Calgary stamps out Montréal

In football, careers are often defined by the big game. On last Sunday night’s 96th edition of the CFL’s Grey Cup, both signal callers had something to prove. Both Calgary Stampeders’ Henry Burris and Montréal Alouettes’ Anthony Calvillo have been instrumental in their respective team’s success, but dubbed with a footnote, they “cannot win the big one.”

Coming into the game, the Alouettes were flying high with league MVP Calvillo and five all-stars, looking to cap off their storybook season with a win on home turf. But in the end, it was the other MVP candidate who won the rights to sip from Lord Grey’s mug. Burris, who completed 28 for 37 passes for 328 yards, and ran 9 times for 79, broke the hearts of 66,308 screaming fans in Olympic Stadium with a 22-14 win over the Montréal Alouettes, finally earning the respect he and his team so desperately craved.

“To finally be a champion, wow,” said a teary-eyed Burris, named the MVP of the game, to TSN. “I need to wake up, but the great thing about it is, it’s reality now!”

“We’ve been dragged through the dirt for a few years, and we did it to ourselves in many ways”, said Burris. “But that’s what allowed us to enjoy this occasion much more than if it came easy. We came to Montréal to win what we could control, because as good as this team was this season, it would have been an awful waste not to leave here with a championship.”

The Stampeders didn’t look like a championship team early on. Montréal pivot Calvillo picked apart Calgary’s defence, engineering an impressive opening drive before kicker Damon Duval booted a 14-yard field goal.

After Calgary’s DeAngelis replied with a 44-yarder, the momentum started to swing in the Alouettes’ favour in the second quarter. After linebacker Reggie Hunt picked off the lone poor pass of the game from Burris, Calvillo methodically moved the team down field and running back Avon Cobourne scored a 16-yard touchdown.

The Alouettes fired on all cylinders. After their defence held the Stampeders’ drive to a two-and-out, the special team stepped up as Larry Taylor returned the third down punt for 44 yards to the Calgary 43-yard line. Four plays later, Duval made his second field goal from 19 yards out, putting the Alouettes up 10-3 late in first half.

Burris showed us why he was the best player in the CFL West. On the final possession of the half, he began with a determined scramble for a first down that foreshadowed what was to come. Nik Lewis and Joffrey Reynolds caught consecutive bullets from Burris, who finished off with a 20-yard pass to Brett Ralph with 44 seconds left in the game.

“All along we wanted to get the running game involved and Henry Burris in the QB position was a big part of the running game,” said Calgary head coach John Hufnagel.

The key was Calgary’s defence readjustment. After giving up 10 points in the first half, Calgary defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones mixed in some zone coverage, with Calgary’s patented man-to-man, confusing Montréal.

The league’s most prolific offence squeezed out all but one point from a punt single in the second half. Calvillo, who went from the MVP to the MHP, “Most Helpless Player,” was sacked twice and threw two interceptions, swinging the game to Calgary’s favour.

“When you look at the big picture, those two plays really cost us the game.” said Calvillo, whose Grey Cup record fell to 1-5. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity [to win at home] and we just let it slip through our hands.”

He gave credit to the Calgary defence, especially defensive end, Toronto native Mike Labinjo, who knocked down four passes from Calvillo and recorded a sack.

“The old Calgary Stampeders team, if things didn’t go our way, we’d fold up like a cheap tent,” exclaimed Labinjo. “We learned from those punches to the gut. We’ve had a good nucleus for four years that’s been through a lot of B.S., so it’s an amazing feeling.”

But Labinjo wasn’t the only Canadian who had a great night. Niagara Falls native Sandro DeAngelis finished a perfect five for five, including a clutch 50-yard drive late in the fourth quarter that completed the scoring. He was named the most valuable Canadian of the game.

The two teams will now head to the off-season. The vindicated Stampeders will look to defend their title next season on home turf, as the devastated Alouettes face questions and doubts, wondering what could have been.

Prior to this year, the last time two MVP candidates played in the same Grey Cup was 1966 in Vancouver. Russ Jackson won the MVP, the late Ron Lancaster won the championship.

We are the world

The room is full of sounds. One shopper slowly strums a cigar box while another swings a bow against an ocean harp. Musician Ivy Mari plunks away at a Medieval European violin known as the hurdy-gurdy. I’ve been roped into trying out the quijada de burro—also known as the “donkey jaw rattle”—an instrument used in Peruvian folk dancing. I feel like I’m back in the third grade playing the triangle.

Located at 401 Richmond Street West—an artistic warehouse that houses over 140 cultural enterprises—instrument emporium Musideum is a veritable musician’s paradise. The store specializes in unusual instruments from around the world, ranging from the recognizable (various tambourines) to items like the nykleharpa, a Swedish national instrument transported to the store straight from the set of The Lord of the Rings (it makes a special appearance in the film’s “gnome theme”), or the shofar, a Yemenite trumpet made from antelope horn.

Owner Donald Quan dreamed up the idea of Musideum over 20 years ago while travelling as a musician around the globe. Quan would see or hear an exotic instrument and track it down, amassing various pieces for his own collection. “Any odd time someone else saw an instrument [of mine] his or her jaw would drop,” he remembers. “It started out as a private pleasure, but then I wanted to share it with people.”

After returning to Canada, Quan waited patiently for eight years until space at 401 Richmond became available. When he was let in two years ago, he set to work building his store with a little help from his friends. Quan wanted to make Musideum a place where the general public had exposure to exotic instruments, even allowing customers to rent them on the cheap. Quan continues to travel, playing shows worldwide and gathering new instruments. He shows me the most expensive item in the store, a rare glass armonica, retailing at $6,000. The instrument is beautiful, but students needn’t worry: the store is filled with lower-price items, such as $18 Vietnamese jaw harps or $1.99 nose flutes. The majority of instruments in the store are priced under $100. A half hour spent browsing will take care of all your Christmas shopping (your five-year-old cousin will love the tiny wooden cricket rattle, whittled in the shape of the insect).

Quan and his staff encourage customers to try every instrument. “Everyone’s allowed to play everything,” says staff member and musician Mairi, who first heard about the store while playing shows around the city. While we’re chatting, she busts out Musideum’s hottest selling item: the sansula, a thumb piano that’s a German version of the African kalimba (a favourite of Jens Lekman and Toronto buzz-kid Laura Barrett, who often plays at the store). Mairi demonstrates how the sansula allows the player to not only pluck the keys, but control the echoes that emerge from the bottom of the instrument, letting deep sound waves permeate the room. “People don’t come in for it,” Quan says, “but when they hear it, they have to have it.”

Mairi loves helping customers. “One of the nicest things is when customers come in and teach us [how to play],” she says. “They may have grown up with the instrument, so they know more about how it is played traditionally.”

Mairi was so captivated by Musideum’s instruments that she has started using them in her own recordings. While some offerings may seem unusual to first-timers, they are quickly gaining notoriety; the aforementioned hurdy-gurdy plays a prominent role in the music of The Arcade Fire.

The staff offers a warm welcome to novices, as Quan encourages even the tone-deaf to try everything. “Come on in and play an instrument,” he says. “All this stuff’s affordable for the general public.” With that in mind, we return to the strumming and shaking, the rattle and hum.

Musideum is located at 401 Richmond Street West, Suite 133. Store hours are Tuesday to Saturday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Give them a call at 416-599-7323, or visit them online at www.musideum.com.

Hockey violence is not the answer

There was once a time when Larry, Curly, and Moe dazzled the big screen by hitting each other repeatedly over the head. It was crass, funny, and downright entertaining. Lately, it seems that the NHL is mimicking the Stooges, making headlines for shots to the head and horrific hits from behind. But unlike the Stooges, this is neither funny, nor fake. It is a serious and real problem.

When Gary Bettman sent out a memo to NHL players explaining that this play will not be tolerated, he must have failed to receive this same memo himself. His disciplinarian Colin Campbell continues to give minor suspensions of three games for these illegal hits.

Recently, the league has seen an influx in these illegal blows. Leafs defenceman Mike Van Ryn is out for 4-6 weeks after being hit from behind by Montreal forward Tom Kostopoulos, who received a measly three-game suspension. Poor Patrice Bergeron, taken out of the arena in an ambulance and was out for 71 games, got no retribution as Randy Jones of the Flyers received a ridiculous two-game suspension.

When these hits aren’t making headlines, everyone’s inner Don Cherry comes out as fans see hitting as part of the game. It’s when it becomes news that everyone becomes passive. Tearful apologies and cries from the media to tighten up on suspensions become all the rage. But it’s all a big charade. It seems that any publicity is good publicity for the NHL, as Americans would rather watch cars drive in circles and people play cards.

The NHL needs to set standards and put their foot down. Regardless of the severity of the hit, there should be a minimal fifteen-game suspension and a team bench penalty where the aggressor’s team will have to play two players short for the next five games.

If a benchmark suspension is made, it will help to install sternness in a league that has been quasi-compassionate at best. Implementing a stricter rule will make players think about their actions, as it will penalize them for a good portion of the season, and penalize their team.

A two-minute penalty for a head shot or hit from behind is not good enough. It makes these illegal blows seem like they’re a common part of the game.

Why talk about removing the instigator rule so that players can “police” themselves? If this rule is removed, each team will allow its goons to pummel other players at the end of games, furthering the belief that hockey is a game played by brutes and barbarians.

Hockey players have been taught to finish their checks cleanly from a young age. Players are intentionally reckless because hockey culture promotes violence. While other sports have shown zero tolerance for excessively violent actions, the NHL continues to let this behaviour remain in the game.

Canadians attempt to distinguish themselves from Americans by taking on the role of pacifists. Ironically, on the ice Canadians are aggressive and violent. This inclination towards hockey violence may be why Don Cherry was voted the seventh greatest Canadian of all time.

On Coach’s Corner every Saturday night, Cherry preaches to people to play hockey the “Canadian Way”. The “Canadian Way” means fighting face-to-face, playing hard-nosed physical hockey that will separate Canadians from the “wimpy Europeans” who refuse to take hits. It means being tough and fighting for our game because it defines us as a nation.

The only fighting necessary for hockey is to fight for stricter discipline, so elite players can be protected and play the game.

Hitting will always have a place in the NHL. But if the league continues to neglect the safety of its players, the only place the NHL’s superstars will be showcased is in the hospital. This reality is laughable, but not in the Three Stooges sense.

The NHL needs to toughen up on discipline to curtail

TAs move in for the strike

U of T teaching assistants will vote on a strike mandate from Dec. 3 to Dec. 9. If they pass the mandate, their unit of the Canadian Union of Public Employees 3902 will have the option of striking should contract negotiations with the administration break down.

CUPE 3902 has been bargaining with U of T since July. Improved maternity leave, smaller tutorials and labs, wages tied to inflation, improved health and dental benefits, and a two-year contract are currently on the table.

The union hopes to gain momentum from a yes vote, but the prospect of an actual strike will have to wait at least until February, after either the admin or the union has sought conciliation from the Ministry of Labour. If the parties still don’t reach an agreement, the union can then strike.

“The university continues to bargain with CUPE 3902 and we are hopeful that we will be able to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both parties without a strike,” said Angela Hildyard, VP of human resources at U of T. Several meetings are scheduled between the union and admin, starting today.

CUPE bargaining team spokesperson Rebecca Sanders said that they had reached agreements on several smaller issues, but not major monetary concerns.

“Before the strike vote they said no to our maternity and parental leave program,” said Sanders. Since the strike vote was announced on Nov. 4, she said, the proposal has been revisited.

Not all teaching assistants are supporting a possible strike. Mathieu Roy, a TA at U of T, wrote in opposition to TA strikes in the National Post, “I’ve had a taste of the exceptional conditions and wages, and believe me, you will never find better for a part-time job: $36 per hour, health and dental benefits for the entire family, flexible schedules, guaranteed re-hiring until graduation.”

“I can tell you from personal experience that TAs usually work considerably greater hours than what is in their contracts,” said Sanders. She argued that at those rates TAs earn $15,000 a year, which is below the poverty line. Sanders added that to complete their degrees, grad students complete hours of research outside of TA duties, for which they are paid little or nothing.

The University of Toronto Students’ Union and the Graduate Students’ Union have both pledged support for CUPE 3902. A strike would only occur in the event of a serious breakdown in negotiations. In September, the Steelworkers union passed a strike mandate but reached an agreement with admin before they were due to strike.

“None of our members want to go on strike, but it is one of the few tools left to us if our demands are denied,” said Sanders.

TAs at York University went on strike on Nov. 6, shutting down classes. No resolution is in sight. The York Federation of Students has been criticized for announcing public support for the strike, even though 50,000 York students could lose a semester.

The Experimental Cinema of Takashi Ishida: A Treatise

Occasionally, if one is lucky, one experiences a work of art that evokes a visceral reaction, one that is downright sensual. Consider certain passages of Swan Lake, with two dozen ballerinas moving together in perfect formation. Their routine is so graceful, fluid, and aesthetically pleasing that I have to remind myself to breathe. Or Mozart’s piano sonatas, or Beethoven’s ninth symphony, which are among the most powerful works of art ever conceived. I even find myself tearing up at the sound of David Bowie’s “Life On Mars”—and that song doesn’t even make sense. (I invariably cry out: “It’s true—Mickey Mouse HAS grown up a cow!”)

While I can only speak for myself, these works go beyond simple entertainment, evoking a transcendental emotional, psychological, and physical response. It involves a sense of breathlessness, a widening of the eyes, and a tingle in the back of the spine. It’s no orgasm, but it’s about as close as art can get.

Most films focus on plot and characters. As a result, they lack the purity to evoke this sensual reaction, engaging the viewer on a more intellectual level. In fact, I think colour cinematography, which lacks the elegant simplicity of black and white, further distances us from such a feeling.

Experimental films, which do away with narrative in an attempt to strike at our visceral emotions, often end up even more coolly intellectual than their mainstream counterpart. I’ve been frustrated in the past by video installation art that confuses more than it enlightens, wondering what emotions were supposed to have been evoked. A truly transcendent experimental artwork must contain a strong level of technical proficiency and, dare I say it, earnestness.

This leads me to Takashi Ishida, a Japanese painter, performer, installation artist, and filmmaker whose films will be the subject of the Cinematheque Ontario retrospective Takashi Ishida in Person on December 3. While Ishida’s short films are experimental, they’re not inaccessible. He is, above all, a meticulous and skilful formalist, interested in experimenting with the composition of the film frame, and setting his compositions to beautiful classical music. According to the Cinematheque program guide, “Ishida rigorously explores the tensions between perspective and flat space, rectilinear and organic form, linear progression and repetition.” His stuff is pretty, too.

Ishida’s 18-minute The Art of Fugue (2001) sets the music of Bach to a series of abstract images, beginning with a series of rotating geometric shapes, eventually depicting animations of ornate Japanese emaki (picture scrolls). This film, like so much of Ishida’s work, captures the balance between purity and discipline, and is a staggeringly beautiful work of art.

His other films are similar achievements. Three Red Stripes (2005) features a man making odd noises in front of a backdrop with three vertical red stripes, until Ishida melds the sounds into a hypnotic buzz. Then there’s Film of the Sea (2007), which blurs the line between reality and fantasy with its curious juxtaposition of sea footage and a wall that leaks a stylishly blue liquid. Emaki 1 and 2 (1995, 1996) continue Ishida’s fascination with emaki scrolls set to music.

These laborious, literal descriptions of Ishida’s experimental films are useless. What matters more is their considerable visceral impact. To describe the exact nature of this impact would probably require a more appropriate medium than a newspaper article—perhaps a poem or a piece of music could do it justice. Better yet, just see the films yourself.

The Bills are coming to Toronto

Soon, the Buffalo Bills will call Toronto home.

On December 7, they’ll take on the Miami Dolphins in Canada’s first-ever regular season NFL game. To promote the landmark match-up, Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards was recently at the Rogers Centre, signing autographs to preview the game.

On paper, this will be a home game for the Bills. However, they’ll actually be playing more than 150 kilometres from Ralph Wilson stadium, leaving behind some familiar home-field advantages.

Buffalo weather can be harsh this time of year, with high winds, snow, and freezing rain influencing game outcomes. While this has benefited the Bills in the past, playing in the dome-covered Rogers Centre means giving up this potential advantage. When asked how it might affect the Bills’ performance, Edwards admitted it’s been on his mind.

“I’ve thought about [it],” he said. “Last year’s game we played [the Dolphins] in December in Buffalo and it started snowing. We beat them […] and I think a lot of that had to do with the weather conditions, that we were able to get on them early. [But] we’ll have other factors that will allow us to hopefully win this football game.”

Another advantage the Bills will lose is the presence of fans that call Buffalo home. However, Edwards noted that it felt like a home game when the Bills first played in Toronto in preseason against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He added that the fans will need to make a lot of noise. “This is a home game for us and we’re going to need a home atmosphere,” said Edwards. “That comes with fans being loud and making sure that the Dolphins on third down can’t hear their calls. That’s going to be pretty big for us.”

What started out as a strong season has turned sour for the Bills when they hit a four-game losing streak. The impending game against Miami will be a tough match-up. The Bills have lost all three of their divisional games this season. However, their recent performance against the Kansas City Chiefs indicates that things are back on track. Edwards rushed for two touchdowns in that game, giving him three on the season, the most of any Bills quarterback since Jack Kemp in 1966. He also posted a career-high quarterback rating of 121.0 in Buffalo’s best offensive feat this season.

Edwards earned his first NFL start early last season, just a few weeks into his rookie year. Since then, he’s embraced his role as leader of the offense—a responsibility he takes very seriously. “Obviously, as a quarterback and as a young guy you need to find the best [leadership] formula. That’s number one on my priority list, making sure I’m setting the example for these guys and I’m doing everything I can personally to make sure that I’m allowing my team to win on Sundays,” he said.

When met with questions about his confidence, the young quarterback displayed poise. “I don’t consider myself a fearful football player,” he said. “You can’t play this position and have fear in your game.”

Downturn deflates endowment cushion

As markets continue to crumble, U of T holdings are falling with them.

“The endowment has at this point lost the cushion needed to sustain payouts in the absence of a recovery,” reads a Nov. 19 memo from U of T VP and provost Cheryl Misak and VP Business Affairs Cathy Riggall. The memo says that U of T will look for alternatives to meet its payments from the endowment, promising, “We will meet our commitments.”

“The value of the endowment and the value of the pension fund have both declined,” Riggall told The Varsity in an email. Final decisions on how to handle the situation won’t be reached for some time, said Riggall.

“Faculties and division are currently engaged in preparation of budgets for the next five-year period, and are advised to plan for cuts and restrain any non-essential spending,” reads Riggall’s memo. She said next year’s budget is being drafted now, but won’t be final until March or later.

U of T’s assets amounts to some $5.5 billion, which include $2.8 billion in pension funds and $2 billion in endowments. Payments from the endowment go towards scholarships, bursaries, and research projects.

University spokesperson Laurie Stephens said that employee pensions will not be affected despite the downturn, as the university is obligated to pay them in full. So far, no hiring freezes are planned at U of T, unlike the six-month freeze at Waterloo. Stephens said that student bursaries would be the last to go. “If it continues to worsen, whatever we do will have the least impact as possible on students and faculty,” she said.

Allison Webb, secretary to the Planning and Budget Committee, said she could not predict if there will be significant change to next year’s budget as a result of the financial downtown. In the meantime, all eyes are on the market.

Throwing Open the Barn Doors

Toronto’s recent art renaissance has been characterized by the addition of fresh modern designs to historic institutions such as the Royal Ontario Museum, Royal Conservation of Music, and Art Gallery of Ontario. Nestled in a residential neighbourhood bordered by St. Clair and Christie, the Artscape Wychwood Barns incorporate environmental innovations (geothermal heating and a storm water reuse system) and preserve the industrial history of the 60,000 square foot, 85-year old buildings. For their commitment to the environment, the Barns were designated the first Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED)-certified heritage building in Canada.

The eight-year, $21.2 million redevelopment was funded by three levels of government in addition to private donors. The finished project provides 26 units of rent-geared-to-income housing for artists and their families, 15 affordable work spaces, 13 offices for non-profit arts and environmental organizations, as well as rehearsal, performance and event spaces that connect art, environment, and community.

The Barns herald a new generation of community centres in Toronto—for the community by the community. The project is a collaboration of arts, environmental leadership, and urban agriculture, emphasizing sustainability in response to the neighbourhood’s needs. “We heard from the local community their aspirations for a place that was a centre for the environment, a centre for the arts, and people wanted affordable housing. We decided to combine all of those things together,” says Artscape President and CEO Tim Jones.

Built between 1913 and 1921, the Wychwood Streetcar Barns served as a streetcar repair facility for the Toronto Civic Railway, boarded up and left derelict in the 1980s. It wasn’t until 2001 that Artscape received the green light to begin the design and consultation process. It was quickly discovered that the Barns were a brownfield site.

Brownfield sites range from abandoned commercial properties to underutilized industrial parks where previous usage has resulted in contamination. “We had to lift out two metres of dirt around the entire site in order to bring it back to life,” says Jones. “We were inspired to think as green as possible and we were motivated when we learned there were no other LEED gold-certified heritage buildings in Canada.”

The rehabilitated site, complete with 127,000 square feet of park grounds, a community art gallery, and urban gardens earned a Canadian Urban Institute Brownie Award for Excellence in Project Development, recognizing the site’s innovation, environmental sustainability, and leadership in brownfield redevelopment in Canada.

Established in 1986, Artscape has developed six multi-tenant art centres with a mandate to create an infrastructure to advance Toronto arts and culture. Artscape projects have helped to redefine historic neighbourhoods, regenerating Parkdale, Queen West, Toronto Island, the Distillery, and Liberty Village.

The completed project was very much a community endeavour. The November 20 launch, presided over by Jones, Mayor David Miller, and city councillor and staunch supporter Joe Mihevc, saw hundreds of locals and art enthusiasts fill the Covered Street Barn. The event opened the doors to publicly accessible spaces, but also studios and artist live/work space, as a way to connect community members with their new neighbours.

This project was not always met positively by local residents. An aggressive campaign to stop Artscape from redeveloping the property included legal threats, a website dedicated to anti-Artscape sentiments, and an audit proposed by a small enclave. Residents stressed their concern for lost park space and fears of increased traffic in the form of crowds from theatre productions, visiting educational groups, and patrons of the food bank housed in the Barns.

Visual artist Erin Munro leases one of the studio spaces, and has waited years for something to be done. “I grew up in Toronto,” she says, “and I would walk by here everyday and see it boarded up and wonder what was going on with this property. There were talks for a long time about it being redeveloped, but it didn’t look like it was going anywhere.”

Set up in a modest-sized space flooded with natural light, she’s excited to settle into her new space. “The best part is there are multi-disciplinary people around. There’s a real sense of community and diversity. It’s really a dream come true to finally be here.”