Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama refused to either immediately approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline or explain why it was not in the interest of the United States. While the Canadian portion has already been approved, there are various claims for and against the proposed infrastructure to transport crude oil from Canada to Texas.
I dressed up as my friend, and his girlfriend mistook me for him a few times.
by Joe Howell
As if there weren’t already enough reasons to love cycling in this city – Saving money! Getting buns of steel! Avoiding the freaks and weirdos on the TTC! - Bike Month has been making the activity even more enjoyable.
Since May 26, cyclists have been taking back the streets with group rides, communal breakfasts, drag racing, and art shows. With about a week to go until the month ends on June 21, there are still plenty of events left to attend.
On June 17, learn to upstage your smug locovore friends as one group showcases clever ways to do your grocery shopping on two wheels at the East Lynn Park Farmers’ Market. Besides the exhibit of “produce-carrying contraptions,” there will be also be free tune-ups and a parade at 6pm.
On Friday, the Bike Pirates are having a PWYC “pirate dance party” at 1292 Bloor St. West. It’ll presumably be on your feet, but you could, you know, bike to it. And if you don’t feel like shaking your money maker, that same night there’s an “ice cream ride” meeting in Riverdale Park at 6:30pm, heading along the Beltline trail for gelato and veal sandwiches at the Taste of Little Italy Festival. We’ve heard calories don’t count if you’re eating while riding.
Finally, on Saturday the City of Toronto is hosting a free cycling tour of Toronto’s military past. Meeting at Old Mill Station at 1pm, the ride will visit the sites of various French forts before ending at Fort York, where participants will get comped admission. Feel like cavalry on your dandy horse.
It all goes to show that biking isn’t just a good way to get in shape while saving the earth – it can also be a great way to experience the city in the summer. Don’t believe us yet? Find more rad events here. Remember, it’s not where you’re going, but how you’re getting there.
by Diana Wilson
Leading up to this fall’s mayoral election, we have heard a lot of rhetoric about the “War on Cars.” From the pro-bike pundits, cycling is touted as environmentally sustainable, affordable, politically righteous, and straight-up fun. Car advocates complain that the city council’s lean toward multi-use roadways will create more traffic congestion on already stuffed roads. Drivers and cyclists are pitted against one another in the battle for the street.
Picture this: you’re biking down a narrow one-way street when a car pulls up behind you and honks. The driver glares at you and mouths the words, “get out of the way.” What is the implication here? That you, in your sliver of space are perceived to be taking up more space than the lane-width occupied by the car.
Not all drivers are so inconsiderate. But many have not updated their perceptions of space usage to reflect the reality of Toronto’s downtown streets. Bike down College Street during rush hour and you will find yourself in a bike chain of 20-30 cyclists. If each of those two-wheeled commuters were in a car the line would stretch several blocks.
It is no exaggeration to say that cyclists put themselves at risk of injury or death every time they venture onto the roads. While, for a car, a collision could result in auto body damage, a cyclist worries about actual body damage. What may be a minor incident for one is a major disaster for the other.
In the bike-car relationship there is a power differential: because one party is more vulnerable, the two are not equal. Cyclists have the same rights on the road but not the same power. The point was made best on CBC’s The Sunday Edition: there is no “War on Cars”. The cars have already won.
by Tim Clarke
They perform complex instrumental songs, yet they wield no instruments. They wear matching t-shirts. And they embrace the pun with a fierceness rivaled only by your dad. They are the collegiate a cappella choir, hear them ‘doot.’
In the last decade, three different a cappella groups have originated on the U of T campus. Their names are all relatively self-explanatory puns: OnoScatopoiea is an a cappella group with a jazz bent, the Varsity Jews have a focus on Judaism, and Tunes Beats Awesome, more commonly abbreviated as TBA, typically work out of the pop genre.
What might surprise you is that these groups are not made up of music students.
“I am the only member that has graduated or has taken any sort of musical voice training,” says Jeff Magee, director of TBA.
Al Thai, the executive secretary of OnoScatopoiea, has his own ideas as to why music students are scant to be found in U of T’s a cappella groups. “I’ve heard rumours that music students aren’t encouraged to [perform] outside of the faculty. They don’t have that much time. Unlike us, where we come together once or twice a week, every day they’re singing, nine to five.”
Though they may not have links to the music department, Thai notes that the choirs are doing fine on their own. “We have a union of a cappella groups called the University of Toronto A Cappella Coalition.”
Magee adds, “the purpose of the coalition is to promote a cappella campus wide and to raise awareness of this awesome sub-culture we have at the University of Toronto.”
Once a year, the UTAC puts on a concert showcasing all of the a cappella groups on campus. The show’s obligatory pun name: Acappellooza.
Last year, OnoScatopoiea made their debut as a competitor in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, making it all the way to the semi-finals at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “We all had to stay overnight, and it cost a lot of money,” Thai says. “That’s a problem with Hart House. Hart House isn’t capable of funding the kind of endeavours that we get involved with.”
When asked if TBA might compete against their fellow coalition chums in the future, Magee firmly dismisses the suggestion. “[The competition] sucks the fun out of rehearsals, the music and ultimately, the performance. Our group has been, and will always be, a place where people who love to sing can come and sing without any pressure or demand. We love to promote having fun first, and singing well second.”
He also cites the cost as a deterrent. “It’s difficult to ask the group to give up their weekend of studying, pay $50-100, and perform under stress.”
Despite the many challenges tied to competing, Thai says, “we had a lot of fun, and we’re all hopeful for next year.”
Meanwhile, the Varsity Jews goals for the coming season are altruistic. “We raise money for charitable organizations through singing,” says Rachel Malach, the VJ’s executive director. They raised $6,000 last year, a number that she hopes they will exceed this year.
The VJ’s repertoire ranges from decidedly modern takes on classic Hebrew songs to broadly irreverent versions of pop songs with re-written lyrics. For instance, they’ve performed a version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’ under the title ‘Mandelbrodt’ – a Jewish dessert similar to biscotti, pronounced ‘mandel-broyt.’ The lyrics in the chorus would make Weird Al Yankovic proud: “You can be my bubbie just as long as you make mandelbrodt!”
“There’s a comedic element that runs through a lot of a cappella music,” notes Dylan Bell, a Juno-nominated musician and one-time conductor for OnoScatopoeia. “Some of that might be historical: for example, there was a German a cappella group from the ‘30s called the Comedian Harmonists, and a lot of German groups maintain a lighthearted, semi-comedic nature to their shows. A lot of a cappella music doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
Though the genre might not be inherently serious, producing good a cappella music is no easy feat.
“Singing a cappella is often called ‘singing without a net,’ since there’s no instrumental backing; this makes it both very challenging, and very rewarding,” says Bell. “When a song, or even a single chord rings true, I get shivers that I’d never get just playing an instrument…When everyone feels it in a similar way, it comes out in the music, even if you’re just singing ‘doon doon jegga-jegga jing jing jong’ or whatever.”
Barred from live music by Sneaky Dees
by Dan Portoraro
Last winter the newspaper sent me to Sneaky Dee’s to cover Wavelength, a (then) weekly experimental music series, for the second week in a row. On the Bathurst streetcar, I felt slightly uneasy: I knew that something was going to go wrong. Would a fight break out? Would I have a bottle broken over my head? No, far worse.
“We can’t accept this,” said the bouncer as he handed me my Alberta ID.
“But I’m nineteen.”
“This is a fake.”
“I promise I won’t drink. I’m just here to cover the event for a newspaper.”
“Get the hell out.”
So I was shoved away, crestfallen, with mocking of-age eyes all over me.
There are few things worse than not being let in to a bar when one’s underage. All the preparation, the clothes, the saved-up money, the subway ride, might all be in vain. And all it takes is a bouncer in a bad mood and *poof* the evening is gone, spiraling down to “well, we can go back to my place.” In the case of kids going out to party, you’re allowed to feel less pity for them. Why? “Because you’re too young to drink.” I, on the other hand, was a different case. I had no intention to party or drink. All I wanted was to sit on the sidelines and watch the band play, take a few pictures, write down some notes, and go home early to write the article.
These are the worst cases for the underaged. It’s at these moments that we feel cheated and neglected. I did not look any worse or better than the usual fare at the College St. dive; I would have passed unnoticed. I was there for the music; tepid beers and watered-down whiskeys were the furthest thing from my mind, so why not let me in?
We can blame North American society’s fascination with liquor. It’s seen as both wonderful and awful, something that youth should not be exposed to. It’s this very concept of the taboo that leads to abuse. But that’s all been said before.
What’s really striking is the concept of liquor getting in the way of art (or what passes for art at Sneaky Dee’s). A young man ought to be exposed to all types of artistry from an early age, and once he comes to a certain point in his life, he finds that a considerable category of it is beyond the guarded doors of bars and clubs. But sadly, a desire, or even passion for art is not enough to pay admission. One must be at least nineteen. That’s the deciding factor of who can and can’t see a band; if you’re allowed to buy a beer, you can watch, if you can’t, then go home.
But then again, I’m of age now, so what do I care if underage kids can’t see bands at Sneak’s? It’s someone else’s problem.
by Rat Velvet
Secret outdoor art parties like Against Life and its predecessor, Extermination Music Night, have been happening for years in this city, but recently, they have been growing in popularity. Communication about these events has gone from obscure message boards to Facebook, and from word of mouth to mainstream newspapers.
Because more people know about these illicit parties, reclaiming public city space is less anonymous, and therefore harder to keep secret. I want to share my own story of the night without adding to the extinction of the underground art party scene. It is the personal experiences that keep people coming back to these events, and in sharing mine I want to keep these events anonymous and secure.