Toronto Urban Roots Fest (TURF) took place between July 4-6 at Fort York and Garrison Commons. Although it is only in its second year running, the festival managed to bring in some hefty and eclectic acts. When you’re attending a festival, it’s hard not to get caught up in the dynamic atmosphere created between the artist and the crowd. Though some types of music cater to audience involvement more than others, a good performer can captivate the crowd regardless of genre.
Crowd rating: 4/5
Andrew Jackson Jihad is a folk-punk group with impassioned, quick-paced, funny, sad and sometimes horrific lyrics. What really left an impression were the scattered hardcore fans who sang along with all the words, clapped along, and raised their fists in the air. Towards the end of the set, I turned to see a teenaged-boy standing beside me with tears rolling down his face. That was how much he was moved by the band, and how passionate many others also felt.
Crowd Rating: 5/5
There is something so charming about Pokey LaFarge and his band hailing from St. Louis, Missouri. They look and feel like they come from a different era compete with guitars, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, cello, harmonica and washboard. Foot-tapping and infectious American music rooted in swing, jazz, blues had the whole audience dancing along. He got the crowd to sing along to the chorus of “Close the Door” and the “Good Lord Giveth and Uncle Sam Taketh Away”. It was certainly one of the most memorable performances of the weekend.
Crowd Rating: 5/5
July Talk completely blew me away with their charismatic performance and playful boy/girl flirtatious violence between front-members Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. At one point, after shoving their hands in each other’s faces and jostling against each other, Leah threw her high-heel at Peter. Peter has the gravelly voice of Tom Waits and Leah sounds like a purer version of Emily Haines. Together, backed with the bass and drums, July Talk created a rambunctious performance that got the crowd moving with them.
Crowd Rating: 2/5
Being a long-time fan of Jenny Lewis and her former band Rilo Kiley, I was really excited to see her live. However, although they sonically sounded fine and played both old and new songs (from Rilo Kiley days and Jenny Lewis’ upcoming album) the performance felt a bit lacklustre. Jenny seemed to be missing that sassiness and engaging stage-presence that shone through in past performances. The crowd was an even bigger disappointment though. Even though the set time was a bit earlier in the day (4:30 p.m.) the crowd was really subdued, hardly bobbing along or singing as I expected them to.
Crowd Rating: 5/5
This high-energy “gypsy-punk” band did not disappoint. Frontman Eugene Hütz was running around the stage in his butterfly pants swinging a bottle of red wine around and spilling its contents all over the crowd. The band has an eclectic style, mixing many styles of world music and featuring instruments like the violin, accordion, and marching bass drum. The crowd went nuts during the set — dancing, throwing their fists in the air, and shouting—especially during the performance of “Start Wearing Purple”. This group is a must-see if you ever get the chance.
Crowd Rating: 4/5
Jeff Tweedy, perhaps better known from the band Wilco, certainly had a lot of fans. His music and attitude are very mellow and he wryly acknowledged that by explaining, “We like to do a group shrug before we go on to get the energy-levels just right.” He joked a lot with the crowd and explained that he set out to make a solo record 18 years ago but had to grow a drummer first (his son Spencer joined him onstage to play the drums). Although some of the songs he played were new, he told the audience that “if you feel like singing, go ahead and make up words” and I’m sure the crowd happily obliged.
By now, you’ve heard more than enough about Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s various struggles. If not, chances are you live on campus, without easy access to decent Wi-fi.
The media would have you believe that Rob Ford is the worst thing to happen to Toronto since Maple Leaf Gardens was desecrated by partially becoming a Loblaws store.
According to many, the apocalypse is upon Toronto and, by extension, all of Canada because one mayor of one city has a drinking problem for which he is seeking help, which once (as far as we know) led to smoking crack. But when I look past the drinking, drug use, and generally boorish behaviour of Rob Ford, I see that he is not a bad politician. He has done most of the things he promised, whether you like those things or not.
He built his name on personally responding to his constituents, going so far as to give out his personal cell phone number. So why, then, are the media demanding Rob Ford’s head on a platter?
Is it because Ford has lied about certain incidents in his personal life? Maybe, but since when has honesty been a required trait of a politician? Many a politician has been caught in a lie about certain dark episodes outside of their political life. Bill Clinton comes to mind – he enjoys high popularity ratings even after he was caught in a lie about cheating on his wife with an intern. So clearly, the media doesn’t always make an issue of a politician’s honesty or lack thereof. Yet they do this to Ford.
Is it because of his substance use issues? Hardly. After all, the media gave a free pass to Justin Trudeau when he admitted to using illegal drugs while in office. Trudeau’s response that marijuana should be legalized ensured that the mainstream media glossed over the fact that an elected official used illegal drugs while in office.
George Smitherman, Ford’s main rival in the 2010 election, hardly caused a stir when he admitted a past drug addiction, and won the endorsement of the Toronto Star. So clearly, breaking Canada’s drug laws while in office hasn’t been sufficient grounds for the media to persecute a politician – unless it’s Rob Ford.
Could the media possibly dislike Rob Ford because of his tax–cutting, infrastructure–building platform? Maybe they do not like that his power base is largely in the middle–class suburbs? This seems like a better possibility. Simply put, the mainstream media simply cannot tolerate the fact that Rob Ford is a regular guy, not a downtown liberal elite.
To be fair, Ford is a very polarizing individual; not many Torontonians feel neutral about him.
However, their absolute dislike of the man and their blatant disregard for his privacy, fed by the left–wing faction of Toronto City Council, inflames the masses with the same anti–Fordism. Never mind that Ford was democratically elected and that his approval rating is higher than Barack Obama’s; to read a Toronto newspaper these days is to hear that all of Toronto wants the mayor out of office. This fact is not true, and with good reason.
Rob Ford is not a bad mayor.
Perhaps if the media were to get off his back, the man’s message would reach the public, unfiltered and honest. Maybe Ford would have an easier time restructuring his life if media were not hounding him constantly.
But allowing Rob Ford some normalcy will not make very good news, will it?
Rabita Naqvi / The Silhouette
Two endangered pandas are being showcased at the Toronto Zoo. The pandas are to stay in Toronto for five years and then be transferred to Quebec and across Canada to Calgary for scientific research.
Da Mao and Er Shun are two Chinese pandas that have flown across the world to please many Canadians. Although the Toronto Zoo has claimed they are going to provide a great home and stable environment, they may have another agenda.
The headline of Jessica McDiarmid’s article in the Toronto Star, “Toronto Zoo expects a big attendance boost with black and white stars Da Mao and Er Shun,” says it all.
The article explores the topic of how the Toronto Zoo is going to gain a large audience, and the money it is going to make. Their only intention appears to be to make millions in profit and use these pandas as bait to reel people in.
These poor pandas are being flown to many different parts of Canada just to please an audience. Surely this is not a stable environment for them. Did we forget that these precious animals are endangered? Moving them from place to place is only benefiting the Zoo administration and not the pandas.
The Toronto Zoo recently had to face the loss of three elephants that were major attractions and symbols for the zoo. The arrival of the two pandas is timed perfectly to gain a huge boost in admissions and yearly cash infusions. What angered me the most was the use of Ms. McDiarmid’s words, “Snagging the pandas could go a long way to benefiting the zoo.” This almost sounds like they are capturing pandas to benefit themselves, and by benefiting, did she mean gaining millions of dollars in revenue?
Ms. McDiarmid mentions that Councilor Raymond Cho, who sits on the Zoo’s management board, lists the financial boost as a low priority. I believe he does have good intentions to give the pandas a great environment despite the fact they have to be shipped like parcel packages thousands of kilometres overseas, then shipped again across Canada after a few years. He is said to give one million dollars to research and conservation in China.
We have to recognize that pandas are not adorable stuffed toys that we can merely use as show and tell, even if they are fun and cute to look at. They are animals that are endangered and stripped from their natural habitat.
They deserve to stay in a stable environment where they can live freely, and not have to transfer zoos every five years.
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By: Susie Ellis
The Everything To Do with Sex Show is an annual convention held at the Enercare Centre located downtown Toronto. The convention is very much the Comic Con of the sex world and has included many different types of attractions. The main floor is filled with multiple stages for performances, as well as vendors who offer services and products to meet all attendees’ sex and kink needs. The floor is also equipped with an Aphrodisiac Cafe and various food trucks for hungry guests. The show offers many seminars and workshops focusing on a variety of subjects. Attendees can learn how to use a strap-on in the Kink Corner or get educated on the “12 Types of Orgasms” in the Seminar Room. The show also features a Wellness Zone (for options on spicing up your workout) and an Erotic Art Area. The Everything To Do with Sex Show offers a safe space to learn and explore the different facets of romance, sexuality, and self-improvement. This show is the best place to let your imagination run wild and learn exciting new things.
The Playground Conference is Toronto’s only intersectional, sex-positive and educational social function. The event, once held as a weekend conference, has been split into quarterly sessions for 2016 (exact dates TBA). The conference features local and international sex and sexuality educators who engage participants in panel discussions, intimate workshops and presentations. In 2015, the conference brought over 310 attendees from various backgrounds, races, genders and sexualities. Playground allows for like¬minded individuals to have an open discussion about how sexual and erotic play can help enhance health and wellbeing. All of the events are not only educational but also bring an aspect of entertainment. Playground is more intimate than the Everything To Do with Sex Show and focuses more on specific (sometimes underrepresented) areas of sex and sexuality.
Tell Me Something Good — 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto
Tell Me Something Good is a monthly sexy storytelling event held downtown Toronto at the Gladstone Hotel’s Melody Bar. The show allows for attendees to volunteer to tell their own true personal stories in front of a group of sex-positive friends as well as the judges of the event. These stories can be funny, sad, unexpected or adorable, as long as they stick to the theme of the month and are under the time limit of five minutes. At the end of the night, the judges tally the scores and award the best stories with sexy prizes. A part of what makes TMSG a must-attend event is the inclusive community. Even though the event is judged, there’s no sense of competition amongst the performers. The thought of telling a group of strangers about your sex life might seem scary, but because all the events attendees are sex-positive and non-oppressive, it creates a safe space to voice your vulnerabilities.
If you are looking to change your perspective on your body and step out of your comfort zone in the company of other like-minded, body positive individuals, then Body Pride is an event you may be interested in. Body Pride is a nude body image workshop created by Toronto-based sexuality blog To Be A Slut. The workshop was designed to reconnect participants with their body in a positive manner. There are wine and snacks provided as participants have an evening of relaxing naked together. There is group discussion around sexuality, sex and bodies, followed by an optional nude photo shoot. Although being nude (non-sexually) around strangers might not be for the faint of heart, the workshop provides a space to let go of all negative feelings about one’s physical form and to gain a new natural perspective on our bodies. Body Pride is currently on hiatus with hopes of returning later in the year.
Oasis Aqualounge — 231 Mutual Street, Toronto
Oasis Aqualounge is for the more adventurous of sex-positive people. It is a water-themed, upscale sex club in downtown Toronto which offers various theme nights every month. Each day there are restrictions on what types of guests are allowed. Some nights are exclusive to women and couples while others allow for single men to join in on the fun. Sunday nights are their speciality event nights. The building has three floors, including a heated outdoor pool, a sauna and hot tub. There is also a dungeon and multiple bars around the facility. Oasis operates under a consensual mission to provide a sexually liberated and clothing optional space to women and their partners. The facility is hygienic and safe sex is encouraged through condom baskets in every room. If interested in meeting people to pursue sexual encounters, guests can freely talk to anyone in attendance, but must only ask once to touch other guests. Oasis offers a unique space to find like-minded individuals and to explore one’s body in a sexual, safe manner.
In light of the ethnic cleansing and violent dispossession of Palestinians, the need for reshares and reposts has never been more apparent
By: Shehla Choudhary, Contributor
cw: genocide, ethnic cleansing, violence
On May 16, nearly 1000 protestors gathered at Hamilton City Hall and marched through the downtown core. Similar demonstrations occurred in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square and Mississauga’s Celebration Square. These massive turnouts were facilitated by online advocacy, organized and advertised through social media outlets.
The objective of the demonstrations, although constantly portrayed as an incredibly complex situation, is rather simple: to stop the violent and illegal evictions of Palestinians from their homes; to cease the relentless airstrikes resulting in the murder of Palestinian civilians; and to end the occupation of the current open-air prisons known as Palestinian territories.
The situation escalated and garnered worldwide attention when earlier this month, eight Palestinian families joined the roster of forceful evictions in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in order to enable Israeli settlements that are illegal under international law. This area is accustomed to such occurrences, having seen similar displacements earlier in 2009.
Demonstrations in protest of the expulsions quickly occurred throughout the neighbourhood and were immediately met with police violence. Despite warnings from Hamas promising consequences if Israel continued attacks in Sheikh Jarrah and east Jerusalem, this pattern of oppression further manifested through attacks on worshippers at Al Aqsa mosque. This involved excessive Israeli force using stun grenades, rubber bullets, live bullets and tear gas. Following Hamas’ rocket strikes, an 11-day onslaught of Israeli airstrikes was unleashed upon the occupied and blockaded Gaza strip, killing at least 248 Gazan civilians, including 66 children and wounding more than 1900. It is estimated that the rocket fire killed at least 12 people in Israel.
Social media activism, commonly exercised through retweets on Twitter and story posts on Instagram, has gained traction throughout the past year. Sparked by the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, it has exponentially contributed to the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, but has also been met with criticism.
Social media activism brings with it concerns of “slacktivism,” otherwise known as performative activism, in which individuals share posts simply to appease followers, without taking any substantial actions to further the cause. While performative activism can be hurtful, as exemplified by worries of drowning informative posts under the BLM hashtag on #BlackoutTuesday, refraining from posting due to the fear of being perceived as “hopping on the bandwagon” is also deeply hindering.
There is no denying the significance of material contributions. However, in the context of the current movement for Palestine, productive social media exposure is just as, if not more, important. What the Palestinian cause needs most at the moment is the sharing of infographics, videos and interviews that have led to conversations and protests, while directing the international gaze and scrutiny to Israel’s actions.
Palestinians have long argued that Western media consistently fails to accurately represent the ongoing apartheid inflicted upon Palestinians. Mainstream media’s misrepresentation of events paints the aforementioned issue as a conflict, a clash and a war. These words carry the implication of two equal parties engaged in an armed fight, avoiding the reality of state-sponsored Israeli militia with police officers occupying and attacking civilian men, women and children.
This veiled journalism is not surprising, considering the strong allyship of North American countries with Israel. Examples can be seen through examining Canadian-Israeli arms sales and the $3.8 billion dollars of yearly military aid that the United States provides Israel. Portrayal of events in Palestine in Western media usually carries a one-sided and biased perspective.
The coverage from Palestinians amounts to cell phone coverage of protests, bombings and police inflicted violence. In addition to social media posts by not only journalists and activists, the West also sees regular civilians currently enduring settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing.
By resharing these posts and raising further awareness, social media has drawn attention to Palestinian activists such as Mohammed El-Kurd. El-Kurd has since been invited for interviews by many mainstream news organizations and successfully addressed their biases while providing an accurate picture of the situation in Sheikh Jarrah.
Further illustrating the relevance of social media activism to this cause is Israel’s targeting of towers housing media offices in Gaza. Israel justifies its attacks on civilian residential buildings, hospitals and COVID-19 testing labs by citing alleged Hamas presence, often without providing evidence to back these claims.
The demolition of the al-Jalaa tower and the al-Awqaf building, hosting multiple media offices, is yet another attempt to suppress Palestinian voices. These attacks, which many have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate as war crimes, are undoubtedly instigated by Israel’s failure to control the narrative due to overwhelming Palestinian support online. In light of these attacks, our responsibility to ensure that the voices of the oppressed are continued to be amplified through our social media platforms becomes increasingly evident.
The issue of Palestinian apartheid, which has long been painted as historically intricate and irrelevant to a regular citizen in the West, has now become reframed as a human rights issue relevant to everyone. Infographics taking over Instagram and videos shared on Tiktok have allowed accessibility to content that clarifies Israel’s tactics to shut down these conversations, such as incorrectly equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism and using pinkwashing to dehumanize Palestinian victims.
Consequently, these conversations have revealed the prevalence of Zionism in our social circles and opened the doors to debate that illustrates the problematic nature of taking a neutral stance. Remaining uneducated, ignorant and silent despite available and plentiful information, or using nonspecific language while refusing to condemn Israel is choosing the side of the oppressor.
This shift in public perspective regarding the urgency of this matter has empowered people to ask questions. I have personally had multiple conversations with McMaster students hoping to learn more as a result of content shared to my social profiles. This exemplifies that resharing posts is not a passive display, but a medium for reaffirming true allyship.
The impact of social media pressure in this struggle for liberation has already been witnessed: due to public scrutiny, Israel’s Supreme Court proceedings for the Sheikh Jarrah evictions have been postponed. Under the pressure of worldwide protests organized through social media outlets, various government officials, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, called for a ceasefire.
However, the movement has not yet accomplished its goals. Despite agreeing to a ceasefire on May 21, Israeli forces continued with violent attacks on worshippers at Al Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem. The ceasefire does not end the blockade of Gaza or the siege of Sheikh Jarrah.
The ceasefire does not end the illegal Israeli occupation and settlements on land internationally recognized as Palestinian territory. The ceasefire does not end the displacements of individuals who can trace their entire lineage to Palestinian land. The ceasefire does not end the demolition and stealing of ancestral homes. The ceasefire does not end the decades-long apartheid. The need for continued social media activism, reshares and reposts, within the McMaster community and beyond, has never been more apparent.
As of Wednesday, June 16, the ceasefire has been broken and Israel has launched airstrikes in the Gaza strip.
By: Daniella Porano
Rihanna stunned in a Tom Ford gown fresh off the runway at the amfAR L.A. Inspiration Gala. The Gala honoured both Tom Ford’s beautiful contributions to menswear and his commitment to advocating for HIV/AIDs research. Thankfully, we’ll be able to see more of Rihanna and badgalriri is finally back on Instagram after spending six months in the Instagram doghouse.
It’s been a good week for Potterheads. On Halloween, J.K. Rowling published a special profile of Dolores Umbridge on Pottermore.com, reminding us both why we hate Umbridge and why we love Rowling. Harry Potter-induced nostalgia, anyone?
Toronto was ranked among cities like Washington D.C. and Milan in Lonely Planet’s top ten must-visit destinations for 2015. The piece cited the city’s fabulous restaurant and bar scene. Suddenly, we’re all very hungry.
The long-awaited Alexander Wang x H&M line is available in stores Nov. 6. The New York-based designer created a sportswear-inspired line, the latest in high street and designer collaborations. Never has neoprene looked so good.
Is there a Beyoncé album in the works? A photograph has been circulating that looks like a track listing for what was supposed to be another secret album drop. There’s no word yet on whether Beyoncé Volume 2 is actually happening, but we can hope, right?