Saturday, October 30, 2010

HRM Point of Interest #15: Dingle Tower/Sir Sandford Fleming Park

Sir Sandford Fleming immigrated to Canada as a young boy from Scotland in 1845 . While here he worked as a lithographer and carried out many large scale surveys, perhaps most notably those of the Toronto Harbour and the eventual route for the coast to coast railway that would unite the country. He also designed Canada's first ever postage stamp, was a founding member of the Royal Society of Canada and invented Universal Standard Time - the 24 time zones used around the world to this day.

To commemorate the 1758 founding/150th anniversary of the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly - the first ever representative government in the British Empire outside of the United Kingdom - Fleming proposed the construction of a large, imposing tower and donated the land in what was his summer retreat on the western side of the Northwest Arm. The tower was completed in 1912 and was formally dedicated by Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught.

(View of the Northwest Arm, looking north, from the top of Dingle Tower. A suitable reward for climbing all of the stairs necessary to reach the top.)

Sir Sandford Fleming named his 95 acre back yard The Dingle, which means "wooded valley". Today it is called Sir Sandford Fleming Park, in his honour, but the tower retains the name Dingle Tower.

The park has been a favourite place of recreation for Haligonians for generations, even when it could only be reached by a small ferry. Today it continues to be popular, with hiking trails and numerous historic points of interest, and is certainly one of my favourite places in the HRM.

(One of two large bronze lions which guard the entrance to Dingle Tower. The lions were donated by the Royal Colonial Institute of London in 1913, and were designed to be similar to those which can be found at the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nova Scotia National Historic Site #12: Old Burying Ground

I've mentioned the Old Burying Ground in a couple of blog posts already, so I figured it was about time I made an actual post on it.

Located right on the corner of Spring Garden Road and Barrington Street, in Old Town Halifax, the Old Burying Ground was the original cemetery built in 1749 at the founding of Halifax. While there are only 1200 headstones in the cemetery today, over the years some 12 000 people have been interned here. Of course, the Old Burying Ground is also the home of the impressive Welsford-Parker Monument.

An interesting fact is that all of the headstones were carved by hand using chisels and wooden mallets. Many of the original slate stones were quarried and carved around Massachusetts Bay and shipped over to Halifax before the American Revolution. The newer headstones are carved from local ironstone though, and are apparently of much lower quality because of it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

HRM Monument #28: Welsford-Parker Monument

This rare pre-Confederation war memorial was erected in 1860 to honour the memories of Major A.F. Welsford and Captain W.B.C.A. Parker from Halifax. Both Parker and Welsford perished in 1855 in an assault on the Great Redan - part of the Eastern Defenses of Sebstopol - during the Crimean War. This memorial, in the Old Burying Ground, was constructed by George Laing through public subscription and a grant from the Nova Scotia Government.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Elmiet: October 16, 2010

The woman standing on the steps is Ursula Johnson. During Nocturne: Art At Night, she performed a ritualistic scalping in protest of a law that says the scalp of a Mi'kmaq man, woman, or child can be turned in for a bounty of 25 pounds sterling (probably about $40 now).

The bounties were placed by former Governors Lawrence and Cornwallis (regular readers already know my feelings on General Cornwallis), and while the government of Nova Scotia officially apologized for the bounties back in 2000, the law is still on the books, and Johnson and many others have been trying for quite some time to have it removed.

In preparation for her protest piece, Johnson had been growing out her hair - in Mi'kmaq culture the longer a person's hair is, the stronger his/her spiritual connection to the world around him/her is considered to be - and also weaving a long headpiece that would cover her head/eyes, and double as her hair/scalp during the performance.

During the presentation, Ursula Johnson asked a brave member of the roughly 100-strong audience to step forward and volunteer to scalp her on stage. Believe it or not, no one jumped forward to take the place of the bounty collectors.

I suspected something like this might happen, and since the performer had voluntarily blinded herself for the past three to four hours, I really didn't want her to half to ask twice for a volunteer. I stepped forward and took my place beside her.

When I had first stepped forward I thought perhaps a short speech would be given by Ursula, and then I would simply pull the headpiece off. However, a top Native singer, Nathan Sack, came forward and started singing a traditional song while Ursula told me to place my hands on the side of her head. She told me that at the end of the song I was to rip her headpiece off violently, and that I should act very proud since I had done a noble act in killing a Mi'kmaq savage.

The video clip below shows the culmination of the scalping ("the last scalping ever.") Note: the first two or three minutes is cut out, because it's mostly the singer singing, and Ursula struggling to break free, while I struggle to comprehend what's going on but then catch on and try to act like I'm struggling to keep her from breaking free.

I accidentally deleted the video file, but after I tore Ursula's scalp off, I stepped up to the microphone and gave a short speech about how I may have look proud to have taken the scalp in the performance, but how I was not proud that the law/bounty still existed. Then I asked the audience to help lend their support to the performer's cause.

After the show, a number of Ursula's friends came up and shook my hand or hugged me. One woman actually said she started crying, because she pictured me as the embodiment of those rulers who tried to take away her people's way of life (is that a compliment?) Even non-Mi'kmaq members of the audience thought I was fairly convincing, and I had a tough time trying to convince everyone that I was not in fact "planted" in the audience, but was actually a real volunteer who didn't know what was going to happen before hand.

When asked by my brother why I wanted to go to the performance, I told him that since attending the Membertou 400 Festival I have developed a tremendous amount of respect for those Mi'kmaq people who are trying to regain a sense of pride in their history, and/or who are trying to regain a sense of identity for themselves and their people. I will continue to support the Mi'kmaq people, and indeed all First Nations people of Canada, whenever and however I can as I continue to migrate around the country.

Note: I apologize if I've used Mi'kmaq incorrectly at all in this blog. One day I will figure out when to use Mi'kmaq/Mi'kmaw correctly.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nocturne: Art At Night: October 16, 2010

Nocturne: Art at Night, is a one day, completely free festival that takes place once a year in various public and private locations around Halifax. Somewhat similar to Toronto's Luminato Festival, Halifax's Nocturne aims to promote the arts community and make it more accessible to the public, by facilitating collaborations and exhibition opportunities in the form of a free, night time contemporary arts event.

This year marks the third instalment of this annual event, which runs from 6:00 PM until Midnight, and features over 100 art exhibits. Did I mention that it's all completely free?

You'd think that six hours is a long time to look at art, but since many of the exhibits were spread out around peninsular Halifax, the time simply flew by and I was not able to visit even half of the galleries/shows that I had wanted to see. However, that's also the genius of the Nocturne festival, since everyone has to come back the next year, and the next, just to see everything they want to see.

(My brother, EP Dan, contemplates his inability to understand the tangible form given to the contrasts and surplus of information the artist sees as the root cause of chaos, and subsequently decided to represent in this picture with a multiplicity of systems that coexist and confront one another in the same piece.)

(As I mentioned above, not all of the exhibits were indoors. Some, like this one entitled Paths No. 2: Reticulating a Warren, in Victoria Park, were outside. No, I don't know what it's supposed to represent either.)

(This is famous Atlantic Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis' actual house. She painted/decorated it herself, and it is so tiny - 10 feet x 12 feet - it actually fits into one floor of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia where it stands today. She lived in this miniature house with her husband for many decades before succumbing to rheumatoid arthritis in 1970.)

(At the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia I also participated in a "hands on" art exhibit, that called for participants to decorate a piece of cork board and then place it on a large tracing of the human brain. In my contribution, which I entitled "Some String, and a Sea Shell, and Some Other Stuff", I attempted to expertly recreate what someone who would have had no idea what they were doing, would have created had they been asked to decorate a piece of cork board and stick it on a giant tracing of the human brain.)

(This is your brain on art. Don't do art, kids. Of course I was joking there. Additionally, in case you were interested my piece eventually gets glued somewhere along the upper cerebellum.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Random Halifax Picture #12

Is that an Iguana on his shoulder? I expect it when I see something like this in Toronto, but I must admit that it was a slight surprise when I passed by this reptile enthusiast near the Waterfront in Halifax.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Maritime Fall Fair: October 7-11, 2010

With everything from livestock competitions to pear canning seminars, the Maritime Fall Fair literally has something for everyone. I have to say that this is one of the best indoor events I've been to since moving to Halifax, and definitely the best indoor festival to date.

One of the main reasons I went to the Fair, was to visit the Canada Pavillion and reaffirm my Canadian citizenship. Since the entire Ea-pea series, plus Once, Twice, Three Times A Canadian, is all about discovering what it means to be a Canadian I thought it only fitting that I should start off by reaffirming my pledge to my country. For better or for worse, I'm a Canadian, and I'll do the best I can because of it or in spite of it..

The other main reason I went, was to see the Little Moe's Paws For Fun dog show.

Little Moe's is a kennel in Truro, Nova Scotia. In 1998 the kennel formed the group Paws For Fun, which tried to give both humans and dogs something athletic to do for fun, in a non-competitive environment.

I don't know much more of the history other than that, but I can say that the group is fantastically inclusive, with everyone from 50 year old women down to 15 year old girls, and everyone else in between, and every shape and size included.

Furthermore, just about every kind of dog was included in the show too. Whether they were speedy collies, or tiny short haired purse dogs, or even great big hairy lumbering something-or-others, there seemed to be a place for every dog. There was even a rescued, blind, German Shepherd that performed on the agility course with her trainer.

Check out the video below, of Ace the border collie, to get just a hint of the fun you missed.

Bonus photos/videos:

(What the Brady Bunch opening would have looked like, if the Brady family were horses... and there were only four of them.)

(No, it's not a rag doll with elephantiasis... it's a 1109 lb. pumpkin that was grown in Nova Scotia.)

(Sheep getting a hair cut before its big competition.)

(Chef Hans makes a scrumptious pork tenderloin with raspberry couscous, of which I gladly accepted a second sampling. Between the free samples at the cooking seminars and the two giant apples I won for answering skill testing apple questions, I barely had to spend anything on food at this event - which is a good thing because one slice of pizza cost $5.25.)

(Amazing frisbee catch. My dog won't even bring her ball back to me, let alone catch it...)

(When I first saw "pole bending" advertised in the schedule of events, I thought horses were going to try to bend metal poles. The actual pole bending competition is far more interesting than that though, as you can see from the video above.)

(And that leaves barrel racing, which must be about 500 times more difficult than it looks, and that's not to say it looks easy either. It's wonderfully exciting too.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Life Of An Ea-Pea, Episode 4: Bottles and Cans and Toilet Paper

The above picture is of the world's fastest bottle sorter working through my first ever load of bottles, my brother EP Dan and I returned to a nearby bottle depot way back in early September. More importantly than how fast this employee separated my beverage containers though, and even more important than the $14.40 we received for them, was that I didn't pay for a single one of them.

Since I moved into my apartment way back in June, I started thinking that money may not be coming as quickly as I thought it would, and so I might need to literally save up my pennies - in the form of cans and bottles - for some extra purchases at a later date. Every time I walked or cycled or did anything around Halifax, I made an effort to search every gutter, every bush, and the bottom of every garbage can I passed by to see if there were any bottles or cans left lying around. By the end of September, my brother EP Dan, and I, had collected enough bottles to amass a small sour cream container full of nearly $38 in bottle refunds.

Last week we raided our bank, and with the loot purchased a few necessary items for our apartment. Number one on that list of things to buy: toilet paper. The purchase was a sort of fitting in a way, since it was made by cleaning up people's litter, and people who litter deserve to be wiped with a dirty bum.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

EP Bike Trip #3: Bike and Bean Cafe, French Village, Nova Scotia

For the last couple of Sundays, at church, one of the members of the congregation has been encouraging me to check out a network of trails west of Halifax that were converted from old rail road tracks.

Upon closer inspection on a map, I noticed that there were actually a number of multi-use trails west of Halifax that fit my friend's description, and since I was new and had no idea of what to expect, I selected the longest, most difficult one I could find - the 33 km BLT/St. Margaret's Bay Rails to Trails route.

The BLT/St. Margaret's Bay Rails to Trails route is a groomed, dirt/gravel trail that is maintained by a volunteer organization. While I wanted to travel the entire length of the route - and someday will, I was starting out from my home only an hour before sunset, and considering that the start of the trail system was a good 10 km away from my home to begin with, I decided to find a closer target. I settled on an interesting cafe that was once an old train station, the Bike and Bean, figuring that a cup of hot chocolate (the drink of choice for EPs) would be a great way to refresh and warm up before heading back home.

Unfortunately, when I finally arrived in the dark at the cafe, I found out that a) it closes at 5 PM (a half-hour before I even left my home), and b) even if I had made it there earlier it wasn't open on the day of my ride anyway.

(The trip wasn't an entire waste - I captured this impressive sunset along one of the many lakes alongside which the trail passes.)

Cold, hungry, and tired, I set back off into the night on the pitch black trail, trying to pedal as fast as I could to make it home quicker than the 2 hours it took me to reach the cafe originally. I could barely see where the edges of the trail were, but it was well maintained, and so I trusted my dim bicycle light and pedalled on... hard. I estimated that I was travelling anywhere from 35 km/hr - 40 km/hr on average.

When I finally did make it home, I could barely carry my bicycle up the stairs to my fourth floor apartment, where I only got one shoe untied, before collapsing on the floor from exhaustion and pain (my frozen wrists had taken an especially hard hammering on the ride). I am a determined EP though, if nothing else, and so now that I know where the Bike and Bean Cafe is, I will take my road bike out and follow a more direct route there on an Autumn weekend afternoon (I completed this last journey on a city commuter bike - my EP Cruiser).

Total distance travelled: 55+ km
Total time taken: 3.5 hours.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

HRM Point of Interest #14: Halifax Farmers' Market (260th Birthday)

Founded in 1750, the Halifax Farmers' Market is the oldest continually operating Farmers' Market in North America. Located inside the Alexander Keith's Brewery, the "Old" Halifax Farmers' Market (a new one opened just last month on the Waterfront) celebrated its 260th birthday on October 2, 2010.

In honour of this momentous occasion, many of the vendors donned "period costumes". In the picture above a vendor sells some of her home-made fudge to an eager customer. Incidentally, the chocolate covered peanut butter balls in the front left corner were amazing, as was her vanilla fudge. Furthermore, this vendor also sold me the best tasting Jona Gold apple I have ever tasted, way back in May, just before I headed to Vancouver on the train.

Fall is upon us, and with thanksgiving and Halloween coming soon, the pumpkins were out in full force. After I work through my backlog of potatoes, beets, and turnips I plan to buy a large one of these and live off of cooked pumpkin for a month. On this day though I appeased my hungry stomach by eating delicious samosa from a Greek vendor, triangle kimbab from a Korean vendor, and some sort of soft round moist bread-like patties from a South American (possibly? I'm not sure exactly where she was from actually) woman.