The return of MuchMusic’s The Wedge

HAMILTON, Ont. (CUP) — When it comes to finding new tunes, MuchMusic isn’t one of the first choices for an even half-educated Canadian music aficionado.

Hell, by the time I was 13 I realized this. There was something about it that just didn’t jive with the whole Sid Vicious wannabe vibe I was going for at the time.

In my preteen years, though, I’ll admit I spent hours with my eyes glued to the countdown and video flow. Those were the days when teen stars stripped down, wearing next to nothing and singing unabashed anthems dedicated to the pleasures of promiscuity.

But as awesome as sex can be, it’s disheartening when a previously semi-respectable music source succumbs to the lure of the corporate dollar and peddles only generic TV sexuality and empty celebrity banter. Over the past decade MuchMusic has become the wannabe younger sibling of North America’s shittiest television channel, MTV.

But don’t run yet, this isn’t entirely another angry student rant condemning the sorry state of the music industry in 2011. Instead, to the certain disbelief of many, I’d actually like to defend the reputation of one measly hour of weekly programming that has been floating amid this sea of crap for nearly two decades. Namely I’d like to defend Wednesday night’s weekly update on anything alternative, The Wedge.

The Wedge arose way back in 1992 and was once a Monday to Friday update on the indie-rock revolution that was then just beginning to crack the mainstream. In the mid 1990s, as grunge was rising to the top, falling suddenly and subsequently splintering into one million sub-genres, The Wedge was one of the most popular programs aired on MuchMusic and kept a legion of devotees on the cutting-edge of indie knowledge.

The show was originally hosted by ex-VJ Sook-Yin Lee, an extremely talented media personality who has since worked extensively with the CBC, directed movies, recorded albums and enjoyed a flourishing career in acting.

But when Lee left both The Wedge and MuchMusic in 2001, the once daily update on the behind-the-scenes of the music industry was reduced to a weekly program jammed in late on the Friday night slot. MuchMusic’s new musical agenda was clear and evident.

For the next decade, The Wedge rested comfortably in its late nighttime slot. But without a host, the program served as merely a block of alternative music videos and seemed to lack the coherence and optimism about the indie community that Lee had brought to the show. One was left to wonder why they even aired the show at all.

But after digging in a little bit I managed to find out why. For the past decade, The Wedge has been supported by the extremely active and tight-knit community on LiveJournal. The mass of flannel-cland grunge-rockers went digital and clearly had a hand in influencing MuchMusic’s decision to continue airing the show, despite the lack of host and inconvenient timeslot.

Within the past year, this blossoming online community as well as a growing discontent with the music industry in general must have caught the eye of MuchMusic executives. This culminated in their decision to re-launch The Wedge this past January with a new format and finally a new host. Thankfully, MuchMusic did their research and picked the perfect host, Canada’s punk-rock teddy bear, Damian Abraham.

Now if you’re unfamiliar with the versatile collection of Abraham’s output, do yourself a favour and check this dude out. Abraham, who occasionally goes by the moniker Pink Eyes, has served for the past several years as the front man for Fucked Up, Canada’s greatest contribution to the global punk community. Fucked Up received the 2009 Polaris Prize and the group has been argued as single-handedly carrying the entire genre of true bone-breaking hardcore punk on their backs, do-it-yourself ethic and all.

Outside the band, Abraham has become known in the music community as an outspoken supporter of almost anything artistic. His appearance on several music panels as well as his frequent appearances on CBC Radio have certainly helped to raise the credentials of his media persona.

Abraham’s impressive resume has helped to plug life support into the program and he has begun recapturing the glory days of The Wedge. The show now boasts an expanded format, featuring interviews, indie updates, live performances and, of course, the best alternative videos.

Stay tuned for weekly episode of The Wedge, airing Wednesday at 10 p.m.


CSU launches lawsuit against CFS

CUP — Almost a year after holding referendums to leave Canada’s largest student lobby group, two Quebec student unions are asking the courts to order the Canadian Federation of Students to recognize the results and let them leave.

On March 17, the Concordia Student Union filed a lawsuit against the CFS asking the Quebec Superior Court to declare the results of last March’s referendum “valid and binding on the CFS,” said CSU lawyer Philippe-André Tessier.

The referendum resulted in an overwhelming 2,348 students voting to leave the organization while only 931 voted to remain members.

The student union is also seeking to have the court declare rule changes from November 2009, which made leaving the CFS more difficult, to be null and void. The CSU claims the rules were never properly passed, according to CFS bylaws, and that they were applied retroactively.

The CSU is also asking the court to throw out an agreement signed by the union’s former president Keyana Kashfi which claims the CSU owes the CFS over $1 million. According to the CSU’s statement of claim, Kashfi’s action “was done in bad faith and constitutes gross negligence … towards her legal obligations.”

The CSU claims Kashfi didn’t have the right to sign the document and that even though it was allegedly signed in April 2009, the CSU was not aware of it until February 2010. They also claim that communications from the CFS in September and November 2009, as well as in January 2010, did not reference any debt owed by the CSU.

According to Tessier, the CSU waited so long to file because they hoped to resolve the situation without going to court.

“When [student unions] call me, I say don’t go to court. This is politics, solve it,” he said.

While the CSU has waited to take action, the McGill Post Graduate Students’ Society has been in court with the CFS for over a year. The PGSS first took legal action in effort to force the CFS to set a date for the referendum. While the CFS initially agreed to participate in the PGSS referendum, they later pulled out. PGSS went ahead with the referendum and 86 per cent of voters were in favour of leaving the organization.

Like the CSU, PGSS is currently asking the court to enforce the results of the referendum.

In filings with the Quebec Superior Court, the CFS claims the conduct of PGSS appointees on a committee set up to oversee the referendum “clearly hampered the [referendum oversight committee’s] work, which resulted in deadlock.”

They also claim that the PGSS refused to “respect the contractual terms of the CFS bylaws” and attempted to create their own rules for the referendum.

However, the PGSS claims the CFS applied “referendum rules abusively and in bad faith to attempt to deny the rights of [the PGSS] and its members.”

One of the sticking points between the two organizations was the timing of the referendum. The PGSS wanted four days of voting while the CFS wanted two.

While CFS bylaws require that referendum dates be set by the organization’s national executive “in consultation” with the local students’ union, according to a deposition by CFS national chairperson Dave Molenhuis, and entered into evidence by PGSS lawyers, the consultation process isn’t a negotiation.

He said the consultation process requires the national executive to “solicit from the member local any information about events or date that may conflict with a referendum.”

On Jan. 14, 2010, the CFS sent a letter to the PGSS setting the referendum for March 31 and April 1, 2010. On Jan. 21, PGSS responded by asking for the referendum to be held from March 29 to April 2. The CFS then decided to go ahead with a two-day vote on the days they had suggested.

According to Molenhuis, the letter did “not provide any information that would lead members of the national executive to believe that the dates it set for the referendum were problematic.”

On Feb. 25, the CFS filed a motion with the court to have the case dismissed, which was rejected. In the motion CFS lawyers reiterated the federation’s position that the CSU, PGSS and Concordia Graduate Students’ Association, which held a similar referendum, are still members of the organization.

Throughout their filings and cross-examinations of CFS officials, as part of pre-trial discovery, PGSS lawyers have raised questions about CFS spending practices.

According to an audit of CFS and CFS-Services, a legally distinct organization, which shares the same board of directors, for the year 2009 and included in evidence, that year the CFS spent over $2.1 million on a new office building.

“What business is [the CFS] in and why does a student lobby organization require a $2-million building?” PGSS lawyers wrote in a motion to videotape the CFS offices in order to gather evidence.

CFS has filed a motion to keep the video confidential and not have it entered into publicly available evidence.

The audit also reveals that, as of 2009, the CSU also owned a restored heritage building worth over $600,000 and owns over $875,000 worth of land. That year the organization also spent over $100,000 on rent.

In a deposition, CFS director of organizing Lucy Watson said that CFS-Services owns a piece of property in Ontario’s Algonquin Park.

Additionally, the audit reveals that Travel CUTS, a travel agency that was owned by CFS, recorded a loss of over $5 million that year. It was sold in November 2009 for $1 plus a small share of future revenue.

According to the audit, as of 2009, CFS-Services owes CFS $1.2 million. In deposition interviews, when PGSS lawyers asked whether CFS-Service is insolvent, CFS lawyers objected to the question and it was not answered.

In 2009, CFS received just over $2.7 million in student fees, while CFS-Services received over $935,000.

That year, the organization spent less than $500,000 on campaigns.

According to Watson’s deposition, employee salaries are drawn from multiple budget lines including “campaigns,” “communications” and “research” depending on what they are working on. Watson said all CFS employees and most CFS-Services employees are paid by both organizations and the three CFS-Services employees who are not also employees of CFS are not unionized.

Both the PGSS and the CSU are seeking $100,000 in damages. The CSU claims that CFS actions have violated students’ association rights under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

The PGSS and CFS have until June 1 to finalize their cases in that suit.

The CSU also expects their suit to take a long time.

“It’s not going to be an easy case,” Tessier acknowledged.

While the CSU is currently in the midst of an election campaign, the presidential candidates from both slates have vowed to continue legal action if elected.

“Students voted and the CFS has to recognize our right to leave the organization,” said presidential candidate Lex Gill, who was one of the organizers of the petition that led to Concordia’s referendum. She added that despite the high cost of litigation, it would still be “significantly less” than what the CFS claims Concordia students owe the organization.

Her opponent, Khalil Haddad had similar sentiments.

“Any litigation taken by the CSU, will be continued in my mandate until CFS recognizes our referendum that passed with a substantial majority,” he said.

A lawsuit between the CFS and its former Quebec branch is also ongoing, as is a suit by the Quebec branch’s former landlord for unpaid rent. Both CFS and the former Quebec branch claim the other is responsible for the rent.

The Concordia GSA, who has not taken legal action, did not respond to a request for comment from the Canadian University Press.

Molenhuis, who generally does not comment on ongoing litigation, also did not respond to a request for comment.



Seventh seed Stingers bow out of nationals after back-to-back losses

The Stingers talk strategy during one of their two games last weekend. Photos by writer

HALIFAX (CUP) — Coming into the CIS men’s basketball Final 8 as the number-seven seed, the Concordia Stingers wanted to buck their assigned ranking, and demonstrate the same resolve on a national stage that helped them win consecutive games to end the season and propelled them to become this year’s RSEQ champions.

While that seemed to be the case on their first night of the tournament, the Stingers failed to advance to the winner’s bracket and showed a dichotomous performance the following day, as they left Halifax both early and empty-handed.

The tournament kicked off Friday afternoon on a day where close battles and surprising efforts from underdogs became a running theme. And perhaps none of the day’s games better demonstrated that point than the last of the quarterfinals between Concordia and the second-seeded Carleton Ravens.

Despite nearly losing the lead several times in the second half, Carleton managed to prevail against the number-seven Stingers in a 73–66 victory that was much closer than even a seven-point deficit would suggest.

Carleton took a slim 34–33 lead into the half by virtue of a last-second layup from first-year forward Thomas Scrubb, but finished the second quarter in a dead heat with the Stingers in shooting percentage, clicking at an even 40 per cent.

The trend of poor shooting continued for both teams with Carleton hitting just 28 of 67 shots all game, and Concordia not far off, nailing 23 of 59.

From a technical standpoint, it’s hard to pinpoint what, if anything, went wrong for the Stingers. However, an incident in the fourth quarter — one that head coach John Dore believes was a missed call on the part of the referees — may have in fact been the turning point that kept Concordia out of range.

With the Ravens failing to move the ball past half-court due to a relentless Stingers attack, and nine seconds having already expired from the shot clock, it appeared that Carleton had committed an eight-second violation, which should’ve resulted in a loss of possession.

Instead, the referees called for a jump-ball, which Carleton won — and subsequently scored on, giving them a four-point lead —  thus depriving Concordia of an opportunity to narrow the deficit.

Dore was visibly upset with the call out on the court, shaking his head endlessly at the officials’ decision. After the loss, his words were few, but poignant.

“Let the TV cameras be the judge if it was good or not,” Dore said. “It was there for everybody to see.”

Despite the controversy, however, the Stingers coach commended the effort his team put up against an opponent that was otherwise expected to run amok on them.

“I have to say I’m really proud of what this team has accomplished this year,” Dore said. “We finished first in our conference — this is a team that people picked to finish fourth in our conference. Nobody thought we’d get out of our conference — not only did we get out, we got better and better as the year went on.”

Stinger Zach Brisebois reached for the ball but Dalhousie’s Joseph Schow already had a hand on it.

Stingers guard Decee Krah led all scorers with 21 points, while CIS Player of the Year and second-year forward Tyson Hinz chipped in 19 for the Ravens.

After giving the Ravens all they could handle in Friday night’s quarter-final matchup, the Stingers turned their attention to the sixth-seeded Dalhousie Tigers on Saturday afternoon for an opportunity to play in Sunday’s fifth-place game.

Instead of feeding off of the momentum from their surprising effort against Carleton, the team instead came out looking slow and, at times, lifeless as they dropped their consolation semifinal 76–65, officially ending their season in the process.

While both teams gave sloppy, noncommittal performances throughout the first two quarters, and even with Concordia managing the better shooting percentage in the first-half, the hometown Tigers were able to captialize on nine Stingers turnovers and consistently maintain leads all the way to the half.

The game turned on a dime, however, when Dalhousie opened up a 12–2 run to start the third quarter, establishing a 19-point cushion with a 50–31 lead. The Stingers would trail by as much as 20 points before the end of the quarter.

“It’s a combination of things: foul trouble, Evens Laroche sitting out, they took a [nine-point] lead at the half,” Dore said of his team’s second-half start against Dalhousie. “We were just breaking down a little bit, offensively and defensively — especially defensively.”

The coach also attributed the Stingers’ lacklustre performance on Saturday to the team having used up the majority of its energy attempting to knock off the number-two Ravens.

“I think we expended a lot of energy [Friday] night and we didn’t get a lot of production out of our bench [Friday] night, and the gas tank was half-empty today,” Dore said. “But you’ve gotta give Dal credit — [Tigers guard] Simon Farine’s a good player and they have four fifth-year guys who wanted to go out on a high.”

Adding injury to insult, Stingers centre Zach Brisebois went down with an injury midway through the fourth quarter after landing awkwardly on a rebound attempt.

“It’s an ankle sprain, but it’s the last game of the year, so he’ll have lots of time to recover,” Dore said. “He’s only gonna get bigger and stronger and better.”

Prior to exiting the match, Brisebois finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Krah led the charge yet again for Concordia, dropping 20 points. Farine, a second-team All-Canadian, led all players with 21 points and 10 boards for Dalhousie.



Attack ads hurt voters most

Karl Rove was instrumental to George W. Bush’s electoral success. Photo by Flickr

by Michael Penney
The Muse (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

ST. JOHN’S (CUP) — As the federal government prepares to table its budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Canada’s political heavyweights have begun throwing punches over corporate tax cuts and stealth fighter jets.

While party leaders have stated they would like to steer away from an election, new attack ads produced by the Conservatives imply the possibility of a political showdown. The ads focus on the leadership deficiencies of Michael Ignatieff, including his time living outside Canada. This demonstrates the escalation of negative attack ads, a technique already perfected by our neighbours to the south. Playing dirty seems to be part of an accepted platform in American politics.

Republican spin-doctors like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove wrote the playbook on negative campaigning as a cornerstone of electoral politics. The approach is basic but brutal: Use any conceivable trick at a party’s disposal to drag the reputations of political opponents through the mud. It revolutionized the perception of political marketing and set a new tone in the competitive process that is at the very core of Canadian federalism.

Plenty of examples demonstrate how Canadian politics have been influenced by this strategy, one used with varying degrees of success.

During the 1993 federal election campaign, the Progressive Conservatives were trailing considerably in public opinion polls. Worn down by a series of unpopular moves orchestrated under Mulroney’s watch, the Tories decided to respond by smearing Liberal leader Jean Chrétien.

They decided to highlight Chrétien’s facial deformity in a televised ad. The ad got significant coverage and appeared on a number of news broadcasts, creating considerable uproar among Canadian voters. Leading Tory strategists like Allan Gregg faced harsh criticism over their Republican-styled tactics.

In the 2006 federal election, the Liberals released a series of attack ads in an attempt to paint Stephen Harper as a right-wing extremist. They used a series of questionable quotes — often taken out of context — that focused on his desire to increase military presence in major Canadian cities, and his personal inclination to rid the health care system of women’s abortion rights.

A party’s survival depends on donations money and subsidies received from party funding. We shouldn’t be using taxpayer dollars from the public purse to squeeze out negative ads that attempt to push wedge issues instead of legitimate policy discussion. If political parties want to change public perception and sway voters, it should be done with some basic decency and accuracy.

Let’s ensure that political advertisements focus on the substance of national concerns and not the personalities of our political figures. Public policy is the framework of our society, and negative campaigning should be removed from the political blueprint.

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