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Making the most of a homegrown hobby

He knows where he’s going. Just by taking a quick look at how he carries himself, you can tell he is a leader, not a follower. It is one of those intangible qualities that he calls “quiet confidence.”

To get an idea of the type of person Jordan Bohnen is, one need look no further than how he got his start in tennis. While most kids generally begin finding love for a sport while playing with classmates or neighbourhood kids, Bohnen found it right at home. He started playing tennis in his backyard with his dad when he was four or five years old.

Bohnen was always into trying lots of sports. In addition to tennis, he played hockey, basketball, soccer and baseball while growing up in Toronto. After the summer of Grade 8, he went to tennis overnight camp and realized the sport was the one for him.

After following his statistical ascent through the rankings during his days in junior competition, he now leaves that duty to eager family members.

“My little brother now, he checks it every day,” he says, referring to his ranking.

With family as his top priority, having his brother, 14, and his sister, 17, share his love for sports has certainly helped keep him active.

Bohnen’s love for sports should not be confused with a one-dimensional personality. Here at U of T he is the vice-president of a student-run club called the Global Knowledge Foundation.

Outside of his activities at school, he plays a big part in organizing events at his local synagogue. He says keeping religion in his life has helped him enjoy life more and given him the right values on the tennis court.

“Family gives me a good foundation,” says the second-year student. “I’m not willing to sacrifice integrity for personal gain.”

He explains that the laid-back approach his parents took towards his enthusiasm for tennis has helped him enjoy it more and given him a better relationship with them. After competing at a high level for so many years, Bohnen has avoided the burnout that has victimized so many other players of similar talent who played for the wrong reasons.

“They always encouraged me to do what I enjoyed,” says Bohnen of his parents.

A substantial level of modesty dominates his demeanour and has helped him continuously improve as a player and as a person. The feat from which he draws the most satisfaction is not the recent 44-match winning streak he had broken in October, but a sportsmanship award given to him at under-18 Nationals.

In his time away from the court, Bohnen has taken an interest in medicine. The human biology major is considering a medical career, and has come to terms with the fact that it could cut into his court time.

Nevertheless, he still harbours thoughts of winning grand slam tournaments.

“I would love to win Wimbledon,” he says. “It’s the classic tournament. Prestigious. Best of the best. I would get a lot of personal satisfaction from it.”

He appreciates opportunities that have been afforded him through the sport. Last summer he travelled to China to compete in the World University Games and he has also competed in Israel at the MacAbee Games.

The 20-year-old insists there is no secret formula to winning matches. Practising as much as he can and being relaxed before a match have keyed his success on the court.

“Mental confidence comes with having played a lot before,” he says. “I like to go into a match feeling physically prepared. You get more mentally tough by playing more matches.”

Those close to Bohnen describe him as having a good grasp on when it’s appropriate to use his intensity and when to scale it back.

“He’s pretty intense on the court. Quiet and serious,” says teammate Mark Renneson. “He’s definitely very confident when he plays. He knows what he’s capable of doing…. When he’s off the court and he’s relaxed, he’s a real funny guy to be around.”

Reflections of his favourite player, Patrick Rafter, are evident in his own game. His speed supports an efficient serve and volley game.

Complementing his agility is a quickness that has been honed by a background in the martial art discipline of shotokan.

“I love it,” he says unabashedly. “It’s the best thing for me. It definitely provides more mental relaxation and spiritual calmness [than tennis].”

Whether in school or sport, the self-described perfectionist appears to have a smooth road ahead.

Photograph by Simon Turnbull

Skule™ in session

You know the engineers, those crazy drunken folk with the hard hats? Well, they have this annual musical-sketch-comedy revue deal that they call Skule™ Nite.

At first glance, the idea of drunk men banging pots might seem as fun as a curbstomp to the teeth.

Except this curbstomp has been gracing the stage of Hart House Theatre for over eighty years now and tickets get snapped up like free condoms at your high school formal. It is, in fact, (trumpets, please) an institution.

All this means, of course, is that each successive year has an ever-growing reputation to live up to. So how did this year’s show deal with the pressure of all that tradition? With giant, singing llama heads. That’s how.

Of course, with so many engineers behind the scenes, you knew there’d be some goddamn good props (plus the odd calculus or physics joke).

That these didn’t steal the show does credit to director Mike Wood and producer Tiffany Conroy. What really makes the show is the assorted weirdos that are annually dredged up from the darkest corners of Sandford Fleming and placed on stage.

Even the most mangled accent or telegraphed punchline becomes oddly endearing when delivered with the bravado this bunch possesses.

Of note was Laura Edwards, whose terrifying cuteness wrings laughter out of you almost against your will. And Eric Moncrieff’s recurring Batman role showcases the poignancy of a superhero with no actual superpowers (existentialism, anyone?). And Nazim Hussein’s hapless blind-date victim inspires newfound sympathy for wide-eyed dorks everywhere.

Plus, everyone’s inner three-year-old owes a big thank-you to costuming manager Caitlyn Paget. Pretty colours and sparkles abounded (and, incidentally, looked way cool through the red-and-blue glasses that were part of this year’s 3-D theme).

If there were some kind of award for best teenage space-alien slut getup in a engineering musical, she’d be a shoo-in.

What I saw was the dress rehearsal, so cues and such were still a bit ragged. But I hear successive performances were more polished—as polished as engineers get with their theatre. Afterall, this ain’t George Bernard Shaw sissy stuff. As such, it’s actually entertaining.

Missing the point

Based on his poem of the same name, the film Intervali Chiraroscui by Anthony Cristiano left me mostly unsure of how it left me (make sense?).

The poem is beautiful, centred around the image of light and dark playing together. Sustained throughout, this format is pleasing to the tongue and eye. The music the poem is set to is relaxing, but has a certain edge to it that demands the listener’s attention and participation. It insists on being recognized by the listener’s gentle rocking, or a prolonged sigh. In contrast, the film is quite lovely as well. Again, the playing with light and shadow is intensely beautiful and appropriate to the title and the images of the poem.

However, while these aspects are quite attractive by themselves, putting them all together ruins everything. Poetic imagery is completely upstaged by the actual images. Where the poem only hinted at certain aspects, the film makes them tangible, destroying any creative mental images the audience may have. Similarly, the film’s music distracts those who wants to hear the words, overpowering the meaning of the poem and assigning a meaning more suited to the tone of the music.

A creation focusing on clocks, the film version of Intervali Chiraroscui is somewhat altered. It comes off as an attempt to be dark, obscure and depressing. I was reminded of Salvador Dali’s remark that he attempted to paint from the subconscious, which in itself is contradictory. Basically, the film is too put on, as though Cristiano desperately wanted to be profound and heartwrenching at the same time.

But it was not terrible. As mentioned, the three artistic components involved (film, music and poetry) are all pleasing, so artistic content is not the problem. It’s the attempt to be artistic that is so unappealing. Art requires a certain amount of spontaneity that cannot be faked, and does not require such great depths as some, like Mr. Cristiano, may believe. That understanding is missing here.

HOT WAX

DistillersSing Sing Death HouseHellcat/EpitaphI’m willing to bet that if Brody Armstrong weren’t married to Tim “Rancid” Armstrong, she wouldn’t last past this disc. Where their self-titled debut was a (somewhat) finely crafted album that had the occasional keen point and cool riff, this disc sounds like it’s the warmed-up leftovers. Lyrics are laughable at best with their hip hop-ish “I’m so street/I’ve lived the hard life” bantering, and the entire affair reeks of some larger hand directing things so that the missus gets her way and hubby still gets laid. Ho hum.Rating:VOperation MakeoutFirst BaseMintIs it just me, or is the cover art totally disgusting? Maybe it speaks more to my fear of human contact, but the closeup of intertwining tongues has me gagging while I make out with my girlfriend. The singer’s voice kind of reminds me of the girl from X, except she doesn’t seem as slutty. These aren’t great songs, but somehow I doubt that’s the point. The record radiates a joy for playing and the knowledge that everyone in the band holds a day job. It’s a real fun time. Rating: VVVNoel NickolHaymarket RiotBloodshot EyesThickOne of the most uniquely heavy bands to come out of the hardcore woodwork in years, Haymarket Riot feature a brilliant blend of hardcore sensibility and heaviness with the eclectic disarray of emo. Imagine if At The Drive-In were a smidgen heavier and a lot more apt to the leanings of Golden Lake Diner or Sixty Stories. Thankfully, this mixture works incredibly well, providing rock-solid riffs that intertwine with a resident introspective vibe and plenty of aggressive tendencies. Rating: VVVVKeith Carman

Cold Press

Let’s face it: some of the books we review here at the Varsity aren’t worth, like, 600 words. In an effort to get you in and out with maximum knowledge and minimum effort, we present Cold Press, quickie book reviews for the burgeoning student.

Droppin’ Science: Straight-up Talk from Hip Hop’s Greatest Voices
Denise L. McIver
Three Rivers Press/Random House

At first glance, I thought this book would be better off in the capable hands of the Varsity’s science editor, for obvious reasons. But further investigation proves that the only experiment going on here is one of linguistics. Who but the rappers can test the limitations of English grammar?

Denise L. McIver’s Droppin’ Science: Straight-up Talk from Hip Hop’s Greatest Voices, is a collaboration of quotes and lyrics from everyone from Bigg Gipp of Goodie Mob to Jay-Z. Topics range from Chapter One’s “Personal Growth” to Chapter 20’s quizzical “Ya Heard?”

Some of the finer moments come when the men who rhyme wax poetic about life and love in that cruel world of money, gold and big-bootied, bikini-clad women: “It ain’t love when the motherfuckin’ sex cost money…” [504 Boyz]. But for real, there’s nothing worse than waking up and realizing you only got ONE Benjamin for that hour of sweet, sexy loving, you know?

But what about the softer, less sticky side of relationships? Tell me about love, Hip Hop! “When you’re fucked up, you need someone you feel like you can talk to.” [Ja Rulz]. But for real, there’s nothing finer than having the munchies with someone who understands your wants and needs.
This is the kind of book you can’t do an adequate review on. It lacks a central theme and character, it lacks a main objective—heck, I think I may have even missed the point. I take my advice from Iggy Pop, since he is the blackest man of the punk rock scene: “The proof’s in the pudding.”

Rating: VV
— The Chung

Punk Rules OK
Chris Walter
Burn Books

The story of a Vancouver punk who happens upon a million bucks one night and must deal with the consequences, Punk Rules OK is a fast-reading, enjoyable bit of fiction not just for punx. It’s accessible to anyone with a touch of rebel inside. Centered around thick-skulled protagonist Meatboy, Walter’s novel takes three seemingly uncommon yarns and weaves them together with predictable, yet amusing results. Somewhat of a babbler, Walter is the layman’s storyteller, coming across like the punk rock Reader’s Digest: simple yet effective. One can tell that he’s using a hearty dose of personal experience to enhance the realistic aspect of the overall fantasy. He’s no Paul Quarrington, but he tells a fun tale, suspending our disbelief for a solid 270 pages.

Rating: VVV
—Keith Carman

In the City

Hey Zeus! A Star!Anyone dumb enough to miss the Stage Blue presentation of Jesus Christ Superstar (like all of us. We got totally lost!) last week still has a chance! It’s on at the Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles St. W) from March 20 to 23. Call (416) 946-7777. We heard it’s really great, so move it!Gotta DanceDon’t forget that the U of T Festival of Dance is coming up. Running from March 21 to 23 at Hart House Theatre, the event is a compilation of our great dance talent from all facets. Now that we’ve told you twice, you can’t say you weren’t warned. Call (416) 978-8668 for the skinny.Genetics and stuffThe Canadian Film Centre’s Interactive Arena presents a discussion with artist/genestheticist Joe Davis on Wednesday, March 20 at 8 p.m. Apparently he’s gonna discuss his latest projects in the field of genesthetics, including “fishing” for paramecia and his biochemical flight device. Can you say “fuckin’ party!?!” Anyone who understands what the hell this about is urged to visit www.interactivearena.ca or call (416) 216-2156 for details.Music to your earsJust in time to give your brain a quick rest before all of your essays are due, the Faculty of Music has some killer shows lined up (if classical music can be “killer.”) Support your local musician. Visit www.utoronto.ca/music/html/home/whatson/2001-2002/whatson-month.html#March for details.Shows for the rest of March:20th: Small Jazz Ensemble 22nd: Choral Music Concert23rd: World Music Ensembles24th: Early Music Ensembles27th: Jazz Orchestras28th: Student Ensembles (Noon)

AIDS in Africa: Part III

Baagi Mmereki is a scientist and a realist. He has wide shoulders and a broad nose, and a deep, generous laugh. Mmereki estimates that he has “two or three, but hopefully not three!” years left in his doctoral program in chemical engineering at U of T. He is anxious to return with his wife and young daughter to his native Botswana, where, he says, he is relieved that not very many people know him.

Although knowing people does not necessarily lead to sleeping with them, Mmereki explains that in Botswana this connection is more concrete. There, an active nightlife can have disastrous consequences. The triple cocktail of youth, time and money (Botswana is one of the richer African countries because of its diamond exporting industry), has contributed to the highest rate of HIV infection anywhere in Africa—more than 35 per cent in adults. Mmereki is well aware of how expansive the problem is. He talks about the first time the scope of the AIDS epidemic hit home. While attending a friend’s funeral, he looked around and realized more than a dozen other funerals were taking place at the same time. Since then, many other people in his hometown, including his uncle and his cousin-in-law, have died and funerals have become more and more commonplace.

“Monday through Friday were for work, and Saturday and Sunday were for funerals,” he recalls. Later, he reflects that although not all of the deaths were acknowledged as the result of AIDS, before the current crisis, “there were not so many people dying.” He says people were “dropping like flies.”

About 8000 African people die of AIDS every day. For the sake of comparison, about 3000 people died on September 11 as a result of the terrorist attacks. AIDS killed 2.3 million African people in 2001, and more than 28 million Africans now live with the disease.

U of T students, faculty and researchers have stepped up their response to this global health crisis. They have pioneered new fields of research, attended to the dying in the hardest-hit areas of Southern Africa and begun to think about developing countries, and their own lives in Canada, in an entirely new way. Amy Andrews is among the students who are learning, first-hand, to use their positions of privilege to answer a distant cry for help. U of T currently has few options for students to study abroad in developing countries, so Andrews designed a program herself to spend eight months of her undergraduate degree at the University of Natal in South Africa. She contributed to a range of humanitarian projects in the country, but says that it was discussing health care with a grandmother, who was also a prostitute, that “changed the face” of what she was doing there. The experience exploded myths about sex workers, and drove home the sacrifices these women must make to support their families. The next year, she returned to South Africa to discuss her experiences at the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban. One of Andrews’ projects was a month-long trip to Namibia with U of T anthropology professor Richard Lee. Each year, Professor Lee escorts a small group of students to Namibia to lead workshops in “capacity-building”—essentially helping Namibians help themselves. The goal for each Namibian participant is to leave with a concrete research proposal and a little money, so they can begin AIDS research for themselves.

Dr. Kelly McDonald, director of the HIV research program at U of T, is also building partnerships across continents. She first visited Africa as a medical student in the late ’80s, and in the years since has started a collaboration with the University of Nairobi, where she lived and worked. It was in Kenya that she first understood the devastating consequences of AIDS. At the very start of the epidemic, Dr. McDonald treated migrant workers at a clinic in the slums of Nairobi. Although she estimates about a third of the men she treated were infected with HIV, few had reached what is euphemistically called the “end-stage.”

She remembers the day a skeleton of a man was carried in, rattling as he breathed. Gasping and emaciated in his last hours, the nurses comforted him, but were confused. One of the Kenyan women asked her, “Doctor, what is his disease?”

When Dr. McDonald explained that he had AIDS, the nurse turned to the lines of men crowding the clinic hallway and asked, “You mean all of these people are going to die like this?”

Then, Dr. McDonald said, “the spectre of what was coming hit us like a semi-trailer. I remember thinking, ‘I can’t just sit around and take care of people as they die. I have to do something.'”

Now, Dr. McDonald is not only a physician with practical research experience, but an immunologist and epidemiologist. She has taken her experiences in Nairobi and applied them to her research: a group of prostitutes from Nairobi appear to be immune to HIV. After years of sex work, pure luck cannot explain their resistance to the virus. Studying their immune systems, she thinks, may hold the key to a vaccine. She says she is simply “trying to figure out what Mother Nature is trying tell us.”

The early experiences in international health for both the students and aspiring doctors have had lasting consequences. One of the university’s most prominent new members began in medical school studying HIV in young Rwandan children. Twenty years later, in 1999, Dr. James Orbinski accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières, “in recognition of the organization’s pioneering humanitarian work on several continents.”

MSF sends teams of volunteer doctors on humanitarian missions to the countries most ravaged by war and disease. They help people without consideration for their political or social positions, and the organization itself maintains complete political and economic independence. They are there, according to Dr. Orbinski, to “seek to promote change,” and to bear witness. Perfectly courteous, Dr. Orbinski is an intense man with a deliberate manner of speech. He was the International Council President of MSF when the group won the Nobel Prize, and was its Canadian head prior to that. MSF maintains about 50 projects around the world dealing with HIV. It is, he says, “morally indefensible not to advocate for treatment [for HIV] when treatment exists.”

As for students, and their role in mitigating the AIDS crisis, he feels the best thing a student at U of T can do is to learn as much as they can, to “challenge the normative thinking.”

In challenging norms, an individual “will find their way of making their contribution. This is a personal responsibility,” he says, “for everyone privileged enough to be here.”

UT Scarborough library to be demolished

Many Scarborough students seem unaware of the impending demolition of their campus’ library and the difficulty in accessing library services that may result.

While supportive of the new library and Academic Resources Centre (ARC) to be erected in its place, Sundeep Singh, president of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union, says information has been lacking and questions remain about library services in the interim.

“The university has acted very poorly in communicating the entire situation,” he said, noting that not enough has been done to inform students.

Associate principal Robert Campbell notes, however, that the administration has a web page dedicated to the project, a writeup posted by computer terminals and a model of the new library positioned by the entrance of the current Bladen Library.

The demolition will begin in June to make way for ARC, which will more than double the study space and include a 500-seat lecture theatre, expanded writing, learning and multimedia labs, accessibility services and counselling services. The construction and new equipment for the ARC will cost the university over $20 million, and it is scheduled to be opened for the 2003/2004 academic year.

The project was originally planned to be conducted over two years, to keep a portion of the library open and operating while other parts of it were being renovated. However, this proved structurally impossible, and in an attempt to reduce stress to staff and students, the project was moved up one year by completely demolishing Bladen Library.

Next year, students will still receive help with their research from staff and will have access to high-demand materials, but they will have to order their books. Study spaces will be relocated, possibly to portables.

SCSU is unhappy with this solution. “Just the environment of a portable is quite gloomy,” said Singh.

He believes a portable’s lack of warmth and ventilation will be a problem. Singh also pointed out that having to go outdoors continuously will be a difficulty, because UTSC students are used to having each wing of the campus connected.
Singh suggested that a faculty lounge could be used for temporary study space, instead of portables. He said a faculty member suggested the idea, noting that it would not cause much of a disturbance to faculty because of its minimal use.
Campbell said the lounge is a little isolated for study space, and might be better used to store the stacks of books from the renovated sections of the library.

The SCSU is also concerned about how decisions are being made. Singh said he was contacted by faculty members and students who were dismayed that Bladen Library is going to be closed.

Despite the inconveniences, students believe the new facilities are worth the hassle. A quick poll of 10 students revealed that nine think that the advantages of the new ARC outweigh the disadvantages of construction.