News

1. Lung transplant news

No lung transplants at the VG.

Carolyn Ray has written an excellent series of stories for CBC on Nova Scotia lung transplant patients.

Lungs are the only organs not transplanted in the province, and patients have to travel to Toronto for the procedure. The trouble is that lungs do not last long outside the body and have to be transplanted quickly. So people who need them usually have to travel to Toronto and spend months there, waiting for donor organs to become available.

The province helps cover living costs — at the princely rate of $1,500 a month. Try living on that in Toronto while you can’t work. Ray says some patients have chosen to die in Nova Scotia rather than put their families through the stress of selling homes and borrowing money so they can get transplants.

Ray says respirologist Meredith Chiasson tells her two of her patients opted not to have transplants that could save their lives.

They cited finances as their main reason. ‘Emotionally, at the worst time in their life, when they’re desperately sick and facing death, we’re asking them to leave their friends, their family, their support system, and to move halfway across the country,” the specialist says.

Ray also has a fascinating piece on an incubator-style machine that can keep lungs viable outside the body for longer, allowing patients to potentially stay at home and not have to move to Toronto for months ahead of their transplants. Her reporting has also led health minister Randy Delorey to consider increasing the travel allowance for lung transplant patients, but he also thinks the current allowance is generous — so don’t hold your breath.

There are no plans to set up a local lung transplant program. Given that the province is already covering the costs of the transplants, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, you would think they could kick in more for the living allowance.

WARNING: the following video is quite graphic.

2. Urologist fined and suspended

This is not Dr. Chun.

Dr. Samuel Chun of Dartmouth has been fined $5,000 (and must pay $10,000 in costs) and had his licence suspended for a month, CBC News reports.

A Dartmouth, N.S., urologist who billed MSI for surgery and examinations that never took place has been fined and suspended for a month.

An investigation of the doctor’s billings and medical records showed that in one case, Chun told a patient that he had performed surgery on him without completing the procedure. That led to a nearly seven-year delay in diagnosing cancer in the man.

He also billed for a comprehensive examination on another patient that was not performed.

Accord to the college, on July 17, 2010, Chun “prepared Patient F for surgery but did not perform the surgery; reported to Patient F’s family physician that he had performed the surgery; billed MSI for conducting a surgery he did not perform.”

Every so often I come across behaviour that never would have crossed my mind. Prepping patients for surgery, administering anaesthesia, and then billing for the surgery without performing it definitely falls into that category.

3. Eat your fruits and veggies — if you can

The ideal plate, according to Canada’s Food Guide.

CTV has a CP story on a joint Dalhousie University and University of Guelph study on whether Canadians can afford to eat fresh fruits and vegetables in accordance with the new Canada Food Guide.

Researchers at Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph found over 52 per cent of consumers surveyed said they face barriers in adopting the guide’s recommendations.

More than 26 per cent of people cited affordability, with others blaming taste preferences, lack of free time, dietary and cultural restrictions and a lack of availability in their area…

“I would say that many Canadians are struggling with the concept of how the food guide, the plate they see on the pamphlet, connects with their own reality and frankly, Canadian agriculture,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a food researcher at Dalhousie and lead author on the report.

“It’s great to celebrate this ideal but if it’s out of reach, if many Canadians feel it’s out of reach, how good is it?”

I don’t know anything about the economics of the grocery business, but I’m always amazed at how expensive produce is here compared to other places I visit. I can understand that you’ll find cheaper avocados in a large city like Montreal, but I’ve seen good-quality fruits and vegetables far less expensive than those available in Nova Scotia even in small Quebec towns like Amqui and Rimouski — which are nowhere near urban centres.

4. No plastic bag ban

In the Chronicle Herald, Francis Campbell reports on the bold stand Nova Scotia environment minister Margaret Miller is taking on single-use plastic bags.

“We are certainly working with our stakeholders, we’re working with the federation of municipalities. We may have something in the future or we may decide to put it off for a bit.”

It’s the kind of decisive action we have come to expect from our provincial government.

Miller was responding to an NDP bill on phasing in a ban. PEI is banning single-use plastic bags starting July 1.


Views

1. Climate-action strike

2014 New York Climate March. Photo: Huffington Post

Tomorrow, students across Nova Scotia will walk out of their classrooms to protest a lack of action on climate change and to underline the urgency of the fight. The protests are inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, whose Fridays for the Future protest has led to a world-wide movement.

My friend Margot Aldrich’s daughter, Willa, is a student at Citadel High and one of the march’s organizers. In a public Facebook post, Aldrich describes how her daughter’s activism was received at her school:

My daughter consulted with various teachers and staff in her school, many of whom were completely supportive and even assured her that this social action would count towards her “Community Action and Service (CAS)” hours. Maintaining respect for her school and teachers, she approached her principal for permission to put up posters about the strike in the school hallways. He did not grant her permission. This is an understandable conflict to his role as principal and it is not what she took issue with. What she took issue with were his comments which were as follows: “I don’t know why you guys are striking anyway. Strikes and marches don’t accomplish anything.”

Aldrich wrote an open letter to the school, saying she found this attitude “surprising since all your students are perpetually shown historical role models who took a stand to create change.” She then outlines movement after movement in which strikes and marches made a difference.

2. Improvements for people with disability are improvements for all

Last year, I was one of the people who took part in Zuppa Theatre’s This Is Nowhere performance. Honestly, it was one of the highlights of the year. The show was an immersive play, in which participants download an app that guides them to different locations around the city, where they participate in activities or watch performances. Everybody’s experience of the show was different, depending on the locations they visited.

Programmer Andrew Burke has written a series of blog posts about his experience with the production, and the most recent is about making the production accessible to all. He says the Zuppa team consulted accessibility activists right from the start. One of the things I found fascinating about Burke’s post was how Zuppa asked people about accessibility as soon as they registered — but didn’t just ask if visitors had a disability or reduced mobility. Instead, they were much more specific.

Because we built our own registration system, we were able to add a second page with our own accessibility questions on it. One big thing we did was set up menus with multiple options per accessibility situation. Instead of a yes/no of “I have mobility issues” there was “I am able-bodied”, “I get sore easily and would rather not walk too much”, “I use a cane/walker”, “I require a wheelchair”. Same thing with hearing and vision – not just “I am deaf” and “I am blind” but also “I have some trouble reading text” or “I sometimes can’t hear very well”. We also included a text box to let people enter any further details.

When people started signing up, I was surprised at how many people flagged one of the intermediate-level accessibility issues, like that they can’t walk too much or don’t hear or see very well. The notes showed the range of “disabilities”: recent athletic injuries, bringing a child in a stroller or a grandparent with a walker, recovering from an illness – very few of them the stereotypical image of “disabled” I had had in my head while setting this up.

Because the show featured multiple locations — and because nobody got to see all of them — Burke could use the information to ensure the app directed participants to locations they could access.

There is a lot more to the post, and I encourage you to read the whole thing. But Burke’s conclusion bears highlighting — especially in a week when a local radio station tweeted that Halifax sidewalks were challenging for the “wheelchair-bound”:

The biggest thing I learned in this is that adding accessibility features to a project end up helping a lot of people. It’s easy to imagine the only people needing accessibility features are those in wheelchairs or with serious vision or hearing problems – but everybody has issues at various times and for various reasons, and adding features to help some people often ends up helping many more.


Noticed (CODCO edition)

A still from the CODCO TV series. Photo: CBC

If you scroll down to the listings, you’ll see that there is a CODCO reunion on Friday at 7 PM at St. Mary’s. (Unfortunately, it’s sold out.)

CODCO were a sketch comedy troupe from Newfoundland who are criminally under-recognized. The CODCO TV series aired on CBC from 1986-1992, airing right after Kids in the Hall. But the Kids (who, don’t get me wrong, were brilliant) are far better-remembered.

CODCO started off in 1973 in Toronto, with a play called Cod on a Stick. The cast then returned to Newfoundland, formed a sketch comedy troupe, and performed on and off for years before landing their TV gig in the mid-1980s.

The Canadian Encyclopedia describes CODCO’s signature style as a “unique blend of brutal satire and whimsical humour” and says “the subject matter of their material, frequently irreverent and always biting, was relentless in its attack on a wide variety of social issues.”

Living in Montreal, the only reason I had heard of CODCO before their TV series was because the parents of a then-friend (we’re married now) knew some of the members of the troupe. There was no way to get your hands on copies of the skits, but I’d heard stories about them. Then the late Mike Jones — Cathy and Andy’s brother, who was not a member of the troupe but who directed some of their stage performances — came to town with a bunch of CODCO sketches on film, set up in a downtown Montreal bar, and spent the evening showing classic sketches like “Outport Lesbian” and telling stories. It was delightful.

CODCO members went on to become far better known in other endeavours. Mary Walsh and Cathy Jones were part of the original core of This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Bob Joy has enjoyed a long and varied career in film and television. Andy Jones continues to act and write (he also wrote for Kids in the Hall); his maniacal one-man show King O’ Fun remains one of the most unhinged and memorable evenings of theatre I’ve ever experienced. Greg Malone has also had a long acting career (and took a shot at federal politics). Sadly, Tommy Sexton died of AIDS soon after the CODCO TV series ended. In 2001, his sister Mary (one of the producers of the feature film Maudie) and her husband Nigel Markham directed a great documentary tribute called Tommy… A Family Portrait.

Last year, Scott Thompson of Kids in the Hall fame talked to Vulture about the influence of CODCO and the relationship between the two troupes:

They were obsessed, and scathing in their ridicule of the church. Just scathing. And they were always in trouble with censors, just like us. I guess our obsession was more male culture, male business culture, gender roles, that sort of thing. And for me personally, sexuality. That was my thing.

And, like us, they all cross-dressed. Constantly, as we did. That was a really common thing for both of us. They were so brilliant and had such a big influence on us. The Kids were always talking about SCTV and Monty Python, but the third pillar that people don’t talk about is CODCO…

Their fearlessness really impressed itself upon me. And their energy, their physical energy. I find them a very visceral group… The key difference between us and them was they were fucking each other, and we weren’t. So that was a key thing. They were more incestuous that way. They drank a lot more, which is hard to believe… Maybe I shouldn’t be going into this.

Andy Jones quit CODCO after the CBC refused to air their outrageous sketch “Pleasant Priests in Conversation” featuring three priests talking about booze, sex, and masturbation. Their show went off the air a couple of years later.


Government

City

Thursday

Sewage Plant Estates (Thursday, 10am, Centre Court, Scotia Square) — go see how great it will be to live next to the sewage plant with no view of the harbour.

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — another taxi driver who has been charged with sexual assault — Tesfom Mengis — wants his licence un-suspended. “I haven’t been convicted of a criminal offence and I maintain I am innocent,” writes Mengis in his appeal letter. “This employment is my means to support family.”

Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — renovation of the Tramway building, including a two-storey addition.

Friday

No public meetings.

Province

Thursday

Health (Thursday, 9am, Province House) — the topic for discussion is “Systemic Challenges to Our Emergency Care System.” Maybe they’ll let someone ask questions. Probably not.

Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)

Friday

Legislature sits (Friday, 9am, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Campus Budget Session (Thursday, 4:30pm, Room 218, MacRae Library, Truro Campus) — more info here.

Free Tax Clinic (Wednesday, 5:30pm, Room 5001, Rowe Building) — volunteers will help those with a modest income and simple tax filing to file taxes on their own.

World’s Challenge Challenge Competition: Dalhousie Finals (Thursday, 7pm, in the Auditorium named for a bank, Marion McCain Building) — from the listing:

Global Issues such as poverty, food security, public health, inequality and environmental degradation are the product of global relations in which we as global citizens bear some responsibility. The World’s Challenge Challenge (WCC) – a global initiative of Western University encourages young minds from different disciplines to come together to address a global issue, offering solutions to implement in partnership with communities. The WCC frames global issues through the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Refugee Advocacy Association of Dalhousie (RAAD) Art Auction (Thursday, 7pm, Atrium, Weldon Law Building) — proceeds for the Halifax Refugee Clinic. Info on Twitter: @emmamarimaci

But the Nazis Loved Music, Too (Thursday, 7:30pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — William Cheng from Dartmouth College, author of Sound Play: Video Games and the Musical Imagination (2014) and Just Vibrations: The Purpose of Sounding Good (2016), will speak.

Friday

The Public Sector and Vaccine Development A Case Study of the Merck [sic] Ebola Vaccine (Friday, 12:10pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Matthew Herder will speak.

Nova Scotia Quality of Life Initiative, Information Session for Faculty, Researchers, and Graduate Students (Friday, 1pm, Room C313, Collaborative Health Education Building) — from the listing:

Engage Nova Scotia (ENS) invites you to an informative discussion about the Nova Scotia Quality of Life Initiative (NSQoLI). As an organization, ENS values academic partnerships and community-based research, noting the vital role they play in contributing to systems change initiatives. At this session, we will provide an overview of the data we are gathering as part of the Quality of Life initiative and how researchers and students can get involved.​

Exploring the Coordination Chemistry and Reactivity of Heavy Main Group Metal Complexes (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Glen Briand of Mount Allison University will speak.

Voice Health and Function for Singers (Friday, 3pm, Room 121, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Glen Nowell will give the last of three talks, open to singers, public speakers, and anyone interested in the voice.

Krista Kesselring. Photo dal.ca

Law, Status, and the Lash: Judicial Whipping in Early Modern England (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) —Krista Kesselring will speak.

Lara St. John. Photo: Stacy Kendrick

Strings Masterclass with Lara St. John (Friday, 4:30pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — a warm-up to Saturday’s Cecilia Series performance. Her website.

Saint Mary’s

Friday

Codco Reunion (Friday, 7pm, McNally Theatre Auditorium) — from the listing:

Newfoundland’s legendary comedy troupe together again for one night only, at Saint Mary’s University!

Before Trailer Park Boys, before This Hour Has 22 Minutes, before The Kids in the Hall, the legendary cast of Codco led the way for a renaissance in Canadian comedy writing and performance. Often controversial, occasionally furious but always hilarious, Codco took gleeful pleasure in lampooning the hypocrisies of the powerful. Join us for an unforgettable evening as Mary Walsh, Cathy Jones, Andy Jones and Greg Malone come together again to revisit their best work and join in a no holds barred discussion on the art and politics of satire.

Free, but seating limited. RSVP here.

Mount Saint Vincent

Friday

Bringing It All Together: Two Decades of Social Development Research in 60 Minutes (Friday, 12pm, Room 532, Seton Academic Centre) — Daniel Séguin will discuss

the evolution and focus of his research on parenting, emotion and behavioural regulation, and outcomes such as anxiety, aggression, and pro-social behaviour in preschool aged children. His presentation will emphasize the applied nature of this research and the importance of making his findings accessible not only to an academic audience but also to school-/care-based practitioners and parents.

RSVP here.


In the harbour

15:30: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
18:00: Onego Elbe, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for sea .


Footnotes (Professional wrestling edition)

Sign for an upcoming local wrestling show in Stewiacke.

Chris Pallies died 10 days ago. A friend texted me the news while I was wandering the aisles at Sobeys looking for peanut butter and molasses, and I immediately broke into tears.

Pallies was a professional wrestler, better known as King Kong Bundy. A man who was variously billed as weighing between 458 and 480 pounds, and whose signature move — the Avalanche — essentially involved him launching his bulk at his opponents, pinning them between his body and the corner of the ring. He was sometimes referred to as a “walking condominium” and I’ve heard him described as having thighs bigger than most men’s waists.

I’d been taken with Bundy since I first saw him on TV in my teens. There was something about his larger-than-life cartoonish villainy (one poster described him as “Big bald and brutal”) that appealed to me.

Bundy had a brief period in the spotlight during the 1980s, as a bad guy (heel, in wrestling parlance) feuding with the then stratospherically popular Hulk Hogan. Obituaries variously describe him as being 61 or 63 years old when he died.

My reaction to Bundy’s death got me thinking about the emotional connections people feel to professional wrestlers. Three years ago, I was researching a radio documentary and magazine feature on professional wrestling. Whenever I mentioned these projects in conversation, I was struck by how many people would fondly recall watching wrestling as children — either live or on TV — and how often they had one particular wrestler they were taken with: Leo Burke, the Cuban Assassin, the Ultimate Warrior. Stewart Young, my producer at CBC Radio, told me the most intensity he had ever felt at Maple Leaf Gardens came not during a Leafs game, but when he went to a wrestling show and watched Hulk Hogan work the crowd like a master.

One of the people I interviewed for my documentary was Harold Kennedy, known in local wrestling circles as New Scott. I asked him about when he fell in love with wrestling, and he told me about seeing the Ultimate Warrior for the first time.

I was six or seven years old and I saw the Ultimate Warrior [on TV] run into the ring and I’m like, “What is this?” I had to watch. And that’s what hooked me. Just seeing this big, 275-pound man and his bright colours running to the ring and then doing his thing. I was just hooked from that second on…

They came back with a live show at the Forum later in 1987 or early in 1988 and the Ultimate Warrior happened to be in the main event of that show against Macho Man Randy Savage. My mom went out and got us tickets, and even though I was sitting near the roof, I was hooked beyond belief at that point. At that show I bought a giant Ultimate Warrior flag or something. I’m not sure what it’s meant to be. And I still have it. It’s got so old you could see through it. It looked like it was going to disintegrate if you touched it. But my wife put a piece of blackout felt on the back of it and we use it as a curtain in the basement now. That’s the first piece of merch I ever bought and I still have it.

Troy Merrick, who wrestles throughout the Maritimes (and sometimes beyond) as The American Patriot had a similar story. Only in his case it was Shawn Michaels who caught his attention:

The first time I saw Shawn Michaels on TV, I was just completely captivated right off the get-go. Growing up in a household of myself and three women, I didn’t often get a chance to see a positive male role model. Wrestling provided that for me, even if it was in an indirect fashion. There was always somebody I could look up to, somebody I could learn from, and somebody that was a good example in a sense.

I think wrestlers can be great role models, you know. There’s the negative force, the antagonist, and the protagonist who has good morals… Wrestling is the ultimate battle of good and evil, and… there are messages in wrestling that can be felt for a lifetime.

Of course, one of the reasons some of us feel an attachment to wrestlers is that they work hard to cultivate it. In talking with wrestlers, I was amazed at how much time they spent thinking about the psychology of crowds and their characters. Troy Merrick said even if we know wrestling matches are “fake” — with the outcomes pre-determined — kids either think they are real or suspend disbelief. And you can work on the adults too.

If you can make somebody feel, you’ve done your job. If you can get them to suspend disbelief and want you to overcome the odds, you make somebody want you to succeed. You’ve won. Conversely, if you make somebody so angry with you that they want to see you fail, that they want to see you get your just desserts that’s also a very satisfying feeling. Being able to manipulate people’s feelings on different scales, in different situations, it’s exciting, it’s riveting, it’s addicting… Being able to manipulate people’s emotions, it’s a powerful feeling.

I was surprised at how often people who learned I was writing about wrestling — who had watched wrestling as kids — were shocked to learn it still exists. As though they watched during a golden era and it all ended after they stopped paying attention. Many of them had loved going to local shows as kids, and had no idea that month in, month out, local promoters are putting on wrestling shows around the region: in hockey rinks, community centres, and multi-purpose rooms in Spryfield, downtown Halifax, Stewiacke, Truro, Membertou, and many other small towns. Sometimes these shows involve former WWE stars who may be past their prime, but can still get the crowd going. I took a couple of my nephews to their first show last summer, and after we had the “What’s the deal with wrestling? Is it real?” conversation, they had a great time. So yeah, it’s still out there.

I’ll leave you with a video of King Kong Bundy in his prime.

Here, in the space of two minutes, we have Bundy tossing a referee out of the ring, getting hit with beer cans thrown by the crowd, repeatedly crushing Hogan, and then spitting on him as he lies on the ground. A true hero.


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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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  1. The influence of CODCO and it’s members lives on in Canadian popular culture. I doubt we would have had This Hour has 22 Minutes or the Rick Mercer Report or Hatchin’, Matchin’. and Dispatchin’ without the road their irreverent humour paved. For a province with a small population, Newfoundland and Labrador has always punched well above it’s weight and continues to do so.

  2. Great issue today. First, I enjoyed your radio doc a couple of years ago on CBC Radio when I heard it by chance one Sunday morning. Secondly, thanks for the CODCO mention. I worked with them as a techie for a couple of their shows. I also worked on a one person show Andy Jones did at the Neptune Studio. At the time, I thought he was the funniest guy alive. I will have to check out the show tomorrow and see if I still feel that way.

    1. Thanks Trevor. I got to interview Andy a few years after I saw his live show, and he was really interesting. I asked him about how he got started as an actor, and he said, “Our gang of kids always did imitations of other people. My father had a reel-to-reel tape recorder, so we would perform into it and play things back. So we never really started. We were just always doing it: thinking of ideas…We were full of ideas because we’d been tossing them around for years and years and years. We’d all gone to school together, Cathy is my sister, I went to school with Bob Joy, some people had worked together in amateur companies — we had loads and loads of characters just bursting to get onstage. I must have had 50 characters from those years, and I still use some of them.”

  3. Philip, thanks for the CODCO note – a shame I hadn’t heard about the reunion, it would have been wonderful to attend. I have a rather personal connection to the troupe: while doing my undergrad at SMU, My girlfriend and I lived in a flat inside Dal campus’ neighbourhood. Our landlords lived up stairs – Tommy Sexton and his partner. Coming from a very small town in rural NS, this was my first (knowing) interaction with a gay couple, which informed my awareness of LGBTQ issues in our society.

    Tommy was – as most Newfoundlanders are famous – the most kind-hearted, generous and funny person I’d ever met, and an enormous loss to all when he passed. It was through him that we discovered CODCO, which I agree is criminally under-recognized. Thanks for the nostalgia kick.

    1. ….and now that I followed the link to the Event page at SMU, I see that it’s – as I should have guessed – the Cyril J. Byrne Memorial Lecture. Cyril was a very dear friend whose love of Irish (and all) literature was infectious. What a wonderful way to remember him – CODCO fit him like a sock, with its wildly irreverent and biting humour.