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Tri-campus Gym Breakdown: Athletic Centre

How to stay active at the Athletic Centre

Tri-campus Gym Breakdown: Athletic Centre

The Athletic Centre (AC) stands as a large red and beige brick at the corner of Harbord Street and Spadina Avenue, accessible for students and Toronto residents alike. Classes, training sessions, and drop-in programs are available to all members throughout the week.

The building hosts more activities, people, teams, and classes than I will be able to list. Even though indoor track season and a wide assortment of activities at the AC can create a sometimes hectic environment, it goes to show that the gym is incredibly well-used. National swim meets and track meets have been hosted by the AC. Olympic and professional athletes go through its doors to use the facilities.

It holds an Olympic-sized pool, a smaller pool, three different basketball gyms, a gymnastics room, a dance room, a fencing room, squash courts, ping-pong rooms, and spacious locker rooms. Members of the AC create a welcoming mix of young and old people who get to come together and use the facilities to gain strength, play games, swim, run, and much more.

Starting at the third and highest floor is the field house: a large room with a 200-metre track surrounding four full-sized basketball courts. On the edges, there are various workout machines that are almost always available for use.

If you want to play basketball, volleyball, tennis, or attend drop-in classes like Zumba, be sure to check the AC’s online schedule and look at some class reviews in The Varsity.

If you’re into basketball, after 4:00 pm, there is almost always at least one court available for basketball, but on Monday through Thursday after 7:00 pm, there are always intramural basketball games while classes are in session.

Also, before waltzing onto the court, be careful and look both ways! There are often incredibly fast members of the track team sprinting, older gym members trotting, or young children running on the track, none of whom you want to bump into.

On the edges of the field house, there are several mysterious big yellow doors. Most of them lead you outside of the building, so to all the explorers reading this: be warned, for you may end up outside in the cold wearing your gym clothes. If you have any other questions or concerns about using the field house, you can always consult a blue shirt for assistance.

The second floor has an additional basketball gym where the varsity basketball and volleyball teams used to play before the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport was built. The gym now hosts the badminton program, field hockey practices, and various other programs and teams throughout the week. In addition, there is the Clara Benson student lounge, a dance room, and many offices.

The first floor welcomes guests with friendly staff at the help desk where there is a customer service desk to talk about membership, a café, a lobby with couches, and the pool gallery. However, the strength and conditioning centre is the cornerstone of the first floor.

This is where people go to improve their strength using a wide array of push, pull, and lifting machines. There are plenty of free weights and benches for nearly everyone to use the weight they need. This part of the gym tends to get very busy, but most exercisers are very cooperative and friendly when asked to share equipment, so feel free to communicate with your fellow gym-goers.

Staff members in red shirts keep track of how many people are in the room and ensure that people are using equipment properly and wearing close-toed shoes. When it gets full, they will post a sign telling members that they are at capacity, and members must wait until some people leave. Unfortunately, there is no natural light, and the lighting is very white, which can turn some gym-goers away.

The sweaty smell and stuffiness can become overwhelming, so if some of your workout can take place elsewhere, I recommend retreating upstairs to the field house. Or you can take advantage of women’s only hours or quiet hours to make your workout experience more peaceful.

Once again, if any challenges arise or if you have general questions while working out, staff members are certified physical trainers and will always be happy to give some workout advice or act as a spotter.

Finally, we enter the basement. The basement has both men’s and women’s locker rooms, which include showers and steam rooms. This is also where to go when accessing the pool deck. Also hidden along the east side of the building’s bottom floor are the fencing and gymnastics rooms, which I will not attempt to explain how to get to.

As a basketball player, occasional exerciser, and staff member at the AC, I am incredibly grateful for the recreational space that it has provided me, and for the friends I have met while playing and working there throughout my years as an undergrad.

Disclosure: Isaac Consenstein works at the AC.

The importance of stretching

Here’s what to do after you finish a workout

The importance of stretching

After hammering out your cardio, lifting weights, and giving your all at the gym, don’t leave without giving your body the proper cool down it deserves. Proper stretching is easily overlooked, but it is just as important as the main workout itself.

Completing a stretch sequence after a workout has its benefits, and your muscles will thank you for it. Cooling down after a workout brings your body back to a natural climate, while also helping to relax your heart rate. By dedicating five or 10 minutes to low-intensity stretching or activity, you’ll be giving your body some additional time to recover.

For a cool down, consider light stretching or walking for five minutes until your heart rate falls below 120 beats per minute. Stretching should be held for 10–30 seconds, and the key is to remember to breathe.

Stretching properly after a workout will not prevent pain entirely, but it will minimize muscle soreness. Stretching helps eliminate lactic acid that the body produces when muscles are exhausted, which in turn relaxes them.

When muscles are used repeatedly in a workout, they quickly tighten, and light stretching is a way to relax them and prevent injury. In addition, through the cool down, you can gain increased muscle flexibility by targeting muscles that will generate a greater range of motion. You can also prevent injury by relaxing the contracted muscles.

The process of cooling down is just as important as warming up, as stretching also relaxes your mind and relieves stress. Furthermore, it is a way to be more aware of your body and respond to its needs after working out.

Blues women’s basketball lose rivalry contest against Ryerson

Rams defeated the Blues 53–42

Blues women’s basketball lose rivalry contest against Ryerson

The Varsity Blues women’s basketball team fell short of a win at 53–42 against the Ryerson Rams on Friday night. Despite the Rams gaining a big lead in the third quarter, the Blues tirelessly fought back and made it a close game.

The Blues wore all pink on Friday in support of the U SPORTS Shoot for the Cure campaign, and the Junior Blues Gymnastics team did a fantastic job of raising over $1,100 toward breast cancer research.

In the first quarter, Toronto opened the scoring, with Samantha Robertson finding Nada Radonjic on a baseline cut for a quick layup. Not long after, Charlotte Collyer would feed Radonjic down low again for two. Radonjic would finish with a team high of 10 points.

The second quarter saw the intensity of both sides reach a new level. Players were forcing steals and diving on loose balls as neither team wanted to give the other an advantage. The Blues took the lead early on and would go back and forth with the Rams until halftime, with Ryerson up 21–16.

Robertson’s tenacious playing style represented Toronto’s resilience throughout the second half. In the third quarter, after a foul call didn’t go her way, she responded by hitting a contested three on the ensuing possession. Ryerson’s full-court press earned them multiple steals and their vigorous zone defense helped them to a 19-point lead midway through the quarter.

The Blues collected themselves and began piercing Ryerson’s defense in the fourth. With two and a half minutes to go, the Blues were back within nine but couldn’t quite catch the Rams, and were defeated 53–42.

Teamwork requires players to fulfil different roles and not every role gets rewarded on the stat line. A big shoutout goes to Jessica Muha for relentlessly taking on Ryerson’s six-foot-four offensive powerhouse, Sofia Paska. A good four inches above the next tallest woman on the court, Paska led her team in scoring, rebounds, and blocks, finishing with a double double.

Blues guard Fiorella Granda, who has been out with an injury, spoke after the game about the team’s mutual support. “It’s a nice community,” she said, “You have people going through what you’re going through.”

Toronto has seen many players cycle through the injury list. When asked about players overcoming setbacks, Granda brought up Ariana Sider, who had suffered a concussion earlier this season.

“She came back stronger and better. Now she starts. Now she’s a leader.” Sider embodies the team’s adaptive nature by making the best of difficult circumstances.

The Blues have now lost four in a row, but as they’ve shown in the past, this is a team who can get up after being knocked down.

An exclusive interview with @uoftears__

The story behind all the stories

An exclusive interview with @uoftears__

With over 6,000 Instagram followers amassed over the span of a few months, @uoftears__ (or “U of Tears,” not “U of T Ears” as the admin has requested I distinguish) is the new confession account that has trickled into conversations across the student body.

As of February, there are well over 4,000 confessions ranging from describing firsts — first kiss, first time having sex, first fail in a course — to slapstick posts about the various bowel movements of students, whether they be confined to a bathroom or not. There are even more controversial confessions, like Confession #216, which reported that the student allegedly “like[s] pineapple on pizza.”

There are other secrets on this platform too, of the genre rarely shared without the blanket of anonymity. People write about their worst depressive episodes, their suicidal tendencies, and their family troubles — some posts are penned with an overwhelming sense of loneliness.

The admin of @uoftears__ manages and disseminates a wide variety of voices and stories, all from one account. I wanted to know why she does what she does — why she created this platform, how she is impacted by all of the confessions she receives, and what her perspective is after the success of her account.

I sat down on the phone with her and she told me, on the condition of anonymity, about the story behind all the stories.

TV: Are you the only person with access to this account?

uoftears__: Yeah, it’s only me.

TV: So when you graduate, what plans do you have for the account?

uoftears__: I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I don’t think I’m going to continue writing it, but I will definitely look for someone to run the page because I do want the account to continue.

TV: Does anybody know who you are? Like your close friends?

uoftears__: The only people who know who I am are my roommate and two friends from high school. But no one really knows who I am.

TV: So why did you start this account?

uoftears__: I think there were a lot of reasons I started this account. If you look at other accounts that do similar stuff with mine, it’s not really a platform to share personal things, but I wanted to make mine a platform for people to be able to share how they’re feeling anonymously. And I’m trying to just make people more aware to start people talking about the issues that we’re having at our campus.

TV: Would that be the purpose of your account, this sense of community that you’re creating?

uoftears__: I guess, yeah, I wanted a sense of community. I wanted people to know that they aren’t alone. I know sometimes it’s a huge campus, it’s easy for you to feel like you don’t have anyone. But I wanted people to have a place where they can share how they feel, what’s happening in their lives, and know that they’re not going to be judged. Or they can at least get a positive response from other people. That’s really why I wanted to do it.

TV: So how do you choose whether or not to post a confession? I’m just curious about clarifying the process.

uoftears__: When I look at the Google Form, it tells me I have “x” number of confessions. Normally, it’s like 100 or something. For me, a confession is where someone is admitting to something that they’ve done or something that they feel. So for example, if they’re talking about a crush, there’s no actions taking place, so I don’t post those. I look for ones that are repetitive. I read all of the confessions, delete the ones that don’t meet the criteria, and then I read them again and I keep skimming them down until there’s 20 left and then I post those.

TV: Beyond just the darker confessions that you get, because there are a significant amount on there, I’ve got to say there’s some pretty weird confessions. Like Confession #3751 involved somebody taking a dump in a urinal, for example. What’s your reaction to confessions like these?

uoftears__: I get really weird ones. Today, I got one about someone that stalks people in bathroom stalls — they just stay there, and then they jerk off to people peeing. I like getting the weird ones because it’s a good buffer in between some of the harder ones to read. Even though I know some of them are fake, it’s a good laugh for people, so I post some. Because at the end of the day, it’s an Instagram account. It’s a place to read funny and stupid things too.

The first post made by @uoftears__ was actually on September 22, 2018, and it consisted of a picture that read “u of t confessions” with a caption telling people to submit confessions and tag friends. The only comment on it read: “Stop is this high school over again,” which, admittedly, is a valid point.

Though there are plenty of other university-based anonymous sharing accounts, there is something reminiscent of high school about a confession account. Maybe it’s because it takes on the mantle of the grapevine gossip transmission, or maybe it’s because you get the same outlandish confessions of unlikely sexual situations and bodily functions that echo certain stereotypical high school guys.

You have the commenters who have become staples of the page, like @whatjoelthinks, and you have the fairly active engagement of people who know a bit too much about other people’s lives — without really knowing them at all.

This is like high school, but that sense of community is also changed. Due to the extremely high number of submissions, the admin has had to pare down the voices to 20 per day. Even though her process of evaluating confessions is straightforward and she prides herself on maintaining an eclectic mix of posts, readers can still glean fragments of her personal beliefs and priorities from what she picks.

During our conversation, she mentions the posts about sexual assault that she receives. She explained how it’s become important to her for to show students to know that there are survivors on campus that still haven’t received the treatment or investigations that she believes they deserve. She mentions that she feels like the school has failed some students, whether in terms of mental health or adequate support overall.

In cases like these, a confession takes on a whole new shape. It is a vehemently personal statement to make, and it also coalesces with certain topics that the admin advocates for. That’s not to say that @uoftears__ is one massive social justice crusade, but rather that with a page like this, the person behind the virtual account will still bleed through.

TV: You emphasize this anonymity a lot for your account. All names, if they’re included, will be taken off the confessions, and all the confessions are completely anonymous. So what do you think is the power and significance of being anonymous for confession accounts like yours?

uoftears__: I really wanted it to be a place that anyone felt safe sharing stuff with, regardless of what it was, because some of the stuff is really dark and it’s really sad, but I think it’s about just giving them the voice to say what they need to say and knowing that they can be 100 per cent anonymous.

TV: How has your U of T experience changed after creating this account?

uoftears__: To be honest, it hasn’t changed too much. I think the funniest thing is when I’m at parties or when I’m out with a big group of friends, sometimes they’ll start talking about the account and I pretend like I don’t know it at all. People will say, “Oh yeah, I send in confessions all the time!” And I’m like, “Yup, I’ve read every single one of them.”

TV: That must be a very unique position you’re in.

uoftears__: It is.

TV: To be able to know so many personal things about people.

uoftears__: Yeah, it really is. Most of the time I have no clue who is sending it in because of the way that I set up the Google Form. But sometimes, they’ll include names, so that’s when I actually do get to know things about people, but I never share any of it. Literally, never.

TV: How has receiving these confessions changed the way you see students on campus?

uoftears__: I think having this confession page just validates what my thoughts were already.

TV: What were your thoughts?

uoftears__: U of T is notorious for being a cutthroat school, I guess. Which is not always the case depending on your program and depending on the people you surround yourself with. But I think it does take an emotional toll on a lot of people, and I had a feeling that this was the case, but seeing all of these posts… And these are just the people who are sending them. I’m sure there’s hundreds more. For every one person who sends it, there could be 10 other people feeling the exact same way, but just haven’t confessed it.

This is an odd paradox in which anonymity becomes intimacy. Of course, you’ve got the funnier confessions, some of which supposedly from Rotman students, that leave you a little concerned for the wellbeing of some people in that faculty. Then you’ve got people who confessed to taking dumps in urinals or being high in every lecture. It’s a diverse set of voices, and it’s supposed to be, as the account is meant to be representative of an entire university.

But in other confessions, with topics ranging from heartbreak to devastation to complete emotional turmoil, you read secrets from people that you never would have heard from otherwise. There are no faces to the words, which fosters an unique sense of intimacy. At our core, the account suggests, we’re all driven by and impacted by similar forces.

Who writes the confessions? Anybody and practically everybody, if you really think about it. If you read a particular confession about loneliness or insecurity that you really relate to, it could’ve been written by any of the hundreds of faces that jostle past you on King’s College Circle. It could’ve been from the girl who sits next to you in MAT137, the boy who lives a couple doors down from you in Lower Burwash, a person you’ve seen again and again in the dining hall. Any face, any time, anywhere.

Who’s to say it couldn’t be your very best friend?

TV: What types of confessions do you usually get the most of, do you think?

uoftears__: I get a lot of confessions about wanting help on courses. I also get a lot of people talking about crushes like, “Oh my God, the girl I saw today in the blue shirt and brown shoes, I thought you were so cute!” I also — it’s actually really hard, but I get a lot of people saying that they’re depressed, and they want to die. I get a lot of suicidal confessions. Those are the hardest ones because sometimes I can’t post all of them and I want to. I don’t want to silence people, but some days, I’ll go days without getting any, and then some days, I’ll just get a bunch, and then it’s overwhelming.

TV: On that whole topic of getting overwhelmed by it, from the sheer number of depression or dark confessions you get, is it kind of numbing to a certain point after you’ve seen so many?

uoftears__: No, it’s really, really… At the beginning when I started the account and I first started getting suicidal confessions, I was debating if I even wanted to post them. But then I was like, “No, the reason I started this account is so people can share how they’re feeling, so I’m going to be posting them.” Which is one of the major differences between my account and any other university account. At first, it was really hard for me. In the caption, I didn’t know what to caption it. At the very beginning, I comment more as a friend and I wanted to be supportive, but people were saying, “Stop pretending to be people’s friend.” You can see now I always post a couple links — a set amount of links — with the suicidal ones. And the only reason I changed the way I approach things is that I wanted to stay a neutral platform and I wanted to give people resources that could actually help them. It looks like I probably became more of a bitch, but it’s not like that. It’s so hard… Every single confession that I get about depression, mental health, suicide, anything — it never gets numb. I’ll always feel something for that person, and I always feel like I want to do anything I can for this person.

TV: This question is a little more personal, but when you see these posts about mental health, do you ever relate to any of them? Do they ever trigger you sometimes or negatively impact your own sense of mental health?

uoftears__: I do have mental health problems, and I do see a therapist. When people say, “Oh, you don’t relate to us, you don’t know I’m going through,” — I do know what you’re going through. I’ve been there, I’ve had really tough days, really tough weeks, really tough months. Sometimes people notice that I’ll go inactive for a couple of days, and the number one reason I do that is because if I get a day where I get a lot of suicide confessions, it’s just really hard. Sometimes it does trigger stuff. It’s what motivates me, in a way, because I empathize with them. It motivates me to keep sharing their stories.

The first published confession that explicitly mentioned suicide was Confession #667. Before then, there were some about depression and suicidal tendencies, but #667 was the first to flat out declare suicidal intentions. Since then, more and more students have confessed their mental health issues to the point where suicidal confessions are nearly commonplace on the feed.

The choice to post these confessions potentially puts both the administrator and her readers at risk — there’s a fine line between sharing and encouraging, even if only accidentally. Suicide or mental health problems can be idealized or romanticized if they aren’t dealt with properly.

If the admin had decided against posting confessions about mental health and suicide, she wouldn’t have opened the floodgates to more people confessing those secrets. She wouldn’t have to read about people’s worst moments every day.

She faces these concerns every time she reads a confession about mental health, and she deals with the fallout in her own mental state. She tries to balance a neutral, non-judgmental platform with offering support to suffering students. For example, she posts links to give her followers more resources. These links are a start, as they show the confessor, and people who identify with them, that these mental health issues require attention and treatment.

uoftears__: I remember this one person, and they were like, “Maybe not everyone clicks the link, but I clicked it, and it saved me.” So that’s why I keep posting those.

TV: Yeah, it’s the small victories.

uoftears__: I just want to help people. And I’m not a professional. I don’t know what I’m doing. But I’m just trying to do it the best way I know how.

Overlooked: The Sopranos

Millennials and Gen Z have failed good TV

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The Sopranos may seem like an odd choice for The Varsity’s “Overlooked” column, boasting over 20 Emmy awards. However, it is ripe and waiting for a generational rediscovery. Despite being instantly absorbed into the zeitgeist of the early 2000s, the television masterpiece has been criminally ignored by those who exist on the millennial and Gen Z border. Part of the reason for this is likely its lack of presence on streaming services like Netflix.

The Sopranos follows the chronicles of New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano, masterfully portrayed by the late James Gandolfini. Tony is brash and unapologetic, but as he juggles his daily life of crime with his familial duties, he begins experiencing severe panic attacks. With Edie Falco as Tony’s wife, Carmela, who shows a fascinating contradiction of subservient mob wife and strong-willed personality, these characters serve as an example of the show’s impeccable and unique characterization.

The effect of this character-based plot is that each episode contains a complete story arc, allowing for painfully grounded human characters to weave between bits of mafia spectacle. In the current TV landscape, where characterization and story have largely been thrust to the wayside to make way for splashy plot devices, The Sopranos seems transcendent.

Nuanced characters, however, should not be mistaken for morally upright ones. The inherently crude world in which the Soprano family and its associates exist creates violent plotlines and dredges up disgusting and deplorable supporting characters. Characters’ biases and reprehensible actions are shown yet condemned, and this tension manages to get at themes of loyalty, trust, love, and justice, much deeper than television does today. This cathartic ride, combined with the detailed depiction of the scandalous world of organized crime, creates a quality of television that has remained unmatched to this day.

The Sopranos, at its core, is a show about a family like any other, who just happen to live in a horrific and fascinating world. Though the lack of bingeable-ness may turn some off, experiencing the show in all of its glory for the first time is a revelation. As you learn each character’s neurosis and desires, it starts feeling like you’re visiting old friends — scotch-swirling, rat-whacking, criminal friends, but friends nonetheless.

Years of sexual misconduct allegations from underage women hasn’t affected his success — but is time finally up for R. Kelly?

2019 is the year that we finally hold R. Kelly accountable

Years of sexual misconduct allegations from underage women hasn’t affected his success — but is time finally up for R. Kelly?

Content warning: discussions of sexual violence.

Robert Sylvester Kelly, or R. Kelly, is one of the most well-known R&B artists in the music industry. He has sold up to 100 million records globally, including singles such as “Ignition (Remix)” and “I Believe I Can Fly.” He wrote Michael Jackson’s hit “You Are Not Alone,” and has collaborated with various artists such as Chris Brown, Lady Gaga, and Celine Dion.

R. Kelly’s success, however, has been clouded by dozens of sexual abuse claims involving girls as young as 14. Lifetime’s highly anticipated, six-part docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, provides commentary from journalists, activists, and celebrities on the decades of sexual misconduct allegations against R. Kelly.

Initial reports concerning R. Kelly were brought to media attention through his controversial relationship with his teenage protégée, Aaliyah. The release of her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, which Kelly produced, gave rise to speculations of a romance that led to a secret marriage. This marriage, although denied by R. Kelly, was supported with the release of an alleged marriage certificate that declared Aaliyah’s age as 18 — even though records show that she was 15 and Kelly was 27 at the time.

In 2002, the artist was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography after a sex tape showing him urinating into the mouth of a 14-year-old girl was released. Although he was eventually acquitted on the remaining charges in 2008, the fact that he continued to be a prominent figure in the music industry — even after the wide distribution of bootleg copies of his tape — is upsetting. Television shows such as Boondocks and Chappelle’s Show undermined the severity of his charges by adding a comic spin to the incident. Additionally, R. Kelly’s album release in 2003 justified support for him despite these revelations about his predatory behaviour.

In 2012, R. Kelly released his memoir, Soulacoaster, that revealed that he was molested as a child growing up in the South Side of Chicago. In a 2016 interview with GQ magazine, the artist recounted being abused by a female relative for six to eight years. Shockingly enough, when asked about his thoughts on the experience, Kelly referred to the abuse as a “generational curse,” in which members of his family, who were victimized as children, became abusers when they grew up. Although this is an attempt to come to terms with the trauma of his sexual abuse, this claim is unusual considering that R. Kelly has denied all allegations of sexual assault made against him over the years.

Amid the controversy surrounding Surviving R. Kelly, celebrities such as Chance the Rapper and Lady Gaga have taken to social media to condemn the R&B singer, even removing their collaborations with him from streaming platforms. Furthermore, RCA Records dropped R. Kelly from its record label and prosecutors in Chicago and Atlanta have reportedly launched investigations into the sexual misconduct claims against him. But while these actions are much needed, they are long overdue.

Despite the amount of attention that Surviving R. Kelly has brought to the artist’s history of sexual abuse, it is important to note that it simply restates allegations that have been disclosed to the public in the past. It is no secret that R. Kelly preys on Black girls; a simple Google search reveals a plethora of disturbing evidence that dates back as far as 1994.

Historically, Black women and girls have been cast in society as essentially ‘unrapeable.’ Common stereotypes that portray them as loud, angry, barbaric, and whorish have contributed to the idea that they are incapable of being victims of sexual assault and are undeserving of the same responses afforded to white women in the same circumstances.

What would have happened if R. Kelly’s accusers were white?

If society would be willing to hold R. Kelly accountable for alleged actions against white women, why has it taken so long to respond to his exploitations of Black women? Why has it taken until 2019 for the voices of R. Kelly’s survivors to finally be heard?

However, this is not just a problem that can be blamed on the shortcomings of society at large. The Black community has also played a role in perpetuating decades of R. Kelly’s sexual offences. This is part of a larger dilemma that has seen this community ignore to his abuses for “the sake of racial solidarity,” as suggested by journalist Sesali Bowen. On separate occasions, both Chance the Rapper and Ohio State University professor Treva Lindsey have elaborated on this, explaining how the Black community has become “hypersensitized to [Black] male oppression.”

The most prominent view of the Black community centres on the struggles of Black men living in the racist climate of the United States, where they are criminalized because of the colour of their skin. This creates the perception that the negative actions of one Black man are representative of the entire Black population. As a result, there’s a sense of protectionism around the image of the ‘Black man’ that overlooks his treatment of Black women — especially, in the case of R. Kelly, where the allegations of sexual misconduct against him have taken a back seat to his prominence in the entertainment industry.

In the age of Time’s Up and #MeToo, a number of male celebrities have faced consequences for their inappropriate actions against women. However, R. Kelly has not faced the same reality as these men. Movements such as #MuteRKelly have been successful in cancelling his concerts and limiting his radio play, yet this progress continues to be offset by his fans who have taken to social media to discredit survivors and by individuals who continue to stream his music.

By continuing to listen to R. Kelly’s music, we are fostering the belief that R. Kelly is untouchable, and undeserving of the same punishments that we have given to other male celebrities who have used their status to exploit women. There are too many allegations against R. Kelly for us to continue to ignore them.

It is time for us to stand in solidarity with the survivors of his sexual misconduct.

R. Kelly has not been indicted on any counts of sexual misconduct, and as of press time, continues to deny all allegations against him.

Book Club: Shyness and Dignity

Dag Solstad explores what inevitably shapes our fate: what we can control and what we can’t control

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The existentialist novel — however it may be defined — is a modern invention. Following the devastation of World War II, its intellectual vanguards developed a philosophy to more deeply express the human experience.

These novelists relay existential concepts while paying special attention to detail and voice in style andtransience and nuance in psychology. Ultimately, their philosophical inquiries articulate the tangible and invisible forces driving our alienation from the modern world.

Yet the existential novel can be seen as dated, bordered by conventions and overshadowed by succeeding literary movements that consider the ambivalence of our ontological condition from a greater variety of narrative and philosophical angles. Existentialism is anachronistic  a uniquely twentieth century literary enterprise. How else to revive the genre if not through emulation, parody, or kitsch?

Enter Dag Solstad, Norway’s most celebrated contemporary writer, whose 1994 novel Shyness and Dignity breathes new life into an otherwise exhausted literature. His work is fully absorbed in its specific literary tradition while grounding its concerns in our unique and present-day anxieties.

Its axis revolves around Elias Rukla, a “rather sottish senior master in his fifties” teaching Norwegian literature at a secondary school in Oslo. Mid-lecture, Elias discovers hidden meaning in an ostensibly insignificant line direction in Henrich Ibsen’s play The Wild Duck. The finding inspires Elias to think innovatively about the play’s dramatics and its discussion of fate.

In spite of his passionate delivery, his students remain listless and unmotivated. Frightened by their mass boredom, Elias ultimately resigns himself to defeat. He leaves the school frustrated. Struggling to open his “collapsible” umbrella outside, he enters into a fit of rage, beats it savagely in front of spectating students, and cusses at one of them ruthlessly.

All at once, Elias realizes his downfall. Certain that his teaching post will be terminated, he despairs over the bleak economical and social future awaiting him and his wife. His crisis triggers a sequence of recollections and speculations, interwoven with daydreams and regrets, that follows throughout the rest of the novel until the very end, when he must return to his current life and face his presently doomed future.

Shyness and Dignity takes on the form of a streamofconsciousness narrative, full of winding run-on sentences and multi-page digressions, moving from one fixed idea to the next with the swiftness of pen strokes. The narration exhausts itself in bridging each detail and implication to create an intricately connected web of thoughts and ideas. However, its variations and detours never stray beyond what is truly at stake. Even the most seemingly banal details inevitably fall under the two categories suggested in the title: shyness, the natural yet inhibiting force; and dignity, the great motivator and stimulant.

Apart from its style, the novel’s preoccupation with agency, chance, and fate is a recognizable quality in existentialist literature. Echoes of Albert Camus and Knut Hamsun can be heard all throughout, and any reader of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being will find themselves in familiar territory.

What makes Solstad’s novel especially interesting, however, is its relative lightheartedness and penchant for comedy. One can easily imagine the umbrella scene as a slapstick gag in silent comedy. Yet its pervasive and subtle humor never compromises its sincerity. Miraculously, the novel strikes a brilliant balance between the comic potential of existential dilemmas and the gravity they implicate in our lives. It views our world through a sharp lens, capturing the quiet dramas we harbor daily with equal amounts of grace, sympathy, and amusement.

Shyness and Dignity is the perfect introduction to an author whose work is only recently gaining a wider readership among English-speaking readers. It is a novel that reintroduces familiar existential ideas and unpacks their newfound significance while maintaining a sophisticated style, so as to represent subtle workings of the conscience. Its ethos can be summed thusly in one of the most important lines in The Wild Duck, a proto-existentialist remark that still resonates due to its universality and urgency: “If you take the life-lie away from an average person, you take away his happiness as well.”

Oscar snubs 2019

And the nominees aren’t: films that the Academy rejected this year

Oscar snubs 2019

From festival season all the way to the end of the year, 2018 was a great year for movies. Critics and viewers alike celebrated films from a wide range of genres, including horror and animation, with films like Hereditary and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Unfortunately, this success was not reflected by the 2019 Oscar nominations.

Though the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be held on February 24, had plenty of surprises — The Favourite, one of the best movies of the year, to name one — the Oscars ultimately fail to give recognition to movies that truly tear apart and redefine elements of cinema.

So here is a list of some snubs that, despite their lack of Academy love, deserve your time.

Blindspotting — directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada

By far my favorite movie of the year, Blindspotting is an inventive and ingenious study on gentrification, following Collin (Daveed Diggs) as he attempts to finish his final three days of probation without getting into any trouble.

From green juice to vegan burgers to Uber, Blindspotting’s stances on the social and economic landscape of America are incredibly insightful and refreshing. Blindspotting does not beat around the bush: racial profiling, police brutality, and the nuanced use of African-American vernacular are all key themes of the movies — brought together by Collin and Miles (Rafael Casal) who, sooner rather than later, will be cemented in the pantheon of loveable on-screen duos.

Hereditary — directed by Ari Aster

Toni Collette makes Hereditary. It’s as simple as that.

Collette’s character, Annie Graham, is the centre of the film, which is as terrifying and shocking as it is mind-numbingly tragic.

Hereditary is hard to put into words: it seamlessly dismantles so many tired tropes and clichés in the horror genre, effectively paving a way for a new era where monsters and boogeymen are replaced by strained familial dynamics and an absence of serotonin. Hereditary doesn’t blur lines in its approach to mental health: seek help, take care of yourself, don’t ignore your symptoms, or literal horror will ensue.

You know a horror movie is effective when the terrifying demeanor of demons and cults is second only to the fraying family dynamic helmed by the matriarch Collette depicts on screen.

First Reformed — directed by Paul Schrader

First Reformed does actually have an Oscar nomination: Paul Schrader is nominated for best original screenplay. But Ethan Hawke gave such a startling performance in this film that this list would be remiss without mention of him.

First Reformed attempts to cut the cord between religion and environmentalism, to separate interests of faith from interests of the planet. Hawke’s Reverend Ernst Toller grapples with reconciling what he knows, what he believes, what politicians say, and what science proves. Hawke delivers a performance that is frenzied, frustrated, but, most importantly, urgent. To divulge anything else would be a disservice to you.

You Were Never Really Here — directed by Lynne Ramsay

Lynne Ramsay is one of the most exciting directors working today. We Need to Talk About Kevin, her previous film, garnered critical and international acclaim. However, last year’s You Were Never Really Here has unfortunately fallen under the radar.

The film follows Joe (Joaquin Phoenix), a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, who tracks down missing girls for a living. Ramsay is sharp and cold in her directing. Her handling of brutal violence is effortless, allowing the movie to progress in a sequence of events that alarmingly raises the stakes the further it runs. You Were Never Really Here is very challenging but extremely rewarding ­— Ramsay deserves all the praise.

Shirkers — directed by Sandi Tan

In 1992 Singapore, a teenage Sandi Tan directed and filmed an indie movie, assisted by her film-loving group of friends and her American mentor Georges Cardona. Once the movie was done, however, Cardona vanished with all of the footage.

The film is recovered 20 years later, and thus begins Shirkers, a documentation of Tan’s personal odyssey of coming to terms with her younger self’s vision, excitement, and ultimate betrayal. Shirkers stitches together snippets of Tan’s original movie — also called Shirkers — and her present-day journey, making for a memorable tale about ambition, one that both celebrates and cautions against the youthful naïveté all of us are familiar with and, at times, still susceptible to.