Schedule and Links for Tunes at Noon 2009 in Halifax, with Christina Martin Opening Review

Tunes at Noon takes place every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from Noon to 1:00 pm in Grand Parade in Halifax, till August 28, 2009. The schedule of performers include:

July 15 – Christina Martin (folk/rock)
July 16 –­ Rebekah Higgs (folk-electric)
July 17 ­– Pink Thunder (pop/rock)
July 22 ­– Ian Sherwood (rock/jazz/folk) / Steven Bowers (folk rock)
July 23 ­– The SideCats (roots/world/jazz/blues)
July 24 ­– Marimba Stew (percussive groove)
July 29 ­– Shannon Quinn (celtic)
July 30 ­– Shan Arsenault (jazz)
July 31 ­– Around Town Band (rock) / The Repercussionists (rock) [great name!]
August 5 –­ Fullhouse (Latin)
August 6 ­– Dave Carroll (folk/pop), of Sons of Maxwell and United Breaks Guitar viral video fame!
August 7 ­– The Strangeboys (bluegrass)
August 12 –­ Ryan Cook (country)
August 13 ­– Grassmarket (folk/bluegrass) [nice name]
August 14 ­– Telfer (pop/funk)
August 19 ­– Mary Stewart (pop/folk) / Crissi Cochrane, aka Save September (folk)
August 20 ­– David Myles (folk)
August 21 ­– Ruth Minnikin and her Bandwagon (Americana/folk)
August 26 ­– Kim Wempe (folk/jazz) / Norma MacDonald (pop/folk)
August 27 ­– Mike Trask (rock)
August 28 ­– Kev Corbett (folk)

Christina Martin, photo by Aaron McKenzie Fraser

Christina Martin, photo by Aaron McKenzie Fraser

Summer 2009 unofficially arrived in Halifax today with the first Tunes at Noon 2009 concert, featuring Halifax’s own little dynamo, Christina Martin. Well, I shouldn’t call anybody little being at 5’2.625″ and 108 lbs. But Christina comes with an energetic and vibrant repertoire from some solid award winning recordings. Even with just one acoustic guitar amped up slightly and playing solo, the set was great!

I’ve been meaning to go see Christina play for a while now, more than just a few songs here and there where I’ve only managed to see her thus far. My stars just hadn’t aligned. They weren’t today, either, but I fixed that. On my way home to visiting Mom’s Vietnamese cooking during her last days here, I delayed it when I saw Christina playing at Grand Parade.

“That’s right, I held off Mom’s Vietnamese cuisine for Christina Martin’s music!”

I stayed to watch Christina’s set till the end, with intent of then going home and packing the lunch to take back to eat at my desk after the concert. I even called Mom to join me, but she was out so she didn’t know I was playing hooky with her cooking. So please, don’t anybody tell my Mom! 🙂

Instead of me trying to describe Christina’s music, though, nothing speaks for it like the music itself so I have included three videos below. They are songs from Christina’s sophomore album, Two Hearts, which won her 2009 East Coast Music Award (ECMA) Pop Recording of the Year and two 2008 Music Nova Scotia Awards: Female Artist Recording of the Year & Pop/Rock Artist/Group Recording of the Year. The Tunes at Noon series schedule follows the videos, with links to all the bands for you to preview their music. I hope to attend as many as possible and review some of my favourite ones on the blog. We’ve got a lot of great musical talent in Nova Scotia who deserve a lot more profile than they get. There’s also a lot of diversity in flavour. So if you can come down to watch, or click through on the links above to hear their music and spread the word, I’m sure they’d appreciate it!

The first of Christina’s featured song is the title track from Christina’s sophomore album, Two Hearts. It is my favourite song of hers, and this is the official video.


The second is a live performance of Cut It Out from Christina’s Two Hearts CD release party at the FRED Whet Salon in Halifax.


Finally, Christina acoustically performs You Come Home at the 2008 Nova Scotia Music Week Gala Show.


Tunes at Noon is presented by Councillor Dawn Sloane, the Downtown Halifax Business Commission and the Halifax Regional Municipality. Music Nova Scotia, C100 radio, The Coast and The Centre for Arts and Technology are also supporters.

You know, as I write this, I want to be out there someday performing. Being a singer/songwriter myself (my MySpace page), I don’t devote a lot of time to it due to the many other things I do. These people here have worked hard to get where they are today. Maybe seeing enough of them will motivate me to put on a much bigger effort and make that dream happen. Should do it soon while Dawn Sloane is still my city councillor, though, to increase my chances. 😉

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 8.2


Halifax, Dartmouth and Nova Scotia Pathetic in Earth Hour 2009… Watt Hour???


Please click here for the 2010 Earth Hour Results

Nova Scotians showed our traditionalism at its best with nothing short of a pathetic effort during Earth Hour in 2009. Pictures from Halifax-Dartmouth shown below provide some evidence. Statistics from Nova Scotia Power Inc. (NSPI) were as dark as Nova Scotia should have been, obscured in ambiguity without context. By action, Nova Scotians’ response to participation in Earth Hour was a resounding Watt Hour?

According to NSPI, Nova Scotian power usage dropped “15 megawatts or the equivalent of 1,153,845 13 watt compact fluorescent light bulbs” (CFLs). No other context was given so let’s start with some questions.

NSPI Earth Hour 2009 Results screen capture, provided because the link in the text may not yield the quoted information long after Mar 28 2009 because its URL indicated it was for the top story regarding Energy Efficiency, not a dedicated page to Earth Hour. The next story in the category would conveniently sweep this one into the dark matters of cyberspace.

NSPI Earth Hour 2009 Results screen capture, provided because the above link in the text may not yield the quoted information long after Mar 28 2009. The story's URL indicated it was for the top story regarding Energy Efficiency, not Earth Hour. The next story in the category would bump this one elsewhere.

First, dropped from what? A seasonal average? This date last year? And what percentage was saved? 15 megawatters (MW) out of 1,500MW rather than 150MW are very different outcomes (1% versus 10%).

Mar 30 update: It was a one percent (1%) reduction [Toronto Star, Mar 30 4:30 AM].

Second, it was a relatively balmy 2 to 5 degrees Celcius at 9 pm tonight, the warmest in a while and well over the -2.6 degree Celcius mean temperature for March 2008 [Environment Canada]. How much of that power saving was due to less heat required rather than lights going out? NSPI can’t be expected to report this precisely, but they should have data to estimate it. If they don’t, Nova Scotians should worry.

Third, big buildings and structures like the bridges in Halifax-Dartmouth probably accounted for a good chunk of the 15MW reduction. Their lights aren’t exactly small power consumers. Despite being in this all together, perhaps something about what the general public contributed would help to give an idea of the effort. NSPI must recognize residential and commercial accounts in their billings. However, to give credit where it’s due, NSPI did get the information up online just hours after Earth Hour was over.

Fourth, was this progress? Fortunately, I found last year’s result to be 8MW in reduction [Cape Breton Post] so this year’s 15MW reduction was almost twice as good. For that, let’s take a second to say “hip hip hurrah”, but then move on because looking at the bigger context and rating progress against our Canadian neighbours (see below), our results were pathetic.

Using NSPI’s figures, for our population of about 0.95 million, I can calculate that each Nova Scotian saved about 16W during Earth hour. Watts isn’t the proper way to express energy savings scientifically, by the way, but we’ll save the science for another time and just work with it as is for simplicity of comparison.


How did Nova Scotia do compared to the rest of Canada for Earth Hour?

Ontario, outside of Toronto, saved 920 MW or 6%, from typical demand, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and CTV Toronto. At a population of 12.9 million, that’s 71W per person for the hour or 4.5X the amount Nova Scotians saved. Temperature ranged from 7 to -10 degrees Celcius so they probably didn’t save as much for heat as we did, either, with us at 2 to 5 degrees.

Live reports on the CBC television at the time of this post (1:40AM Sun Mar 29) claimed Toronto chipped in for 452 MW or 82W per person for the hour if you use the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) population of 5.5 million instead of 2.48 million for just Toronto [City of Toronto]. CTV Toronto puts this at a 15.2% reduction, up from 8.7% last year. If you use the latter population figure, they saved 182W per person for the hour, which would not be surprising given the large number of businesses and landmarks which are major consumers of power at night who participated. Regardless, that’s 5.1X or 11.5X the amount Nova Scotians saved, pending the number you choose, which is irrelevant for comparative purposes because of the big gap in either case. It was 11 degrees Celcius in Toronto at the time, much warmer than our 2 to 5 degrees or so, but that wouldn’t be nearly enough to account for the disparity between the two performances. Nor will I believe any claim that denizens at the “centre of the universe” using more power than the typical Nova Scotians as being sufficient to close the gap much, either.

Mar 30 update: Nova Scotia sat at a 1% reduction, but so did Newfoundland and Labrador, and the much touted environmentally friendly British Columbia. Calgary reported a small drop but was not quantified. Manitoba saw an increase but did not officially participate to get the word and encouragement out to the public. It was also rather cold that night at -8 degree Celcius and -13 windchill. Temperatures in other places were not reported for consideration of heat influence from Earth Hour night compared to other years or regular patterns [Toronto Star, Mar 30 4:30 AM].

Despite these relative comparisons to show we had “company” in our performance range, it does nothing to change my view on Halifax, Dartmouth and Nova Scotia’s performance. We can definitely do much better and should strive for it in years after this [ some tips for greater reductions ].


Pictures from Halifax-Dartmouth showed very little noticeable effort

Seeing very little noticeable effort during Earth Hour from my downtown apartment window, I ventured up Citadel Hill, the high point in the landscape of Halifax and Dartmouth, to see if I just had a bad “sampling”. I also walked around the hill and downtown a bit and saw I didn’t. About the only noticeable structures I saw turned off from the hill were:

  • Angus MacDonald bridge floodlights turned off;
  • Nova Scotia Power building turned off for the most part;
  • City Hall; and
  • Aliant Building.

Good for them all, but can you believe that was pretty much it? The Metro Centre’s advertising board was lit up brightly as usual, practically lighting up its side of Citadel Hill. The BDC building, Homburg building, Town Clock and such were also all lit up. Participation in apartment buildings I could see weren’t great, either. However, I only documented with pictures of Dartmouth below because I did not have the night lens required for a wide view of Halifax, where you couldn’t identify the “guilty” parties. I wasn’t out to point fingers.

However, Ryan Taplin’s photo in the Metro [Mar 30] of the Downtown Halifax skyline showed it was beautifully LIT UP like a Christmas Tree during Earth Hour! UTTERLY DISGRACEFUL!

But before I present the pictures, I’m going to challenge Nova Scotians to do better next year because, frankly, I’m ashamed! If you’re Nova Scotian and reading this, you should be, too, even if you did your part like I did! I shared some tips for what to do, and other Canadians also shared their activities on the CBC. And I’m also going to call out NSPI to provide better reporting instead of sounding like a politician.

Compare the pictures below to CBC’s Toronto Earth Hour gallery of what a truly participating location should look like during Earth Hour and see the difference!

Click on all photos below to see enlarged versions.

What were your observations for Nova Scotia’s Earth Hour efforts?

Looking at Downtown Dartmouth, note the MacDonald bridge flood lights off during Earth Hour and on again after it

Looking at Downtown Dartmouth, note the MacDonald bridge flood lights off during Earth Hour and on again after it. Notice the minimal difference and building in the foreground practically all lit up. By fluke, a piece of Caution tape was fluttering in the wind and got in the way of the bottom photo at left, causing a slightly dark strip where there should not have been one... but I can't redo the photo now.

Dartmouth North End, dockyards and MacDonald bridge, showing the MacDonald bridge floodlights off and on

Dartmouth North End, dockyards and MacDonald bridge, showing the MacDonald bridge floodlights off and on during and after Earth Hour. The slight increase in brightness from the bottom photo is an exposure error, not that the lights were brighter after Earth Hour.

Looking towards the road to Cole Harbour and Eastern Passage during and after Earth Hour. There may not be many homes here, but whatever the sources of the lights, there was practically no difference during Earth Hour. (click to enlarge)

Looking towards the road to Cole Harbour and Eastern Passage during and after Earth Hour. There may not be many homes here, but whatever the sources of the lights, there was practically no difference during Earth Hour.

Dartmouth straight across from downtown Halifax, as seen between the NSPI (Duke Tower) and CIBC buildings from atop Citadel Hill during and after Earth Hour (click to enlarge)

Dartmouth straight across from downtown Halifax, as seen between the NSPI and CIBC buildings from atop Citadel Hill during and after Earth Hour. The top photo was over exposed to make it seem the lights were brighter during Earth Hour, but there was no difference.


Looking to the south side of Dartmouth, just north of the refineries in Dartmouth which, of course, were not shut down. Nothing here seemed turned off, either.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 8.9

Women at George Mason University Lost to Gay for Homecoming Queen

Ryan Allen, aka Reann Ballslee, George Mason Homecoming Queen 2009

Ryan Allen, aka Reann Ballslee, George Mason Homecoming Queen 2009

What would you think of a university that elected a gay drag queen as their homecoming queen?

Are they progressive and open-minded? Are the girls there that ugly? Do they have the best sense of humour in the world? Or do they just have the hottest drag queens in the country?

I don’t know, but I’ll tell you this. Those aren’t hypothetical questions any more. Last Saturday, George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, just elected Ryan Allen, aka Reann Ballslee, a size 12 pump gay drag queen as its Homecoming queen!

Ryan was supported by the theatre department, whose costume shop sewed him a green and gold bow (George Mason colours), to wear over his gold sequined top, black skirt and heels. He was voted in at a basketball game half-time event, on television, over two women also vying for the crown, so this was no freak result!

But talk about OUCH!!!

I wouldn’t want to be anybody expected to be giving therapy to those two women right about now. What would you say? What could you say???

As for GMU, I’ll say at least this much. They’re definitely open-minded and progressive! To actually let a drag queen in something like a beauty pageant the magnitude of university Homecoming Queen, which Americans take very seriously, is already open-minded. Having the theatre department support it and then actually winning it in a public vote is mind-blowing!

But good for them, and good for the university to officially state that it was “very comfortable with it” [spokesman Daniel Walsch].

Of course, among students, there were mixed reactions. Not everyone voted for Ryan, obviously. Many saw it as a symbol of inclusiveness in a school of about 30,000 where a third are minority. Whoa! Yeah. A third of the minority will get you a lot of underdog support! However, as usual, the press went looking for negative opinions and some bumbling idiot was Homecoming Dickhead Grant Bollinger. Supposedly defending GMU’s recent #1 national university to watch status by U.S. News & World Report, Grant said GMU should act like it and not do stupid things like electing a drag queen for homecoming queen. More accurately:

“It’s really annoying. The game was on TV. Everyone was there. All eyes were on us. And we do something like this? It’s just stupid.”

And this guy worked as an ambassador for GMU’s admissions office???

Hey, Grant! Who do you think just did more damage to your university’s #1 reputation?

Maybe they should retitle your position as embarr-ass-ador to the admissions office!

As for Ryan, or rather Reann, s/he was in tears after winning after deciding to enter the contest as a joke, a last hurrah in his senior year after “coming out” in his freshman high school year and facing taunts then.

“It was just for fun. In the larger scheme of things, winning says so much about the university. We’re one of the most diverse campuses in the country, and . . . we celebrate that.”

Yes, and you should! Way to go and congratulations, BIG TIME!

Where are those taunters now? Can anybody hear their voices?

Finally, about the girls at GMU who were the quality of Reann’s competion. Unfortunately, I can’t fairly comment on that. I’m in Halifax, Nova Scotia and can’t afford a plane trip to get there to check them out… not that I am inclined to take one after knowing Reann won, as much as I respect Reann’s beauty. I didn’t remember their cheerleaders being ugly or anything negative, though, when GMU’s basketball team made a fabled huge #11 underdog run to the Final Four in 2006. When I acted as a pervert for this story’s coverage and Googled images associated with “girls women george mason university”, I saw a lot of logos and guys and other stuff among a few pictures of women. For what it’s worth, the Google algorithms didn’t rank many photos with “girls george mason university” very high. That’s the extent of the research I can do. Perhaps someone could provide better quality journalism on the matter.

Sources: Washington Post

Flesch-Kincard Grade Reading Level: 7.0