Video: A day in the life of Gottigen Street

Gottingen Street, Halifax, NS.

This is part of an interesting project by masters students at King’s Journalism School. It includes 21 Moments that Shaped Gottigen Street, a slide show featuring crucial moments in the city’s 250-year history (many of them new to me), and a thoughtful piece on the cultural tensions arising as the street undergoes gentrification (about which, more here).

The ground keeps shifting under journalism and journalists. This puts J-schools are under pressure to equip students with skills for an industry whose future no one can foresee with clarity—or unbridled optimism. This Gottigen Street project strikes me as a good response to that challenge.

H/T: Jane KansasShawn K. Thompson shot and edited the video; Rich Aucoin produced the soundtrack.


Exorcizing the soul of a new machine

“I’ve never considered myself a moron before,” writes a hapless dishwasher owner in Portland Hills,  Dartmouth, “but my blind faith in Sears proves I should have my mittens tied together with a string, and I should only eat with spoons, as I could easily lose an eye if I tried a fork.”

The unnamed customer is so distraught over fruitless attempts to get the venerable appliance giant to furnish a working dish washer, he’s offering to sell it for the price of the sushi takeout he and his wife ordered Friday night: $57.50. But after 4,300 hits to his viral-bound washer-for-sale ad on Kijiji, no takers.

Broken Kenmore Ad

The owner and his wife built a new house in Portland Hills and installed a new, $800 Sears Kenmore dishwasher. It worked for six months, then stopped draining. After much to-ing and fro-ing, Sears’ South Asian call centre agreed to dispatch a repair person.

[W]e washed dishes by hand for weeks, waiting for their repairman to show up – I guess it took some time for the work order to make it the 15 time zones back to Halifax. Then we have to take 4 hours off from work (the repairman only promises to show up sometime in the four-hour block), burn our gas to get to and from work, only to be told, “we have to order a new drain pump.”

Wash, rinse, repeat:

In comes the part, so we have to book off another 4 hours of work, drive to and from work on our own nickel. In goes the new part, and the dishwasher works, kind of. . . for about 4 months, then it breaks again. Wash dishes by hand for 3 weeks. 4 hours off from work. Order part. Wash dishes for a week. Take 4 hours off. Install new part. Doesn’t work. Order same part again. Wash dishes for two weeks. 4 hours off from work. Part still doesn’t make it work. Order same part for the third time.

At this point we called back the Sears Buddy in New Dehli and suggested that we got a lemon. “Nope. Can’t be a lemon until it’s been fixed 3 times” they say. “It has been fixed 4 times,” says I. “Nope. The last 3 visits have been the same problem, so they only count as one,” says they. I went into the store where I bought it, and said, “You sold me a lemon. Please, sir, may I have another?” “Nope” says they. “We only take your money here. We don’t help you with your problems… call New Dehli. Now shoo, you’re scaring off our next victims.”

Customer thinks about taking page from Kim Jong-un, and “letting my kids starve while I build a catapult and threaten to launch the dishwasher through the window of Sears,” but decides he is too tired. Letter-writing blitz persuades Sears to replace lemon. Identical replacement works for 11 months… and stops draining. Homeowner installs different model from different company: Works fine.

So, if you have the skills and the time to replace the pump in this dishwasher… this baby can by yours for the low, low, everyday price of $57.50. After several months of phone calls, drives home on your work time, and numerous uncalled for bursts of rudeness to your significant other, you’ll have weathered the storm of being treated like a moron by Sears, and you’ll have a dishwasher you can be proud of. And I will have enough cash to pay for the really good sushi we had last night, which helped ease the pounding in my temples after shelling out $800 to replace a dishwasher that’s still under warranty.

Stand by for more price drops.

Visits as of midnight: 23965.

[NB: We do not have Sears’s side of this saga, we’ll be happy to post it when and if it arrives.]

H/T: Jane Kansas

Kansas finds a bed

Kansas bed

At the Valley Motel, somewhere east of Manistique, on Michigan’s Northern Peninsula, the peripatetic Jane Kansas talked Dave, the proprietor, into a cut rate of $30 for this beauty. Later, Dave and his twin daughters showed up with a dinner of steak, real fries, shrimp, rice, cheese, and olives.

“We thought on your walk you might not get many home cooked meals,” Dave explained.

Before bedtime, the girls returned with a banana and a doughnut for dessert.

To the people Jane encounters on her epic walk across the American Midwest, she must seem the oddest of strangers: a short, sunburned woman in late middle age, pushing her travelling gear in a wheeled cart across half a dozen US states – big ones, smack in the heartland. By any normal standard, it’s a cockamamie venture.

And yet, again and again, as Jane documents in her blog at The Coast’s website, people you might expect to have nothing whatever in common with a wandering eccentric respond with a combination of curiosity, concern, and kindness that quickly morphs into friendship. They give her meals, rides, beds, advice, lore, places to camp. She responds with her trademark witty banter and the sort of genuine interest in her hosts’ lives that cannot be faked.

Jane is on the Northern Peninsula in quixotic hopes of catching a ferry to Drummond Island, and then caging a lift across North Channel and the Canada-US border to Manitoulin Island, where her sister has a summer cottage.

Kansas Mich map

The guy at the fish store assures her this is impossible. The guys on the ferry share his opinion.

But an elderly couple in a golf cart direct her to a guy named Tom, whose boat isn’t in the water, but who suggests she try the Thomases or the Zelnicks, just down the road. Tom also gives her a place to camp for the night. At the Zelnicks, next morning, she meets Helen, who invites her in for coffee, and husband Dave. They send her next door to see Jim, and before you can say, “Homeland Security,” Jim, Jane, Helen, and Dave are in Jim’s powerboat, gunkholing along the bays and islands of northeastern Michigan en route to Richard’s Landing, Ontario, and a brunch of eggs over easy, home fries, bacon, and toast. Simple as that. Simple and astounding.

Kansas defends the niqab – updated

Jane Kansas takes time out from her walk to mount the simplest, most easily understood defence I’ve heard of a women’s right to choose face coverings like the niqab and the burka. Money quote:

At the beaches of Nice, Cannes and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat most women were young and slim and topless. In all the cafes, women wore only tiny bikini bras and sarongs, or simply sat and scarfed down their Croque Madames and Ricards in their bikinis. It was what was done.

Kansas-burka-150I sure didn’t. I come from a place where women do not sit in restaurants in their bikinis. I would be uncomfortable anywhere in a bikini. And topless? Please. I feel strongly that away from the beach, cottage or lawn mower, everybody should keep their shirts on.

No one agitated for me to assume a state of address [sic] I would be uncomfortable with, for whatever reason: religious, body image, habit. I would have felt like a skank, no matter if everyone else was doing it.

If you have spent your adult life wearing a shirt in public, you don’t want to go without one. If you have spent your adult life wearing a face covering in public, you don‘t want to go without one. Having your default sartorial splendor legislated away must so totally suck.

She even wore one herself for an afternoon. [Photo: Maggie Lucas.]

[Update] Contrarian reader Cheryl Cook is of mixed mind:

It’s hard not to blur the debate about the right of women to choose what they wear in this part of the world, with the discussion of what they wear in parts where they have little to no choice. This lack of choice being mandated over such a long time surely plays a huge role in determining why anyone would choose to continue wearing a particular piece of clothing when offered the chance not to. To paraphrase Ms. Kansas: it’s what you know, it’s part of your culture/religion etc.

But in talking about parts of the world where women have this choice, be careful to peel the layers away there and acknowledge the women who perhaps don’t really have so much choice. It’s never quite as simple as “we said they could wear what they want, surely that’s permission enough.” People live within communities and subcultures, and the news gives us plenty of examples of women who took the choice to live as they like in countries such as Canada and the UK and paid the price.

For the record, I support anyone’s right to wear what they like. Which means I support the choice of a women in Canada to wear a niqab, even if I don’t like it. But I also fully understand the loathing and mistrust that many have for items of clothing that have been used for such a long time to subjugate or mark my gender as necessary of being hidden, or ‘protected’ because of the way we were born. Sugar coat it as you like with cultural or religious relativism, but it comes down to women being a temptation. Call it protection of honour or whatever, but it’s all done because of our gender. Until that sort of bullshit thinking goes away, and I doubt it ever will, there will never really be a choice for a lot of women. Even some living here.

Kansas travelog

Jane Kansas-450

The stupidest thing the late, lamented Halifax Daily News ever did was to fire weekly columnist Jane Kansas over sloppy attribution of an Internet joke. Busybodies elevated the offense to plagiarism, requiring capital expiation — the irony of firing Nova Scotia’s most original writer for unoriginality lost on all concerned.

Currently on Sabbatical from Halifax, Kansas is travelling on foot from Helena, Montana, to Medicine Hat, Alberta (a 543 kilometer side-trek to visit a friend), thence from Western North Dakota to Toronto (which Google maps calculates at 2082.5 km.). Kansas likes a challenge. Along the way, she files occasional dispatches to the Dear Halifax section of The Coast website. From Friday’s entry:

Just out of Turtle Lake [North Dakota] I see the McClusky Canal and its Maintenance Roads on either side. It’s a beautiful day and I take the canal. The walking is good. In the canal are ducks which take flight at my approach and scare the big brown carp who twitch their tails on the surface and glide into the depths. Turtles plop off their sunny rocks into the water. A dear hightails it into some scrub. Handsome gold-headed birds hang out with the red-winged blackbirds. I think about the way to do things—experiencing the days moment by moment, one step at a time. Taking it as it comes—all the T-shirt wisdom that is so simple and brilliant and easily forgotten. I delight in my delightedness that life and this trip is a series of problem-solving exercises and decisions. Just what I wanted! To practice solving problems. I’m as happy as a lark. Is this trip my life or just something I’m doing? I trundle along, calling to cows I see, stopping to admire birds in marshes. I’m a one-woman life-is-what-you-make-it songbird.

What Nova Scotia journalist writes this well? Harry Thurston, maybe? Silver Donald Cameron on his best days? Harry Bruce? None of these have Jane’s knack for quirky insights combined with raw self-exposure.

Longtime Kansas fans will be relieved to know that the idyllic frolic along the McClusky Canal ends badly. A lightning storm soaks her tent and scant worldly possessions, and Jane ends up back in Turtle Lake, arriving in the rear seat of a police cruiser — not her first experience with this mode of conveyance.