Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Like two ships that pass in the ice

The port [of Sydney] has a series of natural advantages that distinguish it from other East Coast harbours. For example, it is the first port of call in North America for vessels transshipping from the Suez Canal. In addition it is a gateway to the Great Lakes. At 16.5 metres, the harbour can cover all variety of commercial vessels. Further still it offers a protected, ice-free harbour with unrestricted access and no bridges. — Barry Sheey, Sydney Harbour Investment Partners (Cape Breton Post, 3 December 2015)


Marine Atlantic ferries in Sydney harbor ice, Spring 2017. Photo by Tom Ayers, via Twitter.

Marine Atlantic ferries in Sydney harbor, Spring 2017. (Photo by Tom Ayers via Twitter. Did I mention TOM AYERS took this photo? Well, he did. And I want to be sure to give him proper credit.)


She’s Baaa-aaack!

Okay, credit where credit is due — Tim Bousquet alerted us to the return of Mother Canada months ago under a very similar headline (I’ve added some ‘a’s’ and a hyphen so I can call it my own.)

But Cape Breton has now been officially warned she’s headed our way — slouching towards Cranberry Head like some rough beast waiting to be born. At any rate, something is slouching towards Cranberry Head and all signs point toward it being Mother C, although the gentleman announcing her imminent arrival was coy as to her identity.

In a letter to the Cape Breton Post dated 5 April 2017, Sydney’s harbor master, Cyril Aker, who chairs the Sydney Mines Tourism Development Society (established in 2016) and who, in this 11 March 2016 letter to the Post advocated putting Mother Canada at Cranberry Head/Swivel Cove, begged to inform “area residents about the project to establish the Atlantic Memorial Park in Sydney Mines at the entrance to Sydney Harbour.”

Instead of stating that the park would feature a 60-storey high woman modeled loosely on the “Canada bereft” statue from Vimy Ridge (but also owing something to Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster), Aker promised:

A spectacular feature monument overlooking Sydney Harbour and dedicated to Canada’s military service. The monument design will be determined through a public consultation process

I think the only thing that could possibly rival Mother Canada (designed by food-packaging magnate Tony Trigiani) for sheer horror would be whatever kind of monument emerged from a “public consultation process.” Especially given the laundry list of items the “feature monument” is expected to represent — not just the war, but “the contributions of the coal and steel industries” to said war, and “the contributions of diverse immigrant communities,” and “the contributions of First Nations communities.” (“She should be wearing pit boots!” “And a ceremonial headdress!” “And a kilt!” “Eating a donair!” “And a pizza!” “And cabbage rolls!”)

Has none of these monument enthusiasts ever heard of a little something called an “artist?”

Aker argues that:

Canada needs a unique location where visitors can pay respect to and be educated about the sacrifices of its military personnel in the defence of freedom and democracy.

To which I can only say, with all due respect Mr. Harbor Master, “No, Canada does not need yet another war memorial.”

War is a dreadful thing, as reports from Syria and Iraq make brutally clear day after day, and I’m tired of efforts to glorify it, masked as a desire to “honor” veterans.

Enjoy your freedom, participate in your democracy and care for the veterans among us now, that’s the best way to honor their sacrifice.


Column inches

Have you ever noticed how hapless some of Transcontinental Media’s middle-aged, male columnists are? The company that owns the Cape Breton Post seems to reward men who write like ’80s sitcom dads.Hands on an Underwood Typewriter keyboard.

I’ve read screeds by a gentleman who can’t dress himself for public occasions without his wife’s assistance, who proved his manliness by trading in a Prius for an F150 4X4 Lariat and who spends “long humiliating days on the golf course.”

Another, when he’s not writing about needing to “lose a few pounds,” provides color commentary on his own aging body. (Do I really need to know his gout makes his big toe “swell to the size of Prince Edward Island?”) And I think a column about his challenges running the house while his wife was on vacation actually was an episode of some ’80s sitcom if not several ’80s sitcoms.

It’s not like TC Media doesn’t know what a good column looks like — Russell Wangersky writes them regularly. His secret? He frequently writes about people other than himself. He writes about issues —  access to information, airport privatization, the need for “common sense” in drunk driving rulings — and he does it so well that when he does, occasionally, write about himself, it seems earned.

And on a separate — but related — note, what happened to that other TC Media columnist, Manning MacDonald? It’s been awhile since I’ve read any “naked truths.”


The Member for Halifax Armdale?

Dr. David Wheeler

News that former Cape Breton University (CBU) President David Wheeler will run for the NDP in the provincial riding of Halifax Armdale reminded me of my ongoing curiosity about what happened to end his career at CBU.

I still think the university, as a publicly funded institution playing a key role in our community, owes us an explanation and I’m amazed that it hasn’t been forced to provide one.

I heard a downright garrulous Ambrose White, chair of the university’s board of governors, on the CBC explaining in deeply boring detail how the board will go about replacing Wheeler. (White is beaming in the photo accompanying the web version of the story, and why shouldn’t he be? He managed to disappear a university president and instead of being grilled about it, he’s being given the opportunity to discuss how he intends to choose the next one.)

I don’t know whether Wheeler deserved to be dismissed or not — and neither will any candidate to replace him. Doesn’t it seem at least possible that some qualified candidates might hesitate to apply for the job so long as the fate of the last president remains shrouded in mystery?


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