Alvvays' show at the Casbah on Oct. 5 was a flash in the pan. I stepped in from the cold five minutes before their set started and barely had time to break a sweat before lead singer Molly Rankin was announcing that they were about to play their last song of the night.
My experience wasn’t any different from the one I have when listening to the Toronto jangle-pop band’s infectious debut record — I didn’t want it to end and was left a bit put out when it did.
Like any show happening in the cozy venue just off Main Street, it was an intimate affair. Standing only a few feet from the eager crowd, Rankin thanked everyone for attending and asked if the sole three people who attended their last Hamilton show were in the audience. The blonde songstress was greeted with peals of laughter at such a suggestion but adamantly insisted that it had really happened. The rest of the band — Kerri MacLellan, Alec O’Hanley, Brian Murphy, and Phil MacIsaac — seemed equally happy to be past that “real dark shit” (in Rankin’s words) and in a phase of their career where they would draw a capacity crowd on a Sunday.
While their debut was dropped in the summer and shares certain elements with fellow female-led surf-rock outfit, Best Coast, Alvvays’ material is imbued with a much more emotional depth. The self-titled album’s strength lies in Rankin’s exquisite lyrics that marry well with the simple song structure created by the band and made rougher around the edges by producer Chad VaanGaalen.
The set was a tight one, running only ten songs and leaving everyone pining for more as the characters in Alvvays’ songs so often are. Rankin was comfortable on stage (which might have something to do with her lineage) and her radiant smile seemed to be meant for everyone. Much of the stage banter was left to her and she made sure to inquire if all the short people could see and implored everyone to help them out. Being 6’3 myself, I always feel a healthy amount of guilt for being #bornthisway, but I encountered no derision from the dwarves around me.
The odd time that guitarist Alec O’Hanley interjected with his own witticism, I get the feeling he wished he hadn’t. O’Hanley went to thank opening act Heat for “heating things up” but immediately regretted his pun and apologized for not being able to concoct something more elegant on the spot.
Not willing to leave one of their own out to dry, the rest of the band launched into album standout “Party Police”. I must confess that tears were shed on my part as Rankin’s angelic voice pierced through the air and stabbed repeatedly at my heart, which felt like it was under attack by a dull kitchen knife for the song’s entire four-minute duration. The band closed their all too brief show as I dried off my face with ‘”Archie, Marry Me”, another banger that had the audience packed around the stage both bobbing their heads and shouting out the lyrics. While Alvvays might not be back in Hamilton for a while, they’ll always be in our hearts.
When I arrived at Jackson Square for the Sunday afternoon screening of Richard Linklater's Boyhood, I noticed the average age of cinema-goers to be around 105. Jokes aside, the audience was full of mature people and for good reason; impatient adolescents wouldn’t have been able to sit through the almost three-hour film despite how much the film pulls from their own lives.
As a fan of Richard Linklater’s prior work with Ethan Hawke on the Before series and having read the glowing reviews for Boyhood, I knew to expect a compelling film but I was in no way prepared for the amount that it would resonate with me.
The film was shot over 12 years with the same actors resuming their roles for one intense week of filming each year. Ellar Coltrane takes up the titular role as Mason Evans Jr., with Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, playing Mason's sister, Samantha. The pair is watched over by their mother, Olivia, played exquisitely by Patricia Arquette, and on occasion by their absentee father, Mason Sr., played by Hawke.
Always an experimental director, Linklater has succeeded in crafting the magnum opus that he will be remembered for. While Dazed and Confused and School of Rock are masterpieces in their own right, Boyhood is Proustian in scope and subject matter with Linklater adopting a much more somber tone in looking at the tumultuous nature of growing up in a broken home.
Unlike any of the predominantly improvised Before movies starring Hawke and Julie Delpy, Boyhood is scripted but there is an air of spontaneity to the delivery of the snappy dialogue which alone makes one want to both laugh and cry in equal measure. Much of that could be due to the fact that Linklater pieced the script together as he went along and didn’t share it in its entirety with the cast, instead electing to only give them their respective lines.
The chemistry between the two children and with their mother is impressive form the start and only gets better with time.
While familial tension and growing up has always had a place in films, it isn't done right very often. On one end of the spectrum, it can be dealt with too lightly, like in Cheaper By The Dozen. On the other, it can be grimly presented in a heavy-handed way, like in Terrence Malick's very good but self-serious Tree of Life.
Boyhood succeeds in presenting both sides of the coin. The slew of drunken deadbeat guys the mother attracts while she works her way through a masters degree can weigh you down, especially if your experience has been similar. But Ethan Hawke always appears in time to relieve the tension and is a pretty constant figure in their lives. It can be tempting to see the fun that the children have with their father and put him on a pedestal, but Linklater does a good job of revealing the frustration that the two sometimes harbor for him.
Despite the added pressure that comes with single parenting, Olivia manages to be lighthearted in her own fashion. Unwary of befouling her children's minds, she is liberal in her use of obscenities. Mason Sr.’s banter with Olivia’s mother is another bit of comic relief that works really well without discounting their personal struggles.
It is impossible to dilute the emotional breadth of the film in a concise fashion because everyone will take away something different from it. In honing in on the largely banal life of an American boy, Linklater serves up something epic that will cater to everyone.
You’ll find a bit of yourself in every character, and be reminded to treat your own family better. And that’s all that matters.
As the tech industry becomes increasingly marred by planned obsolescence, it can be incredibly exhausting to keep up with all the new devices seemingly thrust into the world out of nowhere. But while many flocked to Apple’s site this month to take in the specs of the latest iPhone — and hear Jony Ive’s terrific pronunciation of “aluminum” — I found myself scorning the new device in order to mourn the death of an esteemed old one.
In an unforeseen move, Apple has ceased production of the iPod Classic. What was once its marquee music player has now been unceremoniously pulled from the Apple website without much fanfare.
There is almost no reason for anyone to care with many other options available, but I still felt personally aggrieved and fair bit sentimental upon hearing the news, considering I still use mine to this day.
Born and bred with a touch screen close at hand, today’s youth have no reason to be nostalgic for a time when navigating one’s music library meant using a cumbersome click-wheel.
Despite its sometimes-tedious interface, the Classic was a music nerd’s dream with its one hundred and sixty gigabytes of storage and its understatedly sleek design. In many ways, the Classic was the gateway to a life spent obsessing over music.
I still remember with a touch of pride the day my library expanded to the point where my paltry sixteen gigabyte Nano couldn’t contain it; I could finally justify the purchase of a Classic to my mom whose credit card I would borrow to make the purchase at the store, as my debit had a hundred dollar limit (before you mock me, this was in grade ten).
I rushed home to unbox my prize and cradled it with tenderness normally reserved for newborns. The black iPod had a certain heft to it that made it a pleasure to hold in the palm of my hand and I vowed to keep it in pristine form for as long as possible.
As with all machines, it had a number of eccentricities that made it all the more loveable, including the gentle whir of its inner mechanisms. Although I was careful with it through the years, my iPod now has a few knocks that could have been avoided — did I really have to stick it in my hoodie pocket only for it to fall out during my run? —but it is still steadily plugging along.
Over time, I’ve gradually filled its innards with more newly discovered music – and I only have twenty-five gigs left. It saddens me that the sixty-four gigabyte touch is the largest iPod people have to choose from now, but I realize that with the popularization of cloud-based streaming services like Spotify and the gradual cheapening of data plans, large storage capacity won’t be necessary in the future.
Although I’ll still stick with mine for the time being, it pains me to say farewell to a mammoth. Take care, iPod classic. Don’t forget to eject before disconnecting.
Welcome to ANDY's picks, a weekly must-hear playlist curated by our esteemed ANDY editors Tomi Milos and Michael Gallagher. This week's theme features artists who performed at the Supercrawl festival which took place this past weekend. You can listen below, or follow this link to playlist on Spotify.
Artist: St. Vincent
St. Vincent’s eponymous record is both her most personal and her best yet. Abandoning a tendency for grandiose instrumentation that she may have picked up as a member of Sufjan Stevens’ orchestra-like backing band, Annie Clark strips away the dense arrangements that littered her first two albums in her fourth solo effort to date.
Notoriously protective of her privacy, Clark’s “Rattlesnake” seems a step in a more open direction for the 31-year-old musician. While the jittery synths might inspire nervous foot-tapping, the story that Clark proceeds to paint is more likely to induce laughter. The lyrics recount when Clark, ambling through the secluded landscape of a friend’s West Texas ranch on a beautiful day, shed her clothes in a bid to get closer to nature. Becoming aware of a sound she had taken for the wind, Clark turned and saw a rattlesnake. As she told The Guardian, “I took off running and when I got home had a shot of tequila.”
The frantic guitar solo captures the sheer terror of the episode and is a delightful hint at what comes next.
Morbidly titled “Birth In Reverse” was the first single to be released, and for good reason. After some more humouristic imagery — “Oh what an ordinary day/take out the garbage, masturbate” — Clark reminds listeners that she’s the queen of everything and is not meant to be fucked with. The ensuing scuzzy guitar wizardry is downright nasty and it’s great to see her following in the vein of her wild 2012 Record Store Day releases “Krokodil” and “Grot.”
“Prince Johnny” was the last track to be released prior to the album, and stands out as the most musically and thematically interesting of the trio. Less abrasive than its precursors, the regal track is one that brings listeners back to wasting summer days drifting in someone’s backyard pool. As it progresses through a dense maze of caustic bass and drum pads, Clark’s tender vocals woo the listener into a trance only to jerk them out of blissful reverie with a heavily distorted barrage of guitar.
The rest of the album doesn’t disappoint, with the same facemelting goodness found in tracks like “Regret” and “Every Tear Disappears.”
Jai Paul (Unofficial)
Who is Jai Paul? His website (www.jaipaul.co.uk) does not answer this question; it is a blank, white page. His Twitter feed is equally unhelpful. Jai has tweeted once, only to announce that that he does not endorse this release. All other information about the enigmatic UK artist must be gleaned from his collection of self-produced demos.
As early as “Track 2” it becomes clear that Jai Paul is an extreme musical force. The song is a triumph of sonic fusion: electronic hip-hop meets Bollywood on an MDMA-fuelled dance floor. Jai Paul’s sensual vocals are complemented by Vani Jairam’s singing on the sampled, “Bala main bairagan hoongi.”
Two of the collection’s sixteen songs have been officially released. Track nine, “Jasmine,” is a subdued, pulsating slow jam. In the final track, “BTSTU,” Jai Paul alternates between haunting falsetto verses and a banging hook driven by electrified synth riffs. The music world has taken notice. “BTSTU” has been sampled by Drake and Beyoncé, and Jai Paul was signed to the British independent label XL Recordings on the strength of these two songs alone.
It is hard to believe that the other fourteen tracks are demos, for they sound no less complex or complete. Songs bounce across genres and moods. The cowbell-accented future-funky “Track 5” is worlds away from the undulating tropical vibe on “Track 15.” The album’s disparate sounds are made cohesive by Jai Paul’s vocals, which are at once distant and foreign, yet deeply intimate.
Some might argue that this leak deserves no place on a top ten list. Doubters, I bid you, listen to Jai Paul. His are among the most innovative sounds of 2013. Once you have listened through, relish the idea of an official debut album. Let us hope to hear it soon.
- Josh Spring
Trouble Will Find Me
When life gets overwhelming, we reach for a security blanket. It may not be with the same consistency as Linus van Pelt, but sometimes the tumult of the everyday can prove to be too much (as wretch-inducingly Thought Catalog-ish as that sounds).
The National’s sixth album, Trouble Will Find Me, comes at the apex of their decorated career and provides the same wholesome comfort for the melancholy population as a tub of ice cream and shitty rom-coms do for spurned lovers. After suffering through relative obscurity and being pegged as sleepy miserabilist dad-rockers, all the acclaim the band has enjoyed in recent years could not be more deserved. In an industry saturated by one-hit wonders — Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, anyone? — it’s been refreshing to watch a band work their way up to widespread respectability.
I was surprised to face staunch opposition when I suggested this album for ANDY’s year-end list. Even though I’m a pacifist, I would have fought several bears or listened to Imagine Dragons to ensure its position. Though not as grandiose and immediately accessible as 2011’s stunning High Violet, TWFM is easily the most subtly brilliant record to come out last year.
It bears more of a sonic resemblance to 2003’s underappreciated Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers than its immediate predecessor. Although his young daughter Isla must be keeping it at its end, Berninger’s wit remains razor sharp. The baritone frontman will have you silently sobbing during the cathartic “I Should Live In Salt” (an ode to his younger brother) and laughing at the faux-morose lyrics on “Demons” (i.e. “When I walk into a room, I do not light it up”).
Jaded detractors have long labeled the National as overtly solemn, but they’re missing the obvious tongue-in-cheek nature of the music. Guitarist Aaron Dessner described the offerings on TWFM as “songs you could dance to—more fun, or at least The National’s version of fun.” After all, how could you insist that these guys take themselves seriously when the best song on their latest record is named after a nauseating cocktail, “Pink Rabbits,” and full of lyrics like, “I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls in the park”?
- Tomi Milos
Sometimes I repeatedly write the word “Rhye” in the margins of my notebooks. Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal have refused to reveal the meaning or origins of their musical project’s name, and I am not even confident that I know how to pronounce it properly. But I just love how those four letters look together.
In this way, it’s the perfect name for a duo crafting soulful R&B music that, while perhaps not complex or profound, offers immense sensory pleasure. Horns, harps, and pianos are perfectly placed across Woman. Yet these flourishes always leave ample space for Milosh’s sublime vocals, which do not definitively register as either male or female.
His delicate, unplaceable voice enables Woman to deftly sidestep the hyper-masculinity and sexual aggression that frequently surfaces in male-fronted R&B. The cover art for R. Kelly’s recent record Black Panties, in which Kelly plays a naked woman like a cello, pretty much encapsulates this tendency. In contrast, when Milosh cries out “make love to me,” it’s a desperate plea, not an order. Of course, there is nothing wrong with sexual confidence, but Milosh’s style invests all the familiar pillow talk on Woman with a universal and somewhat subversive twist.
It’s true that a lot of other artists trade in similarly wounded, brooding R&B. In 2013, Autre Ne Veut, The Weeknd, and even Drake released albums in this vein. There is also some darkness on Woman. But perhaps better than any of their counterparts, Rhye balances such angst with the joy and jubilation of deep intimacy, even if there’s just “three days to feel each other.”
Woman opens with the couplet: “I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs/I’m a fool for that sound in your sighs.” It may not be subtle, but what else is there to say?
- Cooper Long
To call Yeezus an album seems to do it a disservice – it is a scattershot of punk, a flurry of electric, and a hard-hitting pulse of hip-hop. It is a political statement, a diatribe on the overinflated monstrosity of celebrity status, and a lyrical tornado scathing a music industry that produces pop tunes that leave a listener feeling diabetic. Misogynistic slurs, challenges to racism, and helter-skelter screams pepper the measures. It is disorder. It is calm. It is everything and anything in between.
And that’s just the first song.
Kayne West’s Yeezus is an exhausting, powder keg of music, if it can even be called that. Unlike Kanye’s other six albums, the classic soul sounds are almost entirely absent. There isn’t the vintage word flexing or pencil pushing to produce smooth beats. Instead a progression of dissonance with shrieks and deep bass lines, chaotic melodies and emotional layers grate the ears for forty minutes.
Listening to it all in one go is a marathon. The tunes come in torrents, thud after thud after thud, and just when it feels like it’s too much, when you can’t take the discord, jerkiness, and sudden tiredness, the song ends and the next one ambles on with shrill screech.
This is not to say the album is bad. It isn’t. The greatness comes in exactly what makes it disconcerting: a reversal on the perceptions of regular musical composition, as well as the artist’s ironic assault on himself and everything that has made him.
That, or the album could just be the loud grumbles of a narcissist parading as complexity. Like the album’s title suggests, God only knows, and I’m sure even he has trouble listening to some of the fubar ricocheting throughout the songs.
- Kacper Niburski
Modern Vampires of the City
Whatever you call it, Vampire Weekend’s third record is one that defies both labels and my writing ability to express how fucking amazing it is. It is both the ambitious conclusion of a coming-of-age trilogy as well as an impressive sign of things to come.They were originally pegged as just another buzz-band when they arrived in a musical landscape replete with twee and lazily ironic acts. But Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Baio, and Chris Tomson have proven their critics wrong at virtually every turning point in their careers. 2008’s self-titled debut was a buoyant amalgamation of classical influences Batmanglij picked up at Columbia University (no one ever said a V-Dubs song needed more harpsichord) and African-pop. 2011’s Contra built off the debut’s inventiveness while remaining accessible even when making references to typography (re: the oxford comma). As Pitchfork put it, the band was “in an enviable position: semi-popular and sincerely idiosyncratic.”
Perhaps that’s why the band’s utter domination of 2013 wasn’t surprising. Although Batmanglij was the sole producer of the first two albums, the band enlisted Ariel Rechtshaid to lend his deft touch and fresh ears to the proceedings. To call the resulting fruits of their labour “magical” wouldn’t be hyperbolic.
MVOTC is a barbaric yawp proclaiming the virtues of America and a brave confrontation of solemn issues like mortality and religion. “Step” functions in the same vein as Kanye West’s “Homecoming” as a clever love song about a city, with the metropolis in question being poignantly depicted in its accompanying video. The number of references to fire that pepper Koenig’s lyrics on tracks such as “Unbelievers” and “Don’t Lie” makes one wonder whether he was reading Dante’s Inferno in the booth. The songs are as grave in subject matter as the epic poem, but with the band’s trademark tongue-in-cheek still shines. “Ya Hey” is an ethereal conversation with a higher power, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to gyrate your hips to. Considering the sheer infectiousness of the remaining songs on the album, the sparse and intimate “Hannah Hunt” is certainly not the one you’d pick for radio play, but it’s easily their best yet. The sheer ecstasy it induces during its final minute is enough for anyone to produce a full-fledged Patronus.
No words of mine can really do this immensely important album justice, so I’ll just stop here and give you a chance to listen to it.
A team of McMaster scientists is enjoying a great start to the new year after solving a genetic code related to an historical cholera outbreak. The team was able to determine the cholera bacteria that caused a widespread outbreak of the diarrheal disease in the 19th century.
The researchers from McMaster’s Ancient DNA Centre reconstructed the entire Vibrio cholerae genome using a piece of tissue from the intestine of a Philadelphia man, which had been remarkably preserved by Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum.
Findings from the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Jan. 8, helping to pin down the cause of the earliest forms of the infectious disease in India, Europe and North America.
Before they could begin the laborious process of reconstructing the complex genome, the research team had to locate a well-preserved specimen with remnants of the disease. This was no easy task as the pathogen only colonizes the intestines: normally the first internal organ to decompose after death.
Doubts as to whether finding a specimen was possible were alleviated when Hendrik Poinar, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair within the Department of Anthropology and Principal Investigator at the Ancient DNA Centre, learned that the Philidelphia’s Mütter Museum had preserved internal specimens from alleged cholera victims from its curator, Anna Dhody.
Graduate student Alison Devault was at the helm for much of the lab work as part of her PhD thesis and said that she was unsure whether an analysis of the specimen would reveal it to be imbued with cholera DNA.
“Oftentimes in ancient DNA work you can have a very promising sample, but because of poor conditions for DNA preservation — such as fluctuating temperatures or bacterial or chemical changes that overly degrade the DNA — you are disappointed.”
Devault said her peers also entertained doubts that the alleged cholera victims were just that and nothing more.
“There was always another possibility, that the alleged cholera victims did not actually have cholera at all, or the historical disease we believed to be cholera was actually due to some completely different pathogen.”
The study revealed the cholera that the man suffered from to be of the classical strain, once the prominent form of epidemic cholera.
Although a strain called El Tor replaced the classical as the main pathogenic form of the disease in the 20 century, Devault says studies of its predecessor can be crucial to our understanding of a disease which infected 3 to 4 million people in 2012, killing 100,000.
“We know from historic accounts and records that 19th century cholera was extremely widespread and devastating on a global scale. Although it is still unclear exactly why that was the case, having full-scale genome information from a 19th century strain is one great starting point for future research,” she said.
Devault hopes that additional rare specimens can be found for study. This would allow further insight into how cholera has evolved over time and perhaps lead to better preventative measures to be established.
Although cycling has long been hailed as a formidable mode of transportation for city-dwellers, most Hamiltonians can be reluctant to hop on a bicycle for fear of their safety. But the threat of grievous injury does not seem to be deterring McMaster students from gravitating towards such an affordable means of transportation, as a 2010 poll of faculty, staff, and students conducted by University Sustainability discovered. Results showed that 34% of respondents biked to campus everyday.
Maclean’s recently recognized this cycling quassi-renaissance and dubbed McMaster one of Canada’s top-five cycling schools in its annual university rankings issue. In its summation of why the school deserved the recognition, the national weekly news magazine rather vaguely said, “The school’s Sustainability Office monitors and improves biking infrastructure, bolstered by Hamilton’s increasing municipal efforts on alternative transportation.”
Seeking to understand just how McMaster has garnered such acclaim, I spoke to Kate Whalen, senior manager of University Sustainability. The Strathacona resident undertook the role in 2009 and practices what she preaches; she does not own a car and cycling is her main mode of transportation.
Whalen praised the work that the city has done saying, “McMaster is surrounded by incredible cycling infrastructure; [Hamilton was] one of, if not the very first city to have our buses outfitted with bike racks.”
She also acknowledged that certain areas of the city aren’t incredibly bike-friendly: “There are many areas of the lower city that have substantial opportunity for improvement in both road infrastructure and bicycle parking space. With its high population density and variety of land uses, the downtown area also presents some of the biggest opportunity within the city to increase walking and cycling through these improvements.”
But it remains to be said that some improvements could also be made within McMaster itself, where the bike parking options fail to meet increasing student demand. One only has to take a stroll by Gilmour Hall at noon to notice how many students have been forced to lock their bikes to the steel banisters on the stairs for lack of a free spot on a nearby rack.
Whalen maintained that University Sustainability is aware of and working to rectify the problem, indicating that the 2009 installation of a secure bike storage facility opposite Chester New Hall with the financial assistance of Metrolinx Bikelinx program as well as Cyclesafe lockers display McMaster’s “committment to providing many and various types of bicycle parking and storage.”
She highlighted the fact that University Sustainability runs an annual poll of students, faculty, and staff to determine which areas need bike racks and then pass along the information to Security and Parking Services who invest into expanding bike infrastructure.
“Through the feedback obtained through community consultation, we have been able to place new racks in all requested locations each year since 2009.”
Whalen has high hopes for the future and pointed to exciting developments for cyclists, “Most recently, investment into campus bike racks was also included in the McMaster Climate Action Plan including the addition of 600 new bike parking spaces over the next three years.”
The document indicates that 20 bike racks will be added across campus this year, with a special focus on the intramural sports facilities by the David Braley Athletic Centre.
Even with the addition of more racks, one issue that Macleans skated around is theft. 84 bikes were stolen from McMaster in the last calendar year, and 36 have already been pilfered this school year.
Ian Holley says Security Services is working on cutting down that number. The special constable investigator is a staunch promoter of cycling culture, having served as the auctioneer for MACycle’s annual bike auction. If Security Services can pinpoint a pattern occurring at a location — or better yet — a specific culprit, Holley says they’ll set up one of their own bikes to be stolen and monitor the area.
Holley asserted that the thieves might not always be students, noting that many would-be perpetrators can be drawn to the campus because, “McMaster has the biggest collection of bikes in Hamilton, and they’re generally nice ones.”
What irks Holley is that many owners of these high-end bikes are using shoddy cable-locks that are all too easy to cut.
“We see almost no theft involving good U-locks, even at our regular racks. We’ve made a big push towards educating people and saying, ‘Please use U-locks or make use of our secure storage facility.’”
The secure storage facility Holley is referring to is situated beside Chester New Hall, which he admits is not the best location for everyone. But $5 per term to lock your bike within a fenced-off structure that’s monitored by camera doesn’t seem like a hefty price to pay. When asked why there aren’t more of these facilities around campus, Holley said it’s hard to justify building more in better locations when they’re not seeing use in the one they do have.
While the cycling infrastructure at McMaster and in its immediate area seems to be on the right track, things don’t happen to be as rosy in the city’s core where cyclists aren’t afforded the same privileges.
The new bus-only lane on King Street that stretches from Mary to Dundurn Street may ensure a speedy commute for the approximately 1,500 HSR riders who traverse the corridor each hour, but the poorly planned initiative has thrown bike safety under the rug. The lane poses a problem to cyclists who risk a $65 fine for entering it, which leaves them with the choice of taking an inconvenient route, or facing the danger of becoming a part of a car-bus sandwich.
Christine Lee-Morrison, media contact for the pilot project, said, “Certainly a reserved vehicle lane is typically a safer place for a bicycle to operate; however, bicycles typically travel slower than a bus. A mixed usage situation would not allow the City fully test the acceptance and impacts of a future rapid transit scenario.”
Rather than encouraging bike riders to take parallel routes, Hamilton City Council could take a cue from London, England where the bus lanes are made available for use by both cyclists and motorcycle riders. The decision was brought about by a 2008 study conducted by Transport for London which segregated powered two-wheelers and bikes from the main traffic flow and found that bike usage actually increased.
The further trouble with the parallel bike routes is that many of them end abruptly. Although the city has spent approximately $1 million a year since 2010 on adding 35 km of bike routes as part of their master cycling plan — Shifting Gears —building a safe continuous route across the top of the North end has been neglected.
Some web-savvy Hamiltonians recognized this error and organized an online petition called Yes We Cannon whose aim it was to establish a bidirectional bike lane on Cannon Street in time for the impending 2015 Pan Am games when many would be commuting from the James North Go Station to Tim Hortons Field. The petition has amassed 2172 online signatures and was a determining factor in city councillors dedicating $600,000 in September to the instalment of a two-way bike lane between Sherman Avenue and Bay Street.
Cannon Street was the best setting for the venture since it doesn’t experience high traffic volumes, moving only 2300-2600 vehicles per lane, per day as opposed to Mohawk and Garth Streets carrying 6600-9850 vehicles per lane, per day.
Daryl Bender, project manager of Alternative Transportation for the City of Hamilton, is optimistic about the city’s efforts to revitalize the bike scene. Citing a Portland, Oregon study that suggested that better cycling infrastructure and an increase in cyclists reduces the collision rate rather than collisions themselves, Bender said,“We are not certain if the same will be the experience here in Hamilton as our cycling infrastructure increases, but it would be ideal to see the number of collisions also be reduced.”
Despite poor downtown framework and a campus plagued by bike theft, cycling culture in Hamilton and at McMaster seems to be surging forward with the persistence of a Tour
de France peloton.
Artist: Grizzly Bear
Last September found Grizzly Bear operating on all cylinders, with the release of Shields and the beginning of lengthy tour to match one of the most-lauded records of the year.
Although 2013 has seen them triumphantly close out that 105-date tour and retreat to their own separate corners of the U.S. for a well-deserved rest, Edward Droste, Dan Rossen, Chris Taylor, and Chris Bear don’t seem to be taking their foot off the gas pedal anytime soon.
Culling together recordings from their supposedly unproductive excursion to Marfa, Texas, as well as other studio sessions, the quartet released Shields: B-Sides on Nov 12. through Warp Records. The British label is giving fans the option of either purchasing a 2-disc “expanded” edition of Shields, or a 180-gram heavyweight vinyl pressing of Shields: B-Sides that will satisfy any purist.
After picking up the vinyl from Dr. Disc last week, I hurriedly rushed home to give it a spin and was not disappointed.
Running a cool six minutes, “Smothering Green” is a lengthy intro, but one that doesn’t leave the listener in any danger of falling asleep. Rossen’s vocals are soothing only until given a second listen. He chillingly gives a voice to the doubts that plague one’s mind once the glossy veneer of a new relationship has worn off, “We lie awake and think all that we loved and learned just vanished in our sleep,” while extending an ominous warning, “Clear out your mind, and I’ll clear out mine,” to a stormy backdrop of clashing guitars and Droste’s autoharp.
“Taken Down” is billed as a Marfa Demo and evidence of the high standards the band holds itself to if it didn’t make the final cut. Droste turns in an impeccable display of vocal acrobatics that’s so good it hurts (your heart, that is).
“Listen & Wait” is a slow-burner that could very well have been the precursor to ‘Sun In Your Eyes,’ with Bear’s drumming mirroring thunderclaps in a sonic landscape laden with intricate details.
“Will Calls”, another demo from the Marfa sessions, is the clear standout and an example of Grizzly Bear at their cathartic best. It’s a white-knuckle ride throughout the entire six minutes and fifty-one seconds that’ll have you gasping for breathe once it’s over.
The three remixes available through the digital download are largely forgettable, aside from Nicolas Jaar’s creepily sparse reinterpretation of “Sleeping Ute”. While obviously not up to the band’s lofty standards, B-Sides will tide fans over until the next release.
Workers from McMaster’s facility services unit have officially severed ties with their old union.
In a vote conducted by the Ontario Labour Relations Board on Sept. 23, the 270 workers who make up the unit decided to break off their five-year agreement with the sizeable Service Employees International Union two years early and instead entrusted their affairs to the Building Union of Canada.
BUC is a recent upstart in the business headed by former Toronto police union leader, Craig Brommel.
The vote was a narrow one, said Craig Macdonald, the Director of Maintenance at McMaster’s Faculty Services.
“To my understanding, 55 per cent [of union members] were for leaving while 45 per cent were in favour of staying with the existing agreement.”
Regardless of the fact that Brommel used intimidatory practices to silence critics during his stint at the head of Canada’s largest police union—infamously chronicled by CBC’s The Fifth Estate—members have voted to trust him as the head of their new union.
Those who voted for change were unhappy about a five-year collective agreement conceived in 2010 that left the majority of them with small wage increases and few benefits.
Speaking to The Hamilton Spectator, Brommel reiterated that fact saying, “The problem is that a certain group of workers there didn't do well on the last contract. There was almost no pay hike and a lot of take-aways on their benefits. I'd say 75 per cent of the members did not do well and a certain group really got screwed. McMaster seems like a good university, but this last contract was really bad.”
In the same article, the local vice-president of the SEIU, David Bridgers, lamented the recent turn of events but maintained that his union was handicapped by McMaster’s own stinginess during negotiations: “The university was very clear that there was no new money available when we negotiated and we saw that was the way of the world.”
Speaking to the mixed response from votes, Macdonald said, “There’s some people who benefitted from the last contract and others who didn’t do as well. I think that depending on the demographics involved, some saw opportunity in the new union and some saw comfort in the existing one.”
Macdonald is optimistic about the possibilities that the future holds, despite knowing that the agreement will have to satisfy a viagra no prescription wide array of interests.
“The employees haven’t change; we have a great staff. I don’t think the fact that they have different leadership will change our relationship with the workers,” he said.
The parties meet for the first time on Nov. 14 to begin negotiations regarding the new collective agreement that will be drawn up.