June subscription drive

In October 2021, I wrote this Morning File called “Bullshit and Bafflegab,” which was about that nonsense language some people seem to use and like. I wrote that piece after I wondered what the term “authentic self” means. I certainly hear people using it a lot, at least on social media. As I wrote in 2021, authentic self is one of those terms like “soul tribe,” “catalyst for change,” and “belief infusion.” No one really knows what they mean, but a lot of people seem to think using them makes you sound smart.

You’ll never see Examiner-ers using that kind of language because, well, it’s just foolish. Plus, the people we interview in real life don’t speak like this.

It’s now June 2023 and I still don’t know anything about my authentic self, but I do guarantee we are keeping it real here at the Examiner. We think that’s a perk of subscribing.

If you want to read more real language and stories, you can subscribe here.

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1. Community divided over tiny dam

A sign that says Save the Lake: A better solution exists stands in a lake with low water levels. There are grasses and weeds sticking out of the lake's water and there are trees along the shoreline. In the background is a highway.
The artificial Lake Pisiquid behind the Avon River aboiteau, which had been empty since 2021 when the aboiteau was opened, began to fill up again after John Lohr ordered it opened in defiance of a DFO ministerial order. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

This morning, Joan Baxter has part 1 of her two-part series on the artificial Lake Pisiquid behind the Avon River aboiteau and how it’s created a divide among residents in Hants County. Baxter writes:

It was advertised as a simple “meet and greet” on June 17 with Dominic LeBlanc at the firehall in Canning, Nova Scotia.

LeBlanc is the federal minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and of infrastructure and Communities, and he was hosted by MP Kody Blois and the Kings-Hants Federal Liberal Association.

Federal minister comes to town, and he and the area MP shake some hands.

But that usually low-key glad-handing with the locals turned into a fractious event that led to a complaint to the RCMP about an assault by one of Blois’ assistants, and to renewed tension in the community.

At issue is the the fate of the artificial freshwater Lake Pisiquid, which owes its existence to a closed sluice gate on the Avon River aboiteau (small dam) that is part of the Windsor Causeway.

On one side are those who support the closed aboiteau and the man-made lake, among them some farmers and local business people. On the other are those who want the sluice gate opened. The latter includes local fishers like Darren Porter, First Nations Grandmothers, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs, the non-governmental organization Oceans North, and many ecology-minded citizens.

This is an in-depth look into what happened at that meeting, but Baxter also provides a good background on Lake Pisiquid, the aboiteau, and why the community is so divided.

We will have part 2 soon, but in the meantime, click here to read “The great divide: how a tiny dam has created an ugly rift in Hants County, with politicians fanning the flames.”

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2. Atlantic Loop

A map of the Maritimes shows a bright yellow loop leading from Labrador to Nova Scotia, through Quebec.
The proposed Atlantic Loop Credit: Emera

Jennifer Henderson has this story on what details we know about the Atlantic Loop project so far, and what remains unknown. Henderson wanted to learn more about the federal financing for the project. She writes:

In response to a question from the Halifax Examiner asking for details on the federal financing proposal currently under discussion, information was provided by Patricia Jreige, senior communications advisor to Nova Scotia’s Minister for Natural Resources and Renewables. According to Jreige, the total estimated cost of the Atlantic Loop, including interest, has risen from $2.9 billion in 2020 to $7.5 billion today.

Henderson had this story from 10 days ago when Premier Tim Houston expressed his doubts about the project. Here’s Henderson again:

Still, the Examiner asked, what is it about the current proposal under discussion that Houston thinks is bad for ratepayers? Here is the rest of the email response from communications advisor Patricia Jreige at the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables:

The Atlantic Loop running overbudget is one of multiple risks we would bear that would need consideration. Our understanding is that cost overruns would be shared by Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and to some degree, the federal government.

Click here to read “Financing the Atlantic Loop: the knowns and unknowns.”

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3. CCPA researcher calls for changes to rent supplement program

A skyline view of a handful of apartment buildings on the horizon.
Apartment buildings in Halifax. Credit: Zane Woodford

“A Nova Scotia researcher says the province’s lack of affordable housing requires “urgent action,” and that includes addressing problems with rent supplements,” reports Yvette d’Entremont.

“One of the mechanisms that is in place to assist renters — and I would argue that it’s a major focus of the current government — needs to be changed in order to make sure that Nova Scotians have housing that is affordable,” Cape Breton University professor Dr. Catherine Leviten-Reid said in an interview Monday.

“So how can we make changes to the rent supplement program to better assist tenants? But also we have to be looking at how can we make changes to the rental market so that the people who are receiving supplements are situated in a rental market that also works for them.”

Leviten-Reid authored an article published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) on Monday titled ‘Lack of affordable housing in Nova Scotia requires urgent action: It’s time for the provincial government to step up for tenants.’ 

The piece includes suggestions for addressing problems with rent supplements,  “particularly given their expanded use, recent changes to program eligibility, and the clear demand for them.” 

Click here to read “CCPA report: Nova Scotia rent supplements should consider actual cost of rent, utilities.”

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4. Tenants in Dartmouth apartment building get to stay

A three-storey brown brick apartment building with balconies and a main front door. There are bushes and plants on the lawn out front and a driveway the goes under an overhead.
71 Primrose St. in Dartmouth. Credit: Suzanne Rent

“Tenants in a building in North End Dartmouth will get to stay in their apartments after the building’s owner withdrew appeals of a Residential Tenancies decision made in favour of the tenants back in April,” I reported this morning.

In December and January, all 23 tenants of the building were given notice to leave the building, which is owned by AMK Barrett Investments Inc. (BlackBay Real Estate Group). Six of the tenants took the compensation the owner offered, but 17 other tenants decided to fight the renoviction. And at a hearing on April 13, the Residential Tenancies officer ruled in their favour, saying the landlord wasn’t acting in good faith about the planned renovations.

AMK Barrett filed an appeal on that decision, but then withdrew it before yesterday’s appeal hearing. That news was shared in a press release from Dalhousie Legal Aid, which represented many of the tenants. I wrote:

Ken Sutton was one of 17 tenants who fought the renoviction and has lived in his apartment for the last three years. He was pleased to hear Monday’s news about the appeal.

“It is a sense of relief to know you can stay in your apartment for the same rent,” Sutton said. “You can settle in and you can more or less enjoy the ride…This should send a message to these landlords all over that you can’t do this kind of thing to people.”

Click here to read “Tenants of Dartmouth apartment building can stay after landlord withdraws appeal.”

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5. Hospital admin staff vote to strike

The brick facade of the Victoria Building at the VG site of the QEII.
The Victoria Building at the Victoria General site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre in July, 2021. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont.

The unions representing health care administrative professionals in Nova Scotia’s hospitals say their members have voted in favour of strike action. 

In a joint media release on Monday afternoon, the three unions (CUPE, NSGEU, Unifor) said that following the rejection of a tentative agreement in April, 81.5% of the administrative professionals who voted authorized a strike. 

Under the Council of Health Administrative Unions, the three unions represent 5,000 members from all hospital sites across the province. 

They work as equipment operators, administrative assistants, transcriptionists, clerks in all departments, health record technicians, and in other posts.

“There isn’t a single member of the public that goes to the hospital in Nova Scotia and does not interact with one of these members. They’re the clerk checking you in for your appointment, the ward clerk keeping the patient floors running smoothly, and the technician updating your health records, among so many others,” Bev Strachan, co-chair of the bargaining team, said in the news release. 

“Without them, hospitals don’t run. It’s time for the government to bring forward a deal that acknowledges the extent and importance of the work these members do.”

The unions said in the government’s previous offer, their highly skilled members were offered seniority protection for casuals on maternity leave. They were also offered new language on gender and discrimination, and enhanced leave of absence language.

However, the unions wrote that the province didn’t budge on monetary issues presented by the bargaining team. 

“With the rejection of the previous offer and this strike vote, the membership has said clearly that they’re willing to fight for what they deserve,” NSGEU president Sandra Mullen said in the release. 

“They are looking to maintain the relativity of the bargaining units, which has fallen away over the last round of collective bargaining, and achieve recruitment and retention bonuses that recognize many members have over 25 years of service.”

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6. Africadian Empowerment Academy

A group of people stand in front of a banner that has a logo that says "Africadian Empowerment Academy" all over it. The Black students in the back row are all wearing black, green, red, and yellow sashes around their necks that have "grad of 2023" stitched into the scarf.
Graduates and attendees to the Pathway to Success event hosted by The Africadian Empowerment Academy on Friday, June 23, 2023. Credit: Matthew Byard

“Ten students received their Red Seal certifications in skilled trades this year by taking part in the Africadian Empowerment Academy,” writes Matthew Byard.

The students were honoured at an event dubbed Pathway to Success, which was hosted by the academy on Friday evening.

At its AGM in March, the former East Preston Empowerment Academy (EPEA) officially changed its name to the Africadian Empowerment Academy (AEA).

“People saw the name and thought that it was only for people from East Preston,” said Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, who is AEA’s president, on Friday.

“And our programs had already grown and developed, and we were reaching out around the province, so we knew that we had to come up with a new name.”

Bernard said the academy’s new name was inspired by a term coined by Dr. George Elliot Clarke.

Byard spoke with a few of the graduates about what the Red Seal certificates mean to each of them.

Click here to read “Grads of Africadian Empowerment Academy find pathway to success with Red Seal certification.”

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7. Doctors Nova Scotia reach tentative agreement

A doctor in a white coat grips a stethoscope in both hands in front of him. The photo is taken from the neck to hips.
Photo: Ivan Samkov/Pexels

“Doctors Nova Scotia says it has reached tentative agreements with the Department of Health and Wellness on new four-year contracts for 3,400 doctors in the province,” reports CBC Nova Scotia.

A news release from the organization said contracts were presented to Nova Scotia’s physicians for ratification on Monday.

“We have reached the best deals possible for Nova Scotia’s doctors — while also ensuring the best care for the people of Nova Scotia,” Dr. Colin Audain, president of Doctors Nova Scotia, said in the release.

“These contracts, if ratified, will help stabilize some of the most critical services in our province.”

The tentative agreements were reached after five months at the negotiations table.

Doctors will vote on the agreement between July 7 and July 20. The details of the contract and vote outcome being released on July 20.

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Community halls: Vital and changing ‘third places’ in Nova Scotia’s rural neighbourhoods

An older two story building with beige siding, double rust coloured front doors, a wooden accessible ramp, and staircase. There's a sign above the door that says Upper Musquodoboit Community Hall. Out front is a lawn of tall grass and a forest of trees are in back. The sky has puffy clouds.
Upper Musquodoboit Community Hall Credit: Suzanne Rent

On Friday night, volunteers at the Black Point and Area Community Centre hosted an open mic night to raise funds for people who had to evacuate because of the wildfires in the Tantallon and Hammonds Plains area in late May, early June.

Tanya Snair, the co-chair of the Black Point and Area Community Centre board of directors, stayed on until about midnight cleaning up after the event at the centre, which is about halfway between Tantallon and Hubbards. About 60 people showed up to be entertained by a comedian and some musical acts.

“We ended at probably 11 o’clock and people were still there wanting to listening to music,” Snair said in an interview on Saturday. She said they raised more than $1,000 that night.

You may remember the hall from recent weeks when it served as a comfort centre for wildfire evacuees. Just a few weeks later, volunteers turned that hall from a comfort centre to an entertainment centre for the open mic.

At one point during the evening, Snair said she was approached by a resident who had to evacuate their home because of the fire.

Basically, their thought was if we hadn’t been there to open, they wouldn’t have had a place to go in their most difficult time. That, to me, speaks volumes. Just being able to get out and have the hall open, having events like we did last night, seeing people within your community that you generally don’t see because everyone is so busy. Having an event every month, or every couple of months even, just to have that fellowship to bring people back together, it brings the community back to where it used to, which you don’t get to see very often anymore.

I started noticing community halls last summer during road trips around the province. In many cases, community halls were long abandoned and the buildings were weathered from age and storms. Often these halls aren’t even architectural standouts in their communities; they have to be versatile and utilitarian. But their beauty lies in the purpose they serve.

Community halls are what urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg called “third places,” basically any place where people gather that’s not their home or work. (Here’s a good piece in Planetizen about how third places in cities can be used as pandemic recovery tools). In the rural context, though, community halls as third places have seen their use change over the years, too. While some of these halls are long gone, still many others are run by groups of dedicated volunteers determined to keep the buildings up to date and filled with people from their communities.

People sit eating dinner at long tables with either a green or a red-and-white checked table cloth. The tables are set up in a large open space with white wall and large windows. A string of white lights are strung along the centre of the walls.
A dinner at the Black Point and Area Community Centre. Credit: Black Point and Area Community Centre/Facebook

The Black Point and Area Community Centre first opened about 35 years ago. Back then, it was owned and operated by the local fire department, but when the department and the ladies auxiliary started losing volunteers, the building was handed over to HRM. That was about six years ago.

“When we had the opportunity to open, there were a bunch of us [that said] this was a great opportunity for our community again, to see some change and have a place for us to gather and make something great happen again,” Snair said.

The centre served as an unofficial comfort centre during Hurricane Dorian in 2019, hosting residents whose homes didn’t have power for days. But Snair said volunteers worked with HRM’s EMO and Joint Emergency Management (JEM) teams to train volunteers to run an official centre in the hall. They got their chance during Hurricane Fiona last September.

When the wildfires happened, the board decided to host an open mic night as a benefit for wildfire evacuees.

A small white building with a peaked roof and a front step leading to a screen door. Out front is a table with four chairs and red umbrella over it. Flower pots hang off the step rails. There's a gravel parking lot out front and a line of trees in the background.
The Tennecape Community Hall. Credit: Suzanne Rent

Sometimes these old community halls find new life. In March, I interviewed Gina Jones-Wilson, a longtime volunteer in Upper Hammonds Plains, who is the president of the Upper Hammonds Plains Community Development Association. That group runs the Upper Hammonds Plains Community Centre, which hosts everything from day camps for kids to programs for seniors to prevent isolation.

Last year I interviewed Maddie Laffin and Josey Hughes, the two young owners of the Tennecape Café and Ice Cream Shop on Highway 215. I first met Laffin in June after I drove past the hall and noticed the café was open. I dropped in again later in the summer, just before Laffin and Hughes were closing up for the season and heading back to UPEI where they are both students. I remembered the menus that were on the tables were printouts of the community’s school attendance records from about 100 year ago.

I was looking forward to dropping in again this summer, but then I read this post Laffin and Hughes shared on their Facebook page saying they won’t be opening because of rising costs to run the café. I wish Laffin and Hughes the best of luck in everything they do, and hope the former community hall finds new tenants.

Also along Highway 215 is the Selma Community Hall, which now houses an art gallery called Gallery 215. Another dining area hosts community events and suppers.

A small white building with red trim and a peaked roof at the front with a ramp leading up to the front door that's jammed open. There are a few flowers along the ramp and a path of square concrete stones leading up to the door. Another entrance is to the left and that door is open jammed open.
The Selma Community Hall on Highway 215. Credit: Suzanne Rent

Meanwhile in Upper Musquodoboit, a large building with beige siding serves as a community hall for this rural area. Kayla Henley took over as the hall’s board president in February 2020, just before the COVID lockdowns. She grew up in Upper Musquodoboit and is now raising her two children, ages six and 10, in the community, just across the street from her mother.

“Pickings are slim out here,” Henley said of the options for spaces to rent out. “Just to have a place big enough to host if you want to have a large group of people.”

“I remember when I was a kid, I was at that community hall and they had dances and did things for kids. I wanted to keep that going for my kids.”

She said over the years, the community has lost other gathering spaces and amenities, including a church, restaurants, a gas station, and a train station. There’s a legion and fellowship hall for seniors, but the Upper Musquodoboit Community Hall hosts a wide range of events from open mic nights to day gyms for children. This summer they will host a community day with baseball games, face painting, and a cakewalk. In September, the hall will bring in autumn with a fall festival.

The Upper Musquodoboit Community Hall building was constructed in 1956 and has had work done to it over the years, including upgrades to the emergency stairs on the outside just a couple of weeks ago. Henley said they are now applying for funding to pay for renovations to the kitchen, which hasn’t been updated in about 40 years.

While the community has lost other shared spaces, Henley said there’s hope in new residents who moved into the community after snapping up homes that were for sale during the pandemic. She said her kids have gotten to know the new children in school, and their parents then contacted her to see how they can help.

“It’s boosting our numbers a little bit,” Henley said. “It’s community engagement because it’s not just putting stuff on; it’s putting stuff on that people want to take the time to go to.”

“If it wasn’t there, where would people go if they needed it,” Henley said. “If we weren’t there, there wouldn’t be anything happening around there.”

Meanwhile at the Black Point and Area Community Centre, board volunteers are busy hosting other events at the building, including pickleball throughout the week. The board rents out the building for weddings, birthday parties, family reunions, and other events. But when it’s needed, Snair said they’ll be ready for an emergency once again.

“This whole wildfire situation brought to light the importance of having a place to go,” Snair said. “It really was a success and people were over the moon we had it available to them and we were able to help.”

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Halifax’s cemeteries: Gifts of green space from the dead to the living

A sign that says "Titanic grave site" with an image of a ship stands on a black post along the driveway of a cemetery. Behind the sign are rows of small grey headstones. There are trees in the background and a bright blue cloudless sky.
The Titanic Grave Site at Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax. Credit: Suzanne Rent

Last week I visited Fairview Lawn and Mount Olivet cemeteries to get photos for Evelyn C. White’s story about the Titanic history in Halifax. Despite my love of local history, I hadn’t visited either of those cemeteries before, even though both are just short drives from where I live.

As White wrote in her article, there are a number of graves in Fairview Lawn of people who died in the sinking of the Titanic. There’s even a headstone for a J. Dawson, the same initial and surname of the Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jack in the 1997 film.

A grey granite headstone that says J Dawson, Died April 15, 1912. With the #227 on it. There are two flowers placed on either side of the headstone.
The grave of a J. Dawson at Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax. Credit: Suzanne Rent

When I was in Fairview Lawn, I remembered what Craig Ferguson with the Dead in Halifax Twitter account once told me. Ferguson, who tweets out photos from the city’s oldest cemeteries, said he thinks cemeteries are “lovely” gifts of green space from the dead to the living. That quote stuck with me after he said it, but I really “got it” when I was at Fairview Lawn last week.

That cemetery really is a beautiful and peaceful spot. It’s like a park that happens to have graves in it. And it’s incredibly quiet considering it’s just steps away from the busy Windsor Street Exchange where frustrated drivers wait for the lights to change so they can get to wherever they’re going. There were a few people just hanging out here, sitting on one of the many benches along the paths.

A large sign on two posts that says Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery. And Titanic, Voyage Remembered. Several paragraphs on the sign detail the history of the ship and sinking. Behind the sign are headstones on a grassy lawn.
A sign next to the gravesites of Titanic victims at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Halifax. Credit: Suzanne Rent

After my visit to Fairview Lawn, I stopped into Mount Olivet Cemetery on Mumford Road. A few people were hanging out here, too, including one guy who sat on the steps leading up to the statue of Jesus on the cross.

There are graves from victims of the Titanic here, too. Not as many as in Fairview Lawn, but I did notice the engravings on the headstones were faded and in many cases the names weren’t clear at all. I managed to find the headstone of John Frederick Preston Clarke, the violinist in Titanic’s orchestra who kept playing as the ship sunk.

A small grey headstone that says "JFP Clarke. Died April 15, 1912" with the number 202
The headstone for John Frederick Preston Clarke, a violinist in the Titanic’s orchestra. Credit: Suzanne Rent

I sent an email to the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth, which owns and runs the cemetery, to find out if there were plans to fix those headstones. I haven’t heard back as of publishing this Morning File, but if I do, I will update this story.

My late grandmother from Cape Breton once said it’s not the dead you have to worry about, but the living. I’m sure other grandmothers said this too as it seems like a very grandmotherly thing to say. But if you need a place to go to reflect or relax, certainly you can’t go wrong visiting a city cemetery. It’s a gift well worth using.

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No meetings


Special Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, online) — agenda

Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm, online) — agenda


Natural Resources and Economic Development (Tuesday, 1pm, One Government Place and online) — Nova Scotia’s Clean Renewable Energy Sector, Including Green Hydrogen Production and Offshore Wind; with representatives from the Department of Environment and Climate Change, Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, and Invest Nova Scotia

On campus

Mount Saint Vincent

Exhibitions (Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 3pm, MSVU Art Gallery) — from the listings:

Portals: until September 1

This exhibition of new work by Kayza DeGraff-Ford showcases their recent digital experimentation in virtual reality programming. Part of an ongoing story within DeGraff-Ford’s practice, this immersive installation features a cosmic aqua-portal via the humble entry point of bathroom plumbing. Channelling the literary genre of Magical Realism and exploring African diasporic and trans experiences, Portals takes the viewer through a healing wormhole in time.

Everything We Have Done Is Weather Now: until August 19

Lisa Hirmer’s gorgeous photographs of weather data bridge the divide between everyday conversations about weather and the enormity of the climate crisis, thereby helping to open up possibilities for imagining different futures for our planet. The exhibition is organized and circulated by the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery and is part of The Weather Collection, a network of digital and in-person exhibitions, hands-on art making, research, and artist projects that use visual art to encourage creative perspectives on the environment and build new relationships with the future of the planet.

In the harbour

05:00: NYK Rumina, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Southampton, England
06:00: MSC Mexico V, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
07:00: Ocean Pearl, bulker, moves from anchorage to Gold Bond
10:30: One Cygnus, container ship (146,694 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Norfolk, Virginia 
10:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
10:30: MSC Mexico V sails for sea
11:30: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England 
16:15: Oceanex Sanderling moves to anchorage
21:30: Atlantic Sail sails for New York

Cape Breton
08:30: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Halifax, on a seven-day cruise from Boston to Montreal
16:00: Ino Horizon, bulker, arrives at Port Hawkesbury outer anchorage from Baltimore
16:00: Donald M. James, bulker, arrives at Port Hawkesbury outer anchorage from Norfolk, Virgina
17:00: Tanja, bulker, sails from Port Hawkesbury Paper for sea
17:30: Zaandam sails for Charlottetown


A tip I heard during my horseback riding lesson on Sunday: Smile with all four cheeks.

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Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

Yvette d’Entremont is a bilingual (English/French) journalist and editor who enjoys covering health, science, research, and education.

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  1. On the subject of community halls, there is a great local series on Eastlink TV called Community Strong which features a talented musical pair of Janet Mills and David Farrel, known as Strange Valentines. Each week, the show features interviews with people in and around community halls across the province, culminating in a musical performance by the duo. It is a fantastic look at the roles community halls play in small towns and villages.

  2. ABOUT CEMETERIES . . . AND DEATH Your insights made me think of James Joyce’s short story “The Dead” and how it leads us to think about the deep down substance of our lives. . .and all that. These notes, cribbed from the interweb, offer a fair analysis of Joyce’s themes:

    “[Joyce] realizes that death is the great unifier. For all the anger and conflict in the world, everyone ends up the same, their differences obscured.”

    “The imagery of the snow at the end of “The Dead” serves as a visual metaphor for death. The snow falls silently and softly, blanketing all of Ireland and creating a kind of unity. Death has the same effect, it reduces all our differences and characteristics to a single, universal state: humankind.”