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Different Strands of Extremism, Same World View

Globe and Mail columnist Doug Saunders lived for a period of time in Finsbury Park, the London neighbourhood where a man drove down Muslim worshippers leaving a mosque during the early hours on Monday. At the time, Finsbury Park was singled out as a hotbed for the radicalization of Muslims in the United Kingdom. However, Saunders saw it differently, and his experience there became the basis for his book The Myth of the Muslim Tide, in which he thoroughly debunked a number of untrue, yet increasingly widespread beliefs about Muslims in Europe.* (You can read an excerpt from the book here, and listen to an interview with Saunders here.)
And yet a number of these myths have not disappeared — such as the belief that Muslims in Europe are particularly prone to extremism. Writing in response to the attack in Finsbury, Saunders points out that there are in fact two strands of extremism simmering in the United Kingdom — strands that thrive off of each other, and as the past months have demonstrated, are willing to resort to terror. Indeed, though they exist in opposition to one another, “any up-close examination of their opinions and rhetoric reveals that they have the same view of the world, the same mirror-image political goals, and now the same tactics.”
"[Far right extremists] often seemed hard to distinguish from the jihadis in their strident tone, their belief that the world is divided into incompatible civilizations, and their intolerance of the plural and diverse life of modern Europe that is so abundantly visible on Seven Sisters Road. On Monday, the two groups showed themselves to be identical in every imaginable way, including the worst – and we can hope that Britain will now turn against both equally.”

* Including things like the population growth rates of Muslims in Europe; their loyalties, their religious, political and cultural behaviours and beliefs; their propensity to religious fundamentalism, to political extremism and to violence; their successes and, sometimes, their failings in becoming integrated into the economies and cultures of the West.
Our Take on the Polaris Long List

Last week, the Long List for the Polaris Music Prize 2017 was announced. The prestigious award goes to the best album by a Canadian artist released between June 1, 2016 and May 31, 2017. Previous winners include Kaytranada, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Arcade Fire. The Short List, consisting of just ten albums, will be announced on July 13th.
Over the course of the next month, we’re going to try to listen to every album on the Long List, and provide a few thoughts and recommendations. On the week of July 13th, we’ll provide our top 10 albums, and predict who will take the grand prize. 
(If you’d like to contribute a small review of an album on this list, send it our way and we’ll feature it in next week’s newsletter). 

A Tribe Called Red — We Are The Halluci Nation 
On their third album, A Tribe Called Red don’t stray too far from their signature blend of hip hop, electronic music, and Indigenous drumming and chanting, with a couple of slight adjustments — faster tracks, elements of trap music, if only to keep up with the kids. We Are The Halluci Nation features a broad range of guests, including Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Iraqi-Canadian MC Narcy, and the Indigenous throat singer (and recent Polaris winner) Tanya Tagaq. (Novelist Joseph Boyden is also featured on a couple of tracks, but his presence post-scandal feels more distracting than impacting, unfortunately).
There are some excellent tracks, especially those like “R.E.D.”, where the DJs establish a natural-sounding chemistry with their guest MCs. Unfortunately, the album is a whole is pretty inconsistent, and one can’t help but cringe at the recurring dub-step sounds that the trio have failed to let go of. That being said, ATCR certainly belong on the long list — no one else is doing what they do, and their rapturous celebration of Indigenous music and culture is unmatched in our country’s music scene (especially when they perform live).

Arkells — Morning Report
The Arkells are the epitome of bland, innocuous radio rock. The Arkells make music for people who don’t really like music that much. On their fourth album, The Arkells have run out of things to sing about — on the album’s leadoff track, “Drake’s Dad”, they sing about meeting Drake’s dad one time (Sample lyric: “We met Drake's dad/Told him we came from Hamilton"). The Arkells have also decided to abandon the guitar-based rock music of their previous albums, opting instead for a crude approximation of Memphis ‘boogie rock’.  On that same track, there are guitar riffs, a gospel choir, a saccharine string arrangement, and a truly god-awful mid-song ‘breakdown’. On the track’s Genius page, the band describes the song as “Elton John meets Kanye West.” *Cringe*.
Morning Report is a highly produced album, filled with music pre-packaged for the radio and free CBC music festivals in the summer. Morning Report will probably win a few Junos, like their previous albums, because the Junos award safe, boring artists that get a lot of radio play. Morning Report is bro music, devoid of ideas or emotion. It’s no real surprise that it’s on the Long List — The Arkells are a very popular band and Canadian award shows often highlight success stories while overlooking questions of quality. I pray this doesn’t make the Short List.

Hannah Georgas — For Evelyn
I once went to see Hannah Georgas play a tiny little bar in NYC, opening for some random Australian band that I didn’t bother to stay to listen to. She’s inextricably linked in my mind to those few years where I listened religiously to CBC Radio 2 Drive, a fact which I babbled to her after the show in a way that probably made no sense. Clearly I’m not a pro-fangirl, but she was gracious about it and agreed that Rich Terfry is great…
Anyways, I digress. Georgas’ first two albums were more on the guitar side of alternative-pop music, and she has often been found in the company of Canadian songstresses like Kathleen Edwards. But with her third album, For Evelyn, she has gone in hard for the synths and electronic pings that first started appearing on This Is Good.
For Evelyn is a very personal album, and while the lyrics aren’t on Sarah McLachlan’s level necessarily, the content and style (evident on "Don’t Go” especially) do make Georgas seem like an easy pick for a Lilith Fair set. Yet, for all that she’s said the album is about her anxiety, it’s not particularly downcast, and at points is a bit silly (“Loveseat” is skippable, “Naked Beaches” is fine). In that same way Stars has of twisting the meaning of phrases like “Put your hands up cause everybody dies/No one is lost” (“No One Is Lost”), Georgas manages to make “I’m not afraid anymore/My dear nothing, nothing really matters” (“Evelyn”) sound fun and affirming with an underlying dance beat.
I quite like the first few songs on the album but my interest dwindled through the second part (and I’m actively annoyed any time “Crazy Shit” comes on). Georgas, even as she evolves, continues to be easy, radio-friendly listening, but this won’t be an album I’ll return to over and over again.

Alaclair Ensemble — Les Frères Cueilleurs
Alaclair Ensemble is a bilingual, Montreal-based hip hop collective that, according to Wikipedia,  “is based around an alternate history in which the Patriotes won the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1838 and established a state based on the Declaration of Independence of Lower Canada.” Doesn’t sound very promising, does it? And yet, this is a well-polished album, featuring a diverse range of mostly low-tempo, West Coast-influenced beats, and led by three very talented MCs that (fortunately) don’t take themselves too seriously. 
The Polaris Prize was created to celebrate Canadian music, and so it makes sense that an album of undeniably Canadian hip hop music makes the list (I can’t imagine these guys making it too far out of Quebec or Ontario). Les Frères Cueilleurs is a fun, natural-sounding album, and while it’s unlikely to blow you away, fans of ‘old-school’ and ‘pass-the-mic’ style hip hop will definitely enjoy it.

Anciients — Voice of the Void
Are you a fan of progressive metal? Death growls? Ten minute songs about hell? If so,Voice of the Void is definitely an album for you. If not, stay away.
But actually, this is a really good album, as far as albums within this genre of heavy metal go. It’s a loud, heavy album, filled with technically masterful drum and guitar work, rapidly shifting tempos and time signatures, and evocative vocals. This is top quality metal music, so I’m happy to see it on the long list.
Reminds me of Mastadon, reminds me of Porcupine Tree, reminds me Agalloch, but heavier than all three of those bands, actually. The 18-year-old version of me would probably really like this.

Antoine Corriveau — Cette chose qui cognait au creux de sa poitrine sans vouloir s’arrêter
Man, I wish I spoke French, because Cette chose qui cognait au creux de sa poitrine sans vouloir s’arrêter (“This thing that banged in the hollow of his chest without wanting to stop”, according to Google Translate”) sounds like a really interesting album. The Montreal-based Antoine Corriveau sings with a husky, almost Leonard Cohen-like baritone, and surrounds his vocals with melancholy string arrangements, horns, and crunchy drums. The music alone is interesting enough enough to warrant a listen, though English-speakers will certainly feel like they are missing something — you can’t make music this dramatic without having something profound to say. Or maybe you can, who knows.

David Lammy on the Grenfell Tower Fire in London

David Lammy, a Labour MP and a close friend of one of the victims of the tower fire in London last week, is urging Theresa May to take immediate action in determining and holding account those responsible for the tragedy.
In this video, Lammy argues that the tragedy is proof of the disintegration of the safety net that protected the country’s most vulnerable: “This is a tale of two cities. This is what Dickens was writing about in the century before the last, and it’s still here in 2017. It’s the face of the poorest and most vulnerable.”

Writing in the National Post, Graeme Hamilton agrees with Lammy’s take, suggesting that the fire has had a greater impact on the country than the recent string of terror attacks:
“If anything, the attacks hardened British resolve, as people headed back out to pubs and concerts in a spirit of defiance and took to social media to mock the notion that a few miscreants with knives could leave their nation reeling. But where bombs and vehicles and knives failed, a horrific fire this week in a London apartment block has succeeded in opening a deep divide in British society. On Friday, working-class Londoners outraged at the loss of life in the Grenfell Tower fire – 30 confirmed dead and dozens missing — took to the streets."


The Podcast Beat

This month, two fascinating new podcasts dropped, one that explores the impacts of climate change in British Columbia, and the other which explores life in San Quentin State Prison through the eyes of its prisoners.
2050: Degrees of Change is the second podcast series from Johanna Wagstaffe, CBC: Vancouver’s on-air meteorologist. The podcast explores the consequences of climate change in British Columbia from the perspectives of various scientific experts, but presented as a simulation in the life of residents of the province in 2050. From temperatures and natural disasters, to impacts on food, travel, and natural disasters, climate change will have a significant impact on British Columbians (Wagstaffe’s first podcast series was a sobering, though brilliant, investigation into the consequences of the earthquakes that plan to hit British Columbia at some point in the near future).
Ear Hustle is a prison term for eavesdropping, and is also the name of a promising new podcast produced by prisoners incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison in California. The podcast shares insights into prison life and the lives of prisoners. It’s a fascinating exploration, full of humour and wisdom. The first episode is on “cellies,” or why compatability with your cellmate is so important.

The Week's Links

The gripping real life tale of how an informant infiltrated the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas and brought it down from the inside. For three years, Carol Blevins worked as an undercover federal information to bring down the most violent street gang in the United States, even starting a romantic relationship with gang leader James “Skitz” Sampsell. On a number occasions, Blevins narrowly avoided being found out, and the brutally violent repercussions that would follow.
The Babadook is a fictional monster from a 2014 horror movie. Today, thanks to the Internet and a sorting error on Netflix, he’s become a symbol of queer resistance and a “Fabulous LGBT Icon”.

The Handmaid’s Tale is top-notch television, but it’s hard to overlook its complete silence on questions of race and racism. “If Gilead is meant to imagine a possible future for America, how could deeply entrenched racial dynamics disappear?” asks Angelica Jade Bastién in a recent piece for Vulture:  

“While it’s easy to cast people of color in a variety of roles, it’s far harder to meaningfully evoke the ways race affects our lives — The Handmaid’s Tale is a classic example of the problem with settling for diversity that exists out of a desire to be “color-blind.” How can you attempt to craft a political, artistically rich narrative that trades in the real-life experiences of black and brown women, while ignoring them and the ways sexism intersects with racism?”
Governor General David Johnston was widely criticised for a speech he made at a ceremony honoring leadership on Indigenous issues, in which he stated: “We're a country based on immigration, going right back to our, quote, Indigenous people, unquote, who were immigrants as well, 10, 12, 14,000 years ago.”

In 1958, John Steinbeck wrote a beautiful letter to his son about falling in love: “There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you -- of kindness and consideration and respect -- not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable.”
For those wanting to understand Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods (which continues to blow my mind), this is an excellent primer (via Kottke)
Writing in The New Yorker, pop-academic Stephen Greenblatt provides an overview of Saint Augustine’s sort of strange obsession with sex, and how this obsession came to shape both his philosophy and his conception of ‘original sin’, a conception that would end up shaping Christian orthodoxy. “Augustine returned again and again to the same set of questions: Whose body is this, anyway? Where does desire come from? Why am I not in command of my own penis?”
CBC Radio One cleaned up at this year’s New York Festivals Awards, which celebrates the best in international radio, with 18 wins. CBC programmes The Sunday Edition, Campus, and Ideas led the pack with a number of Gold Radio wins.
If you are looking for a good father’s day story, read “A Father’s Final Odyssey” by Joseph Mendelsohn. “Our parents are mysterious to us in ways that we can never quite be mysterious to them.” That’s one of the lessons of the father-son’s epic journey: Joseph’s dad takes a course on the Odyssey that Joseph teaches, after which they take a ten-day cruise, one for each year of Odysseus’ journey.
The federal government has announced new restrictions on the use of segregation in federal prisons, limiting the amount of time a prisoner can be placed in administrative segregation to a maximum of 15 days. The United Nations has found that placing an inmate in segregation for longer than 15 days amounts to torture, though inmates are routinely placed in segregation for extending periods of time in Canada, including for months and years. There are a number of other proposals put forward by the government to limits its use, particularly on inmates with mental health issues, but it may take years to implement. In the meantime, prisoners in Canada will be continued to be placed in administrative segregation for periods of time that the United Nations has found amounts to torture (one would think that labeling Canada’s administrative segregation policy as amounting to torture would lead to swifter changes).
Martine Partridge chose a medically assisted death at the age of 39, becoming the youngest person in Alberta to access Canada’s new law. This is her story.
How to write a good cover letter.

This Bomba Estéreo video for "Soy Yo" is guaranteed to make you smile:
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