14 December, 2008

Mon dieu.

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07 December, 2008

UBC Second Life

Howdy! With exams and all no one has time to read, let alone write articles, but this might amuse some of you. Seems UBC has built an island in Second Life called Buchanan Island. Now I don't know about you, but I'd much rather they spend my tuition dollars on something a little more, ya know, tangible. Pictures are behind the jump.

Pictures are from the Faculty of Art's instructional Support & Information Technology blog.


Rose Garden



Clock Tower

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19 November, 2008

Racism, equity cops and the tale of another campus

As university students, well schooled in the knowledge of the wrongs our white, male, imperialist, colonialist, capitalist, racist, anti-Semitic, and otherwise generally terrible forefathers, we know to be on the constant lookout for racism and bigotry, those twin evils that keep those who weren't like our forefathers down.

Oops I mean forefathers. Gosh darn my rhetoric that perpetuates those evil normative positions.

Anyway, this is all well and good. Racism sucks. The only problem is that on relatively enlightened campuses, it's hard to find bigots to confront and convert. (Agh! Did it again!) We're often left confronting the less obvious prejudices and stereotypes that create those glass ceilings and the odd off colour remark that the user may barely think about till he makes his Jew joke in Hillel House. In short, they're the sort of minor grating issues that, while we all would love them to go away, even the most tolerant of us may tell that overzealous equity officer or anti-racism activist to go and shove their politically correct stick up their ass, should they make the mistake of getting in our face.



At UBC, where our racist accusations are, largely, limited to accusations that are a little hard to verify, this is thankfully the case. I was hoping to find an article where one potential Rhodes scholar on the AMS accused the others of treating her harshly for not filing some report because she was black, but the online records of the Ubyssey aren't what they could be. (Or I'm retarded. One or the other) Wait... fuck! Did it again. Darn my abilism.

Queen's is quite another story.

(Yeah, that's right. We're covering TWO universities now.)

First of all, it's very, very white. WASPy is the way I'd describe it. I'd almost forgotten that was possible for there to be large numbers of attractive white girls to be in one place. There are also a lot of bros. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zvTRQr7ns8 Bro rape. A topic for another day)
The large number of privileged white brats, some of whom probably have family inks to the university going back to the day Queen Viki got someone to toss a rock on the foundation for her, reminds me of my boarding school days, which I'd largely like to forget, but that's beside the point. When they say there's a racism problem at Queen they're not kidding.

For just a few examples:
http://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2008-11-14/news/another-racist-incident-reported/
http://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2007-11-23/news/racism-campus/
http://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2008-09-26/news/muslim-students-targeted-racist-incidents/

Christ! Lets see: Jews, Blacks, Muslims, looks like we got the spectrum. Missing gays so far, but maybe they're just racists, not general bigots. In Queen's favour there's been an immense outcry among people against this bullshit. There's been rallies against racism and investigations into the hiring practises of the university and so on and so forth. Go team anti-racism! Woot!

However, in their zeal to stamp out the poison festering within in the campus, those people who care have gone a little over board. The President of the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society was asked to resign after he made a stupid comment on facebook about a photo of two girls with turbans on - 'I like your Taliban picture.' Sure, it would have been better for him and the Queen's AMS if he'd resigned, but the rigmarole that this place has gone through to try and get him to step down has just been a witch hunt.

However, the final straw that made me write this was a decision that wound its way onto the front cover of one of our national news papers. You can read it right here:
http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=970266

(Yes, I read the National Post. I told you I was a right wing hack.)

In short, Queen's has gone one step further than the standard university. Equity offices aren't enough, campaigns to promote tolerance and understanding won't cut the mustard. What the administration, in their wisdom, have decided what Queen's needs is:

Equity Cops.

Or Equity super heroes, as I like to think of them. They only lack in the department of tight pants and flashy costumes. Perhaps that will come with a budget expansion. In short, the idea of passive education campaigns is...passé? If you should be so foolish as to have a conversation involving racism on my campus, and you happen to be within the hearing range of one of these grad students lucky enough to wrangle another stipend out of the university – along with room and board – someone looking like that slouchy guy in the leather jacket from the article photo will shuffle on over to you and say something like:

'Hey, guys. I heard you talking about x, y, z. You know racism is bad. Perhaps you shouldn't tell those Jew jokes because it might make your dumb-ass friends draw swastikas on peoples' cars.'

Or something like that. At which point, the annoyed WASP will flip the caring grad student the finger and then the conversation will end awkwardly, or degrade into accusations of racism and privacy infringement should the Grad student have a) a spine or b) a social justice chip on his/her shoulder.

Clearly this idea is utter bullshit and a waste of money. Ramming your issue into peoples' private conversation is a great way to make people stop paying attention to anything you say, especially if they're trying to do something else at the same time, like eat their meal. If they're the same sort of self absorbed, spoiled brat, male WASPs/bros that I'm certain commit all the moronic and hateful acts I've outlined, then invading their personal space will probably lead to them committing more racist acts just to spite you. (Yes, I have a low opinion of the male undergraduate here, even before I endured the febreze incident)

Changing a culture of intolerance is difficult. It requires education and the reaching out and co-operation of many diverse groups on campus. Queen's needs to man up (dammit!) and face the issue before it and not just throw a quick, brainstorming session idea out instead. It's a problem that I don't think has an easy solution and even if it did, that solution definitely doesn't involve equity cops.

Not even if they have costumes.

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16 November, 2008

the death of democracy.

Poor Matthew Naylor. He's had a bit of a losing streak. First, the AMS presidency. Then, Stéphane Dion's disastrous showing as the leader of the Liberal Party. Now, in his first go at a "real" election - meaning one where the grown-ups are expected to vote - he has gone down to defeat. Not only did he lose, however, but he ended up in dreaded last place, with only 66 votes (compared to his self-declared main opponent, Ben West of the civic Greens, who lost himself with 209 votes to UEL resident Maria Harris with 219 votes).

Much like a surgeon when he chucks a dead baby in the medical waste dumpster, I'm sad.

Clearly, there is much to be said about Naylor's political future. Does he come off as a partisan hack? Does his hubris get in the way of his aspirations? Do people - plain and simple - find him off-putting? Or, more importantly, do Liberals flounder when they don't have the party machine behind them?

Perhaps all of those things contributed to his loss. The ultimate fault, however, is not Naylor's. Not one bit, in fact. That fault, sadly, rests with you.

It's not Naylor's fault that just 743 out of over 11,000 people voted, the majority of them students. That's a paltry 6.7%, people. It's shameful, plain and simple. The really shocking thing is that this is, somehow, standard practice: Vancouver only posted a voter return rate of about 30%.

Democracy only works when people actually want it. Thus, perhaps the Devil's Advocate should stop pretending that this sham of equality and justice for all through elected officials is actually worth the trouble.

My proposal: kidnap Matthew Naylor and pump him full of steroids to give him a king-like hyper-masculine demeanor and persona, as well as to foster a large harem of Gage residents who will vote for him unquestionably (since power is goddamn sexy).

Then, the harem will go and seduce the fratboys, subverting their ideas of democracy (i.e. Dude! Let's vote off the fat chick! Survivor, Greek-style rocks!). They will be used to create a paramilitary wing of Matthew Naylorism. They will likely be called Red Shirts, so as to satisfy Naylor's devotion to both Liberal Partyism and Star Trek.

Next, the gates of campus are barricaded. Nobody gets in or out. The trolley wires are cut. The stairways down to Wreck Beach are torn out of the cliffside. It's gonna be autarky, bitches, and it's gonna rock!

Stephen Toope will continue his administration, but only as a puppet. Naylor will wield true power. Koerner Plaza will be renamed "Revolution Square". A guillotine will be installed. It won't be often used, but will be there as a reminder that, sometimes, some people need some killing.

Democracy will continue, it will just be that there will be only one candidate. Anyone who suggests that things should be otherwise will be sent to the guillotine! Anyone who runs against Naylor will be sent to the guillotine! Anyone who cancels the election single-handedly will be sent to the guillotine! Anyone who has people vote for them in the SUB on their laptop...well...you get the idea.

Democracy is not for the weak. That's what Matthew Naylor should be saying.

On behalf of the citizens of UBC - and the rest of Metro Vancouver by proxy - I hereby declare democracy:


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09 November, 2008

Where was the AGM Coverage?

by Commodore Cuddle's Alter Ego

UBC’s Annual General Meeting happened earlier this week. In a true display of efficiency, UBC
managed to hold an AGM for the entire university in one hour and, much
like their annual report, managed to say very little of substance.

Before the event, they had asked people to email questions in advance, and
that “questions unanswered for reasons of time will receive responses
after the AGM.” Naturally, this appeared to be a way of screening
questions so that they could cherry-pick the easy ones. (Example:
President Toope, where did you get your glasses? They make you look so
handsome!) But once at the meeting, this writer was shocked to find out
that they had a microphone set up for an honest-to-god, unscreened Q&A
session with Toope.

And nobody came.


Sure, there were a few questions from students. The first was about the
farm, an issue which has only been raised oh, a million times now. Then
one about tuition fees; we certainly couldn’t let a year go by without
questioning those. Things started looking up with an email questions about
the possibility of evictions during the Olympics. It was completely based
on rumours and was posed in a semi-hostile way. Alas, that excitement was
short-lived. Things settled down with a question about athletics fees, the
flavour of the month as far as student causes go. That was it.

Where the fuck did all the pissed off students go?

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but liquor policies on campus are quite
reasonable, as is the conduct of the RCMP. Affordable student housing is
now a solved problem. Now that the rain has come, the idea of an
underground bus loop sounds pretty peachy. Condominiums are absolutely an
appropriate use of land on a university campus.

This writer laments: where was Commodore Cuddles and his bottle of
bourbon? A piss drunk student asking a rambling, slurred question to Toope
would have brought a whole new level of awesomeness to the AGM. Sigh,
maybe next year...

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Seen tonight

Between 12:30 and 12:40 am surrounding the outdoor pool: 2 campus security vehicles and no less than 3 RCMP cruisers, complete with flashing lights. A few police officers were admonishing some students next to the police cars, presumably for jumping in the pool while drunk.

It makes me wonder...

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05 November, 2008

We is Whiny Bitches

by Eoin

CASA. A name that strikes....confusion into the heart of the average student. 'CASA?' they'll ask when you ask them about the AMS membership change, 'what's that? Canadian Autism Safety Association?'

No my children. No.

In the doldrums of the AMS, where all happy ideas, hopes, dreams, and campaign promises are lured to die in excrutiating pain – much like Obama's health plan will soon be strangled in Washington – is where this story takes place. A story of meetings, letters, and other riveting, riveting stuff. And social excursions to breweries.

Okay, that's kind of cool, but we're only talking about it in the context of people who don't want to go. So it's sad.

If you've been paying attention to the UBC Insiders, amid their (equally riveting) discussions about nap spaces and the fate of farmland, is the issue of the AMS voting to downgrade its membership in CASA to an associate membership to protest various flaws in what it sees as CASA's failure to live up to its commitment to being a member driven society.

Sure, you say, Eoin we're read it. Comments have been made on posts, upwards of 10. That's like...a tenth of the attention paid to a certain bonfire. Or something of that order of magnitude. (I'm a physicist, I round numbers to some 10^n value when I'm too lazy to punch out calculations)

And yes student, reader, troller of the interwebs, you'd be correct. But it hasn't gotten to demagogic treatment from the Advocate the nasty, smearing, truth be damned as long as it's amusing and irreverent , take that is so preferable to dusty old news filled with facts. There's a Democrat as president elect and the tricky socialists control all three wings of government in the states. Someone has got to stand up for gut thinking and truthiness. That person is me.

Oh yeah, I was there, in the trenches of the comment boards as it were, from the beginning, slinging mud from the sidelines. But it was ordinary, rational mud, and I'm tired of the rationality. Time for time honoured partisanship, on this, Guy Fawke's Day. (I missed celebrating St. Crispin's)

When I first learned that the AMS was putting this issue to the vote, trying to reduce its membership in the Canadian Association of Student Societies, that bastion of non-crazy student advocacy that we actually help found, I had only one thought in the back of my mind:

Communists.

It was such an easy solution. Steph and Tristan don't like CASA. They like CFS. Okay, some of that's for good reasons like CFS actually does provincial lobbying and CASA doesn't, but fuck that. It's those communists trying to put us within the clutches of the referendum manipulating, hippy protesting CFS. Yeah, that's right Stef. I saw you next to those CFS signs at that protest. I saw!

[My editor tells me that what you do on your free time in something that doesn't really directly infringe on student issues is your business. Fuck! Damit! Oh well.]

Anyway, communism was an easy answer. It fit everything. A nice simple way of viewing AMS politics through the optics of Knollies and Hacks and possibly Naylorites, but then I looked at the numbers in the vote and saw it was unanimous. Even the infamous letter to CASA that was delivered back in August or something was relatively commie doctrine free. Sure there was this one toss-out to revolutionary goodness:

Referring to student representatives as owners of their respective corporations, or rhetoric that perpetuates normative positions on male, heterosexual, or colonial-nation deals, negatively affects the climate for productive and progressive dialog.

Sure it's knolly, but it's no communist manifesto. Clearly other forces were at work here.

Could I blame the ever present Matthew Naylor? He is fun to blame, for pretty much everything. He's like the Hillary Clinton of the AMS, the one you love to hate. Who knows what dark plots Naylor has clutched within his massive, jewel encrusted fingers? His hatred for CASA is legendary – by which I mean I've heard it off hand from a few people. But it's still legendary! And he's so manipulating the scenes from the power seat of the presid.....AUS rep.

Drat.

While searching for the answers to the dilemma of who neutered the AMS CASA membership, I sat down and analyzed the complaints that your all knowing student society has made, I came to a horrific conclusion.

The AMS is a whiny bitch.

Yes, I sound like Austin when I say that, but I have to be doubly crazy/offensive because Austin is off snorting crack in a bush somewhere, pretending to be a mime, or licking LSD off the bellies of Thai hookers, and is totally not writing articles anymore. (Austin, you're also fired from the DA staff. No more free drugs for you.) It's also the truth. The society has decided, on very short notice, to send 'a message' to CASA after getting a very nice letter back explaining why the CASA didn't think their complaints were earth shatteringly important. Let me sum up the situation as follows in a metaphorical exchange between a mother and child at a picnic:


AMS: Mommy CASA? I don't think some of these things we do on our picnics are nice. Some of the other kids speak out of turn and all the labels on the food are bilingual. I also can't go on the brewery trip afterwards.

CASA: I'm doing my best. I agree that some of those things are problems. Why don't we talk about it some more?

AMS: AGGGGHH!!!! You never listen to me or what I say! I should do my own student advocacy! I'm going to become an associate member!

[rips off clothing and runs naked through the park. CASA turns red as all the other moms/Student Associations stare.]

CFS: Nice streaker. That's what you get for not having a social justice emphasis for your society.

CASA: [Slaps CFS] Bitch, at least none of my kids have run away from home.

End scene.


What could possibly make your student union act so? Is it a bunch of new reps being led like sheep by communists or power hungry giants? Or is there something else afoot? Is this just like season two of Heroes, where we have to endure terrible plot lines till we find the villain in season three who laid all those weird DNA logos everywhere in season one? Do we have our own version of Mr. Petrelli on a ventilator somewhere in the bowels of the SUB, controlling things from a distance?

[Do I live vicariously through Heroes? Yes]

I believe so. Next year, all this will become clear. The knoll fire, Lougheedgate, they were just appetizers to the horror of student politics that will erupt next year, when the dark plan of the enemy will become evident. Then this move by the AMS will make perfect sense within that foul stratagem. Will student government survive? Will the day be saved by Darren Peets returning from Japan in a gigantic physics robot?

Only time will tell.

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03 November, 2008

joys of voting

by Aaron Palm

I've been having . . . troubles getting my vote in. The email I sent to my congressman is behind the jump. I'll write a proper post on this when I find the time. Below is a summary of a conversation I had today with a polling clerk over the phone (.60 cents per minute baby!)
Elections Official: You didn't get your ballot?
Me: No.
EO: You'll have to come to the office or just go to your polling place tomorrow.
Me: I live in Canada. That's why I asked for an absentee ballot.
EO: Where?
Me: Canada.
EO: Can you come to our office?
Me: Will you buy me a plane ticket?
EO: Hold please. [5 min] You can't vote.
Me: Yes I can. What if I fax you a Federal write in ballot?
EO: Hold please. [2 min]
EO2: We'd rather you didn't fax in a Federal ballot. How about we fax you a ballot and you fax it back?
Me: I don't have a fax machine.
EO2: Can you find one?
Me: I could try? Why didn't you send me a ballot in the first place?
EO2: We did. It was returned undelivered.
Me: Did you think about contacting me? You have my phone and email.
EO2: That would have been too much work. Hold please.
[phone disconnects]



I imagine you all are very busy now, so I don't expect a rapid response. I'm living abroad and am registered as an absentee voter in Santa Clara County. I have been having an incredibly hard time getting my ballot. I think I have resolved my issue, but I have serious problems with the conduct of the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. I'll explain my situation and then ask if there is any action you think I should take (follow up complaints, etc) or if I'm over reacting and my sort of situation is par for the course.

I'm a student in Vancouver, BC. This is the first presidential election I have been able to vote in. I voted absentee in the mid term election (and was happy with the results) and registered to vote absentee for this election. I received my voter information package about three weeks ago, but never got my ballot. I called the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters today (Nov 3) and was told my ballot had been mailed to the wrong address and returned to the registrar; no attempt was made to contact me or resend the ballot. I'm not sure how this happened seeing as the info package was mailed to the correct address. I was initially told I would have to vote in person or come to the Registrar's office to pick up a ballot. I asked about the federal write in ballot and the woman on the phone did not know what that was. After some time (being placed on hold, disconnected, waiting on hold for another half hour) I was told that they could fax a ballot to me.

I'm a student - I don't own a fax machine. I went to the local copy store and called back (another 10 minutes on hold) and was told by the woman I talked to that they would fax me a ballot "sometime today" or email me one. I opted for the email option because I had to go to work and would not be able to babysit a public fax machine waiting for my ballot. Two hours later no email, I called back and was told they were very busy but would send my ballot as soon as they could. Unfortunately I never received an email. I called the Registrar's office at 6:45pm when I got off work and was told the absentee voter department had gone home and no on else in the office could help me - I would have to call back morning. I called McNerney's office in Dublin at around 7pm to ask for advice and was told that e-mail ballots are not accepted anyway - I would need a faxed one. I should be able to take care of this tomorrow, and am confidant I will be able to vote. Worst case I will use the Federal ballot (though I want to vote on the ballot initiatives, my understanding is the Fed ballot does not allow that)

There are several things about this situation that concern me. First off is that the elections staff failed to send me a ballot. They knew that my ballot was returned to them undelivered but did not bother to contact me (even though I included my email and phone number with my ballot request) and the woman I talked with today seemed surprised that I was angry about this. Also the fact that they failed to email me my ballot today is frustrating. Second, no one in their office seemed to understand election code. I was told contradictory things on several occasions. My father tried calling on my behalf and had a hard time explaining what an absentee ballot was to the person he talked to. Whether or not it is legal to e-mail ballots is an understandable issue to be confused on but having someone tell me I was not allowed to send in the Federal write-in ballot if I didn't have my state ballot confused me.

What concerns me even more though is that the email address I gave to have my ballot emailed to is my personal address. I do not receive unsolicited email to this address because I only give it out to friends and family. However, as of writing this I have two emails from political groups in my inbox. The only explanation for these emails that I can find is that someone from the Registrar's office imputed my email into their system. If they did that, why didn't they send me a ballot?

Also, trying to get my ballot has taken a lot of time and energy. I missed a class today because I had been on hold for 20 minutes and didn't want to loose my place in the line. I've spent at least $30 on long distance charges and probably at least 4 hours dealing with phone calls, tracking down fax machines, and coping with stress related to my worry of not being able to vote. The final casualty was a bottle of good bourbon I bought last time I went home. I had been planning on saving it for tomorrow night to celebrate, but alas I've already dipped into it. Hopefully the friends I was saving it for will understand.

And finally, I had hoped that my situation was an anomaly. But just looking through my friend's facebook status, I found someone else from Santa Clara County complaining about never received their ballot. Hopefully my friend and I are just a few unlucky individuals, but I would greatly appreciate knowing what I can do to make issues like this known so action can be taken to make the voting process more accountable.

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15 October, 2008

voting sucks

The problem we have with democracy today is not that not enough people vote, but that too many do. All of this "get out and vote" crap makes my furry stomach turn. People are stupid. Stupid people vote for stupid candidates. I do not idiots running my government. Solution: get rid of the voter. Yet the whole political system in the Western world is developed to harness the Power of Stupid. Political parties simplify complex issues to one sentence talking points. The media plays along and makes simple issues into complex ones. Canadians don't know if they should vote for a party, vote against another party, or [le gasp!] vote for whomever their favourite local MP is. And yet if a party manages to fuck up royally (lookin' at you GOP!) they are not even held accountable because voters are too stupid to understand cause/effect.


I don't know if we should limit voting rights to military service, college grads, white men, or just get rid of voting all together. We're stuck in the middle right now between a libertarian utopia and a fascist one. We get the crap of both worlds without the benefits either would bring us. I'm tired of it. We live in a society that has strong protections for free speech, yet if you show up to protest you get stuck in a free speech zone. Try to leave that and you get tear gassed. China could never get away with that so why can the US or Canada? I'm tired of the hypocrisy in our system.

And what annoys me the most is that everyone is content enough there will be no revolution.

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02 October, 2008

Bottled Rage!

UBC has been very public about its attempts to curb the use of bottled water, bringing it line with the trend of Vancouverites and growing cultural trends of sustainable and environmentally friendly. It's hip to be green these days. While I applaud the enthusiasm, I can only think that this effort is not only too little too late but is being done in a very bad manner.

While meeting with the UBC Admins in their fancy offices last week, your furry Commodore Cuddles encountered what can only be described as utter incompetence. While my round bushy tail was following my larger, but oh so fluffy behind into the lobby, I asked for some water. I wanted to whet my whistle before the meeting (they had no bourbon) and then to my excitement I was brought water in a cup and told "we want to curb our bottled water use." Then I died a little inside. The cup they brought me was neither recyclable nor compostable! anger raging! How dumb are our UBC Administrators that in trying to be environmentally friendly they do the complete opposite? I can only imagine the meeting where someone "important" mentioned replacing recyclable bottles with non-recyclable cups. Could they have used paper cups? Yes, but they didn't. Instead, they made the idea of continuing the use of bottled water a good idea and someone decided to buy cups instead. Unfortunately, the cups they replaced the bottles with are just as wasteful.

Hell, what's wrong with water fountains? I don't know, but for the last five years UBC has been removing water fountains from buildings and then actively not installing water fountains in any of the new buildings. Search Buchanan and Swing and you'll find nothing that replaces bottled water, unless you go to the washrooms to fill up your Nalgenes. Except the sinks in Swing (where all the Arts kids are forced to live now that Buch B looks like a suicide bomber hit it) seem to be designed to make that impossible. Try it sometime. Me, I prefer to drink at a watering hole, so when I don't want to get my furry nose red, how else am I supposed to drink? At UBC I can do three things: 1) Spend money on bottled water and hate myself; 2) Drink out of the washrooms, or 3) Go meet with some UBC Big Wigs and try not to mention how retarded they are.

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28 September, 2008

Charlie

This is a story about a girl. We're going to call her Charlie for the sake of privacy. Most people in my social circle know who Charlie is, but we're going to try and avoid being assholes and throwing around actual names.

I wanted to make this story funny, but unfortunately it's not. No matter how often I laughed about this situation while it was going on, no matter how many jokes we made, in the end I think most of us just have an unpleasant feeling in the pits of our stomachs about the whole thing.

Because mental health is no joking matter.

It's actually ironic that this incident occurred while there seemed to be a great interest in the media about it. The Globe and Mail ran a very long series about mental health and several other publications ran editorials on the subject. It might have been an idea to go over those articles before I wrote this, but it's too late now. The DA is much for the whole 'research' thing. Too much like class.

Charlie is a girl, third year arts somethingorother. IR I think. We, and when I say we I mean my main group of friends, ran into Charlie through a club of which we all were members that shall remain nameless. Charlie joins our club in September. She's a very quiet Asian girl, lost in the sea of new members. She comes out to a number of our events and we notice nothing odd about her. She flitted into our social scene and we didn't pay her too much attention.

After the Christmas Break, she appears to have undergone a change. Some people disagree with me on this point, but she was not really on anyone's radar, so our actual assessment of what she was like before Christmas break is sketchy. There are changes after Christmas though, this is undeniable. She's wearing more expensive clothes and has started using large amounts of makeup, especially eyeliner. At our first meeting of the new year, she makes a beeline for one of the DA's editorial staff and attaches herself to him for the duration of the meeting. He's like 'okay she seems to be acting a little odd, but this isn't so bad.' (He's single at this point)

She comes out to the bar with us afterwards and then to an abode of one of our members. I think she's trying to give me the eyes. I, while single, am not interested at all. I think 'Commodore Cuddles can have her,' and try to arrange seating arrangements accordingly. I go home early. Commodore Cuddles arrives home later with Charlie along side. My thoughts are 'good for Commodore Cuddles. I hope she isn't following him home to try and sleep with me, because her eyes were kinda crazy. I'm going to lock my door tonight.' [I'm not sure if I'm a narcissist, paranoid, or partly psychic as my sole assessment of the girl at this point was that she looked at people funny and was kinda quiet.]

The next morning, after Charlie has left, Commodore Cuddles revealed how she had followed him home sans invitation. She just got on his bus and got off at his stop, never saying a word.

The evidence that something was wrong mounted up the more we saw of her: stolen clothing, lack of understanding space boundaries (she crashed at a friend's house and in the middle of the night climbed into bed with her), Inability to make eye contact in a conversation, stopping in the middle of sentences, interrupting conversations to ask nonsensical questions, camping outside another club member's res room for three hours and stealing an RA's phone in the process till campus security escorted her away, writing in a journal in the midst of social events, further stalking like behaviour towards Commodore Cuddles, etc. I could go on for ages. Every person who met her for more than a few minutes realized that something was wrong, that something wasn't quite functioning for her. There are a lot of socially awkward people on campus, but Charlie was so lacking in the social norms most of us take for granted it was as if she was so unaware of most of them that she didn't even know to be embarrassed by her awkwardness.

Here's the thing about Charlie though:

  1. Her actions, for the most part, were non-violent
  2. When we tried to confront her about her behavior she would run away

So nobody did anything. The club tried to talk to counseling, tried to talk to Charlie about matters. The university mental health services told us that we had to convince her to seek help by herself, but whenever we even tried to bring the topic up, as mentioned before, she would run away and start writing in her journal. (Which apparently contained such lines as 'Must hurt the mean boys' written over and over, but I heard this second hand and much later)

We've no idea what her family situation was like and we presumed that they were out of the picture. The only impression we got of her home situation was that she was in an apartment somewhere in Vancouver and the theory was floated that perhaps her parents had sent her here from China and rented an apartment for her, so now she was living all by herself in Vancouver. In short, there seemed to be no one there capable or willing to take responsibility for her and her condition.

As to what she had, a number of people tried to explain it away as some variant of autism. Having noticed a definite change in her behavior, I couldn't help but think it was schizophrenia. Late adolescence to early adulthood is the usual period where that condition manifests itself, while autism becomes apparent in childhood. Whatever she had, once school had ended and there were no more club events for her to come out to so we assumed we wouldn't have to worry about her for a few months.

Then she fucking stabbed a random girl in broad daylight at a bus stop.

She'd never seen this girl before. She simply said something to her, stabbed her, got on the bus, and put the knife back in her purse. The police caught her a few blocks down. She didn't seem to really think about running away. All said and done, it was about the worst case scenario you could have gotten out of this situation. (Okay, it actually could have been worse, because she didn't get her hands on a gun, but still)

Thankfully, the girl involved made a full recovery and Charlie is now in a mental hospital. We got a letter from her actually. There's nothing really we can do for her at this point, other than perhaps pay a visit, because perhaps no one else will. Hopefully she'll get the treatment she needs, hopefully she'll be able to get her life back on track.

However this sad story brings an important question to the fore, which is how the hell we get people like Charlie to seek treatment before they hurt themselves or other people. Let's face it. We should have been able to see this coming. Whatever Charlie had – clearly not autism – it was obvious to everyone she had issues and her condition was hampering her ability to function in society.

We've entered the 21st century. I think that, as a society, we should start thinking of serious new ways to deal with the issues that have plagued us for years, problems we've typically swept under the rug, or given half hearted solutions to. I think that we need to devise new mechanisms with which to handle the mentally ill, not merely in terms of treatment, but in how we bring bring those people to treatment.

Because the underlying problem with our dealings with Charlie was that, in addition to not taking the problem as seriously and maturely as we ought to have - and the majority of us definitely could have handled it better – we could not get her to seek treatment because she either didn't want to talk to us about it and, like many mentally unwell people, probably wouldn't have wanted to seek help even if we had been able to sit her down and talk to her about it. While members of your family can check you into a mental hospital, if you don't have family, or they're not around, that option of having someone else make a decision for you is simply not there.

Now, there's already a whole rigmarole about forced institutionalization, which I'm not going to go into now, because that would involve me actually reading the wiki on the subject and then some law students would poke gigantic holes in my argument and then no one would suggest anything better.

So I'm not going to do that.

Instead, I'm going to suggest that the University Administration get off its lazy collection of asses and maybe have a little more interventionist policy when it comes to mental health.

After all, if Charile had stolen a rifle from the shooting range she apparently went to, this might have been a little more like Dawson's College or Virgina Tech, and nobody wants that. The BioSci scare was quite enough.

The University isn't there to hold our hand in everything. When we've got our 'regular' illnesses or other issues it's up to us to go to the doctor, or we find the appropriate help ourselves. If we've got mental illness however, and friends and acquaintances can't just call an ambulance for us or make us go to the doctor. Often the afflicted person in these cases doesn't recognize their own need for help and in the situation of a big university, especially one with such a large commuter population, it's easy to get lost in the crowd.

I believe that the University has a responsibility to its students, both to ensure they are able to get the care they need and to provide a safe environment in which to study (and occasionally party) The status quo, in which students who do not have the support of family or friends to help them - a big problem for international students or students whose parents are abroad - in the case of mental illness and in which no meaningful action can be taken to prevent a possibly unstable person from hurting themselves or others is simply unacceptable.

Given the fact that a mentally unwell or depressed person can pose a threat to both their own safety and that of others, I think a reasonable compromise can be reached in terms of the rights of the individual to accept or refuse treatment and the duty of the university to ensure both the health and safety of its students. To this end, I think it should be possible for students or faculty who recognize a potential sufferer of mental illness, to alert the UBC (AMS?) health services to the issue, at which point, these programs would be authorized to contact that student and attempt to assess if there is a problem. If they believe that there is one, and attempts to convince the student to seek help are not successful, then the family can be alerted.

It's also been suggested that the University make such an identified student's enrollment dependent upon them seeking treatment, especially if it believed that they pose a risk to other people. This would be reasonable within the context of providing a self learning environment and I think that guidelines could be put in such a program to prevent it being abused and that most people would only use it in drastic cases, like Charlie's.

Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe this is a terrible idea and horribly infringes on privacy or something or people will use it to torment people they don't like, but it's a thought and a starting place and maybe someone can come up with something better.

And if you can't, well you can shut up. I'm tired of people wringing their hands and saying 'but we can't do anything'. Because we can and we should.

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24 September, 2008

Slander 101

The esteemed University of British Columbia, like many other establishments of higher learning in this fair country, has an active student body who likes to organise themselves into awesome (!) clubs. Students, being an industrious bunch (at times) enjoy getting together with fellow people of their ilk, coagulating into student groups that think they can change the world...particularly during Clubs Days, organised by the AMS, where student associations jostle with one another to compete for membership.

Of course, combine this enthusiasm with an ongoing federal election, and you've got some fertile soil for political activism in every colour.

Thus, the Devil's Advocate is pleased to present to you the finest in political commentary, the Coultie Awards: the most prestigious prize in Canadian political slander, mudslinging and general brown-nosery. These awards are named after esteemed political columnist (and occasional crazy wench) Ann Coulter, who has - on occasion - suggested that America goes into Muslim countries, kill off all their leaders and convert their peoples to Christianity. She's also an author: one of her most famous books is Slander: Liberal Lies about the American Right, where she portrays all progressive Americans as wealthy, white Democrats with a penchant for taxing you for the sake of taxing you. An accurate vision, perhaps, if you consider all liberals to be Michael Moore, Jane Fonda and Stephen Spielberg.

In any case...

First off, we have the New Democrats' booth, oh-so-firmly staffed by Mitch Wright and Vancouver-Centre candidate and UBC professor Michael Byers. Despite the fact that I constantly make inappropriate passes at young Mitch here - it's hard to resist such a charming, baby-faced young lad - he showed us what Canadian socialism is made of.

The NDP has been promoting itself as a defender of the working- and middle-classes, what with a strong slant towards social justice and a re-distributive economy, where the wealthy give to the poor. Of course, this is in the guise of taxes and regulation, so it's giving to the poor by force. That being said, their goals are pretty feel-good, so I have nothing too bad to say on that front.

Their propaganda is pretty straightforward: calling for a $10 minimum wage in BC and more women and visible minorities in Canadian legislatures. I didn't see any kind of obvious slander or attack, beyond saying that the BC Liberals - with no obvious mention of Gordon Campbell - had to go. Gosh darn it, those NDPers are pretty nice! They're like having a nice, warm (but not too hot) cup of herbal, non-caffeinated, fair-trade, carbon-neutral Balinese tea after a night of hot, consensual, safe-worded vanilla cuddling with your girlfriend.

In the end, I left with a small stack of flyers, including one from Mr. Byers asking me to come to a rally with Jack Layton and to volunteer on his campaign. (Between classes, work and the occasional Craigslist NSA hookup, I barely have time to sleep.)

Slander Grade: D

Next up, we have the Green Party. I was lucky enough to have a chat with Dan Grice, an old colleague of mine, who's now carrying the Green banner for the Vancouver-Quadra riding. In the
entire time we chatted, we spoke about a democratic deficit (curable through electoral reform), a weakening environment, the need to invest in overwhelmed public transit and a revival of rail across this country.

One piece of propaganda that caught my eye was the "Shift Happens" pamphlets that I've seen all over campus over the past few months. Now, this was well before the Liberal Party published its "Green Shift" policy. Could it be that the Liberal Party is stealing material from the UBC Greens? The plot thickens so much I could eat it with chopsticks.

Dan made sure to remind me that Elizabeth May was coming to Vancouver to start her cross-country whistle-stop tour by train. He said I should come, even though political rallies are quickly becoming displeasing to me. As much as I'm for the environment, public transit and pretty much everything else this party stands for - I figure that "rape the planet" is not a prudent policy statement - I was slightly relieved that an attractive young woman had managed to captivate Dan with her presence more than I could do with my shaggy Jewish locks.

Slander Grade: D

Around the corner, to the Federal Liberals. I have never voted Liberal myself, nor do I plan to do in the near future (in no small part thanks to Bob Rae's recent musings on how a vote for the NDP is a vote for the Tories - bold words for the turncoat hack of a party that effectively props up Stephen Harper's government by refusing to vote against it!), but I have to say, the political swag started to improve.

The Grits started by gluing a bunch of partisan slogans to condoms. Using cute lines such as "private members bill" (with "bill" referring to the latex prophylactic in question and "private member" referring to a man's Pride and Joy) and "Stand Up for Canada" (which, in fact, was the Conservative Party's campaign slogan in 2006), they attempted to use humour to get people to join! Humour! Something to make you laugh! Like how far down the Liberal Party has slid in recent times!

(On another note, the Liberals have taken to stealing campaign slogans from other countries, too - apparently, their theme in French is "Ensemble, tout est possible" - together, everything is possible. This is pretty similar to the 2007 slogan for the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire - the party of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Whoever's manning the helms on board the HMCS Liberal, they should really be fired. I can't stand much more of Stephen Harper.)

Their provincial counterparts were not much better. We have Colin Simkus, politico-ladies' man extraordinaire, who's handing out some pretty neat swag, such as pins of the BC flag and latex bracelets with the provincial government's logo and slogan "The Best Place On Earth" - these were created to inspire pride and joy in this province's accomplishments over the past 150 years of existence. Of course, BC as a province has only existed for 137 years, and the thought of having a provincial identity analogous to that of, say, Newfoundland and Labrador, or Saskatchewan, or - dare I say it - Québec is a pretty far fetch. I've said this before and I'll say it again: there are two types of people in this province: hicks and hippies. Deal with it.

The point that I wanted to really drive home, however, is the honest-to-God philanthropy of the BC Liberal Party, as they paid money out of their own pockets to print up these Government-designed wristbands - with the BC logo on them - so that they could single-handedly promote a love of This Great Land! At least, I guess they did! Not a single penny of public money went into this booth. Why do I say that? 'Cause I trust Gordon Campbell. That's why.

Sadly, Colin's booth was next to the Conservative Party's booth, which was staffed by a pretty hot chick, so he really couldn't help himself in chatting her up. This is not a good thing if you're trying to promote party solidarity.

In any case, the thought of having Stéphane Dion or Gordon Campbell as my leader makes me pretty limp in the 'nads, so I'm gonna pass on this one. Props to the Liberals, though, for having a good swag idea with the condoms, and for being the first party I saw to actually criticise another.

Finally, the BC Young Liberals don't have a logo. This makes Colin sad. Apparently, if you design a logo for them by next Friday, you might be able to win a trip to their provincial convention! Nothing makes me more hot and/or bothered by that! I might need to run back to the Federal booth for a few condoms, just in case.

Combined Slander Grade: C+

Next door, to the Conservative booth. The hot chick that Colin was chatting
up must have sniffed some socialist blood in the air - admittedly, there's a tiny, tiny Marxist buried deep down inside - so she soon turned stone cold. You would not believe how hard it was to get her to point to her bloody party sign and smile. Her friend was even less thrilled at the prospect. Seriously, if you guys are the Conservatives of the future, you might want to get a bit more enthusiastic about fucking over the poor! Come on, guys, just say it...just say that two-tiered health care is a good thing...and that two separate water fountains just means shorter lines for everyone...

And that's just their booth. Take a look at their propaganda:


Apparently, if you're a Green, New Democrat or Liberal, you don't like to keep promises, you like to slack off and you enjoy paying more for everything. Seriously, guys. Did you really have to insult people's intelligence? Since when did honesty become a big-C value?


And what about this one? It's Conservatives that question authority? I didn't see too many of you people down at Knoll Aid helping pry the cops from the arrested protesters.

I have a question: who hired the Republican Party to coach the Tories on how to campaign negatively? And don't they understand that by pushing this kind of line on a campus, they're effectively alienating, oh, I don't know, say 95% of the campus population? When American conservatives say that there's a left-wing bias on campuses across their country, they're damn straight. Conservatives are supposed to protect the social status quo, last time I checked, which is not the job of the academic world. Questioning authority was not their job. So I figure that they are probably a bit misguided in their mission.


I also love how they insinuate that Liberal Party hacks control the academic establishment. Y'know, like how Deborah Meredith, their candidate for MP, is a prof here at UBC. But that's just me.

As much as I'd like to tell the GOP to go take a shit in their own pool, having them here makes it so much easier to lambast Stephen Harper. So kudos, Tories! When I say "ABORTION!", you say "BAN!" Keep it up and I'm sure the Christian Taliban will be running the show pretty soon.

Slander Grade: A-

And finally, the winners of this year's Coultie Awards are none other than the Trotskyist League!

Their table was staffed by two people, one of whom refused to allow their picture to be taken. That's so great, for someone so certain of the fact that capitalism needs to be abolished, he sure is a little camera-shy. I'm sure he'll have my back when we're on the front lines of the worker's revolution!

Apparently, they were not giving away any swag. Some folks at the Yanks Anonymous table told me that they were selling their crap newspapers for $2 a copy. These guys can't even get their shit together to give away their swag for free? So much for spreading Marxism to the great unwashed!

Apparently, us white males are still repressing the québécois with our anglo-chauvinism, and the NDP is the tool of the bourgeoisie, whereas our friend down south, Barack Obama, is leading American Imperialism. Blacks are repressed by capitalism, Mumia Abu-Jamal never killed a cop, I'm screwed for thinking Jews deserve a homeland, anti-war protesters in the USA are responsible themselves for the failure of their movement to stop the War in Iraq and peacekeepers hardly keep the peace as much as they keep the gears of imperialism running smoothly. Astounding: they've managed to alienate every single sector of society, of course. Well, except themselves. I wonder if they actually think that they'll win one day.

It's really a miracle what a bucket of wheat paste and a bit of piss-and-vinegar can do!

Slander Grade: A++

---

This election, make sure you go out and vote. Whether you vote for higher taxes, institutional corruption, bigotry, a ban on soap or Québec separatism - or even for an independent candidate - make your voice heard, 'cause the people in countries where democracy is not so observed get really confused and angry when we don't do what they're dying - literally - to do.

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19 September, 2008

Democracy Dome Haiku Contest

Democracy Dome appears to be missing. Perhaps murdered, perhaps recalled to greener pastures by its creators. Whatever its fate, I miss it. I propose a Memorial Haiku Contest. The best haiku will win some sort of prize (to be determined - it will be nifty)

My entry:

Democracy Dome
Broken dreams and bonfires
Missing from my life

Good luck!

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17 September, 2008

RCMP and Accountability

In a recent Ubyssey article (volume 90, number 5), photographer Jorge Amigo describes being assaulted and threatened with arrest by RCMP outside of a fraternity party. Hopefully Jorge got a badge number and the settlement will pay for his grad school (criminal charges against the officer would be nice, but will never happen in this country) but my experiences today in trying to contact the RCMP in order to write this article raise some troubling concerns.


I figured the best way to approach an article on the RCMP would be to first look at the issue from their perspective. In the 'States, it is fairly standard practice for law enforcement to take journalists (and curious citizens) on a ride along. You spend several hours riding shotgun in a squad car, talking to the officer and seeing how he or she goes about the daily routines. In my experience, police enjoy doing this sort of thing. When my high school newspaper approached our local police department following a series of controversial incidents, they happily accommodated us. From their perspective, the chance to positively interact with members of the community and get their side of the story heard was well worth the while. From our perspective, we got a good story as well as increased the accountability of the local police department - they're less likely to shoot minorities in the back when there's a 17 year old watching.

With this in mind, I figured it would be a win-win situation if I scheduled a ride along with the University RCMP detachment. I gave them a call and was told, "oh sorry, we don't do that anymore." I then asked if I could schedule an interview with someone to discuss current issues facing the RCMP and was told I would have to talk to the RCMP's national media centre. After a bit of searching, I found that number, called it, and ended up with voice mail.

What concerns me about this incident is that the RCMP (not just the Campus Detachment but the organization as a whole) seems completely unconcerned with maintaining good relations with the community. By ensuring that the only possible contact a citizen can have with the RCMP is a negative one, they only help to polarize the "us vs. them" dichotomy that has become so prevalent at UBC these days. In order for this to change, the RCMP needs to adopt a more open policy towards community based policing.

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Oh CVC

Well, I'm not really 'in touch' with the UBC campus anymore, but I got linked to this video:

http://www.vimeo.com/1656522

which I think is just hilarious. No, it's not simply because it makes a mockery of people who haven't been able to acquire a high fluency in English yet. (Though I laugh at those jokes because I'm a terrible, terrible person) It's because I think, more than anything, this video mocks its makers.

Because the best way to show you're a multicultural club is to have an Asian girl be your representative in your ad.

We so believe you now.

I mean, I went and looked at their website and found the group picture on this page:

http://www.ubccvc.com/about.php

And sure, I think there's a white guy and maybe a hispanic guy on the right. But it's about as ethnically
diverse a jar of raspberry jam with a blueberry thrown in.

I also fail to see the attraction in a ski trip with eight hundred people. That's about as helpful as joining more first year classes to make friends. You really just have more people to ignore you.

On the other hand, I'm not going to yell at CVC for trying. They want to be inclusive. I respect that.
They failed utterly and had to apologize for the video, but their hearts were in the right places. Still, I can't help but feel they're fighting an uphill battle when they have 'Chinese' in their name. Even if they only refer to themselves by their acronym. Trying to be multicultural is probably a lost cause for them, or any other Asian club on campus.

Heck, I'm not even going to yell at Asian clubs in general. I mean, I don't really like the idea of racial or ethnic clubs on principle, but if you're coming over here from China or Taiwan and you barely know the language, a group of people in the same boat is what you want. (yes, I'm pretty sure there's some people like the poor sap in the video in your club. Especially if it's got 800 people in it) Not to mention the fact that people with similar cultural backgrounds tend to congregate together, no matter who they are. It's just the way shit happens.

However, I can't help but see the beautiful symmetry inherent in the existence of Asian clubs. After all,
they are the equivalent of a couple of western institutions where one pays for friends, only without dividing people up by sex. It's like some bright Asian sat up one day and thought

'What if we could combine a frat and the sorority into one entity?

And for that, I salute them.

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26 August, 2008

Bloody Georgians

by Eoin O'Dwyer

I used to like Vladimir Putin.

Not as much as these girls:

but hey, I can’t really appreciate his beautiful, blue eyes as much as they do.

I mean, as far as a high schooler's understanding of politics goes, it’s hard to beat a guy who’s ex-KGB, and is slowly turning Russia into a power house via oil and arms sales to Iran. Then I learned a little more and realized that if Garry Kasparov was against Putin than so was I. After all, he used to be the world chess champion. Got to know what he’s talking about.

Which brings me to the whole Georgian/South Ossetia debacle. If there’s one thing that’s started to piss me off/scare the shit out of me these days, it’s this new resurgent nationalism. I thought that perhaps after a couple of world wars and the whole warming of East/West relations after the cold war, the stable countries that matter had moved beyond the worst parts of the nationalism thing. I mean, sure all those tiny little countries were going around and killing thousands of people over who owned a particular field with cultural significance, and there’s all those people who are going ‘USA! USA! USA!’ all the time and my Irish cousins still think that we should get our hands on the northern counties one of these days, but like whatever.

With this double invasion of South Ossetia and all the lies and disinformation brought out by both sides, I smell the stench of rabid nationalism coming to bite us in the ass again. The Georgians want all the bits of land they see as part of Georgia. Russia doesn’t like little Georgia going off and trying to join clubs like NATO. It finds such actions very hurtful and so feels a little compelled to stand up for those plucky South Ossetians.

So let’s review the facts that I think most reasonable people can agree on at this point:

1) Both Georgia and Russia are giant dicks in this conflict

Nice move Georgia. Go try and bring a quasi-autonomous region back into the fold by force. That has great optics, especially when you do it during the Olympics. Go bombard their capital city in the process. That creates lots of good will.

Sakashvilli, you’re a dick.

Russia. You had something of a point going into South Ossetia. I mean, they did have a vote to be independent, even if no one recognized it, and there are a lot of Russian peace keepers and citizens there. Sure, most of the latter group only got their passports recently and you’ve kinda being pushing Georgia’s buttons by amassing tanks on the border, but that doesn’t mean you were wrong to go in.

Where you are wrong is also invading Abkahzia. Yeah, the Georgians are going to go in there when the might of the Russian bear is aimed straight at them. Right. Going into Georgia proper and bombing civilians just like the Georgians and NATO in Kosovo and not really abiding by any real ceasefires and not leaving once the Georgians essentially give up.

Vlad, you’re a dick. (Yeah, we all know you’re in charge. Quit the shit)

2) Abkahzia and South Ossetia possibly have a right to secede properly from Georgia.

Georgia might be right (or might have been right) that this shit could have been resolved by allowing some quasi-autonomy status instead. (so might Chechnya)

Balancing the right to self-determination with a nation’s right to govern its own territory is a tricky business. I don’t think accepting one or the other as a blanket statement is a good idea. Comparisons to Kosovo or the Sudetenland are fun, but not very helpful as we’re either comparing the Russians to Nazis or

3) Maybe NATO shouldn’t try to include so many ex-communist Bloc countries in its club. Russia feels a little alone, a little surrounded by countries that aren’t exactly friendly to it. Maybe they should have tried some delicate diplomacy work with Russia when they decided they were going to let Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. Maybe.However, these are all relatively reasoned points. This is the Advocate and so it’s bombastic, inflammatory, demagogic argumentation I require. I’ve realized that if it weren’t for Russia, this would be a piddly little ethnic conflict we could all safely ignore and so:

This is all the fault of Russian Nationalism. Yes, we get it Russia. You got fucked over hard by the fall of the Soviet Union. You overhauled your political and economic systems and decided that the Cold War was silly and thought ‘hey, everyone wins this way.’ Then Ronald Reagan did his happy dance and was like ‘dudes, we defeated the Commies!’ and then went and got Alzheimer’s and privatization put all the wealth into the hands of old party hacks and the mob and the economy dive bombed, and you found out that Boris Yeltsin wasn’t quite so cool when he was tanked and not jumping onto a tank. Then you didn’t really get to join all the cool Western clubs and NATO still was hanging around, except it was growing and all these little places attached to Russia decided they didn’t want to hang around anymore, the party was over. (ha ha)

We’re very sorry about that. Really.

That doesn’t get you off the hook for treating anyone who disagrees with you in the former bloc like some sort of terrorist and then trying to rig, distort, or steal elections in those countries so that people you like there get elected. I know. Losing the Soviet Empire was hard, but you can still have a zone of influence. You just have to be friends with the countries on your border. Friends don’t try to poison each other’s Presidential Candidates with dioxin. Friends don’t engage in cyberwar and stop all Estonians from checking their hotmail accounts. Sometimes you have to give governments their space and then they’ll come around and you can be one big happy family again.

Oh, and complaining about the missile shield? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Yeah, that’s going to allow the West first strike capacity. Right. And putting nukes in Kalingrad?
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article4547883.ece
Way to up the ante. One day you’ll run low on oil and then where the hell will you be?

I just want to say for the record, I love Russians. I just want to hug all of them and tell them, ‘It’s okay. One day you’ll have a government that doesn’t suck ass and your lives will be so much fun you won’t have to drink so much vodka to forget it that you drown in the River Volga.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/813193.stm
I’m tearing up right now as I write this. I’m not even joking. Russia gets me all emotional.

Just stop liking Putin! The Russians I know are driving me insane with this. He’s NOT A NICE GUY. When I look in his eyes, just like John McCain, I see only three letters. K-G – fucking – B! Seriously! This man is enough to make me want to go toe-to-toe with the Ruskies and vote Republican. Republican!

My rant is done. Next on the line is Chinese Nationalism, but I’ve got to go practise my Mandarin and Russian.

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Burn baby burn!

Alright motherfuckers, there is a half empty bottle of bourbon next to me. And it is starting to talk. His name is Jim, and he is sad about Trek Park. Trek Park, if you haven't been by it recently, has been burned. The grass is fried to a crisp. Democracy Dome has been kicked in. It is a shadow of its former glory. I know the DA has been critical of Trek Park in the past, but that is because it never went far enough. This year needs to start off with a bang. I say occupy some fucking buildings.

Everyone complains about a lack of student housing, and how building million dollar condos is lame. But nothing is really done about it. But there are ways you can get your point across to The Man that you're mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore. Theres a nice shiny condo being built on South Campus. Once it nears completion, occupy it. Demand that it be turned into student housing. Even offer to pay $500 per room. But demand it be turned over to students. Last year demonstrated that there are UBC students willing to be arrested for a cause, but they were mocked. The reason the Fire was ridiculed was because the cause those students were willing to be arrested for did not resonate with the majority of the student body. On the other hand, everyone cares about housing. We all have to deal with it and it sucks. UBC ain't helping much. UC Berkeley has about 25,000 undergrads with 5,800 beds first years can sleep in. UBC has 35,000 undergrads with only 2,500 beds between Vanier and Totem. UCLA, with 24,000 undergrads, has 9,500 total beds. Now while these numbers just give a general ballpark, it is clear that UBC offers less housing than universities it likes to compare itself to. And UBC doesn't seem to be doing much about it. Oh sure they can complain about lack of money and what not, but if they wanted to build more hosing, they could find money instead of wasting it on things like trying to join NCAA.

So one morning we walk into a newly built (yet not yet inhabited) condominium. Dig some trenches, barricade some doors, launch some Molotov cocktails at the neighbors. Instant international media attention. And we have a very real plight. We just want somewhere to live.

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20 August, 2008

The DA Needs You!

So I admit it. We've done jack shit this summer. I had epic plans, they failed. But there is still a faint glimmer of hope for next year. Maybe someone is still reading this. Maybe you want to write something. Maybe you want to challenge me to single combat and let God decide who shall be editor.

I don't know what's going to happen next year. Is there something you want the DA to do? Then do it! I can probably even find a way to fund it.

-ap

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18 July, 2008

Meat Tale Part I

I gasp, opening my eyes. Darkness envelopes me like a bad metaphor. It is cold. So cold. My entire body is numb. I do not know where I am or how I got here. I feel like part of me is missing. Hacked away. Oh God! I don't belong here! Need to get out! I black out.

An eternity passes. Or perhaps only a moment. I come to. Calmer. Relaxed. I hear voices! Has civilization found me? I shout out, calling to them with what little of my voice remains. They speak a tongue I have not heard before. When they hear me, shouts of joy at first and then panicked screams. A commanding voice begins to bark orders. I catch one word, “protein” and my gut fills with fear. Vegetables. Vegetables are everywhere!

When I was young my parents read me fairy tales about meatless things. Full of fiber, Vegetables lacked moral principles. They were sinners, cast out of heaven. They bred like crazy, spreading their filth across the country side. But my ancestors had driven the heathen from our homeland. I had never seen a 'veg before in my life, and now I was surrounded by them.

I reach for my weapon (standard issue tenderizer) only to realize that I had no arms! Instead of experiencing terror like one would expect, I begin to remember things. The civil war between Beef and Chicken. The top secret mission I was sent on (infiltrate camp “Freezer” to rescue a group of POWs) and my capture. I must have been doped up pretty heavily for the mission because the only memory I have of my capture is being lifted up by the hand of God Himself and placed into a holding basket. Then I blacked out. Going to make one hell of an after action report. If I make it. Time to retire. I'm getting too old for this shit.

I look around again and notice the shouting has stopped. The one shouting orders is a Carrot (like everyone else I was shown Veggie Tales as a youngling – I know my 'Vegs) and they are now bringing forward what looks like a malnourished Oscar Meyer. Poor hot dog. He is ordered to read a statement to me. When he speaks it is with a voice that offers no hope: “You are now a prisoner of the Vegan Alliance. Your kind is wanted for crimes against Vegetables. You will be transported to the Crisper where you will stand trial. Your kind are charged with the crime of murdering three times your weight in Brother Grain each time you spawn. You will be found guilty and banished to the Far Reaches where you will slowly die of Consumption by Mold. God have mercy on your soul.”

I try to speak in my defense, but feel something sharp stab my stomach. The broccoli begin to drag me away. Not like this!, I pray. Not like this! Thunderous roar! Blinding light! Out of heaven manifests a monstrous being who (I can only say that this must have been God himself) reaches in with an enormous hand and picks up Carrot. The being bites his head off, casting the body into the abyss like some rag doll. The other vegetables pass out in terror I run.. I am safe. For the moment.

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10 July, 2008

Translink Consultation, WWPTD (What Would Penn & Teller Do?)

by Andrew Forshner

The notion of Translink consultation is good and essential for the establishment of a transit network that services the needs of all citizens in the GVRD. The problem is that in practice, consultation is utter bullshit…though entertaining at times. Here at the Devil’s Advocate we hope to libel our way to a better world, and if I could remember people’s names that could be a reality, but seeing as I have attention span of a special-ed goldfish I can only insult general descriptions of people.

Last night (July 9th) Metro Vancouver Translink held a consultation session in the Plaza 500 (across from City Hall) to an audience of a distinguished journalist (me), the Honourable Scary Rabbi Kushnir, four CFS student politicians, about six no-talkers, and one bat-shit crazy old dude. All-in-all attendance was quite good for a municipal consultation session. This was one of many mandated consultation sessions for Translink to discuss their 10-year and 40-year transit plans that are to be finalized in August. That’s right; consultation for large scale Metro Vancouver transit plans begin about a month before plans are due. Wow, and I thought UBC was bad at consultation. The night struck me like more of an information session where you could ask questions, not so much suggest anything. Personally, I’d like to recommend they build a Skytrain line that has drops like a roller coaster, which I contend will increase ridership for stoners, tourists looking for a cheap alternative to Playland, and high school kids (young stoners). Sadly, this was not the venue to suggest amazing changes to Translink service, unless, say you’re nuts!

Overall, I think positively about the expansion plans of Translink for the next few decades. Vancouver has one of the best transit systems in North America, and expanding the lines to better incorporate business parks, establishing a frequent transit network across the Lower Mainland to connect all municipalities and reduce wait times, and reduce the carbon emissions of their buses. All with minimal raises in transit fares ($0.25 increase every five years). Sounds great, huh!?! Well, it does, if you neglect the fact that Translink is planning to operate at a $175million deficit every year after 2011. The VPs at Translink seem optimistic about the BC Provincial Government covering the expected shortfall. This must mean that the viability of Translink’s plans rests on the hope that the NDP will win the next election, given the choice of Liberals to make the new gas tax revenue neutral rather than funnel it to transit, which is what the MUCH LARGER existing gas tax already does. Without gov’t money, Translink promises to reduce services in 2011. Hey, planning for a recession is good too.

Now onto the crazies: question period. First up are the CFSers. They want the U-Pass. We’ve got the U-Pass, and they (Emily Carr and VCC) want it too. I want them to have it too, but not really. I like the concept of “U-Passes for all”, or “U-Passes for the Poor”, but I’m not really a fan of “U-Passes for all…University Students”. Translink’s position is that it is not their responsibility to increase the costs to all of its users to benefit any specific group, whether they are university students or hobos (for some reason seniors don’t count, even though they pay less than everybody else). They like the idea of a flat tax, a fare, for everyone (except seniors), and it’s the government’s responsibility to subsidize the transit passes for students, poor people, and seniors – no, wait, not seniors, they’re special!

UBC and SFU get away with cheaper bus passes because we’re socialist pig-dogs who force student drivers to subsidize the transit users because every student has to buy a U-Pass. U-Passes can thus be cheaper because not everyone is using the increased service to UBC, although many now are, and therefore to Translink it is as though students were paying almost the price of a normal transit fare (though if you do the math, not really, but whatever, we’re special too!!). Emily Carr and VCC have less students, and even fewer who drive, so they’re stuck having to pay more because they of their lack of rich-kid students. Does that suck? Hell, yes!! But, don’t complain to Translink, go argue to the Provincial government to either subsidize your bus passes or force/lobby Translink to provide them with affordable U-Passes.

And there was the asshole: crazy old fart who hasn’t shaved, or showered in a week, and has his bus pass around his neck on a piece of string. His complaints (he admitted he had no constructive points, only bitching points) were as follows: 1) We need more corporate taxes to pay for transit. They get off scot-free in society, and they control our transit system. Urgghhh, I hate corporations, they’re like my asshole, really, really dirty! 2) You men, and old ladies, running Translink are undemocratic. None of you are elderly, poor, or even disabled. Shame on you all for being unrepresentative of transit users, and therefore a horrible group of people. (Now is where I would rant about the delusional necessity that only people within minority groups can represent those group’s interests, but this article is becoming a bit too long.) 3) Oh yeah, and Translink it’s your responsibility to fight urban sprawl. Bow-wow!!!

SO, what can you expect from Transit. 1) Probable economic crisis and lower service in 2012; 2) More rapid transit; 3) Possibly an #N17 that runs all night long, now all students can get plastered in Stanley park and still make it back to campus for a late night skinny sip off the 10-meter.

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02 July, 2008

Update

The Devil's Advocate hasn't been very active lately. It's summer. I'm lazy. But that will change. Starting next week, there will be weekly updates featuring real content (now with 50% less libel) and a new, sexier page design (hopefully - I'm still figuring out Wordpress)

If there is anything in particular you would like to see the Advocate do, comment away.

-Aaron

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20 June, 2008

Why I Hate Utah: Youth Theater Review

It was a Tuesday afternoon and I was in dire straits. I had no job to go to, no class, no interviews, no dates, no social engagements, and no more alcohol. Naturally, I did what any enterprising young man of my generation would do: I turned to Facebook. Lo and behold, my friend Keegan had invited me to see a play being previewed that very night. A chance to watch something funny while simultaneously pretending to be cultured? How could I refuse? Why I Hate Utah is the story of a man named Liam, played by Rueben Tillman, who travels the roadways of America, trying to escape a curse: his heart will not beat and everything he cares for (including his beloved Constance) has a tendency to mysteriously blink out of existence. On his travels he comes across a roadside diner, which is inhabited by the powerful and mysterious Lucy, played by Chelsea Cameron, and her eccentric and lovable band of misfit underlings. Hilarity ensues.

I must confess, I went into the performance expecting to be about as disappointed a Baptist girl on her honeymoon. And who could blame me? As our parents are all too keenly aware, youth performances are… well, they’re youth performances. As much as it hurts me (as a blue-moon youth performer myself) to admit, there isn’t really much genre distinction between a play put on by eighteen year olds and a third-grade Christmas pageant.

So when I say I was pleasantly surprised… well, let’s just say it was a big goddamn surprise. Yes, the play has problems: the writing varies wildly between pure genius and rambling incoherency, characters occasionally pull emotional one eighties, the most pivotal moments take place off stage, there is a confusing and non-sequiter (though amusing) interlude with a demonic puppet, one of the plot twists is predictable by the fifth line, and the ending is deeply unsatisfying.

Despite this, I’d buy another ticket in a heartbeat.

I think the reason I found the ending so unsatisfying was because I cared so much about the characters. In some ways, Why I Hate Utah feels more like the pilot episode of a TV Show: nothing is resolved by the end of the two-part premier, perhaps because all of our favourite characters need to be free to traipse off into the sunset and have more adventures. By the time the final bows were taken, I was already wondering where those characters were going to be. And because of this, because I found myself so interested, so desperate to find out what happens next, I found myself totally immersed in the story. A pleasant surprise considering I was expecting stammering teenagers fumbling their way through awkwardly written lines, pausing every few seconds as their co-stars whisper their lines to them from off stage. Speaking of which, perhaps the biggest goddamn surprise of all of them was the quality of the acting. I’m no stranger to the ear-rending, soul-destroying world of teen acting. I’ve literally fled Shakespearean performances in a desperate (and ultimately futile attempt) to delay my inevitable descent into misanthropic alcoholism. Thankfully, the cast of Why I Hate Utah is composed of some of the best student actors I’ve ever seen. Hell, why beat around the bush: some of these guys were so damn good they make some of the professional theater groups I’ve seen look like a bunch of chimps doing William Shatner impersonations. Chelsea Cameron, playing the aforementioned Lucy, is a particular treat, lending a sensibility to the role which is at once world-weary and playful, like a 1930’s Hollywood starlet. Emily Snee, who plays Chloe, brings an organic and multifaceted approach to her character’s relationships, a style which allows her to evoke emotions as disparate as sorrow and comedy in the same line. Reuben Tillman, who plays our hero, Liam, manages to make the transition from stammering fish-out-of-water to a Bad-Ass who rebukes the Devil without ever seeming forced, so that the arc of his character development seems as natural as any I’ve ever seen. Even if the writing wasn’t compelling and the

But let’s be honest: you won’t see a play just because I tell you it’s good. You’re a university student, slothful by nature and infinitely more inclined spend your nights torrenting the Lost season finale and drinking Jello-shots than you are to go to a play. Those are just the facts. So I’ll offer another reason you should go see this play: it’s a youth performance. Andrew Ferguson, writer and director of the piece in question, told the DA that he believes that youth bring a perspective to theater that can’t be found in plays written, performed, or directed by adults. He’s absolutely right, of course, but consider this as well: none of came to university because we get excited at the prospect of writing essays or kissing our TA’s asses (well, metaphorically anyways. Depends how hot your TA is). We came because we wanted to have fun, meet interesting people, and broaden our horizons. Good youth art is rare, as are good youth artists. Vancouver’s youth culture scene is amazing, and failing to take advantage of it not only ignores one of the best reasons to go to school in this city, it also damages the culture scene itself. Artists need an audience as much as frat boys need keggers: to remove the latter totally invalidates the existence of the former. By patronizing youth artists, you’re not only entertaining yourself, you’re also supporting Vancover’s rich cultural future. After all, someday these youth actors will be mature actors, just as you and I will someday be mature audiences. Well, for a given value of mature, in any case.

Why I Hate Utah is playing until Sunday night. Shows are at 7:30 every night, with a 2pm matinee on the weekend dates. Five dollars at the door will get you a ticket. The venue is Carousel Theater on Granville Island, 1411 Cartwright Street. Don’t miss it. Who knows when you’ll have another chance to support the arts, enjoy yourself, and pretend to be cultured all at the same time again?

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25 April, 2008

game, set, match.

I should be writing my paper. . .

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22 April, 2008

Eden hits below the belt

My bastard boyfriend Eden Hart decided to send this video to me. It hurts Eden, thanks a lot. I'm going off to cry in a SUB bathroom now.



I guess that's what I get for having an open relationship.

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UBC SDS are a bunch of fakes!

Those of you with too much time on your hands may have noticed the cute article on UBC Insiders explaining the historical origins of Students for a Democratic Society (aka the SDS)

What I find interesting about this is that, despite all the quaint black and white pictures, the SDS of the 1960s is a completely different organization than the SDS of today, which is just two years old.


If you really don't want to study for that astrophysics exam tomorrow, check out the wiki here for the complete SDS history, but basically the movement that culminated with stand on top of cop-car mounting awesomeness in Berkeley was hijacked by radicals and fell apart by the end of the decade. Step into my time machine and let us fast forward 40 years. Wave when you pass Reagan.

2006. A group of students decide to create a movement based on participatory democracy. An interesting concept, and the definition varies depending on who you ask. As far as I can tell, to the SDS this means a non-hierarchical structure so everyone can have their voice heard equally (this also allows for infinite buck passing) I've also heard definitions that go from randomly choosing 20 UBC students to sit on a committee to projects like VFM to displays of asshatery like this. Now that last one is just silly.

Recent events seem to have shown that UBC SDS prefers the "being annoying" form of action. Take small issues and beat the crap out of them. Way to go guys. But I got to wondering - are all SDS chapters like this? Just by looking at their website they don't seem that batshit (though my agents at Berkeley tell me otherwise)

Regardless, I must give them credit. They did a good job organizing protest to the Iraq war, and now at least they are vocal, which is important in the US especially given how much our media sucks. But when they finally get attention they don't know what to do with it. Or at least that's how it works at UBC.

But here is the amazing thing:

There is no UBC chapter of SDS. Wha? I'm gonna say that again: according to the wiki attached to the official SDS website, there is no SDS chapter at UBC. So, while it is entirely possible they just suck at keeping their site up to date (which is lame if their big thing is participatory democracy, but entirely possible especially since they use fucking listservs) or it is possible the organization at UBC calling itself SDS never bothered to join. Which one is is kids?

Looks like the latter. The UBC SDS site even says they are only "inspired by" the SDS of the US. As in not actually part of. This wouldn't be a problem if they didn't write articles justifying their legitimacy as a continuation of the original SDS movement. To me this sort of seems like shitting in a Starbucks cup, calling it a Frapachino, and selling it out of your van. Sure it looks the same on the outside but whoa!

I don't know. Part of me wants to cry "shame!" for co-opting the name of another organization and the other part of me doesn't care. Or I could be completely wrong. Or maybe just beautiful. Damn beautiful. Tell me I'm beautiful. That's what the comment thing is for.

<3

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18 April, 2008

VFM!

Make sure you register to vote in VFM - voting ends on the 30th. So far only 15 people have registered. . . go here to vote.

Also check out this blog: http://knolltruth.blogspot.com/


Oh wait. It is by invite only. Guess you can't handle the truth. Maybe when they discover the truth they'll let us know. Sorry Knoll folk, I like a lot of your ideas it is just your execution. . . leaves something to be desired.

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12 April, 2008

Jasmine Rezaee supports freedom of speech!

As some of you may know, yesterday (last day of class aka the one day alcoholism is socially acceptable) a little group calling itself Kno to the Knoll held a protest. Almost immediately, the famous campus activist and ardent free speech advocate Jasmine Rezaee arrived to show her support. Thanks to Gerald, as always, for having his camera present.[sorry about the formatting - I'd sort it out if I had the time - just click "see full post" at the bottom]



Here we see Jasmine arriving. Note how both parties use body language. Jasmine, a seasoned activist, has much to teach Kno to the Knoll about the nuances of a proper demonstration.











Here Jasmine shares her sign making skills. As any environmentalist can tell you, conservation of scarce resources is important. Jasmine makes sure nothing goes to waste.









Another lesson in non-verbal communication. Sometimes fringe elements can take over an otherwise peaceful event and turn it ugly. Jasmine shows the proper way to respond to vile chants of "peaceful protest" in a way sure to earn her the respect and admiration of her followers.







Jasmine shared much of her knowledge of activism with Kno to the Knoll on Friday, all of which helped contribute a successful rally. I think this will be a beautiful partnership. See you at P.F. Changs! I'll be having my sauce extra spicy.

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