Finkelstein speaks out for Egypt and Gaza

The media and America blamed for a lack of transparency and democracy

Controversial scholar Norman Finkelstein spoke as part of the Human Rights Conference at Concordia University on Wed. Nov. 5 concerning the human rights crisis in Egypt and Gaza and the link between both countries.

The talk, entitled Egypt and Gaza Intertwined: Human Rights Conference, was based around three main topics: understanding what Finkelstein calls the Gaza massacre of 2014; media misinformation and Israel’s ability to take advantage of it; and the role of the United Nations (U.N.) and primarily the United States with regard to both Gaza and Egypt. The event was sponsored by the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy, the Egyptian Canadian Home Organization, and the Concordia Egyptian Student Association (CESA).

Photo by Keith Race.

Finkelstein, a political activist who has done extensive research on both conflicts, has seen his fair share of criticism over his opinion on what he sees as flagrant human rights abuses in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  That night, he focused most of his speech on creating a timeline of the major events that took place during Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli name for this summer’s seven-week assault on Gaza, which was spurred on by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas operatives.

“[The event] was not unlike the previous massacres, though on, clearly, a larger scale,” explained Finkelstein on the thousands of overwhelmingly civilian casualties in Gaza, which he said the European Union and United States turned a blind eye on. “Surprisingly, the United States and the European Union did not break off relations with the new [Israeli] government, but basically took an approach of ‘let’s just see what’s going to happen’,” Finkelstein said.

While the world sat by their T.V.s, computers and/or smartphones, there was little to no reference to the conflict as a major issue. According to Finkelstein, Hamas were not behaving like terrorists, a necessary premise for Israel, whose actions would otherwise be considered war crimes, as stated explicitly by Amnesty International.

Finkelstein argued that one of the main reasons Israel was able to continue attacks in Gaza for nearly two months was because of the media. He cited the fluidity and ever-changing focus of the news as something that allowed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to continue the “massacre” relatively unnoticed. His two primary examples of this shift were the bizarre and tragic Malaysian airplane crash over Ukraine and the first ISIS beheading of an American.

The other side of the media coin was the lack of research of Israel’s claim of terror rockets sent by Hamas. Finkelstein called this claim a piece of “science fiction,” explaining that it is highly implausible that 4,000 rockets would kill a mere seven civilians and cause only $15 million in property damage. He also denied Israel’s claim that its Iron Dome (a system that Israel claims intercepts and destroys short-range rockets) saved countless lives.

The latter half of the conference focused on the U.N. and U.S.A.’s role in both Egypt and Gaza. With regard to Gaza, Finkelstein condemned UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for his laissez-faire attitude toward Israel. Particularly, Finkelstein said Ban Ki-Moon only released a statement calling the Israel-Gaza conflict a “moral outrage and criminal act” after Israel attacked a seventh UN shelter. “Ban Ki-Moon, [the] comatose puppet of the United States, wasn’t doing anything,” Finkelstein said. It was the later that day that President Obama spoke out. Having Ban Ki-Moon speak out was very embarrassing for Obama, he added.

Finkelstein argued that the events that took place in Egypt, the overthrowing and jailing of the elected president in the name of democracy by the United States, were and continue to be unfounded. Finkelstein refused to call the current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a president.

It took about 40 minutes, but Finkelstein managed to find the place to compare the two situations, making the title of the conference relevant. Finkelstein argued that the common denominator between the atrocities in both Gaza and Egypt is America. The U.S.A. is a country in which the last two presidents have defended and illegally armed those who were vested interests to them, according to Finkelstein. “Egypt is not on a democratic transition, Israel is on a dictatorial transition,” he explained. This is because the United States have allowed it to be so by expressing how both Israel and President Sisi have the right to defend themselves, despite the lack of evidence that they are being attacked.

“Israel has the right to defend itself, Sisi has the right to defend himself, the only ones who don’t have the right to defend themselves are the people living under brutal and illegal siege,” said Finkelstein. “And the people of Egypt who are now living under a brutal dictatorship, they don’t have the right to defend themselves. Only important people have the right to defend themselves and the rest of us just have to live with it.”


Holy blooming botanics, Batman!

Botanical gardens get bookish with conference

Concordia is organizing a conference on sustainability and botanical garden biodiversity in partnership with the Montreal Botanical Gardens on Oct. 23-25.

“Leaders in Conservation: Botanic Gardens and Biodiversity in the 21st Century” by the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre will feature local and international scholars, experts and leaders in the field of botanic garden biodiversity conservation to discuss the role that botanic gardens, zoos and natural science museums play in the socio-environmental governance of biodiversity.

The conference claims to be the first international scholarly event on botanical gardens, eco-citizenry and socio-environmental governance and is run by principal conference organizer Dr. Katja Neves and co-organizer and director of the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre, Dr. Peter Stoett.

Dr. Neves has been researching and working in biodiversity for over 20 years, spending much of the ‘90s on the transition from whale hunting to whale watching. This will be the first time that a biodiversity conference brings the social sciences and humanities together to discuss the issues surrounding biodiversity.

“Botanics have their own conferences, but they are very specific to botanics,” Neves said. “What we’re hoping to do is to bridge the world of scholars and botanics.”

The conference is just the beginning for Neves, who is looking at long-term goals for sustainability and biodiversity.

“I have three goals,” said Neves, “An immediate goal, the conference—here scholars and botanic workers start a productive dialogue; a medium goal—to produce a website and create a sort of webinar so the public who didn’t attend the conference can have access and create a greater depth of conversation; and a long term goal—a forum for access to ideas, debate and resources for scholars, botanic workers and citizens alike.”

This conference has been two years in the making and started with Neves researching biodiversity and sustainability. Once she presented the idea of a conference, she spoke with the Botanical Gardens and met with Stoett, who supplied her with the resources to make it possible.

“It’s a collaborative effort and it is quite unorthodox,” explained Neves. “Botanic workers must trust scholars, and scholars must be humble enough to take it in. I’m hoping this changes the relations between the two.”

The conference will be in three different locations during its run; Thursday Oct. 23 will be on the seventh floor of the Hall building, Friday Oct. 24 will feature at the Botanical Gardens and Saturday Oct. 25 will be at Loyola Campus. Although registration is filled in some cases, there are still tickets to the gala dinner at $25 for students and around $50 for professionals.

Day one will consist of a panel discussion about the meaning of biodiversity and finding practical solutions. Day two will have presentations from representatives of Botanical Gardens around the world, what dilemmas they’ve encountered and how they’ve dealt with them. Day three will be a more hands-on debate. The audience is encouraged to join in on the discussion on a variety of topics including eco-citizenship and gardening.

“Citizens don’t need to be passive to biodiversity, they can be actively engaged. You don’t have to be a millionaire to make a significant contribution, it’s about empowerment, about learning how [biodiversity] should be done and how it should be legislated.”

Register and find our locations at


Cardilli explores many musical avenues

The Ben Cardilli Band will be playing at the Centre Fusion Culturel on St-Hubert street Nov. 1 for a combined celebration of the band’s EP launch, Cardilli’s birthday and Halloween. I sat down with Cardilli in his home studio at his parents’ house to discuss the new album and his long history with music. Cardilli met me outside of his parents’ house and explained that he had had a horrible day teaching music to grade 7 students at Cote Saint-Luc’s Bialik High School.

Concordia student Ben Cardilli celebrates his new album, his birthday and Halloween. Photo by Felicite Anais Roy

Cardilli, a Concordia student studying in communications, was offered the job by a friend’s mother.

“I like my job,” he assured me, “but sometimes there’s one or two kids that just really make it hard to stay motivated.”

As we walked up the stairs and into what was once his bedroom, I was bombarded by around 10 guitars placed in the middle of the cozy bedroom.

Cardilli laughed explaining, “this is nothing, you should see my place!”

He began showing me some of the guitars, explaining that these were mostly old and out of tune.

As I sat down on the couch closest to the door, Cardilli took a seat at his computer, between the stand up mic and and mixing board. Lucky Me, Cardilli’s newest EP, is a continuation of Seen It All released in 2012. Although it is still not finished, Cardilli explains that the music will stay true to what his fans are used to; a six song acoustic EP with a 90s feel that lyrically “is real but also up for interpretation.” He explains that he never wants to be too direct in his lyrics; if he spoke directly to his own life then it would be harder for people to connect with him on a personal level.

Cardilli has been in almost 15 bands since early high school and has ventured down many routes musically. From heavy metal to pop and now electronic dance music, Cardilli makes a point of exploring all musical avenues to understand music in all of its forms and have an appreciation for not just what he likes, but music in general.

Cardilli and his bandmates Chris See Hoye (lead guitar and vocals), Michael Kamps (bass) and Pascal Beauregard (drums), honed their talents in the 90s style music “before music was too mastered and controlled,” the type of music Cardilli loves most.

Cardilli acknowledges that being in bands like Red October and The Honest Family allowed for him to grow as a musician and have taught him a lot about writing music and collaborating as a group, as well as the importance of connections and promotion in the music world. However, his main focus is on his own projects and collaborating with his band members.

“With the [Ben Cardilli] band we are always working together. Before Pascal joined the band, our old drummer had the same love for the nineties but was more reggae influenced. Now, with Pascal, the sound is completely different. We’ve taken a more folk-country route. It’s all about working together and coming up with something we all love.”

Whether it be in his solo project or his band, Cardilli’s music is honest and his talent shines through. Coming from a musical family, where all of his three brothers are involved with the industry to some degree, Cardilli’s ability to play any instrument is astounding. His lyrics are sincere and his voice is something that you would have to hear to truly understand the pure talent of Ben Cardilli.

The Ben Cardilli Band will be playing at the CFC on St-Hubert street Nov. 1.


Jadea Kelly finds optimism in the darkness

After spending most of last year writing in her Toronto apartment, Jadea Kelly is back on tour to promote her third album, Clover, after a hiatus caused by exhaustion, according to her website.

Jadea Kelly performed in Montreal on Oct. 9 at Upstairs to promote her latest album Clover. Photo Jen Squires

The album is a new direction for the Ontario-based singer-songwriter. Clover, named after her grandfather’s farm in Ontario, has a darker, more sombre and orchestral feel that lends itself perfectly to Kelly’s haunting vocals while her previous albums were rooted more deeply in country and folk.

This new sound emerged from a collaboration between Kelly and her producer Stew Crookes. Crookes, with the help of other musicians including Jason Sniderman and Tom Juhas, allowed for Kelly’s album to take on much more musically complex and interesting harmonies than on her previous albums, Second Spring and Eastbound Platform.

“We have jokingly coined a new genre name for this record, ‘fire folk’ or ‘spooky country.’ The instrumentation is a lot more adventurous that our last recordings — a lot darker and orchestrated,” said Kelly.

Clover is a much more emotionally charged album than Kelly’s previous releases. While the tone is darker than what her fans are used to, Kelly claims that the driving message behind it remains optimistic.

“With this present album, I am trying to convey a message of hope and strength to my audience. I wrote this album from a tender and emotional place and hope to extend my newfound passion and strength to those around me.”

Kelly has high hopes for Clover when it comes to her fans. She hopes that they will connect their experiences with hers while enjoying the music.

“I would like them to feel relaxed and entertained. Even though these lyrics come from my own emotional experiences, I want them to develop their own personal sentiments and feel connected to one another in the process,” she said.

In order to get the rich sound found on Kelly’s new album, Crookes took the recording back to basics. Instead of recording on a computer or any digital form that is typical of music production nowadays, Clover was recorded on analogue two-inch tapes, according to her website.

“This album had a bigger budget than the others, and therefore allowed for more time to develop the songs and marinate ideas. We recorded to tape, live off the floor as well over a short two week period. Instead of going back and forth on ideas for three months, we solidified them during pre, pro and recording,” said Kelly.

Kelly is most known for her work with the Canadian progressive metal band, Protest the Hero. She was featured on three songs from their 2005 concept album Kezia, playing the part of the eponymous main character and toured with the band to promote the album. She was also featured on their 2011 album, Scurrilous.

Her solo work has also garnered her much attention over the years and has won her a Toronto Independent Music Award in 2008 and a Canadian Folk Music Award in 2010.

When she’s not busy working or touring, the singer-songwriter takes time for the things she loves.

“I shop for stage dresses,” she laughs, “drink good coffee, writing songs, and sleep.”

Her latest album Clover was released in May and  is now available in stores and online.



The In & Outs defy the laws of physics

Montreal rock band The In & Outs are preparing to perform an acrobatic set at the grand opening of Zero Gravité, a rock climbing, yoga and pilates centre, on Sept. 21.

The In & Outs perform at Zero Gravité, 4519, avenue Papineau, Sept.21 at 8 p.m.. Press photo.

The three song set will be performed both on stage and in the air. This will be made possible with two drums sets, one on stage and the other lifted in the air on a 90 degree angle, facing the audience.

The idea for the show was born when guitarist Dave Groover was approached by a friend who informed him of the rock climbing centre’s opening. The band had been wanting to find an occasion to create an original rock experience and since the name of the centre matched their recent  album title, the guitarist approached “someone over at Zero Gravité and it worked out.”

The acrobatic aspect of the show was Groover’s idea . It came to fruition while searching for a concept for the trio’s newest single “There We Go,” which depicts the band performing and rising into the air then being held up by chains attached to their legs, resembling the effect of a helium balloon.

The band is made up of three members: Groover on guitar, bassist Alexandre Pepin and drummer Francois-Michel Beauchamp.

Although Groover used to be an acrobat for Montreal’s internationally renown Cirque du Soleil, he explains that the inspiration for the unique performance  had nothing to do with his old job but instead came from his interest in astrology. His infatuation with outer space also inspired the album title Zero Gravity. Groover explains that he thought up the concept and got in touch with some of his former acrobatic contacts. Together they have been setting up the stage at Zero Gravité where the acrobatic performance will be performed in public for the first time.

When asked if the band was nervous about performing the set live, Groover responded that “we’re not really nervous, we’ve done it for the music video so we know what we’re getting into. We’re excited.”

Zero Gravity was released earlier in July and is The In & Outs’ second album since the band’s formation in 2006. The self-proclaimed heavy rock band switched up their style from the ‘screamo-esque’ sound of their first album Ascending Back and Forth. Instead, the Montreal natives opted for a lyrically more accessible rock style with a melody that is somewhere between heavy rock and punk rock.

While the inspiration for the album is Groover’s fascination with astronomy, the lyrics present a completely different meaning for the title. The album is a double-entendre; part of it -the acrobatics for instance- clearly play on the manipulation of gravity to recreate an outer-space experience, but the lyrics take on a deeper, more earthly and human meaning.

Take for example the intro to the title track: “stare at the sun ‘til your eyes can’t see/ Undo the laces that tie your mind/ Different layers of reality[…]keep your eyes open… keep your mind open and you’ll be free.” Groover explains that his lyrics attempt to inspire “global awakening, collective awakening. Human created illusion, the money system for example. We have no clue what the real meaning of life is.”

The In & Outs have been a completely independent band since the beginning and admit that this road requires a lot of hard work.With the collaborative effort to keep the band alive, The In & Outs have made their first corporate deal, signing a contract this year to bring their music to the US market by way of television and movies.

This will be a very exciting year for The In & Outs and whether you think that an acrobatic set is gimmicky or not, there’s no denying that it will be something worth seeing.

The In & Outs perform at Zero Gravité, 4519, avenue Papineau, Sept.21 at 8 p.m.


Jack White; a diva no more

“Jesus Christ, is this an NPR convention?” asked White before cutting his set short last Saturday in New York City, three days before he appeared at Montreal’s L’Olympia. Despite technical problems and the negative press detailing White’s ‘diva-tude’ behaviour, he didn’t fail to impress the Montreal crowd.

Eager to see whether White would enter the stage with Los Buzzardos, the all-male band, or The Peacocks, his all-female band, the lights dimmed and the crowd erupted in cheers. White and Los Buzzardos began playing The White Stripes’ song “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.”

The sound immediately electrified fans, but as soon as White walked up to the mic, it became obvious that something was off. The music level was much higher than the vocals, making it virtually impossible to hear White sing.

Press photo.

Throughout the ninety-minute show, White played songs from his entire repertoire. He performed tracks that he wrote with The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, a few songs from his solo debut Blunderbuss, and a song he wrote with Hank Williams, “You Know That I Know.”

But his White Stripe hits proved to be the most memorable. The closing song “Seven Nation Army” was both electric and delicate, causing the most powerful reaction from fans.

It’s no surprise that the crowd was so enthusiastic about White, for he lived up to his reputation and shied away from gimmicks to produce an honest-to-God rock show. This concert was, without a doubt, a riveting musical experience.




Top five Jack White tracks


1. “Seven Nation Army” – White Stripes – Elephant

It is near impossible to have lived through the 2000s and not recognize the signature “Seven Nation Army” guitar riff. It sounds like a bass, but was the sound was actually created by running White’s semi-acoustic guitar through a DigiTech Whammy pedal set down an octave.

It was adopted as the unofficial anthem of A.S. Roma, an Italian football club based in Rome, during the 2006 World Cup. Nowadays crowds chant the lyrics to “Seven Nation Army” instead of the traditional Olé, Olé, Olé. “I’m gonna fight ’em off/A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back/They’re gonna rip it off/Taking their time right behind my back.”


2. “Portland, Oregon” – Loretta Lynn & Jack White – Van Lear Rose

After being M.I.A. for about ten years, country pioneer Loretta Lynn returned to the studio with White to release 2004’s Van Lear Rose. White lent vocals, guitar and produced the record — which later won the Grammy Award for Best Country Album.  “Portland, Oregon” is the album’s only duet and serves as their ode to the city that bewitched them as touring musicians. Its music video juxtaposes footage of America’s ‘weirdest’ city with White and Lynn performing in a dive bar, and lets you to peer into the relationship the two developed working closely together. “Well I lost my heart it didn’t take no time/But that ain’t all/ I lost my mind in Oregon.”


3. “Icky Thump” – The White Stripes – Icky Thump

“Icky Thump” is the title track of The White Stripes’ sixth and final album. Though it was released in 2007, the pair didn’t announce their separation until 2011. After 13 years together, they called it quits for a “myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band.” The album returned to the heavy, snarky rock found in their earlier releases. The title track, “Icky Thump”, features one of White’s only political references. It deals with immigration to the United States, with both the song’s lyrics and music video detailing how easy it is for someone to cross the border into Mexico, yet near impossible to get back into the US. “White Americans/What? Nothin’ better to do?/Why don’t you kick yourself out/You’re an immigrant too.”


4. “Blunderbuss” – Jack White – Blunderbuss

Though White had been bouncing from one project to the next for a decade, he didn’t release solo material until 2012. And that’s because Blunderbuss was a record that he couldn’t release until now. He told Rolling Stone, “I’ve put off making records under my own name for a long time but these songs feel like they could only be presented under my name. These songs were written from scratch, had nothing to do with anyone or anything else but my own expression, my own colors on my own canvas.” The title track is a country-rock piano ballad, and appears to address his former bandmate and ex-wife, Meg White. “And you’ll be watching me, girl/Taking over the world/Let the stripes unfurl/Gettin’ rich singin’ poor boy/Poor boy.”


5. “Steady As She Goes” – The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers

The Raconteurs formed after White bonded with an old friend, Brendan Benson, in an attic on a hot summer’s day. Cooped up, the pair wrote “Steady As She Goes” and were inspired to make things official. With the addition of Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler of The Greenhornes, The Raconteurs called themselves “a new band made up of old friends.” This track is White’s most mainstream effort and the closest he has ever gotten to pop. The song has been covered by Adele, Corinne Bailey Rae, Fitz and The Tantrums and was nominated for the Best Rock Performance Grammy in 2007. “Settle for a girl neither up or down/sell it to the crowd that’s gathered round/so steady as she goes.”


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