Cinema Studies

Leggings again? My own sentiments notwithstanding, the mirror reflects a complete lack of wardrobe flair during these dreary months. You attend the prestigious University of Toronto, which (according to President David Naylor) is the hardest school in the country to obtain an A grade. So it’s fair that your attention is on matters of academics, not acid wash, though I welcome debate on the latter. However, as Ryerson has their angsty emo and OCAD their colourful hipster, wouldn’t it be grand if U of T’s fashion identity were equally compelling?

I asked a couple members of Toronto’s media glitterati (and alumnae to boot) to reminisce on their scholastic style.

“I would stock up on khaki pantaloons like Anna Nicole used to stock up on meds. I haven’t worn khaki since,” reveals The National Post’s society scribe Shinan Govani, a former member of the Trinity tribe. “Preppy was my destiny. I remember a lot of loosened ties with untucked shirts—preppy, but shabby. We were all minding the Gap.”

While Mr. Govani and his gaggle were tricked out in squeaky-clean Americana during Gap’s ‘90s heyday, campus darlings now abuse a different purveyor of colourful basics. “Do not dress head to toe in American Apparel,” he urges.

For Poli Sci grad and PR maven Natasha Penzo, “a great pair of jeans, earthy-coloured boots, a chic cozy sweater and a great tote bag with lots of hardware,” was her go-to class getup.

What did Penzo think of her campus flock? “The look was intellectual/conservative. However, because of the large portion of international students, there is also a great blend of unique styles.” Nowadays, she discusses collections with designers well before they hit the runway. “It makes you a few steps ahead of the game.”

Students, even if your day is spent engrossed in chemistry as opposed to couture, consider this: “Sloppy appearance often equals sloppy performance, so do your best to appear polished and put-together for class. Don’t get me wrong, sweatpants are a necessity some days!” Penzo makes a good point.

Now that we’ve heard from arbiters-about-town, let’s turn to some cinematic references and adopt their scholastic sartorialism, shall we? Confused as to where you fit in? Read on.

Bombastic Bookworm

In The Paper Chase (1973), a first year Harvard law student falls for his Professor’s daughter. (Our campus is the carefully disguised shooting location.) The film makes two things clear: faculty-laced liaisons are tricky, and corduroy is due for a comeback. Gentlemen, take note—a corduroy blazer elevates the plaid shirt to stylishly scholastic proportions. An oversized bow tie or ascot is charming with a grandpa cardigan. Work with a library-inspired palette of butterscotch, burgundy, mustard, and slate. Experiment with this 1970s mood, but in loving memory of Jim Croce, skip the ‘stache.

Underclasswomen unable to put down the Proust should turn to Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face (1957). As Jo Stockton, this reserved bookworm oozes well-read dignity. Her look is stark and simple—a beatnik mix of slim black separates with contrasting socks and smart oxfords. Add a coated canvas tote brimming with dog-eared classics.

Geek Chic

A Revenge of the Nerds (1984) look can be made ironically chic with the right adjustments. While pants should never be worn so grossly high on guys, both ladies and lads can steal select styling tips. Button your chemise all the way, then tuck it in and belt it. Pens go in the pocket. Slip on Clark’s Wallabees’ shoes and clunky tortoiseshell spectacles—heck, wear a calculator watch. The appeal of this look lies in your irreverence. Make square your statement.

Poetic Prep

Love Story (1970) is an iconic college film. While I wholeheartedly disagree that love means never having to say you’re sorry, Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal nail the Bostonian brand of prepster. To achieve Ali’s elegant New England manner, tuck centre-parted hair behind your ears or wear a wooly tuque. Collect belted pea coats in camel, navy, or cream, and don equestrian riding boots and a saddlebag. (Stollery’s at Yonge and Bloor is having a sale on striking Barbour messenger bags. Run!) Pair all with ribbed tights and a touch of a sandalwood scent.

For Ryan’s pedigreed polish, wear sweater vests, top-siders, spiffy blazers with suede elbow patches, and timeless trenches. I can attest to the longevity of these looks—they maintain an air of privilege perfect for long days in lecture.

For a West Coast take on Ivy League style, see The Graduate (1967). Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Bradley just graduated from Berkeley and is a little lost, which explains his pieced-together suits and Anne Bancroft’s snappy seduction. I’m tempted to comment on her effective use of animal prints as the original cougar, but I’ll resist.

Vintage Vixen

If you’ve considered a women-only college only to be met with looks of horror from your friends, family, and academic advisor, Mona Lisa Smile (2003) was a revelation. “Look how pretty and cunning they all are!” you cried out at the screen. While the ladies of 1950s Wellesley are overly coiffed and attired for today’s campus, their sense of fashion decorum is well within reach. Vintage stores, charity shops, and consignment boutiques are prime sources for ladylike tweed jackets, silk scarves, and flirty skirts. Commit to retro red lips or pin curls with diligence. While this style is unabashed, keep your husband-hunting antics under wraps. Boys, a whole world of thrifty goodness awaits at your nearest vintage emporium. You might not be inclined to digging through shops (surprising given your evolutionary role as hunters), but take a gander. Something secondhand will infuse all bland ensembles with character.

Nasreen steals hearts

Whether separated from their home country and culture, bereft after the death of a loved one, or set apart from the rhythms of the world by a grueling night shift, the characters in Farzana Doctor’s debut novel Stealing Nasreen all battle loneliness and isolation. Salma and Shaffiq Paperwala moved to Toronto from Mumbai, India two years before the story begins. Both are homesick, unsure of their decision to move, and woefully underemployed.

Nasreen is a Canadian-born daughter of immigrants from the same city and ethnic community as the Paperwalas. Having lost her mother to cancer and her girlfriend to infidelity, Nasreen plans a trip to India with her father to relax and spend time with family. To prepare for the trip she ends up taking classes in the home of Mrs. Paperwala, who offers lessons in Gujarati (the principal language of the Indian state of Gujarat) until she can find a full-time teaching position.

Little does Nasreen know that Mr. Paperwala is the janitor at the institute where she works as a psychologist. Both Shaffiq and Salma find themselves drawn to Nasreen. Shaffiq sees in her a vision of his daughters as adult Canadian women. Nasreen’s open sexual orientation leads Salma to recall the ladylove she left in India when she married Shaffiq. Through Nasreen, the Paperwalas confront their fears and regrets about leaving India and becoming citizens in a new and unknown place.

The novel marks a career change for Doctor, who shifted to a private psychotherapy practice to make time for her writing. “Initially it was a hobby and I didn’t think of myself as a writer,” she said. Doctor wrote the first draft of the first chapter for a continuing education course at U of T. “I felt there was something important happening in the story that I wanted to keep developing.”

In presenting issues of homosexuality and social expectations, Doctor was intent on steering away from a stereotypical approach. “So often we hear negative stories about the kids who are getting disowned and thrown out of their houses, and that still happens,” she said. “But we don’t hear much when families embrace their kids, and there are a lot of those stories as well.”

Though it reveals the growing pains of a new novelist, Stealing Nasreen is a well-executed story, uplifting, and even funny in its very human portrayal of isolation and longing in our often alienating city.

Farzana Doctor will hold a reading and discussion about the themes of her novel at U of T Centre for Women and Trans People (563 Spadina Ave, room 100) on Thursday February 12 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Fringe Science: Testing precognition

“Let me see your palm. Hmm…interesting. Someone from your past will return to you this year. And you will have some conflict at work, but you will eventually find a balance and strong financial stability.” It’s the classic psychic experience: vague information, a conflict to overcome, and an eventual happy ending (that will be $50, please). While it’s easy to poke fun at the psychic experience, researchers over the past decade have weaved together a different picture of precognitive abilities—gaining direct knowledge of the future via extrasensory means.

In 2004, Dr. Dean Radin from the Institute of Noetic Sciences published a paper in the Journal of Scientific Exploration explicating how over a 10-year span he utilized galvanic skin response sensors (sensors capable of measuring emotional arousal by detecting electrical activity on the skin) to investigate precognition.

Using this technology, Dr. Radin subjected 109 participants to multiple trials involving exposure to randomly selected calm images, like a ball, or more erotic or violent emotional images. Research in cognitive neuroscience had demonstrated that individuals exposed to emotional images have increased galvanic skin responses than those who are exposed to calm images. Based on these findings, Dr. Radin hypothesized that if precognition is a valid phenomenon, one might see an increase in galvanic skin responses for emotional images before they appeared to the participant; he alternatively hypothesized that no increase would be seen for calm images.

Results from the experiment confirmed Dr. Radin’s hypothesis. These results suggest that people know what is going to happen before it actually does—a precognitive claim that cannot be explained by contemporary understandings of time.

As a result of the controversy produced by Dr. Radin’s paper, researchers wanted to ensure the effect could be reproduced. Dr. Dick Bierman of the University of Amsterdam attempted the task, and successfully replicated the findings on multiple occasions throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Other scientists pursued research projects aiming to corroborate Dr. Radin’s findings by studying additional physiological measures, in effect creating converging lines of evidence. In 2004, Dr. Rollin McCarty and his colleagues published a paper in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine that investigated Dr. Radin’s experimental paradigm to see whether heart rates reacted similarly to galvanic skin response sensors when presented with emotional or calm images. Based on past physiology research, Dr. McCarty and his team expected heart rate activity to be lower in the emotional image condition than the calm image condition, even before the images were presented to the 26 participants. Results of the experiment supported this hypothesis and corroborate Dr. Radin’s research, suggesting that the heart reacts similarly to galvanic skin activity insofar as it appears to be capable of detecting “spooky” information that can orient the body to future events.

While these experiments highlight the possible validity of precognition, the research program is still very new, with many questions still unanswered. Though some studies suggest the body can unconsciously “see” into the future, few studies provide persuasive evidence for the validity of higher-order precognition (knowing specific events beforehand). Before this research will be taken seriously, mechanistic theories must be developed to explain how information from the future travels to the present, and how the body interprets this information.

In the meantime, enjoy your neighborhood psychic, but take their predictions with a grain of salt.

Co-op students hit by recession

When he decided to enroll in the Professional Experience Year program, Xavier Snelgrove never imagined that he would be laid off. But Snelgrove is one of the unlucky few U of T students who have lost their PEY jobs thanks to the recession.

“Money was a little worrying,” said Snelgrove, a third-year engineering student. “I’d been intending to pay my way through the next two years with the PEY salary.” Administrators at the PEY centre can’t guarantee that students in the program will find or keep a job, though Snelgrove noted that they were helpful after his lay-off, giving him a stack of printouts for other jobs.

The PEY program offers students in Engineering, Computer Science, Pharmacology, and Toxicology the opportunity to go on work terms of 12 to 16 months. Companies pay the students directly, with annual salaries ranging from $28,000 to $66,000.

“Roughly 60 percent of engineering students who do PEY come back with offers [for jobs after graduation],” said Jose Pereira, director of the program. Those who do return to their original employers after graduating typically receive a 20 to 25 per cent higher salary than non-PEY students, making it an attractive program, he said.

But the recession has thrown a wrench in some plans. “Over the last four years, roughly four to six students [per year] are affected by a merger, a downsizing, or a plant closure,” said Pereira. “This year, those numbers have gone up.”

To date, 16 students have been let go. Most have either found alternative employment opportunities through the PEY centre, or have returned to classes. While the number of layoffs has tripled, the majority of over 600 PEY students haven’t been affected.

Neighbouring universities have noticed a slight decline in jobs as well. “The number of rescinded jobs was significantly higher than what would normally occur, but the problem was not widespread,” said Olaf Naese, a representative from the University of Western Ontario engineering co-op program. He added, “As of Jan. 29, 94.4 per cent of our co-ops who were to be on a work term for the winter had found employment. That compares to 96.3 per cent at the same time a year ago.”

Pereira insisted that PEY students have mostly been sheltered from the recession. “Even though they’ve cut back their workforce, they are not hitting the PEY students.” Pereira emphasized that employers are still eager to secure young talent. Furthermore, he expects available positions will outnumber students in the program by August.

“All of our students will go through this again,” said Pereira. “Recessions are part of the cycle. Those that get to work with us during this particular period are getting more value than those that don’t.”

Snelgrove has since found employment at another company and will earn his non-academic credit by the end of the year. Despite the layoff, he remains positive about his PEY experience. “I’m definitely a much better programmer for it,” he said. “It was my first real intensive professional programming experience, and it was in a language I had never used before. Now I have a new job where I’m learning new things.”

Squeezing light to the limit

University of Toronto physicists recently discovered a unique property of quantum physics—the ability to squeeze light to the farthest limit possible. This new research could make way for more precise measurements, advance computer technology, and change how information is processed.

In quantum experiments, light is used to measure variables. However, light also has a defined quantum boundary known as the shot-noise limit. Below this shot-noise level, there is another attainable frontier known as the limit set by the uncertainty principle. The act of squeezing involves passing through the shot-noise limit, reaching the uncertainty principle limit.

At the forefront of experimental science lies a measuring device employed in different research fields. The precision of measuring small changes is defined by its quantum uncertainty. U of T PhD graduate student Krister Shalm notes: “We can ‘squeeze’ this quantum uncertainty to a smaller value for one measurement with the sacrifice of another variable such as speed.” Shalm, Rob Adamson, and Professor Aephraim Steinberg of U of T’s Department of Physics and Centre for Quantum Information and Quantum Control published their work in a recent issue of Nature.

Light, just like matter, is quantized and comes in the form of photons. Frequently, investigators use sources that produce single photons, attempting to squeeze these states. Shalm’s paper posits that, for the first time, triphoton states have been used instead of single photon states.

“If we place three photons that are identical in every aspect except their polarization (or orientation) in an optical fibre, then it is impossible to distinguish between the three and we now call the system a triphoton,” explains Shalm. The system now has its own grouped polarization properties. This type of uniformity is the same property used in modern MRI machines.

The authors then squeezed this unique state to more precisely measure the triphoton’s polarization. As previously thought, these actions passed the shot-noise limit and eventually reached the Heisenberg limit, where squeezing has no effect on the uncertainty of the system. “What’s interesting is that if we squeeze past this limit the uncertainty actually begins to increase,” says Shalm.

This observation is unexplainable if the polarization surface is thought of as the classical flat disk. Instead, the physicists described the surface as spherical. “The uncertainty of these triphotons can be thought of as a balloon on a sphere,” explains Shalm. “As we squeeze the balloon, it initially compresses and the uncertainty is reduced.” He goes on to say that although the uncertainty is reduced in one direction, the balloon starts to wrap around the sphere in the other direction. “The balloon inevitably reaches all the way around increasing the uncertainty of the polarization.”

Furthermore, since the state is triphotonic, “over-squeezing” the system leads to a symmetrical spread of the uncertainty into three equally spaced balloons around the sphere. “These complex quantum states of light can then be represented with a simple spherical map,” notes Shalm.

This research will not only advance the field of quantum physics but other scientific disciplines that concern precise measurements. Specifically, production of super-powered processors and circuit boards found inside computers will be much more efficient.

“Eventually, instead of increasing the power of normal single photon states, these squeezed triphoton states of relatively low intensity can be used much more effectively in circuit boards, cryptography and quantum computing,” says Shalm.

UTSC siblings face deportation

Two UTSC students are about to find out where the future will take them.

Steve and Trisha Sherman received deportation orders three weeks ago to return to Guyana. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has denied the two asylum in Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Board Act.

The two have been ordered to leave the country by this Wednesday.

Trisha, a political science student, is in her last year of studies and planned to graduate in May. Steve is in his third year of environmental studies.

“At this point, we’re feeling defeated. We’re packing our bags and putting everything in the hands of a supreme being,” said Steve.

“They’re amazing, giving people; some of the best people I’ve known. Ever since they came to Canada they’ve been working really hard to give back to the community,” said Cheryl Brooks, a friend of Steve’s. She said the Shermans often tutor and volunteer at hospitals.

The Sherman family arrived in Canada in 2002 on a visitor visa. After their immigration request was denied, the parents and younger sister returned to Guyana. As minors, Steve and Trish applied for refugee status.

The family’s background is Indo-Guyanese, who make up 43.5 per cent of the Guyanese population as of 2002, mostly descendants of indentured labourers from India. The upper classes of the community are often subject to persecution and gang violence from Afro-Guyanese, the second largest ethnic group, forming 30.2 per cent of the population.

“When they were kids sometimes they’d be followed home, threatened, have stones thrown at them,” said Brooks. “Their family has been targeted. Businesses in their area owned by Indo-Guyanese would be destroyed.”

The two have been living with their grandparents, who are Canadian citizens.

Last weekend, they were granted a hearing where they presented a 500-signature petition, newspaper articles about the ongoing persecution as well as letters from family, friends, employers, and school officials. The two have spoken with Members of Parliament and attempted to get U of T administration involved. The group No One is Illegal, who supports Canadian refugees regardless of legal status, had planned a rally for last Thursday until the two pulled out.

The appeal was denied yesterday. Their lawyer is now taking the case to federal courts on the basis of a misunderstanding by CIC.

“If they don’t hear anything or get a negative response, they’ll leave Wednesday,” said Brooks. “But if they get a deferral, they’ll stay for as long as the deferral entitles them.”

The Shermans had hoped to stay until May 2 to finish the school year. They were paying domestic tuition fees as they presented a refugee claim.

“I know there are cases in the past where university students have been given more time,” said Steve. “I feel our university isn’t doing enough. It’s been difficult to get in touch with people.”

As of this morning, they have lost the possibility of a 50 per cent refund for dropping courses and paid full tuition for the rest of the semester.

“They are telling us that we’ve already paid our tuition. And they’ve told us that we won’t get a full reimbursement, that it will go according to the reimbursements schedule they have. They offered us no flexibility,” said Steve.

University officials could not be contacted for comment.

Dehydration

Many of us have heard that our body is made up of two-thirds water, that we should drink eight glasses of water a day, and that by the time we’re thirsty, we’re already dehydrated. While the first statement is true, a lot of what we believe to be common knowledge about dehydration is actually myth.

The daily water intake required varies from person to person. It depends on one’s size, diet, and lifestyle. According to M.D. Heinz Valtin, in order to figure out your requirement you should weigh yourself several days in a row at the same time to determine whether your weight stays fairly constant. If there is a difference of one pound between one day and the next, your water intake the day before was insufficient. Drink a pint of juice or water every morning and continue the experiment to see what fluid intake maintains your weight, keeping the same diet patterns. On average, eight glasses of water or two litres equals the amount the average adult loses through respiration, sweat, and urination. Food and other beverages also count towards replenishing these two litres. In terms of lifestyle, physical activity will affect an individual’s water requirement. R.D. Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition in the Medical Center at the University of Pittsburgh explains, “Exercise blunts your thirst mechanism. You lose fluid so rapidly that the brain can’t respond in time.” It’s recommended that people hydrate themselves prior to going to the gym. Bonci says, “It takes 60 minutes for liquid to travel from your gut to your muscles.” In terms of exercise, humans lose salts via sweat, so sports drinks like Gatorade are a wiser alternative.

While thirst is a sign that we are mildly dehydrated, the thirstier we become is not an indication that we are becoming increasingly dehydrated. Also, thirst is not immediately relieved even once we’ve replenished our systems. Studies indicate that by the time we are thirsty, we are two to three per cent dehydrated, but we can satiate this thirst by drinking one per cent of our body’s weight in fluid. For the most part, thirst is a pretty reliable indication of hydration status, and if ignored can result in dire consequences.

Contrary to popular belief, caffeinated beverages are not dehydrating. Research has indicated that the diuretic effects of coffee and tea are negligible, and that caffeinated drinks will hydrate you—just not as efficiently as decaffeinated alternatives. Drinking one cup of coffee will give you two-thirds the equivalent of one cup of water. Lawrence Armstrong, professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut says, “Caffeinated beverages do not dehydrate you when consumed in moderation, that is, five cups of less per day of coffee, tea, or cola. Any fluids you ingest will help keep your cells saturated, including juice, iced tea, or soda.”

Unlike other beverages, drinking a lot of water, within limits, won’t cause any harm. In fact, it can help prevent kidney stones in people who are susceptible, ease constipation, aid weight loss, and also alleviate water retention in addition to the multitude of the other roles it plays in sustaining human life.

Surprise! You’re elected

French Club president Antonin Mongeau was furious when he got voted off the Clubs Committee. Now, because his replacement didn’t actually want the spot, his seat will remain vacant this semester.

The committee, which gives recognition and funds to UTSU clubs, has three spots for club executives. The committee was re-struck after the Fall by-elections last Friday and UTSU board members voted on the three spots.

VP campus life Athmika Punja, who chairs the committee, nominated Natalie Orellana for a seat. Though Orellana was not present at the meeting, she won over Mongeau.

Punja told The Varsity on Jan 31, “I sent out the call-out […] only two days before the meeting, and [Orellana] got back to me really quickly and said that she couldn’t make it on Thursday but she really wanted to be part of it. I guess it was sort of my duty to nominate her.”

In fact, Punja sent an email to Orellana on the day of the meeting, less than an hour before it was due to start, saying that there was a spot available on the Clubs Committee and inviting her to join. Orellana, president of the Current Affairs Exchange Forum, did not know what the Clubs Committee was.

Punja said that Orellana should have known about the committee from clubs training, which is mandatory for all club leaders.

“At that time it had only been Antonin and Jimmy Lu, so when I sent out the call-out, I saw it as an opportunity to fill that last seat. When I sent out the call-out, I didn’t expect that there would be a big change in the Clubs Committee, the outcome did surprise me.”

Punja’s email to Orellana did not mention the vote. Orellana replied that she could not come to the meeting and asked for more information about the committee. “I can’t today, but maybe next time you guys have a meeting I could come,” she wrote.

Punja told it differently. “The e-mail that I got from [Orellana] said she did [want to join the committee], she just couldn’t make the first meeting.” Later, Punja revised her statement, saying, “I got that she was interested from her email, so I nominated her.”

Punja replied saying that she would add her to “the list,” and that she should make it to the next meeting. By the time Orellana saw this message, she was already a member of the committee, but didn’t know it: “I didn’t assume that I was committing myself to something. There was nothing about voting or whatever.”

“She’s said she doesn’t want to be on it, but we’ve pretty much made all the decisions so far. I guess it’s going to be two people again.”

Mongeau said the vote was done hastily to remove him from the board for political reasons. Punja admitted that she voted against the French Club president, accusing him of being out of order during meetings.

UTSU execs denied that the vote was politically inspired, and repeated that committees are re-struck after by-elections every year. According to UTSU bylaws, committees are supposed to be re-struck in November.

“I only got the directions to re-strike the committee from Adnan [Najmi, VP internal],” said Punja. “I didn’t find out until Tuesday, the meeting was on Friday.” She said she had not checked the bylaws for the rules. “He [Adnan] is the policy guy, I obviously took his word for it.”