Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Boys’ night out

Here’s the actual social note about that Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation “reception” Mayor Cecil Clarke co-hosted with Cape Breton Eagles owner Irwin Simon in Toronto on Wednesday. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I feel like there’s something missing from this photo:

According to the full press release:

Also attending was Minister of Business, Honorable Jeff [sic] MacLellan and Foundation Board members, Brian Purchase, Simon MacDonald and Board Chair, Stan MacDonald…

They at least mention a woman in the press release:

The campaign, which will support the building of Cape Breton’s new cancer centre, has already begun. To date, fundraising efforts have completely funded a life-saving piece of equipment for the cancer centre. “With the passion and determination of Brenda McCarthy of George’s River, Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy Equipment, which will cost $297,000, was funded in less than ten months.”

I get, by the way, that this is just how things are done in our society — if you want wealthy people to fund a cancer center, you throw them a party and pass the hat.

You also accept the premise that the “government” is paying most of the price for building and equipping our new hospitals but the “public” must also do its part without pointing out that the government is us and the money it’s contributing is ours.

Speaking of which, if the mayor spent public money to go to Toronto to co-host this event, he should tell us.


Five & Dime

An item on Boing Boing, the tech blog, caught my eye the other morning: there is only one Woolworth’s lunch counter left in North America.

Although “fully functioning,” it’s no longer located in a Woolworth’s store — it’s in the Five & Dime Antique Mall in Bakersfield, California.

Woolworth's lunch counter, Five & Dime Antique Mall, Bakersfield, CA

Woolworth’s lunch counter, Five & Dime Antique Mall, Bakersfield, CA. (Photo by Ixfd64 [CC BY-SA 4.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons)

The blog post links to a history of Woolworth’s that credits it founder, Frank Winfield Woolworth, with the invention of the modern department store:

Prior to Woolworth, much of America bought its goods from catalogues or local stores where attendants pulled from a list given to them and produced the goods up at the front. Shoppers would wait patiently, often with a drink in hand, while someone else picked out things for them. At any Woolworth, rows and rows of items lined shelves inside large buildings, letting customers browse and pick up items before putting them in a shopping basket for purchase at the front themselves.

The Bakersfield lunch counter features “22 counter seats, Formica tables ringing the room, and an open kitchen for griddling burgers and making milkshakes.” It’s the reference to milkshakes that really sparked my interest, because milkshakes are what I remember most about the lunch counter at the Woolworth’s in Sydney; specifically, I remember that they’d fill your glass, but they’d also give you the metal canister from the machine, which meant you basically got two milkshakes. As a child who usually had to share things with a sibling (or two, or three) this represented decadence in its purest form.

Woolworth's on Charlotte Street, Sydney, 1940s.

Post card showing Woolworth’s on Charlotte Street, Sydney, 1940s. (Source: Old Photos and Memories of Cape Breton, NS)

Woolworth’s “discount subsidiary” was Woolco which also had a lunch counter, the Red Grill, and as a Cape Bretoner, I was pleased to note this response to the Boing Boing item: “I worked there for 4 years, and once performed a version of this timeless classic”:


The longest lunch counter in the world was located in a Woolworth’s in Los Angeles:

Post Card, longest lunch counter in world, Woolworth's, LA

Source: California Historical Society Digital Collection [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons.

There is no way to segue smoothly from lighthearted talk of milkshakes and hamburgers to serious discussion of the American civil rights movement but equally, there is no way you can write about Woolworth’s lunch counters without mentioning the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, the site of the first “sit-in” in February 1960. But in a way, that’s kind of the essence of the story — that something as simple as sitting at a lunch counter and ordering a milkshake was an issue for African Americans under Jim Crow segregation.

Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond, the Greensboro Four, 1 February 1960. (Jack Moebes/Corbis)

Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond, the Greensboro Four, 1 February 1960. (Jack Moebes/Corbis)

The counter itself is now in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History:

Greensboro sit-in counter

Section of Greensboro sit-in counter at Smithsonian Institution. (Photo by Mark Pellegrini [CC BY-SA 2.5 ( via Wikimedia Commons)

And that is more than I expected to be writing about Woolworth’s lunch counters this morning.



Radio Radio

My sister sent me a link to Radio Garden, a site that allows you to listen to live radio across the globe:

Radio Garden was originally commissioned in 2016 by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in the context of an exhibition for the international research project Transnational Radio Encounters.

The project was originally created, designed and developed by Studio Puckey & Moniker.

In early 2019 Jonathan Puckey turned Radio Garden into a company. Together with a small team, he is working on the future of Radio Garden: new features, better stability and most importantly simplicity.


I’m listening to Uniradioen World Music Radio from Copenhagen, Denmark, as I type.



Reality calling

I was out for a walk this weekend and found myself behind the Prince Street shopping mall — a place I rarely visit — in front of the main entrance to MCI’s Sydney Call Centre (the one that won’t answer my questions about its high rate of ambulance visits).

I was struck by the contrast between the call center’s internet presence, which suggests to potential clients that the facility is located on a rocky outcropping on the island’s rugged Atlantic Coast:

Source: Sydney Call Centre web site


And the reality:

Sydney Call Centre, entrance

Sydney Call Centre, entrance

The interwebs are a wonderful place where we can all be what we want to be…


Security can be fun

I have Dog Island, the Halifax-based podcast, to thank for this next item because I don’t think, left to my own devices, I would have looked up the agenda for the Halifax International Security Forum, which starts today and runs through Sunday in our provincial capital.

And had I not checked the agenda, I would never have realized how lighthearted this affair must be — check out the cutesy titles on the sessions:

  • Values Trade: Our Way or the Huawei
  • Hong Kong’s Summer, China’s Fall
  • 2020s Vision: Responsibility to Pro-Tech
  • The Chinese Century is Coming: That’s What Xi Said
  • India à la Modi
  • Iran Provokes, the World Chokes
  • Turkey: It’s Istanbul, Not Constantinople

Or what a panel of experts on “Women’s contributions” to “Security Solutions” should look like:

And I would never have stumbled across Pete & Steve’s The Worlda podcast with the tagline:  “Longtime friends Pete and Steve try to make sense of the world.”

The obvious question — who are Pete and Steve? — is not answered anywhere on the web site, but at one point during a podcast, Steve refers to “your forum” when speaking to Pete which makes me think Pete must be Peter Van Praagh:

…the founding President of Halifax International Security Forum. Peter has served as Senior Director for Foreign Policy at the Washington, DC-based German Marshall Fund of the United States, as Deputy Vice President of Programs at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, DC, and as Chief of Party for the National Democratic Institute both in the former Soviet Union and in Turkey. In 2006-07, Peter served as Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada. Peter is a graduate of University College, the University of Toronto and the London School of Economics. He is married to Lena Van Praagh and has three children, Yasha, Sophia Joy, and Elizabeth.

Pete & Steve's The World podcastI have no idea who Steve is (although I know he’s based in Toronto) and I have even less idea why their podcast is shared on the Security Forum site. Pete takes a stab at explaining that to Senator John McCain in the very first episode, but he’s so nervous talking to the man he later admits he “loves” that the best he can do is this:

We’re doing a podcast, um, that we hope will attract young people, so that they can understand why the world, why they should care about, like, young Americans, why they should care about the world.

In the very next episode, Pete encourages young Americans to care about the world by complaining about his Russian wife and mother-in-law. In the seventh, he and Steve decide the best way to encourage young Americans to care about the world is to call people at random and badger them into answering dumb questions. Their first topic is “lies” and their first call is to the Library of Congress where they ask a bemused employee in the poetry and literature division what she thinks about Donald Trump’s relationship with the truth.

She tells them that as a federal employee, she can’t comment, so they broaden the question to “the importance of fact when you’re wanting to seek truth” and try repeatedly to feed her what they want her to say but she politely refuses is and finally says that she isn’t comfortable with the questions.

Pete and Steve bicker between themselves for a while, then ask the librarian if she thinks their podcast will be a success.

She says, “I’m not really sure what the scope of your podcast is.” (I feel your pain, sister.) Then she says, “I’m going to have to let you go” and hangs up.

She sounded young, but I’m not sure they convinced her to care about the world. I think they convinced her they were morons.

They convinced me too.