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Ice Hockey
Blues off to Canadian women’s hockey selection camp

Varsity Blue Jill Savin and head coach Karen Hughes are among the 29 players and three coaches invited to attend Canada’s 2002 Women’s Under 22 team selection camp. The camp, which will be held in Quebec City from August 10-18, will determine who represents Canada in a three-game series against Team USA in Lake Placid. Savin has just completed her second year with the Blues, scoring 15 goals and 10 assists in the 2001-02 season. The native of Oakville, Ontario was a member of the 2001 CIS Championship squad. Hughes, who is a Level 4-certified coach with U of T, was an assistant coach with Canada’s gold medal-winning Olympic team in 2002.

I. twists fiction with mixed results

Despite its publication by über-hip McSweeney’s Books, Stephen Dixon’s novel I. is not the product of a relatively new or young writer. Dixon has published more than 20 novels and over 400 stories since 1959. His meta-fictional and autobiographical prose has garnered a small but enthusiastic collection of fans. He’s the literary equivalent of Yo La Tengo.

This is not a bad thing if you are one of those fans. But standing outside the furor, I wonder what all the fuss is about.

First, a brief description of I. I. is the novel’s main character, a man who closely resembles Dixon. He is a father of two, married to a fellow writer afflicted with a wasting disease. Each of the book’s chapters, or linked short stories, describes a different aspect of I.’s life. Each one is pointedly mundane, focusing on I.’s obsessive attempts to do the right thing in everyday situations. In “Speed Bump,” for example, a friend tells I. he almost ran over her legs while swerving around a speed bump in a parking lot. I. spends the rest of the chapter trying to remember if this is correct and imagining different possible scenarios.

Dixon’s strength lies here. When he is focused on the mundane details of life, he can capture the nuance of something as banal as running errands, or thinking about running errands, and make this nuance feel precious. The problems occur when he abandons this commitment to detail.

I. uses a distinctive idiom, combining highly articulate language with childish slang (“How should I handle it when I get upset or disappointed at you over something? Not to yell, for certain. To convey in a calm and rational way what’s bugging me”). But so does everyone else in the novel. It’s disappointing to discover that Dixon (or I.) is incapable of relating personal idioms when he is so capable of relating the behaviour of these people.

And it’s hard to understand I.’s meta-fictional dithering about what actually happened, about how he should do the right thing, when there are no other articulate consciousnesses in the book. After all, isn’t the consideration of other people one of the primary reasons we try to do the right thing?

Fans of McSweeney’s will probably enjoy I. Dave Eggers, for all his self-absorbed brilliance, can also be self-absorbed to a fault, and an ability to withstand this will probably help you out here. Some chapters, such as “The Apology,” “The Accident,” and “The Switch,” are focussed enough to keep one’s interest.

But only a smattering of hipsters/English students/writers will really enjoy this book—everyone else will be put off by the self-aware worries of its author.

I don’t think this will upset Stephen Dixon much. When you’ve written over 400 stories and are still relatively unknown, you’re probably writing primarily for yourself and your dedicated core of fans. Just like Yo La Tengo.

Courting canvas

Toronto artist Sarah Parker’s photographic self-portraits are made using Polaroids that are scanned and then printed on canvas with an Iris inkjet printer, creating what are called giclee (GEE-clay) prints. Giclee prints can be made on a variety of media, and Parker’s choice of canvas instead of the more common watercolour papers gives an old-world, painterly feel. But don’t expect to see the Mona Lisa or Mother with Child. Parker’s portraits are deconstructionist pieces in primary colours. The contradictions continue — finely detailed fabric and the model’s delicate features are lost in dimness, posed with stylized awkwardness and oppressed by negative space. This tension, but mostly the emotional distance Parker creates between herself as photographer and as subject, leaves questions not just unanswered but unarticulated. These are fleeting, dreamlike images, seen from the corner of your mental eye.

Until the end of August at the Gypsy Co-op (815 Queen St. W.)


The Vines
Highly Evolved

The Vines are what MuchMusic folk dream of. Their debut album is drawing comparisons to the Strokes and Nirvana, among others, and they’re cute as bugs in a grubby, indie, video-friendly way. Plus, their songs (especially the snarly title track) stick in your head without making you want to remove them with a pair of pliers. As befits a first effort, Highly Evolved is all over the place. There’s Blur-esque bounce (“Factory”), sad stoner lullabies (“Mary Jane,” “Autumn Shade”) and the triumphantly angsty “1969.” Unremarkable, maybe, but even at its worst, the album never moves below agreeably forgettable. It’ll sell millions. –Corrine Bredin

Sonic Youth
Murray Street

Along with the downtown garage-punk and complex noise-rock epics you expect from Sonic Youth, Murray Street also has some of the band’s cleanest and most straightforward songs in years, with some fresh, crisp guitar lines, hummable melodies and even a catchy chorus or two. The first three songs (“The Empty Page,” “Disconnection Notice,” and “Rain On Tin”) easily rank with Sonic Youth’s highlights. Melancholic, tuneful but unorthodox, all are enriched by cascades of intricate three-guitar noise. And the seven-song length is a nice change from previous releases—long enough to become entranced by the music and short enough not to get bored with it. –Vanessa Fischer

Cold press

You can’t fault the reasoning that produced Pot Planet. If I were a publisher, I know I’d hire someone to fly around the world getting stoned. I’m just not sure I’d hire Brian Preston. In his efforts to show how gosh-darn wholesome weed really is, he’s scrubbed away any sign of the grime we’ve come to expect from druggie pilgrimages. What’s left is as exciting as a public service announcement: an ill-advised hybrid of Lonely Planet and High Times. Preston is unfailingly polite and respectful towards his subjects, but that doesn’t seem to leave him much room to work with. After 300 pages of foolishness like “Morocco is part of the Arab world” and much rhapsodizing about stoner solidarity and “colourful” locals, you long for the sparkling malice of William S. Burroughs. If you want conversational tidbits to pass around with the bong, go for it. If you’re after gripping narrative, stick with your course readings.

Rite of Passage

“I could feel my heart pounding,” says Courtney Cash, describing being pushed out of an overnight train from Delhi to Varanasi, India. It was 3 a.m., and amongst a sea of staring faces, she picked herself up from the platform and wondered where she was. In retrospect, she loved the experience, she says. And it was because she was pushed out that she realizes what the locals who did it were trying to tell her — that it was her stop.

“I was looking for an experience — that’s exactly why I was there,” she explains.

Whether you’re seeking the holy city of Varanasi in India or trekking through Thai rainforest, backpacking is all about “the experience.” That experience is often a revealing test of oneself against the foreign. In fact, sojourning abroad can be more a rite of passage than just an adventure.

Cash, who recently graduated with a B.A. in politics and sociology, spent ten months finding her way through 12 countries. She doesn’t hesitate to point out how scared and naïve she was at the beginning of her experience. Before leaving, her idea of travelling, she explains, was staying in five-star resorts with her parents in places like Whistler or Aspen. “Places where they give you your own bathrobe and fresh towels,” she laughs.

So after arriving in Paris during the first leg of her odyssey, having done no planning, she admits she was “absolutely petrified.”

“I looked up and there was the Eiffel Tower. I thought to myself, ‘Holy shit, what am I about to do?”

Her inexperience became apparent when she later returned to a Paris train station to pick up her backpack from a locker. The building was unexpectedly closed for the night. She slept in a nearby construction site and awoke the next morning covered in sawdust.

“I needed someone to show me the ropes,” recalls Cash. “I didn’t know how to get on a train. I didn’t know what a hostel was or how to find one—I didn’t know anything.”

But after many helping hands from fellow travellers and many hard lessons, Cash started to learn how to backpack on a budget. Europe passed by in a happier way over the next few months.

When she was done with wiener schnitzel and Dutch clogs, Cash flew to South Africa, “the most beautiful country I have ever seen in my life.” Guesthouses with down-filled comforters and stained-glass windows were her camps for six dollars a day.

Unfortunately, the comfort didn’t last. Cash joined her parents in Johannesburg for an arduous seven-week organized tour through Eastern Africa with “other Westerners,” travelling between campsites. During the last week, though, she began to wonder why she was the only one wearing a wool sweater.

When she then flew to Bangkok to travel with her boyfriend, her chills turned into a fever.

It was in Lau, a village a few kilometres from the Chinese border, that she began to vomit, urinate blood and lose sensation in her legs. “Oh, and I had the runs,” she laughs, “but you can only include that if you try to make it sound funny.”

Time was running out. Panic set in. Miraculously, a white van painted with the words “Thailand Travel Medical Centre” was spotted and stopped. A man stepped out of the van and said, “Hi, I’m a Thai doctor and this is my American nurse.”

Cash was taken to the closest hospital, where there was no electricity and a mirror had to be used to reflect the light of the sun onto the blood sample being examined under the microscope. Cash was diagnosed with middle-stage vivax malaria—”the kind that doesn’t kill you”—and given medication and an order for plenty of rest.

She thought about returning home at this point. “But I knew that once I got home,” says Cash, “I would just want to be there again. And besides, if I went home weak, my mother would kill me.”

Instead, when her boyfriend returned home, Cash swung over to India to recuperate. She ditched everything in her backpack except the basics and bought fabric that she made into local garb. “I looked more like an Indian man than an Indian woman,” she laughs.

That didn’t fend off the unwanted attention that she had to contend with. Despite being followed and touched by locals — even having her toes licked while asleep on a train — Cash says she doesn’t resent the way she was treated in many parts of India. She recognizes she was a novelty to the locals. In fact, being a lone foreign woman made her feel stronger. “Some of the women I encountered were amazed I could do something like this,” she says.

In the last weeks of her odyssey, Cash stayed in Rishikesh, the unofficial yoga capital of the world.

Doing yoga three times a day helped her regain her strength and gave her much needed-perspective before returning to Canada.

“Most people did not have any faith that I would be able to make it,” says Cash. “They thought I would be coming home a lot sooner…I don’t think people really thought that I’d be someone that would be able to rough it like that — it was easy.”

Self-awareness, confidence and an open mind allowed her to happily survive her trip, she says. “And if that means flushing your bum with a bucket of water for half an hour because you don’t have toilet paper, so be it.”

Frosh Week poorly planned, say colleges

Orientation Week preparations got off to a bumpy start this year when several colleges opted not to purchase the traditional frosh kit for their students.

In a meeting between the Students’ Administrative Council (SAC) and college representatives on June 20, many colleges realized they could not afford the proposed contents of the kit.

“The thing that threw the colleges off was the price of the kit,” said Trinity’s Frosh Week chair, Faran Umar.

Another problem with the kit, Umar explained, was that it charged some students for events they were not scheduled to attend.

“Many colleges are unable to attend the events, therefore it was unreasonable to expect us to pay for them.”

Stephanie Bradley, vice-president of activities for the Engineering Society, expressed similar frustrations. Bradley said that her college finished its planning months ago, and that “SAC really needed to start a lot sooner” if they wanted to include as many students as possible.

Bradley also said the uneven voting system at the meeting exacerbated the situation. Every college, regardless of the number of its students, had the same number of votes.

“In the end I simply had to abstain from the vote,” Bradley said.

The proposed kit included a laundry bag, T-shirt, and tickets to a Hawaiian-themed Luau Buffet, among several other items.

Cheriana Hansen, SAC’s orientation coordinator, said she “wanted all the frosh to have the same kit.” She said she is also in the process of asking the university to help the colleges out with some of the expenses.

Since the meeting, though, SAC has departed from its original vision to have every college buy the same kit.

As a result, Trinity and the engineers will probably be purchasing the T-shirt and laundry bag, but not tickets to the Luau.

Frosh week runs from Sept. 2 to Sept. 6. The Hawaiian Luau, the parade and other activities will take place Friday, Sept. 6 around Hart House Circle.

It’s not easy being green

This is a dangerous time to be a vegetable at the University of Toronto.

A small garden outside the Students’ Administrative Council building has become a centre of controversy in recent months.

The small plot of land has provoked high-level meetings between student leaders and university administration, become a symbol for community gardeners, and been the target of horticultural terrorism.

The seeds of this controversy were sown by the Prolific Potters Project (PPP), a group whose mandate is to provide organic vegetables for hungry students through U of T’s food bank.

The PPP had been planting organic vegetables—quite peacefully—in concrete planters outside the Graduate Students Union (GSU), but those plans were uprooted when nearby renovation meant the plants had to be moved. SAC offered to put the garden in front of their building at 12 Hart House Circle.

“It wasn’t an approved change to the landscape,” says Gary Nower, Manager of Grounds Services at the Facilities and Services Department. “They removed hostas from the [planting] bed. Those plants cost money.”

“We thought that last year’s SAC executive had gotten permission from the Accommodations and Facilities Directorate (AFD),” said SAC University Affairs Commissioner Mohammed Hashim.

The AFD is the committee responsible for approving all renovation and construction of university property, and would have had to approve the transplant.

“What we learned, after we dug it all up, was that the permission wasn’t there,” Hashim said.

A high-level meeting was called to resolve the situation.

This meeting, according to Elan Ohayon, a governor-elect to the Governing Council and a member of the PPP, included about a dozen representatives—the U of T administration, the PPP, and the three student councils, SAC, GSU, and APUS.

The resolution was amicable on both sides. “On the whole,” says Mary Auxi-Guiao, equity commissioner for SAC, “The University Administration and Grounds do support us…but there was a lot of miscommunication.”

Gary Nower agrees: “We said [in the meeting], ‘Nobody’s against your proposals, but you need to get approval.'” The PPP and Grounds are now cooperating on the garden: “We’ve irrigated the area so [the PPP] won’t have to worry about water so much,” says Nower.

But just as the two sides were reconciling, unknown parties were plotting against the garden.

“About two weeks after we got approval to continue at the project, we found a white substance sprinkled around the garden,” says Auxi-Guiao. “By the end of the week, certain plants that this substance was around started to die.”

The plant assassin remains a mystery, but the murder weapon appears to have been salt.

“It seemed kind of strategic, the way only certain plants were targeted,” says Auxi-Guiao. “I know it seems kind of ridiculous, but this looks premeditated.”

“Most people who vandalize just rip the plants out of the ground or tear off tree branches,” says Nower.

Though the martyred garden was never producing bushels of food, people involved say it was an important symbol, and that it will be replanted.

“We got a zucchini, I think a few lettuce plants were saved, some basil. Maybe a sunflower or two,” says Hashim.

“Carolyn Xia [of the PPP] is revitalizing the whole garden.”

But with the plant-killer still at large, no one can guarantee there won’t be other gruesome episodes of herbicide.

Photograph by Simon Turnbull