1. Local Xpress
Local Xpress, the online publication put out by striking Chronicle Herald reporters, today has a new look, which notably includes a prominent call for advertisers.
Local Xpress has also called a press conference for this morning, evidently related to the revamped site. Multiple sources have told me that the publication will announce it now has an office and has found some financial backing.
Obviously, the journalists see no end to the strike and have decided to start monetizing Local Xpress.
I’ll be at the press conference and will report back later this morning.
I wrote about the AWOL Annie Leibovitz collection donated to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia yesterday. Last night, Amy Smith with the CBC reported on the three-year anniversary of the donation, somehow managing not to ask AGNS curator Sarah Fillmore about the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, which is clearly central to the story.
Since my piece ran yesterday I’ve received several tips, which I’ll follow up on. There was also an interesting comment by a reader who points out that Leibovitz has a reputation as a procrastinator and perfectionist, and she may be in effect holding the art gallery hostage, derailing all other projects and exhibits until her show is done up spectacularly, in a new costly building.
That certainly sounds right. We know that the art gallery has hired a fundraiser — I’m told at a six-figure salary — whose job it is to collect philanthropic donations earmarked for the Leibovitz collection. The problem with this, another reader points out, is that:
This person’s task is to raise corporate funds for the collection. This is a new position that costs taxpayers directly and costs our society indirectly through pressure to get a share of the limited amounts of funds that can be raised locally. Think Hospice, IWK, United Way etc. whose own fundraisers will no doubt be affected considering they are now up against a professional fundraiser.
This Leibovitz thing is starting to look like throwing good money after bad. Maybe it’s time to cut bait and give up on it.
Or maybe not. But it’s impossible to make an informed decision about this because the art gallery simply won’t say what’s going on.
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is supported primarily by public funds. It’s time for a full public accounting of the Leibovitz donation, including how much money the gallery has spent chasing the collection, what — specifically, not the kind of mumbo jumbo given to Smith — is causing the delays, what the future plans for the exhibit are, and how much that is going to cost.
If the AGNS can’t give that public accounting, then the public should stop funding the AGNS.
3. The Borg
There was a dog-and-pony show at the Nova Centre yesterday, and all the predictable lap dogs woofed up the predictable accolades. (Send complaints about mixed metaphors to [email protected] ca.) I wasn’t invited, alas, but I had to floss so I couldn’t make it anyway.
4. Andrew Younger
“Independent MLA Andrew Younger is in a dispute with his former riding association about outstanding legal fees” related to the Tara Gault case, reports Michael Gorman, the former Chronicle Herald reporter and Halifax Examiner contributor who is now employed by the CBC:
In a January letter to then-Dartmouth East Liberal Association president Ron Dauphinee, Younger writes that he received advanced approval in 2015 from officers of the association to be reimbursed for expenses up to $5,000 and that it was also supported by the association’s then-vice-president and treasurer, Ted Fraser. (Fraser has also served as Younger’s official agent.)
In the letter, Younger writes he didn’t think he needed a lawyer and it was only after the recommendation of the premier’s office that he agreed “in order to be a team player and follow the direction and wishes expressed to me.”
Even if Younger feels promises were made, it appears they were not permitted.
In a document from Halifax-based law firm McInnes Cooper obtained by CBC News, it says expenses can only be authorized for activities “that are in furtherance of the objectives” of the Dartmouth East Liberal Association and Nova Scotia Liberal Party.
“Paying personal legal fees for an individual who is not even a member of the caucus cannot, on any reasonable interpretation, be viewed as expenditure in furtherance of those objectives,” says the document.
Gorman reports that Younger has already paid law firm Boyne Clarke $1,956.73, but has another $2,400 in outstanding fees, which are collecting interest.
Um, Younger gets paid a salary of $89,000.
Halifax councillors spent a couple hours yesterday performing for the TV cameras, resolutely making demands about something they have no power over: MLA Iain Rankin’s private member’s bill that restricts the height of the cells at the Otter Lake dump.
“Landfill” was the euphemism created in the 1970s to distinguish between the old-fashioned dumps and the then-new-fangled variety, which made attempts to limit the runoff of toxic materials and the pollution of watersheds. But while modern dumps are much better environmentally, they are not some sort of land reclamation project, as the word “landfill” implies. They’re dumps: we take our unwanted garbage and dump it there. Using the euphemism loses what we’re actually doing, so I still call them dumps.
I have things to say about the brouhaha over Rankin’s bill, but not enough time to say them in.
1. Cranky letter of the day
It seems that I am in the minority when I voice my distain for the Chase the Ace phenomenon which has gripped our island.
True, the charities named do benefit by receiving monies they would not otherwise have access to, but at what cost?
A recent article in the Cape Breton Post pegged the total ticket sales for the Ashby frenzy at just under $10 million and the last draw netted over $1.7 million in ticket sales. With the local economy in the shape it is in this begs the question: “Where did all this money come from?”
Unfortunately, most of this money did not come from what we describe as ‘disposable income.’ Technically, (by true definition), it is, but disposable to the point that all the bills are paid, savings put away, groceries are bought, etc.?
I’m reminded of the story I was told about a woman, patiently waiting in line at the Mayflower Mall to purchase her tickets. Apparently she said she had $300 to buy tickets and she had to win because she had to pay her bills. So why not take the $300 and go pay your bills or at least a portion of them?
Another story, heard several times actually, is of people taking cash advances from their credit cards to go ‘chase the ace.’ Still more exist of people taking their pension cheques, social assistance or family allowance cheques and burning them all up in the hope of easy riches.
These are the victims of this frenzy. Granted, the odds of winning the jackpot are much better than winning the 6/49 jackpot but the odds are still over a million to one. Is that really worth going deeper in debt to win?
As for the great benefit to business, ask business owners in Glace Bay, New Waterford, the Northside or anywhere else on the island how much they benefitted from this? These communities all but turned into a ghost town on draw day.
And what about the thousands of people who invaded the Mayflower Mall? In the beginning the mall manager was very upbeat and excited at the prospect of having so many people in the mall spending money. Problem was they were spending their money on tickets.
One business owner was very vocal in his distain for it because people filled his establishment to overflowing, but no one was buying. They wanted to get somewhere to watch the draw and take valuable seats away from his regular patrons.
Certainly, some of Sydney’s restaurants enjoyed increased sales on Saturdays and good for them, but aside from that, the financial windfall benefited only the charities and the winners themselves.
The bottom line is that close to $10 million was taken out of the local economy and no consumables were used up. No one bought a car, a house, new clothes, furniture or maybe a special treat of a steak for dinner instead of bologna (not that that is a bad meal).
This event has placed a lot of people in a very bad place that will take a long time for them to correct, if they can. This whole concept, while having the best of intentions, is doing much more harm than good. It really needs to be rethought by people a lot more knowledgeable than I.
John Inch, Glace Bay
Darwyn Cooke has died.
Cooke was “an award-winning comic-book writer, artist and animator whose work was known for its bold retro style and singular character, page and cover designs,” his New York Times obituary explains. Cooke could have lived anywhere in the world, but he and his wife Marsha Cooke made rural Nova Scotia, up above Sheet Harbour, their home.
To say Darwyn Cooke was highly regarded is an understatement: he was huge in the comics world, and huge here in Nova Scotia. Here’s a tweet from Strange Adventures, the downtown Halifax comics store, upon learning of Cooke’s’s illness:
Everyone please send positive vibes to Darwyn Cooke–not just one of our favorite artists, but one of our heroes. pic.twitter.com/JMaQKFDp19
— Strange Adventures (@strangeadventrz) May 13, 2016
“Since the announcement yesterday that Darwyn Cooke had sufferred from aggressive cancer, then the subsequent news of his passing away this morning, the comic book industry has been talking about one man,” writes British comics journalist Rich Johnston, who goes on to catalog many of those tributes.
I consider Marsha Cooke a friend, but I never had the pleasure of meeting Darwyn. Still, I can’t help but like him. From the NYT obit:
After a year at George Brown College in Toronto (he was expelled), Mr. Cooke worked as an art director for several magazines there before establishing his own design studio. In 1996, he learned that Warner Bros. was seeking storyboard artists for its animated Batman and Superman series. His successful pitch included 14 pages that would be published in 2000 as Batman: Ego.
“There was something fresh and energetic about his work, and his peers envied the light sense of humor and the simplicity of design,” the comic-book historian Mark Evanier noted on his blog.
Mr. Cooke first made his mark on comics in 2000, when the industry was emerging from a period in which superheroes had increasingly been portrayed as flawed, violent and dark.
“This kind of degradation of these characters is disturbing to me,” Mr. Cooke said in an interview published in The Comic Book Artist magazine in 2004. Rather than adding unnecessary complications, his approach was to strip the characters to their larger-than-life essence.
The writer Ed Brubaker worked with Mr. Cooke to revitalize the Batman villain Catwoman in 2001. “I had been looking at all the previous runs of Catwoman, and I was horrified by how sexist all the art was,” Mr. Brubaker recalled in a telephone interview. Mr. Cooke’s revamp gave her more modest proportions, clad her in head-to-toe leather and costumed her in an aviator mask with cat ears, goggles and a whip that doubled as a belt. “He made her classy and sexy,” Mr. Brubaker said.
Over the years, Mr. Cooke received the Eisner Award, the comic-book industry equivalent of the Oscar, many times. He won three for The New Frontier, including one for best limited series in 2005 and two more in 2007 for the lavish hardcover reprint of the story, which was turned into a straight-to-video animated film in 2008. He received seven, from 2010 to 2014, for his adaptations of the Parker novels.
He won his most recent Eisner last year for his work on a series of so-called variant covers aimed at collectors. The images — all horizontal, so the comic had to be flipped on its side — captured quiet, emotional moments in the characters’ lives: Bruce Wayne tucked in by his butler, Alfred Pennyworth, after a night of fighting crime as Batman; Superman in flight, glimpsed through the window of the Daily Planet supply closet he had entered as Clark Kent; Aquaman and his wife, Mera, sharing a kiss amid the surf. Many of them turned up on social media in tribute as word spread of Mr. Cooke’s illness and his subsequent death.
But beyond the art, Darwyn Cooke was by all accounts a kind and generous man. We’ve lost a great one.
Community Planning and Economic Development (10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
Active Transportation Committee (4pm, City Hall) — discussion of extending the South Park Street bike lane.
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space Main Floor, Alderney Gate) — a public hearing on Metro Premier Properties’ application to expand its contracting business on Caldwell Road.
Legislature sits (1-10pm, Province House)
Thesis defence, Psychology (1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Katelynn Boerner will defend her thesis, “Sex and Gender in Pediatric Pain: Pain Responses and Parental Modeling.”
In the harbour
6am: Barkald, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from New York
7am: Bruarfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
8am: Algoma Dartmouth, tanker, moves from Pier 34 to Bedford Basin anchorage
11am: Bruarfoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 to sea
Noon: ZIM Vancouver, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
2pm: Spiekeroog, cargo ship, sails from anchorage 13 for Portsmouth, New Hampshire
9:30pm: ZIM Vancouver, container ship, sails from Pier 42 to sea
One day I’ll have something interesting to say in this spot.
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