Categories
Music

Local band Squeeze Mason on their first EP Sleeping Mercury

The Montreal based trio discusses the creative process and challenges behind the launch of their first EP

Squeeze Mason, a locally-founded trio consisting of Dexter Dippong and brothers Ted and Gary Schulze, dropped their first EP this month, Sleeping Mercury. Forged in the fires of the Grey Nuns dormitory where they met, this Montreal-founded trio has a sound like no other.

They couldn’t nail down a genre for the EP, let alone the entire band, and that was the point. If you give the EP a listen, it’s safe to say that this versatile nature is front and centre. “We didn’t want a name that sounded like a heavy metal band or any specific thing, we kind of want to play around with a bunch of different genres,” said Dippong.

“Our Spotify is not fully representative of how wide our sound is, it’s just the ship that we’ve decided to record,” said Ted. Dippong added, “We’re still trying to find our proper audience.”

“I like a lot of different music, so why would I limit myself to say one genre?” Gary stated. “Let’s write music under those many genres.”

The band started by doing shows before the pandemic in bars such as Blue Dog in the Plateau, but once COVID hit, they all had to separate and go on hiatus. “We all went back home,” Dippong said, describing the past year in quarantine. “They [Gary and Ted] went to the Yukon and worked over the summer. I went to Vancouver over the summer and worked.”

“We all agreed that we were going to take it up a notch when we got back,” said Gary. They certainly did.

Once reunited, the process began with the song “Jabberwocky.” In what was described as a normal process for them, Ted came up with the riff, which Gary took and turned into a more complete song, then Dippong added lyrics and other touches until they had a package to send to singers and get polished. The final result was lovingly described as an “exuberant funk song.”

The EP features singers from the Montreal area such as JC Taylor, Danesa, and Free Real Estate. This proved to be a learning process in itself. At first, they thought to “just make the instrumental and just send it to the singer and see if they want to do anything,” Dippong described, to let the singer figure out their part. They later realized — as the artists hosting the project — they could write the entire piece before moving forward with a singer. 

The EP was a major improvement in recording quality from their first single, “Voodoo Chainsaw.” During the hiatus, they removed two of their three songs from streaming, due to quality issues, leaving only “Voodoo Chainsaw.”

“When we got back we were like, ‘we need to do this one properly,’” said Dippong, referring to the EP. “We could take our time, so we had to make sure that it actually sounds really good before we get it out.”

In every part of the process — save for distribution to Apple Music which was met with frustration — their enjoyment was obvious. The only part they don’t do themselves is mixing and mastering. “Everybody says they mix and master,” Dippong said, “I don’t know how to do that.”

“I wrote a “Sleeping Mercury” demo and sent it to Chris,” Dippong said, referring to Free Real Estate, the singer on the title song, “and he wanted to do some things, and I actually wrote the lyrics with him.”

Before a song gets sent to singers, however, a demo still has to be made. 

For their practicing and recording sessions, the trio rents a small lockout space in the garment district, Marsonic Studios. Everything is recorded directly into a computer, except on the off chance the three of them are doing vocals, the solution to which Dippong describes as “a little vocal booth set up in [an apartment] closet.” They emphasized the keyboard as a base of operations for their process, for which Ted is the master, “because Ted just comes up with riffs so fast,” said Dippong.

“Don’t tell Ted, but he doesn’t actually need us,” Gary joked, “we’re just here for the sex appeal.” This is beyond dubious, as they took every chance they got to complement each other’s playing ability.

Beyond just recording new songs, they’re also playing live and busking. Since venues are still shut down for the most part, they’ve been playing occasionally on the weekends outside Paul’s Boutique in the Plateau. The audiences are limited and the payout is in exposure and tips. 

“Playing live, you’re restricted so you can only play one layer at a time,” Ted said. This translates to real problems for the trio, as they can only play one instrument each when on stage, but their songs include various layers of melodies. “There’s a couple of songs we recorded we don’t have worked out live right now because it’s just like too many parts and instruments we’re not having,” added Dippong.

For now, busking in the Plateau lets them “Test all our songs and see how they play live,” said Dippong. Once shows open up more fully this fall, they are planning a bigger gig with some of the featured singers on the EP, both as vocalists and separate acts.

 

Photograph by Lou Neveux-Pardijon

Categories
News

Demystifying Dogecoin: The meme cryptocurrency on the rise

Welcome to the doge house

By now, you may have heard of Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency with the face of a dog. Just like what happened with Gamestop last month, this small currency is trying to rocket itself to financial power. Here, we’re going to try to answer all your questions about the budding cryptocurrency.

First off, a quick explanation of what a cryptocurrency is. 

A cryptocurrency is a digital form of money that rides the line between a debit card and cash — entirely on the internet. In its most basic form, you exchange cryptocurrencies with participating entities just like any other purchase online, but instead of involving a bank, the money goes to the other person, more or less directly.

Most cryptocurrencies, such as Dogecoin, are built on a technology called the blockchain. Concordia professor and holder of the Industrial Research Chair in Blockchain Technologies at Concordia, Jeremy Clark says “The blockchain is about building something that’s like a database where’s there’s just one copy of the data and everyone agrees on what that copy of the data is, but it’s not held in a single location.”

It’s easiest to think of cryptocurrencies as a universal, digital version of cash.

The most popular cryptocurrency is Bitcoin (BTC), which you probably have heard of since it recently reached the value of $50,000 USD for one single Bitcoin after automaker Tesla announced it would accept Bitcoin as payment for cars.

Here in the explanation is where it gets meta.

Currencies in the world such as the Canadian dollar (CAD) and the US dollar (USD) are backed by the governments that print the bills. Faith in the monetary system the bills represent gives the currency its value.

Cryptocurrencies are backed by nothing but faith in their value. A Bitcoin has value because we all believe it has value. Just like stocks, cryptocurrencies are volatile and change value rapidly, and are influenced by developments around them.

The U.S. classifies Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as commodities. That’s the same classification as gold.

Think of people who collect vintage coins. They may have a value printed on them, but they can fetch prices much higher. You wouldn’t spend a rare misprinted 1919 quarter on a pack of gum – even though the coin itself would work – because you can sell it for much higher than its printed value.

“Currency isn’t meant to be something that gives you a tremendous return on value,” said Clark, “You want people to use it and not hoard it for the possibility that it doubles its price in a month, it’s meant to be a currency.”

Cryptocurrencies currently work much like that rare misprinted 1919 coin. You can use them to purchase things now or hold onto them in the hopes that they can fetch a higher value later. They both only have value because someone out there says so, and both can technically work like cash.

Cryptocurrencies do offer reasons to be used as currency. They are decentralized so no one agency controls the currency, they are easier to manage and send to individuals being a digital native currency, and cryptocurrencies at large are secure with publicly accessible transaction records.

That being said, a currency should only be valuable in what you can trade it for, and a currency that’s worth more than what you’re spending it on isn’t much of a currency is it?

If circulation never occurs because everyone holds onto their crypto-coins, they’re not really coins anymore. Coins are currency to be traded. You’re holding onto ones and zeros that at one point might have been cash should people have used them as such, but now are just code.

Everyone okay? Existential crisis under control for now? Okay good.

Now onto Dogecoin.

Beyond the popular coins such as Bitcoin and Ethereum ($ETH), there are literally hundreds of cryptocurrencies. They all function similarly but have different features, advantages, and prices.

Dogecoin is part of a smaller class of cryptocurrencies called altcoins, short for alternate coins.

Basically, Dogecoin is just like other cryptocurrencies except it was created as a joke with a picture of a dog — the doge meme — as its mascot. Well, that and being quoted on the project’s website as the digital currency “Favoured by Shiba Inus worldwide.”

“I always thought that there would be a sort of winner that would be chosen by the market,” said Clark when referring to the hundreds of smaller coins on the market. Currently, there’s value in many of them and no clear winner.

The Doge in question is an image commonly found in memes. Doge herself is a Shiba Inu named Kabosu from Japan.

So, why should I care?

Dogecoin has had quite the boom as of late.

Just like what happened with Gamestop and other meme stocks, an organized group of Reddit traders all decided to buy into Dogecoin, leading it to achieve a peak value of just under $0.085 USD per Doge on Feb 8.

Eight cents doesn’t sound like much, but this is a massive jump from below one cent per Doge just over a week before.

On top of that, Dogecoin has had lots of support.

Elon Musk, ever the champion of nonsense, tweeted about Dogecoin on Feb. 24 using language reminiscent of r/wallstreetbets and the Gamestop meme stock surge, “Literally, on the actual moon.”

ATM company CoinFlip announced in a tweet on March 1 that it would begin trading Dogecoin at its ATMs across the country.

The Dallas Mavericks basketball team announced on March 4 that they would accept Dogecoin for tickets and merchandise.

“It’s hard to say what the longevity of these things will be if people will continue to prefer having dozens of [currencies] around,” said Clark, “or if eventually, the market will coalesce behind one or two winners.”

For now, all that can be said for the joke-turned cryptocurrency is much coin, such wow.

 

Graphic by Taylor Reddam

Categories
News

Canada Joins Australia in the fight for the future of the internet

Can’t share this

The fight for the future of the internet has gotten the heat turned up. Earlier this month, the conflict playing out in the Australian Parliament between Google and a proposed law that would make them and Facebook pay to link to news sources jumped to the public consciousness.

Google has since decided to get ahead of the legislation and began paying news outlets for their stories in their Google News Showcase program. This is a complete reversal after threatening to exit the country completely, should Australia go through with the legislation.

Facebook, on the other hand, went on the offensive. On Feb. 18, Facebook users in Australia were unable to see or share any news content. The ban was far-reaching, covering both domestic and international news outlets. The ban went so far as to remove some pages relating to government institutions. In regards to this issue, Australian Prime minister Scott Morrison said, “They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.”

Facebook relented once they began striking deals a few days later on Feb. 23 after the code was amended.

Facebook claims that they are different in handling news than Google, namely that publishers choose to publish their articles on Facebook. Facebook claims that they give publishers “5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million.”

According to Axios, the number of visits to Australian news sites both domestic and international dropped during the few days the ban was in place. It remains to be seen how restoring sharing affects these sites or if the ban hurt Facebook usage in the country on a larger scale.

Enter Canada. The same day that news was removed from Facebook in Australia, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who is in charge of similar legislation, doubled down on his commitment to the project. His proposed legislation is expected to hit Ottawa later in the spring, according to Reuters. Indications suggest the legislation will follow the Australian model rather than the French model, which differs in that publishers are paid to have their content used in a special content area called Google News Showcase, rather than charging for access to links. 

Pandora’s box has been opened, with Australia leading a charge that appears to only be snowballing from here.

Canada’s follow-up to Australia will likely be pivotal. Many popular outlets of Australian media are owned by a rather controversial company, News Corp., which contains The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and Fox News, among others. News Corp. championed the legislation through their various channels, leading some to question the motive of the legislation and consider it “media blackmail,” such as Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

Other companies such as Seven West Media have joined Google News Showcase in Australia.

Canada following the Australian model legitimizes it and establishes it as a standard, even though it’s not an actual law yet. 

As we spend more time online due to the continuing pandemic, the market dominance of Google and Facebook has come to the forefront. The Canadian Media Concentration Research Project clocked Google at 50 per cent market share in Canadian online advertising in 2019, and Facebook was nearing one-third, leaving only roughly one-fifth of the market.

It is unknown how this legislation will change those figures or anything as of yet since France is the only country to enact a law similar to this, and their model is not applicable.

So by the time you read this, you may not be able to share this. We are now in the waiting game to see what Canada’s heritage minister’s legislation brings to Canada, and how Facebook and Google react. If Australia is a model to go by, we may go a few days without sharing.

 

Graphic by Taylor Reddam

Categories
News

Explaining the complexity of the stock market with Lego minifigures

GameStop, Wall Street, and Reddit: a summary

By now you’ve probably seen what has been happening the past few weeks with GameStop, Wall Street, and Reddit.

Frankly, it’s a complex situation with some insane potential complications. Well, have no fear dear reader, for I am going to try and explain the situation in simple terms while still answering plenty of overarching questions.

First, an oversimplified explanation: users on a subreddit called r/wallstreetbets collectively decided to purchase GameStop (GME) stock in mass, which drove up the price per share and cost hedge funds who bet against GameStop lots of money.

Don’t worry, I’ll explain each part of that sentence.


Starting off, what is Reddit? It’s a social media site that focuses more on following communities rather than people. Imagine if Facebook only had groups, and your newsfeed was made solely of the groups you joined.

A group on Reddit is called a subreddit, they’re identified by starting with an r/. So for example a subreddit devoted to pictures of cute animals is called r/aww. Users are similarly identified by starting with u/.

These groups or subreddits are managed by moderators who manage the content for their group and establish rules for users to follow.

The subreddit in the spotlight is called r/wallstreetbets (Wall Street Bets). This group of self-described delinquents often use coarse language to make joke stocks into real purchases, often also posting the disastrous results of said jokes on their stock portfolios.

The subreddit’s description reads: “like 4chan found a Bloomberg terminal.” Their popularity exploded in April 2020 when the US stimulus checks for $600 landed, and lots of people decided to take that windfall to the trading floor to alleviate boredom and possibly make that $600 into something more reasonable.

Okay, now for the more technical stuff, the financial terminology.

r/wallstreetbets users employ a stock trading process called retail trading, which is the process of independent individuals purchasing small volumes of stock, the volume that a normal person is capable of (compared to a retirement portfolio or hedge fund, which have much more volume). They often use an app called Robinhood, which has had its problems with this community, but there are others from across the world. Essentially retail traders don’t trade stocks for a living, it’s more like purchasing a product, hence the terminology.

There is a process being employed by hedge funds and other Wall Street institutions called shorting a stock. Yes, it is the term “short” from the movie The Big Short, which is based on this mechanic. This process is why huge investment firms are losing money. It’s best explained in an analogy.

Imagine for a second that your friend collects Lego minifigures (the little plastic people). They have lots of different figures, ranging from Harry Potter all the way to Star Wars. You go onto eBay one day and see that this minifigure, the spaceman, is worth $10. You figure that the $10 is more than it will be worth in a year, after all the space race is over. Being the excellent friend you are, you ask to borrow the spaceman with the promise to return one to them in a year. They agree and lend you the figurine and you promptly sell it on eBay and pocket your $10, feeling pretty smug.

A year later you go onto eBay to fill your promise. One of two things is going to be true: 

1) Your original bet was right, the figure now costs $6, and once you purchase the figure to fulfill your obligation, you pocket a cool $4. Nice.

2) The SpaceX launches have increased the popularity of the spaceman, and now the figure costs $20 to replace. You made a promise so you’ve got to find the cash somewhere and just swallow the difference. Ouch. You’re out $10 from this transaction, but you made your promise so there’s that.

Here’s the fun part of that second scenario. The spaceman could cost anything, $20, $40, $100… You see the problem here. There’s no price ceiling. You could lose an infinite amount of money making your promise back. You only make money if the item goes down in price.

Institutional investors have been shorting GameStock stock for years. They believed that the retail games store would only fall farther and farther off, making them money. 

Up until a few days ago, that continued to be true. The members of r/wallstreetbets agreed to purchase large volumes of GameStop stock, driving up the price. This is basic economics; the more people want something, especially if there’s a limited quantity, the more money it’s worth.

The coordinated effort by the r/wallstreetbets community resulted in a stock price hike from about $77 on Jan. 25 to a peak of almost $350 on Jan. 27. That’s a 354 per cent increase.

So if you had a large bet that the GameStop price would keep going down and the day comes that your bet is due, and you saw that the price went up hundreds-fold, you’d be out a lot of money, and that’s exactly what happened.

 

 

Graphic by @ihooqstudio

Categories
News

Google vs. Australia: the first battle for the future of the internet

Google threatens to remove its search engine from Australia

It’s no secret that traditional news media has been having a hard time. The balance of power between news sites and aggregator sites is a fight as old as the internet. In this effort, the Australian government proposed a law last year that would require companies like Google and Facebook to pay to link to news stories.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the goal of the law is to “address bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and digital platforms, specifically Google and Facebook.”

It includes a set of rules for the publishers and social sites to adhere to, including publishing “core news,” maintaining editorial standards, and being primarily Australian in origin and intended audience.

However, Google did not take this lying down. About a week ago, a yellow warning sign appeared under the search bar in Australia that linked to an open letter from Google Australia’s managing director, Mel Silvia. They are threatening to shut down Google search from the country if the proposed law takes effect.

Google argues in their statement that this “puts Google’s business in Australia — and the services we provide more than 19 million Australians — at enormous risks,” and this monumental shift to how the internet works would lead to unforeseen consequences.

Google representatives did not respond to The Concordian’s request for comment.

“Many countries are contemplating link taxes or other forms of revenue sharing,” according to Robert Fay, managing director of digital economy at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

“In France, for example, Alphabet [Google] has agreed to negotiate licenses to pay for content,” said Fay. That French example is an agreement between news publishers and the Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale (APIG), where publishers make a deal with Google to showcase their articles in search results for a negotiated fee, rather than just exposure. A similar program called Google News Showcase is in place in Germany and Brazil already.

The Australian law would force Google to pay for links to news sites, not for the content of the articles. 

John Hinds, president of lobbying group News Media Canada, thinks that the Australian model may be the way to go, and stated that “it’s the most effective model because it also has a code of conduct that also deals with some of the advertising issues beyond simply the idea of paying for content.”

The click economy relies on big services such as Facebook and Google to get eyes on pages. It was a mutually beneficial partnership for years, as news sites relied on the coverage that Google and Facebook could give them. In return, pages like Google and Facebook benefitted from consumers using their platforms by both finding and sharing articles. Both publishers and social sites take in ad revenue from the consumer looking at their respective pages.

Delphine Halgand-Mishra, senior fellow at CIGI argued that, “knowing that this article has a production cost to bring reliable information, then it is only fair that the media get a portion of the ad-revenue the online service providers gained thanks to users reading the article and spending time on the platform.”

Fey added that “Google’s concern is likely that if it agrees to what Australia proposes other countries will follow. That boat has left the dock. Google’s ultimatum is not in its best interest since, in the end, it would only lose market share if it begins to pull out of countries.”

This fight comes at a pivotal point in the information age (or misinformation age).

Traditional reporting has been falling on hard times since the internet became commonplace, not just in terms of diminished readership but also in the loss of advertising revenue. Ever since 2000, revenue for newspapers in both advertising and circulation has been unstable and declining, ad revenue dropping 44 per cent between 2006 and 2009 alone. Confidence in the news continues to be low, and layoffs in newsrooms only serve to compound the troubles.

The need for reporting did not go away, however, and reliable information has only since gone up in importance. The internet removed barriers to accessing information, while not proposing a way to pay for said information.

The path forward is not entirely clear now. These rules appear to be in defiance of net neutrality, the idea that the internet is a level playing field. Many different sets of rules are likely to be rolled out across the globe, with Australia and France perhaps only early forerunners of a larger movement.

“New problems could always arise from new legislation,” argued Halgand-Mishra.

“The devil is always in the details. No legislation is ever perfect. I think this legislation will mostly change the way Google pays news providers. Google will not pay in its own terms anymore.”

 

Graphic by Taylor Reddam

Categories
Music

Run The Jewels’ Holy Calamavote concert — Legend Has It was a Blockbuster Night

Run The Jewels’ latest concert for Adult Swim proves we are all still walking in the snow

On Oct. 17, rap duo Run The Jewels performed a concert in conjunction with Adult Swim and Ben and Jerry’s called Holy Calamavote. The show was broadcast across YouTube and Adult Swim’s TV channel.

The concert was the first live performance of the group’s fourth album, RTJ4. Starting with an introduction from host Eric Andre staging the event as a telethon urging people to vote, then moving into the first song off the album “yankee and the brave (ep 4).”

The purpose of the show was an encouragement to vote, and the show only got more political after the intro. If you’ve ever listened to an RTJ album, you know their lyrics are sharp, potent political criticisms — and that hasn’t changed. If anything, 2020 has made their lyrics hit home with more people.  

The show stopper was their performance of “walking in the snow.” This song brings up some of the many horrible political events that have happened in the U.S. since 2016, such as the child separation policy and police brutality. For context, the album was released two days earlier than planned due to the tragic death of George Floyd. The song stops at Killer Mike’s quote of “I can’t breathe,” pausing for seconds before continuing. When he resumes, the true power of his words is emphasized by the lack of music playing behind him and made ever more potent as they are tragic.

Their album had many guest stars, including Greg Nice and Gangsta Boo, who made an in-person appearance on their songs “ooh la la,” and “walking in the snow” respectively. Other big names featured on the album such as 2 Chainz and Pharrell Williams did not perform in-person at the show. However, they were not forgotten, appearing on screens behind Killer Mike and EL-P. This was a socially distanced affair, so there was no crowd, but that didn’t seem to phase the duo. Ever the charismatic stage presence, rapper EL-P only brought the emptiness up when thanking one of the guest stars, saying, “Greg Nice, everybody. Wait there’s no one here,” to an empty stage.

During their final song, “a few words for the firing squad (radiation),” they spoke a bit about the situation that brought them there: the 2020 U.S. election.

We believe the last thing they want you to do, is to get out of your house, march down in person, mask on, and cast your ballot for what you think this country is supposed to be,” said El-P.

This quote is what separates this show from other socially distanced concerts held this year. I’ve written before about other concert adaptations for 2020, such as the drive-in concert hosted by Metallica this summer, but this show had a definitively different feel. Metallica’s show was much more of a “normal” concert, costing money and being held outside the home. Holy Calamavote was a defiantly political affair. It was not meant as a distraction from the current world situation, but rather a call to action.

This show was filled with many strange moments à-la it’s host Eric Andre, as well as grand visual flair to match the striking album. Andre is known for his absurdist humor, and even though he only got a few seconds, it shined through. He openly challenged no one in particular to fight him for no apparent reason. The opening and closing of the show involved the Run the Jewels getting in and out of a Buick Grand National, as referenced in “yankee and the brave (ep. 4).” The whole event was filmed like a normal concert film with many angles and lots of lights. “walking in the snow” was a visual powerhouse in addition to being very emotional. It snowed on stage, and extras stood next to the DJ of the show wearing gas masks and surgical smocks. The camera crew was visible while they walked around capturing shots in full mask and face shield glory — a full-scale production while maintaining health guidelines.

This concert is a piece for its time. With political unrest only accelerating into November, the time was right for a striking show.

There was a certain power in this performance that would never have been achievable any other year. While concerts often generate energy from the crowd, the lack thereof here emphasizes the weirdness of 2020. There have been other concerts deemed political, but being internet-exclusive widened this show’s reach and made it more accessible to everyone. We are still “walking in the snow,” and it’s still getting colder every day.

The show is available to watch here.

Categories
Music

Metallica fans flocked to the drive-in concert like a “Moth Into Flame”

Metallica and Three Days Grace try their best to adapt a live performance during a pandemic

There are only so many days in a year that have the anticipation of last Saturday. One of your favorite bands is performing in your city. Your excitement is palpable. As the night approaches, you only continue to get giddier. It’s time to leave the house. You grab the keys. The only worry in the world is finding a parking space.

Only one catch: it’s 2020. Due to the raging global COVID-19 pandemic, concerts as we knew them are no more.

That’s where nostalgia steps in with a solution. Metallica and Three Days Grace put on a drive-in concert from coast to coast. And like a moth into flame, metalheads came for a uniquely 2020 concert. The only catch is that there’s no in-house sound system since the venues are mostly pop-up locations. The venue suggested using an alternate sound system than your car stereo—two hours on the car battery is not a great idea if you plan on leaving the parking lot.

For my experience, I used an iPod Nano and a Beats Pill to connect to the show’s FM broadcast. The company running the show was beta testing their app which I could not connect to from my parking spot, with no explanation as to why. Some brought boomboxes to layout in truck beds, others took whatever they had to get the closest approximation of live music possible. As such, I will not be commenting on the audio quality beyond the limits of FM radio.

First up was Three Days Grace, playing an opening set of all their hits, recorded live from an unknown studio. From the get-go, the oddity of playing a live show in 2020 was apparent, as they made their best effort to rile up the crowd as an opening act should, despite playing behind a screen. Despite the awkwardness of the scenario, Three Days Grace played like they were in their element, and their set was filmed just like a normal concert movie.

Metallica started their set after a one-minute countdown between the shows. The band began with their trademark curtain-raising instrumental song “The Ecstasy of Gold” (originally composed by Ennio Morricone) and opening on a sunset stage in a secret Northern California location. No stranger to filming their concerts, they made an excellent showing with all the lights and theatrics that one should expect. Metallica even made the effort of playing clips of their crew changing out guitars, banter amongst the band and with the audience between songs. Their crowd work was more natural than that of Three Days Grace, mostly just joking between themselves, including a shout out, with lead singer / guitarist James Hetfield even saying, “Quebec, they’re going nuts right now, if I know Quebec.”

At the end of the night, when all the riffs were done cutting through the FM radio static, concert-goers left their drive-ins as satisfied as possible. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that the drive-in experience was clunky at best, and a meager substitute for a real live show. That being said, given the circumstances, I wouldn’t trade it away. It was refreshing to have somewhere to go, to be outside of the house. Even with the subpar sound compared to what I could have had back home, the togetherness and excitement of a live show still beat a typical web concert any day.

This show is a look into the future of concerts and live events going forward in 2020. As we step into Zoom classes, we’re all painfully aware of the problems and awkwardness of trying to have an event worth going to digitally. The drive-in format provides a middle ground between a computer monitor and concert hall that was a welcome change of pace from my normal day behind countless screens. Judging by how full the show I attended was, I’m not alone in wanting to go to a performance, not just log into one.

The Metallica / Three Days Grace show offered a moment’s reprieve; the only major concert to grace the summer of 2020, a reminder of a world so cold.

 

Photo by Grayson Acri

Categories
Opinions

Gun laws and who to blame

Australia had Port Arthur. Since the swift response by Canberra to restrict gun use, there has been one mass shooting in 2019.

New Zealand witnessed a gunman kill 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch. According to NBC news, lead Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to announce plans to ban nearly all military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles on the Thursday six days after the unfortunate event.

The United States has had Dayton, El Paso, Parkland, Las Vegas, Columbine, and more. The United States’ response? The Independent reports that Walmart has removed video game advertising.

For years, the American public has grappled with the reality of mass violence. It came in many forms; in schools like my high school, Columbine, to the more recent hate crime in Texas and the random attack in Ohio.

Since Columbine High School just over 20 years ago, the general tendency was to blame video games. The link is not completely insignificant, but not a sole factor either.

“But the story isn’t that Republicans are blaming video games,” according to Vox.com. “It’s that they’re blaming anything other than lax gun laws and the huge number of firearms in this country.”

Kean University assistant professor Allison Paolini wrote an article on Counseling.org pointing out the role of mental health in gun violence. Every human being is at risk of mental health problems, and yet, according to Paolini, America is the only recipient of routine mass violence.

Politicians in my home country will cry every species of wolf before addressing the real problem: easily accessible guns.

“Following a series of mass shootings in the US in recent years,” according to the BBC, “there has been little in the way of sweeping gun-control reforms.”

This disturbing trend has to stop. The blame has been thrown every way, and yet nothing has changed. Attributing these actions to virtual reality’s effect on human beings enables people in power to properly handle the situation.

The recent societal outrage towards video games has happened before, to no avail. The link between video games and violence has been proven by Oxford and the National Center for Health Research to be nominal — both found that games contribute insignificantly towards aggression but not towards violent and criminal acts.

The American Psychological Association found opposing results, finding a link to “increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior.” However, most other studies verified the former statement, not the latter.

It’s one thing to place blame, but there are powers at play that avoid even banning games as a potential solution. Not that legislation against video-games will do anything except potentially infringe on first amendment rights of game makers.

Large capacity magazine ban, assault weapons ban, bump stocks ban, or even universal background checks; all solutions the New York Times stated has been debated and shelved by lawmakers. Any of these are viable options to slow down these attacks; yet none have passed.

Until we see some remote semblance of action to save lives, be it in better rating systems for entertainment, improvement in mental health screenings, or the gun control that my country has clamored for, the counter will continue to roll up. There is no one solution, but inaction is certainly not the answer.

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Student Life

Broken Pencil: A tip for re-evaluating your priorities

Do as you do, not as you think

Quick! If I asked you about your priorities, what would you say? As a student, your first answer might be studying. Alright, but what else? Do you spend your time with friends or alone? Do you hit the gym, or catch up on Netflix? Consciously or not, we make time-related decisions every day. So, how do you want to spend today? The real question is: how do you spend it?

I ask this because I found that what I thought I prioritized was actually not the case. I was frustrated day after day during an internship I had, which, including school work and travel commitments, had me out and time-bound from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. I thought I needed some time to watch TV and relax, but between my 11-hour work day, my workouts after that, meals and sleep, I never got the chance.

It took a meltdown for me to realize something. I thought I prioritized down time, I thought I needed it, but I actually didn’t. I always did my workout, I always got a minimum of eight hours of sleep, and I always made time for family. Those were my priorities, I just never realized it. After this revelation, I still felt frustrated, but at a manageable level.

I tell you this because I know we have all felt this way, like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Here is a great exercise to try and help alleviate that feeling of frustration: take a look at what you do every day after class, time yourself and record it if necessary. Just look at what you actually do. That’s it. You’ll find that by looking at this timesheet of your day, you have reoccurring things come up that you make time for, regardless of whether or not your schedule permits it. Those are your actual priorities. Don’t get frustrated by your choices, just look at your time spread and make changes if desired.

The beauty of this exercise is that it applies to other self-help tasks. Feel like your bank account is always empty? Look at your bank or credit card statement and see where your money goes and make conscious choices to remedy your spending. Want to pick up a new skill? Look at your daily timesheet and see if and where you can cut some engagements shorter and make time.

So, what are you going to do now?

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Categories
News

Media, politics, and partisanship

How can Canada and its media learn from the United States’s mistakes and avoid the hyper partisanship that has plagued the country?

That’s what three distinguished journalists covered at “Journalism in the Age of Hyper-Polarization,” a panel hosted by McGill University on Oct. 30. The main topics covered included fringe groups, trust, and remaining objective and unbiased as a journalist.

The panelists agreed there can be no overarching solutions to these problems. However, they stressed throughout the event that Canada is relatively free of this partisanship for now.

The first topic discussed was the proper way to cover fringe groups. Philippe Gohier was the authority since he is the editor-in-chief of Vice Quebec, a publication that has covered the province’s political fringes since 2016. He argued that fringe groups should be covered, but with context. The panel also asked the question: how can journalists contextualize fringe groups that have been legitimized? They cited U.S. President Donald Trump’s reaction to the Charlottesville incident, in which he condemned violence “on both sides” as an example of this phenomenon. The panel had no overarching solutions, saying it’s variable case by case.

Jennifer Ditchburn, award winning journalist and editor-in-chief of Policy Options, led the conversation on trust. She said journalists ultimately have the final say in writing and publishing a story, but choosing not to cover something may harm their credibility. Mark Lloyd, a panelist and professor of professional practice at McGill’s Max Bell School of Public Policy, added that “Journalism is imperfect; it’s called the first draft of history for a reason.” All the panelists agreed that readers have a responsibility as well: never get your news from one source, and popularity is not equal to trust.

Regarding objectivity, the panelists challenged the traditional strategy of giving equal coverage to both sides of the political spectrum. They referenced the 2016 U.S. election, arguing that Hillary Clinton’s email scandal shouldn’t have been given equal coverage to the other camp’s numerous scandals. Ditchburn said that equal coverage may not be a fair way of reporting on such issues.

Overall, the message was of hope and cautious optimism. Panelists agreed that media consumers must do their part by consuming a diverse diet of sources. They also stressed that reporters need to continue to inform the public in a diverse and objective way. To the panelists, most of these problems have no overarching fix, or any fix at all. But for the sake of Canada, they stressed that everyone must do their part.

Photo by Mackenzie Lad

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