As Governing Council voted to approve major construction projects across three campuses at its June 23 meeting, noise from the protest outside wafted through the windows. The demonstration, organized by the University of Toronto Students’ Union, rallied against the new flat fees for Arts and Science students and demanded more attention for part-time students.Every 10 minutes, in between blasting dance music, the sound of a heart monitor beeped before hitting a flat note.One of the demonstrators, dressed as a surgeon, attempted to defibrillate a motionless student. The surgeon declared the student dead after two unsuccessful attempts, followed by a pun-loaded speech on the impact of the flat-fees measure, such as getting “first-degree burns.”The “deceased” student then held a sign, also posted above the operating table, which read “Revive Flatlined Education.”At the protest, UTSU encouraged students to attend demonstrations, financially support the ongoing court case against the university, and join the Drop Fees campaign.The protest was sparsely attended, with 10 to 15 present, including members from labour unions CUPE and Steelworkers, and Hamid Osman, former president of the York Federation of Students. UTSU staffers were heard calling friends to boost turnout.Inside council chambers, VP and provost Michael Marrus presented five major capital projects impacting all three campuses and totalling more than $170 million.The bulk of the capital project spending went towards two new instructional centres at UTM and UTSC, which include classrooms, labs, and offices. The centres will each get more than $70 million. The remaining funds will go toward renovations for the Lash Miller Building, McLennan Physical Laboratories, and the School for Global Affairs at the Munk Centre.But with a loud protest outside and outspoken dissent from student governors inside the meeting, the meeting’s process was anything but smooth.Speaking through an interpreter, part-time undergraduate representative Jeff Peters argued that the university’s financial priorities were out of sync with the essential needs of students.Peters said projects like a stadium for the Pan-Am Games and a centre for high-performance sport were unnecessary items that made part-time undergraduate students a lower priority. “They need advocacy,” he said. “They need APUS [the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students]. They need to pay less tuition.”Marrus countered that students benefit through many of the university’s priorities by means of financial aid, library improvements, and necessary expansion. He pointed to the Citizen Lab, famous for developing software against online censorship and most recently used by Iranians for online dissent. “Where are they in the Munk Centre?” he asked, “They’re in the basement!” When The Varsity contacted Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert, he said it’s not the program’s location that’s the problem, but its lack of much needed space and sufficient funding.Still, Peters said, for many students, the cost of the new buildings would be bundled into an ancillary fee not covered by student loans and could affect students’ ability to afford basic needs. “It’s more important to have food on the table than all these expensive buildings,” he said.Governors voted overwhelmingly in favour of passing the construction projects, despite Peters’ challenge to those who voted “yes” to not eat for a week.The next Governing Council meeting is set for Thursday, October 22. Both Peters and Marrus have retired as Governing Council representatives this year.
GC passes capital projects
Turning over a new Leaf
Despite all the draft speculation and rumours, the Toronto Maple Leafs did not end up drafting the NHL’s next possible superstar. In the weeks preceding the draft, GM Brian Burke threw all kinds of hints about moving up in the draft and bringing John Tavares to Toronto. Leafs Nation collectively held its breath, as the Buds haven’t had a true superstar on their squad in quite some time. The Leafs are notorious for picking players past their prime. While the Raptors usually have a difficult time bringing superstar talent to the city because of the climate and fans, there is no doubt that Toronto is the unofficial hockey capital of the world. The 2009 NHL Entry Draft, however, denied the Leafs a chance to build their squad around an exciting young prospect. Perhaps Burke preferred not to deal out Luke Schenn or make any other risky concessions and instead focus on his current agenda of beefing up the Leafs into genuine hard hitters.The draft, held at Montreal’s Bell Centre, saw the selection of 119 forwards, 70 defencemen, and 21 goalies. The New York Islanders retained their first-round pick and scooped up John Tavares from the London Knights. This was no surprise, as the last-place Islanders desperately needed some scoring talent. Rebuilding a team is a difficult and intricate process, as Toronto has witnessed, and the Islanders played their cards wisely to firmly defend their pick. Who better to draft than the kid who broke OHL scoring records at the age of 16? It still remains to be seen whether Tavares will be another Sydney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, but the six-foot centre’s talent cannot be denied. The clinic he put on at the 2009 World Junior Championships had all the scouts drooling.Next on the list was Victor Hedman, the elite Swedish defenceman, who was selected second by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Hedman and Tavares were billed as equals in the draft race, and they represented the classic NHL draft conundrum: do you go for the flashy scorer or the super solid defenceman? NHL teams have had mixed results with their choices. Hedman was also part of a record seven Swedes who were drafted during the first round.Other mentionable picks include Brampton Battalion’s Matt Duchene, who was taken third by the Colorado Avalanche, and Brayden Schenn, Luke Schenn’s brother, who was picked fifth by the Los Angeles Kings.At number seven, the Leafs landed London, Ontario native and other London Knights star Nazem Kadri. Kadri scored an impressive 25 goals in 56 games for the Knights. It is unlikely that he will see ice time during the upcoming season, but the Leafs will definitely try to cultivate him into an aggressive, slashing centre to suit their gritty offensive plans. Interestingly, Kadri will be the first NHL player of Lebanese descent and only the second Muslim player.The Leafs also picked right-winger Kenny Ryan at 50th overall, and defenceman Jesse Blacker at 58th overall. The Leafs are usually criticized for trading their picks and prospects for more seasoned players instead of developing them internally. Only the upcoming seasons will reveal what Burke has in store for these players, and how he will incorporate them into the Leafs’ painfully slow rebuilding process.
Grant program spreads money around
The Conservative government unveiled on June 22 its standardized national system of grants, originally announced in the 2008 federal budget.Under the new Canada Student Grants Program, individual awards will be reduced from $3,000 to $2,000 in order to increase the number of students qualifying for grants from 125,000 to 245,000. Student lobby groups praised the announcement, though they say it’s only a first step.“The new grants program is very exciting because the government is acknowledging that there is a part of my financial contribution to my education which I don’t have to repay,” said Arati Sharma, national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. Katherine Giroux-Bougard, national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, said the CFS welcomed the national grant system.The CSGP will replace the Millennium Scholarship Foundation, which expires later this year. It will not replace the 3,000 merit-based scholarships awarded by the MSF. The MSF had been criticized by both student groups and the Auditor-General for its low standards of financial transparency when compared to government-run programs. Under the CSGP, the administration of MSF grants will move to the Ministry of Human Resources and Skills Development.“In our opinion the new system of grants is a much more transparent, accountable system of grants. It’s there for the long-run,” said Giroux-Bougard.In addition, the newly-established Repayment Assistance Plan will help low-income borrowers pay back federal student loans.“RAP is a great program because if you start to miss your payments or if you know that you’re going to miss your payments, then you can apply to RAP and they’ll assess you based on what your income threshold is right now and how much you can actually pay back,” Sharma said.In a statement to the Globe and Mail, Alex Usher, a consultant with the Educational Policy Institute, criticized the new measures as overtly political. Critics point out that instead of putting in new money, the programs are simply redistributing available funds to cover more students.“I suspect that it will not have the effect on access that they think it will, but spreading money around more is likely to be politically popular,” said Usher. Immediately before joining the Educational Policy Institute, Usher was the lead researcher for the MSF’s research project.Sharma disagreed with Usher’s assesment. “I think it’s less political [and] more the fact that Millennium was phasing out [in 2009] and they needed to replace Millennium with something,” she said.The new programs will be made available in August.
A quiet affair
On a late June evening in New York’s Madison Square Gardens, a highly anticipated event was quickly losing steam just prior to the 7 p.m. start time. First, some major moves were made between contending teams in the NBA earlier in the day, as some of the biggest names in the sport were being shuffled around, especially in favour of the Eastern Conference. Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers from Phoenix to join forces with Lebron James, in exchange for only Sasha Pavlovic and Ben Wallace. By addressing the issues at centre that have plagued the Cavaliers, many feel this move makes Cleveland the top contender for the 2010 Championship.Other notable moves in the East were the trade of Vince Carter from New Jersey to Orlando and Jamal Crawford from Golden State to Atlanta. The only major move in the West was the acquisition of Richard Jefferson by the San Antonio Spurs through a three-team deal that meant the end of Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto, and Kurt Thomas’ days in Spurs uniforms.With so many high priced and talented athletes switching teams and with a draft class that many feel is the weakest of the past several seasons, much of the excitement and anticipation normally felt at the NBA draft was simply missing. Adding to this was the shocking and unexpected news of a certain pop star’s death, which occurred only an hour prior to the start of the draft, further dampening the mood inside Madison Square Gardens.Anyone watching this year’s NCAA March Madness tournament would have had a perfect preview of this year’s NBA draft class. There’s no single player who will make a large impact on the game right away, but many who may grow into dominant forces in years to come.Not surprisingly, Blake Griffin—the large and athletic power forward who impressed everyone with his play for Oklahoma in the NCAA this year—was selected first overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. Unexpected selections included Tanzanian-born Hasheem Thabeet by the Memphis Grizzlies with the second overall pick. While Thabeet is 7’3” and weighs 267 pounds, many feel he lacks the finesse and court sense necessary to be valuable as an NBA player. Ricky Rubio, the skilled point guard from Spain who was part of the silver medal winning Spanish Olympic men’s basketball team, was anticipated as a potential second or third overall but ended up being quite a steal for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who picked him up with the fifth overall pick.Other notable picks were Stephen Curry by the Golden State Warriors, a selection that forced New York to settle for Jordan Hill, despite publicly reporting their interest in Curry. This selection drew boos from the crowd at Madison Square Gardens, as the home team ended draft day with less-than-favourable selections. For Torontonians, some positive news was the selection of DeMar DeRozan, who many Toronto sports writers feel will perfectly compliment the likes of Chris Bosh and Hedu Turkoglu.In a day full of major headlines both from within basketball and without, it seems as though the draft was doomed to be an afterthought in the minds of most fans. Although the pool of talent in the draft class seems shallow in the early going, there is a lot of potential for several of these rookies to emerge as stars in their first NBA seasons. This year’s race for Rookie of the Year will be extremely tight and entertaining to watch.
A history of Pride
Toronto Pride Week turned 29 this year, but the fight for gay rights began much earlier.June 1969 saw the world’s first Pride: riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in response to violent police raids the previous night. It’s a far cry from the festive and well-supported Pride Week today. These 40 years were proudly celebrated by U of T marchers from LGBT-OUT at last Sunday’s parade, the crowning event of the 10-day Pride celebrations that drew one million visitors to Toronto. From Canada’s first “homophile association” to protesting bathhouse raids, U of T’s history reflects the oppression and courage of those who paved the way.
Jason Collett (Courthouse, 8 p.m.)
A surprisingly tight opening set from the veteran songwriter, who has toned down the fake-Dylanism and assembled a raucous band behind him. —CHRIS BERUBE
Pace the Stairs (Silver Dollar Room, 9 p.m.)
Syncopated noise, which kind of made me miss the Blood Brothers. I knew it would be a good show when the bouncers outside were complaining about how loud it was.—DAVID PIKE
Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head (El Mocambo, 11 p.m.)
Everything about them seems so wrong—a sound of pure ’80s cheese, enthusiasm that outstrips musical chops, side ponytails—but seeing them live just felt so right! A boisterous dance party all the way through, and the surprise of the festival.—CB
Health (Horseshoe Tavern, 1 a.m.)
I can count on one hand the number of breaks in between Health’s overwhelming wall-of-noise set. I couldn’t hear anything when I left the venue. Also, never wear flip flops to the Horseshoe.—DP
Tin Star Orphans (Horseshoe Tavern, 3 a.m.)
“Welcome to first night 3 a.m.! We are your hosts, Tin Star Orphans.” Ah, TSO, if only you could rock the Horseshoe ’til four in the morning every night. My liver would probably explode, but I wouldn’t mind. —JOE HOWELL
Matt & Kim (Whippersnapper, 8 p.m.)
Instead of Prozac, they should prescribe Matt & Kim shows to depressives. The duo is just so darn happy! Sadly, the pair didn’t get nekkid like in the instant-classic “Lessons Learned” video, but apparently Kim’s grandfather was disappointed by the Times Square streaking. So, maybe that’s out for good.—JH
Wintersleep (Yonge-Dundas Square, 9:45 p.m.)
While tight enough musically, their live show was a bit of a snore. It takes a lot of stage presence to do Yonge and Dundas justice, and Wintersleep just doesn’t have it.—JH
Deep Dark Woods (Dakota Tavern, 10 p.m.)
There’s something fitting about listening to these crooners lament that “all the money [they] had is gone,” while most of the audience sits around indulging in that recessionary staple of macaroni and cheese. A sultry, gorgeous set.—SHOSHANA WASSER
Fond of Tigers (Music Gallery, 10 p.m.)
For me, the test of a good band is whether they can do something that I can’t. Fond of Tigers, whose seven-part tracks are impenetrably dense (and sounded great in this hallowed space), knock me on my ass every time I see them.—ALEX MOLOTKOW
Hooded Fang (Dakota Tavern, 11 p.m.)
What would Jacob Two-Two think of Hooded Fang? With their whimsical assortment of instruments and enigmatic lead singers, the band had almost enough charm to play two sets.—SW
No Age (Lee’s Palace, 12 a.m.)
Why is this two-piece band thing so gimmicky? Why are there hipsters push-moshing?—DP“I didn’t know there was a wash- room back here!”—Guy in line at Lee’s Palace, shortly before peeing in the alley. —JH
Parallels (Reverb, 1 a.m.)
Dark glam synth rock is making a comeback, baby! This sparsely at- tended show was the best of the eight acts I saw that night. Check out their MySpace and see them next chance you get (which should be soon, considering that they’re native Torontonians.)—JH
The Zoobombs (Yonge-Dundas Square, 2:30 p.m.)
Impossible to ignore live, these Japanese punks bend genres in one of the most consistently flawless sets you are likely to see anywhere in the world. Strong stuff.—CB
Caledonia (Bread & Circus, 10 p.m.)
When Caledonia’s set was ended by the sound guy turning on “Just Like Heaven,” fans protested until the folksy group promised a few more songs. Better than The Cure? Well, definitely pretty good.—SW
Simply Saucer (The Reverb, 2 a.m.)
The more you like Simply Saucer’s records, the more prudent it is to cherish the hard copy and never, ever see the band perform live. Of course, their material is still way better than 90 per cent of the acts performing this weekend, and they can still rock. But the hard truth is that at age 45 it’s impossible to do what you did when you were 20.—AM
Arrington de Dionyso (The Music Gallery, 3 p.m.)
This was cancelled at the last minute, which means I walked the 15 minutes to the Music Gallery for nothing. So fuck Arrington de Dionyso. I bet his real name is John.—AM
GZA w/ King Khan (Yonge-Dundas Square, 8 p.m.)
A crowd-pleasing set that included everything you would want: selections largely taken from Liquid Swords, shout outs to ODB and one firm reminder that Wu Tang is for the children. Like a big, hip-hop group hug.—CB
Funding crisis hits University of California
It turns out that no public university is immune to crises.
Facing what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is calling “financial ruin,” the University of California is beset with its largest budget cuts since Ronald Reagan was governor nearly 40 years ago.
Living on the Fringe
The Fringe theatre festival continues through Sunday, but with over 100 plays vying for your attention, deciding what to see can be a challenge. The Varsity picks the productions that are worth the $10 ticket price.
The Laramie Project (Theatre Western)
The Laramie Project portrays a pretty significant story. After the hate-fuelled murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998, the Tectonic Theatre Company travelled to the village to conduct interviews about the incident with townsfolk. The play, which includes testimonials from over sixty real individuals, addresses issues of homophobia, the death penalty, and human interaction. In light of Proposition 8 and the American battle over gay marriage, the topic is certainly worth addressing.However, this is not an especially significant production. The staging lacks polish, and the amount of physical movement detracts from the poignancy of much of the dialogue. The eight-person cast bravely took on the challenge of portraying many different people, yet the majority of the actors could use a lesson in subtlety. A few of the characters were so overplayed that they became mere stereotypes, and their words lost resonance. But in this tragedy, it’s the words—the ones that came from the mouths of real people reacting to real events — that really matter. —WYNDHAM BETTENCOURT-MCCARTHYRating: VVv
Wanderlust (Martin Dockery)
Although theatre is about storytelling, it can generally be said that some stories—especially those told in one-person shows—are not worth hearing. But Martin Dockery, the director and sole actor of Wanderlust, came prepared. The performance consists of anecdotes from Dockery’s five-month soul quest through West Africa, beginning in the Sahara en route to Timbuktu (and as Dockery points out, any story that starts with Timbuktu reels you in pretty quick).For better or worse, he ignores the political element completely; the is- sue of being a white, wealthy tourist in a very poor, partially war-ravaged region is mostly left untouched. Dockery’s story—how he abandoned a temp job at the New York Stock Exchange and casual sex in Brooklyn in search of something deeper—hinges on the temporality of emotion and the ephemeral nature of meaning. Comic and charismatic, Dockery’s performance succeeds on the intrigue of his tales and his own sincerity and enthusiasm. He really wants to tell the audience something, to show that his exodus was not for naught, and the least we can do is sit back and listen. —WBMRating: VVV
36 Little Plays About Hopeless Girls (Birdtown & Swanville)
References to panel vans and a cad named Ronnie make the rounds in Aurora Stewart de Peña’s 36 Little Plays about Hopeless Girls. Using a snappy episodic format, 36 features portrayals of a handful of different girls (Glissandra, Rotunda, Satine, et al), most of them a little alienated from notions of successful living. Funny, and at times melancholic, they go to baseball games or have measured discussions about “the average bitch.” De Peña cleverly situates the playlets in different Toronto locales, all with a slight fairy tale patina, from English gardens in the Annex to filthy-floored apartments in Parkdale.Perfectly mannered performances by the whole cast blend the satirical with the earnest. Highlights include the stoic Laura McCoy as Ny’Pha, toilet paper–coveting creature of the night, and intensely choreographed transitions to Canadian Tire versions of Hole. Mega-props to Devon Tyler Dagworthy for putting together a pastel wardrobe that goes along perfectly with each hopeless girl’s specific persona, making them look fabulous in a festival that isn’t usually known for its literal (and figurative) frills.—NAOMI SKWARNARating: VVVV
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories (The Pheasant Plucker’s Mates)
A Big Bad Wolf sick of Little Red’s barbed comments about his appearance; a clothing-optional kingdom; a Cinderelly who takes solace in breaking it down to Annie Lennox—these are just some of the witty renditions in Jessica Beaulieu’s adaptation of James Finn Garner’s Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. Vastly entertaining and well- performed, the frenetic ensemble deconstruct the familiar tales with cheeky self-consciousness, never crossing into glibness.A few scenes, like the Three Little Leftist Pigs, would work better if they were shortened to just a side of bacon. But the charisma of the performers (including many University College Drama Society students) keeps up the pace even when the script lags behind. As well, there periodically seemed to be too much action on the Tarragon’s wide stage. The hyperactivity sometimes distracts from the subtler comedic moments generated by, as narrator Marcel Dragonieri exuberantly declares at the show’s end, the “white across the board!” ensemble.—NSRating: VVVV
The Emergency Monologues (Drinking Well)
Blood, guts, feces, severed testicles: no body part is spared in Morgan Jones Phillips’ collection of tales from his days as a paramedic in the EMS trenches. While he begins with an airtight disclaimer, Phillips is all about spontaneity; the show is structured around a roulette wheel labelled with various emergency incidents, and each spin decides which story he will tell, making the show a unique experience each time.Phillips has a knack for narration, and what he lacks in tact—his memories are christened with titles like “My First Hanging” and “Edna and the Poo”—he more than makes up for in comedic timing. The audience’s visible reactions to the gruesome stories are just as intriguing as the play itself—as the theatre emptied, people seemed to be checking to make sure all their limbs were still intact. Beneath all the gross-out jokes, Phillips man- ages to hint at how our skin and bones are reflections of who we are, and how our bodies are, ultimately, ourselves.—WBMRating: VVVV
Tim Buck 2 (Praxis Theatre)
Give Tim Buck 2 this credit: for a partial recreation of Eight Men Speak (the 1933 play performed in Toronto before a crowd of 1,500 to protest the arrest of Canadian Communist Party leader Tim Buck), it doesn’t aim to be way deep, then fail. It does, however, manage to assemble a fairly entertaining hour, even if there is little which theater- goers can take away from it.While the play-within-a-play structure was good for laughs and managed to skewer the humourlessness of art deemed fit for the workers, what kept me hanging on, and what ultimately left me hanging, was the play’s ill-defined setting: when are we? But then I suppose injustice is eternal, hence the play’s title and its willingness to Make A Point. If you recognize the blurred portrait on the play’s posters—it’s like Omar Khadr is Tim Buck all over again! And it’s a pun!—you probably know too much about Guantanamo to get hot under the collar over the play’s conclusion. And yeah, it’s a mock- parliament debate that not even a high school civics teacher could love. — JADE COLBERT
Red Machine: Part 1 (The Room)
There’s something to be said for a little bit of exposition. The Red Machine is comprised of three separate pieces by Michael Rubenfeld, Erin Shields, and Brendan Gall, each fragment representing a sojourn into writer Hugo’s blocked brain. The labyrinthine structure is a great concept, but it doesn’t translate clearly in production.There are powerful moments: performer Kristy Kennedy’s twitching, bound prophet evokes Beckett’s enigmatic monologue Not I as her body and language resist each other. Tova Smith, in a thankless but sexy role, plays up the noir element to great visual effect, but the allusions and literary motifs do little to bind the separate scenes into something holistic. Although the intention is admirable, The Red Machine might benefit from some more of the usual narratological conventions in order to render it more than just a well-lit, well-performed round of Exquisite Corpse.—NSRating: VVV
Fucking Stephen Harper: How I Sexually Assaulted the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada and Where it Got Me (Ten Foot Pole)
Disclaimer: Fucking Stephen Harper delves very little into, as the subtitle promises, how Rob Salerno sexually assaulted his Right Honourableness and where it got him. There is, in fact, zero fucking of the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada. However, it does give Salerno, who did not actually grab his interview subject by the balls but does actually write for Xtra, a soapbox from which to bemoan the state of his career. At that point, you will just bemoan how time seems to have slowed.Admittedly, none of us would be in this mess if the Conservatives had to win votes in predominantly gay ridings to gain a majority government. Or if most Canadians considered gay issues their issues. Or if Harper’s (consensual) handlers didn’t try to dictate media coverage down to the font type. There’s a whole Kama Sutra of ways Harper is fucking everyone over, which is a lot to demonstrate when you’re just a one-man show. – JCRating: VVvFor showtimes and more information, visit www.fringetoronto.com.