Ongoing History Daily: Pearl Jam bootleg overload

Back when Pearl Jam was at their height, they had the clout to do anything they wanted. Anything.

On September 26, 2000, the band released 25 double CD live albums—what they referred to as “official bootlegs”—featuring performances from virtually every show they played on European tour in support of their Binaural album. Of those 25, five immediately made the top 200 album chart. This was the first time any act ever saw more than two new albums show up on the chart in the same week.

Two other sets just missed the cut. Had they made the charts that week, Pearl Jam would have joined The Beatles, The Monkees, and U2 as the only acts to that point with seven albums on the charts at the same time.

This was decades before Taylor Swift came along.

© 2023 Corus Radio, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Ongoing History Daily: Babies and live music

A question from new parents: “Should I expose my baby to live music?” The answer is “yes.”

A recent study at the University of Toronto revealed that infants have longer attention spans when experiencing live music. Sure, you might want to give them an iPad to stare at, but that apparently doesn’t work as well as live music. Videos don’t captivate them a whole lot but live music elicits physiological changes like a synchronization of heart rate to the music.

The final conclusion? “Findings suggest that performer–audience interactions and social context play an important role in facilitating attention and coordinating emotional responses to musical performances early in life.”

The big caveat? Volume. The live music cannot be too loud for those delicate little ears.

© 2023 Corus Radio, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Ongoing History Daily: The weirdness of the Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips are certainly unconventional and experimental. One of their weird projects was a very, very long song called “7 skies H3” which, in its original form, ran for 24 hours.

It consisted of several separate pieces, each running anywhere from 25 minutes to seven hours. If that wasn’t enough, just 13 copies were released on flash drives that were encased in actual human skulls. They went on the market (appropriately) on Halloween 2011 and cost $5,000. And yes, they sold them all. If you can’t find your own copy—imagine that—they also set up a website with the song on a continuous loop.

And if you would rather have a physical copy, there is an edited version that runs 50 minutes and was released for Record Store Day 2014.

© 2023 Corus Radio, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Ongoing History Daily: The cruelty of dance marathons

Back in the 1930s during the Great Depression, there was a phenomenon known as the dance marathon. Basically, couples would take up a challenge to see who could remain dancing longer than anyone else. They were held in ballrooms and auditoriums and could continue for not just hours, but days and even weeks.

Spectators paid to watch, too. The longer the marathon went on, the higher the admission price. Couples had to stay in motion continuously resulting in blisters, injuries, and collapse from exhaustion.

Why would anyone subject themselves to such a thing? Like I said, it was during the Depression. Many people signed up for these marathons because it meant food, shelter, and a place to sleep, even if it was just a few minutes an hour. Those who won were given a cash prize. Hey, the Depression was rough. People were willing to do anything to survive.

© 2023 Corus Radio, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Ongoing History Daily: The Ramones vs. cancer

All the original Ramones are no longer with us. While Dee Dee died of a heroin overdose, his three bandmates suffered from different forms of cancer. Joey died of lymphoma. Johnny? Prostate cancer. Tommy suffered from bile duct cancer. Coincidence? Maybe not.

Some suspect these cancers are the result of the conditions of a loft on East 2nd Street where the Ramones rehearsed and printed t-shirts. It was the former home of a plastic flower factory and some believe that the toxic residue left over from the chemicals used in their manufacture. They permeated the entire building.

Oh, and one more thing: Arturo Vega, the Ramones’ art director and the guy who designed and pressed up all those t-shirts in that loft? He also died of cancer.

© 2023 Corus Radio, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

'Spirit of MuchMusic' still alive at doc premiere with former VJs in attendance

While the party died years ago at MuchMusic’s broadcast centre on the corner of Queen and John streets in Toronto, the screening of a new documentary on Friday proved nostalgia for the nation’s music station is still very much alive.

Thousands of people filed into Roy Thomson Hall, only a few blocks away from Much’s former headquarters, to catch the Canadian premiere of 299 Queen Street West, a feature-length look at the legacy of the TV channel.

Joining the crowd were some of Much’s most famous video jockeys, better known as VJs, including Rick Campanelli, Erica Ehm, Sook-Yin Lee and Electric Circus host Monika Deol.

Many of them were stunned by the enthusiasm around their reunion.

“This is surreal,” Campanelli, known to viewers as “Rick the Temp,” said from the red carpet as he surveyed the crowd outside the venue.

“I didn’t expect it to be like this, but in the back of my mind, I sort of was hoping,” he added.

Bill Welychka, who worked as a VJ on the station throughout much of the 1990s, found himself at a loss for words as he reflected on his former job.

“I had no idea the fascination with Much was still there after all these years,” he admitted.

Filmmaker Sean Menard was less surprised than the VJs at the thundering reception. The Hamilton native spent about six years making 299 Queen Street West and mortgaged his house to afford the time to dig through the archives.

He’s confident the enthusiasm felt for Much at Toronto’s screening will be replicated across country when he takes the movie on a Canada-wide roadshow next month.

The MuchMusic Experience Tour pairs a screening of the movie with a conversation between Menard and select VJs, who will take questions from the audience and share memories.

The MuchMusic tour crosses the country with 12 stops that include Montreal (Oct. 17), Halifax (Oct. 25), Calgary (Nov. 1), Vancouver (Nov. 24) and Winnipeg (Nov. 27).

Packed to the brim with archival footage, the two-hour documentary retraces MuchMusic’s origin story, starting around its inception on Aug. 31, 1984.

MuchMusic launched as an unpolished 24-hour music video channel created by Toronto media visionary Moses Znaimer and a team of inexperienced but creative young people.

This was three years after MTV launched in the United States, and the concept of a music video station was no longer new, yet the look and feel of Canada’s version was much different, partly because there was no rule book.

“We were kids in the trunk of the car getting into the drive-in, that’s how it kind of felt,” former VJ Steve Anthony recalled outside the premiere.

The documentary collects the VJ’s memories and presents them entirely in voiceover as the origin story of MuchMusic plays out through footage of the era.

Michael Williams recalls his move from Cleveland to Canada where his do-it-all mindset eventually led to the creation of the Rap City program, while Erica Ehm retells how she was upgraded from a receptionist to a TV personality with no experience.

“They gave me the opportunity to sink or swim, and I certainly sank at the beginning, but they didn’t kick me out,” she says in the film.

299 Queen Street West makes pit stops at some of MuchMusic’s most innovative ideas, from the annual Christmas tree toss to Combat des Clips, the 1-900 viewer-voted music video show.

It also captures some of the channel’s biggest moments, including when the area around the street-level studio was shut down to accommodate rabid fans of the Backstreet Boys for the boy band’s appearance on Intimate & Interactive.

Electric Circus, an in-studio live dance club program, is presented as a guilty pleasure that Canadians couldn’t deny.

“Nobody wanted to admit they watched it,” host Monika Deol says in the documentary.

“And I was like, if nobody is watching this show, how does everybody know who I am?”

In a live panel conversation after the Toronto premiere, Deol returned to defending Electric Circus, which was often ridiculed at the time. She credited the dancers for being the lifeblood of the program.

Denise Donlon, who climbed the ranks from VJ to general manager at MuchMusic, told of a memorable encounter with David Bowie at one edition of the MuchMusic Video Awards.

“I heard him say, ‘This place is chaos,'” she said in a fake British accent. “‘It seems to be run by children.'”

While the documentary is a fulsome account of MuchMusic’s history, some topics are left out, including the channel’s oft-forgotten influence outside of Canada.

There’s no mention of how the MuchOnDemand program, driven by viewers’ music video requests, helped inspire MTV’s Total Request Live or the Much channel’s mid-1990s iteration south of the border called MuchMusic USA.

Sook-Yin Lee said even though time has passed, she believes MuchMusic’s influence remains embedded in the Toronto.

Recently, she walked by the former headquarters  — now home to Bell Media’s offices — and observed a few “wayward young people” snapping photos against the building’s facade.

“That corner is very different now: it’s much more corporate; it’s very much the antithesis of live rock ‘n’ roll … (but) there still resides a little bit of energy.”

“That spirit of MuchMusic,” she added. “It doesn’t ever go away.”

299 Queen Street West will premiere on Bell Media’s Crave streaming service in December.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

Tentative deal with Ford includes largest wage increase in Unifor, CAW history

Unifor says it has reached a tentative deal with Ford Motor Co. that could avoid workers going on strike. The deal was reached after Unifor extended its strike deadline by 24 hours late Monday after receiving what it called a "substantive offer" from Ford. Ahmar Khan reports.

Canadians will learn Sunday whether Unifor members have accepted a tentative deal reached with Ford Motor Co. this week that includes what the union has described as the “single largest negotiated general wage increase in Unifor and CAW history.”

Ratification meetings are being held this weekend with voting closing at 10 a.m. Sunday and results expected “shortly after,” a union spokesperson said.

The deal was reached after Unifor extended its strike deadline by 24 hours late Monday after receiving what it called a “substantive offer” from Ford.

Details of that offer have since been made public and include changes to what Unifor calls its four core priorities: pensions, wages, electric vehicle (EV) transition supports and investment.

Among the highlights of the tentative deal is the first cost of living adjustment (COLA) since 2008, the union says.

Once the COLA fold-in is applied, “members will receive what is an extraordinary 10 per cent general wage increase, effective September 25,” the union says.

Members would see a two per cent wage increase in the second year of the deal and a three per cent wage increase in the final year.

Skilled trades would see additional wage adjustments of 2.75 per cent in year one and 2.5 per cent in year three.

Additionally, the time it takes for those hired after 2012 to reach the prevailing rate of pay has been cut in half from eight years to four. That also means that Unifor members with four to seven years of seniority would automatically be moved up to the top rate of pay upon ratification of the agreement.

The tentative deal also includes special EV transition supports specific to the Oakville assembly complex, which will be undergoing a retooling period. Those supports include employees receiving their Income Maintenance Plan after only one year of seniority instead of five, and Ford repaying members for any EI clawback payments they have to make to the government.

Outside of the Oakville plant, the deal would see members on EI receiving only a portion of their regular weekly earnings topped up to 70 per cent of their regular amount, up from 65 per cent.

For pensions, Unifor says the tentative deal improves pension security for all members “regardless of what plan they are in.” The deal also includes a new special quarterly payment for Unifor retirees, ranging from $125 to $200 depending on when the member retired.

“The matter of gains for retirees was the very last matter discussed at the bargaining table before a deal could be reached,” a union statement says.

“It was among the reasons for the union’s extended deadline.”

The tentative deal also includes a commitment from the automaker “to no closures of our facilities over the life of the agreement.” The deal also sees Ford reconfirm its plans to transform the Oakville plant into the Oakville Electric Vehicle Complex.

Negotiations with Ford are expected to set expectations for what workers will get in contracts from General Motors and Stellantis, the other members of the so-called “Detroit Three” group of major automakers in Canada and the U.S.

Unifor represents about 5,600 Canadian autoworkers and was pushing for higher wages and job protection for its members.

Negotiations began last month for a new contract to replace the old collective agreement, which expired on Monday. Union members had voted overwhelmingly for a strike to begin at midnight Tuesday if a new deal wasn’t reached.

That strike deadline was extended by 24 hours after the latest offer from Ford was presented late Monday.

The tentative deal was reached as an autoworkers strike in the United States against the Detroit Three companies approaches the one-week mark.

With files from The Canadian Press. 

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Police investigating suspicious fire in Kitchener, Ont.

A fire in the Laurentian Hills area of Kitchener is being deemed suspicious.

Emergency crews were called to an area of Westmount Road East and Ottawa Street South Friday night around 11:20 p.m.

Firefighters arrived to find two dumpsters and a wooden structure in flames.

The blaze was quickly extinguished but it did cause some damage.

An investigation is underway by Waterloo Regional Police into the cause of the fire.

They are asking those who may have witnessed the incident or have security or dashcam footage to give them a call at 519-570-9777 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.


© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Toronto police seeking suspect who allegedly lifted the shirts of two young girls

Toronto police are looking for a suspect who, in two separate instances, lifted the clothing of an eight-year-old girl, in one case taking a picture before fleeing.

Police say they responded to the first incident on Tuesday around 9:30 a.m. at Lawrence West Station.

While an eight-year-old girl was exiting a bus, her path was blocked by a middle-aged man who then grabbed her sweater and lifted it up, police say.

Police say the girl’s mother intervened and the man fled the area.

Later in the week, police responded to a similar incident in the area of Duplex and Glencairn avenues.

Investigators say a suspect, believed to be the same man, approached another eight-year-old girl walking her dog and asked to pet the animal.

He then bent down and allegedly lifted the victim’s shirt, exposing her stomach, before a family member yelled at the man and pushed the girl’s shirt back down.

Despite the family member’s intervention, the man pulled the girl’s shirt up again, this time taking a picture before fleeing, police say.

Police have released images of the suspect, wanted for two instances of sexual assault.

He’s described as 40-50 years old and between five-feet-seven-inches and five-feet-eight-inches tall.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

What's behind 'mounting tensions' in the Indian diaspora in Canada?

India's alleged involvement in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar mirrors what many in B.C.'s Sikh community have suspected for months. Kamil Karamali looks at the community's demands for clarity, how Nijjar's family hasn't been kept updated on the investigation and what the Indian government has previously said about Nijjar.

As a city of tents sprang up outside India’s capital city New Delhi in December 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waded into a debate around protests taking place halfway across the world.

From Ottawa, he promised that Canada would “always stand up” for the right to peacefully protest.

“We believe in the importance of dialogue and that’s why we have reached out through multiple means directly to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns,” he said.

Trudeau was responding to concerns among Canada’s significant Sikh diaspora that the Indian government was cracking down on farmers protesting a new agricultural policy. His comments were met with a sharp reaction from India, where the government summoned the Canadian ambassador over the issue.

This diplomatic spat made headlines, and was just one example of how the effects of domestic politics and policies in India are spurring frustrations, fear and what one expert called “mounting tensions” among members of the diaspora communities in Canada.

And in the days since Trudeau rose in the House of Commons saying Canadian authorities are investigating “potential links” between agents of the Indian government and the murder of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, there has been renewed focus on the challenges of negotiating an evolving relationship with India.

In particular, how should Canada navigate ties with an aspiring global superpower in the years since the Indian farmers’ movement galvanized the diaspora?

In 2020 and 2021, Indian farmers, mostly led by Sikh farmers from the northern state of Punjab, camped outside of New Delhi for over a year. They were demanding the repeal of a series of laws they said gave greater control to giant corporations over farming.

Meanwhile, thousands of people took part in solidarity marches in Canadian cities.

Major cities like Toronto and Vancouver saw members of the Sikh diaspora leading protests, with an indefinite sit-in outside the Indian high commission. Canadian politicians from Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to then-Conservative leader Erin O’Toole expressed solidarity with protesters.

“I think diaspora communities have always cared about politics at home,” said Sanjay Ruparelia, Jarislowsky Democracy Chair at Toronto Metropolitan University.

The Indian diaspora in Canada has been divided, between those who are ardent supporters of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and those who oppose him.

“Many would describe him (Modi) as a polarizing figure,” Ruparelia said. “Those who support him support him avidly. They champion him and think of him as the greatest leader post-independence India has had. Those who oppose him oppose both his government, his actions, but also the ideology of the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”

Those divisions in India, particularly along religious lines, have made their way into the diaspora.

“Members of the Sikh community say that the divisive politics is what they have been confronted with, that they are trying to resist, and that is feeding into the conflict. And I think that’s the worrying thing as we see there’s mounting tensions within the Indian diaspora,” Ruparelia said.

Prominent political voices in India have also criticized Trudeau for what they call “vote-bank politics” and have accused Canada of not taking concerns around “Khalistani extremists” operating on Canadian soil seriously.

On Wednesday, the Indian government issued an advisory for Indian nationals in Canada in view of “growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada” and Indian media reports have said “anti-India slogans” and slogans against Modi were written on the walls of some Hindu temples in Canada.

Just days before Nijjar’s murder, a Sikh parade in Brampton, Ont., displayed a flotilla on the assassination of former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi, India’s first and only female prime minister, was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984 after she ordered an attack on the Golden Temple. She had said that Sikh militants were camped out in the Golden Temple, which is one of Sikhism’s most revered sites.

The Indian government reacted sharply, saying this was not good for the relationship between the countries.

Canada’s ambassador in India, Cameron MacKay, was quick to condemn the parade.

“There is no place in Canada for hate or for the glorification of violence. I categorically condemn these activities.”

But many diaspora groups say the growing tensions reflect bigger worries about influence in Canadian society and politics.

In particular, some groups have pointed to Hindu nationalism, which promotes the idea that India is essentially a nation of and for Hindus. Groups and individuals associated with the ideology have been implicated in violence against minorities. Experts believe there has been a rise in such violence, particularly aimed at Muslims, since Modi took office in 2014.

Human Rights Watch, in its 2023 World Report, said about India, “The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government continued its systematic discrimination and stigmatization of religious and other minorities, particularly Muslims. BJP supporters increasingly committed violent attacks against targeted groups.”

In one such example last month, a railway police officer in India shot dead three Muslim passengers and his superior officer. He proclaimed that only those who supported Modi had a right to stay in India.

“Over the past year, diasporic South Asian and other civil society organizations have been sounding alarm bells and calling on the Trudeau government and the opposition to pay heed to the dangerous build-up of support for the Hindu ethnonationalism of the current government of India on Canadian soil. But these alerts have gone unheeded,” a statement prepared by the South Asian Diaspora Action Collective (SADAC), and signed by several other organizations, said.

SADAC pointed to several incidents they say indicate a growing Hindu nationalist sentiment in Canada, including allegations of death threats against a Toronto filmmaker.

In November last year, a Liberal MP also faced questions and concerns from some activists for attending an event raising a flag associated with the far-right organization Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

The group is closely associated with Modi and his party and has been criticized for its views on minorities, particularly Muslims, in India.

A member of the group assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, and the BBC last year described the group as ” the ideological fountainhead of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”

In March, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the World Sikh Organization (WSO) issued a joint report that said the RSS was actively operating on Canadian soil, as well as in the U.S. and Europe.

That report, which stressed that the RSS’s ideologies “in no way represents the diversity of the hundreds of millions of Hindus who have no interest in adopting the Hindutva ideology,” urged policymakers to pay attention.

“The presence of this supremacist ideology in Canada is deeply concerning,” the report said.

“It is thus time for Canadians to carefully study and track the growth of a movement that disseminates hate here in Canada.”

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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