Amherst Wrens

Amherst, in Spring the wrens

Gather together in this place,

Dear Aunt Jane used to point them out

Simple things made her happy,

Though she had not a tooth in her face!

We’d leave Dundonald Street

And walk down Hickman,

‘til we got to Victoria Street

It was all very peaceful then!

We’d go to buy bread

Can milk and cookies,

At a store called Margolian’s

We’d also buy goodies!

When we got home we’d have some tea

With six spoons of sugar just for me,

My aunt was 80 and I was 10,

I remember it was a wonderful time when

The wrens would gather in this place

And my aunt had a toothless but benevolent face!

StFX BLACC Society Takes on Cultural Appropriation at Walmart

StFX BLACC Society Takes on Cultural Appropriation at Walmart

After finding the costume, Allanique sent a photo of to the collective’s group chat. Upon seeing it, the group was rightfully upset — “it’s taking parts of our identity and labelling it as a costume … as a joke,” said Tiana. So, they decided to take action.

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Backyard Astronomy

Seeing double is never a good thing and a sign to seek medical attention; however, double stars can be a thing of beauty. Some stars that appear as a single point of light to the unaided eye are in fact, double when magnified with binoculars or a telescope. Optical doubles are two stars that appear close together only by line of sight with no physical attraction to each other. Visual binaries are two or multiple stars that physical orbits each other taking a few days to years to complete an orbit.

2019 - 10 image 1.jpg

If the geometry is just right, one of the binary stars passes in front of the other and we can see a lowering of the overall brightness for a short time period. These are eclipsing binaries such as the star Algol, the Demon Star, located in the constellation Perseus located in the North East. With binoculars and a bit of practice, you can witness the subtle change in brightness every 2.8 days as the main star dims for about ten hours.

Stars come in an array of colours and can be quite evident in some doubles. Their colour is an indication of surface temperature as all stars burn differently. On the left side of the spectrum, we have the hot blue and blue-white stars that burn at more than 30,000 degrees Celsius. The scale then moves down to green, yellow, orange to the far right side where we find the cooler red ones burning around 2,500 degrees Celsius. For reference, our sun is a yellow star with a surface temperature of 6,000 degrees Celsius.

2019 - 10 image 2.jpg

One of the best examples of contrasting colours in a double is the star Albireo found at the head of Cygnus the Swan now located in the North West sky. Using a telescope operating at 60 power, you will see a bright golden-yellow star next to a dimmer blue sun. The two are about 430 light-years from Earth and might take as long as 100,000 years to orbit each other.

2019 - 10 image 3.jpg

Since these are points of light and not faint galaxies or gaseous nebula requiring dark observing sites away from light pollution, double stars can be enjoyed from the city or suburb. Sometime the beauty and challenge is to split the close together; high magnification might not even separate them into individual components. And no two doubles appear alike but seeing them with your eyes is a unique experience.

Till next time, clear skies. 

Known as “The Backyard Astronomer”, Gary Boyle is an astronomy educator, guest speaker and monthly columnist for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. He has been interviewed on more than 50 Canadian radio stations and local Ottawa TV. In recognition of his public outreach in astronomy, the International Astronomical Union has honoured him with the naming of Asteroid (22406) Garyboyle. Follow him on Twitter: @astroeducator or his website: www.wondersofastronomy.com

 

 

Recap of “Contextualizing The Anti-69 Movement”

This year, the Canadian government released a commemorative coin, alongside other celebrations, to mark fifty years since the supposed decriminalization of homosexuality. Whether or not those celebrations were justified, however, is another story. On October 8, 2019, members of the StFX community gathered to discuss the history behind the celebrations and debate their legitimacy at this year’s first talk in the GSDA lecture series: “Contextualizing the Anti-69 Movement.” The discussion was facilitated by Dr. Chris Frazer, a local 2SLGBTQIA+ activist and professor in the StFX Department of History.

The supposed decriminalization of homosexuality was part of the Criminal Law Amendment Act (also known as the Omnibus Bill), passed in 1969. Alongside changes to two anti-gay laws (buggery and gross indecency), the bill also laid changes to abortion access, and included The White Paper – eliminating the Indian Act and all treaties held between Canadians and Indigenous peoples. The bill was part of the Liberal’s call for a “just society” under Pierre Trudeau, and the government talked a big game about what it would accomplish. Frazer, who was ten years old when the bill was passed, shared that in reality, “nothing happened in 1969.”

A 1971 demonstration opposing the limitations of the 1969 Omnibus Bill - Jerald Moldenhauer

Essentially, the government realized that they couldn’t police private spaces, and decided to waive the enforcement of certain laws, rather than change them. Buggery and gross indecency laws were not repealed, but would not be enforced when the concerned acts took place between two adults in private. Many might be familiar with a famous statement of Pierre Trudeau’s, in which he claims that “the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.” While this is true in a number of contexts, Frazer suggests that there are certain cases in which the state should intervene – in instances of sexual and gendered violence, for example. It is those situations, regardless, that should cause the government greater worry than men who sleep with men, or women who sleep with women. Trudeau’s statement also only applied to certain kinds of sexual activity; the government would still intervene if more than two people were found to be involved in sexual relations.

In Frazer’s opinion, the alleged decriminalization in 1969 and celebrations in 2019 share one big similarity: they are both political acts, done in the interest of political success rather than social good. The 1969 bill provided a false sense of security to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community – leading many to come out in an environment that was just as hostile as it was before, and where they were unable to access protection. In fact, the number of gay people arrested immediately following the release of the bill increased dramatically.

2019 Commemorative Coin - Royal Canadian Mint

2019 Commemorative Coin - Royal Canadian Mint

The fact is, in 1969, Canada didn’t have a law prohibiting homosexuality. What they had was a number of laws that disproportionately affected 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals – including the two that were changed by the Omnibus Bill, among others. Laws prohibiting indecent acts, obscenity, gross indecency, indecent assault on a male, anal intercourse, vagrancy, nudity, and immoral theatrical performance were all enforced more frequently upon homosexual individuals. “Immoral theatrical performance” applied mainly to drag and burlesque performances, for instance. Vestuary laws were also biased against drag performers and trans individuals, as they required people to wear at least three articles of clothing that corresponded to their gender assigned at birth, and were enforced up until the early 2000s. Bawdy-house laws were used to carry out raids on bathhouses (“places of indecency”) in Montreal and Toronto for decades. Research on the bawdy house law shows that from 1968 to 2004, more than 1,300 men were charged for being in a gay bathhouse.

Of the laws detailed above, many are still in the books. Indecent acts, obscenity, nudity, immoral theatrical performance. Buggery (renamed “anal intercourse” in 1988) and vagrancy were only just repealed in 2019.

This is what passes for “decriminalization” in Canada.

Celebrating the anniversary of 1969 is not only unjustified, but serves to erase decades of 2SLGBTQIA+ activist work that has done far more for the rights of the community than the government ever has, and fails to acknowledge all those who were harmed in the aftermath of the bill. “Actual history is about the activism of our communities,” says Frazer. In present day, it’s a liability for a politician to say something homophobic during an election campaign – it didn’t used to be. That’s the result of decades of activism. Instead of celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of 1969, then, Frazer suggests celebrating the activists. The fact that Canada is failing to acknowledge their contributions is demonstrative of a deeper, underlying homophobia. “They need to be known.”

Interested in learning more? Much of the information for “Contextualizing The Anti-69 Movement” was sourced from “Anti-69 FAQ” on ActiveHistory.ca

 

An Open Letter to the Students of StFX University

I am hard-pressed to believe that my time as Students’ Union President has come to an end. Even as I write this, I still expect to receive emails sent to an account that is no longer in my name, telling me about the next problem that needs to be resolved. Similar to the ones who came before me, now that I have reached the end, I find myself looking back on everything that was achieved.

The Executive Team and I were determined to accomplish many things on behalf of our students, but most importantly we were determined to do our best for them, every single day. In light of recent events, I can perhaps say that a number of us on the team are leaving with mixed feelings. I do not presume to speak on behalf of my team, but for me, there were moments in this year that felt like something out of a film.

As President of the Students’ Union, I felt strongly that it was my responsibility to uphold the dignity of my office. I was aware of my position as a highly visible member of both the Union and the school; I never wanted to do something that would reflect badly on either of these institutions. However, it was challenging to say nothing as I witnessed behaviour and comments in the second half of my tenure that were exceptionally problematic and also representative of a larger rhetoric that has in recent times, penetrated university campuses.

I will begin by stating that I am very conscious of the power of words. This is not only as an outcome of my background, but also because of the effect of a very different type of letter that I wrote around this time last year. Words have the power to harm, to heal, to blind, and to reveal. These revelations might be about you or about others. Most importantly, in all of these instances, words have the ability to impact. As someone who interacts with different systems of oppression in my every day life, I have witnessed how words can be used to subjugate and stifle, or to liberate and free. For this reason, I am very careful with how, where, and when I use my own words. I will state that awareness of my words further increased in my time as President because it was part of my job to speak on behalf of over four thousand people.

In our childhood, we are taught that honesty and telling the truth are important values. As we get older, we begin to choose what is important to us personally and how we will uphold these values. From my perspective, truth and honesty are imperative for the position of leadership that the President holds. Students pay for the operation of the Union and vote to choose the representatives of the organization. Therefore, students have a right to know what happens in the Union each step of the way. In fact, it is the duty of students as constituents to ensure that their elected leaders are doing what they said they would and are making decisions that uphold the democratic processes of the institution.

If students have deemed that their representatives are not performing the jobs they were elected to do, then students have the inherent ability to remove these individuals from their positions. The Students’ Union, similar to other democratic institutions, has checks and balances that are intended to ensure that no one person has the ability to do what they want without repercussions. All students need to do is ask for the information about these processes and it shall be given to them.

The checks and balances in a democratic institution include a healthy Fourth Estate. It is the job of news and media to investigate different situations and offer analysis to help the reader gain perspective. While holding a position of leadership, it is expected that a person will receive criticism at any time. Open criticism of institutions and leadership are one of the best indicators of a strong democracy. These criticisms hold leaders accountable for their actions and ensure that the operations of a given democratic body shall fulfill their intended purpose. This is why the autonomy of the press must be protected and held at the highest regard. As students participating in a democratic process, you do not have to be afraid of offering criticism or of speaking the truth, regardless of the threats of lawsuits and promises of anger that may follow.

In addition to my reflections about the presidency and the Students’ Union, I would also like to offer my thanks to everyone who contributed to making this year so incredible.

I will begin with my Executive Team; Tiffany, Tega, Kallie, Clancy, and Sean, I never imagined that I could have a team as great as you. Tega, your wisdom and resilience have been nothing short of awe-inspiring to all of us. Kallie, your humour and ability to offer an objective perspective always kept us grounded. Clancy, your determination and compassion reminded us to be kind to one another. Sean, your creativity and ability to bring people together kept us close. Last, but never least, to my wonderful VP Academic, Tiffany. Thank you for being my right-hand, confidant, and close friend. When we were both elected that cold, January night in 2018, I never thought that I would gain such a beautiful friendship and partner-in-crime/all-things-theU. You and I will always be “the throat-puncher and the politician” respectively, as we were once humorously described.

I would also like to give a warm thank you to Tanaka, our fantastic Chair of Council. In our organization, the positions of President and Chair of Council are set up to have a complicated relationship. I think you and I were truly able to turn this belief on its head. I could not have asked for a better Chair, you led with grace, strength, and an uncanny ability to keep calm, even when everything went wrong.

There are so many people who have contributed to the Union beyond just the ones I have named here. Thank you for everything you contributed and for all that you did for our students.

Finally, I would like to thank you, the students of StFX University. You have treated my team and I with kindness, trusted us to do the right thing, and supported us in a way we had never anticipated. In all of our decision-making, at the end of the day, we were always faced with answering just one question. “Is this in the best interest of our students?” If we could see that something was not, we changed the circumstances; we searched for new information, we asked for advice, we looked at best practice, and we discussed and disagreed. All this was with the objective of ensuring that we were making the highest quality of decisions for our students. You were our motivation for pushing StFX to be the best place it could be. By electing us, you trusted us with the great responsibility of representing your voice; this was not a task that any of us took lightly. Thank you, for believing in us and for giving us -for giving me- the opportunity to serve you, the students.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Mesay

President

StFX Students’ Union

 

Pilot Project Launch

Funds available for StFX students to display their work at the Art Gallery

The Students’ Union has recently funded a part of the cost for hosting Nic Latulippe’s “Canadiana” exposition at the StFX Art Gallery from March 4 to 14, 2019. Latulippe convinced the Students’ Union to repay him $1100 for printing his artwork displayed at the exposition and renting the space.

The money came from the Council Initiatives Fund which also supported student-led projects such as The Xaverian Review this year. Part of Latulippe’s initiative is to have funding for art expositions more accessible to students on campus.

Latulippe learned about the Council Initiatives Fund while speaking with Tega Sefia, Vice-President of Finance and Operations of the Students’ Union. Sefia informed Latulippe that any student can request money from the Fund for a project at a council meeting.

Latulippe’s proposal, according to the Council Minutes, included that he would get funding on the condition that his artwork be displayed in the Brian Mulroney Hall Institute. However, Latulippe has been selling prints from “Canadiana” displayed at the exposition for personal profit. The Xaverian Weekly reached out to Latulippe inquiring about purchasing “Alone” and “Maritime Icon.” Latulippe replied that original prints displayed at the “gallery” as well as “reprints” are available for purchase.

Photo: http://www2.mystfx.ca/art-gallery/exhibitions

Photo: http://www2.mystfx.ca/art-gallery/exhibitions

The idea of featuring StFX artists at the campus Art Gallery opens doors to showcase student art, yet there is little evidence that funding behind this new project is distributed fairly across all StFX artists. The amount of money allocated to fund Latulippe’s exhibition was substantial compared to the $500 he proposed to council that future artists receive for showcasing their work in the Art Gallery.

While the efforts of Latulippe, the Students’ Union, and the Art Gallery to promote student artwork is commendable, the execution of this project is flawed. Funding aside, Latulippe’s exposition was displayed for 10 days while Doumkos’ exposition was displayed for nine days. Latulippe’s full name appears on his promotional poster while the only identifier linking Doumkos to the exposition is her website doumkos.com.

Students’ Union executives are considering various strategies to ensure the long-term success and fairness of this pilot project. Latulippe is to be praised for putting forth this project rooted in the empowerment of student artists.

 

Patagonia Action Works

 
 

Clothing company integrates activism with business

Patagonia has announced that they will refuse to sell corporate logo vests to companies that do not prioritize the environment. The fleece vest has become a corporate wardrobe staple of Wall Street and Silicone Valley firms. The change in Patagonia’s distribution policy came to light when the CEO of the financial communication PR firm Vested applied for, ironically, branded vests. According to an email from an unidentified supplier:

“Patagonia has nothing against your client or the financial industry, it’s just not an area they are currently marketing through our co-brand division. While they have co-branded here in the past, the brand is really focused right now on only co-branding with a small collection of like-minded and brand aligned areas; outdoor sports that are relevant to the gear we design, regenerative organic farming, and environmental activism.... Due to their environmental activism, they are reluctant to co-brand with oil, drilling, mining, dam construction, etc. companies that they view to be ecologically damaging...”

Patagonia has a long history of environmental activism. In 2018, CEO Rose Marcario announced Patagonia was going to give back the $10 million tax cut to grassroots organizations focused on environmental conservation. Until recently, the company mission was “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” The slogan was changed in December, however, to something more akin to a call to action: “Patagonia is in the business to save our home planet.”

The change has impacted more than just the company letterhead, however. In an order to the company HR department, founder Yvon Chouinard requested that throughout company hirings - regardless of department - experience being equal, the candidate who is the most committed to environmental conservation should be hired. According to a report published by Fast Company, Chouinard has said the change has “made a huge difference in the people coming into the company.”

In addition to mottos and missions, Patagonia has a long history of supporting organizations dedicated to outdoor activities and environmental initiatives. The company has a history of awarding 900 grants per year to various organizations. Recently, the company has become much more selective in the grant allocation process, choosing to focus on three key areas: agriculture, politics, and protected lands. In an interview with Fast Company, Chouinard provided an example of this increased selectivity:

“We give out about 900 grants a year to different activist organizations… We’ve given money to an organization that repairs people’s bicycles. Well, they’re not going to get any money anymore.”

Chouinard has a long personal history of environmental activism, both within and outside the company. In 1986, Chouinard dedicated 1% of total Patagonia sales, or 10% of profits (whichever was higher) to environmental activism and initiatives. In the early 1990s, an environmental audit of the company revealed that the source of their cotton – although ethically farmed – had a large associated environmental footprint. The use of pesticides and insecticides were responsible for a vast amount of the environmental damage associated with cotton production. In response, Chouinard ordered the company to switch cotton sources to those that were certified organic. Although the move was valiant, it almost resulted in the bankruptcy of the company. Sales plummeted 20% due to supply chain issues, and it took Patagonia a total of three years to train and certify the cotton farmers. After the cotton supply issues were remedied, however, sales improved to a steady rate, and have been increasing ever since.

The action taken by Patagonia to not only combat ecological damage, but also enforce environmental proactivity through selective partnerships, is a wonderful example of using corporate influence for the betterment of society. Acta non verba. Social corporate responsibility is a topic too often tackled by words, rather than actions. 

Patagonia has taken corporate responsibility several orders of magnitude beyond the industry standard; hopefully firms will take after their lead, and alter their own internal policies accordingly.

 

Irony on the World Stage

 
 

Comedic relief in time for exams

As another year winds to a close here at StFX, and the heavy weight of exams come bearing down on us all, a good whimsical tale can help alleviate the pressure. Or better yet, two recent stories from across the globe which serve to remind us that sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction. Or at least more ironic.

Massimiliano Fedriga, of the League party in Italy, has been vocal in his opposition to Italy’s policy of mandatory vaccinations of children since its inception. The mandate was put into law following a Measles outbreak in 2017, and it requires vaccinations against twelve diseases.

According to the legislation, unvaccinated children would be barred from pre-school and daycare, and their parents would face heavy fines.

Fedriga argued that parents shouldn’t be obliged to vaccinate their children. He even went as far as to say on one occasion, that the larger part of the ruling coalition government at that time, the Democratic party, was being “Stalinist.”

Recently, rather unfortunately and somewhat comically, Fedriga contracted chicken-pox — one of the 12 diseases requiring vaccination in 2017’s legislation.

Many were quick to point out the brutal irony of the situation on Twitter. But, to be fair to Mr. Fedriga, he claims that he was never a supporter of the anti-vax movement. As reported by The Independent, Mr Fedriga recently posted on Twitter, “I have always said that I am in favour of vaccines, but to achieve the result it is necessary to have an alliance with families not imposition.”

A well known Italian doctor, and operator of the website MedicalFacts, Robert Burioni first wished Mr. Fedrigo a speedy recovery. But, afterwards, he took the opportunity to highlight the importance of vaccinations, “The only way we have to avoid such tragedies is to vaccinate us all to prevent the circulation of this dangerous virus, which could have hit a much more vulnerable person.”

If that story was not bizzare enough, don’t worry, there’s more. In a turn of events that one would expect in a piece by The Onion, an Egyptian singer by the name of Sherine Abdel-Wahab has recently barred from performing in Egypt for implying that the country doesn’t respect free speech.

According to the New York Post, at a concert in Bahrain in late March, Abdel-Wahab was recorded saying “Here I can say whatever I want. In Egypt, anyone who talks gets imprisoned.”

After this remark, a high-profile Egyptian lawyer, Samir Sabri, filed suit against Abdel-Wahab. The lawsuit accused the singer of using the music festival and foreign parties to speak ill of Egypt. The singer was then promptly banned from performing by the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate, which licenses musicians in the country.

The Emirates Woman magazine reports that the following week, Abdel-Wahab made a public appearance to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, saying, “I am very tired. I made a mistake. I am sorry. I appeal the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, who is our father. I feel that I was persecuted. I did nothing. I love Egypt.”

Despite the outlandish stories, we remind the reader that they are in fact reading The Xaverian Weekly, and they are not dreaming. Good luck with exams, until next time.

 

Why Do People Avoid Canadian Blood Services?

 
 

Friendly reminder that it’s in you to give

Most of us have probably heard or seen an advertisement to donate blood to Canadian Blood Services (CBS), especially when demands are critical; however, given only 1 in 60 Canadians choose to donate blood, why do other Canadians avoid CBS like the plague?

One of the most common concerns when it comes to giving blood are needles and passing out. Those who have trypanophobia tend to shy away from giving blood or even getting tested for their blood type, which is a bit of a harder hurdle to get over. For those that worry about passing out due to the amount of blood they’re giving, CBS has minimum weight requirements in place and snacks around to maintain blood sugar levels to avoid that very situation. If you’re prone to fainting at the sight of blood in general, it’s a bit harder to avoid passing out unless you don’t watch the entire process of blood donation.

Others cite not being aware of where or when blood donations are occurring. It is very easy to find this out information by visiting the CBS website or calling their number at 1-888-2-DONATE. Most donation dates and places are at easily accessible areas and times; there are often convenient blood drives on university campuses and at community hubs. For those that say they haven’t donated blood because they’re never asked or invited to donate somewhere, remember that it’s not only up to CBS to get you to the donation locations.

Some individuals chalk up their lack of blood donations to not having the time or just avoiding it altogether. For those individuals, it’s key to offer incentives such as having rewards for donating a certain number of times or being a first time donor. While CBS does offer pins and certificates for certain levels of donations, it may be worth investing a little money into short campaigns that give out things like $5 gift card. Of course, these types of initiatives appear more like bribery in exchange for blood, when blood donation should be more of an act of altruism.

Medication and chronic illnesses can also be barriers to donating blood. I’m sure there are other individuals like myself that were unaware for years that they could donate blood even while taking medication for a chronic illness. This is why being aware that CBS has a detailed list of medications or medical conditions online that do or do not hinder your ability to donate blood is incredibly important. Otherwise, some eligible donors may avoid donating blood altogether just because they’re not sure they won’t be rejected at the door for taking a particular medication.

Restrictions on how long you have to wait to donate blood after getting piercings and tattoos may also be discouraging younger people to donate. Individuals have to wait three months after getting a tattoo or piercing to donate due to the risks of infection associated with both, which is an important reason to wait to donate blood. However, approximately 36% of Canadians aged 18 to 34 have tattoos based on a 2012 study, younger generations may be showing up less to donate because of blood donation requirements around tattoos. Perhaps if CBS increases awareness about the restrictions, they might catch potential young blood donors before they head to an appointment for their next piercing or tattoo.


Photo: thethunderbird.ca

Photo: thethunderbird.ca

If you are a man that has sex with men, CBS requires you to wait a year since your last sexual contact with a man to donate blood. The blood ban hits gay men disproportionately since it automatically excludes those who are sexually active or in long term relationships. It also perpetuates the stigma of HIV/AIDs in the gay community, even though you can get HIV/AIDs if you are in a heterosexual relationship. Given that the proportion of individuals that identify as LGBTQIA+ is increasing among younger generations, the CBS should consider changing their donation rules related to men who have sex with men so they don’t lose a lot of eligible donors in the future.

There are many reasons why people avoid donating blood, most of which can be remedied by increasing awareness around restrictions to donating blood, how to get involved, or providing more incentives. CBS should also consider that they may be attracting less of the younger generation due to the rules around donating if you get tattoos, piercings, and men who have sex with men. In the end, I would still urge all of you to look into donating blood and to donate if you can.

 

Soyez Prudent

 
 

How do we preserve French culture?

I am a former French immersion student, and have no French background, no ancestry rooting back into the first Acadian settlers of Nova Scotia, no ties to the French. Meanwhile, I am concerned for the state of French within our province and across our country, given that French is an official language of Canada and it was a path I chose to continue to study. The culture, from as far as I can see, is slipping.

The French are classically portrayed as beret wearing, ascot sporting, baguette eaters with a hint of poutine on the side, but the French have a much richer ancestry. Many of your favourite dishes likely came from French cuisine, a huge component of the arts was inspired by and produced by the French, and, of course, they are responsible for creating the language of love. Canada often advertises itself as a bilingual nation, but short of direct interactions with Quebec or France, I see little to no promotion of French by the government. This could be due to the fear of the Québec and their separatist desires, but if anything, the promotion of French across the country would discourage such a move.

During my work placement last year, it was brought to my attention that there was a high demand for French teachers in Halifax, even as far as the end of September. The doors began to swing wide, accepting people with minimal French backgrounds as educators for those who wish to pursue it. That’s a problem. If people who are not well versed with the language are being hired on to instruct others, we immediately see a major decrease in student ability and comprehension, unless students take the initiative themselves. While I love the idea of maintaining the French program, it should not be kept or promoted if it isn’t going to be strong and well-run.

Moving to the local French, the Acadians cultivated the land and developed strong irrigation systems that have been adapted to use in the modern day. Many of the art pieces (the stars you see on so many homes across the province as an example) and structures we see across Nova Scotia are adaptations, if not direct representation, of the Acadians, and while there are museums and hot spots for Acadian culture, unfortunately there is little to no funding, and upkeep and maintenance is lacking. The understanding behind these symbols is also being lost, the star being a direct representation as the household being Acadian and not just French, but many people see it as purely design. There are some reports out there that suggest the star was the French equivalent to a wind chime in that it was believed to protect homes from evil spirits, but that could be individual beliefs rather than representation of the Acadians at large.

There was recently a panel on how to protect the Celtic heritage at the Bauer, but I think the same conversation needs to be had with French. Yes, it isn’t as discouraged or oppressed in our region such as that of others, but it is not immune to the greater powerhouse that is English. To paraphrase my mother, she used to tell me events only carry the weight that we give them, which to me is symbolic of what we value. Is age of greater value than the expulsion of the Acadians? We certainly seem to prioritize and celebrate birthdays far greater than moments in history. How about the Congrès Mondial Acadien? A large festival that I can’t say I had heard of prior to this article. I believe my mother’s statement can also be applied to all aspects of life. What do we give weight to?

To fix this issue, I think there should be a greater emphasis on addressing the problem in the first place. With the decreasing number of professionals entering the system to promote French, and an increasing number of students enrolling in Immersion, there is an imbalance. If French were something to be promoted through business, or with incentives, that could encourage the use on a day to day level. There is always a lot of talk on what French can get you and where it will take you down the line, but in my experience, French has only increased my employability minimally. 

On a personal note, a friend of mine recently underwent testing to see if she qualified as bilingual for the government and while she did not attain the highest level, she did do well; however, she could not hold a conversation with me. Now I’m not saying I have great French, but I know that I can hold a conversation with first language French speakers. My personal experience leads me to believe that our system is corrupt and that we should be addressing the issues. 

If somebody doesn’t do well on the test, that doesn’t mean you can’t hire them, but instead (particularly within the government) offer courses. Recognizing that development of Canada was in large due to Acadians should have been something addressed in the Canada 150 celebrations. There is a lot of talk about the indigenous populations and rightly so, but French became an official language for a reason, and it is seldom addressed.

I am here to say I want more. For some in the country, French is still the only language they speak. French within a community has always been accepted, unlike other languages, but if we fail to embrace it, we risk losing it.

 

The Battle of Coffee

 
 

The best coffee in Antigonish for the friendliest student price

Now, before I start, I must add that I am not a coffee expert and I do not claim to be one. This is just my guide to the best cup of coffee in Antigonish. I’ve been living in Antigonish now for four years, and I think I’ve cracked the code on what places sell the perfect cup, at the best price.

Finding the perfect cup of coffee can be really hard, but once you find that sweet spot that makes the perfect cup, it’s hard to let go of it.

I never used to be a coffee drinker before coming to university, imagine that. Even in my first year I prided myself in not needing any aid in the morning to get my system going. However, now that I’m in my fourth year I can guarantee you that by the middle of second year I became a loyal coffee drinker. I’ll admit, I hated it at first, but the late night of paper writing was not kind to me, so I used to just drink the coffee while secretly despising it. Now that I like the taste of coffee, does that make me an adult?

Alright, so let’s get started. Right off the bat, I’m sorry to all the loyal Tim Horton’s drinkers, but that coffee isn’t even in the top five of good coffee, it’s watery dirt. There, I said it. As for McDonald’s, you are not bad. If I had to pick between the two of you for a place to get coffee I’d have to go with McDonald’s without question. I see you, but you do have room to improve.

I’ll start with Pachamama. Now, I am a big fan of this little but blossoming spot. The food and snacks are delicious and vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free friendly! Big win in my books, coming from someone who has celiac disease. As for the coffee, it’s not bad coffee to say in the least instead it just does not mingle well with my taste buds, also the price isn’t too friendly to my tight student budget I’ll be honest.

Oh, Tall and Small, you own my heart, but not precisely my coffee heart. I should correct myself; your drip coffee does not hold my heart. But! Your latte’s, well that is another story, I am a devoted latte customer at the T&S. If you ever really want to treat yourself with any specialty coffee latte, cappuccino you name it, then Tall and Small is your answer. Plus, Collen and Leah (shout-out) make some wicked coffee art with a kind smile. For someone who operates on a student budget, I must admit to spending too much money on lattes.

So, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, who’s the coffee winner? It’s Sodexo coffee! I’m just kidding, far from. It’s the Waffle Bus! This may come across as a surprise, but I mean should it? It’s no secret that this place makes some of the best food in town, so it’s only natural that their coffee is also the jackpot. It’s so smooth, and always piping hot, I recommend going with the light roast, plus they have brown sugar to put in your coffee, it’s a game changer. Plus, if you bring in a reusable mug, it’s only $1.50, saving the planet while also fixing your coffee needs for a great deal.

Like I said before, I am by no means a coffee connoisseur, but four years of testing out new places in the nish, I think I found the perfect spot. By all means, you can disagree with my top coffee. Before you do, test out the Waffle Bus’s coffee. Who knows, you might agree.

 

Living at the End of Time

 
 

A critique on capitalism in popular culture

The collapse of competing economic ideologies by the 1990s, led to the supremacy for an invisible ideology; it believed only in the power of markets, it dissolved our future, and created an existential ennui that has left many of us disjointed from time and alienated from ourselves and our environments. In the video  essay, “Hypernormalisation,” Adam Curtis includes a brief clip from an interview with a Russian woman during the late Soviet era. The interviewer asks the woman what her dreams are, she replies, befuddled, “what are dreams? What purpose do they serve?” For Curtis, this is symptomatic of the late Soviet Union, the stagnation of communism produced an existential ennui. 

The dreams of scientific Marxism had failed to produce a futuristic, stateless utopia and instead created an oppressive state capitalism that had reduced their lives to little more than ensuring that numbers increase on production charts.

The end of Soviet expansion, the misadventures in Afghanistan (itself a prophetic omen for American imperialism), economic decline, and creative stagnation would come to give Western leaders a false sense of triumph and victory. It will also foreshadow our own creative stagnation that has cast a spectre over the world, which is Capitalist Realism.

With the fall of the USSR in 1991, Francis Fukuyama predicted the “end of history,” understood as the struggle of one civilization against another and the conquest of a single world order. In this vision of the future, liberal democracies would spread to country after country, and would usher in a coherent and copacetic, global vision of economic and political philosophies. Pilloried at the time and even more so after 9/11, various criticisms were levelled at Fukuyama, most popularly that “Western Civilisation” was at war with a new global power, Islam. Media outlets, desperate for a new boogeyman, and with the help of American intelligence agencies, manufactured a single, imperial entity out of numerous disparate factions all claiming religious inspiration. According to these theorists and media personalities, instead of “ending” history, we were being ushered into a new era of clashing civilizations; Islam versus the West. However, they were quite wrong.

In reality what was happening, for Soviet Russia and Western society, was that history was already beginning to end in the 1970s. What was largely believed to be true, was that American capitalism was the true, victorious engine of innovation and progress, but what was actually true was that the spark of American innovation in the post-war period came not from the free market, but from the government sponsored race to land a man on the moon, a vision not of American politicians but of Communist men with utopian dreams of the future.

American belief in progress and the future only took root due to the impulsive desires of American politicians to beat godless Communism. This is not to say that America has ever lacked imaginative dreamers, on the contrary, many important innovations and research was completed by American men and women. What mattered was that the American government also shared those dreams and contributed funding to make non-marketable future visions possible.

Once the Space Race had been won in 1969, President Nixon, never a champion of the NASA program, cut funding for three additional Moon landings after Apollo 17, plans for Mars missions, a Moon base, and a permanent space station went unsupported. Once victorious, American politics reverted to their base impulses; the belief in the supremacy of the market over of all things. From Reagan and Thatcher, to Obama, Trudeau, and Macron, none of the elected leaders of the Western world know how to imagine a world that is not dominated and decided by the mindless “free market,” what is possible is only possible by the whims of an hand that, in theory, is invisible, but is subject to the manipulations and interventions of Mammonist greed of corporate raiders and fund managers. 

The prioritization of market capitalism led to two major outcomes. Primarily, the period after the 1970s led to the beginning of wealth inequality under which America is currently suffering. The fetishisation of wealth has lead to American politicians believing that capital hoards are beneficial to society, which they have been proven, time and time again, to be false.

In reality, capital hoards and the rise in prominence of financial institutions lead to worsening conditions for income earners (this includes the invented “middle class” but also for working classes and people living with disabilities). Secondly, while the cancellation of the Apollo missions did not directly cause the end of the belief in future progress, it is symptomatic of this trend. Famously, President Carter asked Americans to believe in a different world in the wake of the Oil Crisis. Instead of embracing the challenge of living in a oil-reduced world.

This pessimism is not content to parasitize our elected leaders, but it pervades across many major areas of our lives. We no longer trust in our institutions to perform, instead we rely on two-dimensional data and statistics to inform us without the reality of context. We have turned our entire life over to middle-managers, people who have jobs without duties; this is the dream realised on neo-liberal capitalism. That the state could largely relinquish control of the economy over to the corporate interests and let them exploit benefits produced by labour. Ironically, the illnesses of market capitalism pervade even among our supposed mortal enemy (at least until their recent destruction), Islamic State. Little else needs to be brought to bear to crush the criticism that Fukuyama was pre-emptive in his analysis.

If what matters is only what can be bought and sold in a “free” market, then the potential progress of the future, cannot be countenanced. We become locked in what has been described as “Capitalist Realism.” 

The future visions of our predecessors that the benefits of industry and automation would be shared equally among the people of our society has been stolen from us and instead of attacking those responsible for the theft of our productivity, we are encouraged to attack the weakest among us as being responsible for our collective failure of imagination. Instead of challenging our bosses for greater share in the benefits of our labour, for more time with our loved ones, for more time to engage in personal pleasures, and for more time to attend to our health and well being. We end up attacking those who enjoy even a portion of these benefits.

Instead of envisioning a better world, reimagining the methods of distribution of profits and benefits of labour, we become locked in the sickness of nostalgia and fear of change. We purchase and re-purchase our past in an attempt to relive the future that was lost to us. In the ennui of our period of history, we long for something better, but we have the sickness of nostalgia that prevents us from realising and imagining better futures. We are hampered by the all-pervading sense that there is only market capitalism, that all that has value is determined by buyers and sellers in stock exchanges and commodity markets and that our elected leaders can only tweak tax rates, pull levers, and make mildly inspiring but meaningless speeches. 

We no longer believe in change, but in minor iterations of our present reality. Instead of experimenting with alternative societies, we continue the drudgery of capitalism with reproductions of previous aesthetics, failing to reproduce the conditions of more inspirational generations, haunted by previous societies, we fetishize them, we become fully hauntological.

Even our cultural artefacts reflect this; in every version of Sim City, our ability to affect change is restricted to minor bylaws and tax rates. Instead of drawing on our struggles against injustice and inequality, ending slavery, child labour, racial discrimination, banning CFCs, providing pensions and health care, we are reduced to imaging only what is possible through the market, we are reduced to accepting only that which the market has decided has value. Our imagination has been so thoroughly restricted to the current capitalist reality that we can only imagine the end of the world, whether that be from plague (Contagion), zombies (Day of the Dead and countless others), catastrophic environmental collapse (2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Walking Dead), space-borne destruction (Armageddon), or nuclear destruction (Sum of All Fears), even our science fiction visions are capitalist in essence (District 9, Elysium, The Expanse, Cowboys & Aliens, Downsizing (possibly the most egregious film in recent history), The Boss Baby, etc.); they fail to think creatively and imagine a world outside of capitalism. In these various realities, it is as if they are tacitly admitting that we will die by capitalism rather to reinvent ourselves to save ourselves from our own base, avaricious impulses.

The experience of our reality is that not only are we possible of being more than sum total of our market or monetary values, but that we must be able to imagine being beyond value. We must be able to imagine a better future where our health and well-being is not decided for us by middle managers and politicians who fret ceaselessly about the daily, irrational, whims of the market, but also we we must imagine this future for the well-being of the planet and the survival of our species. 

We cannot wait for the market to discover whether or not there is profit in preventing climate change, that time has come and gone and the time for action is now. The poor, the people living with physical and mental disabilities, and the workers cannot wait for American insurance companies to determine whether there is profit in providing care. It does not require us to have an Other to improve ourselves. To fail in this endeavour of imagination is not to end the world, humanity will continue to live on and return to history but as misery, not triumph. However, we can do better.

 

“Human”

 
 

An interview with Natalie Doumkos

Immediately following the beautiful gallery: “Canadiana” by Nic Latulippe, Natalie Doumkos had the opportunity to showcase her beautiful artwork taken from the big city of Toronto in small town Antigonish, NS. I had the pleasure of interviewing Doumkos during her time hosting the StFX Bloomfield Gallery from March 15th to 24th, and am honoured to share her thoughts with the readers of the Xaverian Weekly. As the second part to a two-part piece showcasing the artists themselves, this piece will highlight Doumkos and her inspiring work which, like the work of Latulippe, paves the way for other student artists to showcase their art on campus. Here is her story.

When Doumkos was young, she recalls receiving toy cameras as gifts for Christmas which began her experimentation with the art of photography. As years went on and more toy cameras were gifted, Doumkos eventually upgraded to a real camera in grade 11, which was a DSLR. With the ability to shoot professional level photos in her hands, Doumkos continued to explore and take pictures to build her portfolio, ultimately leading to her sharing her art in the summer of 2018.

Doumkos’ inspiration for creating art came from her love of exploring cover art itself. Her photos gained more and more meaning as she continued her pursuit of art, but exploring was always the driving factor to her work. In her exhibit, there are several individuals included in the photos. These individuals are friends of Doumkos who share in the same motivations for exploration and photography as an expression of emotions, and they inspire her to pursue the art she creates. Art is often seen as a means to portray emotions that cannot be easily put into words, this is the case for Doumkos as well, and her art carries meaning that just cannot be described. As the saying goes: “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Appreciating basic principles of design, Doumkos’ main form of art is her photography, but she experiments with videography, sketching, and many types of painting including oil, watercolour, and acrylic. She uses these alternative forms of art to diversify her creative abilities as photography showcases what already exists, sketching and painting on the other hand forces her to create something out of nothing but her imagination.

The journey for Doumkos to host the Bloomfield Gallery was a long one, one that began years ago in her explorations in the city of Toronto, to capture the memories she put on display in her exhibit. With taking photos comes editing the shots to the specifications of the artist, which took countless hours according to Doumkos. The idea to host the gallery began for her in October, 2018 as she began to accumulate the photos and stories she has gained over the years. Over the months leading up to the gallery, she had been going through some personal troubles, and her art stood as a way to get through some tough times. When she found it hard to voice her emotions, her images became a kind of healing mechanism. The beautifully written stories that accompanied the photos on the gallery walls were written the day of the opening of the gallery as Doumkos searched for the right words to say.

Photo: www.doumkos.com

Photo: www.doumkos.com

These written companion pieces helped aid her visual artwork and served to encourage the emotional resonance of the cityscapes Doumkos has had the pleasure of capturing throughout her lens.

Interestingly, Doumkos had told me that while editing her photos, the music she listened to had a significant impact on the tone of the picture, where rhythm and energy led to vibrant colours and saturation and conversely, slow tunes with more atmospheric sound led to a more subdued and cool tone. The gallery had not been the first time Doumkos had showcased some of her work. However, most of what has been shown in public places were posted anonymously.

Over the years she met new people who shared the same interests in exploring as mentioned above, and with these people, she has followed her passion for exploring and documented her memories along the way. As her talent behind the lens continued to improve, Doumkos had been given many opportunities working with various companies big and small. Many of these opportunities come with sample products from the companies as a thanks for her work with them which was certainly a perk. While these opportunities intrigue her, she is hesitant to pursue photography as a full-time career for fear of it losing the artist and emotional value that inspired her to begin in the first place.

Exploring Toronto started on the ground for Doumkos, despite her gallery being of much higher quality, both figuratively and literally. She began by taking photos of things that caught her eye, like exciting outfits, but her sights quickly aimed upwards. The theme of “Human” was cityscapes-- to showcase the beauty that the urban environment hides on its rooftops. Emphasizing the ability for photography to express herself, Doumkos enjoys the exploration element to her work even more than the photos themselves at times, so cityscape is her main style. That being said, she has also experimented with architecture, landscape, lifestyle and products, though cityscape and urban exploration is her passion.

As an artist, Doumkos believes no “perfect” photo indeed exists. She does think that Toronto is the most beautiful city in the world, which inspired her desire to explore the city. From her accounts and the written companion pieces found at her gallery it is clear that at times she would wait hours to capture the sunrise or sunset as it shone in precisely the direction she had envisioned. Many of the photos featured in the gallery took precise timing to catch the breathtaking views.

Doumkos would tell aspiring artists to focus on the voice in your mind and your creativity, don’t compare yourself to other people and don’t share your art until you’re ready but when you are don’t be afraid to share. She believes that what you get out of life is what you put in, and to always create art for yourself first and not others, as well as to not listen to the negative feedback from others in your pursuit of art, it is subjective and so long as it matters to you then it is worth it. Being self-taught, there are plenty of lessons and videos to learn from on YouTube or online classes all over the internet to improve your artistic talents. Lastly, once you start creating art “don’t turn back, and don’t let anyone tell you to turn back,” as Doumkos would say.

“This is it for Toronto,” says Doumkos about her gallery “Human.” The journey had been two of the best years of her life, but she is ready to move on to whatever comes next. And recently, she had fortunately been chosen as the incoming VP of Activities and Events for the 2019-2020 school year, so she is living in Antigonish for the foreseeable future. Being in a new environment, she is searching for new meaning to inspire her artwork to come, as it is not the end of her creating art, merely a new chapter ahead. Doumkos’ work can be found on her website www.doumkos.com

 

Under 9000

 
 

Spotlighting some artists that’re <9000 on Spotify

Pet Library

My album of the year for 2017, Pet Library’s Pity Party might be the most honest thing you’ll ever hear. With lyrics like “sharing a pack of cigarettes and a lighter that didn’t work, all I wanted was to kiss you, I thought about it so much it made my head hurt,” perhaps they sound corny on paper. However the delivery, the urgency, and the tinge of dustiness puts you on the sidewalk and looking for the kiss. This is an album for a moment in time: you’re young, vibrant, and just melancholic enough to ruin everything.

Fox Wound

Keeping on the trend of AOTYs, Fox Wound’s In Passing, You’re Too Faded was nearly my 2016 pick. Although a bit more serious than Pet Library, Fox Wound carry the same sort of urgency. Their sound may be a bit more spaced and mature, but fiery still. We’ll call them emo, we’ll call them post-something, but I’ll call them contemplative for now. Fox Wound just released a new album, so it’s a great time to support! And they’ve got an instrumental called “So Which One Is Jim” – I’ll take anything that references The Office.

Cultdreams

Formerly known as Kamikaze Girls, this duo combines bitter punk philosophies with an unflinching message. Their shouted vocals and fuzzed-out tones are hardly crust-core. The standout track, “Teenage Feelings,” off their debut might be the only song you’ll need to hear. If I’ve got to put a label on their sound: think an angry Alvvays with more distortion. I’ve been to Tall and Small, I’ve seen some playlists, I know you all like Alvvays. I know you’ll love Cultdreams.

Coast to Coast

This one’s a one-song challenge. It hasn’t been in my favour, but opinions for Coast to Coast’s song “Post Graduation” have been polarizing. 95% of the argument comes down to the singer’s voice. I love it. I’ve also heard it sounds like Patrick Star. Most of Coast to Coast’s material deals with the few months after undergrad. For some of you this may seem a bit too real. For some of you this might seem far away. For now, listen to “Post Graduation” and let me know how you dig it. They’re my favourite upcoming band, maybe they’ll be yours too.

Palm Reader

Vocals aren’t the question with Palm Reader, not one bit. And while they may be the heaviest suggestion on this list, they’re perhaps the most likely to explode. There’s a rumbling in the UK underground “metal” scenes. Some band just released a sophomore album that somehow made quite a few end-of-year lists for quite a few publications. Odd, innit? 

Palm Reader

Braille lives up to every word of hype. Heavy as an anvil, feral as my ex’s stupid cat, but melodic and fragile as Billie Holiday on a smoked-up stage, you’ll feel Braille.

Fluxion

Total shift of pace now. Fluxion works with a mixture of UK dub and ambience. In the least clear way possible, his work sounds like dangerous study music. Each album, each track, all carry a sense of urban tension. The hazy fence pictured on his debut album artwork couldn’t be more perfect. Mechanical factory-beats muffle over distant blips and blorps. And there’s a synth somewhere inside – hidden, but still heard. Try Ripple Effect to start, it may be less abrasive. But close your eyes whenever you listen. Who’d think meditation was so industrial?

Modern Rituals

Sure, they’ve released a new album. Sure, they’re about to release yet another one. But I want to drive you towards one of the greatest EPs in the last few years. 2016’s Stranger Culture might be the perfect party. “Pushing Teeth” can’t get any more fun. Every single line was meant to be sung along to. Further, I’m impressed with the way their vocalist’s delivery sounds like a strut. Of course, this doesn’t make much sense until you hear it. In the same manner that Morrissey’s voice matched his rose-held floating-walk, Modern Rituals has   a singer who’s cooler than you no matter how he looks. With a post-punk mentality and a partied post-hardcore sound, Stranger Culture will always        be a great 24 minutes