Blues make a splash

The Varsity Blues women’s water polo team made it look easy against the Queen’s Golden Gaels. On Nov. 9, the Blues played two gruelling games to end the regular season. The Blues, playing at home in the Athletic Centre, wrapped up their last match of the season with fl air and steady confidence. Their 14-13 win over the OUA championship contending Carleton Ravens earlier that day gave the team momentum. In the following game against the Gaels, they maintained a seven-goal lead throughout the second half.

The Blues managed to hit most of their dry passes with dangerous efficiency, with an offence that had no problem penetrating the Gaels goal zone. They displayed physical dominance over Queen’s up front and in the mid-zone in the first half. Toronto scored from the middle when pressed back, expertly coordinating their passing game. The Blues’ defence was sharp, limiting any possible Queen’s counter-attack or offensive turn. Toronto kept ahead by at least five goals in the first half, giving the opposition no time to recover from their attack. The second half of the game saw a consistent and unshaken Toronto continue to play the same solid defence. Yet the Gaels managed to bolster their defence in stemming a fl urry of goals by stepping up their physical game and player marking.

Toronto scored a decisive 14-6 victory over the Golden Gaels with Casey Pottier and Nicole Brown leading the Blues’ scoring board with three goals each. The victory marked the end of the Blues’ successful 2008 season where they finished with seven wins and only one loss in their first game of the season against Carleton. The team will now prepare for the 2008 OUA Water Polo Championship at Carleton University on Nov. 22 and 23.

It’s time for Canada to invest in sports engineering programs

Developing sports technology programs in Canada will help to engineer a healthier and more prosperous future.

Sports equipment researchers and designers from Canadian universities say increased and prolonged financial support for such programs will aid not just elite athletes, but weekend warriors and industries as well.

Currently, there are no sports engineering programs for students at any level at Canadian universities.

The closest Canada has to any type of institution for sport equipment innovation is the Own the Podium (OTP) program, launched in January 2005.

After Canada failed to win gold at both the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the OTP program and its estimated $125 million budget pledged to help Canada win not just gold, but the most medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Martin Brouillette, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Sherbrooke, has researched and designed equipment for several large sports equipment manufacturers and Canada’s national speed skating team.

Brouillette explains that though the OTP program invests more in Canadian athletes than in the past and brings together Canada’s 13 winter sport federations along with several other national committees and organizations, it is likely temporary.

“The general feeling is that after the Olympics, all of this is going to die down,” Brouillette said. “My feeling is [the OTP] is a one time thing. There doesn’t appear to be a long term vision.”

For a permanent sports forum or organization to bring together trainers, nutritionists, coaches, and psychologists, Canada should follow the Australian Institute of Sports’ model.

“They actually integrate the entire sports community, including the scientists, into whatever they’re doing,” Brouillette said. “All the scientific aspects of sports are being investigated, including the technology.”

New training techniques are being developed for high performance athletes. The new technologies and products that arise from these interactions could be very lucrative.

“If we win more medals, people are happier and do more sports so they’re in better shape and we sell a bunch of gadgets and make a bunch of money,” Brouillette said. “But [Canada has not] evolved to the point where technology is important at the high performance level to the extent that other countries are doing.”

While on sabbatical in 2001, David Pearsall, lead researcher at McGill University’s Ice Hockey Research Group (IHRG), traveled to Cologne, Germany, where he saw the effect of combining researchers from different aspects of sports.

“[They have researchers] from traditional phys-ed to marketing to broadcast sports to sport medicine and equipment design,” Pearsall said. “So you have 10,000 students employed just in sport-related functions. It’s very viable.”

Pearsall has seen how this works in Canada. The IHRG’s collaboration with Bauer Hockey has led to several of its researchers being hired either by Bauer or another hockey equipment manufacturer.

“So that’s an example where by training people here actually helps draw in industry to stay in Canada,” Pearsall said. “Kind of like if you build [the sports programs, sports industry] may come in terms of huddling around the centres.”

Though there’s no shortage of students showing interest in sports technology programs, an institution’s fate depends on the demand for sports technology graduates from Canada, says Darren Stefanyshyn, a mechanical engineer and associate professor from the University of Calgary.

Working for large multi-billion dollar companies like Adidas and TaylorMade, Stefanyshyn noticed the lack of engineers on staff.

“Because the one thing I would hate is […] to set to up a program, train and educate the students in [sports engineering] and then have no place for them to go or no positions that are available,” Stefanyshyn said.

Graduates from any reputable engineering program would still find work; it just might not be in sports engineering. The disciplines underlying sports engineering are the same as mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering.

“It’s not the field in itself. It’s an application domain. You could be designing a golf club or hockey stick or could be designing landing gear,” Brouillette said. “The science, the technology, and the skills in doing that are all the same.”

Professor Roy Jones, head of Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Research Group in England, agrees with Brouillette.

“If you look around at, for example, how many graduates doing history degrees that we produce; well Jesus, how many historians do we need?” Jones said. “Our graduates— because they’ve gone to a decent university and they’ve undergone a good training program with their mind—they go everywhere.”

Pearsall feels that by combining Canadian and U.S. markets, there will be an opportunity to employ students wishing to work in the sports engineering field.

A top-down initiative would be the most feasible way to establish sports technology programs in Canada. However, developing these types of programs isn’t exactly at the top of any governments’ list.

“It’s not really up there. If you look at things like stem cell research and subatomic particles, they’re putting wads of money to make those things happen,” Pearsall said.

Even more difficult is achieving professional status from schools across Canada and the United States for sporting agencies like the IHRG.

Professional status would give sporting agencies more clout to make change happen, but anything to do with health promotion takes time.

“You’re looking at a generational change; something you need like 20 years to make happen,” Pearsall said.

Student arrested for Internet threats

A Georgian College student faces charges after posting threatening messages and photos on the Internet last week. The 27-year-old student reportedly uploaded images of himself posing with illegal guns and wrote of plans to carry out property damage to the city of Barrie.

Police were notified and seized the student on his way to class. Though the weapons were not in his immediate possession, police took him into custody after they determined he had twice the legal amount of alcohol in his body.

Georgian College President Brian Tamblyn later reassured that the messages posed no immediate threat to the school.

Banana Boys hits Hart House

A sold-out crowd devoured Banana Boys on its Wednesday night opening at Hart House. The play, performed by Asian theatre company Fu-Gen, is an adaptation of Terry Woo’s novel that first hit the stage in 2004. The title refers to assimilated Asian-Canadians: yellow on the outside, white on the inside. The storyline, which follows five Chinese-Canadians through university and beyond, is a little harder to pin down.

We open with the funeral of Rick Wong (Jeff Yung), the slick hustler with high cheekbones, who is one of five Chinese-Canadian friends at the University of Waterloo. The boys bond over alcohol and discuss relationships, parents, and racism—until Rick abandons his buddies.

In a striking scene, he learns from a language tape how to be a moneyed, Fresh-Off-the-Boat immigrant, superior to those “mainland bottom-feeders.” (Mainland China is distinguished from the more affluent Hong Kong and Taiwan, though the play doesn’t address the Boys’ provenance.) Rick decides that class trumps race, and he wants to be a winner—no political solidarity, no more “one of us!” He storms out after what the Boys call “the mother of all fights” and everybody moves on, until his funeral.

Rick’s “mindshifts” in time—thanks to pills and alcohol—loosely frame the story’s flow. Such flashes don’t make for the most lucid storytelling, but the play unfolds with episodes in a mostly chronological order. The wandering nature of the play allows for its saving grace: fantastical and hilarious sequences that stray from realism.

Mike Chow’s (Christian Feliciano) career, for example, is framed as a multiple choice question on a game show, complete with booty-shaking pageantry and a screaming fan planted in the audience. The decision is made when Mama Chow bodyslams her son into the correct answer (A. Doctor). In another scene, love is a battlefield. Luke (Byron Abalos), as the good Sergeant, explains via Venn diagrams why the Banana Boys can’t get a date.

Consequently, the play suffers when reality drags on for too long. As the fourth and final acts focus increasingly on Rick’s drug-fuelled freak-outs, the story loses momentum. By the time Rick implores Mike to follow his dreams of becoming a writer—“let my story teach them their dreams are possible and this Banana Boy shit is not getting them anywhere”—I feel like I’ve seen this prophet-from-beyond-the-grave shtick a thousand times.

The cast of five is undeniably talented—switching from their Banana Boy personas to play girlfriends, grannies, and white dudes, they tackle every role with relish, even when forced to speak cringe-worthy lines like “I realize…I loved you the most.” Shel’s (Darrel Gamotin) good-boy sincerity charms the audience, and Karl Ang is right at home as Dave the DJ, having taken on similar roles in past Fu-Gen productions.

Banter is the strongest suit of playwright Leon Aureus—the characters are so fleshed out that I noticed only afterwards they each conveniently represent a “type” of Asian. And movement coach Clare Preuss definitely earned her paycheque—the exaggerated physical antics had the house howling.

Identity is the play’s central question, and it’s never more apparent than Rick’s death by mirror shard to the chest. (“Self-image would be the death of me,” he quips.) There’s obsession with cataloguing: Luke keeps a running “racial incident log,” from which he narrates cases, filed by number. In nightmare sequences, the guys dissect Mike and make an inventory of his insides (A Michael Bublé CD instead of intestines and an MCAT book where his heart should be).

The enumeration plays off the Asian math nerd stereotype, but it’s also how we piece together identity: combing through memories and trying to find patterns. For the Banana Boys, ethnicity is never out of mind. This preoccupation is perhaps best embodied by Luke, who fumes that Asians sit back and tolerate the bullying, and whose own anger is supposed to compensate for that docility. Is there such a thing as moving past racial identity? The ending suggests that the guys are only held back by their identifying as Banana Boys, but how much of their bond comes from sharing the Chinese-Canadian experience? A major criticism of the play, on- and off-stage, is the rejection of cultural heritage. How do you embrace that culture without descending into simplistic politics of race?

These are difficult questions, and the pat ending of Banana Boys doesn’t even come close to addressing them. Fortunately, the brilliance of the play’s detours are much more memorable.

Rating: VVVV

No financial aid for childless common-law partners, says Quebec

A Concordia student is challenging a Quebec law that denies her financial aid because she does not have a child with her common-law partner. Edith Tam, a 30-year-old student from Vancouver, thought she qualified because her common-law partner is a Quebec resident.

Quebec does state that an out-of-province student is eligible for aid if their spouse is a Quebec resident. However, the province says the couple must fulfill one of two conditions: a civil union or marriage, or live together with a child.

Tam told reporters that when she applied for a loan in 2006, a student aid official joked, “Maybe you should get pregnant.” According to the Montreal Gazette, she filed a discrimination complaint this week with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
Representatives working on the case are considering a class action suit to include students in similar circumstances, said the Gazette.

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

The auditorium at Trinity College’s Buttery was filled to the brim last Friday, welcoming author and water access activist Maude Barlow to a roundtable on global water issues. Attendees were mostly middle-aged, though the event was free to students, as participants eagerly lined up for the Q & A session.

Barlow, a founder of the Council of Canadians and recent UN senior advisor on water, examined water access as a social and political issue. She argued that the status of water as a tradable good in North America and elsewhere limits access for the poor and damages the environment.

When larger settlements pollute their own supply, said Barlow, they often seize water from a smaller, less powerful community. One example is Mexico City piping water from nearby indigenous communities. Closer to home, Barlow cited cases where First Nations communities’ water supply became polluted if they lived downstream from the Tar Sands, referred to as “Canada’s Mordor.”

Barlow proposed that water be made a public trust. She cited a recent law in Vermont that limited the amount of water one could pump for commercial gain, preserving the resource for times of shortage.

“If corporations decide on water, only the wealthy will be able to afford it,” she said. Barlow emphasized the ecological importance of healthy watersheds, saying, “Nature has rights beyond the public trust.”

Joining Barlow were colleagues Dr. Aharon Zohar, a lecturer at Haifa and Hebrew Universities, and professor Jennifer McKay of the University of South Australia.

Zohar spoke about the complex water issues of the Middle East, including population growth outstripping water supply and unequal access between countries and regions. According to Zohar, water even plays a role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, admitting, “ When both sides reach a peace agreement, water will be an issue.”

McKay backed up Barlow’s concerns about commercial control of water, citing examples from Australia. “I think you’ve got to be very careful with market machinations.”

The roundtable addressed grave concerns but made room for creative solutions. Barlow was optimistic about Obama’s win in the United States, emphasized as an opportunity to build new alliances for water rights. “We have [an] economic and human crisis of global proportions,” she said. “Sometimes our differences are not so very great.”

Gaza, Stripped

“The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,” said Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon’s closest advisor. After 41 years of military occupation, Israel is slowly choking Gaza, a desolate remnant of the former Mandate of Palestine. It is bringing a civilian population to the brink of starvation, a planned humanitarian catastrophe.

For many years, Israel has controlled Palestinians’ access to clean water by imposing quotas. Occasionally it turns off the tap altogether, to punish Gazans for the actions of a rogue few. UNICEF reports “most Palestinian children live with far less than the recommended daily minimum amount of 20 litres of clean water.” After June 2006, when the Israeli Air Force bombed Gaza’s only power plant—a target of no strategic or military importance—Gazans relied on Israel to supply them with power. B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights advocacy group headquartered in Tel Aviv, stated in a press release: “Israel is under an obligation under international law to make reparation for the war [crime] it committed.”

Needless to say, Israel never atoned for the bombing. Instead, it has enforced sanctions on Gaza, and recently a blockade denying United Nations Relief and Works Agency convoys passage into Gaza to deliver critical aid supplies such as food, fuel, and medicine. On November 14, much of Gaza City plunged into darkness as it ran out of fuel to run the same power plant, repaired last year.

The United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and several Nobel laureates and peace activists warned of a looming humanitarian crisis if Israel does not lift its blockade as soon as possible. Former president Jimmy Carter said that the blockade amounts to the collective punishment of 1.4 million people and is, by any moral standard, a crime against humanity and “a heinous atrocity.” On Tuesday, a group of European lawmakers said they would petition the European Union to suspend a preferential trade agreement with Israel due to what they described as a “cruel” blockade of Gaza.

“Cruel” is an understatement. The Gaza milieu is miserable, far worse than most of us can imagine: Gazans have one of the lowest standards of living in the world, under an occupation which Bishop Desmond Tutu described as being “worse that the Apartheid.”

The Israeli rejoinder to such criticism—indeed any criticism—is its claim of self-defense. Sovereign countries have the right to defend their people when they are under threat. But Israel’s policies, much like Bush’s War on Terror, have put the nation at greater risk of reprisal rather than increased security. Israel has created an environment that fosters terrorism. The psychological effect the occupation is having on some uneducated, poor Gazan teenagers—who would like nothing more than to take revenge—has created a massive pool of potential suicide bombers. It’s also coarsened a new generation of Israeli soldiers.

While there is no justification for terrorism, it’s fair to assume that if Palestine had the luxury of $3 billion in annual military aid from the United States—if it could purchase tanks and bombers—its citizens wouldn’t have to resort to terrorism to regain expropriated land. For now, Palestinians can do little to defend themselves while Israel continues to confiscate their land and bulldoze their homes to make way for new settlements (deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice).

In the face of intensifying Israeli war crimes, impunity, and total disregard for international law, international civil society has to support Palestine and force Israel to lift its criminal blockade on Gaza. This is the most reliable path to freedom, justice, equality and peace in the entire region.

The craziest party that could ever be

There’s been much speculation about what lost the election for the Republicans (answer: plenty), but in a word, the most significant factor was hate. Hate for the opposition. Hate for people who are different. A hate that will eventually destroy the party if they don’t make some serious changes.

It goes without saying that smear tactics, though petty, will happen in any election. But the Republicans’ campaign against Obama seemed extra vindictive. From the claims that he was in cahoots with Bill Ayers to the rumours that he was a raging socialist, the McCain campaign (especially Sarah Palin, who seemed to know more about political gossip than any of the issues) pointed fingers in an attempt to ruin the Democrats’ credibility. Instead, such accusations slowly ate away at their own.

Hate is killing the GOP. The intolerant attitudes espoused by the party and its supporters drive many away. Whether it’s Proposition 8, the racist remarks made by participants at Republican rallies, or a continued reliance on fear-mongering, the party’s ideas are outdated—a diversifying country will not elect a group that seems bent on removing rights from a majority of them.

In the past, the Republicans have relied on winning over Evangelical Christians. But this time a fair number of Evangelical youth voted Democrat, and even Gordon College—an Evangelical College near Boston—stood behind Obama. The Republicans are losing their base, and if the trend continues, they’ll be nothing more than a party of fanatics, clutching at their guns and religious texts, weeping bitter tears for an America that never existed in the first place.

The party, in avoiding accusations of “elitism,” has been accused of anti-intellectualism, further alienating those who might have stood with them. Although they may have solid support among white voters in Appalachia, this won’t win them the country. Exploiting people’s fear of the unknown and inflating the threat posed by anti-freedom terrorists is ignorant and pointless, and reflects badly on those perpetuating these ideas.

Part of the GOP’s problem is those representing them in the media. From Ann Coulter to Rush Limbaugh to the cast of Fox News, conservative pundits draw from rumours, broad extrapolations (Obama is friends with Ayers!), to flat out lies (he will make us USSA!). Between screaming and name-calling, they are no better than playground bullies, and the public is beginning to notice.

American society is moving away from its conservative values. The Republican Party needs to align itself closer to the centre in order to regain political ground. A platform of hate makes the respected politician seem more like the crazy guy on the corner, screaming about the invisible threat that’s always out to get him. And no one wants him in the White House.