"All art is quite useless" -Oscar Wilde

"Don't romaticise your 'vocation.' You can either write good sentences or you can't. There is no 'writer's lifestyle.' All that matter is what you leave on the page." -Zadie Smith

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting, struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness" -George Orwell

Friday, January 28, 2011

Squash and Moncton

From January 7-9 I had the opportunity to participate in the 2011 Canadian Men’s Team Squash Championship in Moncton, New Brunswick. Overall, it was a great experience, though I kind of fell behind in school and the squash was disappointing. As a member of both the provincial team and the Sask Squash board I was selected to write a report on the tournament. I decided to throw it on the blog despite it maybe being a little technical. Squash is an individual sport, and the squash tournament an overwhelmingly solo expedition. Because of this reality, team tournaments (they’re rare - I’ve only ever played in two), which encourage an atmosphere of camaraderie instead of individualism, are always good experiences.
Men’s Teams 2011 Report
Moncton was a fascinating place and, overall, the tournament a positive experience. Beginning with how the drivers met us in the airport, the fact that the community was excited about hosting the tournament was obvious. Everyone I came into contact with was very welcoming and accommodating. Justin contrasted their behaviour with that of Torontonian hosts, who really could care less about the player’s experience and the tournament’s success. Though the interactions made me realize the terrible state my French is in, a reality I actively try to not think about, everyone was wonderful. It seemed there always were people available to help, whether you needed a ride to the club or merely a recommendation on where to find a good pint.
 A highlight for me was playing/watching high-level squash, and interacting with the other players. The level of discourse at this tournament was remarkable – these people know both their squash and know how to talk about it. I heard enough insights into the sport, and its societal reputation, to keep me thinking for weeks.
One conversation stands out in my mind. Though it doesn’t really have much to do with this report, I figured that I’d share it. With two very talented players, Justin and I discussed the difficulties faced in broadcasting squash and brainstormed the reasons televised squash has never caught on. I could write forever on the subject, but will just outline the main points. Squash is a game of subtleties, and professional athletes play in a way that only those with squash experience are able to properly comprehend the athleticism and skill involved. Also, there are very few breaks in squash a squash match. The continuous play leaves no time for instant replays or in-depth commentator analysis. Also, the fact that squash is played in a box limits the potential for artistic/interesting shooting. All these problems can be overcome with time, effort, creativity, and money. It would totally be worth it too, if it mean making squash interesting to a broader audience.
We placed ninth, well below our seeding. We lost our first match to a very dominant Manitoba team. Afterwards, we lost 2-1 to both PEI and NWT. This result was thoroughly disappointing. It is true that we are a much smaller province with much fewer squash players, but, as a board, we need to discuss possible ways to improve future results. Options include modifying the current eligibility restrictions, or altering the selection criteria. A selection model similar to the Canada Winter Games team might be beneficial, where interested players adhere to a predetermined training schedule and submit their training details to the selection committee.
In closing, the club in Moncton was another highlight. Built by the squash community itself in an abandoned hockey rink, it serves as a good model for our member-run potential club. The members were both pleased with their club and eager to talk about its conception and growth.  Although I can’t speak to the financial state the club is in, I can say it, in no way, feels “run down.” It features three courts, showers, a small bar, a small weight/cardio area, and, well, everything that we need. Since its opening six years ago, its membership has steadily grown and it now has a full-time pro. The social atmosphere of the club was immediately apparent. It is a warm and welcoming place, full of people who love squash. It showcased the exact environment one wants to bring new players into, and will keep them there, allowing the sport to flourish.
-Noah Out

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Years and Mortlach

This year I made a new years resolution, the first one in recent history. The plan is to improve my writing. I decided, as someone trying to be a journalist, it’s probably kind of a good idea.

I also decided that, as with everything else, it would require conscious effort. Much to my annoyance, I spent years in squash lessons, meticulously practising the mundane. It played off – I’m now a mediocre squash player. And, since I got older, and stopped lessons, my game has grown stagnant.

How do I intend to improve my writing? I think I’m just going to write, write, read, and write. Oh, and I bought a copy of Plotnik’s “Spunk & Bite.” Subtitled “A writer’s guide to bold, contemporary style,” the book encourages one to write forcefully, richly textured, and full of surprises. It centres on a sort of break-any-and-all-conventional-rules-if you-have-a-good-reason-for-doing-so mantra.

The problem lies in that I find it tough to write with bite when I consider the subject somewhat gummy. This is partially where this blog comes in – I’d like to write in a way that produces something that doesn’t really have anywhere else to go. Though to do so within reason: keep it professional. I could write emotionally charged rants about my ex-girlfriend, and how much she sucks, but, we both know, no one really wants to read that. If I cross that line, and this becomes a “dear diary” sort of thing – someone please intervene. Thanks. Posting a mess like that in a public place requires a certain degree of egoism – “people want to read about my life and care about my problems because I’m so interesting and articulate.” I digress…

Anyways, the real point of this post is to post a link to my Mortlach story. As a journalism class we all went to the small town of Mortlach, met some interesting people, raided some haunted houses, and crashed on a school gym floor. Overall, it was a great experience. The town was deliciously friendly and hospitable. I decided to post this story partially because it’s the first feature piece that I’ve written, but also because it’s one of the only things I’ve written that I haven’t felt an inexplicable urge to disown a week later.

In brief, it is about the diminishing importance, and subsequent disappearance of grain elevators and trains in rural Saskatchewan. I’ve always had a fascination with trains. They’re sweet.

-Noah out

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


This is the first story that I wrote for our student publication, Ink Online. In brief, it’s a look at the production of the University’s third play, Eurydice.

The show doesn’t open for another month or so, so I originally intended to focus on the immense amount of effort that goes into producing an hour-and-a-half play. In addition to casting, costumes, and all those more technical aspects of production, I was interested, if not surprised, to learn the sheer amount of time invested in rehearsal. All the actors, and the director, come together for about 20 hours a week for the month leading up to opening night. Apparently way more goes into a play than merely memorizing lines and not forgetting them.

I actually went to one of the rehearsals to take pictures and, though pretty raw, the run-through I watched piqued my interest. The stage was cluttered with wooden frames. I pictured these frames ornately dressed, becoming the visually stunning set Katie Moore described in her interviews. This alone is reason enough for me to go to the actual production.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to lock down an interview with the director, Dan Macdonald before my deadline, so I had to shift the focus of the article more towards the play itself. The play, written in 2003, is a modern retelling of a well-known Greek myth. Those myths have so much humanity in them they have a certain timeless quality. The play should be an interesting combination of old and timeless with the new and timely.

-Noah out