U.S. war resister faces deportation

Corey Glass is quite comfortably settled in Canada. The Indiana-born 25-year-old lives in Toronto and works transporting remains to funeral homes. He would like to stay and live his life here, but Glass’ days in Canada are numbered. He is absent without leave from the United States army and the Canadian government has refused his request for refugee status. His deportation date is July 10.

Glass is one of an estimated 200 U.S. war resisters living in Canada according to the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign. The 199 men and one woman, who come from throughout the U.S. and represent many branches of armed forces, are united in their opposition and refusal to participate in the war in Iraq. Glass’ revelation came during a short vacation from his training in Germany. In the city of Nuremburg, he learned of the historic trials of Nazi war criminals. “It just dawned on me that I might be committing heinous war crimes just following orders, and that’s not an excuse.”

In the 60s, the Vietnam War saw an exodus of draft dodgers head north. Times have changed since then, and now fleeing soldiers must apply for refugee status. The burden of proof is whether the jail time deported resisters face constitutes “persecution” under Canadian law. So far, in the cases of Glass and other resisters, officials have ruled in the negative.

Supporters of the war resisters argue that the UN’s Handbook on Refugees protects them if the war “is condemned by the international community as contrary to basic rules of human conduct.,” They say the war in Iraq, considered illegal by the UN and protested worldwide, more than fits the bill.

Another area of contention is that the U.S. has abolished the draft, which means all members of the armed forces are technically volunteers. As the resisters tell it, the story is a little more complicated. For some of the poorest Americans, military service is the best-paying job available. This was the case for Kim Rivera, who struggled to make ends meet, raising two children on a Wal-Mart salary. “The Army told me I wouldn’t be sent into combat, but once I got to Iraq I was under enemy fire every day,” Rivera said. Glass and others also related experiences with less-than-honest recruiters trying to fill quotas. In addition, many soldiers are being called back as part of “Stop Loss” measures, causing them to serve extra terms of duty.

There is hope on the horizon as parliament recently passed a motion that would give resisters an opportunity to apply for status as landed residents. Spearheaded by Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow, it would also halt any deportation orders. But the motion still has to be approved by Stephen Harper and his Conservative cabinet. Glass said he hoped public pressure would sway the decision: “It’s all up to Canadian citizens at this point.”

On shaky ground

A 7.9-magnitude quake ripped through the south-western province of Sichuan on May 12, killing nearly 70,000 people and injuring 375,000 others. World leaders responded immediately, offering condolences and announcing their support with food, money, shelter and rescue workers.

As relief efforts continue among afterquakes and flooding, earthquake news continues to dominate the front pages of domestic newspapers while the government-run Chinese Central Television (CCTV) network airs hourly updates from the rescue zone—the only programming permitted to interrupt coverage of the Olympic torch relay.

To Aegean Yang, an English major at the Beijing Language and Culture University, the Sichuan earthquakes represent much more to the Chinese people than just a news blurb. “We are all Chinese, all brothers and sisters, all part of one house,” says Yang. “When I watch the news, I see my family in pain and I want to do everything I can to help them.”

The Sichuan earthquake has served to further China’s already strong nationalist sentiment. After several months of heated international criticism for its stance on Tibet, Sudan and Myanmar, the Sichuan disaster has silenced critics abroad and led many Chinese to rally around their leaders.

Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao have both been roundly praised for their swift and decisive response to the crisis. The response marks a contrast from in previous situations, notably the last massive earthquake in 1976, in Tangshan, where the government’s first response was to deny or conceal information. Wen, in particular, scored a public relations coup as he was on the ground within hours of the earthquake and was shown on state media stations promising victims, “If only there is the slightest hope, we will spare no effort; if only there is one survivor in the debris, we will never give up.”

Even in non-state-sponsored forums, such as online chat rooms, there has been unusually strong support for the government. Some posters have called for investigations of shoddy school and housing structures. An estimated 10,000 students died in the quake, and grieving and increasingly angry parents want to know why so many schools collapsed. The Ministry of Education has promised a quality check on all schools, even as schools are cordoned off, blocking parents’ memorials. Criticism in forums was quickly overwhelmed by commenters eager to defend the government’s more recent efforts. In one chat room frequented by students of Peking University, the user “Top Gun” commented, “Let us not be divided at this time. When we needed them the most, our government was there. Let us just be thankful for that.”

Despite the government’s actions and popular support, a full recovery may not come for many years. The terrain remains fragile and dangerous. Close to 12,000 aftershocks have been detected in the area, according to Xinhua News. The 1.4 million people displaced by the earthquakes continue to live in temporary housing. But until the ground settles, the people of China must continue to endure their tragedy.

Dozens gather for an impromptu candlelight vigil along Sanlitun Road, a popular tourist destination in Beijing, a week after the May 12 earthquake. The message written in candles, “5.12 Wenchuan,” represents the date and the epicentre of the quakes.

Quebec uni in the rouge

The Université du Québec à Montréal holds the most debt of any school in the province after mismanaging two real estate endeavours, reveals a recent report.

Auditor-general Renaud Lachance blamed the failure of these projects, amounting to over $759 million, on former UQAM rector Roch Denis, his former associates Mauro Malservisi and Nicolas Buono, the boards of UQAM, the Université du Québec and the provincial ministry of education.

Although Lanchance called the losses “unavoidable” and did not identify UQAM members by name, his report contests that both Malservisi and Buono “showed a lack of transparency and provided often incomplete and often inaccurate information.”

Denis, who is also left unnamed, was slammed for proposing projects without obtaining financing guarantees and thorough analyses of profitability.

Both projects were funded by the UQAM’s line of credit.

UQAM also asked the government for millions towards both projects, believing both would be self-financing and obtain money from office rents, student residences and parking fees.

Poor management raised the cost of the Pierre Dansereau science complex by $122 million, while the Îlot Voyageur project expenses rose by $196 million since its proposal in March 2005.

This real estate debacle has driven UQAM’s per capita debt up from $7,397 to over $17,000, forcing the university to cut programs to meet its budget.

The June 4 report notes that the boards of UQAM are proficient in daily business matters, but their staff of professors, students and others lack the knowledge to deal with complex financial issues like construction plans.

A day after the report went public, Education Minister Michelle Courchesne told reporters that Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions is examining the report to determine if charges should be laid.

Courchesne also said a new bill will be introduced this fall to tighten governance at Quebec universities.

Jack’s frosty on fees

The Varsity: So, the NDP is working with the Canadian Federation of Students to replace the defunct Millenium Scholarship program with needs-based grants.

Jack Layton: We’re working with CFS […] In particular, on a piece of legislation that we’ve developed in consultation with CFS and teachers’ organizations and a broad sweep of Canadians. It would have goals established in law: the goals of affordability, accessibility, universality, high quality, and independence so that we can stem the drift toward for-profit corporate definition of research mandates. […] It establishes an ongoing federal mandate and legal obligation a little like the Canada Health Act does for Medicare.

TV: Is there reasonable hope for a tuition freeze in Ontario or nationwide?

JL: I think there is reason to hope, but not under the Harper government. We’d have to cancel some of the corporate tax cuts that both Mr. Harper and Mr. Dion and the Liberals have been pushing. They’re pushing through a budget right now, supported by the Conservatives, that will lower corporate taxes very dramatically and not leave the kind of funds that would be needed to pay for [a fee freeze].

TV: How was it that CFS and student politicians got involved in this legislation?

JL: Well we have been following the calls by student groups and faculty organizations over the years, for something to replace [the legislation controlling] the federal transfer of funds. In fact, we sat down and took their ideas and molded those ideas into legislation that we could bring before the House of Commons.

TV: Is it a matter of lowering tuition, or increasing financial aid?

JL: Tuition levels and aid are both key. In fact I’d go further and say that issues like affordable student housing need to be addressed. […] Oftentimes the housing cost is as great or even greater, sometimes, than the tuition cost. […] But really it would have to be determined at the level of the provinces in conformity with the goals of the legislation.

For instance, in Manitoba, there’s been a nine-year freeze on tuition. So what they might do around issues like tuition could be quite different than a place like Nova Scotia or Ontario, where tuition fees are quite high

TV: Alright. what about ancillary fees? Ontario student reps say they’re illegal charges.

JL: The federal legislation would make the pursuit of affordable postsecondary education a matter of law, and that could create a situation that could actually strengthen the students’ capacity to fight back against any unfair charge, provided the federal government was putting the money in.

TV: To finish with a softer question, as the leader of a federal party, you’re obviously one of the country’s most influential politicians. So the question is, what role do student politics play in what you do?

JL: Well first of all it was instrumental in my getting involved in politics in the first place [laughs], and that was at the high school level. Working with my fellow students, we were able to…to make a few things happen—they weren’t momentous or anything, but they taught me a few things.

I felt all along, in my experience—both when I was in city council working with student councils on a whole series of issues […] or now as NDP leader—we get some of our best ideas from student groups. Our postsecondary education legislation is a case in point. And also, […] it’s important that students continually press all politicians including me, and put our feet to the fire. And I think CFS was very effective at doing that around the Millenium Scholarship and replacing that money with a needs-based approach.,

Now we’ve still got a long way to go, but that was a heck of an achievement.

Can We Talk About Something Else?

Stephen Colbert, the crown prince of self-satirizing Americana, recently took a stab below the belt of Canadian national consciousness by lampooning the turmoil surrounding the Hockey Night in Canada theme. In a segment for his Comedy Central show, the Colbert Report host declared his intention to purchase the song’s rights. The song would thus serve as exciting musical accompaniment for American activities “like punching beavers in the face.”

The two-minute Colbert Report sketch received a fair amount of media coverage in Canada, though the joke was not universally well-received. After all, Colbert was tackling a pretty sensitive subject.

More than a week has passed since the CBC’s announcement of its Hockey Night licensing woes and CTV’s subsequent purchase of the theme song’s rights, but lamentations over its loss have yet to subside.

Summer is upon us, and melodrama appears to be the flavour of the season.

One news piece, published over the weekend in the Edmonton Journal, went so far as to compare the iconic jingle’s appeal to the “primal” satisfaction gleaned from sex and drugs. Dopamine receptors in Canadian brains have formed a chemical dependency to the beloved tune, the article says.

Apparently, when there is nothing left to say about an exhausted news event, procuring scientific proof of its importance is a good save.

That the 40-year-old Hockey Night theme holds profound sentimental ties for legions of Canadian hockey fans is without question. Whether the CBC’s loss of the tune is truly a national catastrophe is open for debate.

It’s probably safe to say that more important things have happened.

Like Julie Couillard’s rack, for example.

The hubbub surrounding Maxime Bernier’s affair is entering its second month of heavy rotation, and it seems that the time for thoughtful analysis—if ever such a time existed—is well behind us. Now there is little left to discuss, save for the physical attributes of Bernier’s former flame. After all, aren’t they the only reason we still care?

The Bernier story can be summed up remarkably quickly: Foreign Affairs Minister foolishly leaves government documents at his girlfriend’s house; for his carelessness, loses job. The Bernier “scandal” is an entirely different animal, spawned from rhapsodizing rhetorical acrobatics and a loving attention to detail—specifically, the oft-cited details of Couillard’s former-model status and past biker boyfriends. A month of media scrutiny has transformed Couillard from an ordinary woman with unfortunate romantic inclinations into something resembling a Sweet Valley High villain.

It would be easy to dismiss Bernier’s political blunder as an act of recklessness on his part; but wryly blaming the downfall of the “best-dressed man on Parliament Hill” on his ex-girlfriend’s bosomy charms is much more satisfying. The plunging dress worn by Couillard at Bernier’s 2007 induction ceremony may soon require its own Wikipedia entry.

In a summer thus marked by natural disasters and political turmoil in other parts of the world, we can at least rest assured that, in Canada, the bulk of our drama is self-made.

In Praise of Bad Racial Stereotypes

Summer blockbuster season has only begun, but it already appears to be a bumper crop year for shock and appall. Hindu groups demand that Mike Myers’ Love Guru be banned from India because it is “potentially offensive” and “religiously insensitive.” In Russia, Communist Party members have deemed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull “anti-Soviet propaganda,” and want the Russian Culture Ministry to bar the film. On at least three separate occasions this summer, friends have told me they can’t wait to see Iron Man, “even though I hear it’s kind of racist.”

While trailers for the Love Guru appear too senseless to warrant banning the film, and Iron Man generated plenty of media attention upon its release (but only so much as we now expect of a Marvel movie), the return of Indiana Jones was a veritable event. Movie mag Empire outdid itself, printing a virtual shrine to the franchise, complete with a special Indiana Jones collector’s book of first-hand accounts from the film’s main creators. Indy made the front page, above-the-fold photo in an edition of La Presse and received a lengthy comment in The Independent on Sunday. It garnered a standing ovation at Cannes.

If you’ve watched any of the first three Indiana Jones films recently and have a passing understanding of post-colonial theory, you’ve likely noticed that the films scream for an Orientalist critique. Archeology professor Indiana Jones is an enlightened, rational skeptic who warns his students constantly about the dangers of folklore and myth, or, as he puts it, hocus pocus and superstition. Non-Western peoples are shown as being pre-Enlightenment. Indy is in a position of cultural superiority, sometimes reaching the point of godlike or savior status: a protagonist to be emulated by people of other cultures. In some cases, the imperial ramifications of this presentation are explicit. At the end of Temple of Doom, banned from India for its “racist portrayal of Indians and overt imperialistic tendencies,” the British army comes to the rescue. As the title of the third film puts it, Indiana Jones is on nothing less than a crusade—one in which he puts everyone else in a museum dedicated to his own glory. As is sometimes hinted at in the films, he has grave robber tendencies.

It might seem obvious that the Indiana Jones films stereotype other cultures. But while I have no problem ignoring films like Love Guru, I have trouble applying the same rule to Indy. I know several fans that feel the same way. Despite how uncomfortable the films’ representations of different nationalities make us, our attachment is difficult to break. That’s the unfortunate reality of living in a racist society: you inherit its effects.

In high school, my go-to movies when I was sick were Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Last Crusade and A Room with a View. For a long time, going through university, I hid this fact from my friends. If a film presents ethnic stereotypes or Eurocentrism and I enjoy the film, it must mean that I’m a deep-down racist as well—otherwise, why the repeated viewings? This isn’t a question I enjoy asking, but if I’m going to be honest with myself, it can’t be avoided. The Indiana Jones movies are racist, and I love Indiana Jones.

In November 2001, the Egyptian journalist Hani Shukrallah wrote an article about the franchise’s first film for the daily Al-Ahram. He called Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc “probably one of the most blatantly racist films ever produced by Hollywood, which is saying a lot, especially when the object of racism, as in this film, happens to be Arab.” It may be difficult to deem a film the most racist, but that doesn’t make the author wrong.

Shukrallah analyzed a scene in which Indy encounters a maniacal swordsman of Arab origin (we can tell he’s an Arab because he wears a turban) as a metaphor for the United States’ approach to the Middle East. If you’ve ever seen an action movie, you know the kind of drawn-out fight we’re in for as the crowd in the souq (the setting is stolen directly from A Thousand and One Nights) parts to display the skilled, black-clad threat. Spielberg breaks with tradition, though. Ever practical, a dysentery-ridden Indy shoots the guy dead, just like that. It’s an uncomfortable scene if you’re at all concerned about Western imperialism. It’s also 38th in the top 50 film gags as chosen by Empire. Here’s the shocker: despite himself, when Shukrallah watches this scene, he laughs. “I might as well admit to one of my shameful little secrets. I’ve enjoyed the Indiana Jones film series.”

The issue is not whether the films are Orientalist, but how we’re supposed to relate to them. For Shukrallah as for me, the issue of the Indy movies’ appeal relates to why Umberto Eco classified Raiders as a cult film. According to Eco, Casablanca is popular because it’s a pastiche of many films that came before it, and, in the viewer’s mind, the films that came after it as well. Watching the Indiana Jones movies, the same applies. The films are a jumble of highly-charged scenes, as Indy himself exemplifies familiar tropes in film history: he can be Bogey, he can be the fastest gun in the West, he can be Tintin all grown up. Spielberg and Lucas were inspired by images from the B-movies and pulp magazines of their youth. Viewing an Indiana Jones film allows you to turn off your filters. You can watch them again and again without having to worry about following a coherent narrative, enjoying the sensation of déja vu as one iconic image after another washes over you.

The use of such icons is what entrenches the Indiana Jones series into the censorship debate, but it’s also the source of their appeal. Before groups like the Russian Communist Party worry that Indiana Jones will burn anti-Soviet propaganda into the retinas of today’s youth, they should recognize why Cate Blanchett in a bowl cut butchering the Russian accent is entertaining in the first place.

Northern Exposure

Summer festival season is upon us, and it kicked off in spectacular fashion with 500 performers at 40 clubs under the banner of North By Northeast. While Toronto is blessed to have two annual large-scale music festivals, North By Northeast holds an advantage over Canadian Music Week by virtue of its sheer size, the number of awesome international acts, and beautiful weather (recent CMW experience involved trudging through two feet of freshly fallen snow).

For a festival of this size, timing is everything. NXNE ran like clockwork, with 40-minute sets that all started on the hour, ensuring that fans could stroll from venue to venue with relative ease.

This year’s story was the lack of legendary acts that are typically brought in by festival organizers. With the absence of big names like former festival headliners Dinosaur Jr. and the Buzzcocks, the onus was on music lovers to seek out and unearth exciting new bands which, in our experience, led to more successes than disappointments.

If you were able to get out and enjoy the great music and perfect weather, congratulations. If you couldn’t make it, shame on you, but here’s The Varsity’s comprehensive wrap up of what you missed. —RD

WEDNESDAY

The Stills—Mod Club, 9 PM

After the massive success of their debut LP, 2003’s Logic Will Break Your Heart, it all went awry for The Stills. Lineup changes were the main culprit, as drummer and principal songwriter Dave Hamelin emerged from behind the kit to take over frontman duties on the band’s second album. This was an unequivocal disaster, because Hamelin lacks the voice, magnetism and charisma of Tim Fletcher, who has thankfully taken back the lead vocal on the new tracks that the band debuted at this Mod Club showcase. Fletcher scowled as the band roared through the majority of their old favourites, ditching the rootsy, piano-driven songs that made their second record such a flop. Armed with a massive new single, “Being Here,” that has all the bombast of U2’s “Beautiful Day,” the time could be right for a resurgence. Perhaps the new album, due in August on Arts & Crafts, will see the band live up to their early potential, but only time will tell. —RD

Rating: VVVv

THURSDAY

Summerside—Dundas Square, 6 PM

The Hard Rock Café Main Stage at Dundas Square played host to an early evening set by Burlington’s Summerside, the latest in a seemingly endless string of suburban 905 cookie-cutter emo bands. It’s a genre so rife with mimicry that it’s difficult not to label every band “watered down Fall Out Boy wannabes” and stop there. Singer Grant Edwards’ attempt to mimic Patrick Stump’s soulful vocals turned into a falsetto that made him sound like he was battling a cold. Summerside has also dropped a member or two recently, chaining Edwards to his keyboard and thereby limiting his ability to be the kind of energetic frontman that is practically an emo prerequisite. Maybe it was just the sun in their eyes, but the only aspect of Summerside’s live show that distinguishes them from their contemporaries is their lack of energy. Did I mention they have pretty rad haircuts? —RD

Rating: Vv

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists with The Hospital Bombers—Mod Club, 8 PM

There was something nostalgic in the air on Thursday night at the Mod Club. Sounding like a grimy, less spastic Los Campesinos!, openers The Hospital Bombers (who copped their name from the epic Mountain Goats tune “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton”) sang a bombastic guitar/violin tribute declaring, “Punk’s not dead.” When Ted Leo and the Pharmacists took the stage at a punctual eight o’clock, they opened with their lament to the death of ska entitled “Where Have all the Rude Boys Gone?” It all sounded wistful for the music of yesteryear, the irony further deepened by the excessive product placements for Converse sneakers scattered all over the venue (Joey Ramone is rolling in his grave). However, Ted Leo’s mad guitar slinging and corrosive vocals reignited hope in a crowd who were becoming increasingly ashamed of their black high-tops. Racing through material from his three recent stellar albums, Leo presented forty-five minutes of raw, wired energy that passed all too quickly. My only complaint was that he skipped his usual manic live version of “Ballad of a Sin Eater,” quite possibly the best song about Americans ever written. By the time Leo had the crowd singing along to “Me and Mia,” all was forgiven, and suddenly the rock n’ roll of the past seemed like nothing compared to what some musicians are producing in the present. —WBM

Rating: VVVVv

The Vibrants—El Mocambo Downstairs, 10 PM

The fact that The Vibrants were one of the few English bands brought in for the festival is an indicator that the NXNE programmers can’t be all that concerned with UK indie rock at the moment. Hailing from London, the band chart angular post-punk territory in the vein of Bloc Party and The Libertines. Yet it seemed that jet lag from the long flight was getting the band down, as they practically slept through the forgettable first half of their set. Signs of life sparked later on with “Shows You Up,” a track that kick-started a series of danceable jams that showcased the drumming of James Hayward. While front man Giles Farnham manages a few memorable hooks, The Vibrants’ overall package gives you the sense that they’re a band destined to placate concertgoers’ dancing shoes until the headliners finally make it out of the dressing room. —RD

Rating: VVv

Oholics—Silver Dollar (Thursday 11 PM, Friday 12 AM, Saturday 2 AM)

Toronto’s resident lunatic genius Dan Burke has done it again, importing Sweden’s Oholics to headline three consecutive nights of his NeXT shows at the Silver Dollar. Having entered Thursday’s show without grand expectations, Oholics made such an incredible impression on me that I made sure to turn up all three nights, and I was definitely not alone. They describe their sound as ‘psychedelic electrorock,’ which in practice seems to be a combination of the band’s two most obvious influences, early incarnations of Pink Floyd and Oasis. In fact, their debut single, an unreleased early Pink Floyd track written by Syd Barrett called “Lucy Leave,” was the only Oholics release available until Friday night when Davy Love’s local Magnificent Sevens label released a new 7-inch single. Juxtaposing the steely composure of the singer and guitarist with the androgynous, barefoot multi-instrumentalist who alternated between sitar, tambourine and electronic spacebox, Oholics put on the type of transcendent live show that inspired a demonstration of Dan Burke’s famed trance-like snake charmer dance. He grooved with good reason, as Oholics emerged from relative anonymity on this side of the Atlantic to become the most noteworthy band of the festival. The frenzy had grown to such an extent by Saturday night that it really didn’t come as a surprise when George Stroumboulopoulos leaned into my ear and yelled, “10,000 people are going to say they were here tonight! This band is going to be huge!” My thoughts exactly. —RD

Rating: VVVVV

Monotonix—Reverb, 11 PM

Talk about interactive! Tel Aviv-based Monotonix’s Thursday night set lasted just twenty-five minutes, but that was enough for the crowd to be wowed by their creative audacity. Shunning the stage entirely, the band initially set up their wares on the dance floor amidst the audience. Within minutes, singer Ami Shalev was flinging the drum set at crowd members (while percussionist Haggai Fershtman hardly missed a beat) and was dousing attendees with pilfered beer. Guitarist Yonatan Gat joined Shalev in scaling the Reverb’s pillars, jumping onto the bar, and collapsing onto onlookers as they continually lost their balance. Monotonix may also have played some music, but we can’t seem to remember—the complete break from expectation itself was enough to overwhelm our senses. —SW

Rating: VVVV

FRIDAY

Dance Electric—Neutral, 9 PM

Considering NXNE’s indie focus, this year’s line-up featured some notably aging acts (Here’s looking at you, Chris Murphy). Enter the fresh-faced Mississaugan Dance Electric, with a flailing energy that puts their youth to good use. Despite a last-minute set time change due to the lateness of opening rockers Perla (who got lost en route from Iceland), the band managed a dynamic, powerful show. The quartet of twenty-somethings possesses an enviable chemistry and cohesiveness. Though the bandmates are off in different directions this year, hopefully they’ll maintain the bond—such fond friends can be hard to find. —SW

Rating: VVVv

Ok City Ok—Silver Dollar, 9 PM

This Tokyo outfit traveled a long way to play a one-off show in Toronto, and unfortunately, the 13-hour flight simply wasn’t worth it. Lead singer and Texas native Kay Grace and his Japanese backing band play an uninspired brand of classic rock that can’t even net them a record deal in Japan. Their set was a bore, from the forgettable songwriting, to their complete absence of charisma, to the contrived gimmicks like the thick-rimmed glasses with mini headlamps that they threw on during half of one song, for some inexplicable reason. Even the cute female bassist who thanked the audience for coming wasn’t enough to make up for the band’s attempt to throw everything at the wall and have nothing stick. —RD

Rating: V

Ari Shine—Hideout, 9 PM

With all the amazing live shows at NXNE, it’s inevitable that some acts aren’t going to get much attention. Like singer-songwriter Ari Shine, who played to a sparse crowd at Queen Street’s Hideout. Shine is not young, hip, or particularly innovative, but he’s not unlistenable either. With a strong voice and good range, his charismatic stage presence helped boost his predominantly lackluster material. If you’re going to arm yourself with only an acoustic guitar, it’s best to have some deep Elliott Smith-esque lyrics on your side and a compelling story to tell. Hopefully Shine can make it to that stage eventually, but the show’s strongest moment was his deadpan cover of Eurythmics’ “Missionary Man” (which was admittedly pretty awesome). When it came down to it, Shine himself was even willing to admit his shortcomings: the chorus of one song found him repeatedly telling a girl “you’re cooler than me.” Well okay dude, if you say so. —WBM

Rating: VV

Attack In Black—El Mocambo Downstairs, 11 PM

Rumours were flying when a mysterious “special guest” timeslot was placed up against loveable emo band Moneen at the El Mocambo main floor on Friday night. Despite the raging thunderstorm outside, curious concertgoers arrived in droves to find local indie darlings Attack in Black taking the stage downstairs. Best known for their 2007 radio hit “Young Leaves,” the band shied away from their popular tunes in favour of harder rock and country-influenced songs. Lead vocalist Daniel Romano expressed his exhilaration over Attack in Black’s ability to pull off a secret show for a packed house, a marked achievement for a relatively new band. Then again, they’re sharing the main stage at next month’s Edgefest with the likes of Stone Temple Pilots and Sam Roberts Band. At this point, stardom seems inevitable. —SW

Rating: VVVv

Moneen—El Mocambo Upstairs, 11 PM

Veteran Brampton rockers Moneen are purveyors of a mature kind of emo that flies over the heads of mere drunk teenagers. They mixed a slower selection of untitled new songs with old favourites with such stellar titles as “Are We Really Happy with Who We Are Right Now?” and “If Tragedy’s Appealing, Then Disaster’s an Addiction.” While it was a treat to see a band of Moneen’s stature play a club show, the raw power was simply too much. The microphone fuses were blown multiple times, and it was so hot that singer Kenny Bridges claimed he felt like he was singing underwater and drowning in the process. But the crowd’s enthusiasm made it all worthwhile—how often do you see kids crowd surfing upstairs at the Elmo? — RD

Rating: VVVv

SATURDAY

Carina Round—Savannah Room 9 PM

No more than 30 spectators gathered at the tiny back stage of the Savannah Room, and were treated to a short yet intimate acoustic set by British singer-songwriter Carina Round, with some help on lead guitar from her collaborator and record producer Dan Burns. Round’s effortless charm was on full display, as she demanded a swig of an audience member’s beer, claiming that Canada makes her drink twelve times more than normal. Given the setting, her softer material was the strongest, including a haunting impromptu sing-along that featured Round harmonizing with the audience. It made for a soothing start to a hectic night. —RD

Rating: VVVv

The I Spies— El Mocambo Downstairs, 10 PM

Local post-punk outfit The I Spies roared through a selection of barnburners from their 2007 independently released LP, In the Night, including “Stop Screaming,” “Up All Night,” and the similarily-named title track. Decked out with the most fashionable of indie rock accessories (white sunglasses, gold blazers), they certainly looked the part of headliners. However, the Saturday night showcase didn’t catch them at the top of their game. With the recent addition of a live keyboardist to replicate the album’s layered piano and organ arrangements, effervescent singer Johnny Kay’s vocals were often lost in the mix, burying the band’s colossal hooks. —RD

Rating: VVv

Monotonix (Third Show)—Sneaky Dee’s, 12 AM

You’re standing on an amplifier on stage at Sneaky Dee’s trying not to get crushed by a tattooed monster pouring beers into the audience. Flashbulbs and cell phone cameras blind your eyes. A 100-pound Israeli punk rocker shimmies onto a hanging sprinkler and kicks his steel-toed boots in the air while a screaming crowd tries to keep him stable. To your left, a puffy-haired guitarist unleashes surf-punk licks while grandstanding on a speaker, then dives swan-like into the dirge. The audience paws at the Borat look-alike drummer like werewolves then—holy shit! —hoists him and his bass drum into the air as he ferociously pounds out an airborne solo. You’re worried your ears might be bleeding. You’re worried that the audience is going to torch your favourite Tex Mex restaurant to the ground with the end of a flaming joint. But with one last catlike jump, the lead singer falls to the ground and ends the set screeching on the ground. We embrace and I slap his sweaty back in congratulations. Does the music even matter when the antics are this surreal? —CL

Rating: VVVVV

Redd Kross—Lee’s Palace, 1 AM

While NXNE organizers didn’t bolster their lineup with heavy hitters past, Los Angeles’ Redd Kross have all the credibility of last year’s special guests Dinosaur Jr., with higher grooming standards. Dressed in Marc Jacobs suits that were swiftly removed, the band played off their signature power pop sludge with sugary nasal vocals by lead singer Jeff MacDonald, and a driving rhythm section. “Blow You A Kiss In The Wind” was good kitschy fun with theatrical hand gestures and an extended guitar solo, while “Follow The Leader” held more slacker charm than even Evan Dando could muster. The band played on much longer than their 40-minute restriction, relishing their rock-star status in front of a mid-aged crowd that delighted in every bouncy single. Some come to NXNE for youthful bands on the cusp of breaking out. Some come for old favorites. Redd Kross have been playing longer than high-schoolers Ruby Coast have been alive, and it shows in every soaring crescendo. —CL

Rating: VVV

Malaria parasite hindered by enzyme deficiency

Parasitic diseases have been a burden on human society since ancient times. Over the years, advancements in technology and medicine have provided ways to combat some of these ailments. However many parasitic diseases, like malaria, still have no cure or vaccine.

Malaria is an important parasitic player in human disease, causing more than one million deaths each year. While its impact in North America is minimal, it is an influential pathogenic agent in many parts of the world, particularly in areas close to the equator. This mosquito-transmitted disease successfully evades medical intervention due to a lack of an effective vaccine as well as its ability to develop drug resistance. Improved understanding of the pathogenesis of malaria, and how the body defends against the parasite, is critical for developing new drug targets. Fortunately, a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine has given scientists a new way of examining how malaria interacts with humans.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Kevin Kain, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, set out to determine whether a pyruvate kinase enzyme deficiency, identified in mice as protective against malaria, would also protect humans against the disease. In addition, the team wanted to determine the molecular basis of the protective effects of a shortage of the enzyme.

Pyruvate kinase is a key component of energy production in red blood cells. Some individuals inherit a deficiency in this enzyme which can lead to a type of anemia, known as nonspherocytic hemolytic anemia. This is significant, as sickle cell anemia has also been shown to provide resistance against malaria.

The researchers drew blood samples from individuals with the deficiency and compared them with the normal red blood cells of control subjects. When the blood samples were exposed to the malaria parasite, the sample from the pyruvate kinase of deficient individuals showed a protective effect against the replication of malaria in red blood cells. Furthermore, the researchers found that the protection granted by the deficiency was two-fold. It hindered parasite replication by causing an inherent defect in the red blood cells and encouraged the immune system to eradicate infected blood cells.

“Understanding how [mutations occurring in our genome] make us more resistant to malaria can help us design innovative new strategies to prevent or treat severe malaria in places such as sub-Saharan Africa,” says Dr. Kain. “Our research shows that people who have an enzyme deficiency or those who carry the gene trait for this deficiency may be protected from severe and fatal malaria.”

The importance of these results suggests another mechanism by which humans may have evolved resistance to the malaria parasite in endemic regions. While a complete pyruvate kinase deficiency leads to poor overall health, a partial deficiency in this enzyme may offer some protection against malaria. This recently discovered role of kinase in malaria pathogenesis offers a novel mechanism by which humans have evolved self-preservation. The next step is to test whether there is an increase in mutant pyruvate kinase genes in regions where malaria is endemic. This could serve as a drug target, which has the potential to improve mortality statistics or, at the very least, lend itself to improving humanity’s knowledge base in the battle against malaria.