Don't opt out: click here to learn more about our work.

Overlooked: The Banana Story of Agony

A children’s book we should all read by fourth year

Overlooked: The Banana Story of Agony

I found The Banana Story of Agony in the children’s section of BMV Books. Something about it called to me. It was probably the words “banana” and “agony”: the former being my favourite fruit and the latter being my perpetual state of being. So naturally, I bought it without so much as a glance at the blurb. After initially abandoning it in the corner of my room next to an empty Pepcid bottle, I stumbled upon it again days later, and to my surprise found that I had purchased a masterpiece.

The Banana Story of Agony is a picture book, written and illustrated by Lesley Johnson and published by Conundrum Press, an independent publisher known for its graphic novels. However, it would be folly to assume that The Banana Story of Agony can be classified as anything other than high art.

On a superficial level, this book looks like any other children’s book. Illustrations are accompanied by large, simple text running along the bottom, and the stories all feature children, personified objects, or mythic persons such as Santa Claus. Upon looking closer, however, one discovers that it not only appears to be written for a child, but also written by a child. The illustrations are simple and unpolished, and you can see the white space where the watercolour paper shows through. In fact, the pictures are oddly reminiscent of locker murals painted by middle school art clubs.

Even the text, which Johnson created using both her left and right hand simultaneously, mimics a childlike scrawl. But this isn’t a criticism. This precisely shows how the work blurs the line between child and adult literature, art and kitsch, satire and seriousness.

One of the work’s most obvious blurred dualities is that of innocence and disturbance. The childlike simplicity of the illustrations are juxtaposed with the absurdity and undeniable creepiness of the four stories: “Love”, “There’s No One Home: A Story of Indifference”, “Susan had a Chicken on her Butt”, and the titular “Banana Story of Agony.” The plots of these tales resemble that of an uncomfortably vivid and particularly bizarre dream, one that you wake up remembering and later recount to an annoyed group of strangers while on acid at a house party.

Like Daniel Johnston’s cassette covers, Mark Perry’s Sniffin’ Glue, and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Lesley Johnson’s The Banana Story of Agony is undeniably punk rock in its defiance of conventional norms of art and literature. It is art from the ground up, born from the grassroots, from a place where there are no rules and where we are all a little “bananas.”

How to put your life together in seven easy steps

Shine, thrive, and be your best self

How to put your life together in seven easy steps

On several occasions I have been called out for doing “the most” when it comes to school. I take a full course load and I am involved in extracurriculars and volunteer activities while somehow managing to have friends, get a full eight hours of sleep every night, and maintain a 4.0 GPA. Sounds impossible, right? Fear not, you too can have it all — it only takes hard work and seven simple steps.

1. Overthink everything. Break down every idea you have until you hate it and move on to the next until you have exhausted all other options and go back to your original idea.

2. Make time for a weekly existential crisis. What is all of this for? Is U of T worth it? Should I have gone to Ryerson? Will I need to cure cancer to get into grad school? Should I join another club to make it look like I’m a well-balanced student even though I’m already on the brink of collapse? Probably.

3. Make coffee one of your main food groups. My preferred type of coffee is iced regardless of the weather, since it wakes you up and gets you ready to go instead of making you want to curl up into a ball. Also, something about coming to class every day with an overpriced cup of iced coffee just gives off a Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada vibe.

4. Live at the library. I really have brought a blanket to Robarts before. I genuinely don’t understand people who study at home — I still think this is a myth. Surround yourself in the monstrosity that is Robarts Library, with its grim interior and fluorescent lights — it’s just awful enough to make you work extra hard so you can leave as fast as you can instead of watching pointless BuzzFeed videos all day.

5. Learn the art of making lists. I make lists for my lists. I have two calendars in my room — plus an agenda that is colour-coded and organized by type of activity. School gets a section, friends get a section, and even going to buy toilet paper gets a pretty glittery pen colour in my agenda. This way, when people in class look over at you, they think you’re just a busy queen who had no time to waste.

6. Be impatient in every moment. There is always something more you could be doing — and should be doing — to get to whatever goal you’re trying reach. Half the time, you don’t even know what that goal is, but the long line to your aforementioned Starbucks coffee from Robarts between classes is definitely directly hindering your dreams.

7. Do one thing that makes you feel like you have your life together. Even if everything else is a mess around you, if you feel like you’re a boss, you’ll give that energy to everyone around you. I must have my life together if I have a fresh set of nails done, even if I haven’t washed my hair in a week. Life is, after all, about balance.

It’s funny because it’s true

Assessing the value of satirical journalism, including U of T’s The Boundary and The Highland Holler

It’s funny because it’s true

Whether it’s The Onion in the US or The Beaverton in Canada, it seems that there is nowhere you can turn in the online world without encountering satirical news.

But this uptick is certainly no accident, and likely reflects a worrisome political reality. According to Pennsylvania State University professor Sophia McClennen, “We see satire emerge when political discourse is in crisis and when it becomes important to use satirical comedy to put political pressure on misinformation.”

While journalistic impartiality is critical for conventional news outlets, satirical journalism directly challenges questionable beliefs and actions. It manages to breach subjects seen as too taboo for traditional reporting with an exceptionally low tolerance for nonsense.

This is especially pertinent as it can be difficult for traditional news media to keep up with the outlandish controversies in current politics. Regarding coverage of Donald Trump, McClennen said, “the news media sort of seems like it has to take [Trump’s statements] seriously in order to be taken seriously.”

Satire can tackle these issues head-on. For example, when Doug Ford announced his hastily revised sex-ed curriculum, traditional networks covered the controversy with a neutral gaze. The Beaverton, by contrast, published an article entitled, “Doug Ford replaces sex-ed curriculum with old copy of Playboy found in woods” — lampooning the outdated and careless nature of the decision.

Less restricted by journalistic guidelines, satire generates interest, debate, and conversation in a way that encourages a more critical view. It stops the normalization of politics which are abnormal, and, when done well, can be as informative as traditional news.

There is, however, an ugly underbelly to satire. With politics entering what many are calling a ‘post-truth’ era, it is vital to recognize fake news. Toeing the line between satire and fake news can be difficult, and is rooted in intent. Fake news presents false stories to intentionally deceive its audience, while satirical news publishes them with the intent of poking fun at current events.

To avoid falling into the category of fake news, some satirical outlets are making the nature of their content obvious. This proves to be a serious hurdle for many publications, for which an authentic appearance as a news outlet is part of the satire. Having a giant, flashing “satire” sign behind articles, on the other hand, can detract from the humour.

Satire at U of T has a long history. Engineering’s Toike Oike bills itself as “The University of Toronto’s Humour Newspaper since 1911,” while University College’s The Gargoyle has been in print since 1954.

Recently, two online-only publications, The Boundary of Victoria College and the The Highland Holler at UTSC have established footholds in the U of T publications community. The Boundary‘s Editor-in-Chief Ted Fraser attributes this growing interest in satire to the fact that “Facebook has come back from the dead… [it] is conducive to the type of Headline Humour we churn out.”

The Highland Holler suggested that there is an untapped, somewhat frustrated market for satire at U of T, seeing their fair share of complaints about the university and organizations within it. Delayed Arts & Science exam schedules, insects found in food at UTSC, unexpected enrollment increases at UTM, and $30 writing surfaces offered at the Daniels lecture hall reflect problematic oversights by various administrations at U of T. It is therefore no wonder that students are seeking direct, humorous criticism.

Both publications consider satirical news to be highly relevant. The Boundary sees campus satire as a counterweight to traditional news: “The Varsity is like your T.A. — reliable, astute, serious — and The Boundary is like your tutorial buddy,” said Fraser. While The Boundary recognizes satire to generally be “incredibly important as a political tool,” said Head Content Editor Kyle Brickman, the publication tries to steer clear of anything too political as it relates to campus.

The Highland Holler, meanwhile, holds no such reservations. While satire, especially in student journalism, is a tool that is meant for entertainment, the Holler explains that it is also intended to “encourage people to engage in civil discourse. The aim is to have people learning more about the topic at hand, as well as themselves, and their role as a student.”

The Highland Holler has run into some trouble with fake news, though. “One of the biggest issues that we’ve had to deal with is people taking our articles seriously and reacting to them candidly as though it were real news,” they said.

On the other hand, The Boundary sees satire as a reliable source of news. “We’re consistently fake. Because we’re in the Post-Truth Era, actual news is cloaked in ambiguity — you have to be skeptical of headlines, fact-check stories, maybe vet authors for hidden agendas. Our fake news is… a respite from second-guessing,” said Fraser.

It can be a struggle for students to keep up with the news. Outrage fatigue is real, and many people cope by simply disconnecting from the news. Satire offers an enticing alternative. By juggling between light-hearted humor and probing criticism, students can choose where and how to engage with journalism.

Often, students don’t have the time to read through a lengthy Varsity feature. They might just prefer to get a chuckle out of a Boundary headline reading, “Caffiends to Just Start Pouring Coffee Down Customers’ Throats.”

If done well, satire can entertain, inform, and enrage all at once. If publications manage to toe the line between fake news and satire, it can be an incredibly successful form of news. Failing that, it’s still funny, and mockery never gets old.

Ori Gilboa is a first-year Humanities student at Victoria College.

Two ‘newspapers’ have a chat

U of Tears™, a boundless education, and self-deprecating humour: The Boundary covers it all

Two ‘newspapers’ have a chat

Founded in 2017, The Boundary is Victoria University’s humour newspaper. The Varsity sat down with the paper’s Editor-in-Chief Ted Fraser and Head Content Editor Kyle Brickman, while Finance Executive Daniel Aykler lounged nearby.

The Varsity: How did The Boundary come into existence?

The Boundary: The Boundary is our head staff writer Jack Mageau’s brainchild. He came up with the concept, and then after mistakenly naming it The Farcity — which we thought was a hilarious name — we changed it to The Boundary. It’s a play on ‘boundless.’ We toe the line; we are that ‘boundary.’

Any school that earns the nickname U of Tears needs a humour outlet, because otherwise it’s just depression and Con Hall and cold winters, and there’s nothing really to express yourself [with] in terms of opinions or just human emotion. I think we share a very similar sense of humour with the meme page and our main goal is to almost formalize that type of humour through The Boundary.

[Mageau’s] concept was just an outlet [to] see if we can reach people. The spirit of the University of Toronto population is almost self-deprecating — and I don’t want to say self-hating, but definitely aware of the reality that [the] University of Toronto is not a fun school in the traditional sense. I think it’s really deeply ingrained into the psyche of University of Toronto students that we don’t have fun, and we’ve worked really hard, and we get screwed on tests, and that no one — no one — likes their life.

It’s great because U of T is sort of the opposite of every other university, right? Because frats are lame, no one goes to football games, studying is king, and it just provides constant fuel for headlines. Like, they don’t have to drop into your lap per se, but they’re going to drop more than they would [at] a prototypical college-based school.

TV: Why should people read The Boundary?

TB: Our mission is to amuse rather than to inform, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We acknowledge our own irrelevance and we thrive off of self-deprecation.

TV: Your content is predominantly published online. How often do you release content? Are you going to release a paper copy?

TB: We aim to release four or five articles a week, but through our brainstorming process, we always have one or two articles that we know are really good that we want to release at a certain time.

Perhaps [we’ll have] a semesterly bound paper publication that we will try our best to put on some newsstands or throw in some study rooms at Robarts.

TV: Where are your current contributors and contributions coming from?

TB: The majority of the contributions are coming out of a very core group of people, three of us in this room, then three or four more. And that’s just a product of us being in our infancy. We had a soft launch, as we were calling it. But really, we were just kind of fooling around with the idea to see if it would even work or [if people] would be interested in [it], including ourselves. I think we were figuring out if the contributors would be interested and I guess it turns out that other people are too, to a certain extent. We’re always looking for new contributors.

TV: Why should people want to write for you?

TB: The articles that are being written are 200 words. It’s half a page really and it’s funnier that way. We don’t want long editorials. Our goal is to provide very short content because, again, students are busy. Like, even as the writers, we’re busy.

TV: You’re both in your third year. What’s the plan? Are you going to pass on the torch to keep The Boundary around after you graduate?

TB: We’d love to pick up some contributors from second or first year and have them continue this because I think, yeah, it’d be a nightmare if this was the end. We’re the architects of our own fate. We can definitely figure this out and see if we can get some more people. We’re trying to increase our Facebook presence, which is crucial, and I think there’s also a thirst for this humour across Ontario. The Beaverton and The Onion hit up certain demographics, but I think we cater to a neglected demographic, which is why we’ve kind of sprung up.

TV: Can you explain a little about the neglected demographic?

TB: The Beaverton caters to young professionals and sort of cerebral university students who get the jokes. The Onion is more like the everyman’s satire and, I think, not specific to university in general. We’re specific, I think, so there’s more people like our current consumers out there. Also, a good thing to note is that we’re not nearly on the level of The Onion, so we couldn’t just do Onion content, satirizing everyday life, because we will not get the traction with our current audiences.

TV: Do you have any sources of funding, for Facebook ads, for example?

TB: Initially our bravest member, Kevin Yin, submitted his credit card, but [he] will be compensated. We just kind of went out on a limb and sort of fundraised bankroll ourselves, and it was minimal costs. We’ve now got funding from the VUSAC [Victoria University Students Administrative Council] and our budget is going to be ratified, hopefully soon.

TV: Are you considered a club or a publication?

TB: Technically, I think we’re considered a club. I’m actually in the process of doing the CCR [Co-Curricular Record] phase right now, but I think we would offer it in the same space as maybe the UC Review or something like that — a local, regional, or… a college-based club — although the content is not really catered to college at all. I’d say we kind of referenced it in passing.

TV: How can people contribute?

TB: We have an email, it’s boundarynews@gmail.com. Some people have submitted pitches, but I’d rather honestly meet a potential candidate in person. It’s not necessarily [a screening], but more so just [to] talk to them and see what they are interested in — does this person share a sense of humour with us? Do they have an understanding of what we’re going for?

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You can follow The Boundary on Facebook or visit their website.

SMC President Mavid Dulroney forgets to go to church

Crusade against themed club nights, gambling, other sins “taking a toll” on devout Catholic

SMC President Mavid Dulroney forgets to go to church

The President of St. Mike’s College (SMC), Mavid Dulroney, was reported missing from church on April 1. A devout Catholic and bureaucrat, Dulroney’s absence from the first row of the church pew was noted by Father Comas Thollins. “He never misses a service,” said Thollins. “I immediately knew something was wrong.”

Bandy Royagoda, one of Dulroney’s fellow congregants, said he was concerned that Dulroney’s overzealous work ethic may have caused a psychotic break. The college president has mounted a crusade against sins at the increasingly secular SMC, cracking down on the playing of cards and holding of hands. The president even apparently tried to ban student loans, calling the practice “usurous.”

“Since the incident over at Queen’s, he’s really become on edge with even the idea of themed club nights,” said Royagoda. “It’s all really taking a toll on him.”

A number of students reported that the president, whose term expires in July, was seen anxiously pacing in Brennan Hall shortly after noon. Dulroney allegedly confronted a woman working at the Tim Hortons there, putting his hands over her ears and shouting, “You will not hear the sins!”

“It was pretty weird, territorial, and possessive behaviour,” said student Mick Smu, who sat calmly smoking in Brennan Hall, microwaving a set of books. “We haven’t seen him like this since the pool table incident last year.”

St. Mike’s Director of Miscommunications Steven Souvlaki was found by The Farcity sitting on a bench by Kelly Library in the late afternoon of April 1. Souvlaki, getting increasingly colder on campus as the day was winding down, was still waiting for a ride to church from Dulroney, who was supposed to pick him up at 10:30 am. Souvlaki took issue with the allegation that Dulroney had skipped church. “Mr. Dulroney is deeply appalled that someone would attribute such behaviour to him,” he said on behalf of the missing president.

“In addition to a retraction, the university is requesting an apology from The Farcity for printing such baseless and offensive accusations about it and its staff,” added Souvlaki as he continued to crane his neck to check if Dulroney’s car was approaching.

Over 9,000 bedbugs abstain in 2018 UTSU elections

Head of Bugs at Trinity accuses student union of failing to reach “marginalized majority” at college

Over 9,000 bedbugs abstain in 2018 UTSU elections

Nearly one fourth of the total bedbug population at Trinity College selected ‘abstain’ on their ballots in the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) spring elections this year. With abstentions making up 70–80 per cent of the total votes for each UTSU position, the total number of bedbug abstentions recorded this year is 9,657.

In a statement written on behalf of the roughly 40,000 bedbugs that currently populate the college, the Head Bedbugs at Trinity College explained the reasoning behind the abstentions.

“The Trinity administration and students at the college literally want to crush us,” the statement reads. “And despite our best efforts at pro-bug activism, the UTSU has failed to reach the majority at Trinity. Bedbugs collectively abstaining from the UTSU elections should clearly communicate that we will not tolerate such abuse.”

The fight for bedbugs to be recognized as a UTSU constituency has been long-standing, as bedbugs have repeatedly complained that Trinity administrators and student groups have failed to meet their needs. Meanwhile, students at Trinity have publicly expressed their distaste for bedbugs, sometimes encouraging the administration to remove them from the college altogether.

One student with multiple bedbug roommates told the Toronto Star, “I just think it’s really wrong that we have to stay in a room that’s infested with bugs.” Though this statement was condemned as “anti-bug” by members of the Trinity College Bug Equity Committee, no punitive actions were taken against the student.

The Trinity College Domestic God(esse)s Society (TCDGS), a club dedicated to cooking elaborate four-course meals for its members, brought complaints directly to the administration earlier this year regarding the number of bedbugs present in one of the Trinity College kitchens. In an interview with The Farcity, Buzz TF Awf, Head Goddess of the TCDGS, stated that the bedbugs’ presence prevented the group from “operating in a sanitary environment,” and laughed when the reporter mentioned that many bugs consider the TCDGS’s conduct to be “exclusionary.”

Members of Trinity College’s Rural Residency Association, many of whom identify as “anti-U-Pass,” have also expressed support for the UTSU’s decision to exclude bedbugs from this year’s U-Pass referendum. In a statement on Facebook, the organization’s Chief Tractor Operator wrote, “Most of us think the U-Pass is a bad deal, as it does not include students who take tractors to campus — students deserve better. An overwhelming bug majority at Trinity shouldn’t be allowed to sway the vote for those of us who don’t benefit.”

In a prior story, The Farcity conducted a content analysis of minutes of the Trinity College Meeting (TCM), revealing that in the games of ‘fuck, marry, kill’ played with candidates for Heads of College, bedbug candidates are often the ones that are ‘killed.’

The annual Trinity event dedicated to celebrating the bedbug community, Buggly, was also abruptly cancelled this year, much to many bedbugs’ dismay. The Trinity College administration declined The Farcity’s requests for comment.

The populist Bugless slate — stylized ‘🐛ugless’ — in this year’s UTSU elections also sparked outrage for what has been referred to as “anti-infestation rhetoric.” Tensions spiked when it was revealed during the second candidates’ debate that the  🐛ugless candidate for President has ties to a Toronto exterminator.

After continuous lobbying from bedbug activists, UTSU Vice-President Equity Him Chalao put forth a motion before the Board of Directors in January 2018, seeking to include bedbugs as part of the union’s membership. At the following meeting, President Tamhias Lemmem promised that bedbugs would be granted their own Chief Returning Insect, and that “supplementary efforts” would be made to reach out to bedbugs on campus. There is no evidence to suggest that either action was taken, and the UTSU did not respond to The Farcity’s requests for comment.

Among those bedbugs who were willing to speak with The Farcity, the most common complaints about the UTSU elections were that there were no bedbug candidates running in any of the races, and that the majority of human candidates ran uncontested.

“I am deeply disappointed by what has happened to our community this year, and Trinity and the UTSU should be ashamed of themselves,” Trinity Head of Bedbugs told The Farcity. “Especially about the U-Pass thing. That’s all most bugs cared about anyway.”

Abstentions from bedbugs buoyed voter turnout to an astronomical three per cent this year — the highest ever recorded in UTSU history.

And he doesn’t even know it

With a bit of reconstructive surgery, we turned Donald Trump’s tweets into poems

And he doesn’t even know it

Donald J. Trump is many things: entrepreneur, real-estate developer, television personality, and frontrunner for the American Republican Party. But did you know that he’s also a poet? Despite his aversion to all things politically correct, perhaps underneath his tasteless antics and deplorable public persona lies a sensitive, imaginative man. With a little re-arranging, we converted his twitter account into a poet’s journal, searching for deeper meaning while discovering some truly exquisite social commentary.

For starters, it’s pretty obvious that Trump draws a lot of inspiration from fellow Republican nominee Ted Cruz. One could say Cruz is his muse. In the following tweet, he accuses Cruz of lying — something he often does. Beneath the surface, however, a sadder image emerges: one of betrayal, loss, and loneliness. Trump expertly summarizes Shakespearian tragedy by having Cruz resemble Hamlet. Here’s how we interpreted the tweet:

Original tweet: “Wow, just saw an ad — Cruz is lying on so many levels. There is nobody more against ObamaCare than me, will repeal & replace. He lies!”

Found poem: Lying. He lies! Repeal & replace. There is nobody.

Original tweet: “We will stop heroin and other drugs from coming into New Hampshire from our open southern border. We will build a WALL and have security.”

Found poem: Heroin will build security, a WALL, and border. We will open. Stop drugs.

Original tweet: “Ted Cruz is a cheater! He holds the Bible high and then lies and misrepresents the facts!”

Found poem: A cheater lies. He holds the facts high!

Original tweet: “Anybody who watched all of Ted Cruz’s far too long, rambling, overly flamboyant speech last nite [sic] would say that was his Howard Dean moment!”

Found poem: Watched; far too long; rambling; flamboyant. Last nite. His moment.