Thursday, December 13, 2012

Creating Friendships

Something I want to do all year with my blog is to promote different groups and clubs here at UTSC. Most of us are busy with a full course load and part-time jobs so although we make the intention of getting involved we might not have the time to go out and research different groups. 

Recently, I stumbled upon a group on Facebook with a mission statement that immediately caught my attention. It is something that I personally have strong opinions about which means all of you get to hear about it! Instead of going on a rant about my opinions I decided to ask someone with first-hand experience to share theirs. This way you won’t have to read another Moiz rant and you can learn about the program from the views of somebody who has been through it. 

Yesterday, I spoke to Gabriela Osorio about the Best Buddies Program at UTSC, what she’s experienced and what the program hopes to do in the future. 

Where did you find out about this opportunity and why did it interest you?

I first heard about it in high school through a friend. She found out about it through her volunteer work and was looking for someone to start a chapter with at our school.

What initially interested me was something I hadn't realized before: that people with intellectual disabilities may feel isolation in their everyday lives due to the general population's negative stigma associated with neurological disorders. It seems obvious now, but it was a thought that had never occurred to me before! The fact that a solution to easing that isolation is something as simple as being a friend really struck me. I couldn't wait to tell everyone about the program.

Besides being a friend, what else is this program about? What does it hope to accomplish?

To me, one of the fundamental missions in participating with Best Buddies is letting someone know that people other than their family or caregivers are there for them, support them and want to spend time with them. It's all about making friends, having fun and learning from each other.

Can anybody be a part of it? What are the requirements?

Of course! Friendship isn't only for a select group of people. [Laughs] 

The only requirement I can think of is the ability to maintain a basic commitment to the program and to your new friend. We require people to treat their new friendship with utmost respect as they would any relationship, and not just walk away or bail on the friendship because they're busy. There is flexibility in the friendships as with any, just as long as it is handled with care.

With all the great things you’ve previously mentioned, why do you think the program is under the radar?

It hasn't been promoted enough around campus, most people haven't heard about it. There is also a negative stigma due to lack of knowledge about intellectual disabilities and those that have them... people are scared/hesitant to volunteer to be a friend.

Also, people misunderstand the degree of commitment required of them and see it a becoming a burden.

What kind of commitment specifically is required?

We only ask that people attend the monthly group events and communicate with their buddies via phone or email twice a month and go on one-on-one or group outings with them occasionally. It totals to an average of five hours a month ... most other volunteer positions require five hours a week!

How can people participate in the Best Buddies program?

Attend a group event --> get paired up with a new friend

Become an associate member:
1) Aid in the promotion of the program around campus
2) Someone who helps to plan/attend group events, special events and any fundraisers we may hold.
--Visit our Facebook page to access a link to sign-up.
--No facebook? contact us as

Any advice for somebody who is possibly considering signing up but hesitant to do so?

It's a little greedy to keep your presence all to yourself when it could have a profound impact on another's life isn't it? [Laughs] What are you waiting for, make a new friendship! I'm sure that any hesitation is the result of a lack of information about the program, so feel free to contact me or Luxshi Amirthalingam for any more information! Both of us are really passionate about the program and development of the UTSC chapter, so we'd be more than happy to talk to you about it and how/why you should get involved.

Huge shout out to Gabriela for putting time aside to do this interview and educating myself and all our readers about this wonderful program!

Also, if you need advice on anything you can always hit me up in the comments section below or on twitter. This is something I am very passionate about as well so I’ll help in any way I possibly can.

Until next week,
Peace and love.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why is learning so difficult? A meditation

It’s cram season, and I’m just wondering, do we appreciate what we learn, or do we focus too much on grades and consider our education just a mere obstacle to a career?

Do we abhor exams because we consider the routine studying and refining of our skills a waste of time? Do the delightful feelings of mastering certain equations, biological models, and writing skills become lost to the incomprehensible novelty of the internet?

Here’s a question for you upper university students: How do you keep rediscovering the things that brought you glee when you first entered university, when faced with redundancy, a more deliberate pace, and an emphasis on refining instead of discovering?

I think, as exam season hits us we should take the time to reflect on why the things we study interest us, or ever did so in the first place; how much more serious and realistic our ambitions have become; and to really acknowledge that we’re getting better at exactly what we want to do.

For me, entering university was the most exciting time of my life, I could study art, computers, psychology, English, and science all at once. I was enthralled by learning all subjects at such an extreme pace, and my mind was always reaching for new ideas. The social Reddit-like internet was still young and could easily provide unlimited entertainment through the most interesting personal stories upvoted from all around the world. Funny cat pictures were ACTUALLY funny.
There was an old lecturecast that I watched, where the psychology profesor said that when you’re 18 you’re at the smartest you’ll ever be. Then, as you begin to shed useless and redundant neurons, you slowly lose the ability to process new information quickly. However you become wiser, and the experiences you will gain will give you different abilities that younger people don’t have.

I considered this a moment to really seize the day, carpe diem, or #YOLO, whatever your experience leads you to call it. I knew that university would be the best time of my life to grasp at as many straws of knowledge that I could in order to give myself a knowledgeable base to forever stand on.

As I’ve progressed I’ve settled on the humanities, especially English, focussing on the act of learning to write personal stories, poems, and essays that would hopefully allow people to connect over shared experiences and learn with me. I will always be grateful for the breadth of a university education, and for the forced lesson that, learning to love what you want to do is not an easy task, and you will often find yourself hating what you used to love, but when you can stand back and see how much you’ve grown from this forced progress, it’s all worth it in the end.
My girlfriend ripped a poem out of a pocket Rumi book and gave it to me. I think it’s worth sharing at a time when we all feel like we need to surpass our expectations and get the best marks we could ever strive for.
The mouse-soul is nothing but a nibbler.
To the mouse is given a mind
proportionate to its need,
for without need, the All-Powerful
doesn’t give anything to anyone.
Need, then, is the net for all things that exist.
A person has tools in proportion to his need.
So, quickly, increase your need, needy one,
that the sea of abundance
may surge up in loving-kindness.
-Mathnawi II, 3279-80; 3292

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Can't study? Here's why

Can't study? Me too. Let us take a minute to examine the exact underlying causes for this inexplicable disposition. I mean it could not possibly be because we are lazy procrastinators with a Facebook/Twitter/Reddit/Tumblr addiction... NO, NEVER, PERISH THE THOUGHT. :3

If you start to become hysterical in the defense of your work ethic, you, my friend, have a problem. I also have a problem. Besides the random mood swings, the attention span of a squirrel on cocaine and a tendency to start new TV show series a week before my finals I say I hold up pretty well. Or maybe I'm a jungle of bad decision making mixed in with a foul habit of displacing the blame. Who can say?

Here are a few reasons I often use to convince myself that it wasn't my fault: 

  • The weather is too nice/OOooo pretty snow. *proceeds to frolic without a care. 
  • My friends distracted me by watching all the Youtube videos I was watching. 
  • The internet. 
  • Global warming. 
I made this.

As you can see excuses don't always need to make sense. 

Now here are some legitimate concerns UTSC, from my experience, has when it comes to facilitating studying:

  1. The library -- is a zoo. Low enforcement of noise levels and fear of student reactions keep the policing to a minimum. Up until recently, before the security guard rounds, we had a legitimate problem with students from other unis stealing our space. Cough York cough Ryerson.
  2. The Student Centre -- too noisy, and the quiet spots usually host some couple making out (true story, the Women's Centre posted a sign about it. 
  3. The Science Wing -- after dark it feels like things from 'The Grudge' will appear out of the shadows. 
  4. Tim Hortons -- chocolate danish > textbook.
  5. The Valley Patio - Winter not applicable/summer too pretty. 
  6. Annexing random open classrooms -- that's cool, just don't be in there when a club is having an event and take three years to pack your stuff up.
  7. Comp labs -- my fav except when those chicks who talk REALLY loudly about their eyebrows for 20 minutes and stalk guys on Facebook for longer show up and you are ashamed to be a woman.
  8. The IC -- amazing study rooms with a view. If only they weren't taken 24/7...
  9. Your friend's house on Res -- no explanation required.
  10. Rex's Den - it works for a couple of people I know and their service takes so long you could definitely finish a 30-page reading while you wait.
Here's a fun little anecdote. The reason I am hostile towards the Yorkies is because last year a couple of guys with 'bad boy' swag decided to visit our library. I had a midterm the next day and they very loudly decided to voice their opinions on UTSC, in the library. How do I know they were from York? Eavesdropping isn't hard when you can hear people over your headphones. 

Despite the fact that they couldn't find any 'hot girls to chop' they lowered their standards and proceeded to ask me 'wassup' five times before recognizing that my textbook was my only potential partner.

Totally reminds me of this,

Conclusion? Studying is hard and the universe conspires to turn you against it. I mean sometimes the subject matter is just mind numbingly unnecessary. For example my friend on Facebook:

I think I made my point. I hope I've provided you with enough scapegoats to explain those grades we're about to get this semester. Don't worry though I've stocked up on tissue and got plenty to spare. 
Meanwhile, while we still have hope this is my attitude towards finals,

Stay strong UTSC!

And Happy Holidays since this is my last entry till January :D

<3 Zarish

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

UTSC: Changing Views

If there's anyone who still complains about the aesthetics of UTSC, I'd point them to what it used to look like. Back when it was still Scarborough College the grounds were spartan and depressing, devoid of the greenery and glassy modern buildings that we enjoy today.

Much has changed in forty years. We have five new buildings to complement the old three, and huge extensions on two of them. Coinciding with a growing student population, the campus has changed from a lonely scattering of concrete buildings to a dense city-like complex.

One day while looking at the old photos of UTSC on the wall near the athletic centre, I was inspired to compare old photos with new ones to illustrate these differences.

1974. Courtesy of André Salvador.
The AA courtyard, once sparse and concrete, has been given some life

1960s. Photo from
The original shot was taken further back than this one, but there's an entirely new forest that blocked my way.

Undated. From UTSC Archives

Undated. From UTSC Archives

Undated. From UTSC Archives
The bookstore added a floor, and the exterior of the ARC has been furnished with more greenery and clutter

1974. Courtesy of André Salvador.
There is now a large tree in the way, and the pathway has wandered

Undated. From The First Twenty-Five Years
The second photo couldn't be taken from the original view exactly because the HW building was in my way. Was an extension built? I also suspect that the statue was moved slightly

Undated. From The First Twenty-Five Years
Notice that the modern-day Market Place area used to be just a collection of couches

Undated. From UTSC Archives

1991. Courtesy of The Underground
Yes. The de facto entrance and car loop to UTSC used to be where the AA building is now. The welcome sign has been pushed back much closer to Military Trail.

Undated. From UTSC Archives

From The First Twenty-Five Years

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

That time of year: A very relevant survey

My joy is boundless, the sheer intensity of my euphoria has become a source of irritation to many. You however, are probably not one of them, BECAUSE IT’S THE LAST WEEK OF CLASS!  Freedom prances in front of us, just beyond reach.  Exam time is approaching and thus, we have all begun to you know what.
I’m obviously not about to say ‘study’.

CALCULATE. I meant to say CALCULATE.  Sitting there on a desk or floor somewhere, ignoring your text books in lieu of feverishly calculating current grades, approximate future grades and total course marks. Tis the time of year when many a Scarberian breaks out his/her, her/his (don’t want to piss anyone off now do I? Gender binaries people!) calculator for possibly the first time all semester, to figure out how much Sunday night booze they should’ve laid off. Of course, we all have that iphone/android user friend that points out how great their phone calculator is and they don’t even need an actual one like totally like omg.

Anyway, getting to my point. I have decided that we should all self-reflect Dalai Lama style; figure out how much effort we’ve actually put into school work this semester, it may save us a lot of anger and outrage at our Profs, for not giving us 80s in every course. WE DESERVED IT...or did we? So run off to your cupboards, find something in those Gryffindoor/Dalai Lama colours and behold.

Maha’s completely relevant mini-questionnaire that will jolt you back to life and motivate the    living daylights out of you.

Pick a course.

1       How many course lectures did you attend this semester?
a)      Less than 5
b)      5-7
c)       8-10
d)      All
e)      Most, but I slept through every single one and thus learned little to nothing.

2       How many tutorials/Labs did you attend this semester?
a)      All the ones that are graded
b)      I don’t have tutorials
c)       Most
d)      None, technically. But my BFF signed my name on the attendance sheet and Genius TA didn’t notice
e)      None

3     How many course readings have you done as of now?
a)      All, I go straight to the library after class and do all my readings. Then go volunteer at the soup kitchen
b)      I don’t have readings assigned because my Prof is a freakin Unicorn
c)       Less than half
d)      More than half
e)      Exactly half to the tee.
f)       None, but that’s how I roll. I’ll cram in time
g)      ...Um, none

4    Are you confident that you will pass this course?
a)      Yes, Moron
b)      Yes. If I don’t get an A, I will start a protest
c)       If I get above a 70 on the final
d)      No
e)      Probably not. Not dropping it was a mistake
f)       Probably, *fingers crossed*, or whatever Scientologists do

5  Did you get a decent amount of sleep this semester?
a)      No
b)      I did not
c)       Absolutely Not
d)      Nein
e)      Non
f)       Niet
g)      Na
h)      Nabro

I asked myself these questions. The answers were surprisingly revealing, my work ethic stared right back at me. Try it, you may just feel slightly better about yourself, or drastically worse I suppose. Either way, you’ll get a kick out of wasting some time.

Au revoir UTSC. I hate Rosi.


Monday, November 26, 2012

The lost art

As I sit here in my room on this gloomy Sunday afternoon there isn't much inspiration. I have a great story idea but it won't be possible to write it until next week so I'm just sitting here thinking about what to talk about today. It's been all weekend and there literally hasn't been one good idea that I have written down that I could actually consider using for this blog post.

You know what, I'm going to go for a walk and hopefully that will give me some inspiration...

Well, it was snowing outside and the sun just started to set as I made my way back home. As I walked out of my house with my headphones in my ears I noticed that the streets looked quiet. I decided to take my headphones out of my ears in hopes of being inspired by natural noises and sounds I hear. I overheard a few conversations about the Grey Cup and thought maybe if I finish this blog in time I can check it out and hopefully watch Toronto win something sports-related for once.

Cool people take pictures on their walks.

I also got a chance to reflect on my high school days and remember the passion I once had for spoken word. Although the work-load in University has made it impossible for me to write like I used to, I vividly remember the feeling of accomplishment after writing a piece, the way my friends and I jumped in awe of each other's work, the butterflies I got before performing my poems in front of the spoken word club ... it all came back to me. Then I thought about it and it came to me: I'm going to use my blog post as a match in order to re-light the burning passion I once had for this beautiful art.

So I'm going to post my favourite poem written by me and hopefully it will inspire you guys to do the same. Whatever it was that you stopped doing because of change, I want you to start it again. Even if it's for one day, maybe one day is all you need to get yourself back into it. Positive things only, please.

Confessions of a 17 year old senior

Let me state this now
so there’s no misinterpretation whatsoever
I’m soft
I don’t like to fight
I’m not looking to argue
I’d much rather get along with you then find ways to put you down
or make you subtly feel like I’m better than you
I don’t have a complex of needing to prove myself
I won’t disrespect women just to make me appear to be more manly
that’s not what i'm into
as corny as it sounds
as weak as it may appear
my purpose on this planet is not acquisition of material objects
or sexual conquest with as many partners as I possibly can persuade
it’s not to be this macho gun slingin’ cowboy that
drinks heavy, cusses loudly, and punches people in the mouth when offended
I’m here for three reasons
to follow my dreams
to become the greatest man that i can be
and to spread the message of love
simple as that.

Next week I'll be interviewing a special guest for a very special blog post, stay tuned!

Until next week,

Peace and love. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

What Are YOU Looking Forward to Over the Winter Break?

Hey UTSC, Jakub here. I just realized I’m not writing any exams this term (writing classes FTW), so I was basically staying up all night not doing homework and thinking about what I can do when classes are done and I’m not supposed to be doing homework.

Because the only I could think of is that I’d probably be staying up all night studying programming out of my own volition (or avoiding studying and staying up all night), I decided to ask a few students what their plans were over the holidays.
NOTE: The nightness in the video.

Well, travelling, sleeping, seeing loved ones and studying sounds really nice. I’m looking forward to maintaining my vampire-like complexion, basking in fireplace heat and moonbeams, and hoping that the sun will never rise again. See you next week UTSC!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

So, do you like draw and stuff?

The answer I most often give^
As you all may remember, at some point I ranted about how when I tell people my major is 'studio art' I get asked the most eloquent of questions, "So, do you like draw and stuff?"

The short answer: "Yes."

The long answer: "Well, UTSC does not offer an explicit specialization. You can choose your courses according to your interests and that leads to an approximation of a specialization."

Art Student Owl = WIN
Why am I making this blog all about me? Besides being the centre of the known universe, I am also obligated on behalf of the art community at UTSC to advertise our existence. I would like to announce that next week is EXHIBITION WEEK!

Yes, all those agonizing hours of spilling paint on our pants, inhaling dangerous amounts of fixative spray (which would explain why I see pink bunnies flying a lot), and seeing spots from staring at our screens for too long have accumulated into the project we will be showcasing next week.

Who shall we be spotlighting? Three different classes!

Alexander Irving's VPSD58, Team Blue

Tanya Mars's VPSC56, Team Red

Will Kwan's VPSC69, Team Yellow 

I'll let you guess which course this is for... 

Love the name of the show

What to expect? Well, there is a healthy mixture of sculpture, video, drawings and performance pieces. Rumour has it that there is a 'Red Wall', army recruitment posters and even some animation!

Now that I've told you where to find the work, I suspect you might all be wondering if this is worth your time. Well the fact of the matter is that the following video is an art school reality...

Not to say all art critiques are like that but often it can feel like that. There we have that delightful conundrum of 'how not to mortally offend the artist while bring constructively critical'. I'll be honest, it is hard. Us art students put so much time and effort into these pieces, on top of which many deal with personalized subject matter, that we often become blinded by the emotional baggage we carry into the piece. Not to say all work is good or all work is bad but art is so subjective that sometimes you feel like you're about to poke a rabid bear before you speak...

Now that's I've sufficiently scared the living daylights out of you here is a cute cat picture to console you.

Performance piece which manifests the comical nature of the need to transmit one form of kinetic energy to another in sharp contrast to the docile inertia of domesticated animals.
In all seriousness however I would like to point out that everyone has a right to their own opinion. Even if it is in contradiction to the nature of the work that is just a given with art. People are allowed to derive what they see from work. I personally feel the most successful pieces are a source of controversy which force a viewer to think ... Or they could just be really really pretty. Like this:

Gustav Klimt <3

So come out and support us poor starving potential artists!

And so ends the shameless self promotion..

Always stay beautiful <3


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The young woman on campus

A young woman on campus stands at the door of the Women’s Centre, unsure of whether to go in or not. This young woman, one of many young women at UTSC and not really special in any way, or so she thinks, rocks back and forth from her heel to her toes in the airy hallway of the second floor of the student centre, a strangely quiet hallway—the young woman, a hypothetical young woman but no less real than you or I, is a victim of violence against women.

We can only guess about her life. Perhaps her boyfriend hits her sometimes when she’s being irrational and needy and “womanly” in his words, doesn’t mean it, regrets it later after he’s had some TV time to cool down, swears he doesn’t mean it, but she was being so irrational and clingy and womanly at the time, just a walking stereotype of an over-attached insecure woman, that he couldn’t help himself. This episode happens again and again, and every time it happens the more irrational and needy and insecure she feels, the more crazy and small and helpless she feels. Her friends are worried about her; her parents are worried about her. They sent her here.

This hypothetical young woman, standing outside the women’s centre, the more she thinks about it the deeper her nails dig into her palm in a feeling that’s painful and good.

The young woman on campus is one of many who suffer from violence against women (VAW). Others are victim to emotional, financial, psychological and spiritual abuse, intimate partner violence, child abuse, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, stalking, harassment, and femicide.

The young woman has seen posters around campus against VAW, but she’s never really made the connection between them and her life. She was there at the announcement for Build Act Change, a new campus program to combat violence against women, a program that will help women like her at UTSC.

Build Act Change is a partnership between the campus women’s centre and the Scarborough Women’s Centre. The program aims to stop violence against women through events promoting awareness, and ensuring that women experiencing violence have access to supports and resources. It’s a program that UTSC dean of student affairs Desmond Pouyat and MP Corleniu Chisu speak in support of passionately, and that our government pledged $200,000 towards, and that has dozens of employees and volunteers working tirelessly planning events from December to March.

For example, “What Makes a Man” by Build Act Change was last Wednesday, a conference about the pressures of masculinity that contribute to violence against women.

This program will ensure big changes on campus, for the women frightened by the periodic announcements of violence at UTSC, for women who have to be afraid of date rape and domestic abuse and an all-encompassing societal minimization of their personhood and efforts, and for the men who stand by them.

The hypothetical young woman, jittery to her very core in the cold hallway on the second floor of the student centre, unsure of whether to step forward and change the direction of her life right around, is not alone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

UTSC has a cold

You trudge through the cold at 10 a.m., climbing your third set of stairs. You’re walking up past some dude who looks like his parka is about to engulf him. He’s wearing a thick woolen hat and two pairs of gloves. Just as you’re about to dismiss his entire existence, you watch his head pull back, arms go up and entire body fall into one spasm. He lets out an enormous sneeze; there is no controlling its path of destruction. Mucus and saliva go flying everywhere, you can see bits of it stick to his gloves, and touch the stairway railing that you were planning to hold just 10 seconds ago. He only really manages to cover half his mouth, but the sheer power of the sneeze leaves a touch of dampness on your neck. His body has been taken completely by surprise as he struggles to find his balance, while simultaneously succumbing to a set of wracking coughs. You don’t get a chance to say, or even think “Bless you”, before he begins to hack like an 88 year old. Time to move far away from his side of the stairway. You may be concerned enough to ask him if he’s okay, but it's November in Canada, and you’re more worried about leaping out of harm’s way.

Then it happens. Two days after your encounter with the sneeze man, you feel it as soon as you wake up -- prickly throat, stuffy nose, the odd pang of an impending ear ache. It’s time to get out of bed, but not before you curse the living hell out of that guy and his virus-infested, germtastic saliva that probably found its way past your pristine immune system. It may also have been the 200 other people in your last lecture, 80 of whom sniffled through the prof’s endless drone. Who knows? Welcome to the changing season. You take a hot shower, or skip showering altogether, and whip up a mug of the hottest substance you can find. It’s going to be a long day, one scattered with everyone's favorite phrases:
“I’m getting sick."
“I feel sick."
“I freaking hate this weather, I’m so sick.”
The evolution of sickness, I call it.

These are the first signs of the approaching holiday season. Every other person looks like Rudolph, red nosed and swollen faced. People clutch to their hot chocolates for dear life; if only Jack had held on to that little piece of floating wood as vehemently, he and Rose might have lived happily ever after and become millionaires. When did Kleenex replace cell phones in every person’s hand? When did Tylenol Cold & Flu become more essential than coffee? Thank you, schizophrenic Ontario weather, you can’t make up your mind about how you want to spend each day, so you decide to creep up on us with random temperatures and leave us all at the edge of sanity. It’s too damn difficult, thinking before taking a sip of someone's iced cap, or sharing forks. Everyone looks like they’ve been attacked by mono, the Health & Wellness Centre is packed with people looking for doctors' notes, and hand sanitizer is going out faster than liquid cocaine.

What do we do? Some rush to get their flu shot. Despite the fact that this is a common occurrence, the flu suddenly becomes an uncontrollable epidemic, and the flu shot is the anchor that will keep you on this side of the storm. We all feel like we’re in Noah’s Ark, GET ON THE BOAT!  GET ON THE BOAT! (Or was it a ship?) Everyone left behind is a horde of zombies, waiting to welcome you into their ranks of mindless beasts. All you want to do is get back into bed and forget about organized education for a while. Maybe even forever, but let’s not get into that. There is no time to ponder the supposed preventative benefits of the flu shot, no time to count how many Strepsils you've sucked on, and how many bowls of chicken noodle soup you've sifted through only to eat the noodles and leave everything else floating in the broth. It’s time to either give in to possible sickness, or fight it and take a day off school or work, before it settles into your body for a few weeks of utter discomfort.
Game of Thrones is so right, prepare for the winter. Stocking up on Tylenol, chicken broth and hot tea is the only way you’ll win the seven kingdoms. That is, before you look into a mirror, and realize the sneezing man was actually you.

The doctor has spoken UTSC.
Stay warm,