News

1. Church gets second recommendation for heritage status

The former United Memorial Church on Kaye Street in Halifax is seen on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford was at Halifax regional council’s Heritage Advisory Committee yesterday where a United Church on Kaye Street in Halifax got another recommendation for heritage designation. The former United Memorial Church, which was built in 1921 and was designed by Andrew Cobb, replaced two other United churches in the neighbourhood that were destroyed during the Halifax Explosion.

As Woodford reports, back in 2018 Gilles Deveau filed a heritage registration application on behalf of a group of local residents. Property owner Tony Metlege was against the designation. Instead, he wanted to demolish the old church and replace it with a planned seven-storey apartment building. In June of that year, council voted against the designation. Woodford writes:

The property seemed destined for redevelopment — there was even a demolition permit issued — but it never happened.

Last month, the property was sold to 5375 Kaye Developments Co. — a company owned by Dartmouth developer Bruno Elliot MacNeil, according to the registry of joint stocks. The sale price, according to Property Valuation Services Corporation, was $2.15 million.

Joseph Nickerson, MacNeil’s partner at Sidewalk Real Estate Development, applied for heritage registration.

“The property owner intends to preserve and rehabilitate the church as part of a new mixed-use development,” McGreal wrote in the staff report.

I am looking forward to see what this “mixed-use development” looks like in a historic church.

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2. ‘Frantic panic’

The fake police car. Photo: Mass Casualty Commission

Tim Bousquet reports on a question a lot of people want answered: Why did the RCMP wait so long to notify the public about the killer’s fake police car? Bousquet writes:

An answer comes via RCMP Staff Sergeant Steve Halliday, who was interviewed by the Mass Casualty Commission (MCC) on November 3, 2021.

According to Halliday, RCMP communications director Lia Scanlan was notified about the active shooter situation at about 4:30am or 5am on April 19, and there was a discussion about “the best way we could get this information out to the public without creating an even worse situation than we already have. How do we put this out without putting our members at more risk than already at without overloading the system?”

Halliday explained that while they couldn’t be certain — the fake police car was unaccounted for — but they felt the scene had been contained, and the killer and his car was likely somewhere in the woods in Portapique.

But at about 7:30am, the RCMP received a photo of the fake police car, and knew the burned out Ford Tauruses in Portapique were not that car. They shared that photo with Lia Scanlan.

Bousquet goes on to write that Scanlan called Halliday at 8am about the photo, and Halliday said he was concerned the sending the photo out could “send the public into a frantic panic.” The RCMP eventually posted the photo on Twitter at 10:18am.

Click here to read the full article.

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3. Lisa McCully

Lisa McCully. Photo: Facebook

In the second of his articles, Bousquet reports on how in the days before the killings on April 18/19, 2020, GW was harassing Lisa McCully, by driving in front of her home and “creeping her out,” according to an RCMP officer who knew her.

On the night of April 18, several people called 911 and said that the killer was driving a police car. In response, the RCMP tried to account for all their cars. One person remembered that Cst. Dave Lilly had a cottage somewhere in the area — could it be his car?

A phone call to Lilly quickly cleared up that confusion  — Lilly’s cottage wasn’t in Portapique, but rather in Wentworth, and the car was unmoved in front of the cottage.

But Lilly was then awake, so he logged onto the his computer and learned what he could about the ongoing active shooter situation in Portapique, including that the suspect was GW. Lilly had important information.

“I had a call from Dave Lilly and Dave Lilly as it turns out, had a lot of information about the suspect, about what may have transpired at the scene,” said Staff Sergeant Steve Halliday.

“He advised me that a lady by the name of Lisa McCully, who was a coworker of Dave’s wife — Dave’s wife was a teacher, Lisa McCully was a teacher,” continued Halliday. “So, once he [Dave Lilly] saw the address, he made the connection and indicated that the suspect, [GW], he believed he and her had been in some kind of a relationship. And in recent days or weeks, he had been acting very unusual towards her, driving back and down her residence, and as Dave said, and I quote him, ‘Creeping her out.’”

Bousquet’s report also looked at how the killer had a history of intimidating his neighbours, including Brenda Forbes. She and her husband moved to Portapique in 2004. The couple would often socialize with GW and his spouse, Lisa Banfield, but that relationship soon soured.

Click here for the complete article. 

You can find all of Examiner’s reporting on the mass murders at this page here. It’s also available on a widget on the home page, on the right hand side. We will update the page often, too.

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4. The Tideline, Episode 77: Elizabeth Murphy

Photo: Elizabeth Murphy

Elizabeth Murphy is retiring from Shakespeare by the Sea. This week, she joins Tara Thorne on The Tideline to talk about everything SBTS which she, Patrick Christopher Carter, and Jean Morpurgo started in the summer of 1994 with a free production of Twelfth Night in Point Pleasant Park.

Now in its 28th season, SBTS is ramping up for its summer shows. Murphy, the surviving co-founder who’s been running the company with Jesse MacLean, and Thorne chat about the company’s history, challenges, and its legacy in the theatre community. Murphy will also share a bit on her own next act. Plus, a new song from Rich Aucoin.

Listen here for free.

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Views

Scare, not share: how social media has changed what information we tell others

Remember when you let your fingers do the walking through the phone book? Photo: Suzanne Rent

Last week, I had with my daughter what she considered one the most shocking of conversations since I interrupted her watching of SpongeBob SquarePants to share Chapter 17 of “the talk.” This recent chat was about – of all things — the phone book.

“This is really creepy,” she said as she flipped through the pages of the white pages. “I know these people’s phone numbers and where they live now.”

I never sheltered her from the phone book. I just never use it. When copies were delivered to us, it went directly into recycling. She recently discovered it when she checked the mail and found it there. So, she looked up the phone numbers of relatives and friends. She liked learning about different surnames, notably Pickles and Stubbington. She found my grandmother’s phone number in there. This is the grandmother who died in 2001. (I didn’t dare call the number.)

While the phone book is about quarter the size it was when I was my kid’s age, I guess people still use it. The Yellow Pages still have lots of advertising.

When I tweeted out her comment, someone suggested I tell her about party lines, and that you could “spy” on your neighbours (I remember my relatives in Big Pond had a party line.) Someone else said the phone book was “when you had to pay extra not to be doxxed.”

I had a good laugh over all this because while my daughter was horrified that the phone book revealed so much about where people lived and how to contact them, I am continually horrified with the information people share on social media. (My kid doesn’t have social media. She’s smart.)

While the phone book may still tell us where people lived and what number to call to reach them, on social media I have learned more about virtual strangers than I care to know. (That’s me, though. I am a private person and don’t share too many private details on social media.) I know about strangers’ workouts, their romantic lives, their sex lives, their financial status, how much laundry they need to do in a given week, if they wash their legs, and their opinions on just about everything. I know about every diagnosis and every crisis some people have.

And a lot of people share every detail of what they eat and how they cooked it. Remember in the 70s and 80s when we took Polaroids of our dinner and walked around our neighbourhood showing that photo to people? I don’t either.

No doubt people find supportive community on social media. But sometimes I think if their addresses or phone numbers were in the good ol’ phone book, I might knock on their door or give them a call and ask, “Are you okay in there?”

Writer and novelist Rebecca Makkai recently shared on Twitter this hilarious thread about her watching the first two seasons of Friends with her 14-year-old daughter. She had to explain a lot about the technology and how it was used in the show. Makkai had to explain pagers, answering machines, why secretaries answer office phones, and how people used to memorize people’s phone numbers.

That last one got me thinking. I STILL know my family’s first phone number from when I was very, very young. I also still know my best friend’s home phone number from the 80s, and the phone numbers of many relatives. I have a pretty good memory for numbers, but now that we just plug contacts into our smartphones, I no longer memorize phone numbers. For example, I can’t tell you what Iris the Amazing’s phone number is, not that I would if I could remember it. If she calls, my phone just says “Iris the Amazing.” What are we losing by not memorizing phone numbers anymore?

Makkai had a lot of other things to explain to her daughter about those episodes of Friends, too, like how Monica could afford that apartment in New York, what a hickey is, why people held up lighters at concerts, and who Mr. Roper was. Commenters in the thread added other elements Makkai might need to explain, like were Ross and Rachel on a break? (Note from me: they were on a break!) Seems like she didn’t have to explain the phone book, although they’re only through two seasons.

I wondered — if my kid has a kid, what will she have to explain to them about the information that is out there about people? I hope Twitter isn’t around then, but maybe she’d find some old social media posts through the Wayback Machine. Will my grandkid be as creeped out by all of that as my kid was creeped out by the phone book?

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Noticed

Last week, reader Lynn Matheson sent me this article, Instagram vs. Reality? FaceApp and the uncanny world of photo editing apps by filmmaker Elena Rossini, who directed the 2015 documentary The Illusionists about the globalization of beauty and the dark side of advertising. In the article, Rossini wrote about what she learned about FaceApp, a photo editing app she discovered through a Reddit thread in which commenters were saying how many social media influencers all look alike in their photos. Rossini wrote:

I’ve been unable to find the original post, but it was a grid of 9 photos showing close-ups of nine young women, who seemed to have the same flawless skin, thick eyebrows, doe-like eyes, plump lips and high cheekbones. They looked like the same person but were in fact 9 different individuals.

Most of the comments on the original post lamented social media’s unattainable beauty ideals and the fact that young women seem pressured to look a certain way, resorting to lip fillers, Botox and cosmetic procedures to achieve that prized look.

Celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Khloe Kardashian want that prized look, too. Rossini shared these photos of Kylie Jenner, top, and Khloe Kardashian. Two of the photos are from videos, which are harder to edit, certainly with a FaceApp filter. And the other two photos are from their social media accounts. Can you see the difference?

Rossini signed up for the free trial of FaceApp, took a selfie wearing no makeup, and ran it through a filter called “Stunning.” Here is her result:

Photo: Elena Rossini

Rossini wrote:

My selfie – snapped without any make up on – was magically transformed at the touch of a button making me look like one of those Instagram influencers. The result was uncanny.

It was too easy. All I had to do was import the photo (no way I would give permission to the app to access my entire photo library) and click on the first item in its menu bar: “Presets.” I scrolled through them, selected “Stunning” and voilà – my photo was magically transformed.

So, like Rossini, I figured I’d try this out for myself. I signed up for the free trial of FaceApp (and have since cancelled), took a selfie wearing no makeup, and ran it through the FaceApp filters. The results are disturbing and hilarious. After I took them, I was texting them to Iris and we had quite a few laughs. Now, you get to see some of them. Apologies in advance; this is a lot of selfies of me — well, filtered selfies.

Here’s my selfie in which I’m not wearing makeup. Now, this was a tougher exercise than I expected. I found myself zooming in on this photo and looking for flaws. Like, when did I get that line above my left eye? Why is one eye larger than the other? Where is my upper lip? I also noticed a couple of blemishes that are healing, and thought I could use a nice facial. When I’m at home, I have my hair in a ponytail, but I let my hair down to see what the filters did with it. Is my “authentic self?!”

Selfie with no makeup.

Like Rossini, I tried the “preset” filters. There are several of them, each with a name that might offer a clue as to the look you’ll achieve with them. The first filter I tried was the “natural” one. Here are the results:

“Natural” filter.

This doesn’t really look natural to me. It looks like I have really great makeup and some photo edits. Next was the Beach Glam photo. Now, I don’t/can’t tan, so I found this quite funny. It also appears this filter fluffed up my hair.

Beach Glam filter.

And then there’s this filter, which is called “Youthful.” Again, lots of make up, especially eyeliner, rosy cheeks, and flawless, wrinkle-free skin, which I don’t have.

Youthful filter.

This filter below is called “Femme Fatale.” I mean, come on.

Femme Fatale filter.

And finally, this is the filter Rossini mentions in her article. I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s the filter that makes you look like all the celebrities. The big eyes, enhanced, pouty lips, flawless skin. I could be an influencer — or even a Kardashian (I don’t want to be a Kardashian.) Doesn’t this look really fake? Who would ever believe this isn’t a photo without a filter? The look actually reminds me of those Bratz Dolls. 

The filter that makes me look like all the celebrities on social media.

So, all of these filters looked like I have great makeup, cosmetic surgery, photo editing, or all three. And they all look fake! I could have a professional headshot done with professional makeup and it would look more real than these photos. When people use these filters and post the photos, do others actually believe it’s them?

But something weird happened as I was scrolling through these selfies, and sending them to Iris. I started to look at that selfie where I’m not wearing makeup much differently. I started appreciating that photo more because that’s the one I recognized. That was the photo that looked like me, even with its flaws. I mentioned this to Iris, who said, “There’s a big difference between enhancing what you have, and erasing who you are.”

So true.

But I could also see how constantly using these filters could become troublesome. They were so easy and quick to use. Certainly, after a while women might start seeing themselves differently. Here’s what Rossini said about that:

This is really disturbing. A power nobody should have – especially young impressionable people for whom popularity on social media apps is key. Because what happens when young women look up from their phones and see their real faces in the mirror? Would they feel a sense of shame? Of inadequacy, for not looking like their AI-beautified version?

Thing is, when a person starts retouching their photos to look a certain way, there is no way back… to maintain the illusion, that person needs to retouch ALL their subsequent photos. Forever. Or else they would appear unrecognizable.

These photo editing apps aren’t going away. They’re pretty popular, and continue a long tradition of profiting off making women feel badly about themselves, much like fashion magazines and the diet industry do. But, as Rossini writes, there are ways to deal with them: don’t use photo editing apps at all; limit your time on social media; and focus less on our appearance and what else we can do with our bodies besides running photos through fake filters.

Not that I ever believed influencers or celebrities were showing their true looks on social media, but I’ll definitely look at those photos differently now. No one needs that kind of influence.

Oh, I scanned a recent selfie I took that included a horse. It didn’t change him into a unicorn.

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Government

City

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — virtual meeting

Regional Centre Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — virtual meeting

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday and Friday:

No events

Saturday

Wonder World (Saturday, 7pm, Council Chambers, SUB) —K.R. Byggdin will launch their book, with Francesca Ekwuyasi and Venus Envy. Masks required, books for sale, more info here.

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

No events

Friday

Research Expo (Friday, 1pm, Loyola Conference Hall) — Researchers from the faculties of Science, Business, and Arts showcase their research in the form of short pitch presentations or through displays; more info here


In the harbour

Halifax
07:00: IT Integrity, supply vessel, arrives at Pier 9 from Georgetown, P.E.I.
12:00: Ocean Voyager, cruise ship with up to 216 passengers, arrives at Pier 24 from Portland
16:00: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
21:30: APL Sentosa, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
22:00: Oceanex Connaigra moves back to Pier 41
22:00: Augusta Luna, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for Bilboa, Spain

Cape Breton
14:00: Paul A. Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Government Dock (Sydney) from Corner Brook


Footnotes

On the weekend, a friend shared this obituary on Facebook. It was written by Jessica Marie McKenna-Ryan, who died on April 23, 2022. She was just 42. McKenna-Ryan wrote about her parents, her four children, her husband, and everyone who helped support her when she had cancer. You should read it; it’s charming, funny, and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Sheldon McLeod noticed the obituary, too, and talked about it here. McLeod also talked about writing his own obituary a couple of times, and the obituary political cartoonist Michael DeAdder wrote about his mother, Margaret. That hilarious obituary went viral.

Like many people, I often read obituaries. I wrote about them before here, and talked with a school classmate who penned a funny and thoughtful obituary about her sister who died in 2019 at the age of 53. But writing an obituary is much harder than reading them. My father, Kenneth, passed away on April 4. I wrote his obituary here, and it was definitely tough to pen, although I had many people tell me I captured him perfectly. I have to say I enjoyed reading the tributes in the online guestbook, especially those that said what a great dancer and a snazzy dresser he was in his youth.

I posted McKenna-Ryan’s obituary on my own Facebook page, and a few friends told me they’ve already written their own. I was thinking about writing my own, too, but I’m not sure what I’d say. I’ll have to think about it. It might be a good exercise in self-reflection.


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Suzanne Rent

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

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