Category Archives: UT Life

Limited Advice for First Years, by a First Year

Who do you want to be? You are in a new place with new people. You could be anyone you want. This is an opportunity for a clean start. Do not create a different and inauthentic persona to play out (unless you want to); but instead, embody what is going to make you happiest. Perhaps you sought to be more extroverted in high school. Be fearless, this first year is a renaissance. Take complete advantage of it.

Who you are going to be for the following four years will be prominently sculpted by the friends and people with whom you associate yourself. The group you amalgamate into during and after orientation will change, but it sets a precedent for how others perceive you.

Let go of home. Stop checking Facebook to see your friends’ happy new lives. Turn off your phone for the first few days. Learn to love yourself, by yourself, as yourself.

Figure out your personal balance of socializing via those clubs and/or your other friends, and maintaining your benchmark grades. University is every bit as much about developing as an adult as it is learning.

Love your new home from the start. It will be uncomfortable and lonesome, you will yearn for some sense of security, but you will be thankful later if you endure the unknown.

Go to club fairs and events. Join three clubs that you would have never considered before. Learn how to dance. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Read philosophical novels and discuss them. Play tennis. Taste wine. Allow yourself to be brand new

Lastly, there is no path. The path will appear as you walk. Let go of how you think things should be, and simply appreciate this as the fresh experience that it is. Keep advancing onward, be grateful for where you are, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised where you eventually end up.

A Summer Movie Breakdown

Summer traditionally beckons thoughts of beaches and iced cream, of swimming in outdoor pools and sunning next to outdoor pools because there are children in there and you’d rather not swim in urine. You know, the pleasant stuff.
This summer, however, we’ve had fairly limited sun, and many days of rain and murky weather have nullified the above activities. But don’t worry, kids, there’s another traditional summer activity that is as much fun in and out of the rain: the summer blockbuster. For your education and entertainment, we present:

The Four Kinds of Summer Movies
(and some examples, and why you should see them)

 

The Fun Movie
Remember in your childhood when going to the movies was pure, uncomplicated fun? Pepperidge Farm remembers, and so do we. Since then your expectations have probably changed; you probably now want your movies to be clever and original, and possibly also insightful and with some message about social change. These are good things, yes, but sometimes there’s nothing better than suspending your grown-up expectations and watching a movie just for the enjoyment of it. Take, for instance, Man of Steel, probably the most anticipated blockbuster of the summer. It’s a retelling of the Superman story, beginning with the eponymous hero’s birth on the planet Krypton, his upbringing in heartland America, his dalliances with reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams!), and his fight to save the world from genocidal aliens. I was treated to an advance screening of Man of Steel, and I can tell you that it’s the epitome of a fun flick. Plus, there’s an even amount of explosive violence and shirtless Henry Cavill, making Man of Steel a perfect date movie for couples divided.
Also worth considering: World War ZThis is the EndStar Trek Into DarknessThe Heat 

The Interesting Film
As a student, you probably know the importance of connotation, and why someone might call one thing a “movie” and another a “film.” A film is a little more deliberate than a movie; rather than strive towards a goal like fun or romance, it asks complex questions and sometimes, if you’re lucky, answers them. Interesting films might not thrill the way fun movies do, but they stay with you a little longer. Mud, for instance, has proven immensely resonant in the days since I saw it, popping up in my head whenever I experience something that reflects its story: two children in the Deep South, interacting with the vagrant who mysteriously appeared near their community.  Interesting films are especially good for conversation, so they’re well-seen by groups of friends.
Other interesting films: Before Midnight, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Kings of Summer, The Painting.

The ‘Oh, You Haven’t Seen It?!’
These kinds of films take interesting and turn it on its head. They’re usually documentaries, foreign films, or art-house pieces, and they rarely see wide release. These films may be enjoyable, but the guaranteed appeal is being able to bring them up and conversation and follow with “oh, you haven’t seen it?!”

“I saw this fabulous documentary about homosexuality in Uganda. I really enjoyed the director’s use of personal storytelling to blur the lines of personal and political. What did you think? Oh, you haven’t seen it?!”

Of course, non-pedants see these kinds of films as well, they’re just not me. Recommendations are difficult to offer (because I, um, haven’t seen many) but if you’re looking for quality cinema you should check out independent theatres like Bloor Hot Docs, TIFF Bell Lightbox, and the not-independent-but-very-affordable Carlton Cinema.

The Television Show
Well, duh, of course it’s not exactly the same as cinema, but we are in the golden age of TV dramas – and the summer is when they really shine. Mad Men wraps up soon, but Nurse Jackie is still in full swing. And, as the internet reminds us every day, Breaking Bad is coming back for its final episodes. These shows might not mirror movies in terms of production quality and star power, but the medium offers unparalleled suspense and continuity.
Some other awesome summer TV shows: VeepThe Newsroomand the first season of Graceland.

 

 

The 50 Hour Film Festival (or, A Character, a Line of Dialogue, and a Prop Walk into a Bar)

We come to university to learn, or at least that’s what my dad says when he sees me blogging and shakes his head. It is true that classes impart a lot of useful (or not) information, but it is also true that much of what we learn comes not from lectures or exams, but from frantically preparing for lectures or exams. By half-way through their first year, the average student has mastered the all-nighter, the cram session, and the ability to meet a seemingly-impossible deadline on nothing but determination and Red Bull. We learn these skills to help us learn other things, of course, but it’s also so satisfying when we can apply them to other situations.

Take, for instance, Lost Episode Festival Toronto‘s upcoming 50 Hour Film Competition. A creative contest open to anyone and everyone with a camera and some friends, this local challenge encourages aspiring film-makers (or anyone else interested in winning terrific prizes) to re-create “lost” scenes from famous TV shows, or to make fake advertisements or trailers, all in only 50 hours. Remember those consecutive all-nighters for that econ final? Remember cursing the time and energy spent in learning something you thought could not have any practical application? Well, now you can put at least some of that experience to use.

The competition begins on the night of Friday, May 3, when each team is given a character, a line of dialogue, and a prop to incorporate into making a film. The teams then have only 50 hours to write, shoot, and submit their masterpieces. The entries will be evaluated by the festival’s judges and the winning teams will be awarded cash, prizes, and all the glamour and prestige that comes with winning a film festival. There’s also an audience choice award, for the film-makers who somehow manage to go commercial in under 50 hours. All entries will be screened in the big, beautiful, fully-licensed Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, only a few blocks from campus

To participate, simply sign-up on the festival website here. Participation costs less than a statistics textbook and is, I’ve been told, at least twice as enjoyable. Anyone of any level of skill and experience is welcome to enter, and a team can be of any size. It’s the perfect activity for those, like me, who have only a few weeks between the end of exams and the beginning of summer school to have a little fun. Or a lot of fun. Or 50 hours of fun.

Team Renew Doesn’t Seem So Keen

Opinions shared in this post belong solely to the author and do not reflect the opinions of the blog.

Campus was eerily quiet today. So quiet that I had to double check my phone just to make sure today was, in fact, the first day of campaigning for UTSU elections. Gone are the intense poster wars at 7am. Gone are the heated (and albeit slightly hilarious) slogans shouted with vigour in front of Sid Smith. Gone are the UTSU elections.

Okay, not really. No one can get rid of UTSU (trust me, people have tried). Without further ado, let me introduce to you the one the only slate running this year:

Renew

Executive Board Candidates:

  • President: Munib Sajjad
  • VP Internal & Services: Cameron Wathey
  • VP External: Sana Ali
  • VP Equity: Yolen Bollo-Kamara
  • VP University Affairs: Agnes So

There are two familiar names up there. Both Munib and Yolen are current UTSU VPs of University Affairs and Campus Life, respectively. Everyone else are rookies to UTSU politics, so how those candidates do remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, with two international students running, Renew is using the diversity card to push their tuition agenda.

Chances are, you didn’t know we had UTSU elections this year. That’s okay! Don’t feel bad. You probably aren’t the only one. With the way campaigning week is starting off, you probably won’t be hearing much about it anyway. This is my fourth U of T election, and so far it has been my quietest.

An election is only as engaging as the parties running. It serves both legislative and entertainment purposes. What I mean by that is, an election decides the fate of legislative directions for the coming term, but it is only as interesting as the personalities in the race. In past years, the general formula has been an “incumbent” vs “opposition” race. Slate go head to head over issues they think are relevant to U of T (incumbent) or try to take down The Man (opposition). While voter turnout has always been low at our university, there was at least a buzz on campus. Candidates used to campaign in major campus hubs, and students going to and from class would get at least one pamphlet during the week.

Since Renew is the only slate running, it seems like they have taken the half-assed approach to campaigning. And why shouldn’t they? Why should they put in the same amount of work as previous years if they’re going to win anyway, right? At this point, all executive positions will be filled. Most of the Board of Director positions – with the exception of Trinity, of course – have been acclaimed, meaning that the people running are guaranteed positions on the board. Renew’s website wasn’t up until the afternoon, and as of March 4, 9:15pm their Twitter account is still locked and inactive. The link to their Facebook Page from their website doesn’t work. Once found, it doesn’t really tell us much.

Perhaps I am being too nitpicky about their PR strategy. But think of it this way: with horrible PR, how are they supposed to get the word out? You haven’t got a campaign if no one follows it. I get it though. There’s not point in actually campaigning when there’s no one running against you. It’s practical. It’s pragmatic. And most of all, it tells you just how much Renew wants students to know about their platform.

That isn’t to say Renew is going to sweep the board. Acclaimed positions undergo a “confirmation vote”, meaning that students can vote Yes or No. If enough people vote No or cast an empty ballot, these positions will remain vacant until someone more suitable fills it. So, as decisive as this year’s elections may seem, things can still change at the turn of a dime.

We should know about our student union. It can be as simple as learning about what services and platforms each new executive team has to offer.  Look for these candidates and talk to them. Clearly, they aren’t going to talk to you. It is up to us as U of T students to step up and put running candidates on the spot.

As always, I encourage anyone and everyone to comment and share their opinions. I will be posting my thoughts here on blogUT throughout the election period, so look out for them! If you would like to contact me or you have a tip you want me to talk about, comment below or tweet me at @cjyc23.

 

Nickels, Dimes, and Metropasses

Just starting university? Moved out of your parents’ house? Suddenly realizing that living is really expensive? Read on, friend.

Moving out of the house, even if it’s just into a dorm with a mandatory meal plan, can be a sonic boom shock to the head in terms of adjusting, and, more importantly, money. I won’t go as far to tell you to steal toilet paper from the local McDonald’s, but for everything else….

1. Food: actually eat at the cafeteria. While there may be a surplus of people you’re trying to avoid and a lack of people not at your college, it’s the most efficient in the food option since you’re already paying. Stash fruit, cookies and anything else that you can stick in a sweatshirt kangaroo pouch for those late-night, early-morning, or in-class munchies. Not feeling the caf food? Be a typical student; pick a sub that you like and find out which day it sells at a reduced rate at Subway. Also: save your receipts, fill out a survey online and get a free cookie! (no, Subway is not paying me…much).

2. Partying: while clubs and pubs can get very expensive very fast, partying at home/the dorm with some LCBO product, or just good old fashioned Boggle and the friends you actually enjoy spending time with can be a cheap and ultimately more enjoyable alternative. Sponsored club and pub nights or 4 dollar cocktail events can also offer a cheaper entrance fee to a good time.

3. Other Entertainment: movie Tuesdays are a particular guilty-pleasure of mine, especially when the Carlton theatre close by offers a five-dollar flat movie ticket on Tuesdays and reasonably priced popcorn. At the welfare level? Skip the concession stand and pack your own, pop some microwavable bagged corn, some canned pop, and Bulk Barn spoils, and bring a big purse. Living on the street level? Stay home and watch a DVD (Bay Street Videos has an impressive selection), or if you are of the current generation, download online: add friends and Orville Redenbacher to both for immediate effect.

4. Toiletries/clothing/other: if your parents are anything like mine, this is where you get with the emotional moocherie. Pick up toothpaste, deodorant, or stylish footwear when you’re out with your parents. Casually slip your items onto the counter and flash an I’m-the-fruit-of-your-loins smile and they’re all yours, free of charge.

5. Walk around a little! As a downtown area Toronto offers more than its fair share of nut-jobs with fliers on street-corners and its true that while most stick to unwanted religious advice there are the rare few who hand out coupons/ free Reese’s Pieces/diet soda.

6. Transport: grab friends with cars who are comfortable footing the gas bill or stick to public transport. If you commute daily grab, a metropass; if not use the matching limbs sprouting out of your pelvis and walk! Technically everything is within walking distance…short of other continents.

7. Get a job, ya mook!

Given hormonal changes, weird smells, and an actual workload, university can be a handful at times, on the brainpan and the wallet. Keep it simple, avoid the caviar and champagne, and if all else fails the toilet paper at McDonald’s is really not so bad…

A Night at The Rex

Dear BlogUT reader,

Before you take a look at the title of this article, roll your eyes, and choose something less pretentious, please know that I am far from a jazz connoisseur. In fact, while something of a music enthusiast, I know next to nothing about jazz; all I’ve really had to go on for the past 21 years are stereotypical mental images of some fat guy blasting away on a trumpet while a sweaty tweaker bounces around uncontrollably in the audience. So, since I value your time as much as the next girl, and simply know too little about the genre, I won’t be boring you with jargon or technical details, or insightfully describing the “virtuosity of the alto sax”. This article is meant to be the thoughts, recollections, and recommendations of a jazz beginner, noob, philistine, or whatever other degrading term you’d prefer to call me. So, looking to get up close and personal with some real jazz, and not just the one Coltrane album in my collection, I decided to head down to The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar located in the bustling Queen St. West area and get initiated.

The first thing that became apparent as I approached The Rex’s exterior is that it isn’t a stuck-up or intimidating venue in the least. While jazz may conjure up images of stuffy, exclusive clubs, The Rex couldn’t be further from this cliché. The outside of the bar exhibits something of a sleek, retro look, while the interior is Cheers-esque, with wooden finishes and a pervading sense of warmth (Although maybe that was just the central heating. Yowza it’s cold out these days!). I was also heartened to discover that the place was absolutely packed. Although it was a little overwhelming to walk in and be greeted by what seemed to be a wall of people, me and my plus one were lucky enough to find a spot near the back, with seats just high enough to get a glimpse of the stage at the opposite end of the room. The crowd was a mix of all ages, and everyone seemed in good spirits with the drinks flowing and a nice selection of bar food at the standard expensive-but-not-Toronto-expensive prices. I ordered the New York style cheesecake with caramel sauce and was pleasantly surprised: the night was off to a good start.

Up next, a waitress came to our table, but we were told that we absolutely couldn’t be served until we paid our cover charge. Oddly enough, when we arrived there was no one at the door waiting to take our money and stamp us; we had to sit and wait a good 15 minutes before someone came to our table to help us. I also thought the cover was a little steep at $10 a person. It’s nice to support local acts, and so I wasn’t annoyed per se, but considering the place was beyond packed, $5 or even $7 seemed more reasonable to me. Still, for the show that followed, and for the wonderful ambiance of the place as a whole, it was worth giving up a tenner.

The best surprise of the night was when we discovered that the nightly act was the Radiohead Jazz Project, bringing together the Toronto Jazz Orchestra and local tribute band Idioteque. To be introduced to any live jazz that night would’ve been a pleasure, but knowing the songs really helped me get into the spirit of the evening. For the most part, the group sounded very tight and comfortable playing with one another. They burst out of the gates with a freewheeling, beautifully-played version of Bodysnatchers. Without any vocals getting in the way, the trumpets really shone, and the song presented itself in a completely fresh, invigorating way. Paranoid Android in particular was an audience favourite, and had people roaring with delight at every new twist and turn. Yet, as much as I hate to say it, the vocals really let the group down. To begin with, they were far too high in the mix at the start of the night, overpowering the backing band at various points. Yet, even when the vocals were noticeably turned down, the quality of the singing wasn’t up to par, especially when it came to the soaringly high notes Thom Yorke is famous for. In all fairness, few people could ever hope to cover Yorke’s vocals in a convincing or even competent way. Still, it seems to me that the show would be much stronger as a whole if the vocals were simply omitted altogether. It speaks to the strength of the backing band, however, that the lackluster singing didn’t detract much from the overall experience: the show was a rousing success with the crowd, and left me wanting to get out there and explore much more live jazz in the near future.

In summary, while certain elements of the show could’ve done with some reworking, the night as a whole was a wonderful experience, leaving me hopeful that this is but the start of my adventure into the world of jazz. Perhaps I’ll head back on the 25th, when our very own U of T Student Jazz Ensemble hits the stage. Join me?

 

Junior Editor’s Note: Due to an unfortunate error, this article could not be posted until ten days after it was first written – the “25th” referred to is of February.