Student newspaper terrorist

This column appeared in The Gauntlet on April 12, 2012.

Since the beginning of the fall semester, in September of 2011, the University of Calgary’s independent student newspaper, the Gauntlet, has been held hostage by a lone ultra-left terrorist who goes by the simple pseudonym “Remi.”

The founding member of the terrorist network the Coalition for a Revolutionary Alberta Society, Remi has single-handedly managed to capture and control the Gauntlet’s nine section editors, as well as countless numbers of the paper’s volunteers. Adopting the title of “opinions editor,” Remi has transformed the previously arch-conservative student newspaper—once the springboard for Canadian right-wing heroes such as Ezra Levant and Stephen Harper—into an ideological tool for a terrorist message of “pro-autonomy” and “pro-dignity,” ideas that are clearly dangerous to the health of sensitive Albertan minds.

Having precipitated several violent incidents on the university campus, Canadian security and peace enforcement agencies having been pooling their resources to capture, kill and end the strife he has caused.

‘Remi,’ as he is known to allies and enemies alike, commandeered the student newspaper on September 3, 2011, and seized the title of “opinions editor.” The opinions section previous to Remi’s takeover maintained a small but humble position near the back of the weekly  issue of the Gauntlet. While maintaining his reign of terror over the paper’s real editors and volunteers, Remi has successfully expanded the opinions section to take up most of the paper, and through the section he bombards University of Calgary students with a weekly barrage of horrifyingly new ideas. As student Emily Hamilton, member of the Delta Upsilon Mu sorority observed, “The newspaper [the Gauntlet], like, used to be, like, totally fair and balanced, like the Calgary Sun is. Now it’s basically like mostly opinions from that hipster fag Remi or whatever his name is.”

As of the March 28, 2012 issue of the Gauntlet, a total of 300 students have claimed serious injury after having been exposed to an issue of one of Remi’s signature articles or illustrations.
One political science student Sam Bloom, remembers all too well how he obtained his injuries.
“I was walking down the hallway just leaving professor Flanagan’s class, and I saw the Gauntlet. I used to read it all the time. It was way better in my day. But I hesitated picking it up because it had something I totally didn’t like on the cover,” Said Bloom. “I flipped it open and it was just ultra-leftist filth everywhere. Some of the art was even communist looking. Then I started to read this article by that boy Remi. There were words that I didn’t like, like ‘passion,’ ‘vitality of life,’ ‘apparatus’ and ‘wherefore.’ I barely got through the first paragraph when I felt this terrible pain fill my head. Next thing you know I’m in the hospital for an entire day. I wasn’t even allowed to go to ThursDen that night. Like what the fuck. Remi is so pathetic and stupid.”


No one has yet to successfully discover the identity of “Remi,” although the Canadian Security Intelligence Service believes Remi’s gender is of a male-like variety, as one Gauntlet hostage reported as having seen, “A large phallic-like object,” which supposedly came out of Remi’s pants once during a  visit to a bathroom. Remi’s elaborate use of disguise, including a tangled mess of hair, crafty and distracting glasses and a penchant for shadows has allowed him to avoid recognition. It is thought that Remi is capable of producing fake newsmedia as a tool for deception, as well as writing about himself in the third person (generally considered an extremely masturbatory act) as to dumbfound and irritate his detractors.

The Coalition for a Revolutionary Alberta Society was, according to the group’s website, founded by Remi in late 1988, apparently not long after “Remi’s” supposed birth. Since that time both Remi and cras have grown considerably and have forged powerful relationships with various terrorist groups. Yet Remi has retained his anonymity since day one. Even fellow terrorists involved in Remi’s terrorist ‘Front’ or affiliated groups in his terror network apparently know nothing relevant about the ultra-leftist’s identity or origins.
In late 2011, members of the West Albertan Nationalist Guerrillas and the Socialist and Anarchist Coalition who had participated in terrorist acts of “discussion of political alternatives” alongside Remi’s CRAS, were apprehended by the Royal Canadian Peace Enforcement Agency and were subsequently coerced into revealing details behind their terrorist network. The coercion undergone by members of WANG and SAC revealed startling information about the level of penetration perpetrated by the terrorist connections here in Alberta and abroad, but failed to reveal anything significant about Remi. Even Remi’s Facebook profile is incredibly vague and misleading, claiming that Remi is, “In a relationship” and “Likes” such topics as “reading” and “music.”

With a love for violent “debate” and the use of frightening tactics such as “critical thinking,” Remi has successfully kept the editors and volunteers of the Gauntlet student newspaper hostage. Current Gauntlet editor-in-chief Eric Mathison, who has managed to maintain a level of connection with the outside world, stated in one letter that, “most of the time we are subjected to his [Remi’s] constant discussions of ethics, politics or metaphysics, as well as hour-long diatribes about the proper accents on ‘Slavoj Žižek.’ But he has allowed me to go for the occasional coffee and washroom break, and every now and again my wife is able to bring me in some vegan cupcakes.”

However, not all students or Gauntlet members have been overcome by Remi’s takeover. A post-Trotskyist student organization, a campus-based anarchist association and various pro-human rights activist students have all asserted their solidarity with Remi and CRAS. Additionally, current Gauntlet news editor, Amy Badger, has, according to one hostage mediator, fallen ill with Stockholm Syndrome.
According to Mount Royal University psychologist Evrin Ting-Halvoff, Stockholm Syndrome is “a paradoxical psychological condition where hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, occasionally to the point of defending their captors.” Badger is believed to currently be involving herself in sexual relations with Remi, although this has neither been confirmed nor denied by either party.


The Royal Canadian Peace Enforcement Agency has been unable to infiltrate the Gauntlet and arrest Remi. RCPEA commissioner Dic McIver stated in a recent press conference that, “we, the law enforcement agency of this fine city, have been unable to capture Remi. As it stands, we have been heavily preoccupied with meeting our quotas for speeding tickets, parking violations and agitation of undesirables.”

When questioned as to what changes might aid the RCPEA in their hunt for Remi, McIver claimed that an increase in peace officer funding and powers would enable the organization to “finally rid the city of its unwanted elements,” at which point the capture of Remi, “would become our top priority.”

With the student newspaper under Remi’s control, the ultra-leftist terrorist has been able to offend and horrify the delicate minds of University of Calgary students. With a large proportion of upper-middle class students attending the institution—all of whom are succeeding through their own rugged individualism—the terrorist demands of Remi’s, which include the “proliferation of genuine autonomy” and “respect for the dignity of all people,” have erupted into obscene ideological violence.

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Why we ought to occupy

This is an offering to the world, on why we occupy, by James Jesso, Evangelos Lambrinoudis II and myself — autonomous individuals — speaking on our own behalf. This is NOT, in any way shape or form, an official statement from Occupy Calgary itself. Occupy Calgary expresses itself through the myriad of voices that comprise it. It speaks for itself. As participants, occupants, individuals, and authors of this offering, we speak for ourselves. Our offering speaks for itself too.

Courtesy: Chelsea Pratchett. People left to right: Evangelos, Remi, James.

Occupants of Calgary, of Canada, of the world, this is our offering to you.

We wrote this piece with the help of several other individuals. Thank you immensely.

We have come united as autonomous participants of the occupation of Calgary — in solidarity with the multitude of international occupy movements, and with deep respect to the indigenous lands on which we stand — to create the conditions necessary to give birth, incubate and bring into the public eye a conversation. A conversation that is essential in awakening Canadians to the storm that encircles us all, and realizing our potential for a better world. We are intimately linked to the crises manifesting both home and abroad, and out of apathy or lack of awareness we have failed to responsibly address this for far too long.

We, Occupy Calgary, want change.

We want a Canada that is not looking down the barrel of the same economic rifle that has already fired on the United States. Where the fiat currency with which we currently operate — a currency with a value based solely upon government regulation and law — and the fractional reserve banking system through which it operates, where the required reserves are defined as “nil” by the Bank of Canada Act section 457 (4), are brought to an end. Where the Canadian government is no longer allowed to borrow from Chartered banks money those banks don’t actually have, and where the majority of our taxes are no longer used to pay for the interest accrued on those loans, but are used to fund services that better our quality of life. Where our currency is based on tangibilities, not on illusionary abstractions monopolized upon by greed within a corrupt system.

We want an Alberta that grows its wheat, raises its cattle, cuts its timber and pumps its oil in a manner that is sustainable and to the benefit of the land and to every person, not to the benefit of corporations abroad. Where the debt per capita does not double in the next decade, as it had in the past ten years. Where we are no longer blocked by red tape — created in the interests of corporate monopolization — from exploring and utilizing sustainable alternative sources of energy and methods of resource extraction.

We want an accountable government — one that understands that there are consequences to its actions. A government whose intentions are to progress human welfare, not to seek profit or international prestige.

Liberated from the Calgary Herald

We want an end to a system that allows political parties to be corrupted by the tens of thousands of millions of dollars given publicly and secretly by corporations as campaign donations every election. Where a wealthy few no longer hold power over our government. Where politicians can no longer obtain sweeping power through just 24 per cent of eligible voters, as our present Conservative majority has done. Where economic power cannot buy political power. Where every single person is given the democratic representation they deserve, not a representation based on mob rule of the majority, wealth, status or connection.

We want a government that is transparent. where senators and supreme court judges are democratically elected not appointed. Where there are no closed doors. Where empathy is the official policy both home and abroad, taking seriously the duty of international amnesty, not furthering global conflicts.

We want to see a justice system that is not based on punishment and revenge, as the Conservative government is presently reinforcing, but is based on principles of restoration. Where no law can be legislated that shall deny us our human dignity or capacity for radical self-governance.

We want a healthcare system based on healing, not on the perpetuation of illness for the sake capital gain.

We want a Canada where the voice of the indigenous peoples — on whose land we occupy — are no longer ignored; rather they are given the dignity, respect, and acknowledgement they deserve. Where we respect the many ways of knowing.

Liberated from the Vancouver Sun

We want a government, society, culture and economy that thrives in its connection to the land we live with. Where we no longer exploit our resources in an unsustainable fashion but respect them for the lifeblood they are. Where we respect sacred geography. Where our food and water-supply is no longer poisoned by corporate profit-seeking and monopolization. Where mono-cropping is a thing of the past and we respect the boundaries of nature and all things within it. Where we no longer trample entire ecosystems. Where our system of exchange no longer embodies the logic of a cancer cell.

We want a media that delivers information honestly, no longer filtering it through the lens of corporate or political agendas.

We want a society and culture that encourages relationships that result less frequently in divorce, as 70,000 do in Canada every year. Where our communities are no longer under the constant threat of fragmentation. Where people are not condemned to the streets because they had no where else to go.

We want to cultivate in our brothers, sisters and most importantly in our children, the power of creativity, curiosity and forward thinking.

We want a world where housing, healthcare and education are universal human rights, and nobody goes hungry.

We are at a pivotal point in time as a species embedded within a living planet. Collectively we are facing the mass extinction of ecological life and of the multitude of cultures that once diversified the globe. It is in the face of this crisis that we are opening our eyes to our vast potential and interconnectedness to one another and to the planet. We are awakening to a self-awareness — long termed enlightenment — that can now be recognized as a universal human capability at this possible turning point in our history.

Liberated from the Metro


As technology enables an instant connection to each other and to information, we have begun to evolve out of an obsolete paradigm and into an integral understanding of the universality that exists across humanity’s vast story of cosmologies and cultures. A recognition that redefines our connections to each other into a new paradigm of inclusiveness — where mutual humanity transcends the archaic values that judged on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation and other facets of who we are, which we are now coming to see are reason for celebration.

We are here to give birth to a system that reflects the human values of compassion and mutual development within and without. The established values of seeking profit above all else, at the sake of not only the resources and integrity of our planet, but also the integrity of our bodies and our communities are outdated and unwanted. We want a world of co-independent communities and not the metropolis of consumption that is devouring the essential human spirit.

We are autonomous people participating in Occupy Calgary. This has been our offering to you. We would like to invite you to join in this conversation.

… [E.L., J.J., R.W., et al.]

It’s time we occupy Calgary – speech

On Saturday Oct. 15, 2011, participants of Occupy Calgary hit Banker’s Hall on Stephen Avenue to begin the noble movement. I was given the opportunity to speak following the smudge ceremony that started the event. The following words are the script of the speech itself.

Liberated from CTV

Right now, we are saying to our parliament, to the media, to corporate interests, to the world, that we are here to participate in a conversation of change.

 “Our politics caught up with who we are,” were the words of our new premier, Alison Redford, touting her election victory. While it is certainly momentous that a woman has finally come to power here in Alberta, it is incredibly embarrassing to hear politicians and media alike believe and announce that our present politics have in any way, shape or form caught up with who we are. In contrast with Redford’s remark, I find myself sympathetic to sociologist Jean Baudrillard’s astute observation that “today, power itself is an embarrassment and there is no one to assume it truly.”

Our political sphere continues to survive on the fiction that it represents we the people, and not neoliberal interests. In our globalized world held hostage by corporate forces the need to subvert the system and bring about serious and legitimate change has necessarily gone viral. We stand at a juncture in history where through participation in this grand act of enthusiastic emancipation we can become the terminal illness that brings an end to a system that has long propagated massive global injustices.

The Arab Spring, Tahrir Square in Cairo, the acampada in Spain, protests in Greece, London, Iceland and Portugal, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Occupy movements across America and across Canada, and we here in Calgary are all united in the desire to open up new social, economic and political dialogues, avenues, and opportunities.

When the Arab Spring ignited the stations of politics and media were caught off guard. They struggled to make sense of what was happening, what it meant and what brought it about. Observing the mainstream media sources’ coverage of the events past and event present reveals, on their part, a severe lack of understanding. Only three days ago the Herald ran an article written by Ric Mciver that called this movement a “gang,” the flavor of the month,” “wannabe Barak Obamas” and “Socialists.” Ric Mciver doesn’t want to understand. The world of media and politics have shown themselves to be utterly disgusted and confused by the idea of regular people expressing their autonomy by camping out on public property to participate in an attempt to create an altruistic, alternative space wherein a dialogue for serious change can be conceived and incubated.

Liberated from the Calgary Herald

When the mainstream media speaks about the Occupy movements you will hear them say “this movement doesn’t know what it wants” … “it has no real plan” … “it has no serious goals.” What we want — our goal — is straightforward: emancipate ourselves, our economy, our society and our politics from the crushing grip of corporate control.  Our plan, to echo Naomi Klein, is to allow people to speak for themselves — rather than having corporations speak for them as they presently do — because we believe that people, when given the opportunity, are smart enough, and capable enough, to make decisions that are the best for them.

Many of our fellow citizens, our brothers and sisters across the province, across this country, often revert to the ‘Canadian’s are calm’ card. You hear platitudes about how easygoing and peaceful we are, as if our very genetics somehow expressed a desire for non-confrontation. This is a mask too easily worn. A mask that blinds us from the very real and pressing concerns that surrounds us all.

Calgary is a colonial outpost of the corporate network in a literal sense.

The ground we stand on right now is Blackfoot land. The Blackfoot people were barriers to the interests of the few and were removed accordingly. And I assure you the injustices did not end there. Crowfoot was a great chief and the Peigan were a people before we assimilated them into roads. In the past few weeks alone, the Harper government has tabled an omnibus crime bill that is determined to enhance the extreme prejudice — the overt racism — contained in Canada’s justice system, where 70 per cent of inmates are aboriginal peoples. To say that Canada, through residential schools, the reserve system and eugenics board, merely has a legacy of racism against its indigenous populations suggests that that racism has been acknowledged and is being corrected as best as possible. Well that is bullshit, brothers and sisters. Racism is as alive as ever here in Canada — aboriginal peoples, having been violently divorced from their lands and their heritage are no longer blockades of the ‘free market’ and make great serf labor for industrial expansion. I implore you to remember that we stand on Native land. Please do not forget it.

Alberta’s economy, while providing many of us a degree of stability, is, in fact, not much of an economy. All of our resources, whether it be oil and gas, wheat, cattle, timber or people –as we too are seen as commodities — are crudely extracted without due care to the environment, are refined for transport, and are sent south to the benefit of the ultra-wealthy abroad. Our natural wealth is exploited by the wealthy. When regular Albertans attempt to speak for themselves and develop legitimate larger industry to their own benefit, and not corporate benefit elsewhere, they are promptly shut down. Borders of supposedly ‘free trade’ conveniently close. Loans are refused on the grounds that our province lacks the real capacity and manpower to develop much beyond primary and secondary industries. The oil refineries, meat and food processors and lumber mills are not in Alberta and are not owned by regular Albertans — we have absolutely not say in any of it. The economic destiny of our province is in the hands of the wealthy who do own those industries, and who extract and exploit our natural wealth at their own leisure and our detriment.

Liberated from the Calgary Sun

Our brothers and sisters who have camped, are camped and will stay camped in the plazas of Madrid, parks across America and Canada, central squares of Arab cities and the streets of Greece believe that now is the time to start the conversation. Revolutions of the past doomed themselves to the repetition of history through traditional modes of coercion, incomplete methods of representation and a tendency towards violence. We can change that too. The injustices we face — locally and globally — propagated by the behemoth of corporatist hegemony that enshrouds us can be brought to their ends through encouraging, incubating and realizing the conversation around us.

Maybe by gathering here we will give our brothers and sisters who are stuck in that a malaise of mutual indifference the courage to stand up and speak on their own behalf too. Because here we are, peacefully assembled, declaring our autonomy, and creating a space to conceive and incubate the dialogues and opportunities that will give way to the essential changes needed to set our city, our province, our world down a healthier path.

It’s time we Occupy Calgary

This column appeared in The Gauntlet on Oct. 6, 2011.

     “Our politics caught up with who we are,” were the words of Alberta’s new premier-designate, Alison Redford, touting her election victory. While admittedly it is certainly momentous that a woman has finally come to power, and in such regards Redford’s remark is a fair point, it is incredibly embarrassing to hear politicians and media alike believe and announce that our present politics have in any way, shape or form caught up with who we are. In contrast with Redford’s remark, I find myself sympathetic to sociologist Jean Baudrillard’s astute observation that “today, power itself is an embarrassment and there is no one to assume it truly.”

Our political sphere continues to survive on the fiction that it represents we the people, and not the hegemony of capital. In our globalized world held hostage by corporate forces the need to subvert the system and bring about serious and legitimate change has necessarily gone viral. We stand at a juncture in history where through emancipatory enthusiasm we can become the terminal illness that brings an end to a system that has long propagated massive global injustices.

Courtesy Tommi Watts

The Arab Spring, Tahrir Square in Cairo, the acampada in Spain, protests in Greece, London, Iceland and Portugal, the Occupy Wall Street movement and all of the additional Occupy movements are all united in their desire to open up new social, economic and political dialogues and avenues.

In solidarity with the multitude of international movements that have occurred, are ongoing or are yet to come, I urge all Calgarians to stand up on Oct. 15 and show that we too are interested in joining this global conversation of change.

When the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia on Dec. 17, 2010 provided a catalyst for protestors to take to the streets across the Arab world, igniting the Arab Spring, the stations of politics and media were caught off guard. They struggled to make sense of what was happening, what it meant and what brought it about. Watching coverage of these events through mainstream sources reveals that they still don’t truly understand.

Fuelled by an ongoing debt crisis, various austerity measures and an enthusiasm boiling over from the Arab Spring, movements for change have seen their opportunity and have broken out across Europe. The ongoing acampada in Spain, wherein thousands of people have gathered and are continuing to camp in Madrid’s central squares, began on May 15, 2011. The ‘social crisis’ in Greece has continued since May 5, 2010. The London protests held on Mar. 26, 2011 saw upwards of half a million people take to the streets. Early this week on Oct. 2, 2011, some 100,000 people turned up to protest in Portugal. And on Sept. 17, 2011 the Occupy Wall Street initiative got underway, setting up camp in Zucotti ‘Liberty’ park in downtown Manhattan, which continues to grows larger day by day. The “Occupy” movement– inspired by Occupy Wall Street– has already spread to San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Portland (Maine), Portland (Oregon) and is encouragingly anticipated to further spread to most major cities in the western world, including Calgary on Oct. 15.

In reporting specifically on Occupy Wall Street, major American news sources, in trying to explain what is going on, have assessed the situation as Marxism, Post-Marxism, Communism, Socialism, juvenile behaviour, the beginnings of totalitarianism, lefty-nutcase protesting, a non-serious non-event doomed to disaster and on and on and on. The world of media and politics have shown themselves to be utterly confused and somewhat disgusted by the idea of regular, autonomous people camping out on public property to participate in an attempt to create an altruistic, alternative space wherein a dialogue for serious change can be conceived and incubated. In an honest diagnosis of the present political and media culture, their inability to understand seems directly connected to their total reliance on the corporate system of greed which people, such as myself, hope to bring to an end.

The culture of corporate greed has liquidated values, resources and dignity. It has tied itself inextricably into our social and political institutions and has liquidated their cores. Noam Chomsky, in strong support of the Occupy movement, recently made the following remark:

“Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street– financial institutions generally– has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world), and should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power. That has set in motion a vicious cycle that has concentrated immense wealth, and with it political power, in a tiny sector of the population, a fraction of 1 per cent, while the rest increasingly become what is sometimes called “a precariat”– seeking to survive in a precarious existence. They also carry out these ugly activities with almost complete impunity– not only too big to fail, but also too big to jail.

The courageous and honourable protests underway in Wall Street should serve to bring this calamity to public attention, and to lead to dedicated efforts to overcome it and set the society on a more healthy course.”

The title of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek’s most recent major book, Living in the End Times, communicates so much about the state of current society. Our mode of political, social and economic existence has been on a steady decline– just look at our global situation– and it doesn’t take much insight to understand that its end is coming closer and closer. Žižek’s “four riders of the apocalypse” come not in the form of their traditional religious conceptualizations, but as forerunners of the “ecological crisis, the consequences of the biogenetic revolution, imbalances within the system itself . . . and the explosive growth of social divisions and exclusions” that will bring about an end-times for capital’s hegemony.

Each of the global movements that have gotten underway or are about to start face different issues, different problems, and require different solutions. While people such as myself are all connected by our desire to end the injustices of our corporate society, economy and politics, each location faces a unique challenge. Here in Canada we often play the ‘calm’ card. You hear platitudes about how easygoing and peaceful we are as a people, as if our very genetics somehow expressed a desire for non-confrontation. This, however, is a mask easily worn by Canadians, allowing each and every one of us to continually fail in participating as citizens of this nation, and as citizens of this world. We find ourselves in a malaise of mutual indifference.

Furthermore, Calgarians are especially guilty of failing to see their role in the continuing injustices occurring both in our own backyards and on a world-wide scale. The overt racism and exploitation of resources and people by economic and political agendas, the tight grip that capital keeps around our necks, is so often passed over in silence or ignorance by all of us. Calgary is, in many ways, a colonial outpost in the corporate network. So many of those in suits working in our downtown core believe themselves to be autonomous– working in the best interests of themselves, our city, our people. What they are, however, are compradors– the privileged middlemen between our vast natural resources and the corporate exploiters abroad. Our resources are extracted, roughly refined then sent elsewhere (generally south) to the benefit of the ultra-wealthy– exploited like the serfs we are. Corporatist hegemony’s social stranglehold and our tendency to apathy has deluded us, bound us, blinded us from the cruel reality in Alberta.

Courtesy Jason Park

It is the enthusiasm for emancipation from corporate hegemony that ties our movements together. Our brothers and sisters who have camped, are camped and will stay camped in the plazas of Madrid, parks across America, central squares of Arab capitals and the streets of Greece believe that now is the time to start the conversation. Revolutions of the past doomed themselves to the repetition of history through traditional modes of coercion, incomplete methods of representation and a tendency towards violence. The global injustices we currently face, propogated by the behemoth of capital that enshrouds us, can be brought to their ends through encouraging, incubating and realizing the conversation started by the global movements.

This time that we, as Calgarians, can begin our own version of this conversation that redefines our social space, bringing an end to injustices at home and abroad. As a press release from Jason Devine, an individual assisting the organization of Occupy Calgary put it:

“Occupy Calgary is a movement with no appointed leadership structure. It is an exercise in participatory democracy, where all members discuss, debate, and make decisions. Its decision-making process takes place through consensus and voting . . . While we share many of the issues raised by our sisters and brothers in the u.s. [and abroad], Calgary is a unique place with problems that are specific to it. Participants of Occupy Calgary are already developing a collective critique of our local society and our various demands for change . . . Each movement has something to say.”

It is in the wake of the end-times of corporate greed’s hegemonic control that an emancipatory enthusiasm like we are seeing across the globe can become capable of taking root, starting the essential conversations and creating the opportunities for the changes we need.

Feces? Gross

This column appeared in The Gauntlet on March 31st, 2011.

Having grown up in rural Alberta, I have been witness to numerous attempts by eccentric country-folk in starting up “zoos.” This strange phenomenon was often unsettling and left me with uncomfortable emotions toward the unnecessary containment of non-livestock animals. However, the cages and pens of GuZoo Zoo — located out on the prairies just a few kilometres north of Three Hills, or an hour and a half from the steel cages and concrete pens of downtown Calgary — are an exception. GuZoo has been successfully licensed since 1990, which is often not the case, and is humane, too. Undoubtedly, this claim may come as a shock, as the GuZoo Zoo and Animal Sanctuary has received an immense amount of media attention this past week regarding supposed neglect and cruelty to animals. It is my contention that the accusations of cruelty and neglect are both uninformed and hypocritical. I do not wish to suggest that I, or anyone, should ever take animal rights lightly– the issue is of utmost moral concern and deserves due consideration. It may even be the case that GuZoo Zoo does indeed sit in violation of Alberta’s zoo standards, in which case their license should be revoked.

The primary criticism regarding GuZoo is that the animals have negligent and appalling living conditions, as is supposedly seen in the photos — posted on Facebook by self-proclaimed animal lover, photographer and professional photo-manipulation artist, Nic Burgess — that started the media firestorm. As well, in 2007 Zoocheck Canada, a private lobby group, claimed that GuZoo had violated over 100 standards including “psychological endangerment” to contained animals, a “flat and featureless” bear pen and “rusty old farm equipment,” despite being a country farm. Having both personally visited the zoo on previous occasions (and several other zoos just like it) and seeing the photos, I find the claims uninformed. Those who seem to think that the animals’ living spaces are terrible base their concerns on misdirected assumptions. That is, they wrongly wish for animals to be given human desires and not the desires of animals themselves. The rustic look of the GuZoo zoo, although not very appealing aesthetically, has spaces that are, according to Alberta zoo standards, both large enough and providing of appropriate shelter and other needs. Life on a farm for both animal and farmer will inevitably, but wrongly, be considered unsanitary by people who cannot see beyond their cul-de-sac.

Any purported injustices committed by the GuZoo Zoo pale in comparison to injustices that occur much closer to home — especially in light of the 24,000 people signing an online petition to eradicate the zoo and a deluge of calls to the Calgary Humane Society, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and to GuZoo itself, prompted largely by Burgess’s photos online. Calgary is home to its own massive and troublesome zoo (consider practices like the ‘zoo lights’ and the mass death of stingrays). One of the world’s largest rodeos, the Calgary Stampede, occurs annually (21 horses have died between 1995 and 2005). It is on these grounds that I find the claims against GuZoo Zoo to be hypocritical.

GuZoo Zoo’s license is up for renewal with Alberta Fish and Wildlife on April 1 and the SPCA is investigating independently. It is possible that certain standards have been violated. Also, I am more than willing to consider the position that both the GuZoo Zoo and some of the ill-practices of Calgarians and their city are equally detestable and should thus be uniformly condemned. Giving such widespread and significant moral consideration to animals throughout Alberta is a far more appropriate position than the massive and premature outcry that has erupted towards a small prairie zoo. But a line of equal concern is not the one being delivered. Instead, what we find are arguments against GuZoo Zoo that are uninformed and hypocritical– rashly formed opinions about a way of life that is staggeringly foreign from that of your average city dweller.

Tokyo Police Club

Ontario based band revisit the home of their first sold our show  

Tokyo Police Club is one of three good things to ever come from Ontario — the other two being Marine Land and Shenae Grimes. The group, comprised of singer and bassist Dave Monks, keyboardist Graham Wright, guitarist Josh Hook and drummer Greg Alsop, took the indie music scene b
y storm in 2006 with the release of their acclaimed A Lesson in Crime EP and have since cemented themselves as one of the hardest working and increasingly relevant bands in the Canadian music scene. But big time success was originally not on the minds of Tokyo Police Club, whose members’ average age is 23.

“Our first performance? I think it was fun. There were three people there,” says Wright. “We didn’t know one of them. Two of them were friends of my girlfriend at the time. They sorta politely sat at the table and were very nice. We had a blast! We just went up from there. That was back in the day when it just didn’t matter that there was no one there. I’d like to say that it still doesn’t matter, but it’s kind of a bummer when you play a show for nobody. In those days just playing a show was enough.”

But small shows held in suburban Ontario definitely aren’t the whole story when it comes to Tokyo Police Club — traveling across the nation has broadened their apprecation of it all. Now, the band admits they enjoy all of Canada.

“There are lots of great things about Canada. Toronto is where we’re from, so we all love it in lots of ways but I have tons of friends out in Vancouver. I always have a blast out there.”

They do have a soft spot for wild rose country.

“You know, I love being in Alberta. In a lot of ways it feels the most authentically Canadian to me to be out here. There’s lots of good feel going on in these parts.”

But their obvious adoration of ‘these parts’ doesn’t end there, as Wright went on to state.

“There are certain things about Alberta, like Lake Louise, which are very striking and they sorta stick with you.”

I told Tokyo Police Club that our secret here in Alberta is the boots — muddy, weathered, leather boots — and now they’re all convinced they need a pair. Perhaps it’s the lack of wildlife back in Newmarket, Ontario, but I’d say someone has a crush on the “Fortis et liber.”

Furthermore Tokyo Police Club have a strong tie to Calgary.

“We never have anything but amazing shows in Calgary. Our first ever sold out show was at Broken City. The people are always enthusiastic and kind and they’re always really attractive looking crowds!”

But whether or not Tokyo Police Club are willing to publicly profess their preference for Alberta, their diligent dedication to musicianship is paying off, as they are swiftly becoming some of Lady Canadiana’s most respectable sons.

..Remi Watts

Spun: Pioneer – (self titled)

Check out this story and more at the Gauntlet’s website

listen: Calgary is full of terrific musicians. Recently I was privileged enough to catch a glimpse of one of these audio-inspired peoples, a folk-fellow calling himself “Pioneer.” The other day as I sat at my desk, minding the business of others, I was handed a rather strange looking CD— a black velvet case with glow-in-the-dark lettering and a guitar pick gracing the inside jacket— which I promptly put to spin.

After just a few minutes of listening I was hooked to the peaceful tremble of his voice
and the melodic strum of his guitar. However, when quickly typed into Google, Pioneer was an enigma. Simply put, this review is the most information that
currently exists regarding both the album and artist, Pioneer.

Listen: the album is marvelous, eight songs long, all covers and all filled with an intimacy and humility often missing from most music. Opening with Bob Dylan’s “Hard Rain,” peaking with “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and closing with the overly appropriate song “humility,” the album is much like a slow stroll through the recesses of a quaint and eclectic mind.

Listen: Pioneer, may be hard to find, but it’s definitely worth exploring if you can track it down.

..Remi Watts