Freshly pressed: Northern Europe edition

Kings of Convenience—Declaration of Dependence
VVVV

On their third studio album, childhood friends Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe have done something no one thought possible: they got quieter. Five years after the success of their previous album, Riot on an Empty Street, Declaration of Dependence falls short of their stylistically comparable, advice-driven earlier efforts. However, this is only because of the sheer excellence of the last album. Declaration remains consistently strong and an easy, relaxing, enjoyable album.

There are no drums on this album, just a perfect balance of acoustic guitar, cello, violin, and most calming of all, the delightfully well-matched singing voices of Øye and Bøe. Their voices are underrated and often get lost behind the soft yet influential instruments.

Kings of Convenience set the mood early with opening track “24-25,” which makes even the softest, oft-compared Simon and Garfunkel song seem too noisy. Lead single “Mrs. Cold” is complex, offering a new favourite part upon each listen. The album gets stronger with “Boat Behind,” “Renegade,” and “Freedom and its Owner,” but then gets dryer towards the end. Still, these tracks are positive overall and add to the calm mood throughout the album.

Ultimately, Declaration will suit you if you’re the kind of person who thinks this world is more hectic than it needs to be, and that life often feels like a race to a never-ending finish line. Only when listened to in solace can one can hear the intricate guitar strums and the hard-to-replicate sound of fingers sliding on an acoustic.—Josh Staav


The Script—The Script
VVV

Known to me as “the band that opened for U2,” I was prepared to write about The Script as an Irish trio of ingenious talent and versatility. Sure, they’re talented, but versatile? Hell no!

In their self-titled debut album, singer Danny O’Donaghue, guitarist Mark Sheehan, and drummer Glen Power create a fusion of rock, soul, R&B, and hip hop. Incorporating funk-inspired percussion and semi-rapped vocals, The Script mirrors a style comparable to white soulsters Robin Thicke and Jason Mraz.

The album reeks of personal emotion, while using classic song construction and contemporary storytelling. But from love to break-ups, many of the songs share lyrical ground that’s too similar. O’Donaghue is either struggling to hold a relationship together (“Talk You Down,” “Before the Worst”) or struggling to accept that it is over (“Break Even,” “If You See Kay”). Although the music and lyrics are catchy—even borderline addictive—they lack diversity.

“The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” is the only highlight of the album—
following O’Donaghue on his mission to win back a former lover, it is captivating and powerful, and this would be a good song to crank on your Ipod as you lie in bed post-break-up.

The relatable lyrics and larger-than-life choruses make it inevitable that we’ll be hearing this album all over the radio and featured in mainstream television shows—it’s already made appearances on The Hills, Ghost Whisperer, and 90210. In its entirety, though, the album is nothing more than good. Next time around, The Script needs to deliver more substance to match their commercial success.—Jessica Tomlinson

Making a movement for Movember

As a student, have you ever taken the time to stop and observe your surroundings on campus? Probably not—most of us are speed walking just to make it to class. During your sprints between buildings, some of you may think you’ve been hallucinating, saying to yourself: “Either I’ve had too much Red Bull, or that guy missed a really big spot when he shaved this morning.”

Believe it or not, you aren’t hallucinating. The moustache, popular in the ’80s, is making a comeback. There is a perfectly good explanation for this, and no, it isn’t because Tom Selleck is bringing back Magnum P.I.

November has been designated as “Movember,” an annual celebration promoting awareness of men’s health issues, particularly prostate cancer. The idea, originating in Adelaide, Australia, is for men to grow moustaches during November to raise money for prostate cancer research.

A “Mo Bro” is someone who looks for donations from friends, family, or essentially anyone they run into. He starts off the month clean shaven, and over the next 30 days lets loose the beast that his wife, girlfriend, or mother would never allow to come out of hibernation.

At U of T, we have quite a few “Mo Bros,” and one in particular is making a ’stache splash. Nick Snow is a member of a U of T’s men’s basketball team, and is currently sporting the horseshoe-style ’stache. “It’s [part of] a fund-raiser for Prostate Cancer Canada, called Movember, where guys grow moustaches for a month and get people to sponsor them,” said Snow.

As for the rest of the team’s moustaches, Snow said that “some of them are a little shy, and some might not be able to fill one out.”

At the men’s basketball home opener on Nov. 6, the support for Movember was almost as strong as the support for the team itself. The first few rows of bleachers were full of “Mo Sistas,” females who, for obvious reasons, can’t grow a moustache but show their encouragement by taping on a fake one.

To date, Nick Snow and his PHE team, made up of students from the faculty of physical and health education, have raised $1,230 in donations for the promotion of prostate cancer research, detection, and treatment, as well as support for families of men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Much like the pink ribbon for breast cancer or the orange ribbon for leukemia, the moustache is becoming a symbol for prostate cancer awareness. Money raised by Mo Bros could potentially aid someone you know. Who knew that a few Aussies looking for a way to justify growing out their moustaches over a few beers would initiate a worldwide movement?

To make a donation, go to movember.com, where you have the choice to donate to the cause in general, an individual (i.e. Nick Snow), or a team (i.e. PHE at U of T).

Jet force

Even before Radiohead announced that they were offering their album In Rainbows as a download in 2007, British Columbia’s Jets Overhead was experimenting with online album releases. In 2006, the band released their debut record, Bridges, as a free download, letting it hit stores a year later. Lead singer Antonia Freybe-Smith explains that the band was excited to follow a new trend in the music industry, as they would rather listeners download a high-quality version of their tracks than find a pilfered rip-off on the Internet. Gaining a following was more important than making a profit, says Freybe-Smith, though she does admit, “not getting paid is frustrating.”

Luckily, Jets Overhead built an online fan base with Bridges, and the album release was followed by an international tour that included destinations in China and across the United States. In 2007, they earned a Juno nomination for New Group of the Year, and have gone on to open for acts including The Dandy Warhols, Broken Social Scene, and Our Lady Peace.

Heavily influenced by British bands like Pink Floyd and Radiohead (and not only in promotional strategies), Freybe-Smith explains that Jets Overhead’s sound is “ambient and full of swirly noises…a heavy but not aggressive sound.” Last May, Jets Overhead released their second full album No Nations and went on to play Bonnaroo and other “twenty-something” gigs, as Freybe-Smith calls them. She describes this city tour as having been “amazing but exhausting.”

Jets Overhead has since turned to smaller, more intimate venues on their second tour, with the notable exception of this year’s Bridge Tour Benefit. Freybe-Smith says that playing with the likes of Neil Young and No Doubt was “such an honour, and felt like a dream—I was completely blown away by the opportunity.” It was an honest and heartfelt musical experience, she explains, more centred on connecting through music than at the typical concert.

As Jets Overhead gear up for their show in Toronto this Thursday, what has Freybe-Smith learned from their tour so far? “It’s an interesting existence,” she says. “There’s lots of thinking and meeting people. It’s all about a creative exchange.”

Jets Overhead play the Kool Haus with Lights on Nov. 26. For more information, visit jetsoverhead.com.

One ball short

The University of Toronto Table Tennis Club men’s team missed two opportunities to close out critical wins at the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association’s Eastern Division tournament this past Saturday, while the women’s squad finished second behind a very competitive Western team.

The afternoon’s biggest story was the battle between the U of T, McGill, Ottawa, and Waterloo men’s teams for supremacy. Toronto came painstakingly close to glory, dropping a best-of-five set 3-2 to Waterloo in which at one point they held a 2-0 lead in the fifth game.

A close but comfortable 3-1 victory over McGill followed, but they were again bested in five during their final match of the afternoon, this time to Ottawa. While they held a 2-1 advantage in the series and a 2-0 lead in the clinching game, they couldn’t close it out.

McGill wound up the surprise victors, cruising past Waterloo and Ottawa. Toronto finished fourth. The other three schools that participated were Queen’s, York, and Western.

The women’s team, despite losing many members of its 2006-2008 squads to graduation, managed to place a solid second. They were victorious against McGill and York before the experienced Western club took them out in the final.

UTTTC joined the NCTAA in 2005 because table tennis is not a varsity sport. The club played in the New York division up until last year because there were never enough teams to field in Canada. This year, NCTAA launched an Eastern Canada division, consisting of seven universities. “We at UTTTC are happy to have been and continue to be a strong influence in the development of table tennis in Canadian universities,” said club director Oscar del Rio in an email to The Varsity.

The club’s teams have performed remarkably well in the past. Representing their division in 2006 at the North American championship, the women’s squad dropped the championship in a 3-2 heartbreaker to Stanford to take second place, while the men’s team finished an impressive fifth. Two years later, the women’s team fell just short in the championship match, this time to Texas Wesleyan, while the men came in sixth.

The next Eastern Division tournament will be held on Feb. 6. As for UTTTC’s prospects, del Rio was coy in his prediction. “We still have hope of qualifying for the Nationals, although the competition will be tough,” he said.

Questions surface over UTM proxies

Proxy votes at last Thursday’s UTSU annual general meeting were subject to last-minute and discretionary decisions. The majority of UTM’s votes at the meeting came from proxies.

Proxy forms allow students who can’t attend a meeting to designate a representative. The UTSU website gives the location where forms can be picked up, but does not specify who can sign off on them. According to Adnan Najmi, UTSU’s VP internal and services, a union executive or staff member must number the forms and sign off on them once they are returned. One student can hold up to 10 proxies.

There is no late policy for proxy forms and it is at the VP internal services’ discretion to decide what to do with forms that are late or fail to arrive.

Proxy forms for the AGM were both received and returned late. They were due from UTM on Nov. 16 and 5 p.m., but weren’t delivered to the UTM student union until 5:30 p.m. that day. Najmi gave UTMSU a one-day extension to return the forms.

“The UTSU director who was given the task to take the proxies [sic] forms to UTM got sick and unfortunately failed to inform me that he could not deliver the forms,” Najmi wrote in an email. “I heard about the forms on the Monday the forms were due. It was my decision to increase the deadline for UTM proxies.”

UTMSU executive director Mohammed Hashim also made a last-minute change over the distribution of proxies. The UTSU website instructed students to go to room 115 in the Student Centre, run by office administrator Linda Feener. Feener said her office did not hand out or receive any proxies. Nor was she informed of the changes or required to count or verify the accuracy of the proxy forms—her responsibility for UTM’s own AGM, which took place last Wednesday.

According to UTMSU president Joey Santiago, while some forms were given to Feener, the rest were given to campaigns co-ordinator Dhananjai Kholi in room 100. Both offices are run by UTMSU. Both Hashim and Kohli declined to comment for this article.

Kholi was given full authority to distribute and sign the forms. They were faxed back to the UTSU office at 12 Hart House Circle instead of the usual hand-delivery. “[The faxes] were excepted [sic] in good faith as true copies of the original forms,” wrote Najmi in an email.

Santiago said UTM students had about 253 votes at the AGM, of which 230 were proxies through 27 forms. Most St. George students at the meeting did not have the maximum number of proxies allowed. Najmi said St. George had over 93 students with 27 carrying proxies and did not respond with the specific number of votes. The forms have been destroyed. “Forms are shredded once the AGM is over due to confidential student information on those forms,” Najmi said.

In an editorial on Monday, Alain Latour, editor-in-chief of UTM student paper The Medium, raised the issue of transparency in the proxy collection process. Latour argued that UTSU and UTMSU execs have too much control over proxy distribution and collection, questioning Kholi’s authority to oversee the process independent of Feener and why the proxies were destroyed immediately.

UTM has seen allegations of proxy mismanagement before. Last year, The Medium reported accusations that UTMSU executives distributed nameless and signed proxy forms to students prior to their AGM, filling out many of the names and student numbers themselves to ensure they had enough votes to pass their own motions. At UTSU’s AGM this year, no special motions were put to a vote. Business consisted of routine matters such as passing the budget, approving last year’s minutes, and approving the appointment of auditors for this year’s budget.

On two occasions, speaker Ashkon Hameshi noticed students holding up voting cards that belonged to others who had left the meeting.

“I notice students holding up voting cards that are not theirs—and you know who you are. If you do it again, you’ll be asked to leave.”

After a quick break during the AGM, Hashemi noted that quorum was maintained “by the slimmest of margins” with only 76 votes present. Seventy-five votes are required for quorum, of which 50 must come from students present.

Favre fever fervid

alt text Despite my love of Detroit, The Lions and the Tigers (and the Chicago Bears—oh my) are to blame for Brett Favre’s comeback success this season. No wizard of odds would have favoured the Brett Favre quarterbacked Minnesota Vikings as the team of the year in the National Football League.

The Detroit Tigers—a baseball team—may seem a strange recipient for Favre-bashing, yet their stunning collapse at the end of the regular season allowed the pesky Minnesota Twins to sneak back into contention. If the Tigers had been able to clinch the American League Central, baseball fans would have been happy to say goodbye to the biggest eyesore of a baseball stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome . Next year, the Twins are moving to the outdoor Target Field, though the Vikings are going to continue playing in what should have been only a football stadium. The Twins and Tigers ended the regular season tied, and of course, the Twins had home field advantage for a one-game playoff.

Traditionally, the baseball season ends on a Sunday, so sudden-death playoffs are scheduled on the Monday. However, the NFL already booked the Metrodome for the Vikings Monday Night game against the Green Bay Packers. Because of the Tigers’ ineptitude, the Metrodome hosted two huge games in a row. Favre playing his former team for the first time was already a big story, but the baseball playoff being pushed to the Tuesday made it even bigger. The Minnesota teams won both games, yet the Twins were much easier to cheer for, especially after Favre refused to acknowledge the difficulty of facing the team for which he played for 15 years. He might as well as have been playing the Detroit Lions, for all the emotion he demonstrated.

Placing the Favre blame on the Detroit Lions seems to make sense, especially because it would be the first time in a while that the Lions were on the receiving end of anything. Last year, as a member of the New York Jets, Favre sat down with Lions coaches for over an hour before Detroit was set to play the Packers in the second week of the 2008 NFL season. Favre was kind enough to donate his time, to give the Lions a scouting report. This would have been fine if he was retired (which he often was), or if he played for Lions, but Favre had an upcoming game of his own. In the end, the Lions lost to the Packers, 48-25.

Just for the record, how did Favre’s team, the Jets, fare in Week 2? They lost 19-10 to the New England Patriots in their first game featuring Matt Cassel as their quarterback—the same player that had not started a game since high school. Naturally, the Jets missed the playoffs last year. Favre seems to have developed a knack for screwing over teams other than the Green Bay Packers.

But what about the Chicago Bears? What role did they play in the Favre saga? Well, that will wait until they play their upcoming games against the Favre and the Packers. On paper, the Bears should be tearing up the NFC North. But the Bears have been a middling team at best this season, despite getting a new quarterback of their own, Jay Cutler—the pride of Santa Claus, Indiana. Yet it has not been a jolly year for Cutler. He has already been sacked more times than all of last year with the Denver Broncos, and he has seen his quarterback rating drop 10 points. Perhaps if they were a better team, the Vikings would have some internal competition, and Favre would choke under the pressure.

Cutler’s got it easy compared to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers who was sacked an astounding 43 times through 10 games—and Favre’s replacement to boot. In all of Favre’s last season in Green Bay, he was sacked only 15 times. It’s not like Da Bears managed to win the NFC North last year when Favre was missing the playoffs in New York.

Last year, the division was won by—you guessed it—the Minnesota Vikings. Quarterback of the future, Tarvaris Jackson, finally came through for the Purple and Gold, leading the Vikings to the playoffs on the last day of the season. Now that Favre has been brought in, Jackson takes a seat on the bench, forced to sit behind the legend. It is the Aaron Rodgers story all over again.

It’s still not clear what the Green Bay Packers management did or said to Favre to make him so bitter and hell-bent on revenge. What is known, is that despite having almost all the quarterback records, the consecutive games streak, the comebacks, being 40, and seeming like a good guy in There’s Something About Mary, Brett Favre is now the enemy. Even though a lot of bad guys seem to be winning the championship—Kobe, A-Rod, Crosby—the Vikings have never won the Super Bowl, and Favre, for all of his career accolades, has only won once. The MVP of that game, Super Bowl XXXI, was kick returner Desmond Howard, who naturally, played at the University of Michigan, and ended his career with the Detroit Lions.

Half-fiends

Caffiends, the student-run coffee lounge at Old Vic, is slated to move to a less spacious room across the hall from its current location.

The relocation is due to the ongoing construction of Vic’s new $21-million Goldring Student Centre, which will expand the Wymilwood Building. The construction is slated for the next two and a half years.

During construction, the café’s space will be used for administrative purposes. Alumni offices in Wymilwood will occupy what is currently the Caffiends and the Victoria College bookstore.

The university has assured Caffiends co-managers that the original space will be restored once construction of the student centre is complete.

Co-manager Emily Gilbert said it is unclear when the move will occur. “Originally it was scheduled for Christmas but that hasn’t been confirmed, so it might be Reading Week,” she said.

The new location, VC111, is a tutorial room that is roughly half the size of the current space. Gilbert said the change will definitely affect the business. Last year Caffiends initiated a “no take-out cup” policy, which boosted sales considerably and required more room to accommodate customers. “With a smaller space, there will be a different vibe,” Gilbert said.

Caffiends started four years ago as a fair-trade coffee booth by two Victoria College students, moving into its current space three years ago. Opening with “equitable consumerism” in mind, it is known for its fair-trade coffee, supplied by local cooperative ChocoSol Traders.

The cafe makes little profit—just enough to cover the cost of supplies—and is staffed entirely by volunteers. Over 76 volunteers work weekly one-hour shifts. “Any extra money made over the year is put into our bank account for new supplies,” Gilbert said.

Roy Halladay a fair trade

alt text This offseason, the best decision for the Blue Jays will be trading Roy. Halladay’s contract expires after the 2010 season, and it’s very unlikely that he will sign another contract with the Jays. Toronto is in the midst of restructuring, so they should look to compete around 2012. Halladay is the best trading chip the Blue Jays have if they want to add young talented players.

On Friday, Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston told the New York Post that Halladay will not remain in Toronto when his contract expires after the 2010 season. “We would like to sign him. He is an original Blue Jay and we have never had a pitcher as good as him, but he is not inclined to sign with us,” said Beeston. Halladay wants to win, and so do the Jays, though both have different timelines to achieve that goal.

The Blue Jays franchise is not in as complete a mess as some think. Former general manager, J.P. Ricciardi left a solid core of young players behind, like pitchers Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, and Mark Rzepczynski and hitters Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, and Travis Snider. By trading Halladay this offseason, the Jays could add more young and controllable pieces to their core instead of losing Halladay to free agency and receiving only two compensatory picks in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Since Halladay becomes a free agent after the 2010 season, teams might not be willing to give up a lot of young talent for just one year of Halladay. However, rookie general manager Alex Anthopoulos has stated he would give teams a window to negotiate an extension with Halladay in trade talks, which would definitely guarantee the Blue Jays a more significant return.

Halladay should be a hot commodity this offseason. He had a terrific 2009, as he went 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA, 208 strikeouts, and a 1.13 WHIP spanning over 32 starts and 239 innings, with nine complete games and four shutouts. Halladay is in a class of his own, pitching in the toughest division in baseball, the American League East.

Because Halladay has a no-trade clause, he is most likely to end up on a team that is ready to win. He should join a team that has the payroll flexibility that will allow them to sign Halladay to a contract extension past 2010. On the open market, Halladay could definitely command a five-year contract worth $20-25 million per season. Teams need solid young players and prospects with a tremendous amount of talent to get a deal done. It’s likely that the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Texas Rangers, and the New York Mets will express interest in Halladay. Colorado Rockies could emerge as a dark horse in the trade talks, since Halladay is from the Denver area and the Rockies reached the playoffs two of the last three seasons.

Rumours swirling this past weekend spoke of Blue Jays and Cubs discussing a possible deal for Halladay. The Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908, so trading for Roy Halladay would be a start in the right direction. The Cubs have some solid prospects that could interest the Blue Jays: shortstop Starlin Castro, third baseman Josh Vitters, and starting pitchers Jay Jackson, and Andrew Cashner. The problem facing the Cubs at the moment is that they probably will be unable to take on the $15.75 million owed to Halladay in 2010, since they already have several immovable contracts, like outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley.

The New York Yankees have the best chance of putting together an alluring package for Roy Halladay. They have the money to lock up Halladay long term, and most importantly, the best pieces to get a deal completed with Toronto. Plus, the Yankees will do everything in their power to keep Roy Halladay away from the Red Sox. The Yankees could centre a package around one of right-handed pitchers Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, as both would be ready to make a quick impact. The Yankees’ catching prospect Jesus Montero could interest the Jays. The young catcher batted .337 with 17 HR, 70 RBI, and a .951 OPS in 2009 between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Trading Halladay to a team within the same division should not be an issue, especially if that team has the best offer on the table.

Overall, it will be difficult for Blue Jay fans to face the fact that Roy Halladay’s tenure in Toronto is nearing an end. The 2003 Cy Young Award winner has meant a lot to this franchise and will go down as one of the greatest players to wear a Blue Jay uniform. The Blue Jays are unlikely to make a run for the postseason in 2010, but trading Roy Halladay is the best way to build the team into a perennial contender over the long run.