I used to love reading the comments. I long had a thing for talk radio. Before podcasts, I’d often have some call-in show going in the background while I studied or worked. I’d even stay up late at night regularly listening to some of the more out-there offerings from the US, before out-there became mainstream. When I would regularly read a print newspaper, the letters page was always the first thing I turned to, and when newspapers went online, I’d often head to the comments on a story before even reading the story itself.
Then, at some point, most of this turned to sludge.
I’m not claiming there was some golden age of talk radio and commenting. People have always said stupid shit, and maybe I became less inclined to be entertained by it and more inclined to worry. Now, I rarely go look at the comments on a news story, and when I do it’s mostly to see if people are saying the kind of stupid, predictable crap you’d expect them to.
This brings me to the Halifax Examiner’s comments. An oasis, if you will. And one to which you can contribute if you subscribe.
Commenting on Examiner stories is only open to subscribers. My understanding is that early on, the Examiner had considered a real name policy, but dropped it because people can have many legitimate reasons for not wanting to use their legal name. So, you can use whatever name you want, but you have to be a subscriber, which means there is a name attached to you, behind the scenes. And the comments are individually approved. And we have a commenting policy. The Examiner’s Facebook page, of course, did not have such a commenting policy, and the comments started turning to sludge. So you can’t comment there any more.
Is this shutting down debate? No. You can go debate Examiner stories somewhere else. God knows, people seem to do it on Twitter all the time.
As a contributor to the Examiner, I appreciate the reader comments. Sometimes, commenters share a personal connection to the story. Or they might provide some additional background or insights. I regularly learn from the comments on both my stories and those of my colleagues. Sometimes they are downright erudite. I like reading them. I come back during the day to check on them.
As you surely know by now, we are nearing the end of the Examiner subscription drive, meaning we won’t continue to lead off the day with a plea to subscribe much longer. But please do subscribe. It’s easy and inexpensive.
1. ‘Time for change’ in emergency rooms
As emergency department staffing shortages and overcapacity issues continue to burden Nova Scotia hospitals, the province’s deputy minister of health said change is needed and addressing it is a priority.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
The deputy minister in question is Jeannine Lagassé, who told the legislature’s public accounts committee on Wednesday that, “Our health care system is complex and interconnected. Easing the pressures that emergency departments across the province requires changes in several areas.”
She says change needs to happen now, and so on and so forth.
There are a number of factors involved here, and d’Entremont explains them nicely.
2. Partisanship slowing down anti-partisanship efforts
Speaking of the public accounts committee, Michael Gorman at CBC reports on the mistrust that threatens to torpedo efforts to make the committee less subject to partisanship.
MLAs have been working with auditor general Kim Adair “to create a so-called roadmap to improve the culture and effectiveness of the committee.” Trouble is, nobody wants to take the first step. Gorman writes:
During the committee’s meeting on Wednesday, a motion was expected to be tabled that would have launched an eight-month trial of a new approach to selecting meeting topics and general operations with the assistance of the auditor general.
Liberal MLA Brendan Maguire said he would not support the motion. New Democrat MLA Susan Leblanc said she supports it but would not be the mover and no one from the governing Tories would make the motion either.
Gorman looks at the workings of the committee, how we got here, and what’s next.
3. SaltWire cutting rural delivery
It’s hard not to think “death spiral” when you read the latest from Tim Bousquet on Saltwire ceasing rural home delivery of the Chronicle Herald.
Subscribers have been receiving notices like the one above, Bousquet reports:
The Halifax Examiner has been contacted by several readers in the northern stretch of the province who have been sent the notice pictured above. It’s not clear from the notice how many readers are affected, or how far the change in service extends.
“More and more, our readers are looking for news and information wherever and whenever they want it (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), which means that our mobile apps, Saltwire.com and the E-edition replica newspapers have outpaced demand for the printed newspaper,” reads the notice.
Is the readership in rural Nova Scotia likely to want to go digital? I’m guessing no, but we’ll see.
I actually saw the SaltWire flash sale that’s currently on, and got curious about what it would cost to add a printed paper, say once a week. The pricing on the website is opaque. I had to enter my email address to see if an account already existed. I did, then I was sent an email that began “Hello MOSCOVITCH MOSCOVITCH.” The email had a link. I clicked it, and then I was told this account was locked and I should see my newspaper vendor. I tweeted about this, someone from the paper generously tagged a colleague who might be able to help, and I never heard anything back.
I tried again this morning. This time the MOSCOVITCH MOSCOVITCH email included a link that worked! It showed me I had an account (I’ve never subscribed before) with my correct address and everything, and then told me I don’t have a balance owing or any active subscriptions. I still have no idea how to actually subscribe.
I can only imagine that, as Bousquet writes, it is a very difficult place to work right now.
4. Surprise: Police union thinks Nova Scotia Mounties should get more funding
Andrew Rankin reports for SaltWire that the National Police Federation, the union representing RCMP officers across the country, thinks the Mounties should get more funding. Oh, and that they don’t shoulder any blame for what happened in Portapique and beyond.
One of the lines the NPF uses is that policing needs to be standardized across the province— read, brought under RCMP control. Another theme of the NPF’s report is the need to end the per officer funding formula and provide permanent and stable funding. Rankin writes:
The police union does not deal with the possibility that the force’s future in the province is uncertain. The Nova Scotia government has not ruled out the possibility of reconsidering its contract with the force. Besides not including an estimated cost of implementing the recommendations the document also does not provide much analysis behind the need for increased staffing, for example.
5. Bill 225: Black advocacy groups concerned about consultation
“The leader of a Black advocacy organization says she wants to know the goal of future consultations between the province and the Black community with respect to land allocation, expropriation, or development in the province’s Black communities,” in the wake of amendments to Bill 225, Matthew Byard reports.
Under Bill 225, the province can nullify municipal bylaws within six months of their passing. The legislation includes an amendment requiring consultation in some circumstances.
The amendment in Bill 225 also says the government “shall conduct consultations” with representatives of marginalized and racialized communities that could be “exclusively” impacted by changes to municipal housing and development by-laws set forth by the province.
But, as you’ll see when you read the story, “consultations” is not defined, and that “exclusively” could certainly be a problem.
The intersection of food, power, and culture — and how it leads to a lack of Filipino restaurants
My partner and I recently spent an afternoon in Bedford, restocking our pantry with supplies from specialty shops. We are now well-supplied with what we need from the Chinese grocery, the Syrian market, the Greek place, and the seafood market.
On the way home, we dropped into a Filipino market to take a look around. I’ve noticed an increase in places serving Filipino food and in Filipino groceries over the last couple of years — thank you Halifax ReTales — but have only been to one tiny Filipino restaurant once.
Walking the aisles of the grocery, I thought about how it’s interesting to be in the presence of a cuisine you know almost nothing about. I had not realized there is a Filipino style of spaghetti sauce, and I didn’t recognize the cured meats. There were pre-cut trays of veggies for dishes unfamiliar to me. I did buy some shrimp paste — less solid and less strong-smelling than the traditional Thai style I’ve bought before.
My ignorance is my own responsibility, but it also got me thinking about how surprising it seems that, given the huge number of Filipino Canadians, there are so few restaurants featuring the cuisine, and how there isn’t a lot of media conversation about it. Contrast this with Korean food. (Perhaps not a fair comparison, mind you, given that the South Korean government has made the promotion of Korean food as one of the world’s great cuisines a priority for decades, and has generously funded this effort.)
This brings me to Jadine Ngan, and her wonderful essay, “Where are the Filipino restaurants?” published in Maisonneuve magazine in September.
Ngan, whose family is from the Philippines, writes:
Growing up, I didn’t even know that food from the Philippines could be found in a restaurant. Though there are hundreds of East Asian eateries in Richmond, BC, my hometown, there are only three sit-down Filipino spots. When I asked my mother why she and my father hadn’t taken me to those restaurants as a child, she told me that they had opened when I was a little older.
The reason for the disparity can’t be population sizes: the 2016 census recorded a Filipino population of 13,575 where I grew up, around four times the Japanese population of 3,940. And it wasn’t just Richmond. Until 2012, when Lester Sabilano opened his restaurant Lamesa in Toronto, he hadn’t heard of any sit-down Filipino restaurants existing in the downtown core of one of the world’s most diverse cities—even though residents from the Philippines make up the city’s second-largest immigrant population.
The underrepresentation of Filipino restaurants in the West matters because the simple presence of restaurants — nestled into strip malls or city blocks, spilling aromas out into the street — makes food part of the public imagination. When a cuisine remains cloistered at home, it can’t enter the mainstream. It remains unknown to those who lack intimate ties with it, and harder to find for those looking to reconnect with it.
Like so many good essays, this one is multi-faceted. Ngan shares her own insecurities about ordering Filipino food the “right” way. She delves into its history, shaped by conquests, and asks what constitutes a “national cuisine” anyway. And she explores the ways Filipino food has been presented in the West, and how “food has always been entangled in enduring networks of power.”
At the close of the nineteenth century, the United States assumed colonial rule over the archipelago. Decades of American cultural dominance and “benevolent” assimilation followed, during which the new colonial rulers denigrated Filipino food as primitive and elevated American foods—ice cream, canned goods—as modern. Those foods, unsurprisingly, became commonplace in the Philippines.
All the while, Filipinos creatively indigenized many of the foreign foods imposed upon them. For example, Filipino cooks imbued Spanish paella with the flavours of their tropical landscape. Malagkit, or glutinous rice, replaced bomba rice. A bark called ange took the place of saffron, and coconut milk was used as sauce. The dish was no longer paella; it had become bringhe, in a transformation far from unique to the dish. Filipino cuisine is, above all, resilient — even if by necessity rather than choice.
Food is complicated. Our relationships to foods in the lands of our parents and ancestors in complicated. The embarrassment about ordering wrong is very real. Ngan beautifully weaves all this together.
Ngan’s essay is from Maisonneuve’s food issue. I pitched a story to the magazine for this issue and was turned down (Being turned down is a large part of being a freelancer). When I read Ngan’s essay I thought, okay, this is way better than what I pitched. If there was a choice between my story and this one, I’m glad I lost out.
Now, I need to learn more about Filipino food and get cooking.
A stroll through the North End with Stephen Archibald
Having seen on Twitter back in October that Stephen Archibald had tested positive for COVID, and not having seen a blog post from him for awhile, I was starting to get a bit concerned. But, no need to worry apparently. (It seems he was tweeting the whole time, but I’ve been spending less time over there, and I guess I missed the posts.)
Archibald has a couple of new entries on his Noticed in Nova Scotia blog, and the most recent, titled “On the Streets Again,” was published just two days ago.
Archibald takes a walk around the North End while his wife, Sheila, was getting a haircut. He writes: “The low sun provided a particular light quality. You’ll see.”
I enjoy when Archibald goes on these rambles, photographing whatever catches his eye, and this one is no exception.
One of the first images is the stunner above, taken in a former corner store on Agricola that’s being renovated.
A little like discovering a looted ancient tomb? The stately cast iron column used to be surrounded by a treasure trove of grave goods: salty snacks and sugary drinks. Best wishes in your future endeavors you fine fluted thing.
You know that “yes!” feeling when someone says out loud something you’ve noticed but not shared? That’s how I felt reading what Archibald had to say about the MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple building on Gottingen.
When the architects moved to Gottingen the street it had not begun its renaissance and theirs was the first new build in a while. The gift they offered to the street was a mostly blank wall of nasty concrete block. At the time a young friend said it “felt like an insult.” Over the years some splashes of colour were added and now the building feels more at home on the street. The architectural code phrase “Place and Occasion” cascades across the façade, but I initially read it as “Ace Andoco”.
Archibald’s stroll takes him past some hideous metal window shrouds, which he generously says can give us something to talk about. I feel about these the same way I feel about those massive basin sinks that sit on top of counters instead of being recessed, and that will be looked on in the same way as sunset gold and avocado kitchen appliances in a few years.
And then there is this lovely sight, which he says makes you feel like you could be in France, and he’s right.
Welcome back, Stephen.
Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda
Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am, City Hall and online) — agenda
Rossetti-Watson Travel Scholarship Exhibition (Thursday, 9am, Exhibition room, Medjuck Architecture Building) — presents travel studies by Emily Pyatt (Trondheim/Oslo, Norway), Julia Johnston (southern British Columbia), Peter Lombardi (Rotterdam, Netherlands), and Stefan Gagnier Ruckert (Barcelona, Spain)
Thesis Defence, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Thursday, 10am, Room 344, Ocean Sciences Building) — Caitlin McCavour will defend “Early Effects of Helicopter Liming on Soil and Vegetation in Two Acidified Forest Stands in Nova Scotia, Canada”
Utilising the Zebrafish to Investigate the Importance of Cardiac Autoregulation (Thursday, 12pm, Room 3H1, Tupper Building) — Jonathan Baillie will talk
Matriarchal Wisdom: Advancing Indigenous Reproductive and Maternal-Child Health and Rights(Friday, 12pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building and online) — Jennifer Leason from the University of Calgary will talk
Progress and prospects for tephrochronology at the intersection of volcanology and paleoenvironmental studies (Friday, 2pm, Room 3653, LSC Oceanography wing) — Britta Jensen from the University of Alberta will talk
Science as a Vehicle for Satire and Parody (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, McCain Building and online) — Stephen Snobelen will talk
Creative Counter-Memorializations: A Symposium/Gathering (Friday, 1pm, Archibald Room) — featuring a wide variety of artistic and scholarly responses to difficult and contested histories, ranging from art exhibitions, dance pieces and movement workshops, to academic panels on comparative genocides
Odyssey Live! A marathon reading of Homer’s Odyssey in 24 hours (Friday, 7pm, Alumni Hall and online) — marathon reading fundraiser in support of The Halifax Humanities Society, a non-profit in its 15th year of operation which offers free Humanities education to adults living on low incomes. (I am curious about which translation of the Odyssey will be used. I’ve got the Emily Wilson translation sitting on my desk and want to get to it, but I keep reading SF novels.)
In the harbour
06:00: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Corner Brook
06:00: MSC Donata, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
07:00: Puka, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 27 from Mariel, Cuba
10:00: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
11:15: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
11:30: MSC Pilar, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
13:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
14:00: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Baltimore
17:30: Torm Sublime, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
18:30: AlgoScotia moves to Imperial Oil
20:30: East Coast sails for sea
21:30: Atlantic Sea sails for Hamburg, Germany
23:59: Puka sails for sea
I originally read “Torm Sublime” as “Tom Sublime” and let me just say that’s one great name for a character.
Inspired by a clue in this morning’s New York Times crossword, I listened to John Coltrane while writing this.