Extending a helping hand

As the boatload of Tamil refugees approached this July, Amnesty International urged Canadians to “honour [our] international human rights obligations.” Given that Tamils “suspected, even if wrongly, of being LTTE [Tamil Tigers] supporters have been routinely imprisoned and tortured” by the Sri Lankan Government, Amnesty was concerned “to hear some public comments that seem to follow this lead by labeling Tamil asylum seekers as ‘terrorists.’”

The boat landed in British Columbia August 12, whereupon Public Safety Minister Vic Toews voiced his concern about “suspected human smugglers and terrorists” among the refugees, who intended to “abuse” our “very generous…refugee legal system.” Likewise, Prime Minister Harper derided the refugees for seeking asylum “not through any normal arrival channel,” while simultaneously threatening to “strengthen” laws to keep them out.

Harper is surely aware that the UN refugee convention states explicitly that “contracting states shall not impose penalties [on refugees] on account of their illegal entry” into the state party. He must also be aware that, as one distinguished Canadian refugee specialist points out, “there isn’t a legal way [for refugees] to come to Canada.”

Nevertheless, these comments affect public opinion — which likely prompted Amnesty’s warning. 63 per cent of Canadians believed the Tamil ship “should have been turned back” to float the seas in squalor; 48 per cent would “deport [them] to their country of origin.” Illustratively, Harper’s misinformed statements about imaginary arrival channels are directly influent; 83 per cent of Canadians think “the migrants are jumping the immigration queue and should apply like any other foreigner” – as all other foreigners, surely, are fleeing the horror of ethnic war.
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These are refugees, not migrants. After Colombo defeated the LTTE in 2009, it locked hundreds of thousands of displaced Tamils in :overcrowded and unsanitary, detention camps”, without “basic human rights or basic legal safeguards and, of course, without charges, for an indefinite period of time.” The internees faced constant “disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrest, and sexual violence,” according to an Amnesty report. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon reported after visiting the camps that, although he had “travelled around the world and visited similar places,” the conditions of the camps were “by far the most appalling [he had] ever seen.”

The Sri Lankan government has committed virtually all of the crimes for which the Tamil Tigers are rightly considered a terrorist organization, and many they have not. These include: political assassinations, hostage-taking, use of child soldiers, forced disappearances, executing international aid and relief workers, systematic rape, ethnic cleansing, settler colonialism, extermination, and genocide. In 2004, the government blocked tsunami relief aid to the country’s Tamil province. In a brazen act this past June, a government minister incited mobs to take UN staff hostage until Ban Ki Moon called off investigation of government war crimes.

Canada’s hands are hardly clean of Colombo’s crimes. In 2009 Canadian trade with Sri Lanka totaled $456 million, not including $52.37 million in development assistance. Trade continued as the government was bombing trapped civilians and letting them fester in the camps. The fact that massive trade is not done with the LTTE may help explain why Ottawa classifies only one of these groups as a terrorist organization.

Human smuggling is among the uglier aspects of the reality in Sri Lanka, and the Tigers, though fighting for a just cause, are as hideous in their methods as any terrorists. Concerns that transport fees could fund human-smugglers or the LTTE are justified and serious. That said, there is a simple way to prevent millions of dollars from being extorted from desperate refugees in exchange for passage to Canada: provide it for free. After the Vietnam War, Canada absorbed over 56,000 Vietnamese refugees and this had no impact on economic growth. Absorption of Tamil refugees would, furthermore, be supported by sponsorship from the highly-organized Canadian Tamil diaspora of around 200,000 (the Vietnamese diaspora in 1975 was only 1,500). Ottawa’s itinerary plan for 2010 plans for 265,000 immigrants, with only 9,000 spots for “Humanitarian and Compassionate/Public Policy” admittance. A significant number of Tamil refugees could be granted asylum simply by balancing this ratio slightly.The Harper government’s ideas for cracking down on human smuggling, however, are less than generous. How Canada treats the refugees that arrive on our shores will surely be an indicator of our humanity and respect for international law.

U of T beats number-two ranked football team in the country

It would be hard to pinpoint who was caught most off-guard by this one.

See, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, easily one of the most farcical football teams in the OUA these past few years, sent the media into a frenzy, their coaches into shock, and the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees home in a state of embarrassment Saturday afternoon at Varsity Stadium.

No one expected the Blues, notorious for their appalling league record, to squash the second best team in Canada 40-35 in their second consecutive win of the season.

In fact, when the Gee-Gees came to town last year, they slammed the Blues and went home with a 35-15 win to their name and are 11-0 over the Blues since 1972.

But Toronto was riding the tides of a 24-19 victory that was secured over the York Lions on Sept. 18, and had fresh legs as they were off last week with a bye.

Apparently, the break in their game schedule served the Blues well, and Head Coach Greg DeLaval admitted that it was “the best week of practice in a long time.”

Someone should have given Gee-Gee’s Head Coach Jean-Philippe Asselin a heads-up.

In a pre-game statement Asselin said, “If Toronto is supposed to be a weaker team, I would like to remind the guys that they have blocked eight or nine punts since the beginning of the year in four games. Also, Guelph beat Queen’s easier than we did, and Guelph only beat Toronto by two points; so there is nothing to take for granted.”

Good advice, but unfortunately for Ottawa, it was lacking on follow-through. With the win, U of T scored their first victory against a nationally-ranked team since 1997, when they defeated the Waterloo Warriors 21-15.
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Although Gee-Gee’s receiver Matthew Bolduc opened the scoring with a touchdown just over a minute into the game, it only took Blues rookie running back Aaron Milton five minutes to get the home team on the board. Milton’s 105-yard touchdown run ties the U of T record set by Maurice Doyle at McMaster in 1979 and ranks fourth in the CIS for longest rush.

Quarterback Andrew Gills connected with sophomore receiver Paul de Pass on a 24-yard pass for the second Blues touchdown of the game and Toronto wrapped up the first frame in the lead.

Gee-Gees receiver Cyril Adjeitey responded early in the second quarter when he caught a 57-yard pass from quarterback Brad Sinopoli, and kicker Matthew Falvo converted his second extra point of the game.

Eager to hold on to the lead, Blues quarterback Jordan Scheltgen was brought off of the bench to score on one- and two-yard rushing touchdowns respectively. Despite a rouge from the Gee-Gees three minutes later, the Blues were up 27-15 at halftime.

As the Blues gathered out of the public eye to assess their tactics, “Rolli – one of our players – said, ‘Coach you don’t need to say anything,’” smiled DeLaval, who responded with a simple, “There’s nothing to say.”

Early in the third quarter, a seven play 73-yard driveand a one-yard run from Franck Ngandui led the Gee-Gees to their third touchdown of the game. The Blues remained one step ahead, however, and Gillis connected with receiver Michael Prempeh on a five-yard pass to put his team up comfortably by 12.

As the Gee-Gees coaching staff paced angrily up and down the sidelines talking furiously into their headsets, the Blues continued their climb up the scoreboard. Third-year kicker Andrew Lomasney scored 13- and 30- yard field goals respectively.

With just a minute left in the game, the Gee-Gees decided to show the home team why they are ranked second highest in the league and made a desperate final attempt to bring home the win.

An eight yard pass from Sinopoli to receiver Bogdan Raic brought the Gee-Gees up by a touchdown. With less than ten seconds to go, Steve Hughes connected on a three-yard reception for another one.

And as the Blues rejoiced emotionally on the sidelines to a final score of 40-35, it was clear that they couldn’t have cared less that Ottawa had come within five points of knocking them off their high horses.

“This is a big win for us,” said DeLaval. “We had a little bit of luck today.

“They gave us some things we could take advantage of. We made interceptions at critical times.”

Although DeLaval admitted that the team wasn’t under a lot of pressure going into the game – honestly, no one really expected them to win – Milton, who has quickly become one of the most impressive standout rookies in the league confessed he was a little nervous.

“But I knew what our team could do,” said Milton. “Most teams underestimate us. The plays we were calling right off the bat were plays we were comfortable with and it just carried over.”

But it was Gillis, who was named Player of the Game, that was the real story at Varsity Stadium. The fourth-year quarterback threw 28-for-45, recorded a career-high 343 yards and two touchdown passes.

“We had a game plan coming in,” said Gillis, always quick to credit his teammates. “We knew we were capable of doing something like this.”

“Andrew is probably one of the hardest working guys on the team,” said DeLaval of his star.

The Blues will be suiting up in Kingston next Saturday to take on the reigning national champions, the Queen’s Gaels.

To prepare for what Delaval described as a “tough game,” the team will be mixing up their practice tactics. The field at Richardson Stadium is actually grass, unlike the artificial turf at Varsity Stadium, so the Blues will be moving their training to the back field of Trinity College in order to further prepare for the game.

For now, the home team will be focused on celebrating their victory.

“We were due,” said DeLaval.

Peace of mind through science

In the claustrophobia-inducing basement of University College, an unassuming office smaller than most tutorial rooms houses the headquarters of Science for Peace, one of the most vocal academic organizations in Canada.

Containing only a few chairs, a desk, and several filing cabinets, it’s surprising that this is the headquarters for an organization that is a registered NGO at the United Nations and calls hundreds of Canadian academics, from a diverse range of disciplines, its members.

Science for Peace was founded in 1982 by a small group of mathematics and science professors at the University of Toronto with the common aim of researching issues and educating the general public in order to promote peace. The group now has chapters at post-secondary institutions across Canada. It holds conferences, public forums, and publishes research with the aim of affecting change in government policy not only within Canada, but around the world.

The Responsibility of the Scientist

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Chandler Davis, professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Toronto, aptly describes the founding members of Science for Peace who are still living — physics professor (emeritus) Derek Paul, chemistry professor (emeritus) John Valleau, and himself — as the ‘nucleus’ of the group. However, it was Eric Fawcett, a physics professor and the organization’s first president, who Davis considers to be the originator of Science for Peace.

“He was a remarkable man. He has since passed away, but Eric was in it from the beginning and was extremely active for his remaining life,” says Davis.

Science for Peace is now governed by an executive composed of six positions — a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and two members-at-large — as well as a board of directors.

When the organization was officially founded in 1982, the ongoing Cold War meant that the threat of nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union hung ominously over the world.

“We found ourselves in a situation where the danger of nuclear weapons and space-based nuclear weapons was not appreciated by the general public,” Davis reminisces.

“We were inspired by the idea of ‘the responsibility of the scientist’ to educate the public.”

Although he laments that the public is still not as concerned about the issue of nuclear weapons as the group would like, he considers it an important topic to accentuate within the public discourse.

“When nations build and store nuclear weapons, it’s a drain on society. It increases the hazard of nuclear accidents and increases the danger of accidental war. One of our original leading efforts was to explain the extent and nature of the danger to the public and the government. That was a main motivation for starting Science for Peace and it remains a vital issue to the organization today,” says Davis.

Three decades have now passed since the group’s founding and although their stance on nuclear weapons has not changed despite the end of the Cold War, the list of issues that Science for Peace addresses has grown exponentially.

“The moral issue of the responsibility of the scientist remains the same, but the specific policy questions and the specific scientific questions have broadened. We don’t consider ourselves outside our domain when we take up climate change or oil dependency,” says Davis.

They’ve got issues

Last December, the group drafted a letter urging the Harper government to take immediate action to curb Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. The letter was published on the Science for Peace website and was signed by nearly 600 faculty members from a wide range of disciplines and institutions across Canada.

More recently, Science for Peace organized a climate change talk at the Faculty of Music’s MacMillan Theatre. The talk featured the presentation of revered and controversial climate scientist Dr. James Hansen of Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, as well as Canadian activist and author Naomi Klein and environmental and aboriginal activist Clayton Thomas Muller.

Science for Peace has also lobbied the Ontario government to act quickly to reduce the province’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“We arranged a meeting with provincial legislators, along with Dr. Hansen, to speak about climate change. Premier McGuinty dropped by. I wouldn’t say he necessarily had a great learning experience, but some of the legislators who were there were very much clued in and aware of the issues,” says Davis.

Like many other organizations that lobby for political action against climate change, Science for Peace’s experience with the government, at both the federal and provincial levels, has frustrated some of its members.

Davis shares a disheartening anecdote about the plight of the climate change scientist attempting to convince the government that something must be done quickly.

“I can’t recall if it was Hansen or one of the other emissions control advocates who said he’d been told by a contact within the government that the trouble with trying to influence politicians is when you tell them that there’s a serious problem with emissions and something must be done or the change will be irreversible in 50 years, the politician’s response is going to be ‘Come back in 49 years.’”

We’ve found out relatively recently that the time scale to do something about climate change is much shorter than we had initially thought, but that’s still not enough to impress some politicians,” says Davis.

Although the scope of Science for Peace has broadened, with climate change research and advocacy taking up a considerable amount of the group’s time and resources, the danger of nuclear weapons is still one of its central issues.

“Last year we organized a conference on nuclear weapons, where we focused on the need for nuclear states and the international community to strengthen the treaties on nuclear disarmament,” says Davis.

“The issue remains extremely alive and complex,” he adds. “The major nuclear powers have not disavowed the objectives of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which states they must gradually disarm, but at the same time they have not set a timetable for disarmament. It’s not as much of an uphill struggle as some of the initiatives we support because we’re just asking most governments to do what they’ve contracted to do.”

While nuclear weapons and climate change are the two principle issues that concern Science for Peace, current president Judith Deutsch asserts that the organization’s relatively small size allows members to easily bring issues to the attention of the group that they have researched and believe to be important.

“Our members are concerned about many different issues, so because it’s small, it calls for a lot of personal initiative and requires members to keep an open mind towards a lot of issues. It offers a very good avenue for working on a range of hugely critical problems,” explains Deutsch.

“I think in many ways this is very advantageous,” she adds. “People have a lot of individual responsibility to investigate and research issues. People enter into this organization and sometimes there will be an issue they feel strongly about, that Science for Peace has not worked on before and inevitably, they can find others to collaborate with. It’s quite possible, as a group, to develop some kind of position.”
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Peace and Conflict

The organization has members who are well-known and respected inside the scientific community as well as members who lack formal scientific training, but have been tremendously influential and successful within other disciplines and professions.

Famed Canadian diplomat and former chancellor of the University of Toronto George Ignatieff was president of Science for Peace from 1986 to 1988.

Davis cheerfully recalls Ignatieff’s tenure as president as helpful in bringing much needed public attention to the group.

“George was not a scientist, but his sympathy toward the aims of the organization was so clear. His public statements were so useful and we were really delighted to have him as president,” he says.

Other past presidents have not been notable Canadian public figures but have nevertheless been extremely influential outside of their disciplines.

Another founding member of Science for Peace, mathematical psychologist, Anatol Rapoport also founded the University of Toronto’s prestigious Peace and Conflict Studies program.

“Following his retirement and without a salary, Anatol erected and taught the program in peace studies at University College,” explains Davis.

“It’s now called the Peace and Conflict Studies program,” Davis adds, “and the director Ron Levi has a regular salary, but it was started by Science For Peace and was very successful which is why it has continued to this day.”

Gray Matters

“Science for Peace was founded by a group of people in their forties. A lot of the same people are still around and they’re not in their forties anymore,” Davis jokes.

To ensure that their glory years are not behind them, the Science for Peace executive have been actively recruiting younger faculty members and undergraduate students to combat the noticeable graying of their membership.

“We’ve added new, younger members to the board and we’ve had a number of people interested in new activities, including some at the undergraduate level,” says Davis.

“We have many students who are active so there may eventually be an undergraduate chapter, but that’s a bit premature to announce.”

“We’ve been able to bring in people from many different fields and backgrounds, people from different countries and ethnic groups,” adds Deutsch.

“Over the next little while we’re also going to try and involve students a lot more and hopefully have some open meetings that students can attend and learn about the issues that we focus on.”

Whether Science for Peace will successfully recruit younger faculty members to carry on their tradition of “the responsibility of the scientist” and continue to grow and remain relevant as a research and education organization has yet to be seen. However, as the climate change debates rage and disputes over nuclear weapons treaties continue to intensify — their message seems as relevant today as it did three decades ago.

Rotman top business school in Canada

“We are one of the most innovative business schools on the planet and recognized as such,” said Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management. Martin’s comments come after the Financial Times ranked the school 45th among the top MBA programs in the world, placing it above all the others in Canada.

Martin attributes part of this success to staying ahead of the curve. “At a time when business is changing and the need for innovation in the business sector is high, most business schools are sticking to traditional content and pedagogy,” said Martin. “Instead, we are innovating in both areas.

“We are teaching Integrative Thinking and Business Design so that our students learn a genuinely new and better way of thinking. We are producing creative problem framers and solvers, not simply analysts. It is a very exciting time for business education and we are happy to be a part of inventing the future of the MBA.”

Martin claims that the recession in the U.S. has helped Rotman to attract top talent from American schools. “The U.S. recession has caused a number of American business schools to impose faculty hiring freezes. This has created a more favourable opportunity for hiring young scholars from US PhD programs than might normally be the case.”

“I like that [Rotman] is growing rapidly because such growth creates space for creativity and innovation in how we teach,” said associate professor of strategy Sarah Kaplan. Kaplan joined Rotman from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, one of the top business academies in the world. “I joined the Rotman School because I was attracted to the focus in integrative thinking and the school’s desire to innovate in the MBA curriculum.”

Kaplan adds that the Canadian economy might also attract more competitive students. “The strength of the Canadian economy relative to other economies may be a reason more students from around the world might be interested in coming to Canada and therefore to Rotman.”

Martin is quick to emphasize that being the top business school in Canada is just the beginning for Rotman. “First, I don’t care how we rate in Canada. Our goal is, and the goal of great Canadian organizations should be, to be globally competitive. So our focus is global. Second, the rankings are useful in some senses and not in other ways.

“Every student or faculty member or recruiting corporation faces a different context and has different interests. Having a news organization add up a number of factors and come up with a singular ranking isn’t the most useful thing for such a varied user base.”

Martin goes on to praise the FT rankings, which he claims is “highly transparent” and publishes 20 categories for 100 schools, creating a total of 2000 data points.

Yet Kaplan claimed that the program’s direction is not affected by metrics. “So, while the school pays attention to rankings, it isn’t governed by them. We are always trying to do better, but doing better means executing on our strategy to lead in innovating in the MBA curriculum. There are lots of ways to game the metrics. We don’t do that, and we don’t let our strategy get dragged around by rankings.”

Kaplan notes that rankings of this kind are always problematic. “Rotman is a top Canadian business school but it is important to remember that the market for MBA’s is global not national. Rotman [not only] competes with schools in the U.S. but also with [University of] London Business School in the UK, INSEAD in France, IESE in Spain and Bocconi in Italy, for example.”

Kaplan added that the FT rankings may penalize Rotman because they take into account the salaries of students as they leave the program. “Because many students stay in Canada, and because Canadian salaries tend to be lower than in places like London, Paris or in the U.S., Rotman falls lower than it should in the rankings.”

One of Rotman’s challenges continues to be educating potential students and employers about the MBA program. “Schools have to work extra-hard to help students get jobs outside their home markets. We have focused very intensively over the past five years on raising the profile of the Rotman School and making contact with recruiters in markets that are important to the students — particularly New York, San Francisco, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Mumbai,” said Martin.

“We are pleased with the progress. One measure of our growing international profile is that [the] Rotman School is mentioned in the international press an average of twice every day, up from about one a month a decade ago.”

Rotman plans to expand the program by 50 per cent when its current expansion project is completed.

Woody

There’s an old joke. Um, two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort [clears throat] and one of them says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know. And such small portions.” Well, essentially, that’s how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly. The other important joke for me is one that’s, uh, usually attributed to Groucho Marx, but I think it appears originally in Freud’s Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious, and it goes like this, I’m paraphrasing. Um, “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” That’s the key joke of my adult life.

“When I was looking for some of his quotes that I could share,” says the film festival programmer to the Elgin Theatre audience, “I came across this one: ‘Eighty per cent of success is showing up.’ Then, further down on the page, I saw, ‘Seventy per cent of success is showing up.’”

The little man waits in the wing.

“I’m not sure how to account for that ten per cent difference, but I do know that we’re one hundred per cent lucky he showed up today to introduce his wonderful new film. Please welcome…Mister Woody Allen.”

The little man appears. He walks to the podium in his usual manner, shoulders slumped forward and arms stiff, swinging with just a bit too much exaggeration. There is a standing ovation; he looks up, and gives a timid wave. The applause continues as he takes to the podium, where he nods, gives a tiny smile, and mouths, “Thank you.”

The audience finally quiets, and the little man looks down. There is tittering. His eyes widen, and his hands dart up to accentuate his first word. “Genius…” he says, in his New Yawk voice. Laughter fills the hall.

“…is a word that’s thrown around a lot in this business, BUT…” — his left hand rises and falls to punctuate each syllable — “…every once a while, the term applies.”

There is again much laughter. The little man looks down, and smiles very slightly. He raises both hands in mock alarm. “I’m referring, in this case, to my cast. Not myself…” More laughter. “And I would like to introduce them to you, before you see the film.”

“The first person I would like you to meet is a woman that I didn’t know before I made the movie, but who turned out to be…” — he raises both hands — “…just a startling, startling…contributor to the movie…”

He raises both hands again. “You’ll see what I mean when you see the movie, I don’t wanna oversell it. I WOULD like to, but…” his voice trails off and everyone laughs. It’s the trademark self-deprecation. He gives the audience a little smile. “So, first I would like you to meet Gemma Jones.” His smile is unusually wide as she joins him onstage.

“And also with Gemma is a young woman who I didn’t know at all before I made this movie. She had to…” — his hands rise, and move in circles with the rhythm of his sentence — “…audition, and beat out many, many formidable actresses for this role.” He raises his left hand and looks straight at the audience. “And again, as you’ll see when you see the movie, is quite an astonishing discovery…Lucy Punch.”

“The third female that’s here this evening, uh…you probably know from Slumdog Millionaire, uh…” Scattered cheers from the audience.

“This was an easy decision. We needed someone…as you’ll see when you see the film, who had an…exotic, and…beautiful quality. And the first time her name came up, it was a done deal as far as I was concerned. Freida Pinto.” The Bombay actress takes the stage.

“When I was writing the film, I had no idea who would be in it.” His left hand now waves more or less continually. “But as I was halfway through, it occurred to me that the guy I was writing about could not be played by anybody else but Josh Brolin. And I called, and it turned out he was available and interested, so I consider myself very blessed…” — both hands rise and fall in a circle at this last word — “…that I was able to get him for this movie. And he, you will see, did not disappoint for a second. Josh Brolin.”

Brolin walks onstage in a perfectly-fitted suit jacket, top buttons undone, his face styled with a symmetrical Vandyke. He flashes a Movie Star grin and waves. The photographers compete for ideal spots to shoot the little man’s latest on-screen surrogate.


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“Chapter one. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion.” Er, no, make that, “He romanticized it all out of proportion.” Better. “To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white, and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.” Uh…no, let me start this over. “Chapter one. He was too romantic about Manhattan, as he was about everything else. He thrived on the hustle-bustle of the crowds and the traffic. To him, New York meant beautiful women, and street-smart guys who seemed to know all the angles.” Ah, no, corny — too corny for a man of my taste. Let me try and make it more profound…

The Borscht Belt Philip Roth. The child of Chaplin, Groucho, and S.J. Perelman. The neurotic Jewish pseudo-intellectual from Manhattan. “When I was kidnapped, my parents snapped into action — they rented out my room.” Mia Farrow. “The early, funny ones.” Soon-Yi Previn. “Bergmanesque.” How his movies were so much smarter and more sophisticated than everything else I was seeing at age 13.

The way that every man has, at one point or another, considered himself Alvy Singer to someone else’s Annie Hall. The personal disappointment I’ve felt from all those Jade Scorpions and Hollywood Endings. The queasy feeling that Alvy Singer and Harry Block might be the same person. The fact that I see his movies every year without really knowing why anymore. How strange to see this man who has meant so much to me, so far from Elaine’s, or Michael’s Pub, or any of the coffee shops, bookstores, revival theatres, and high rise condos of his Upper East Side.

“I have nothing more to say to you except that I hope that you like the film very much. I was blessed with this cast. If you do like the film…” — the little man shrugs and waves his arms around — “…y’know, give it all to them, they made me look good. You know, do your best to sit through it…” The cast grins on cue, and everyone laughs.

“I’ll be on a plane back to New York.” I get goosebumps hearing how he says this: “New Yaawk.”

“I’ve seen the film, I know how it ends. Low grosses.” Much piteous laughter. “And…” — his hands reach out and his shoulders shrug — “…enjoy yourselves.”

Y’know, lately, the strangest things have been going through my mind, ’cause I turned 40, and I guess I’m going through a ‘life crisis’ or something, I don’t know. And I’m not worried about aging, I’m not one of those characters — although, I’m balding slightly on top, that’s about the worst you can say about me. I, uh, think I’m gonna get better as I get older, y’know. I think I’m gonna be the balding, virile type, as opposed to, say, the distinguished grey. Unless I’m neither of those two. Unless I’m one of those guys with saliva dribbling out of his mouth, who wanders into a cafeteria with a shopping bag, screaming about socialism.

The film begins. It’s another of his light, slight comedies about the upper-middle-class, where love is lost and gained in a sunny city free of cell phones, computers, the Internet, television, pop music, and other modern irrelevancies. The narrator reminds us of the frightening void that awaits us, and once again we are told that the great self-delusion of spirituality, and the unreliable emotion of love, are all that stand between us and nothingness. “Whatever works,” as the little man might say (or was it, “It’s just like anything else”? These things blur together sometimes.).

But before that, the little man leaves the podium. Brolin opens his arms, and the little man comes in for a hug. Then the little man hugs Anthony Hopkins, then Pinto, and gives one more timid wave as he exits the stage. White hair aside, he looks nearly identical to his 40-year-old self. The more things change, the more Woody Allen stays the same.

VarCity

BILLY TWINKLE, REQUIEM FOR A GOLDEN BOY

Factory Theatre opens its 2010/2011 season with a puppet show. Ronnie Burkett, the writer and performer of the puppet show, considers the life of a cruise ship puppeteer who struggles with a mid-life crisis and tries to fall in love again with the life of a puppeteer.

Runs to Oct 24, Tue-Sat 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m. $25-$48. Factory Theatre. 125 Bathurst St.

HARD TIMES

Based on the novel by Charles Dickens

The Puppetmongers take on a Dickens novel with an interactive piece involving their signature puppet style and live performers. The use of artistically created puppets creates an engaging look at Dicken’s fiction and its relevancy today.

Opens Oct 5 and runs to Oct 16, Tue-Sat 7:30 p.m., mat Sat 2 p.m. $30-$35, Preview $15. Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave.

BLASTED

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Sarah Kane’s first play Blasted centers on a journalist and a young woman who must take refuge from war in a hotel room. Heralded as a modern classic depicting the gruesome realities of war and juxtaposing the passion of a terrifying love affair, the show runs at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until October 17.

Runs to Oct 17, Tue-Sat 8p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m.. $23-$33. Buddies in Bad Times. 12 Alexander St.

THE CLOCKMAKER

An eccentric clockmaker who falls in love with a married customer seeks to unravel the mystery of her broken cuckoo clock. In order to win her love, he vows to make her the most amazing clock in the world. Written by celebrated playwright Stephen Massicotle.

Runs to Oct 24, Tue-Sat 8 p.m., mats Sat-Sun 2:30 pm. $23-$44, Fri & Sun rush $10. Tarragon Theatre. 30 Bridgman Ave.

The Commonwealth Games

New Delhi’s chaotic preparation for the Commonwealth Games has been met with criticism from all over the world and has prompted many to ask what the Commonwealth Games are for.

“The games were a much more political project or idea than the Olympics, in that [they were] designed to strengthen the ties or the cultural and social relations between [participating nations],” said Bruce Kidd, University of Toronto professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Health, who won a gold and a bronze medal as a track athlete at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

But the lack of appeal of the Commonwealth Games may have contributed to the fiasco in India.

As Alexander Chancellor wrote in The Guardian, “It is hard to imagine any country, even India, being so lackadaisical in preparing to host the Olympic Games or the World Cup. But the Commonwealth Games don’t have their glamour.”

The Commonwealth Games are unique in that they were established on the basis of history, instead of geographical location. The Commonwealth nations are supposed to share similar cultural and social traditions because of their past and present exposure to British rule.

But some, including Chancellor, argue that the ties are no longer strong enough, and that the members do not share many of the same cultural attributes and traditions anymore. This is evidenced by the fact that Mozambique, in which Portuguese is the official language, and Rwanda, in which French is more widely spoken than English, are both members.

As a member of Commonwealth Games Canada, the organization coordinating the Canadian team’s participation in the games, Kidd believes that they are still relevant.

“I think there was an effort among the leaders of the Commonwealth Sport and there is an effort in world sport to put more of these major games in their benefits in the developing world, in the global South, and this is an example of that,” he said.

What do the games mean to the Canadians then?

If not for the crisis in New Delhi, the Commonwealth Games could pass by almost unnoticed in Canada. In 2010, the Canadians enjoyed a gold medal haul at the very successful Vancouver Winter Olympics, and passion for soccer spread across the country thanks to the FIFA World Cup during the summer.

And now, here comes another quadrennial sporting event — the Commonwealth Games.
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Hamilton’s failed attempt in bidding to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games would probably be the only — if there is one — Canadian link to this year’s games an average Canadian could identify with.

Yet Canada has deep roots at the games. Melville Marks (Bobby) Robinson, who was a sports journalist with the Hamilton Spectator at the time, attended the 1928 Olympics as the manager of the track and field team. He created what was then called the British Empire Games to accommodate entities within the British Empire that do not have an Olympics team.

The idea had been around for years, but it was Robinson who put it into practice — 400 athletes from 11 countries attended the 1930 British Empire Games with a competition program made up of six sports. This year, 7000 athletes from 72 countries will be competing in 17 sports.

Canadian athletes have participated — and excelled — at every single Commonwealth Games since. Canada comes third in the overall medal count, after Australia and England.

Canadian swimmer Graham Smith swept six gold medals at the 1978 Games in Edmonton, and Alexandra Orlando repeated the same heroics in rhythmic gymnastics in 2006 in Melbourne.

However, even looking at Canada’s glorious record at the games, one might ask if it even matters that much to an average Canadian.

Canada performs well in the medal table, largely because some of the greatest sporting nations on Earth — the United States, Russia, and China for example — are not competing.

Does this mean that the Commonwealth Games only serve as the diving board for the young and upcoming athletes?

“Given the fact that Canada continues to have significant trade and cultural relations with these nations — so many immigrants come from the Commonwealth countries — these games remain important for us,” Kidd said.

Kidd claims that, for example, there is strong Canadian presence in India, and the games would only help strengthen it, “Canadians are having increasingly strong ties with India, immigration and trade are big, [and there is] the exchange of technology and the exchange of university students.

“The games are supposed to express and reinforce those ties.”

However, the fact that Canada has been a keen supporter of the games, (Canada has hosted the games a record-tying four times), does not help to fuel the popularity of the games.

Kidd feels that the Commonwealth Games are not as popular among Canadians as they used to be but suggests that hosting them again might improve their popularity (Canada last hosted the games in 1994 at Victoria, British Columbia).

“I like this idea [of the Commonwealth Games] a lot,” said 22-year-old Lev Daschko, a U of T graduate with a specialist in history. “It’s nice to be part of the Commonwealth, and it’s a good way to show Canada’s place in the world, our ties to Britain, and to the other Commonwealth countries.”

The Commonwealth Games rarely receive attention from the public, not only because of the modest amount of funding they receive from the federal government, but also due to minimal media coverage. According to Evan H. Potter at the University of Ottawa, Canada was the only major Commonwealth nation not broadcasting the games in 2006.

Daschko said, “[The Commonwealth Games] don’t get that much coverage I find. I would like to have them on [multiple TV channels] like the Olympics.

“I think if they were televised, there would be more of a following.

“For the Commonwealth Games, because they are smaller, it’s even more important for Canadians to support [our athletes]. It’s even more embarrassing if nobody is watching them, and they place very well there.”

In fact, Canada is linked to the Commonwealth Games in multiple ways that are seemingly overlooked by the public.

Commonwealth Games Canada has been active in sport and social development in the developing world. Kidd was the co-founder of the Canadian Sport Development program, now known as the International Development through Sport programme.

The IDS uses sport and physical activity to contribute to some of the basic development goals of the Commonwealth, like basic education, gender equity, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS. The programme is conducted by a number of Commonwealth countries, including the UK and Australia. Canadian programs are currently focused on the Caribbean and Africa.

“In Canada, [the programme] came out of the change in the world in the early 1990s,” said Kidd. “It came in response to an appeal by the sports leaders in Africa, and the newly liberated South Africa from the Apartheid, to help them rebuild the sport in South Africa and the frontline states in Southern Africa. It came about as a result of the young athletes who wanted to give something.”

Kidd, who has been involved in the Commonwealth Games for around half a century, thinks that even though they have become increasingly diversified (for example, with more developed support systems for the global South), some elements of the games remain unchanged. “There are continuities,” said Kidd, “like this belief in bringing everything together. It is this whole idea of exchange.”

Kidd is also currently chair of the Commonwealth Advisory Body on Sport, an organization that advises the Commonwealth Secretariat and Commonwealth governments on sport policy with respect to sport for development and peace.

While for many, the Commonwealth Games are the relic of a forgotten legacy, some find that the Commonwealth Games not only give Canadian athletes another place to win medals and to fine tune their skills, but also create national pride.

“I would love another games to be in Canada,” said Daschko.


Varsity Blues pole vaulter Jason Wurster will be competing in New Delhi

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Photo by Jeff Caton

Jason Wurster, a sixth year U of T student majoring in Geography with minors in Forestry and History, will be competing for a medal in pole vaulting at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Wurster, a native of Stevensville, Ontario, started pole vaulting in grade 9. He has been training with U of T since 2001 when he was under the auspices of the Junior Development program.

“I wasn’t really the guy who’d planned to go to university. U of T has supported me every step of the way and it’s been an experience,” said Wurster.

Having participated at the World Student Games in 2005, 2007, and 2009, and now in his fifth year of eligibility as a Varsity Blue, Wurster is no stranger to competition.

The U of T pole vaulter finds that competing at the likes of the Commonwealth Games could help him prepare for the Olympics, the Holy Grail for track and field athletes.

“As a track athlete there’s certain meets you want to make it to, the Olympics being the biggest event,” said Wurster. “Then there are certain events like the Pan-Am Games and the Commonwealth Games that we strive to compete at.”

Wurster has been training — a lot of jumping, pole vaulting, long jumping, sprinting, weightlifting and gymnastics — for a month and a half in order to peak on October 11, which is the final for pole vaulting.

Australian Steve Hooker, the current world number one pole vaulter, will be Wurster’s main rival. According to Wurster, Hooker has done “some amazing things.” Hooker jumped the second highest height ever achieved at 6.06m while Wurster’s personal best is 5.5m.

“He’s someone I sort of look up to,” said Wurster. “Unless he’s having a bad day, it’ll be difficult to beat him.

“I try not to overanalyze things too much. It’s sort of better to forget about a lot of things and go in with a clear head.”

Wurster’s family, coaches, and U of T are important components in his support system, but it was Canadian Athletes Now, a Toronto-based funding company, that made his dream of becoming an amateur athlete come true.

“I was in my garage working on a bicycle on a Sunday. A girl called me to say I’d got [funding]. I’d sort of forgot about it. I was floored. It overwhelmed me,” said Wurster. “It was $6,000 dollars, which is a lot of money for someone who doesn’t get paid to [pole valut].”

Wurster’s long term goal will be to shine at the London Olympics, which will take place two years from now.

“Definitely my eyes are on making the Olympics in 2012, and being very competitive there and making the final,” he said.

A good sport: A Maritime story

Few Canadian institutions have had a rockier past several years than the CFL. A failed franchise in Ottawa, an ownership crisis in Toronto that have led to both the BC Lions and Toronto Argos falling under the same owner, and a municipal election in Hamilton that, pending the outcome, could force the Tiger-Cats to move thanks to stadium woes.

A sun-kissed afternoon in Moncton, New Brunswick this past Sunday offered a strong ray of sunshine though. The Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos came to town to play a much-anticipated regular season game — technically an Argo home game promoting the CFL on the east coast.

Though the on-field product was not pretty, it was established well before the opening kick-off that nothing could have dampened the day. Tickets sold out just 36 hours after they went on sale and there was region-wide hype for the game.

Everything about the event, of course, begged the question of whether or not a permanent CFL franchise could someday find itself in eastern Canada. TSN did a good job of tailoring the question to an affirmative answer, airing features about the local high school football culture — which could be mistaken for the southern United States on any given game night. The mayor of Moncton was interviewed and did nothing to discourage the notion.
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Yet the suggestion of a franchise in the east presents a reasonable and fair question. The combined population of the four eastern Atlantic provinces is rather insignificant, compared to many other CFL markets. The business community is not as big as in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary, so finding the capital to bring in a team could pose a challenge.

Interestingly, CFL case studies suggest that small market teams can actually thrive where local conditions are appropriate.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders attract by far the most passionate following of any team in the league, despite the fact that their city has a population of 180,000 people.

The key has been regionalizing the team’s appeal. Fans come from far and wide to support the Roughriders in Regina. Eastern Canada, like Saskatchewan, lacks professional sports teams and there is every indication from the Argos-Eskimos game that the CFL could make a splash.

There is now talk of returning Ottawa to the league in coming years, and adding an eastern team to the mix would give the league ten teams and a truly national, coast-to-coast character.

Recent years have been tough, but better days could well be ahead for the CFL.