The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com On strike since 1911 Sat, 04 Jul 2015 20:20:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Busty and the Bass charms Jazz Fest http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/07/busty-and-the-bass-charms-jazz-fest/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/07/busty-and-the-bass-charms-jazz-fest/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 20:27:09 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42382 McGill’s own takes up residency at Le Savoy for three nights

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When The Daily sat down with Busty and the Bass Thursday night, the nine-piece band had already played a two-hour set for its album release party at Apt. 200. The band members’ exhaustion was palpable, but so was the playful excitement necessary to power the three-hour set the band would go on to play later that night at Le Savoy du Métropolis, the cozy corner lounge tucked away in the massive concert venue.

Busty transitioned from being that one good act in the OAP lineup to the band everyone was talking about after winning the CBC Music Rock Your Campus competition in the fall of 2014. The $10,000 prize scored them the studio time and production needed to release their new album, GLAM. While GLAM is a professional rendition of the pieces that make up Busty’s live set, it doesn’t hold a candle to the energy created on stage by the musicians.

Bassist Milo Johnson summed up that energy when he explained the idea behind the notorious adjective in the group’s name: “The idea of ‘busty’ is like an adjective, [but] not the usual definition; [it’s when] you’re having a good time and letting go of the world and entering this crazy party zone, where it’s safe, but everybody’s having a good time.” That crazy frenetic energy felt from good live jazz is something Busty almost effortlessly provides, but it is far from effortlessly created.

“The idea of ‘busty’ is like an adjective, [but] not the usual definition; [it’s when] you’re having a good time and letting go of the world and entering this crazy party zone, where it’s safe, but everybody’s having a good time.”

Hatched in the basement of the Strathcona Music Building during Music Frosh, Busty runs on the technical training learned in class. “We all have a base level of technical proficiency,” said pianist and keyboardist Eric Haynes, “so we all come from that baseline and [we] all [speak] the same language [and have the same way of] approaching music […] so it definitely makes talking about music to each other a lot easier.”

However, Busty is far from a textbook jazz ensemble. Because of the members’ varied music tastes, the band puts out cover after cover of familiar songs spanning genres as disparate as hip hop and EDM. One hour into the set yielded a sampled masterpiece driven by Evan Crofton on synth and keys, featuring the wispy “never” and other sound elements from Disclosure’s “Latch” layered with powerful work from the band’s brass section. The packed room exploded with energy as the anthemic favorite pitched the room into an excited frenzy.

Yet, the audience response to the band’s more traditional jazz improvisations was equally as frenetic, if not more. A sublime piano solo by Haynes and gusty saxophone feature by Nick Ferraro had someone in the audience yelling “Holy fuck!” Somehow, the members of Busty and the Bass are able to present a genre of music largely foreign to their peers and get them dancing to it. They succeed in making instruments like the trombone and saxophone current to a demographic who can only vaguely remember John Coltrane and J.J. Johnson.

Now, more or less graduated from the Schulich School of Music, Busty is hitting the road. No longer ‘the college band to watch out for,’ the group must bank on the following it has been able to muster from quick tours during the semester to support it. If last night’s turnout is any indication, Busty won’t have a problem filling venues.


Catch Busty and the Bass at Le Savoy du Métropolis July 3 and 4 from midnight to 3 a.m.. Entry is free.

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Still no decision for Divest McGill http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/still-no-decision-for-divest-mcgill/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/still-no-decision-for-divest-mcgill/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 23:48:33 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42374 Board of Governors discusses divestment research, more budget cuts in sight

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McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) held its final meeting of the 2014-2015 academic year on May 21. BoG Chair Stuart Cobbett opened by commenting on the success of the recent Canadian University Board Association conference held for the first time in Montreal from April 30 to May 2. Cobbett stressed the importance of the conference in generating francophone interest, as it was a fully bilingual affair.

McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier spoke about her recent meeting with Quebec Minister of Finance Carlos Leitão. According to Fortier, Leitão mentioned a $73 million cut to Quebec universities in the 2015-16 school year. Out of the overall amount, the cuts imposed on McGill could range between approximately $9 to $11 million.

The BoG also approved the Declaration of Compliance to Quebec Treasury Board Pursuant to Loi 65.1, a motion that requires the University to publish or make public any contract into which it enters that is above an initial $25,000 threshold.

Speaking to The Daily, former Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Courtney Ayukawa noted that she found this declaration particularly important.

“I think it might be interesting to a lot of students that this is public knowledge on the McGill website. They might find it interesting to see who the university works with and has contracts with,” Ayukawa told The Daily.

CAMSR report on Divest McGill

Three members of Divest McGill attended the open session of the meeting. Members of Divest have submitted two petitions to the BoG over the past two years, calling on McGill to divest from fossil fuels

In May 2013, McGill’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) had advised the BoG to reject Divest’s original petition. Since then, CAMSR has updated its terms of reference to include grave environmental damage in its definition of social injury.

Reporting on the progress of CAMSR, Stuart Cobbett noted in the meeting that that they received a “very well put together and documented petition from Divest.”

“We are trying to work with [CAMSR] to make things as effective as possible,” Divest Campaign Organizer Kristen Perry told The Daily.

“We want to stress that the mandate of the Board of Governors committee is to rule on matters of social injury, [as opposed to] secondarily commissioning studies to look at the policy implications of their investment portfolios.”

McGill’s Secretary General Stephen Strople stated that the Board has called on the Royal Society of Canada, a national research council composed of distinguished scholars, to research the potential implications and consequences of divestment.

Speaking to The Daily, Divest member Sam Quigley stated, “With regard to study with [the] Royal Society, we are concerned that it is unnecessary because there is already an enormous body of research, and that it will cause a very significant delay in the process.”

“We want to stress that the mandate of the Board of Governors committee is to rule on matters of social injury, [as opposed to] secondarily commissioning studies to look at the policy implications of their investment portfolios,” Quigley continued.

Quigley concluded, “We are trying hard to respect their process. We are glad they are engaging, but we are a bit disappointed by their lack of regard for their own mandate so far, and we are hoping this will be rectified and that they will consider the social injury question, making a decision by July 1.”

Victor Frankel, another member of Divest, remarked that “CAMSR has given a 6 to 18 month timeline for the Royal Society study,” indicating that the July 1 deadline might not be met.

Newly-elected SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim, also newly elected to the CAMSR board, stated, “The hope is that the research will point to fact that it will be a socially responsible choice to divest.”

“I think divestment is attainable,” Ibrahim said.

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Ready to launch http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/ready-to-launch/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/ready-to-launch/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 14:18:06 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42361 McGill Rocket Team hosts unveiling ceremony

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Correction appended June 29, 2015.

What started out as an ambitious idea became reality for a group of students on June 17, when the McGill Rocket Team presented its first rocket. The team held a public exhibition of the rocket, named “Peregrine” after the falcon, at Lower Field throughout the day, followed by an official unveiling ceremony at the Frank Dawson Adams building in the evening.

The McGill Rocket Team is the latest addition to the numerous engineering design teams on campus. The team worked over the span of four months to build a recoverable rocket capable of reaching an altitude of 10,000 feet and releasing a 10-pound payload. These are the requirements for the basic category of the tenth annual Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC), which took place near Green River, Utah from June 24 to 27.

The rocket, which measures 9.5 feet in length with a diameter of 5.5 inches, is made of fibreglass and weighs approximately 40 pounds. The team used 3D-printed fins and a Von Karman nose cone to reduce aerodynamic drag. The rocket will be using solid fuel as propulsion and activate gunpowder charges to release the payload at 10,000 feet. The team chose a solar-powered glider as their payload which contains various sensors and instruments and will transmit data as it descends. If all goes well, parachutes will deploy once the payload has been released and both the rocket and payload will be recovered.

“We are in an era where there is talk of space exploration and commercial space travel. It’s very exciting to have the possibility of contributing to this.”

The McGill Rocket Team was founded by engineering students Aissam Souidi and Muhammad Hamza Tikka in October 2014. The team has picked up momentum since and grown to its current size of 70 students from a variety of faculties, including Science, Management, Arts, and Engineering.

Aissam Souidi, cofounder of the team, said, “When I came to McGill, I really wanted to get involved with something that has a real impact on the community. […] We are in an era where there is talk of space exploration and commercial space travel. It’s very exciting to have the possibility of contributing to this,” in an interview with The Daily.

Souidi believes the insights gained by the team experimenting on small scale rockets could potentially have implications “for bigger rockets made by [aerospace] companies like SpaceX.”

With one of the main costs in space expeditions being rockets, which are used to launch cargo and shuttles, building a reusable rocket would significantly reduce the cost of going to space. According to Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, “If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred.” The reduced costs could make space tourism and even space colonies on Mars a reality. SpaceX is currently testing its reusable rocket, Falcon 9, by trying to land it on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean after completing International Space Station resupply missions. The company has made two unsuccessful attempts so far; however, in the second attempt, SpaceX managed to land the rocket on the barge briefly, before it toppled due to the high speed of descent. More attempts to land the rocket have already been scheduled.

Unfortunately, unlike SpaceX, the McGill Rocket Team does not have millions to spend, nor does it have experts working for it. Instead, it depends on community fundraising efforts and its members’ motivation to learn and contribute. The team has relied on sponsors and crowdfunding on sites like Seeds of Change, an online fundraising platform for student groups at McGill.

Among the faculty in attendance at the unveiling ceremony was James Nicell, dean of the Faculty of Engineering. Nicell told the Daily “In all our design teams, students are on a very voluntary basis outside of the classroom. [They are] taking all the knowledge they gain in the classroom and are actually putting it into action in their designs […]. There is no better learning opportunity than that,” Nicell said.

“For sure in the next couple of years we would like to to improve on it, make it more efficient, and hopefully start winning the competition, [IREC], on an annual basis.”

Andi Rayhan, a U2 Computer Science student and a member of the McGill Rocket Team, spoke to The Daily about the self-learning involved in the project. “I am proud of the team, because this was our first year and to have finished this project in such a short time is, I’d say, impressive.” Rayhan added, “Not many of us had any previous experience, so we had to a lot of learning, self learning. [For example,] I had to learn about sensors and how to build circuits since I am not an electrical engineer.”

Kyle Weissman, a U2 Mechanical Engineering student, is part of the payload sub-team. With little prior experience in rocket-building, Weissman often reached out to professors, as well as advisors from high school. “Engineering is not a closed environment. You really have to be comfortable communicating and asking,” he said. “We are a team of 70; there is no assumption which we [make] do by ourselves, it’s a constant back and forth between team members and friends.”

Despite the challenge, for Weissman, “having an idea, designing it on Computer-Aided Design (CAD), and moving through physical iterations to have a beautiful product,” is worth the extra effort.

Looking ahead, Souidi acknowledges there is currently a low ratio of women to men on the team and says he will try to improve this next year by collaborating with Promoting Opportunities for Women in Engineering, also known as POWE.

The team members recognize that this is only their first rocket and believe their product will only keep getting better with time.

Steven Crisafi, a U4 Mechanical Engineering student who worked in the aerodynamics sub-team said, “This is a very basic rocket, we only had a few months to design and build it. For sure in the next couple of years we would like to to improve on it, make it more efficient, and hopefully start winning the competition, [IREC], on an annual basis.”

A previous version of this article stated that the IREC took place at Utah State University, while it actually occurred near Green River, Utah. The Daily regrets the error.

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Mysteries of human evolution http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/mysteries-of-human-evolution/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/mysteries-of-human-evolution/#comments Sun, 21 Jun 2015 10:00:59 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42325 What happened after early humans first left Africa?

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Updated June 22.

Even a journey of fifty thousand miles starts with a single step. For early humans, this pioneering first step out of Africa began a globe-spanning journey that would forever change life on Earth. However, aside from the location of this fateful first step, little else is known for certain about our early human roots, and there is much yet to be discovered.

For instance, one source of conflict within the archaeological community is the question of who actually took this first step and when it was taken. It is known that Homo erectus, an extinct species of hominid – a family including all modern and extinct great apes, including modern humans – left Africa about two million years ago and went on to inhabit much of Europe and Asia. However, it is unclear whether the upright walkers that moved into these areas were actually the ancestors of Homo sapiens, or humans as we are today.

The debate over early migration

One theory, known as the multiregional hypothesis, suggests that the descendants of these emigrated Homo erectus are indeed modern humans, and that the species evolved on multiple continents in a relatively uniform fashion. This model is based on the idea that separate Homo erectus populations established across Eurasia were in close enough proximity to allow for interbreeding and gene flow. As they evolved, they did so as a relatively cohesive unit despite their spatial separation. According to this theory, regional differences in climate and other factors created the variation in features we observe in the human population.

However, as new genetic and archaeological evidence continues to be discovered, the multiregional hypothesis is not as well-supported as the Out of Africa theory. The latter asserts that Homo sapiens evolved solely in Africa from Homo heidelbergensis, a descendant of Homo erectus. Then, around 200,000 years ago, they left Africa, replacing their hominid relatives that had already settled across Eurasia. However, given surfacing DNA evidence, the term “absorption” may describe the disappearances of these species better than “replacement.” The genes of early hominids such as Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis), a species that evolved from Homo heidelbergensis in Europe, compose a small percentage of the genomes of modern people living outside of Africa, indicating that there was likely interbreeding between humans and other hominid species.

Aside from the location of this fateful first step, little else about it is known for certain about our early human roots, and there is much yet to be discovered.

There are a couple of possible reasons for why Neanderthals, who possessed a similar brain size to modern humans and were in fact capable of complex speech, were replaced by modern humans. “Neanderthals had the intellectual capacity to develop greater complexity, but they had the disadvantage of living in an inhibiting environment,” McGill anthropology professor Michael Bisson told The Daily in an interview. The cold environments Neanderthals inhabited enforced living in small group sizes and high levels of social dispersion; thus, they were not required to develop the social institutions associated with higher-level group interactions. Moreover, the spread of technological innovations amongst Neanderthal communities would have been difficult because populations were so dispersed.

Although popular culture focuses heavily on Neanderthals as the main symbol of human evolution, there are actually a number of other, less well-known variants of archaic humans. The dominance of Neanderthals in the media is in large part due to their early discovery. “Between 1908 and 1922, an abundance of Neanderthal fossils were found in France, helping to cement their place as the prototypical ‘cave men’ in the public mind,” Bisson said. As the first to be found, Neanderthals became the centre of public debates about evolution.

However, the spread of humans into the Americas is not as well-documented in archaeological records as the spread of Neanderthals, as Europe possesses far better conditions for preservation of remains. It has long been believed that humans crossed the land bridge connecting Asia and North America at the end of the last ice age, going on to inhabit both North and South America – though scientists do not agree on this either. There is a discrepancy in possible time periods for this migration, with some scientists asserting circa 15,000 BCE and others circa 30,000 BCE as the likely date of bridging. “We really don’t know exactly what was going on, because now, everything’s underwater,” said Bisson.

Recent discoveries of early human species

Of the Denisovans, one of the recently discovered early hominids, all that has been found is a finger bone and two teeth. Found in the Denisova Cave in Siberia, the Denisovans lived around 41,000 BCE and represent a variant of hominid with DNA distinct from both Neanderthals and modern humans. “They could have been East Asia’s temporal equivalent of Neanderthals,” suggested Bisson.

Whether recent archaeological discoveries such as the Denisovans represent new species is the subject of hot debate within the scientific community. According to Bisson, the research community is comprised of “splitters” and “lumpers.” “‘Splitters’ recognize a greater number of species and ‘lumpers’ argue that there are fewer species and greater variation within species.”

“We’re extremely, perhaps disturbingly, successful.”

So what differences constitute a different species? “That is a judgement call,” Bisson explained. “There is no set number of base pair differences that defines a separate species.”

At an excavation site in Dmanisi, Georgia, a skull determined to be roughly 1.8 million years old was unearthed with four other skulls, all showing tremendous variation. It was originally suggested that the skulls belonged to multiple species. However, because they came from the same location and general geological time – within a 20,000-year period – it’s also possible and even likely that they represent a population of a single species. This discovery suggests that three of the major defined branches of hominids – Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Homo erectus – could represent a single species.

Regardless of our modelling and classification systems, of course, the way in which humans evolved across time and throughout the globe will remain unchanged. All that will change is our understanding of our beginnings. From our origins in Africa, we proceeded to inhabit the entire planet and create a global network of advanced societies, whether 200,000 or 1.8 million years ago. “We’re extremely, perhaps disturbingly, successful,” Bisson commented.

“Humans are going to be an interesting experiment. Can behavioural flexibility and intelligence compensate for the fact that we’re rushing towards an overpopulated Earth and exhaustion of terrestrial resources?” Bisson asked. Only time can tell. But perhaps, when we finally have an understanding of where we came from, we will have a clearer sense of where we will go, and how we can continue to survive.


Ha-ha-hominids: A McGill Daily science cartoon!

SCITECH_Daniella_Mysteries HominidsDanielle Amir | The McGill Daily

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M.I.A.: cultural appropriation or cultural engagement? http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/m-i-a-cultural-appropriation-or-cultural-engagement/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/m-i-a-cultural-appropriation-or-cultural-engagement/#comments Tue, 16 Jun 2015 15:15:00 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42317 International artist censored mid-production over fears of cultural appropriation

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Ahead of the release of her upcoming 3-song mixtape, M.I.A. took to Twitter to float a question about cultural appropriation to her fans. The English recording artist of Sri Lankan Tamil heritage tweeted, “I wanna talk about [cultural] appropriation! I’ve been told I can’t put out a video because it’s shot in Africa. Discuss.” At the time of publication, 1,212 accounts responded to the tweet. While some cited her Bad Girls music video as a glaring instance of exploitative appropriation, her fans overwhelmingly came to her defense, citing her efforts to make a “world town where music fashion [and] culture are remixed” as justification enough.

It’s concerning to see an artist like M.I.A. preemptively questioned about cultural appropriation when artists ranging from Taylor Swift to Lily Allen to Katy Perry to Shakira roll out grotesquely appropriative music videos without second thought, duking it out in the court of public opinion post-production. This is evidence of an insidious double standard in the music industry where white and whitewashed artists get a carte blanche for their appropriative images, while artists of color who push marginalized perspectives into the mainstream consciousness are told to check themselves.

M.I.A. tweeted, “What happens when I shoot videos in America or Germany it makes no sense to the 00.01% of artists like me.” While this comment doesn’t exactly capture the idea of cultural appropriation, it illustrates well its widespread misconception. M.I.A.’s label sees any engagement in a culture not of one’s own as cultural appropriation. However, speaking about, playing music from, and appearing with members of other cultures isn’t appropriation. Speaking like, claiming music from, and appearing as members of other cultures is cultural appropriation.

M.I.A.’s label sees any engagement in a culture not of one’s own as cultural appropriation.

At its core, cultural appropriation is a hegemonic exercise. Dominant social groups and cultures demand those they dominate to conform to their norms and standards. Historically, colonizers demanded this from those they colonized. In addition, the dominant group has the privilege of picking and choosing aspects of other cultures to emulate and claim, erasing any sort of analysis or awareness of the cultural, historical, or political nature of appropriated symbols or practices.

As Amandla Stenberg stated in her viral history class video Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows, “…the line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange is always going to be blurred, but here is the thing. Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated, but is deemed as high fashion, cool, or funny when the privileged take it for themselves. Appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the deep significance of the culture they are partaking in.”

Appropriation occurs when the appropriator is not aware of the deep significance of the culture they are partaking in.

M.I.A. most certainly does not approach her music from this benighted position. Just the opposite –  she actively works to reverse the process of cultural appropriation with the music she creates, consistently spotlighting groups around the world that Western media may otherwise ignore. M.I.A. re-politicizes symbols and sounds that are otherwise homogenized by the Western music industry and infuses them with adrenaline and anxiety to purposefully make the listener uncomfortable. Even her most numbingly simple hit “Paper Planes” sneaks scathing critique of American immigration policy and the artist’s placement on the Homeland Security Risk List in 2006 behind the song’s deceptively straightforward lyrics.

According to M.I.A’s tweets, the video in question is a one-shot take of a talented dancer from Côte d’Ivoire who “was never going to make ‘____ got talent’.” She elaborates that “if the music industry allows an African artist to come through this year on the intnl level, [she] would gladly give him this video for free,” betraying a fatalist view of inclusivity in the music industry most likely formed through experience.

For all intents and purposes, M.I.A. is a bulwark against the very cultural appropriation her label is wringing its hands over. As one of the few non-Black American artists of color with international reach who regularly engages in global politics, it is cause for concern when M.I.A. experiences pushback mid-production while her contemporaries are given a blank check.

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A case for the selfless selfie http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/a-case-for-the-selfless-selfie/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/a-case-for-the-selfless-selfie/#comments Sat, 13 Jun 2015 14:32:31 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42290 Exhibit surprises with unexpected take on social media trend

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Every muscle is tensed to create a perfectly formed pout. Her head is cocked slightly to one side to reveal her excellent cheekbone structure, her arms outstretched to highlight her slender figure.

It is the face of Kim Kardashian on the cover of her book Selfish, a compilation of selfies taken by the celebrity from 2007 to 2015. It is easy to mock and dismiss Kardashian’s book as the embodiment of narcissism and vanity, but the content of Selfish may not be as vacuous as one might assume.

“Selfie,” a group exhibition of thirteen artists of Iranian descent on display at the Maison d’Édition Ketabe Iran Canada (MEKIC) gallery, explores the role of the selfie in modern life using a variety of different mediums to challenge the attitudes surrounding this modern phenomenon.

Local artist Nima Emrani connects ideas about representations of the self in technology with how the self is perceived in nature. Emrani’s drawing depicts a large fish swimming in a pond whose eyes reflect the artist’s face. The drawing is meta-referential and therefore a crucial part of its commentary exists in its own self-awareness. Emrani demonstrates a freeing of the self from the confines of technological scrutiny by asserting control over his depiction in the eye of the fish.

“I want to be liked. I want to be shared, I want to be tagged, and I want to be commented on. The selfie is a way of finding importance in the world, but anything done in extremes is unhealthy” Afshar said in an interview with The Daily.

Just as Emrani controls the way he is depicted and shown to society in his piece, the act of selfie-taking gives an individual control over their own exposure. However, this image may be distorted, just as the fish eye distorts the image of the artist in the drawing, or as a fisheye lens can distort the photographic image captured in a selfie. The creation of a selfie, then, is an empowering process. Emrani’s work aligns the practice of selfie-taking with self-portraiture to illustrate this point.

In contrast, Nazanin Afshar picks up on this theme of distortion and criticizes the transient feeling of empowerment that the selfie produces in its creator. Two identically sized paintings, originally selfies by the artist, are placed alongside each other. A third canvas is hung to the right of these two paintings. It is an image of the artist’s bloodshot eye, but a circular mirror is transposed onto the canvas where the pupil should be. Viewers are forced to see themselves and confront the flaws in their naked image. The viewer is thus rendered powerless before the complete honesty of their own reflection, which stands in stark contrast with the two contrived images of the artist. Afshar approaches the selfie as an unsustainable tool for the expression of self-love by pointing to how it breaks down in the real world where flaws cannot be hidden.

“I want to be liked. I want to be shared, I want to be tagged, and I want to be commented on. The selfie is a way of finding importance in the world, but anything done in extremes is unhealthy,” Afshar said in an interview with The Daily.

Afshar’s piece speaks to the incapacitating effect of the selfie as the feeling of importance gained from taking selfies comes at an expense of defamiliarization with unfiltered depictions of the self.

On the whole, however, the artists featured in the exhibition seem to sympathize with the motivations that underlie the modern selfie. For many, the selfie serves as a storytelling device.

Artist Ronak Kordestani, for example, took photographs of herself for twenty-four days. At the end of this process, Kordestani used mixed media to etch out hidden emotions that were less obvious in the original photographs. “The appearing and disappearing patterns added to the image, projected my day-to-day emotions in a self-observatory process,” Kordestani told The Daily. In this sense, the artist’s self-reflection dictated the creation of the piece. The chronological layout of the selfies and the visually highlighted emotions Kordestani reveals help her to convey a narrative to the viewer.

“Selfie” creates a grey area between self-reflection and self-obsession, forcing viewers to re-evaluate how easily society dismisses the act. As explored by the artists, the symbolic potential of this modern mode of self-portraiture goes far beyond vanity and narcissism.

Inspired by the arguments made at “Selfie,” is it now possible to regard Kardashian’s Selfish as the manifesto of a movement to reinvent the modern self-portrait, and Kim as being at the helm of a shifting artistic narrative?


“Selfie” is on display in the MEKIC Gallery at 4438 rue de la Roche until July 14th.

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Artists speak out against abhorrent labour practices in the UAE http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/artists-speak-out-against-abhorrent-labour-practices-in-the-uae/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/artists-speak-out-against-abhorrent-labour-practices-in-the-uae/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2015 18:11:39 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42283 International community responds to denial of entry of Walid Raad and Ashok Sukumaran

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Historically, artists have played a crucial role in highlighting the injustices present in society and have faced the consequences of speaking out against oppressive regimes. Recently, artists Walid Raad and Ashok Sukumaran, who have publicly condemned the labour rights violations committed by the United Arab Emirates, were denied entry into the UAE under the pretense that their political outspokenness constituted a “security threat.” Raad’s and Sukumaran’s cases have helped add to the international conversation about the UAE’s labour practices, and demonstrate the power that artists have to effect social change.

Raad and Sukumaran were denied entry due to their involvement with the Gulf Labor Coalition, a group of artists protesting the conditions of labour on Saadiyat Island, where the working conditions could accurately be described as a modern form of slavery. Here, an investigation from the Observer has reported, workers live in filthy conditions, sometimes ten to a room, and work under militant supervision, unable to leave until they have paid back the “recruitment fee” they were charged in order to obtain these jobs. Companies withhold the passports of their migrant workers and deport those who strike for union representation and fair pay. And for what purpose? To build glamorous hotels and museums for, and often funded by, Westerners, including New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus and an additional location of the Guggenheim Museum that is slated to be the largest in the world. For years, human rights organizations from across the world have been urging the UAE to cease the abhorrent labour practices that occur on Saadiyat Island.

Workers live in filthy conditions, sometimes ten to a room, and work under militant supervision, unable to leave until they have paid back the “recruitment fee” they were charged in order to obtain these jobs.

The UAE’s attempts to stifle the voices of these artists has led to renewed outrage in the global conversation on the UAE’s labour policies, and has increased the push against their abhorrent labour conditions, especially in the artistic community. Raad and Sukumaran have become even more vocal against the UAE, and, in a letter to UAE art institutions and their affiliates, over sixty curators, critics, and museum directors condemned the barring of these artists and stood with them in demanding better working conditions on Saadiyat Island. The UAE may have been able to keep these two from sharing their ideas within its borders, but their oppressive action has helped project the message of these artists to an even greater audience.

This instance of censorship underscores the role of artists when taking it upon themselves to challenge political and social practices that violate human rights. With their craft, artists can channel the deeply felt emotions that are a product of oppression, humanizing the struggles of the oppressed into a medium that everyone can experience. Goya captured the slaughter of Spanish people by the hands of the French in his gut-wrenching painting The Third of May 1808. During the Vietnam war, American artists – Peter, Paul and Mary; Woodie Guthrie; Pete Seeger – fueled the anti-war movement with their songs of peace and justice, despite heavy persecution by the U.S. government. And recently, many high-profile musicians have used their power as performers to protest human rights violations committed by Israel: English/Iraqi rapper Lowkey has put out many songs in solidarity with Palestine and against U.S. imperialism, and a whole host of artists including Pink Floyd, Alicia Keys, and Lauryn Hill have refused to perform in Israel, joining the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement and sending a resounding message of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Ultimately, it is difficult to say how the current situation in the UAE will be impacted by this new conversation. Hopefully, the movement against the UAE’s criminal labour practices will build within the artistic community with ties in the region, as more and more people realize that Saadiyat Island’s cultural scene comes at the expense of exploiting workers and violating their basic human rights. Raad notes in his open letter, following his denial of entry, that the Guggenheim has claimed their new location in Abu Dhabi is meant to facilitate cultural exchange. This is impossible if “the very artists who are meant to be included in the expansive view of art history are systematically excluded, banned and deported,” he writes. Realizing this, it is possible that the artistic community, locally and abroad, will continue to push against the detestable labour practices and many may even refuse to display their art within walls built by slave labour. Whatever the course their protest may take, artists, curators, and museum-goers of the world must not turn their backs on the labourers of Saadiyat Island and sit quietly as those who have spoken out on the matter are systematically silenced.

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Post-grads interrogate Deputy Provost about Student Services finances at Council http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/post-grads-interrogate-deputy-provost-about-student-services-finances-at-council/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/06/post-grads-interrogate-deputy-provost-about-student-services-finances-at-council/#comments Sat, 06 Jun 2015 19:08:36 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42252 PGSS budget continues to suffer from CFS disaffiliation process

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At a meeting on May 20, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Council approved their 2015-16 budget and voted to “create a formal, contractual agreement” with Projet pour le Mouvement Étudiant (PPME), a recently founded group comprised of student associations involved in the creation of a new Quebec student federation. Councillors also questioned Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens about funding for Student Services.

In addition, the Council voted to endorse the proposed sexual assault policy, expected to come to Senate for approval in September, as well as McGill Inter-Union Council’s campaign for a campus-wide $15 per hour minimum wage.

Budget and impact of CFS case

Presenting the 2015-16 budget, Financial Affairs Officer Nikki Meadows noted that most areas suffered a 10 per cent cut on average to begin paying back costs associated with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) court case.

Legal fees associated with the CFS disaffiliation court case cost PGSS about $185,000 in 2014-15, and approximately $138,000 in 2013-14. In addition, PGSS has had to pay CFS, under protest, over $300,000 of outstanding membership fees accumulated since 2010, in order to be able to hold the disaffiliation referendum in January 2015.

PGSS is currently suing CFS for the recognition of its 2010 disaffiliation vote as valid and the return of the membership fees, with the court case set for 2017.

Meadows indicated that the cuts would likely be maintained in future years. While PGSS has been able to save about $130,000 to $140,000 to be used for CFS-related debt in the Special Projects Fund balance, that money represents only about one third of the amount still owed.

“We’re making dents in it, but it’s a lot of money,” commented Meadows.

Student Services funding

In response to concerns amongst the student body regarding decreased funding of Student Services and increased overhead costs imposed on the unit, Dyens came before Council to present a summary of Student Services’ financial situation.

In 2015-16, the administrative overhead costs charged to Student Services by the central administration will amount to $588,733, up from $326,312 the previous year and only $30,679 in 2009-10. Additionally, the University’s $112,000 transfer to the unit’s budget will be eliminated, having already been reduced in previous years from $443,905 in 2009-10.

Dyens justified the cuts to the unit by invoking the $6 million surplus the unit has accumulated over the past few years and the rest of the university’s difficult financial situation.

“There used to be enough money for the university not to charge this [overhead fee], there’s not enough [anymore],” he said. “Unfortunately, right now it’s a zero-sum game; it’s a limited pie.”

Several councillors asked that the Deputy Provost provide details on salary expenditures in the unit, which will have increased by over $1.8 million since 2014.

“My experience is that [there are fewer] people providing services,” said Postgraduate Philosophy Students of McGill University Association (PPSMUA) representative Frédérick Armstrong, questioning whether the salary increases were reflective of an increase in non-administrative staff.

“There’s a limit to how much healthcare services we can provide – we are not a hospital.”

Although he failed to provide details, Dyens indicated that the increase was due both to new hires and salary increases, noting that “salaries at McGill were too low” compared to its competitors.

Addressing the increasing demand and months-long wait times at the Mental Health Service, Dyens emphasized the need for a preventative strategy to reduce student stress by investing in areas like supervision and advising.

According to a Mental Health Service estimate, the hire of 25 new full-time staff would be required to meet current demand, a $1.5 to $2 million expense. Dyens noted that, while possible, this would “create unsustainable expectations.”

“There’s a limit to how much healthcare services we can provide – we are not a hospital,” he added.

Recognizing that relying on the surplus was “unsustainable” beyond a few years, Dyens hinted at the possibility that an increase of the Student Services fee would be necessary. Student fees currently provide 75 per cent of the unit’s revenues.

Dyens also said that there was room for the elimination of “redundancies,” such as the existence of Mental Health and Counselling as two separate services.

“Before we reinvest, we want to make sure these services are as efficient as can be,” he said.

Student federation, public transit

External Affairs Officer Julien Ouellet brought forward a motion for PGSS to join the Projet pour un Mouvement Étudiant, an “incubator” for a new Quebec student federation created in the wake of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ)’s imminent collapse. PGSS is currently a member of FEUQ.

The motion entails the ratification by PGSS of the PPME’s formal contract of association, which grants PGSS a representative on the PPME’s board of directors. If the PPME is successful in creating a new student federation, PGSS members will have the opportunity to join it via referendum; if unsuccessful, the PPME will be automatically dissolved in two years.

The motion passed with six abstentions.

Other matters

Council approved bylaw changes moved by Council Director Régine Debrosse to increase the size of the Board of Directors from seven to nine members, and to allow for the Board to elect a chair who is not the secretary-general.

Ouellet updated Council on his initiative to extend reduced fare public transit to university students above the age of 25 by instituting an opt-outable fee. Ouellet said that the Société de transport de Montréal (STM)’s marketing team looked favourably upon the idea, and several other student associations agreed to join the project.

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Housing rights group’s tent camp dispersed by police twice in two days http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/housing-rights-groups-tent-camp-dispersed-by-police-twice-in-two-days/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/housing-rights-groups-tent-camp-dispersed-by-police-twice-in-two-days/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 18:13:05 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42241 Demonstrators march to protest housing inaccessibility, social housing cuts

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The affordable housing group Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) organized a march in downtown Montreal on May 21 to mark the installation of the organization’s tent camp at La Parterre du Quartier des spectacles, a green space near Place des Arts that is directly beside the Service de police de la ville de Montréal (SPVM) headquarters.

Several hundred demonstrators and campers joined the march to protest housing inaccessibility and denounce the limited funding for social housing from both the federal and provincial governments.

The march

Protesters, including over 30 community organisations and unions from across Quebec, first gathered at Square Dorchester at 1 p.m. to march to the location of the camp, which had been kept secret. Speeches from organizers and local celebrities kicked off the march. Actor and playwright Alexis Martin highlighted everyone’s right to protest, saying in French that a “public space is a space for protest […] and [these spaces] must be invested in.”

“We want the state, the government, the municipalities […] to develop and invest in social housing so that the general market for housing [can] be affordable to normal people and people with low income.”

“We want the state, the government, the municipalities […] to develop and invest in social housing so that the general market for housing [can] be affordable to normal people and people with low income,” explained Alexandra Pierre, a member of the community organizing staff of Project Genesis, a social justice organization located in Côte-des-Neiges.

Protesters walked for over an hour, chanting “Harper! Couillard! Vos politiques sont un cauchemar!” (Harper! Couillard! Your policies are a nightmare!) and “Les politiques d’austerite, donne plus d’inégalités,” (Policies of austerity create more inequality).

Mona Luxion, a protester and PhD student at McGill told The Daily, “I’m here because I think that housing is a human right […] and something that we as a society should be providing for people and fighting for.”

The camp

Protesters and campers arrived at Parterre du Quartier des spectacles around 2:30 p.m.. Campers began to set up tents while protesters formed a circle around the park. Organizers invited protesters to return the next day for other planned actions.

According to FRAPRU’s website, the camp was intended to be an ongoing installation which would educate the public about housing problems and also denounce the Quebec government for cutting the funding for new social housing in half in its last budget and the federal government for gradually decreasing funds for housing subsidies.

Approximately 60 campers from Montreal and nearby regions who are either facing housing difficulties or are tenants of social housing were planning to stay in the tents. Few tents had been installed when police intervened at around 3 p.m., ordering campers to dismantle the tents. Campers then voted to decide whether they should stay on site, with the majority voting to do so.

“It’s very difficult for us to go on with our daily lives for the rent that we pay – it takes a lot of our income.”

“It’s very difficult for us to go on with our daily lives for the rent that we pay – it takes a lot of our income. So that’s why we are here, to let them know, because we do many many activities [and] manifestations, [but] it’s like nobody hear[s] us […] we want to them to just see that we are very serious, that we are in great in need of social housing,” stated one protester with the Comité d’action de parc extension (CAPE), a housing rights organization.

At around 4 p.m. the police intervened directly, seizing some of the tents and arresting three people. Police surrounded the barely-assembled camp from multiple directions and backed the crowd away from the tents. The camp was fully dismantled and protesters dispersed by 5 p.m.

On May 22, FRAPRU set up camp at the Agence de la santé et des services sociaux of Montréal, on the corner of St. Denis and Pins. However, the campers were evicted from this location as well. On May 23, another camp was set at the corner of the Grande Bibliothéque on Berri. On May 24, the campers decided to end their demonstration.

Earlier this week, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre declared that he did not accept the notion of a camp, referring to the “security problems” he associated with the Occupy Montreal camp at Square Victoria in 2011.

“My message for Coderre [and] for Couillard is to stop austerity, to stop oppression, to listen to the people. We are afraid today, they use intimidation [and] repression,” Sandra Cordero, a protester who was present at the May Day anti-austerity protests, where police used excessive violence, told The Daily after the police had dispersed the crowd.

“A lot of people are suffering [from inaccessible housing], kids are suffering. I have six kids. I am a single mother and I don’t have a big [income] so I count on that housing; and [the federal government has] that money and they are not investing in housing.”

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Genes as private property http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/genes-as-private-property/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/genes-as-private-property/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 23:13:07 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42234 Experts discuss the impact of gene patents on the future of Canadian healthcare

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On March 18, the McGill Journal of Law and Health hosted a discussion panel titled “Patenting Genetic Materials: Biotechnology and Intellectual Property Law.” Richard Gold, from the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy at McGill University, and Julie Richer, a doctor at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), discussed the threats of U.S. gene patents on the medical diagnosis of long QT syndrome (LQTS) in Canadian hospitals, and what Canada can do to fight back.

Long QT syndrome and diagnosis

Long QT syndrome is a rare inherited disorder that causes abnormal heart beats, and affects three-and-a half to seven million people per year, 80 per cent of which are children. When properly diagnosed, it can be preventable. CHEO used to be able to provide full diagnosis, but is now severely restrained by the unrestricted flow of U.S. genetic patents entering Canada.

“[Gene patenting] is in direct opposition with what the public interests may be.”

There are 13 genes that contribute to long QT syndrome, and CHEO used to provide medical diagnosis by sequencing all the long QT genes without restraint. However, it is now unable to do so because five of the thirteen genes have been patented by a group of organizations in the U.S., chiefly led by the University of Utah, Genzyme – a biotechnology company in Massachusetts – and Yale University. For these 5 genes, both their genetic sequence and the method of diagnosis for those sequences are patented. If the organizations with those patents wished solely to monetize their patented technologies, then the problem would only be a financial one. However, they are also refusing to share information, thus forcing those wishing to undergo full diagnosis to do so at appointed places in the U.S..

Even if CHEO accidentally stumbles upon the patented genes during sequencing, they cannot report the diagnosis to the patients. Richer, as well as other doctors at CHEO, can circumvent this problem by scanning for snippets of genes rather than full gene sequences. And though this method can be fairly useful, it can by no means be an adequate replacement for proper medical diagnosis.

The Liberal government of Ontario did not resist when these U.S. organizations sought to exert their genetic patent claims here. But Gold believes that challenging the patents in Canada will be successful – firstly, because CHEO is presenting a concrete case of the adverse consequences of genetic patents on long QT diagnosis, and secondly, because of Canada’s vested interest in public health, which is threatened by gene patenting.

Methods of gene patenting

Moreover, Gold and Richer argued that there are strong counterarguments involving the methods used for patenting.

There are two ways through which long QT genes can be patented. In the first, the gene itself is patented. For this to be done, the patented gene must be artificially isolated and artificially constructed. Gold argued that long QT is a naturally occurring gene, and cannot adequately fit in either camp.

Richer agreed, stating that “DNA is discovered, not invented. […] I don’t like the idea of someone else owning a part of me.”

“DNA is discovered, not invented. […] I don’t like the idea of someone else owning a part of me.”

 

In the second, the method of diagnosing a gene is patented. In order to challenge this type, Gold argued that “all the power is in the interpretation,” noting that the patents can be interpreted to apply only to an old method of diagnosis. Thus, while it is a valid patent, it does not cover newer technologies in the market today that can do the same job. If the companies interpret their patent as applying to the concept of gene sequencing in general, rather than to a specific method, Gold argued that the patents would be invalidated because abstract concepts cannot be patented.

Massimo Orsini, co-host of the panel and first-year Law student, spoke to the Daily about his concerns with the tension between private patents and the public at large. “[Gene patenting] is in direct opposition with what the public interests may be. […] One of the things we need to figure out is what public benefit means and what its relation to patents is, particularly [a patent] that is shown to hinder innovation and accessibility to health care.”

“It’s the role of students, biologists, lawyers, and practitioners to realize these tensions and work through them together.”

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Former McGill employee sues University for job discrimination http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/former-mcgill-employee-sues-university-for-job-discrimination/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/former-mcgill-employee-sues-university-for-job-discrimination/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 18:08:41 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42215 Discriminated employee seeks to obtain compensation for unemployment and mental illness

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A Hispanic former McGill employee who allegedly faced years of job discrimination and psychological harassment before having his employment terminated is suing McGill University and his former director of operations.

Arturo’s* first lawsuit against McGill University and his director (who has since quit and now resides in Toronto) is for discrimination based on language, ethnic background, and age, and is under review by the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJ), the Quebec commission on human rights and youth rights. Arturo will be represented by the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR). The second lawsuit, through the Commission des normes du travail (CNT), Quebec’s labour board, is for psychological harassment against McGill University as an employer. The first hearing was on May 1, and Arturo was represented by CNT.

Arturo, who has a doctorate in oncology and is originally from South America, was in his fifties when he immigrated to Canada. Shortly thereafter, he was employed at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine as a project administrator at the Rossy Cancer Network (RCN) in March 2012. Following a positive evaluation of his performance in July 2012, he was given the title of Medical/Clinical Liaison.

According to Arturo, everything was going well until February 2013, when a new director of operations was installed at the RCN. Allegedly, after this appointment, discrimination began, continued, and intensified for the next six months until he was fired.

“[The former director] basically marginalized him and practically downgraded him not only in his job, but in the eyes of his colleagues,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi, Arturo’s representative in the CDPDJ case.

In May 2013, Arturo was stripped of his title of Medical/Clinical Liaison and demoted to project manager. In an email, the director cited inadequate English for this decision, despite Arturo’s 90 per cent score on an English proficiency course at Concordia. As project manager, he cannot be reconsidered for the position of project administrator.

Arturo suspects that his accent, rather than his English proficiency, was the cause of the problem. Niemi agreed that accent was the likely culprit. “Accents are often used as a proxy for racial and ethnic discrimination,” Niemi told The Daily.

Arturo was also systematically excluded from events and activities. “The new boss didn’t talk to me, and the new ones [who were hired by the director] didn’t talk to me,” Arturo alleged. He was kept out of project meetings, even though he was a project manager.

“Accents are often used as a proxy for racial and ethnic discrimination”

Shortly after, through an accidentally leaked email, Arturo discovered that he had the lowest paid salary among his peers. “People who [held] similar positions and some even [employed] later than me had more pay. It’s unfair.”

Arturo’s attempts to contact those at higher positions were not successful and most of the tasks and decisions were handled by the director alone.

“That’s why when they took away from me the position of medical liaison, nobody [said and] will say nothing, and I can say nothing,” said Arturo.

Arturo suspected that the director wanted him to resign, but refused for the sake of his family. “I can’t resign because I need the job. And so [the director of operations] decided to make my life impossible. He told me, ‘things will be worse.’”

“And at the end because I didn’t resign, they fired me.”

In November of 2013, following roughly half a year of job discrimination, the director terminated Arturo’s contract – but not before asking Arturo to hand over information on new projects he had been working on. The director named “restructuring” as the reason for Arturo’s termination, though he never clarified this to Arturo.

“The funny thing is, when he fired me, I felt relieved. I was free, because I had pressure, pressure, pressure at work,” said Arturo.

Arturo developed mild anxiety and depression due to the ongoing harassment at work, and unemployment and his dire financial situation worsened his mental health. He is currently still in counseling and taking prescription drugs for his mental health.

Arturo knew during his employment that future legal action would be taken, so he gathered documentation during his employment for evidence. In January 2014, he took the first steps to file lawsuits against McGill and his former director, who now resides in Toronto but cannot escape these charges.

Arturo is aiming to ensure that the McGill reference in his CV, which has since barred him from pursuing employment, will no longer negatively impact him. He is also working to obtain compensation for unemployment and mental illness, as well as secure job integration at a  position suited to his educational background.

An attempt by the Quebec labour board to secure a meeting between Arturo and McGill for a resolution in regards to psychological damages was unsuccessful. “What McGill proposed did not live up to his needs – not just [his] wants. This man needs a job to support his family and to be reintegrated in the job that he did well and lost simply because of harassment,” Niemi told The Daily.

The first hearing on May 1 was inconclusive; several hearings will be held later this summer. The lawyer representing the University declined to comment on this story.

*Real name has been changed

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Who believes in genocides? http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/who-believes-in-genocides/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/who-believes-in-genocides/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 19:00:46 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42206 Reflections on Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide

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April 24 has a highly symbolic meaning for us, Turkish citizens. It is a day of national reunification – a national rebirth of sorts. To a nation deeply polarized over discussions on Islamism and secularism, corruption scandals, political assassinations, and the ‘Kurdish problem,’ April 24 presents itself as the perfect opportunity to rekindle Turkey’s lost national fervor. On the day when Canada and the world commemorate the mass murder of nearly 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915, we defy the collective memory of the entire world and simply refuse to remember.

In Turkey, festivities related to April 24 include a well-established set of rituals to be thoroughly observed each year. First, high-level diplomats and cold-blooded politicians are dispatched to major Western capitals to lobby against the possibility of further recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Reporters from major news channels follow their footprints. Specialists and strategists are invited into heated public debates. Nationals living abroad are mobilized and urged to counter the Armenian narrative at all costs. Well-prepared and ready for battle, we know what to expect from our age-old foes. The only question remaining, then, is what to expect from our ‘biggest ally,’ the U.S.. Thus begins the most exciting part of our venerable tradition: we gather around our TV screens, hold our breath, and turn our eyes and ears to the almighty U.S. president’s annual address on the ‘Armenian problem.’ We nervously ask ourselves: is he going to use the ‘g-word?’

He doesn’t. Geopolitical considerations win over moral ones, as usual. The president follows the path set by his predecessors: he acknowledges the suffering and pain of the Armenian people, talks about horrendous massacres and mass murder – after all, it’s not what he says, but what he declines to say, that matters. He is well aware of Turkey’s position as a ‘key ally of the U.S..’

When it comes to speaking of the dispossessed, even the most unorthodox views are freely expressed by people who think themselves courageous.

The annual thriller ends in victory and relief. Until further notice, Armenians are kindly invited to return to their hundred-year-old mourning while we cheerfully go back to our necropolis, still haunted by their grandparents’ agonizing souls. It is springtime, and the race for the title in the National Football League is closing in. We’ve got bigger issues than acknowledging a genocide.

Our glorious ancestors put on their best efforts to conceal the actions in which they were engaged a hundred years ago. Names of countless villages, mountains, and rivers that could have reminded us of past Armenian presence were methodically changed; hundreds of churches and schools were destroyed or reused as barns or warehouses (recycling alla turca); houses were seized and redistributed among the local Muslim population – the recently abandoned creaky Presidential Palace in Ankara belonged to the Kasabians, an Armenian family that fled Ankara during the genocide. Traces of Armenian heritage have thus been systematically and successfully erased, while streets, boulevards, and universities have been renamed after the main perpetrators of the violence, who were glorified and hailed as national heroes. Nowadays, no one remembers the Pangaltı Armenian Cemetery that once stood near Istanbul’s main square, Taksim. Desecrated and razed, the gravestones have been reappropriated and used to build the stairs of the legendary Gezi Park, the only piece of greenery left in central Istanbul.

The Ministry of National Education has also played its part in forging the ideal, enlightened Turkish denier. At school, we were initially told that we hadn’t killed Armenians (believe it or not, they had killed us). If this answer seemed unsatisfactory or biased in any way, we were told that – sadly indeed – the Armenians had to be exterminated: it was a state of war and they had betrayed us. What else was there to do but to orchestrate the massacre of 1.5 million men, women, children, and elderly people?

Another argument frequently heard in Turkey is that we, Turks, are not racists and are thus incapable of committing a genocide. Racism, a Western invention, did not exist in Turkey: our cordial relations with the Armenian community still residing in Istanbul – also known as “the leftovers” – are living proof of that. In fact, so long as they don’t meddle in politics or mention the g-word, Armenian Turkish citizens are allowed to breathe, walk, and travel freely within our borders. Yes, Hrant Dink, an Armenian journalist challenging national historiography, may have been killed in broad daylight, but a non-negligible number of Turkish or Armenian public intellectuals holding similar opinions are still alive, protected by bodyguards or living in exile.

I conclude with a note on the boundless limits of our freedom of expression. Insulting Jews, Greeks, Armenians, or any other minority group is routinely met with the utmost compassion and admiration from both state and society, and the same goes for assassinating them: the police officers who arrested Hrant Dink’s murderer swiftly got in line to take photographs with their ‘hero’ under the Turkish flag while a famous pop singer composed a song praising the killer’s ‘accomplishment.’ When it comes to speaking of the dispossessed, even the most unorthodox views are freely expressed by people who think themselves courageous. Here is a brief conversation I had with a cab driver in Turkey a few years ago. For some reason, the discussion turned politico-historical:

“Do you believe in the Armenian Genocide?” the driver asked me.

“Yes.”

“You know what, I do too.”

“Really?”

“Yes. And if they come back, we’ll do it again.”


Arda Eksigil recently graduated with an M.A. in Ottoman History. To contact the author, please email arda.eksigil@mail.mcgill.ca.

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Saturday morning cartoons, grown up http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/saturday-morning-cartoons-grown-up/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/saturday-morning-cartoons-grown-up/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 01:55:49 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42190 Galerie ABYSS exhibits local talent

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The well-known Montreal tattoo parlour ABYSS has a reputation for more than just body art, doubling as an art gallery dedicated to contemporary pop culture. Galerie ABYSS exhibits a new crop of local artists each month, displaying the work of both street and gallery artists side by side. Its current exhibit, “The New Cool,” solidifies the gallery’s role as a curator of new Montreal art, bringing us the the latest works of four up-and-coming artists.

Local artists Andrew Da Silva, Jimmy Baptiste, Waxhead, and Bezo will share the space for the rest of the month, each bringing their own adaptation of traditional cartoons and comics to ABYSS’ walls. While their styles and technical approaches vary wildly, the artists create continuity between their work by flattening their colour palettes, resulting in an old-school animation vibe.

In an interview with The Daily, Da Silva mentioned the substantial influence of 80s and 90s cartoons from his childhood on his current work. But the characters he creates now aren’t rated E for everyone. In a piece titled All the Cool Kids Doing It a cheeky skeleton in a hoodie stands nonchalantly inside a metal trap. Wading through a glass of red liquid is a nude woman with the word ‘Molly’ written across her stomach and a Facebook ‘like’ hovering underneath it. Similar Instagram notifications and Twitter follower tickers are sprinkled throughout the rest of Da Silva’s canvases.

While their styles and technical approaches vary wildly, the artists create continuity between their work by flattening their colour palettes, resulting in an old-school animation vibe.

“My work is very satirical,” Da Silva explained. “I have a love-hate relationship with [social media]. I think my generation is too caught up with [it], obsessed with [it], so I poke fun at it.” Da Silva’s clever use of recognizable icons to critique social phenomena renders his work equal parts relatable and biting.

Across the gallery, Jimmy Baptiste’s artwork departs from the cartoon aesthetic to a more comic book style. His figures break away from Da Silva’s flatness and explode across the canvas with undulating arcs of delicate watercolor and spidery lines of pencil and ink. Inspired by anime and tattoo design, Baptiste focuses primarily on the female face, manipulating facial features to explore a full range of emotions. In a large piece titled Spring, four women’s faces share the canvas with birds and flowers. Instead of reproducing a stock image of spring, Baptiste creates substantial movement using flowing strands of hair and his calligraphy-esque signature as a repeated motif, invoking the tumultuous winds of the season.

Waxhead’s zany vandalisms of vintage photos line the wall alongside Baptiste’s work. While Waxhead’s whimsical characters can typically be seen peeking out from behind street corners and hiding in the alleyways of Montreal, they appear in Galerie ABYSS in a form much easier to take home.

According to the artist, the works on display are primarily produced during the winter. In preparation for the confining winter months, the artist jokes that he breaks into homes and steals vintage family photos in order to paint over the faces with his own creations. The miscreant can also be found haunting flea markets and thrift stores for his next mark.

Bezo completes the show with his cartoons-on-acid style. A piece entitled Cupcake painted on a roughly cut oval acrylic panel depicts a male figure with empty eyes in bright overalls staring at a cupcake. A yellow skull mask covers his face and a green crown hovers over his head. The figure’s arms twist into knots and stretch impossibly far in opposite directions, creating a sense of depth. The figure is part pathetic, part absurd, and elicits a strange empathetic emotion from the viewer. The rest of Bezo’s work borders on the edge of terrifying and intriguing, fitting in well with the rest of the show’s adult cartoon vibe.

As a singular unit, the aptly-named exhibit accurately takes the pulse of what’s new in the Montreal art scene. The small gallery in Griffintown is must-see for anyone who likes to keep tabs on local talent.


“The New Cool” runs at Galerie ABYSS until June.

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Summer in the city: movies and TV http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/movies-and-tv/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/movies-and-tv/#comments Sat, 09 May 2015 17:20:19 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42175 The Daily's guide to summer culture

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MOVIES:

While We’re Young:
Indie darling Noah Baumbach follows up his 2012 hit Frances Ha with this comedic take on growing old in the 21st century. The film stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as middle-aged partners who befriend a much younger and happier couple, played by Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver. Quirky identity crises ensue.

While We’re Young opened March 27, but will be showing at local theatre Cinema Du Parc starting April 10.

Straight Outta Compton:
This biographical drama tells the story of the rise and fall of N.W.A, one of hip hop’s most legendary groups. The film chronicles how rappers like Dr. Dre and Ice Cube turned their childhood experiences of racism and violence into powerful music that rebelled against the authorities. Produced by Dre and Ice Cube themselves, the film also stars Paul Giamatti – and you can never go wrong with Paul Giamatti.

Straight Outta Compton opens in theatres August 14.

Inside Out:
Pixar’s first film in two years tells the story of a young girl who moves to a new home, and has to deal with the five competing emotions inside her head. Sounds a little more like a psychological thriller than a kid’s movie, but given that Pixar is the company that brought us Up and Monsters, Inc., we can probably have full faith. With Amy Poehler lending her voice to the project, this film could be a poignant and funny look at girlhood.

Inside Out opens in theatres June 19.

Highway of Tears:
This documentary chronicles the disappearances of young, predominantly Indigenous women along Highway 16 in B.C.. Of the dozens of disappearances and murders, only one has been solved, revealing the systemic racism of a federal government that chooses to ignore these deaths. Part personal, part investigative, the documentary tells a heart breaking story that must be heard.

Highway of Tears has its Montreal premiere April 10 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. There will be a Q&A with the director afterward.

TV:

Gracie and Frankie:
From Marta Kauffman, one of the creators of Friends, comes this new comedy that tells the story of two women whose husbands have left them and declared their love for each other. With the talented and funny Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in the title roles, this series has the potential to be the next big hit for Netflix.

Grace and Frankie premieres May 8.

Orphan Black:
Orphan Black arguably has the best representation politics on TV, passing not only the Bechdel test (at least two women who converse about something other than a man), but pretty much every other test out there for representations that are not white/male/cis dominated or heteronormative. Most of these representations are portrayed by the amazingly versatile Tatiana Maslany, who plays a collection of characters who figure out they’re identical clones with a price on their heads. It’s intriguing, it’s badass, and it’s Canadian – what more do you need?

Orphan Black returns Saturday April 18.

BESSIE
This HBO made-for-TV movie is a biopic of Bessie Smith, iconic blues singer of the 20s and 30s. Written and directed by Dee Rees, the film will feature Queen Latifah as the Empress of Blues. While Latifah has in the past proven her singing and comedic chops, it remains to be seen whether she will be able to bring the dramatic power needed to carry the film.

Bessie premieres May 16.

Call the Midwife:

For those currently experiencing Downton denial, you really must check out Call the Midwife which just kicked off its fourth season. This British period drama chronicles the life and times of midwives in the 1950s and 1960s, narrated by the inimitable Vanessa Redgrave. Yes, my mom loves it, but my mom also loves Friday Night Lights and The Sopranos, so stop your TV-genre stereotyping and settle in for some classic drama.

Call the Midwife returned March 29.

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Summer in the city: music and books http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/music-books/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/05/music-books/#comments Sat, 09 May 2015 17:17:18 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42172 The Daily's guide to summer culture

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MUSIC:

Kindred:
Three albums in, frontman Michael Angelakos is still planted firmly within his signature synth palette. But underneath the sugary sweet pop hooks are more frank discussions of mental illness, childhood, and family. You’ll probably hear half the album on the radio this summer, but Kindred might also hold up as the perfect soundtrack for a pensive bike ride around Mont Royal.

Passion Pit’s third studio album, expected release on April 21.

Fly International Luxurious Art
The Chef has had a new album on the burner since before New Year’s 2013. No one knows what’s taken him so long, but this sixth studio album from the Wu-Tang Clan veteran is sure to deliver on the extended hype.

Raekwon’s sixth studio album, expected release on April 28.

All Things to the Sea
After opening for The National at NXNE, the post-punk fuzz-pop band got themselves into Montreal’s Breakglass Studios and recorded All Things to the Sea in ten days. With only 816 likes on Facebook, this is a band you’ll want to get into before the rest of the world notices how good they are.

Montreal trio CTZNSHP’s sophomore album, expected release on April 24.

Deep in the Iris:
Montreal-based art rock band Braids has produced some of Canada’s most innovative music of the past ten years. This summer, Calgary natives and former McGill students Raphaelle Standell-Preston, Austin Tufts, and Taylor Smith are releasing Deep in the Iris. If “Taste,” the first single released on the album, is any indication, this new release will be an atmospheric and poignant effort that lands somewhere between Animal Collective and Björk.

Braids’ third studio album, expected release on April 28.

BOOKS:

Kate Beaton – The Princess and the Pony:
Kate Beacon, beloved cartoonist of Hark! A Vagrant is back this summer with The Princess and the Pony. This picture book for kids and adult pony-enthusiasts features a strong warrior princess and one of Beaton’s most enduring characters, the “roly-poly” pony from Hark! that has also made a cameo appearance on Adventure Time.

Available July 2015.

Boring Girls – Sara Taylor:
Boring Girls, a “deadly coming of age” story, follows the rise of high-schooler Rachel’s amateur metal band. She forms the band in the hopes of escaping the misogynist world she lives in, but is then ironically forced to fight misogyny in “the dark heart of the music industry.”

Available April 2015.

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History… and Our Future! – Kate Schatz:
Calling this book a celebration of American women would be an understatement. A shout out to bold women who fought for everyone, the book is a spin-off of A-Z books that all children (and adults) need on their bookshelves – because A is not for apples, it’s for Angela Davis.

Available April 2015.


Laws & Locks – Chad Campbell:

Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, Laws & Locks traces one family’s encounters with depression and mental illness. Chad Campbell’s first book of verse weaves in and out of confessional poetry and explores the way our ancestors can influence our choices today.

Available April 2015.

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