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The McGill Daily, Thursday, January 15, 2008

Montrealers march in solidarity with Gaza Deborah Guterman News Writer


n estimated 10,000 people marched Saturday in protest against the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, part of a worldwide movement denouncing recent violence. The frustrations of the crowd were tangible. Participants walked down Ste. Catherine from Peel to St. Urbain, chanting “Viva! Viva! Intifada!” and “Israel—Assassin! Israel—Terrorist!” “I feel a little helpless,” said McGill graduate student Kianoosh Hashemzadeh at the protest. “I feel like this is helping me feel as if I am a part of a movement that is against the activity taking place in Gaza.” According to the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni, the aim of Israel’s offensive is to stop the barrage of rockets and mortars being fired from Gaza into southern Israel, numbering about 500 since the start of the 20-day offensive. However, due to the low mortality rate of the Hamas rockets, the conflict has left 13 Israelis and over 900 Palestinians dead. In addition, 4,400 Gazans have been injured to date. Protester and McGill law student Maha Hussain defended Israel’s right to protect its citizens, but felt the Israeli response to be disproportionate. “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel; they have nowhere to evacuate to,” she said, referring to Gaza’s borders, which have been sealed for the past 18 months. The campaign was organized by the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine, Tadamon! Montreal, and Solidarity with Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR). Many Jewish groups also took part in the rally, including the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (ACJC), Independent Jewish Voices, and Young Jews for Social Justice (YJSJ), a new Quebec Public Interest Research Group-McGill working group. Elise Eisenkraft Klein, a member of the YJSJ, emphasized the diversity of voices within the Jewish community. “I think it’s important that the Jewish community is not shown as being a monolithic voice, and that there are opinions that Jews have out there other than [those of] the big organizations and pro-Israel...lobbies,” said Klein. Speaking at the demonstration, Independent Jewish Voices representative Abby Lippman called on Jewish

Photos by Charles Mostoller / The McGill Daily

history to justify Jewish opposition to Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories. “Silence kills. Jews know this all too well,” said Lippman. “We cannot stay and watch others kill in our name. “We will stand up in solidarity with all those who are demanding an end to Israel’s attacks in Gaza, to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, and to the continuation of violations of human rights and international law,” added Lippman. Aaron Lakoff, a collective member of Tadamon! Montreal, maintained that Israeli treatment of the Palestinians contradicts Jewish values. “A lot of people have interpreted Jewish values to be standing for liberation and for justice. And what Israel is doing is actually smack in the face of those traditions and a smack in the face of all of humanity,” said Lakoff. No opposing groups organized against the protest. However, onlooker Yoni Khajehzadeh was displeased with the march. Identifying himself as an Iranian Jew, Khajehzadeh was concerned the demonstration threatened Israel’s legitimacy as nationstate. “I’m not saying that everything that is going on in Gaza is right, but what I am saying is that Israel has a right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state,” said Khajehzadeh. The Montreal demonstration coincided with several held across Canada in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver over the weekend. Tens of thousands have also protested in Britain, France, Belgium, and Spain. According to Nina Amrov, spokesperson for SPHR, the primary goal of the protest was to mobilize those outraged by the alleged war crimes committed by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza. The organization hopes the demonstration will incite the Conservative government to end its support of Israeli policies that flagrantly abuse international law, said Amrov. In addition, both Amrov and Lakoff underscored the need to consider the context in which Hamas has been firing rockets, saying the targeted towns – Ashkelon, Sderot, and Ashdod – are where many Gazans lived before 1948 and 1967. “We’re talking about the Gaza Strip: 75 per cent of the population there are refugees. It’s the world’s largest open-air prison,” said Lakoff. “People have to go through the largest obstacles in the world just to get basic necessities of life.”



The McGill Daily, Thursday, January 15, 2009


A constitutional crisis Canada’s political chaos tops world headlines Last year’s turbulent political circus was topped off with a constitutional crisis in Ottawa, a failed proposal for Liberal-NDP coalition, and the Governor General – a representative of the Queen – proroguing Parliament by request of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. For those of you who were holed up preparing for your exams, The Daily gives you its no-nonsense guide to last month’s crisis, as Parliament gets ready to reconvene.



Canada elects a minority Conservative Government under Harper. Liberals lose 18 seats.

Governor General Michaëlle Jean cuts short an official visit to Central Europe, announcing she will return to Ottawa the next morning. Rumours circulate that Harper might “prorogue” (i.e. suspend) Parliament to let heads cool, bringing it back in January or later. A full-blown constitutional crisis erupts around whether Jean would be forced to follow Harper’s request to suspend or dissolve Parliament, whether she could ask for a demonstration of confidence in the Government from the House of Commons, and whether she could ignore him and allow the coalition to govern.

OCTOBER 20 Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion says he will resign once the Liberals choose a replacement.


Aquil Virani for The McGill Daily

Montreal crime drops Band-aid solutions don’t address root causes of crime, say critics Sam Neylon The McGill Daily


ast year, Montreal experienced its lowest level of violence since 1972. This hopeful news is tempered, however, by a year that saw violence perpetrated by both civilians and police that erupted after the police shooting of 18-year-old Freddy Villanueva in Montreal North. Commander Clement Rose, head of the Montreal Police major crimes division, was quoted in the Gazette attributing the drop to the police’s recent campaign against street gangs. Their campaign includes aggressive enforcement tactics such as Project Eclipse, a special anti-gang unit focused on making arrests, and prevention programs that develop important ties to neighbourhoods where street gangs are a problem. Victor Henriguez, a spokesperson for Solidarité Montreal Nord, a group of organizations that united after Villanueva’s death, noted a change in police attitude since the riots. “The feeling of security for the people has increased because we have more officers on the streets,” he said, noting a big push by the police to help the community – including several collaborative workshops. Still Henriguez felt violence is only one factor in the relations between citizen and police officer. “I think that, yes, there is less

criminality, less murders, things like that; but there is still the problem of citizen confidence [in the system]. The system has a responsibility to maintain its own credibility – and this is where we want change. Because criminality has gone down, but confidence is not back.” University of Toronto criminologist professor Rosemary Gartner also linked the drop with a larger cultural trend. “High intensity policies may have a short-term effect on crime, but after a few months it tends to go right back up.... It’s happening across Canada’s major cities. It’s happening in the United States as well. We are able to rule out some things as possible explanations; or say things may contribute...maybe changes in people’s attitudes and beliefs, tolerance for violence,” Gartner said. “The best evidence of decades of research that looks at what police do suggests that the kinds of marginal changes they make from year to year don’t have a big impact on crime. The causes of crime are wrapped up in all sorts of economic, social, and political factors, and the police can’t get rid of economic inequality, the police can’t get rid of poor schools.... So I’m not criticizing the police for not having an effect on serious crimes: why should we expect them to?” Henriguez has already felt a positive cultural change in Montreal North. “Since the events of August, I think we have seen a community that is ready to work to better their own lives, and to have a better future for their children,” said Henriguez. Montreal Nord Solidarité has organized, among other events, seven dinners with youth to talk about crime, expectations, and employment, as well as workshops and shows – including one showcase

of Montreal North youth talent that attracted over 500 people. Some of Solidarité’s projects are funded by the City of Montreal. “There needs to be teamwork, what happened in Montreal Nord is just a sample of what could happen elsewhere,” Henriguez said. Gartner also argued for the longterm effects of this sort of community interaction. “[While] there’s evidence that [community activities] may not have much effect on crime directly, but they may do so indirectly and in the long term in the extent that they get people in the communities interacting with each other more,” she said. “The more that people in neighbourhoods are interacting with each other, the more responsibility they will feel for their community because they will identify with it more. The more they will want to assist people in their communities. And all these things, which don’t seem like crime prevention efforts, in fact do tend to lower crime rates, but in the long run.” “I think that to base the analysis only on criminality is maybe not the right way. Criminality is a part of it – yes, the city is safer, but at the same time, we need to think: do the people who were susceptible to criminality have a better future right now?” said Henriguez. According to the Gazette, there were 29 homicides reported on the island in 2008, the lowest numbers since 1972. This drop is relative to 35 homicides in 2005, 42 in 2006, and 41 in 2007. In addition, there were approximately 59 attempted murders in 2008, compared to 99 in 2007 and 136 in 2006. Of the homicides, seven were related to street-gangs, versus 14 in 2007. There were 39 street-gang related attempted murders in 2008 versus 54 in 2007.

At an economic forum in Peru, Harper says that deficits are essential, after both he and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said during the election campaign that deficits are undesirable and damaging.

NOVEMBER 27 Flaherty releases a fiscal update which opposition parties criticize for lacking an economic stimulus package, removing the right for public servants to strike until 2011, and trimming public financing for opposition parties. All three opposition parties vow to vote against the update.

NOVEMBER 28 The Tories remove the party public financing cuts from the upcoming vote on the fiscal update. The opposition parties respond that they will bring down the government regardless, and the Liberals say they will use their December 1 opposition day to motion to bring down the Tories and propose a coalition government between the Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc Québécois, with Dion as Prime Minister. The Conservatives shift the opposition day to December 8.

NOVEMBER 29 The Tories back down from the anti-strike provision, but the coalition possibility remains on the table. Partisans on all sides express outrage, and pundits openly admit they have no idea what will happen next.

NOVEMBER 30 Word leaks from several “anonymous Liberal sources” that Dion’s most likely successor, Michael Ignatieff, is uneasy with the coalition, while the other leading Liberal candidate, Bob Rae, supports it.

DECEMBER 1 The three opposition leaders sign an accord for a Dion-led Liberal-NDP coalition government until June 2011, with the Bloc promising support in confidence matters until June 2010. The Liberals would get 18 of the 24 cabinet minister posts, while the remaining six to the NDP – their first time in Cabinet.

DECEMBER 3 Canadians rally for and against the proposed coalition, with people demonstrating in the cold, calling radio stations, and organizing on Facebook and blogs to denounce the coalition or explain its necessity. Harper addresses the country on TV at 7 p.m., while Dion’s reply comes nearly half an hour late with the production values of a webcam, putting a dent in the coalition’s credibility.

DECEMBER 4 After a two-hour conversation, the Governor General agrees to prorogue Parliament at Harper’s request, stopping the opposition from bringing down the government and making this 16-day Parliamentary session the sixth-shortest in Canadian history, with the only shorter sessions being held during the two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Pacific Scandal of 1873.

DECEMBER 8 Dion resigns for the second time in two months and the Liberal Executive decides it can’t wait until April to select a new leader. At 8 p.m. the polls close in the provincial election, in which Premier Jean Charest barely grabs a majority after a late surge for the Parti Québécois, many believe due to soft nationalist voters’ anger over separatist Bloc MPs being called “illegitimate” by the Tories and much of English Canada.

DECEMBER 9 Bob Rae is the final Liberal leadership candidate to drop out, leaving Michael Ignatieff as the winner by acclamation. Although the opposition leaders keep their mouths tight, most agree that the coalition has lost its opportunity to gain power.

TO COME Parliament will be reconvened on January 26, with the budget to be presented the following day. Stay tuned for all the action. - compiled by Nicholas Smith


The McGill Daily, Thursday, January 15, 2009 HYDE PARK

How the left lost its edge Hartlee Zucker


ike any McGill student, I generally like to think I’ve got all the answers – at least in whatever narrow field of study I have chosen to pursue. As an International Relations minor, I’ve taken no less than seven classes that have mentioned realism, idealism, constructivism, and any other “ism” you could possibly imagine. Consequently, I have always felt comfortable identifying myself as a “liberal,” in some contemporary sense of the word. But I must confess that I’m baffled by how we self-proclaimed “liberals” seem to be currently representing ourselves in the media. In theory, I’m all for a liberal slant in the news, keeping journalistic integrity in mind, of course. Lately, however, being a liberal seems to mean picking and choosing. It means deciding when and to whom it is convenient to apply our principles, it means upholding human rights for some while excluding others, and it means valuing one human life above

another. This is not what I signed up for. Why is it that for nearly a decade, as thousands upon thousands of rockets and missiles have killed and maimed civilians inside Israel, the liberal press lay impotent? In the recent wave of conflict, the press has sorely lacked a comprehensive critique of Hamas – a terrorist group which exploits its own civilian population, using them as human shields in order to further their own political aims; a group which plants explosives inside its own schools, booby traps its zoos, and hides in and among families. These all seem fairly consistent with liberal ideals. I’m confused as to why “our” press has chosen to omit certain facts which seem relevant if we, as progressive, humanistic thinkers, actually claim to cherish life over death. (Which is not the impression I get from Hamas.) We seem to have completely overlooked the fact that in a concerted effort to minimize civilian casualties, the Israeli military has dropped hundreds of thousands of pamphlets

into the streets of Gaza, and made tens of thousands of phone calls to civilians in the region, warning them of impending operations and urging them to stay clear of terrorist enclaves. Nearly 40 Gazan civilians, children included, have been transferred into Israel for medical care, but that has also escaped the world’s attention. Don’t misunderstand me – no crisis is ever black and white. The blame for war is shared by all parties involved, and all actors should be held accountable. But perhaps someone can explain to other perplexed liberals why we are suddenly expected to decry loss of life for only one group, rather than for civilians on both sides of this conflict. I am ashamed, to put it mildly, that my supposedly like-minded brethren have sought to portray the situation in Gaza as so appallingly one-dimensional. If this is today’s liberalism, I’d rather be unaffiliated. Hartlee Zucker is a U2 Humanistic Studies student. You can reach her at


Concordia’s earthly inspiration Melanie Adelson, Christopher Columb, Alexandra Wong, and Benjamin Wong


any McGill students frown upon Concordia, seeing it less as an institution for higher learning and more as a quirky school whose ranks teem with activists. McGill students’ attitudes toward Concordia’s radicalism and its students’ refusal to “fall in line” motivates them to label Concordia and its student body as inferior. In reality, however, it is McGill elitists who must battle their inferiority complex. One issue that McGill sorely lags behind Concordia is environmental sustainability. In 2002, Concordia students initiated the Sustainable Concordia Project, further revealing their passion for action albeit in a more peaceful environmental manner. It took McGill students three years to begin a similar project on campus, and the Sustainability Director position was not even crafted until the end of 2007. McGill’s proactive deficiency is so inherent that commerce majors in the Desautels Faculty of Management are required to take Social Context of Business (SCB), a class that has an indirect goal to educate them on the topic and to motivate the business students into “Taking Action.” Such “behind the curve” behavior might lead one to conclude that McGill attracts more reactionary rather than proactive individuals. However, our experienc-

es in SCB last fall suggests a different source for inaction. For our SCB project early last September, we aimed to implement a composting system at McGill. In the process of meeting and discussing the matter with Sustainability Director Dennis Fortune, we discovered there already was such a proposal in the pipeline. We were subsequently redirected toward determining the source of post-consumer food waste on campus. Much to our disappointment, this task too had been initiated by others in different departments. Unfortunately, administrators failed to inform us of the overlap of intent until too late in the semester for any change to occur. Had we not been tossed back and forth between different administrators who were unaware of the work outside of their immediate departments, the administration might have been able to constructively synthesize students’ energy on a specific issue. It is this type of bureaucratic red tape that fills so many McGill students with chagrin, emasculating their spirit for activism. McGill’s organizational structure varies greatly from Concordia’s. Their sustainability project takes on a multi-stakeholder approach, where students, faculty, and administrators come together in a collaborative effort. Advisory committees act as liaisons between the administration and the students leading initiatives. In addition, administrative policy is “open to comments from

the community,” explains Concordia Environmental and R4 Coordinator Louise Hénault-Éthier. “Basically, both grassroots projects and topdown initiatives meet halfway,” while established committee forums provide the necessary channel through which opinions are expressed and acted upon. The issue, therefore, has now become one of McGill streamlining communication between students and administrators. But are Concordia’s and McGill’s cultures fundamentally too different for a similar organizational approach to be implemented here? And if so, what values lie at the heart of those two cultures? Whatever their differences, both universities are educational institutions that seek to unlock the constructive and intellectual capacity of students. Before proceeding further with any lofty projects, the McGill community must first address the failure of one of the most basic needs of a active community: communication and social interaction. By improving upon those deficiencies, the University will be on its way to reclaiming its stature as a leading proactive university in Canada.

Melanie Adelson, Christopher Columb, Alexandra Wong, and Benjamin Wong are U3 Management students and love the planet. You can reach them at benjamin.wong2@

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The McGill Daily, Thursday, January 15, 2009 Aaron Vansintjan / The McGill Daily



Smashing one piñata at a time Ted Sprague


iñata Diplomacy has again shown itself to be what it is: a brightly-coloured donkey filled with cheap bits of logic that perpetuate opinions found on CNN and FOX News. First, it was Kreitner’s piece on Mumbai tragedy whereby he fell into supporting Bush’s war on terror. Then not surprisingly, his opinion on the recent Gaza incident reeks just the same. From now on, I have committed myself to publicly smash this Piñata every week with all my might and expose what truly lies inside it: dirt! I will start with his latest piece on Gaza. First, let us put everything into context. Since 1948, the Palestinians have been forcefully driven out of their home. They have been colonized in all senses of word. Thus, an oppressed people have the right to resist their occupiers with all means up to an armed struggle. The Palestinians have the right to fight against Israeli imperialism as much as the Americans fought against the British imperialism with guns in the American Revolutionary War more than 200 years ago. Now, if we start from this premise – that it is the Palestinians who are the oppressed and the Israeli government who is the oppressor – then we shouldn’t even take the Israeli government’s words seriously that they are “defending their citizens,” “fighting fundamentalism,” “avoiding civilians casualties,” etc. Throughout the history of wars, all aggressors always try to paint themselves as the victims and the victims as the aggressors. With that being said, with the interest of the genuine liberation of Palestinians in mind, I will have to criticize the indiscriminate rocket method of Hamas (and other individual terrorism methods which have been used by Hamas, and the PLO in the 1970s), but not from a hypocritical moralistic point of view as the international community has done. I criticize it because this method is not effective and counter-productive. First, it is not even denting the military might of the oppressors. Secondly and most importantly, it

actually pushes the Israeli masses to the hand of the Zionist reactionaries who are using these attacks as a pretext for their rabid imperialist agenda. There is a section of Israeli masses who are opposed to their imperialist government, who are trying to pry away their brothers and sisters from the chauvinist demagogue of their government. The rocket attacks surely are not helping the cause of these anti-war Israelis. In Israel, daily demonstrations against the war have been taking place, a fact that most media and Kreitner fail to mention. Maybe it is because of the “minimal research” Kreitner has done on this topic as he himself admitted. My dad always told me: if you have nothing better to say you should just shut your mouth, or else you will just be spreading ignorance. The Palestinian masses and the Israeli masses fundamentally have a common enemy: the Israeli imperialist government. On one side, it plunges its own people into an unending war on terror designed to subdue any dissent at home, and on the other, it continues to oppress Palestinians after 60 years. Understanding this starting point, we won’t fall into Ricky’s cheap reactionary logics. We have to be able to wade through the chauvinist clouds that have been thrown around by the Israeli government (and their friends in Washington, Ottawa, etc.) equally by the fundamentalist Hamas (and Hezbollah, Iranian regime, etc.). Just as much as there are Israelis who are fighting against the imperialist policy of their government, there are Palestinians who are fighting against the growing fundamentalism in their own backyard – if they have one left. I will state this bluntly: a revolution by the Israeli workers that overthrows the imperialist government of Israel will be required for the solution of the Israel-Palestine problem. The only other alternative is a mutual genocide – take your pick.

Ted Sprague is a Master’s II student in Chemistry. You can reach him at

The Daily has a Public Editor. Marc Selles is your representative, so get in touch and help him critique the paper.

Israel has called the position of Special Rapporteur “a propaganda instrument.”


Israel’s opaque politics And the expulsion of UN Rapporteur Richard Falk Aaron Vansintjan


srael’s bombing and occupation of Gaza has dominated the headlines since December 27. What escaped the headlines and was obscured from the public eye was Israel’s deportation of Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur, appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, just a week before the bombing started. The rapporteur recently condemned Israel for its “flagrant and massive violations of international law,” and the Israeli government claimed that they denied his entry because they disagreed with his appointment and stated that “the mandate of the rapporteur is completely distorted...and directed as a propaganda instrument against Israel.” To clear things up, the Special Rapporteur’s job is to investigate the condition of human rights in a certain area. As of June 2008, when Richard Falk replaced John Dugard, Falk’s job became just that: to report on the condition of the people of Palestine, and to evaluate to what extent their human rights are being violated. Richard Falk was a good choice for the position, because he would write an objective report on the humanitarian problems Palestinians are facing, and his Jewish ethnicity would remove the (Isreali) question of racial favouritism. Israel is, therefore, wrong to accuse Falk of being one-sided and biased, because it is his job to focus only on the humanitarian problems in Palestine. As Falk himself stated in a Democracy Now! interview, Israel’s complaints are clearly “part of a much wider and...insidious pattern of trying to shift the attention from their

objections to the person.” Falk calls Israel’s method “politics of opaqueness;” by focusing on Falk, Israel’s government is “trying to make the realities of the occupation as obscure and as speculative as possible.” By looking into Richard Falk’s deportation, we can more clearly understand the current situation and Israel’s long-lasting politics of deception. Take Israel’s recent bombing and full-scale invasion of the Gaza strip. They claim that it is justified, because Gaza has been shooting rockets at Israeli land for months, and when the barrage reached a level that was more than a slight irritation they reciprocated. Once again, Israel’s government shifts the attention away from itself to hide its own actions. By focusing the media’s attention on Hamas’ rockets, Israel can hide the fact that they actually provoked Hamas by punishing all Gazans collectively during a siege that lasted nearly a year. Israel, by allowing no more than a trickle of supplies to reach Gazans – barely enough to keep people alive – it’s almost as if Israel was waiting for an escalation so that they could be justified in their attack. It is natural for a people occupied to strike back at their aggressors, be it with ineffective rockets or with symbolic rocks. Israel’s expulsion of Richard Falk is a prime example of the “opaqueness” with which they have been fooling the media and their own public for more than 20 years. When Palestinians are the “aggressors,” then Israel is legitimized. If Richard Falk’s words are twisted into new meanings, then Israel can justify his expulsion. What matters are the facts that Israel is trying to hide. I do not know the real reason for Falk’s expulsion – only select

Israeli officials know that – perhaps they are afraid of a Jew criticizing Israel, perhaps they did not want a scathing UN report just before their invasion, or maybe they simply did not want a UN Rapporteur to be in danger during the occupation. The question, then, is not whether Israel was justified in attacking Hamas, but whether the international public will be fooled for long. Israel is like a boy that accuses his schoolmates of doing wrong so that the teacher can see him as angelic in contrast. The public, and most importantly the Israeli public, has to look beyond the benign facade and be aware of Israel’s hidden wrongdoings behind every single accusation. The crimes of others (Hamas’s blind violence) should not legitimize their own: the Israeli army has victimized a whole people. As a last resort, I would like to quote Robert Fisk, the Middle East correspondent of the Independent: “Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead – almost all civilians, most of them children and women – in Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700 Palestinian civilians dead in the Sabra-Chatila massacre; the 1996 Qana massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them children, at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were ordered from their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an Israeli helicopter crew; the 1,000 dead of that same 2006 bombardment and Lebanese invasion, almost all of them civilians?”

Aaron Vansintjan is a U1 Philosophy student and a Daily production & design editor. Send him your love to

10 Features

Hamas must be talked to Niko Block weighs in on Israel’s repeated refusal to negotiate openly with the Palestinian authority


hen Barack Obama won the presidential election, Hamas immediately sent a letter of congratulations to the President-elect. In an interview with Britain’s Sky News, Hamas politiburo leader Khalid Mishal said that he was willing to hold talks with the new President, and that he hoped that Obama would reciprocate. “Yes we are ready for dialogue with President Obama and with the new American administration with an open mind, on the basis that the American administration respects our rights,” he said. He added that sitting down with Hamas would be the new administration’s only option if it is serious about bringing about a lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire. One of very few events that took place while I was living in Ramallah last year that seemed to give Palestinians some hope that a just solution to the conflict may one day come about occurred in mid-April, when former-U.S. president Jimmy Carter flew to Damascus and met with Mishal, as well as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert refused to meet with Carter during his trip to the region; his official explanation was that he did not want to be perceived as holding indirect negotiations with Hamas.

Appeals for peace When I went to cover the student elections at Birzeit University that month, I spoke to a member of the Hamas-aligned Wafaa Party. It was one of few opportunities I had to talk with a member of Hamas while I was there, as the group has been forced underground in the West Bank since June 2007. About a month prior, “GKMH” had been released after four years in Israeli prison. He had been arrested when he tried to cross the separation wall to help release a friend from an Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) security compound. “For any solution to come about, Hamas must be talked to,” he told me. “Whether it is negotiated by Carter, or Egypt, or the French, the conflict will not end until Hamas is approached.” Carter’s visit came at a time of sporadic fighting and rocket attacks around Gaza between the IDF and Hamas, and he recommended that the latter undertake a unilateral cease-fire. The day following the meeting, Mishal publicly announced that Hamas would be willing to settle for a two-state solution. “We agree to a [Palestinian] state on pre-67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital with genuine sovereignty without settlements but without recognizing Israel,” he was quoted as saying in Ha’aretz. Two weeks after Carter’s visit, 11 other Palestinian factions present in the Gaza Strip – including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Islamic Jihad – joined Hamas

in its proposal for a halt to rocket attacks on Israel. But the proposal was immediately shot down by Israel. The spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s office, Mark Regev, told Al-Jazeera that the abatement of illicit arms smuggling across the Gaza-Egypt border was a precondition for the IDF to halt its ongoing bombardment of the Strip. That any Israeli politician, following Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza, would have the gumption to be legislating arms control there isn’t surprising; the degree to which Israel’s ongoing blockade has brought the Strip to its knees explains why some Israeli politicians might think they have the prerogative to dictate Palestinian domestic policy.

The siege After Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections by a landslide in January 2006, Israel did everything in its power to undermine the new government. In late June that year, the IDF moved into Ramallah and arrested one third of cabinet members and 23 Hamas legislators, reinstalling Fatah as leader of the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s siege began when Hamas took control of Gaza a year later. The humanitarian situation there has since reached levels more dire than any seen in the region’s entire recorded history – barring, maybe, 1948. Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the world. One-and-a-half-million people live there, 70 per cent of whom are refugees or descendents of refugees. There is not nearly enough arable land for the region to be self-sufficient, nor is there adequate access to water and irrigation, and Gaza’s strawberry and carnation crops have frequently been barred from export. In the past 18 months, its residents have resorted to digging tunnels into Sinai and smuggling Egyptian goods across the border. Israel has largely blocked the entry of fuel. As a result, car and ambulance use has been limited, and the only power plant in the Strip is frequently forced to shut down. Prior to this current spate of hostilities, the UN reported that tens of thousands have extremely limited access to water, and more than half of Gazan children were undernourished. For months it’s been reported that some people have been scrounging in dumpsters for scraps of food. This policy is what Dov Weisglass, a top adviser to Olmert, described in 2006 as putting Gazans “on a diet;” I would call it collective punishment and a war crime.

To bomb or not to bomb Whatever talks led to the six-month ceasefire – which was brokered by Egypt and expired three weeks ago – they were done as covertly as the Israeli government could possibly man-

The McGill Daily, Thursday, January 15, 2008

age. The reason for this is that negotiating with Hamas is more unpopular with Israelis than the sort of conflict we’ve seen these past two and a half weeks. With Israeli elections set to be held next month, the ruling Kadima party and its rival Likud, led by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have both been jockeying for the support of an Israeli public that has increasingly supported a hard line policy toward Hamas. Ten days after Operation Cast Lead began, Olmert told Ha’aretz that he was speaking with several international leaders to work toward a “diplomatic solution” to the crisis. The same day Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Foreign Minister and incoming leader of the ruling Kadima party, turned down an offer by Russia to relay messages to Hamas by saying, “We have nothing to discuss with Hamas.” The contradiction points to a chronic pattern in Israel’s policy toward Hamas: bomb or don’t bomb, but never discuss. Israel’s refusal to negotiate has prevailed too in its relationship with the Syrian government, which has offered on numerous occasions to rescind its military support of both Hezbollah and Hamas in return for the Golan Heights, which Israel seized and has continued to occupy since 1967. Although Olmert has insinuated that opening talks with Syria would be in Israel’s interest, Hamas does not believe he has the power in the Knesset, nor the popular support, to pull off such a move. As with Hamas, Syria’s appeals have been virtually ignored.

Closed doors Like most people, I do not condone the targeting of civilians under any circumstance. Nor do I believe that attacking civilian targets is strategically wise. With the Obama administration preparing to take the helm in Washington, Hamas’s rocket attacks on southern Israel have been playing into its characterisation as a group of psychopathic Islamist vigilantes in the right-wing American press, and as a result its chances of meeting with the new American government are much slimmer now. Hilary Clinton’s comments Wednesday, that the new administration will not speak with Hamas, indicate that Hamas may have already squandered any opportunity for dialogue with the States. Even though, as an occupying force in the West Bank, the IDF is a legitimate target under international law, I have and will continue to support the non-violent strains of the intifada, which are very prevalent amongst Palestinians there and deserve far more attention than

they have been given by the international press. But Gazans do not have the same means of civil disobedience against Israel as West Bank Palestinians; nor is the West Bank facing a humanitarian crisis of the scale that Gazans have experienced in the past year and a half. Save for the United Nations, which has continued to report on the crisis and provide humanitarian aid, Gazans have no friends in the international community, and thus little to no recourse to their suffering. Hamas’s track record suggests that the recent resumption of violence is largely a result of the fact that Hamas has found nothing but closed doors in the diplomatic sphere – in its relationship with other countries too, but especially with Israel. Having exhausted all of their available options, I am left wondering what other means they have of bringing the world’s attention to their plight. What happened on January 10 was typical of the conflict. Both sides rejected a UN cease-fire proposal, which called for a halt to arms smuggling from Egypt and for an “unimpeded provision” of aid to the people of Gaza. Israel ignored the truce on the grounds that its “objectives” had not yet been achieved; Hamas on the grounds that it had not been consulted. While far from being a prudent, or moral, move on Hamas’s part, the failure of the UN’s proposal underscores the necessity for open dialogue with the de facto government in Gaza. Hamas knows it can’t beat Israel militarily. With Gaza being the tiny enclave that it is (about 25 per cent smaller than the Island of Montreal), Hamas doesn’t stand a chance of rebuffing the IDF as Hezbollah did in the summer of 2006. Of the 1,000 deaths recorded by January 14, 40 per cent have been women or children under 18. Roughly 300 of them were militants, according to the IDF. Of the 4,250 Gazans that have been injured, roughly half were women or children. By contrast, 13 Israelis have been killed, of whom ten were soldiers, (and four of those died as a result of friendly fire). Israel has maintained its absurd line that it is carrying out the operation to destroy Hamas’s ability to attack Israel’s border towns, and has expressed that it has no intention of reoccupying the Strip. Despite Israel’s military


might, Hamas has somewhere between ten and 20,000 trained fighters in the Strip and an operation to overthrow Hamas altogether would come at an extremely high cost. And yet, Israel would lose nothing by lifting the siege.

The question of proportionality All this leads us to the inevitable question as to what Israel thinks it will get out of its indiscriminate assault on the Strip – the levelling of schools which had served as refuge to dozens of civilians, the bombing of apartment buildings and other non-military targets. In essence, it is the same question that I was hoping my Israeli family might answer for me while I was there, although my patience for their bullheaded racism eventually ran out. It’s the same question that Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, faced during the 2006 war in Lebanon; his answer, though disturbing and unsatisfactory, is probably as good as any other. The IDF was in the process of killing 1,100 Lebanese civilians after Hezbollah had kidnapped three soldiers and kidnapped two others, and with charges that Israel was perpetrating a grossly disproportionate counter-offensive coming from virtually every country on the globe, what Gillerman said was, “You’re damn right we are.” Niko Block is a U1 Economics student. Another version of this article was originally published on his blog, nikonavi., January 12.

Evan Newton / The McGill Daily


The McGill Daily, Thursday, January 15, 2009

Courtesy of Rachel Granofsky

Rethinking the city, from the ground up Actions exhibit presents fantastic yet feasible solutions for the urban landscape Amelia Schonbeck The McGill Daily


ave you ever wanted to scale the side of a building with a rope ladder? Ever wished that sheep were being used to trim the lawns on campus, instead of gaspowered mowing machines? Can you envision walking down a city sidewalk knowing that the compression caused by your bodyweight was producing electrical energy? These ideas may seem implausible, but in fact they aren’t; each of them has been successfully realized and, along with 96 other creative initiatives, they are being featured as part of “Actions: What You Can Do With the City,” the latest exhibit at Montreal’s Canadian Centre for Architecture. The exhibition, which gathers together the work of 99 innovative architects, artists, and urban planners, aims to challenge the way that ordinary people interact with the cities in which they live. In putting together “Actions,” cocurators Mirko Zardini and Giovanna Borasi were focused on re-examining seemingly mundane activities like walking, playing, recycling, and gar-

dening, and investigating possible links between these everyday acts and bigger issues. “Even if these actions are not now considered to be structural ones in planning and managing our cities,” Borasi says, “they could [provide] a different way to look at and tackle common urban problems such as pollution, traffic, food security, waste management, employment, and the tensions between a city’s different inhabitants. I feel that looking at these issues from a different angle will allow new, different, and unexpected answers to emerge.” Thus, the exhibit features projects and experiments that take a range of approaches to rethinking the modern city, from using parkour for the re-appropriation of abandoned buildings to guerilla gardening techniques that can transform concrete lots into vegetable gardens. There is also room for the whimsical and outlandish, like the inflatable pink rubber structures that transformed a German field into a temporary playground and meeting place in 2004, or a Vancouver-based design firm’s “suspend pants,” which are fitted with high-tension cords, metal clips, and a reinforced seat, allowing nearly any surface to be

transformed into a space for people to swing. “Our intention was to give a new picture of urban phenomena, things that are going on in our cities, and the new needs of our society; we wanted to inspire in designers, architects, planners, and city managers a different way of looking at our built environment,” Borasi explains. Indeed, the exhibition is grounded in all of the contributors’ individual critiques of entrenched urban patterns of production and consumption. Though their methods and approaches vary, the artists featured are connected by the common belief that successful civic planning can be a grassroots effort. Borasi notes that all the projects were accomplished “without a huge budget or a complicated process.” She adds that one of the exhibit’s goals was to “focus on something that the public could see and relate to with a certain immediacy.” The exhibition’s dynamic title suggests the importance that is placed on taking an active stance in changing the way society conceives of public space. It is also fitting that the exhibition’s curators established a web site to accompany the project: The site not only provides

short descriptions of all the contributors’ actions, but also features a virtual forum where members of the general public can submit their own undertakings and discuss concepts and projects. Borasi is excited about “the idea that people could start tomorrow to do something similar” to what they’re seeing in exhibition. One of her favourite actions exemplifies this concept: “Oranges Lead Nocturnal Walk,” by Los Angeles-based foraging group Fallen Fruit. “They organize public night walks around the city of Los Angeles to harvest fruit from trees with branches growing over fences or across property lines into the public domain,” Borasi explains. “It is a very simple idea that introduces a new way of treating public and private space, while recuperating food that otherwise would be wasted.” That’s the “Actions” exhibit in a nutshell: a gathering of creative and effective ideas that brings people together to reclaim their urban environment. The CCA (1920 Baile, Metro GuyConcordia) hosts “Actions” through April 19. For a schedule of the exhibition’s accompanying lecture and film series, visit


The McGill Daily, Thursday, January 15, 2009


Never trust a doppelganger Atmospheric Disturbances follows one man’s offbeat quest to find the wife he thinks he married Alyssa Favreau Culture Writer


earching seemed to be the theme at last year’s Governor General Awards, Canada’s most prestigious literary prize, with works of mystery, self-discovery, and loss finding their place among 2008’s finalists. One of these selected works is Toronto-based author Rivka Galchen’s first novel, Atmospheric Disturbances. Though still relatively unknown, the novel has been steadily garnering praise across the country: the Canada Council for the Arts

called it “a poignant and very funny journey inside a mistaken mind,” “wonderfully sly [with a] magnificently skewed sense of humour.” This unusual postmodernist book follows the story of Dr. Leo Liebenstein, a psychiatrist who believes that the woman he is living with is not his wife, Rema, but a perfect double unaware of her replacement. In his search for answers, he teams up with his patient, Harvey, who has convinced himself that he has the ability to control the weather, and is working as a secret agent for the Royal Academy of Meteorology. Together they attempt to locate the

missing Rema and stop the Royal Academy’s nemeses, a group of deviant meteorologists by the name of the 49 Quantum Fathers, from disturbing regular weather patterns. Although unconventional in its approach to the topics of sanity, reality, and perception, Atmospheric Disturbances is a beautifully written tale of a man willing to take his convictions as far as necessary in order to find comfort and the one he loves. The book’s style is perhaps better suited to a short story as the diagrams, photos, and scientific definitions included tend to detract from Galchen’s effortless prose.

However, overall the novel does get its message across, showing us exactly how difficult love is to maintain. Leo’s unwillingness to love this new Rema exaggeratedly depicts how couples often grow apart. He often states that the doppelganger is “not the woman I married,” mirroring the usual sentiment expressed when one’s partner seems to change. The first-person narration of Atmospheric Disturbances further blurs the line between Leo’s adventures and reality, as he often juxtaposes intelligent scientific observations against anecdotes on chimp-

human hybrids, waitresses’ waists, and canine emotions. Although endearing, Leo’s consistent denial of his own insanity and pseudo-logical search for his missing wife do become tiresome. However, just when it seems like the character has alienated himself from the reader with his ongoing and upbeat commentary, Galchen ends with a chapter heartbreaking in its calm resignation. With its charming style and beautifully tragic theme, Atmospheric Disturbances is well worth the read and certainly worthy of the recognition it has been given.

Half man, half cockroach Jaime Maclean Culture Writer


ritics have received Montreal writer Rawi Hage’s new book, Cockroach, with open arms, hailing it as a compelling new existentialist novel. But don’t let the label and praise intimidate you – you can still enjoy yourself while you read it. Growing up in Beirut, Lebanon, Hage endured nine years of civil war. During this time he was exposed to violence and the strain on sanity that comes with an impossibly complicated political situation. The reader can clearly see that the violence and thuggery that the author was exposed to from a young age acutely affected him. Hage’s characters always seem to be hiding something sinister, in a way that makes the reader question their mental stability. It is hard to know what will happen next, how each character will react to each new event. This style is present in Cockroach as well as Hage’s first novel, De Niro’s Game, which was published in 2006 and won a number of awards, including the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. De Niro’s Game took place in Beirut during the civil war of the 1970s and followed the life of a young man named Bassam, who is not so unlike the narrator of Cockroach. Cockroach takes place in Montreal’s immigrant community. We never know for sure where the narrator is from (or even what his name is); he spends time with Iranian immigrants and refugees, but makes it a point that he is not one of them. He is free to casually talk to a professor from Algeria about welfare, chat with a cab driver who once published a magazine in Iran, and wander up

and down St. Laurent on the days when he isn’t working as a bus boy at a local Iranian restaurant. The narrator lives in an apartment building where he smells the strong spices of the Pakistani family below and drinks tea with the Russian lady in the basement apartment. The plot follows the narrator as he grapples with the cold Montreal winter. The most urgent events in his life include collecting money that his friends owe him, meeting with the woman he claims to love, and breaking into strangers’ houses. However, the majority of his time is spent wandering the streets of Montreal, contemplating life, and imagining that he is half human and half cockroach. This bizarre concept, evocative of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, begins to make sense as the narrator slowly reveals information about himself and the life that he lived before it was committed to the page. Among other things, we learn about an unsuccessful suicide attempt in his recent past: he tried to hang himself from a tree in Mount Royal Park. This action was not about death or trying to end life, but curiosity about what it would be like to escape the light. His attempted suicide results in mandatory weekly therapy sessions, leading to an interesting relationship between the narrator and his therapist. The whole book takes place in a state of delirium. This could be credited to the narrator’s occasional substance abuse, but the end result is a foggy style of narration that somehow reaches moments of lucidity. It tells the truth as the narrator sees it, but the reader must decide what is real. That Hage is Canadian and chooses Montreal as the setting for his novel makes Cockroach relevant

Sasha Plotnikova / The McGill Daily

Montreal’s Rawi Hage pens an existential award winner

Delirious visions of life on the edge in Montreal. to readers who can recognize the city’s landmarks and frigid weather. Although the novel has a distinctly Canadian setting, it is an example of a Canadian novel that branches off from traditional Canadiana in its style and subject matter. Hage is proof that exciting [and unusual] things can happen in the Canadian liter-

ary world. In his acknowledgements, Hage thanks the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. The contributions of institutions such as Canada Council have made it possible for books to be written and art created that may never have had a chance. Don’t be afraid to imagine what it

would be like to travel the streets of Montreal in the dark winter while you stay warm indoors, or to imagine the world from a cockroach’s perspective. The idea is strange and a little terrifying at first, but this book tells a beautiful story told from a unique point of view in words that glide easily across the page.

16 Culture

The McGill Daily, Thursday, January 15, 2009

Humanitarians can’t afford to be neutral Dr. James Orbinski’s memoir questions crimes of inaction Ryan Mackellar Culture Writer


he 20th century has seen war, bloodshed, and humanitarian catastrophe, carried out by crudely armed tribal groups and modern industrial superpowers. In these situations, humanitarians find themselves in a problematic position. They can decide to remain silent and continue to give aid to those who survive, or speak out against the atrocities and risk being expelled from the affected country. The position of the Red Cross in Nazi Germany represented perhaps the epitome of such moral dilemmas. Dr. James Orbinski, former president of Médecins sans Frontières, is no stranger to these questions. His latest book, An Imperfect Offering, gives detailed accounts of his experiences in some of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory. Beginning his work in Rwanda investigating the condition of paediatric AIDS, he realizes that much of the widespread pain and suffering he saw could have been prevented had the right political and economic choices been made. From there he travelled to Peru during a cholera epidemic, to Somalia during the American-led intervention, and to Afghanistan, which was still reeling from the attempted Soviet invasion. Above all, it was Orbinski’s experience in Rwanda during its 1994

genocide that would fundamentally change him. “The Genocide in Rwanda was my undoing,” he writes, “It was where I came to know intimately the fullness of what we are capable of as human beings. No illusions or fantasies were possible after this; no retreat into false hopes or comforting yearning for a lost past.” The failure of both the Rwandan government and the international community truly altered his understanding of the world. When governments like the United States and France initially blocked attempts to label the Rwanda crisis as a genocide – a distinction that would have made it obligatory for the Security Council to intervene – Orbinski decided to take a different approach. Too much emphasis, he believes, has been placed on the need for humanitarian groups to remain neutral – ultimately, such a position is impossible. To not speak out against atrocities committed by regimes essentially legitimizes them, allowing the acts to continue. “The doctor’s role is to witness authentically the reality of humanity, and to speak out against the horrors of political inaction,” Orbinski explains. “The only crimes of equal inhumanity are the crimes of indifference, silence, and forgetting.” Ultimately, governments will act largely in their own self interest, not within the realm of higher humanitarian ideals. Orbinski calls upon humanitarians present on the ground at areas of crisis to tell the world what is happening. A 2008 nominee for the Governor General’s Award, The Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-first Century is $35.

Wanted: Copy Editer The Daily is lookeing for you to be a part of are team. Is you looking for a opportunity to worck in a dynamic enviernment, develop you’re grammatical skills, and gain experients in the exiting field of journalism. If you cant read this add with out cringeing, then this position is for you. Email The Daily at coordinating@, or drop by Shattner B-24, we are almost always hear.

Akhil Virani for The McGill Daily

A Quebec youth struggles with the suicide of four friends.

Troubled waters in Davis Inlet Reflections on life and death in Tout Est Parfait Pamela Fillion The McGill Daily


nly a few days after New Years, reflections on the most memorable films of 2008 began, and amongst the contenders one title stands out: Yves Christian Fournier’s Tout Est Parfait. The film, which centres on the life of a Quebec youth after the suicide of four of his friends, especially in light of recent events, is the single most important Quebec film of 2008. 2009 was christened with the shocking news of a murder-suicide in the Saguenay, a region five hours north of Montreal, seemingly reflecting Tout Est Parfait’s graphic images. On January 1, 2009, a 9-1-1 call was made by a woman leading police officers to her home in Chicoutimi, Quebec where her husband and the couple’s three young children were found dead. According to the police, the deaths were a result of a pact between the couple to commit suicide for the new year. Tout Est Parfait, an awardwinning film written by Guillaume Vigneault and directed by Fournier, unfolds a plot which chillingly echoes these recent events, as well as those of a 1993 suicide pact, when six children in the community of Davis Inlet attempted to commit suicide on the anniversary

of the deaths of their friends who had earlier died in a house fire. Mainly concerned with the aftermaths of youth suicide in a typical industrial town, the film focuses on the emptiness and silence that befalls the community and on the space in between choosing life or choosing death. The film sees Josh (Maxime Dumontier) struggling with the deaths of his friends Alex, Simon, Thomas, and Sacha. Through his interactions with Sacha’s exgirlfriend and Thomas’ father, Josh tries to come to terms with how to live “normally.” Although the group of boys at the centre of the storyline are not often depict-

tions tied to suicide and turmoil that follows such a dramatic event in the lives of those left to mourn a friend’s suicide. Notably, singersongwriter Cat Power sets the mood for two climactic moments of the film with her song “Maybe Not” and her cover of “Troubled Waters.” Reflecting on the events that began 2009 in the community of Saguenay Lac-St-Jean is easily likened to the emotion found in the songs of Cat Power, which was masterfully chosen by the film’s music researcher Phil Electric. The original score, composed by Patrick Lavoie, is also an important factor in the way that the film manages to establish its setting

The film focuses on the silence that befalls and the space in between choosing life and death. ed alive, for the brief moments that these characters are on the screen, they leave an intense imprint, which remains even after the credits have rolled. Music drives the emotional tension in the film; music and silences serve to demonstrate the difficulty of speaking about the emo-

and mood so expertly. Tout Est Parfait addresses the difficult subject of suicide in Quebec in an engaging and artistic way. Its importance for those who have lived or know those who have lived similar circumstances cannot be overstated.


The McGill Daily, Thursday, January 15, 2009


Cinema on the edge Nicholas van Beek Culture Writer


alking into the Goethe institute you can’t help but notice the immaculately clean floors. After exchanging some formal pleasantries with adroit receptionists while flipping through a German language course pamphlet, you hang your jacket nicely into rows of waiting hangers. Surgically cut half muffins present themselves next to percolating coffee. Anticipating the films to come, the guests sit waiting for a cultural experience. Downing a dry mash of doughy coffee, I begin to choke in my comfy chair. Canine cunnilingus flashes on the screen. Outstretched legs accept a lapping dog to the overdub of a young woman describing herself as a young revolutionary. The first short film of Marie Brassard’s selection for The Goethe Institutes’ Carte Blanche has begun. If the films reveal anything about the woman who chose them, I would have to peg Marie Brassard as

a natural outsider. Isabell Spengler, a Berliner teaching experimental film at Universität der Künste, has three offerings in this selection. Latouy is seven minutes of detached and beautiful images while a somewhat more linear plot follows The Natural Life of Mermaids and Psychic Tequila Tarot. The pseudo-plot of the latter follows the idealist Leila through a western road trip. She acts as a vessel, filling herself with the desires of others – from ex-sorority girls to drunken gamblers – by creating fictive fortunes and wedding them with reality. Whether performing a blowjob or trying to convince a prostitute her life is perfect the way it is, Leila is striving to reach the unreachable innards of others. Refusing responsibility for her “own existence” is the way she deals with a sense of disconnect from society. And she’s pretty much naked the whole time. If you’re counting on plot and style as clean as the welcome rug guarding the Goethe institute, this short film may not be for you. There’s an amateurish feel to Psychic Tequila Tarot

and Spengler’s other works, especially the playfully absurd Natural Life of Mermaids. But if you can get past the stylistic slush, you can forgive Spengler on the grounds of her far-reaching, bold messages. The Nomi Song by Andrew Horn presents a more linear film: a documentary bio. Clause Nomi has come to be associated with elven spacemen for a reason – Nomi looked like one while singing some of the most inspirational pop-opera of the New York New Wave age. The trajectory of his career was fairly short, but it reached its peak when Nomi was a back-up singer for David Bowie on Saturday Night Live, and ended early with the devastation of AIDS. He’s described as the “most mesmerizing freak show in the history of Rock and Roll” and does not disappoint. Andrew Horn had to dig deep for this cultural nugget, as very little footage of Nomi existed outside his SNL performance. An unsuspecting closet in Sweden held an hour of footage on Super 8 film, and Horn relied on six degrees of

separation for much of his interviews and colouring. Camera-ready and made up as a style-minded invader, Nomi also appears as an outsider – there’s the persistent feeling throughout the film that we can’t get beyond his styled exterior. He is a challenging character, but anecdotes of his voice reverberating around his New York courtyard on lazy afternoons give this little-told story some grounding in reality – a redeeming achievement, considering the surreal image of Clause Nomi is about as believable as a Psychic Tarot Tequila diva in his first appearances on screen. The Carte Blanche begins January 15 and 16 with Berlin, Symphony of a City, and Berlin Song, followed by The Nomi Song and Spengler’s three short films on the 22 and 23 of January. A string of other selections continue until March 13, closing with The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. For the full program check out mon/enindex.htm.

Evan Newton / The McGill Daily

Marie Brassard’s provocative selections explore the fringe of German film

CULTURE BRIEF Art around the clock

Nadja Popovich / The McGill Daily

A week-long celebration of all things “art” – with performances, screenings, competitions, and more – kicked off on campus Monday with poetry and music, and continues today and tomorrow with a series of studentwritten, directed, and acted plays in addition to short film screenings. The ARTifact festival, hosted by McGill’s Tuesday Night Café Theatre, closes on Saturday with the famed 24-hour playwriting competition, in which three students are given 24 hours to write a play for ten actors, and then another 24 hours to direct, stage, and perform it. In addition, a gallery showcasing McGill students’ visual art remains up throughout the week – so come out and support the arts in every form! Tickets are $6 for students and $10 for non-students. All shows are at 8p.m. Contact TNC Theatre at, or call 398-6600 for more information. – Spencer Malthouse TNC Theatre

Compendium! Lies, half-truths, and Gimli

The McGill Daily, Thursday, January 15, 2009

My not-so-excellent holiday adventure David G. Koch tackles airport boredom, chihuahuas, and watching inappropriate TV from coast to coast


least distracting, but perhaps most nauseating broadcast of all. The Discovery Channel was featuring a series of docudramas about great airplane disasters! It seems, dear reader, that in the eighties, Air Canada Flight 143 was forced to make an emergency landing in Gimli, Manitoba, after having run out of fuel. Apparently some incompetent jerk had confused his metric and imperial measurements, putting a brand new plane and some people into jeopardy. Just then, from deep in the belly of the plane, I could hear what sounded like a ratchet gun tightening bolts. “Ah, that’s the sound of a skilled tradesman properly fastening vital components onto the plane,” I thought. Meanwhile, on-screen, a computer animation recreated the crash landing of Flight 143. The plane lurched awkwardly in midair before descending on a decommissioned runway. Its tires blew out as the nose grinded along the strip in a shower of sparks, almost plowing through a pair of bike-riding children, before coming to a halt at the edge of a cliff. “Maintenance is all finished,” the pilot announced. The TVs flickered off, and flight attendants happily mimed the safety procedures. A baby started crying, perhaps sensing our impending doom. As we blasted off into the cold night, I remained preoccupied by my angst. The TVs came back on, and I switched the channel to an infomercial for “The Ultimate Oldies But Goodies Collection,” featuring classic bands such as Buddy Holly. Hey, didn’t he die in an airplane crash? CLICK. Ah, the news. I wonder if I could watch coverage of our imminent demise live on CTV? CLICK. An ad for some vacation company plays a rip-off of Bob Marley’s “One Love.” I was never a religious man until tonight, dear reader, but never did the Herbsman’s words mean so much. (All together now: “Give thanks and praise to the Lord and it’ll be alright!”) Prayer seemed to be my only option, as I neglected to pack a parachute in the bulletproof backpack that I always bring on planes in case of a terrorist attack. You may call me a fool, but I think the airline gods heard my call that night. Unbelievers, get hypnotized.

Braden Goyette / The McGill Daily

For what they’ve gained in personal entertainment, planes have lost in tact.

Angel Chen for The McGill Daily

he mysterious gods of Canadian air travel spared me their worst punishments during the holidays, but I too toiled, dear reader. It started in Victoria. After having gone through security, I found out that my red-eye Westjet flight was delayed by three hours. I killed time in the airport bar, where some drunk guy recounted to me his tale of financial ruin, love gone wrong, and hypnosis. He explained, ad nauseum, how hypnotherapy had brought about his “spiritual awakening.” Fortunately, we weren’t seated next to each other when the plane finally boarded. I got some sleep, and made it to Calgary by 1:30 a.m. But due to the delay, I risked missing my Calgary connection. This inconvenience would’ve been costly, forcing me to play Elvis Pinball in the video arcade at 50 cents per game all night long. I thought the Canadian air travel gods were smiling on me when I found the Montreal-bound flight waiting. But as I settled in, the PA system crackled, and my illusions were shattered. We weren’t moving, our pilot said, until the maintenance crew had fixed a damaged panel on the hull of our jet. Groaning, I braced myself for endless hours stuck on the tarmac. But with festive good cheer, I noted that trained technicians were busy ensuring that our plane would not fall apart in mid-air. Anyway, I had lots of fun things to distract myself from reality, notably a personal TV built into the back of the chair ahead of me. For a small fee, I had my pick of several first-rate films, such as Beverley Hills Chihuahua. Tempting, because I knew from trailers that this was the “Greatest Chihuahua film ever made.” Satellite TV was free, but it was mostly trashy late-night fare aimed at a viewership expected to be semiunconscious. Some Jerry Springer knock off berated an irresponsible pit-bill owner. CLICK. Fox News served up coverage about a chihuahua that had survived a pitbull attack. CLICK. Infomercials hawked products of questionable merit, such as Tony’s Total Workout DVD and a vacuum cleaner with “super suction power.” CLICK. I eventually settled on the

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