I’m baaaack.

Hello Friends!

It has been an obscenely long time since I last blogged and I really don’t know why.  I say I don’t have time but the enjoyment I get from writing doesn’t allow that to be a big enough excuse.  I guess I feel like I haven’t had a whole lot to write about, because this isn’t a rant and who wants to read about book reviews and the courses I’m taking.  Then I realized, if you are reading this, you are doing so of your own free will and if you continue to read you are doing so because you enjoy.  And if you do not then it doesn’t matter what I write about anyways.  I may rant on occasion, but that’s not the theme of my life and I don’t want it to become the theme of my life.  SO, I trudge onward and offer you my latest piece…

Foreword (to the foreword…you’ll see):

I have been taking a sociology course as my elective this semester and it has really made me wish there was a place in the ‘real’ world for sociology because I enjoy it so much and would have loved to study it more.  It is so interesting studying this world and the social constructs we so willingly accept, and take for granted. This particular course was about ‘the city’ and how the physicalities of the city infer certain social constructs.  For this assignment I had to observe a public space and analyze the different physical aspects and how they force our socialization to and around them.  I wrote my professor a foreword, which is what I will share with you (the entire paper is far too long and boring).  Enjoy!

 

I had a rather difficult time settling on a space to observe and analyze; I frequent many of these public spaces however I did not feel particularly inspired by any of them.  Until last night.  My family and I had some out of town relatives for dinner and we were sitting around, discussing life, reminiscing of the small town they grew up in and our conversation turned to the ‘bookmobile’ that still drives around town, acting as a mobile extension of the public library.  Every single person (there were seven of us) became completely engaged in the conversation, sharing passionate memories of favourite books and time spent over the years at ‘the’ library.  ‘The’ because I did not grow up in the same town as my parents and their families but I still have fond memories of my own library and how influential it was on my life.  Several of us now have e-readers which have introduced us to a completely different type of ‘library’. But the fact that we were referring to different libraries did not matter at all because the commonality was shared in the fact that the library was always just ‘the library’.  This is opposite of Louis Wirth’s observations, as described in the editor’s introduction to “Urbanism a Way of Life”, because he is attempting to substantiate the many causal observers that note “sharp personality differences between urban and rural people” (Kasinitz, 1994, pp 58). There may be personality differences, but at the core we share these vital similarities.

It became apparent that we are all fervent readers, each of us telling the others they just have to read the book we just finished.  It was just over this summer that I remembered how much I love reading.  Ever since I started in post-secondary school, my excuse for not reading as often was because I figured if I was reading something it should be something I’m studying for.  I realize now reading for pleasure is just as important as taking a break from studying.  This epiphany made my selection for me: the library.  Of course I should observe the library!  Without even stepping into it, it infers so many different things to different people.  The institution of the library has such a special place in the city however it is becoming less and less appreciated, which is the saddest part of all.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the library in use – many people were scattered about, mostly young adults, some in small study groups, others reading by a window.  It was so lovely to see this public space alive with energy… that is, as energetic as a library can be.  With all these people and this big open space, it somehow manages to still remain so quiet.  And that is where I will begin this analysis…

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The Omega

Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief  Ω

It always saddens me to hear that a young person has taken his or her own life.

But for some reason it always makes me less sad than angry.

I decided to explore why that is — why sorrow isn’t the primary emotion I feel when I hear that another child has taken their own life, and anger fills me instead.

I think maybe it’s because when I hear that a child couldn’t take any more taunting, harassment, physical or emotional attacks or other form of abuse, the blame is always misplaced.

We blame a concept.

“Bullying” is to blame for this, we say.

But for some reason we don’t go back further and explore why the bullying is happening in the first place.

Instead we shake our fists in the air and cry, “stop the bullying!” and mourn the loss of another child.

The bullying…

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It’s a little something called GIRL POWER.

I had the absolute pleasure of spending this second day of the new year with some outstanding lady friends of mine.  And it made me realize just how lucky I am to have such a strong network of girlfriends.  In a world where pay equity is still an issue and I have to be considered privileged to be allowed drive to the mall.  Alone. I am feeling truly blessed and euphorically lucky to be surrounded by such strong women.

I find that many of my close friendships have been separated by distance, be it time constraints or geography.  However the silver lining to this misfortune is that each time I am reunited with these friends we have been graced by the power of a cosmic connection (or something…) and it is as if no time has passed or distance separated.  Today I feel completely revitalized after a wild holiday season and I am truly warmed by the love of the friends I have gotten to catch up with.  This is dedicated to all the ladies that make me smile.  You are all one in a million and I do not have the opportunity to say it as often as I like so I want you all to know you have touched my soul in different ways and I will carry that handprint always.  During this time of renewel and reflection, I have come to really appreciate the power of a good girlfriend and you are all that to me. So thank you and I wish you all the best for this new year.

Na Na Na, Come On: A Binary Analysis

Sadomasochism.  A word, in itself, that suggests binary meaning.  And a perfectly delicious inspiration for a Barbadian pop singer’s next single.  Rihanna’s “S&M” is dripping with symbolism of the binary sort, however a few terms prominently weave their way through each frame.  The binary “Us vs Them” is representative of her relationship with the media; taking them on and addressing recent issues that have come up in the press.  “Master vs Slave” and “Masculine vs Feminine” cross over in many aspects, mostly when observing the “master” character Rihanna portrays, as many of her actions are “masculine”.  Additionally, the “Pure vs Corrupted” binary is seen from many angles.  They include two opposing characters RIhanna plays, the notes the reporters take, and an overflow into Rihanna’s real life and her personal and professional development.  Rihanna’s “S&M” video reinforces the binaries of “Master vs Slave” and “Us vs Them” through resisting the binary of purity and expressing herself in a corrupt way.  She has taken over her battle against the media and become the master, disallowing herself of reaming a slave to her own image, perpetuated by “them”.

Rihanna hit the music scene in 2004 just after turning 16.  Her first single was a pop-reggae song called “Pon de Replay” (Billboard).  Her first album was marketed as a reggae album with Jay Z’s Def Jam Records and received only mixed reviews (Reid and Paco).  Her second album brought RIhanna her first number 1 single, “SOS” and three subsequent successes.  She left on her first headlining tour in 2006 (Lyons).  After this, she wanted to head in a new direction with her music and style and distinguish herself apart from the person she was most being compared to: Beyonce.  In 2007, she released her third album Good Girl Gone Bad and cut her innocent long locks off to sport a new, edgier bob cut.  After her second album was released, critics heavily compared RIhanna to Beyonce in every aspect from musical style to physical image (Taylor).  After Rihanna cut her hair and rebelled against her music label’s executives, it was as if she had broken through and really began to represent a personality in herself.  Tracey Lomrantz of Glamour magazine commented, “If style risks could be measured in miles, Rihanna would have criss-crossed the globe a thousand times over.”  Fast forward several number 1 singles and a few Grammys later and we have a whole new Rihanna, a whole new set of media-propelled issues and the “S&M” music video.

“Us vs Them” is the first binary that becomes obvious to viewers when watching this video.  The “us” is represented by Rihanna and her leather-clad S&M-accessorized posse in a “fun” room and “them” are the reporters documenting her behaviour.

Rihanna is dragged in and constrained by “them” to be placed in front of more “them”, reporters.  There is deep symbolism in this scene, representing her turmoil relationship with the media.  The words on her dress, the words on the newspaper background, and the words on the reporters’ pads of paper all address her past and how the media has portrayed her.

 

“Bad Boys” alludes to her relationship with Chris Brown and the domestic violence between them.  “Domestic violence” is a term found on the newspaper wall, again alluding to the Chris Brown incident. “Daddy Issues” is a suggestion as to why she acts the way she does as her father was a crack cocaine addict and most recently sold childhood photos of her to the press.  Needless to say, they do not have a good relationship. Other terms seen in these frames include “Sex Tape?”, “Princess”, “Bitch”, “Slut”, and “Illuminati”.  There have been theories put forth that her music videos contain mind-controlling images that suggest Rihanna is a member of the secret society, Illuminati. This is her response and taking back control of what is said about her.  She does not want to be in the “them” category, but turn the tables and make herself dominant against the media.

“Master vs Slave” is not only a symbolic binary for Rihanna’s career but the epitome of any S&M relationship.  There are several slave and master situations in this video.  There are several slave and master situations in this video.

We see Perez Hilton, celebrity blogger, bound up.  Perez Hilton was a bully to celebrities in his blog as most of his posts were critical of celebrities’ work and behaviour.  He recently saw the error of his ways and now sticks to factual blogging, but he did manage to get in a few pieces of Rhi-Rhi bashing before his epiphany.  Although he said in an interview with MTV that filming the music video was “all fun and he was so flattered” (Hilton q. In Vena), I’m sure Rihanna enjoyed getting back at him a bit by strapping him up in leather and whipping his little tush as he crawled across the lawn. Not only does this blatant master/slave imagery reinforce Rihanna as the dominant character but using such a prominent person from her enemy group of the media makes it that much stronger.  Rihanna is now literally, visually, the master of a blogger who formerly tormented her.  That is turning the tables around!

In terms of her masculinity, the frame pops out of the screen:  In this scene, Rihanna is thrusting her pelvis into the pelvis of the man or woman standing in front of her.  Traditionally, in this sex position, a man would be where Rihanna is standing due to the necessity of having a penis to insert into the person bent over.  More subtly, traditionally, women were intended to be the quieter, more subdued and polite sex, often led by the man and supposed to remain one step behind.  This video busts that theory right out the door, with numerous images of the women, not only Rihanna, being in control.

Additionally, Rihanna is anything but subdued with many frames taking up her whole face right in the camera.  S&M has generally been an outlet for women to take on a masculine persona as it is usually the woman in the dominant position and the male being submissive.

The entirety of the video is resisting the binary of purity and exploiting the want and need to act corrupt, or crude.  The first frame seen in the entire video is just Rihanna’s head, a bright red afro with a little crown tilted to the side.  This could be her addressing the term “princess”, assigned to her by the media, but it also quite resembles Magenta, the maid from The Rocky Horror Picture Show- in itself, counter culture.

  

Throughout the entire video she is performing corrupt or “crude” acts, which represents her evolution from sweet 16 year old singer to edgy, successful, young adult performer.  She has gagged the reporters with ball gags and later tortures them in her lair of corruption.

She is proving to them this is who she really is and she wants to get back at them for tormenting her- perhaps the reason she has become corrupt? Her payback is to corrupt them in return.

The binaries and images in this video, paired with the background on Rihanna’s growth as a professional lead to the conclusion that the overlying ideology is anti-conformity.  Rihanna did not want to become the next Beyonce when she was first brought on the scene, so she rebelled.  Now, she will not become what the media wants her to become.  She is an adventurous and fearless leader in music and fashion and refuses to conform and follow the trend.  She continuously changes her image, with incredible use of her hair, leaving us only to think: How Cool?!

Sources:

“Artist Chart History — Rihanna”. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.

Lomrantz, Tracey. “Rihanna’s White Suit And Leopard Top Combo: A Do Or A Don’t?”. Glamour: (May 7, 2009)

Lyons, Beverley. “Scots Date For Dolls”. Dailyrecord.co.uk.: September 8, 2006

Reid, Shaheem and Matt Paco. “Jay-Z’s Picks: Teairra Mari, Rihanna and Ne-Yo”. MTV News.

Taylor, Amina. “Move over, Beyoncé”. The Guardian: November 25, 2005

Vena, Jocelyn. “Rihanna’s ‘S&M’ Video Recalls Madonna”. MTV, retrieved: April 12, 2011

House Music is a Feeling…

The “Summer of Love”. The first idea that pops into one’s head after hearing or reading that title is likely Woodstock; or hippies, San Francisco, Free Love, and many other terms associated with the music and free spirited performers and festival-goers that participated in that infamous outdoor music festival during the summer of 1969.  It need not a grand introduction.  However, the “Second Summer of Love” might seem a bit more obscure.  This summer was a few decades later in 1988 when electronic music and rave culture burst onto the UK music and social scene (Reynolds). It quickly spread through the rest of Europe and other countries including Canada and the United States.  Most recently creating an upsurge on the Asian mainstream, particularly in Tokyo (McClure). It is vital to be aware of the cross-cultural influence house music has.  It’s roots began in the UK, it’s musical development was heavily influenced by DJs in the United States, and the mecca of everything house is Ibiza, Spain. Electronic music started as the counter-culture party scene and has recently begun to establish its place in the mainstream; gradually, and unconsciously, distancing itself from the previously implied association with drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines and emphasizing the love, enjoyment, and appreciation of great music.

Raves emerged in the late 1980’s in Manchester, UK and quickly spread to London.  They ranged from small underground parties with as little as thirty people to massive crowds of tens of thousands in sports stadiums and open air venues (Farley).  In the beginning of their popularity, they were quite secretive, after-hours parties intended to reduce their exposure to the broad public and law enforcement, especially.  This is why the term “underground” is associated with early raves, as they were surrounded with secrecy and restricted access (U.S. Department of Justice).  Secrecy was required due to the prevalent use of drugs such as MDMA (ecstasy/amphetamine), cocaine, and LSD.  These drugs were interrelated with the early scene as an integral part of the dance culture. MDMA is common within the raving world due to the combination of effects it has on the body and the music and lighting used at raves.  MDMA is a mood lifting drug, which causes euphoric feelings and “increased awareness and appreciation” (Erowid) of music, tactile sensation, light, and smells (Erowid).  Djs and promoters enhance the experience by incorporating bright light shows, changes in tempo, volume, and bass of the music and providing sweet drinks and fruits to rave-goers (U.S. Department of Justice).

By the early 1990’s, raves were common throughout Europe and started emerging in North America.  Teenagers took over the scene, rather than the young adults who had been participating earlier on.  This led to events becoming highly promoted and less secretive to capitalize off the profitability potential of this popular activity (U.S. Department of Justice). Later in the 1990’s, when locations were kept to secrecy, it was more so for the tradition and novelty rather than necessity.

Dance music “roots lie firmly in the United States” (Tong) with large influence from DJ Frankie Knuckles and Chicago club, the Warehouse.  However, in the US the scene was heavily concentrated in Chicago, New York and Detroit rather than spread across the whole country (Tong).  The UK and greater Europe was where dance music “took over mainstream ‘90s youth culture” (Tong).  Even though DJs found success in the UK, they only came to the States to do “big festival shows.  They didn’t build the foundations by touring” (Tong) and record companies did not take this genre seriously.  House music really took a turn into mainstream when online file sharing became popular with sites such as Napster.  Electronic music was already entwined with technology and “DJs have always been among the earliest adopters of new media” (Tong).  This genre most easily shifted into the virtual world of music.  The success of online music retailer, Beatport, has greatly influenced the popularity of electronic music, with Canadian DJ Deadmau5 being one of the first acts to break out through online music retail (Tong).  Electronic music is now embraced by major events and festivals in cities all around the world including Coachella (California, US), Ultra Music Festival (Florida, US) Bal en Blanc (Montreal, Canada), Love Parade (Berlin, Germany), numerous gay pride festivals, and the summer home of everything electronica: Ibiza, Spain.

Love Parade, Berlin, Germany (what aren’t trees are people).

The new image of raving is not so much about the allure of the forbidden or taboo and many legitimate clubs aim to recreate the feeling of the original raves, such as Ministry of Sound in London, UK (Farley).  The ideology of this pastime is shifting from counterculture/drug-culture to “deejay culture” (Silver q. In Farley).  Emphasis is being put on big name DJs, like 80‘s rock stars. The new faces and sounds of electronic music are coming forth. DJs such as A-trak, Chromeo and MSTRKRFT are making big names for themselves after flying under the radar for years (Mason).  “The figure of the superstar DJ- holding court over thousands at gigs worldwide, yet never able to make anything stick at retail…is fading” (Mason).  The days of the “globetrotting” (Mason) DJ is being replaced by artists that do it all, meaning, “DJ, play live, produce, remix, endorse- and who crave broad appeal” (Mason).  This is how and why electronic music is becoming a piece of mainstream music. DJs must be dynamic to keep up with the next best track, and also be the one producing that next best track. Conversely, many mainstream artists are starting to incorporate dance music into their sound.  At 2009’s Ultra Music Festival in South Beach Miami, many unconventional duos of artists played together such as “Timbaland and Paul Van Dyk…Will.I.Am [from the Black Eyed Peas]…with David Guetta…Tiesto…and Nelly Furtado” (Mason).  The biggest name to infiltrate the pop scene is French DJ David Guetta.  His 2009 release of One Love took him from popular DJ, within that genre, to international Grammy-winning superstar. Since then he has worked with Rihanna, the Black-Eyed Peas, Kelly Rowland, LMFAO, and Estelle.  Most recently, house music bass tracks and sounds can be heard in top 40 hits: Britney Spears’ “‘Til the World Ends”, J-Lo featuring Pitbull, “On the Floor” and Enrich Eglasias’ featuring Ludacris’ “Tonight”.

From Left: Chris Willis, David Guetta, Fergie, LMFAO (Background)

Advertisers have seen this shift and taken advantage of its huge popularity.  Toyota sponsored a U.S. Tour of house duo Groove Armada, U.S. DJ/Producer Moby has licensed his 1999 album “Play” to movies and commercials, and DKNY used “John Digweed’s song ‘Heaven Sent’ to promote a fragrance with the same [sounding] name, ‘Heaven Scent’” (Farley).  Advertisers hone in to underground movements quickly, “so that they can make use of sounds and images that aren’t necessarily familiar but that pique interest” (Farley).

Felix da Housecat’s Remix of Nina Simone “Sinnerman”

Ravers, the insiders, are “wary and weary” (Farley) of the media’s, the outsiders, “embrace” of this culture and many believe press coverage is partly to blame for the ecstasy boom.  However, some of the biggest acts in electronic music say they are drug free.  German DJ Paul Van Dyk, number 6 DJ on DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs list (DJ Mag) was “introduced to electronic music in East Germany when he secretly tuned into West German radio as a kid” (Farley) and appreciated it the same as he does now so feels no need to alter that with drugs (Farley).  Ben Wilke, a 17-year old raver says he goes, “to dance and have a good time…A lot of people don’t understand it, but the guitar thing’s been done.  Electronic music is all I listen to.  It beats my heart” (Wilke q. In Farley).  Many ravers feel the same way.  There is a bizarre emotional connection people have to house music that keeps them coming back year after year.  Many of the yearly dance events, such as Montreal’s Bal en Blanc, find groups of old friends that that have been going together for years, or others that now only have the opportunity see each other during that one night affair.  It is a kind of community that is formed within the house music genre.  Popular British DJ Grant Nelson released a DJ-tool in 2006 entitled “Seasons of Jack”:

In the beginning there was Jack/And Jack had a groove/

And from this groove came the groove of all grooves/And

while one day viciously soaring down on his box/ Jack only

declared: LET THERE BE HOUSE/And house music was born/

I am, you see, I am the creator/And this is my house/And in

my house there is only house music/But I am not so selfish

because once you enter my house it then becomes our house/

And our house music/And you see, no one man owns house

because house music is a universal language spoke and

understood by all/You see, house is a feeling, and no one can

understand, really, unless you’re deep into the vibe of house.

(Nelson)

This clever adjustment of a Christian view on how the earth was created emphasizes the deep connection people feel to house music.  It is more than a genre of music they listen to, it encompasses their life; their experiences, emotions and relationships are defined in the music they listen to, relate to, and experience with all senses.

Electronic is truly the music heard and felt around the world.  It is able to unite different genres by incorporating musical elements from a variety of origins and appeal to a broad audience.  It is very much like an ongoing summer of love, spreading the appreciation for good music, good vibes and occasionally, good drugs as it flows from rave to rave, party to party, club to club. It’s ideology may be rooted in counterculture but it has shifted to one of of inclusion and optimism.

Works Cited

Erowid. “MDMA: Effects.” Erowid.org. Web. 9 April 2009 at http://www.erowid.org/ chemicalsmdma/mdma_effects.shtml

Farley, Christopher John. “Rave new world: it’s more than just ecstasy. The youth culture is in thrall to deejays and floats on the relentless beat of electronic music.” Time Canada 5 June 2000: cover,42-4. Pop Culture eCollection. Web. 14 Mar. 2011.

Mason, Kerri. “Upstarts at the party: a changing of the guard at the Winter Music Conference.” Billboard 18 Apr. 2009: 31. Pop Culture eCollection. Web. 14 Mar. 2011.

McClure, Steve. “Techno emerges from shadows in Japan. (techno music)(part one).” Billboard 8 Feb. 1997: 1+. Pop Culture eCollection. Web. 14 Mar. 2011.

Nelson, Grant. “Seasons of Jack”. No Label, December 2006. Vinyl

Reynolds, Simon. Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Picador Publishing: August, 1998.

Tong, Pete. “Back from the rave: why the dance music revival has important lessons for the rest of the biz.” Billboard 5 June 2010: 4. Pop Culture eCollection. Web. 14 Mar. 2011.

“Top 100 DJs.” djmag.com. DJ Mag. Web. 20 April, 2011 http://www.djmag.com/top100

U.S Department of Justice. Information Bulletin: Raves. National Drug Intelligence Center, April 2000 Web. 9 April, 2011 http://www.popcenter.org/problems/ave_parties/PDFs/ndic.pfd

Weather you like it alot or a little, your gonna want to read this.

DISCLAIMER: I really needed to rant this out while I’m trying to get through finals, I promise back to more interesting topics like sex next week.

Thanks, in great part to my parents (mostly father), I have a knack for spelling, grammar, and other rudimentary english language prose.  Unfortunately, this “knack” has turned into a great pet peeve as I have gotten older, realizing not everyone shares the same basic knowledge of the English language that I do.

Nothing is more irritating than proof-reading a group assignment the night before it is due to ensure I agree with the other group members’ (see that- plural possessive, ‘ goes after the “s”) contributions and finding a plethora of spelling and grammar mistakes.  I am in the second year of a degree program! How did these people pass Grade 12 English? Better yet, how do they get through life without looking truly moronic!! The next person that asks if spelling and grammar “counts” on a paper, I’m gonna scream.  Of course it counts you f*cking moron! This is university! You should be able to write legibly by now!

Recently, a T.A. from York University was under investigation for bashing her students’ papers on facebook.  She posted, “My student’s papers are making me dumber, so very stupid; by the minute. Please, make them, stop. They are infecting me with there huge and apparent stupidity, and I fear they will start to effect in my opinion the way I myself right papers.”  First of all, that wasn’t a smart move, as we all know Facebook isn’t a lock and key diary.  However, I can empathize with her frustration as the caliber of students going to university seems to be heading downhill.  Who cares if you’re a genius if you can’t distinguish the difference between there and their and they’re (at least that’s how I feeL).

For your reading pleasure, I have posted the link to a quick guide entitled “10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling”.  Feel free to “accidentally” pass this on to anyone you feel may need a refresher course.

10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling

time to laugh.

I just wanted to share some of the funny videos/photos I’ve come across in the last few days regarding the upcoming Canadian election and some old goodies.  Enjoy!

 “Lift infant with both hands.  Smile and engage in face-to-face contact with infant.  Kiss infant on cheek (optional). Draw infant toward chest and remain steady for photo opportunity.”

“Run a federal political party without ever sitting foot out of the house!”

“There are just some facts about Canadians that Stephen Harper doesn’t need to know. For instance, most of them.” (Shitharperdid.com)

[The census is how our government determines the state and needs of the country. Harper tried to secretly eliminate the long form census so that he could quite literally make uninformed decisions.]

“Stephen Harper believes the apocalypse is coming. Whereas many Canadians believe the apocalypse started 5 years ago.” (Shitharperdid.com)

[The Alliance Church, to which Harper has belonged for decades, believes Jesus Christ will return to Earth in an apocalypse, won’t ordain women, strongly opposes abortion and divorce, condemns homosexuality as the most base of sins and believes those who aren’t born-again are ‘lost.’]

“Stephen Harper wants to prevent scientists from saying things he will make them regret.” (Shitharperdid.com)

[In 2009, Harper appointed a Minister of Science who refused to say whether he believed in evolution. Harper then cut science research funding by $138 Million (while the US invested $2.75 Billion). Since 2007 Harper has forced scientists at Environment Canada to get permission to do interviews, often screening their answers. As a result media coverage of climate change science was reduced by 80%.]

“Sometimes, when your friends are convicted of fraud, they deserve a 2nd chance. Harper’s deserve 6.” (Shitharperdid.com)

[One of Harper’s top aides, Bruce Carson, had been convicted of 5 counts of fraud. Most recently he was lobbying the government to buy water filtration systems for First Nations communities. He wanted the government to buy the systems from a company where his 22 year old wife was working.]

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