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Discussion, listening critical in disarming extremism, sexism: TEDxCalgary speakers




A sea of ideas washed over the University of Calgary campus on Nov. 3 at TEDxCalgary — an independently-organized TED event. The event’s Navigators series featured 16 speakers who are pursuing the next wave in their fields and addressing societal problems with their research.

Dr. Barbara Perry is a social science professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and the director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism. She researches far-right extremist groups and wants to boost public awareness about what she describes as an escalating movement.

The far-right is what we think of as skinheads and neo-Nazis, Perry said.

“Their black jackets and their boots and all of that. That’s the image that we have of the far-right — and there’s still a lot of those characters around,” she said, mentioning groups such as the Soldiers of Odin and the Three Percenters.

Perry said members of the far-right tend to be younger and disenfranchised in some way, either unemployed or underemployed.

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Aside from similar nationalistic and exclusionary messaging, the alt-right is a bit different, she said.

“I class the ‘old right’ as the shock troops and the ‘alt-right’ as the intelligentsia,” Perry said. “So these are the ideas people. They’re much, much smoother in presentation and much more professional, and trying to sanitize the movement in some respects.”

She said the alt-right tends to include older, middle-class, well-employed, polished and even preppy people, like the Proud Boys. The alt-right is a “cult of personalities,” often characterized more by individuals — like Ezra Levant, Faith Goldy and Steve Bannon — instead of groups, she explained.

“It puts me in mind of in the ’80s [when] the grand wizard of the KKK said, ‘Throw off your white hoods and put on your business suits.’ And so now, it’s like, ‘Take off your black jackets and put on the sports shirts.’”

Why now?

But why are extremist movements gaining traction now? It’s a perfect storm — one that was brewing before U.S. President Donald Trump’s rhetoric dominated the news cycle, Perry said.

In the Canadian context, there has been a move to the right around anti-immigrant sentiment and Islamophobia, Perry said, citing Stephen Harper’s niqab debate in the 2015 election, Kellie Leitch’s Canadian values screening proposal, and former Quebec premier Pauline Marois’ policy and rhetoric.

“[These groups] have been able to exploit, obviously, Trumpism and his messaging, but also the crises we’re experiencing here — as they’ve been constructed — around immigration and the entry of refugees and irregular migrants,” Perry said. “So they can exploit that, and twist it and turn it in a way that makes them look like a threat, whether it’s to culture or economics or even our security. So they’re really masters at twisting reality in many ways.”

Dr. Barbara Perry is a social science professor at University of Ontario Institute of Technology and the director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism. She has been researching far-right extremist groups and wants to boost public awareness about the movement.

Courtesy: TedxCalgary

Perry’s graduate students are working on digital interventions against hateful speech, and she said that like them, unpacking the mythology behind the movement is what the public needs to do, too.

“We need to force these groups and these demagogues to unpack their facts. ‘Where’s your evidence?’” Perry said.

For example, when people overgeneralize and say migrants are criminals, Perry argues that we need to challenge these claims with counter-evidence. Perry said most data shows new Canadians are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crime.

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However, Perry acknowledges that people attempting to challenge such claims are better off having conversations in neutral environments than at partisan events like political rallies.

“It’s not the extremes we need to bring together, it’s what some people call the mushy middle who are either apathetic or not really engaged or not really following,” Perry said. “How do we get them engaged and how do we get them to places where we can have those conversations? I think that there are creative ways to do that: framing it in terms of an arts venue or an arts opportunity that’s appealing to more people than just talking heads.”

Extremism comes in many forms

A grant led Perry “into the fray” researching hate disseminated from extremist groups, and her experience has now become a call to action for both policy-makers and the public.

“I was getting frustrated by this obsession with Islamist-inspired extremism and the failure to take account of any other form,” Perry said.

“My core thesis is: it’s a dangerous mistake to discount the risks associated with the far-right as we’ve done ad nauseam,” she added.

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Perry wants to get across what these groups look like and what they’re doing, especially since they can come in many forms.

“You can’t just identify them by looking at them anymore. It’s much more insidious in that respect,” she said. “Even in terms of the messaging, it’s hard to pick it apart — ‘What really is your position?’ So I think it’s about enhancing our critical literacy, as well, especially among youth because that’s really who their targets are.”

Many factors combine to create an extremist, Perry said.

“It’s about the individual. It’s often about where they are regionally in the country, what the politics are there, what the economics are in the area,” Perry said.

“The one common thread is social media, the ease of access to these messages and the power of those messages, depending on how they’re framed and represented,” she added.

Dr. Jessalynn Keller, assistant professor of critical media studies at the University of Calgary, says we need to listen to young people.

Kaylen Small/Global News

Dr. Jessalynn Keller, assistant professor of critical media studies at the University of Calgary, spoke at the conference about navigating girls’ culture in the complex online world.

“We need to listen to girls,” she said. “Girls are political activists and smart and are doing great work around different feminist issues [like rape culture, the Me Too movement and sexual violence.]

“They, I think, have the answers to move us forward and to change the culture that we’re living in.”

As a ’90s teen, Keller was drawn to the Riot grrrl subculture that embraced a political identity, which eventually led her from a master’s to a doctorate.

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Keller said the U.S Supreme Court Kavanaugh hearing highlighted young girls’ activism in confronting rape culture.

“Girls are seeing what happened to Dr. [Christine Blasey] Ford and are saying, ‘We don’t want to be in a world where that happens. How can we change that?’” Keller said. “Well, we can start teaching boys about consent when they’re 13 years old so that there is no confusion. We can start changing the dress code policies so we don’t have these ingrained ideas that girls’ bodies are distracting to boys or that girls are just sexualized objects for boys to look at, so changing things when people are young enough to actually learn new ideas because we’re not going to change these old guys’ minds. When these young people grow up, we will be able to vote them into office, and that’s how society changes.

“Focusing our energy on [senators] and perpetrators, I think our energies are misguided… We need to redirect our energy to young people which are providing some solutions to eradicate rape culture, to actually move Me Too forward, but we’re seeing pushback against these progressive movements that young people are really spearheading.

“I don’t think we’re going to change the minds of 90-year-old, white, male senators, but we can change things from the bottom up and that’s working with young people,” she added.

Social media plus traditional protests

Keller said girls are leading conversations around curriculum about consent, dress codes and attitudes around girls and boys to create a more equitable society.

In 2015, Toronto teens protested the dress code and used social media to start “Crop Top Day.”

“There was a lot of adult pushback to this, ‘These girls — why are they getting all worked up over a silly crop top? You should just be glad you don’t have to wear a burka.’ Racist comments like that. ‘No one’s going to take you seriously in a crop top.’”

Keller said the students got hailed with sexist, racist and classist comments online, mentioning the additional barriers some with multiple identities face when delving into the online abyss. Crop Top Day was both a social media movement and a traditional protest, with students of all genders rallying outside the school.

“This is not about a crop top, and the girls articulated very clearly in their Twitter responses, ‘This is not about a crop top but it is about rape culture,’” Keller said.

Dr. Jessalynn Keller, assistant professor of critical media studies at the University of Calgary, says we need to listen to young people.

Courtesy: TedxCalgary

Using social media as an activism tool educates people on issues, allows connections with like-minded peers, and lets people organize themselves, Keller said. It’s also a tool for exploring one’s identity — “doing things teens have always done, but just in different formats.”

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Keller stressed that social media is only one aspect of the story.

“Their protest is being mediated in a new way. They may be connecting with a larger pool of people because of the scope of social media and the speed of it, but there’s this precedent for this idea [and activism].”

“The ideas are the same,” Keller said, explaining how in the 1970s, women gathered in someone’s living room to discuss their experiences with household violence — akin to Me Too’s developments.

Stop, collaborate and listen

In an “adult-oriented society,” we often don’t take young people’s activism seriously or think they aren’t interested in politics, Keller said, adding that we tend to infantilize teens, especially girls. She said it’s no surprise girls would advocate for dress codes or curriculum because it affects their daily lives.

“They’re not going to be advocating for equal pay at this point in their lives; they’re not employees yet,” Keller said. “They’re not going to advocate for maternity leave or for these adult feminist causes. They’re going to advocate for changing their experiences as girls in their local context, which is the school.”

Generation Z — Online, connected and set on fixing the world

Keller said people need to have conversations with young people in their lives, taking their views seriously, and to pay attention to youth culture. In a large-scale American example, March for Our Lives saw young people collaborating and driving the gun-control campaign where Keller said adults did a “fairly good job” of stepping back.

Allow kids to tell us what they want to see change, she said.

“Keep your ears open, talk to young people and don’t assume you’re the expert because you’re an adult,” she said. “Take a step back and let the young person speak. And don’t assume it’s your job to give voice to a young person. Young people already have voices.”

Audience reaction

TEDxCalgary curators said the conference is about tackling problems by educating people on a local level. The talks aren’t the complete answer. Instead, speakers help the crowd understand the current situation and provide insight into how to proceed more wisely.

“It’s really to give people that basic idea and inspiration to say, ‘This is important. I agree it’s important and I’ve been given tangible things I can wrap my head around and go out on my own journey of discovery and figure that out.’ So it’s planting that idea,” said Jonathan Perkins, CEO and co-founder of TEDxCalgary.

Four hundred people attended the conference, some sharing their experiences online.

Twitter user Kamil Kanji included Perry in a tweet that thanked speakers for the inspiration and “left [her] with so many thoughts that have changed [her] perspective on our current day society.”

Natasha Karim tweeted praise about Keller’s talk.

“Always amazing to hear about her work on girl activism and the importance of paying attention to the voices of girls in order address the issues that we face as a society,” she said.

On Facebook, Taunya Zipse said the event was incredible.

“I appreciate how encouraging our host was for the audience to participate. To engage in discussions,” she wrote. “I left feeling expanded and having had perspective shifts.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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