canada is currently hearing the second appeal by the Harper Conservatives on a Federal Court ruling that found that the fundamental human rights of Torontonian Omar Khadr have been violated during his illegal detention at the infamous U.S Bagram air base and Guantanamo Bay facilities. The court has, yet again, ordered the government to seek Khadr’s repatriation. The original Federal Court ruling emphasized CSIS violations of Khadr’s rights, and would have forced Harper to fulfill his constitutional responsibility to the lone Western national remaining in Guantanamo (and the only child soldier charged with war crimes in modern history) had the government not appealed, again.

Simultaneously, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khadr’s case would be heard by internal military commissions, condemned by human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch as “kangaroo courts”—courts where verdicts are predetermined—while the five 9/11 suspects held at Guantanamo would be tried fairly in civilian court.

The logic behind this bizarre disparity is simple: while tenable charges can be brought against the 9/11 suspects, it is correctly expected that Khadr would be instantly acquitted in constitutional court. Hence, he is being tried in a forum that will yield the authorities’ preferred result—a conviction.

The decision to render Khadr to these farcical and secretive commissions—which admit they gather evidence through torture—rather than the constitutional, transparent civilian courts which are to try the 9/11 suspects, translates as a blithe admission that the Pentagon has absolutely no case against Khadr, and knows it.

Military officials argue that Khadr’s alleged 2002 battlefield killing of U.S. medic Sgt. Christopher Speer constitutes “murder in violation of the laws of war” because Khadr was not part of a regular military force. But at the same time, these officials refuse Khadr his Geneva and child-soldier rights. Incidentally, many aspects of his detention constitute serious war crimes, and the evidence against him is circumstantial at best.

Although prosecutors maintain that Khadr killed Speer, no witnesses claim to have seen him throw the deadly grenade. Furthermore, there were battlefield reports—suppressed by the Pentagon—that exonerated him of the killing, before being secretly “updated” to implicate him after he was charged, said the Criminal Investigation Task Force Witness Report from March 2004. According to the Los Angeles Times. his defence lawyers have been groundlessly refused access to exculpatory documents and key witnesses.

Reporting his capture, a U.S. soldier claimed to have shot Khadr (then 15 years old) twice in the back while Khadr knelt, unarmed and wounded, in the wreckage of a bombed-out house.

The “case” against Khadr relies on his “confession” which was coerced illegally at Bagram, one of the world’s most notorious torture labs, under the chief interrogation of Sgt. Joshua Claus. Claus later pled guilty to the beating-death of an Afghani civilian, whom he “interrogated” until the civilian’s legs were so swollen that his heart stopped. According to The New York Times, his torturers believed the civilian had “simply happened to be driving his cab past the U.S. base at the wrong time.”

Needless to say, no civilian court would admit a confession that was given while the defendant was being tortured by a murderer, although the military commissions, ghoulish relics of the Bush-Cheney era, make no such quibble. It is also suspect that the commissions punished Sgt. Claus with five months imprisonment, whereas Khadr faces a life sentence.

Were justice universally applied, Omar Khadr’s kidnappers and torturers would be on trial in civilian court for a list of war crimes, and Khadr would be freely collecting reparations from the U.S. and Canadian governments. Holder has therefore opted to prosecute Khadr via courts established “to secure convictions where prisoner mistreatment would otherwise preclude them,” as they have been described by former commissions prosecutor Lt.-Col. Darrel Vanderveld. Assuming that the commissions are willing to overlook international law and total lack of evidence as well as “prisoner mistreatment,” it appears that repatriation is Khadr’s only chance at something reminiscent of justice.

On the heels of Holder’s stark condemnation, the Harper Conservatives genially “acknowledged the decision…to prosecute Omar Khadr through the U.S. military commission system,” arguing to the Canadian Supreme Court that it has no jurisdiction over the case, according to the Associated Press.

While it is disconcerting that our leadership readily endorses Geneva violations against a national while refuting the judiciary’s authority to enforce the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the opinions of Harper’s followers on the matter are explicitly irrelevant, if not morally suspect. The executive’s prerogative of diplomatic discretion does not supersede the human and constitutional rights of its citizens—or international law, for that matter.

It is worth noting that Omar Khadr, 23 and a Toronto native, might plausibly be now beginning his undergrad education at U of T had the Pentagon had the merest respect for international law, or Steven Harper any sense of duty to uphold the basic rights of Canadian citizens. Assuming that Harper’s abandonment of Khadr is not racially prejudicial, the precedent that he is setting would leave all Canadians vulnerable to torture and arbitrary life-imprisonment abroad. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will rebuff Harper’s efforts.

Hoop dreams

The Varsity Blues men’s basketball team is determined. After a successful preseason where they went 9-1, the Blues came into their season opener ranked sixth in the CIS. But for them, that still wasn’t good enough.

“We know that this is our year, and we want to get it done this year,” said fifth-year veteran Nick Snow. Snow is one of four fifth-year starters on this season’s team, a team that also has 12 returning players. “Everybody’s on the same page. Our intensity in practices this year is way better than it was last year.”

Nick Magalas, U of T’s starting point guard, shares the same sentiment, that keeping the core intact can yield nothing but positive results. “Confidence is key, in any aspect of life,” he said. “We’ve been in a lot of tough games that have come down to the wire, and earlier in our careers we lost those games. Now, we’re starting to win them.”

“We’re a very close-knit group of guys,” added fifth-year starter Rob Paris. “I don’t know a group of guys who want it more than we do. We’re past the individual awards, we want to make it as a team, and we want this specific team to be solidified as one of the greatest U of T basketball teams in history, and we have the capability of doing that. I’ve been here for five or six years and we haven’t made it to Nationals once. It’s going to happen now, and it’s going to happen with this group of guys because we know what it takes and we want it more than anybody.”

There is one thing Magalas would like to see changed for the regular season from their 9-1 preseason record: “Minus the one,” he said with complete confidence.

After last season’s heartbreaking loss to Ottawa in the OUA East semifinal, the two teams met again in the preseason, and the Blues would get their revenge in an overtime win. “[It] was good because it shows we’re resilient. We came back from a loss last year, a devastating one, and we went right down to the wire and we didn’t give up,” Magalas proudly declared. “We’re going to come out number one or number two in the East,” said Paris, “and we’re going to be ready.”

It turned out that the Blues’ season opener on Nov. 6 to the Laurier Golden Hawks at home would be one more test of their resilience. Another overtime game resulted in victory for the Blues, 92-89, spurred by an inspiring performance on Paris’s part. The shooting guard scored 30 points, including six three-pointers, had five assists, and also came up with a couple of key blocks late in the game. “I set him up, and he knocks them down,” joked Magalas. “It’s like a domino game. He’s got the touch, and if all of us get the ball to let him do what he does best, which is shoot, then we’ll be successful.”

The Blues lost the following night to the Waterloo Warriors, 58-55, but over the two-game weekend, Drazen Glisic scrambled for a combined 25 rebounds, with 13 of them offensive. “That was huge,” exclaimed Snow. “When you get those second chances, not only do you get an extra chance to shoot, but you demoralize the other team because they have to play defence for another 24 seconds.”

Unfortunately, Snow was unable to play in the game against Waterloo due to illness, nor could he play in the Nov. 13 game at McMaster. “He’s one of the best big men in the OUA. He obviously changes the dynamic of the game for the team,” said Paris. “I think when one guy goes we usually pick up the slack for them. We can win without Nick Snow, we can win without Rob Paris, and we can win without Nick Magalas. We’re a team and we’ve embraced this team concept to the fullest.”

McMaster is the fourth-ranked team in the CIS, and Paris understood the significance of this game. “They’re the best team next to Carleton in the OUA. A lot of people are going to count us out for that game, but I think with being the sixth-ranked team in the country, the sky’s the limit for us.

The Blues ended up winning against the Marauders without Nick Snow, 77-67, led by Pat Sewell’s 21 points, six rebounds, and five steals. Despite Snow’s return to the lineup the following night in Thunder Bay and Sewell’s 20 points and eight rebounds, the Blues came up just short, losing 68-67 to the Lakehead Thunderwolves.

The 2-2 Blues are on the road again next weekend, playing Brock on Nov. 20 and Guelph on Nov. 21. The Blues play their next home games on Nov. 27 and 28, versus Windsor and Western, and are hoping for the same fan turnout as in the home opener. “It was great,” said Snow of the fan support. “They were like a sixth man out there. They were loud, they were excited, and I think I overheard that it was our biggest turnout for a home opener.”

Snow, Glisic, and Sewell will continue to dominate the glass and lock down the paint defensively as they have in the first four games this year. Glisic is averaging 9.5 rebounds per game so far, and Sewell is contributing another 8.5 per game. Paris is scoring 17 points per game to start the season, and Magalas is right behind him with 16 points per game.

This season’s Blues team is truly something to be excited about. Paris and Magalas will look to improve on last season’s performances, when they were voted OUA East Second-Team All-Stars, and give the Blues one of the OUA’s most potent perimeter offences and aggressive perimeter defence.