Published in The Toronto Star, November, 2010.
The secret to longevity is simple.
According to a growing number of believers, the key to tacking on an extra 20 years to your lifespan is to live on the edge of hunger — constantly.
The concept is called calorie restriction and recently got valuable air time from the grand dame of diets herself, Oprah Winfrey.
It’s a plan taken directly out of the play book of Okinawa, Japan,
home to what used to be the greatest number of centenarians per capita
in the world until it ceded the title to the Shimane Prefecture on
Japan’s southern shoreline.
While genetics plays an important role in longevity researchers also found that centenarians in Okinawa follow a
lifestyle regime that is uncommonly austere, active and above all, based
Published in The Toronto Star, October, 2010.
PARIS—Despite sober warnings advising Canadian and U.S. travellers to be vigilant against potential terror threats in Europe, the only visible difference at the French capital’s most popular all-night cultural event were armed soldiers patrolling Parisian landmarks.
On Sunday, the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa said it was closely monitoring the security situation in Europe.
Published in September, 2010, in The Toronto Star.
Part 1 in 5-part special series on inaugural Canada's Walk of Fame Festival
There's a maple-syrup-scented change in the air.
What began as a light breeze of patriotism leading up to the Vancouver Olympics became a gale-force storm when both Canadian hockey teams won gold — the men in overtime against the arch-rival Americans.
Canadians are now being encouraged to relive that wave of unapologetic, audacious nationalism for four days in October at the first-ever Walk of Fame Festival.
Published in The Toronto Star, September, 2010. Part 2 in a 5-part series on inaugural Canada's Walk of Fame Festival
Farley Mowat bristles at being called a conservationist or environmental advocate.
And he makes it clear he doesn't “espouse” any cause.
What he is, first and foremost, Mowat says, is a “journeyman,” a sagaman of the 21st century.
“When there's a good story, I will write it,” Mowat, 89, said from his summer home in Nova Scotia. “My primary purpose in life is to be a storyteller. I belong to that honourable fraternity of storytellers. That's all I am.”
Published in The Toronto Star, September, 2010.
Part 3 of 5 in a special series on inaugural Canada's Walk of Fame Festival.
Are hosers funny?
If a Canuck, an American and a rabbi walked into a bar, who would be more likely to bring the house down?
That, experts and comedians say, depends on your audience.
For a long time, Canadian humour was an amalgam of our most dominant influences: the dry British wit and the physical, slapstick humour of America.
But the tide has recently turned, says funnyman Colin Mochrie, who has worked both the Canadian and American comedy circuits and will be performing at the Canadian Comedy Awards on Oct. 17, which wraps up the four-day Walk of Fame festival.
Published in the Toronto Star, September, 2010.
Part 4 of 5 in special inaugural Canada's Walk of Fame Festival.
As a young, budding magician, Doug Henning would practice his magic tricks on his younger sister Nancy, who was both his test audience and his assistant.
Being the “monkey” she was, Nancy remembers calling her older brother out whenever she could see through a clumsy sleight of hand or an unpolished act.
“I would say, ‘Oh, I saw that,' and he'd go away in frustration and practice some more,” she chuckled.
Every week, the teenager would throw his magic kits away in defeat and frustration. And every week, his mother would pull the same tricks out from the garbage can and put them back on his desk.
“Between the two of us, we kept him at it,” Nancy, 60, said from Calgary.
Paul Anka is the recipient of stars on both the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame. He returns to his home country in support of the festival and its goal — to celebrate Canadian achievements — with a performance at Massey Hall, Oct. 14. The Star asked Anka a few questions about his native land in a phone interview from his home in California. Tickets are available at www.cwofest.ca.
I love that, even after 14 years of being together, you’re still able to excite me and keep me on my toes.
I love your artistic temperament, your tolerance, your open-mindedness and your creativity.
But like many long-term relationships, T.O., I fear I’ve reached a crossroad. I’m young(ish) and restless, my friend. I need a change of scenery, something to pull me out of my post-teen, pre-mid-life, thirty-something crisis.
So I’m leaving you. I’m leaving you for Paris.
Published online at travel.msn.ca as part of a photo gallery to coincide with the Toronto International Film Festival.
To be able to throw a film festival party and attract some of the world's biggest celebrities, host cities must also have star power of their own. After all, a film festival not only draws the curtain on the latest blockbuster movies to hit the screen, it also shines the spotlight on the festival host. As the world's glitterati arrive for the Toronto International Film Festival this month, we take a tour of some other prestigious film festival towns that know how to throw a red carpet party.
Published on travel.msn.ca October, 2010 as part of a photo gallery.
Is your city making you fat? If you live in the burbs and drive the 15-minute walk to your local grocery store then chances are good the city you live in will cause you to pack on the pounds, if it hasn’t already. On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to live in a metropolitan, pedestrian city that isn’t car-dependent, with miles of bike lanes and forward-thinking leaders, odds are that the majority of the city’s residents will adopt a healthy lifestyle. That’s not city slicker snobbery talking, it’s scientific data, courtesy of Statistics Canada. Check out our list of some of North America’s fittest and fattest cities.
Published online at travel.msn.ca in August, 2010, as part of a photo gallery.
The following list of cities is not for the meek or fainthearted. They’re cities with attitude — citizens walk with their elbows out, muscle their way through crowds and speak their minds. Taking too long to order? No soup for you! It’s every man for himself, where a a heaving mass of humanity must co-exist within dense, square kilometres. But that’s what also makes these cities the most interesting. Here’s our list of the world’s surliest cities with attitude.
Published in The Toronto Star, August, 2010.
One of the first things a futurist will tell you, is all the things they’re not.
A futurist, explains Richard Worzel, is not a soothsayer, oracle, fortune teller or prophet. They do not read tea leaves, tarot cards or carry crystal balls to divine the future.
A futurist is a professional who fastidiously researches current trends and patterns to identify the driving forces of change. From there, they paint possible scenarios of what the near future holds. They’re hired by Fortune 500 companies and governments to act as advisers and consultants, and forecast where technology, security, health care, politics and sustainability are headed.
Published online at www.msn.ca, July, 2010, as a photo gallery.
You’re an adrenaline junkie with a penchant for unpaved, gravel roads less travelled. Or you’re tired of the pool-side, all-inclusives and need an adventure that will shake you out of your vacay boredom. From hiking to a fabled kingdom in the clouds in the Himalayas, toeing the rim of an active volcano in Nicaragua, or rappelling down cascading waterfalls in Brazil, we’ve got a few ideas that should get the heart pumping.
It wasn't just police and protesters who clashed at the G20 summit in late June.
Offices, lunch rooms, cafés and cyberspace have overheated with passionate debate as Torontonians engage in a G20 post-mortem.
And friends who have never talked politics are revealing their allegiances, causing rifts in relationships for some, and forging new friendships for others, as they discuss the weekend's protests and mass arrests.Fibromyalgia's sister illnesses
in The Toronto Star, May, 2010.
The instructions are explicit.
Before agreeing to be interviewed, Ellen Pickett asks that the reporter refrain from using any perfumed products and wash her clothes in special, unscented laundry detergent. Dryer sheets are out of the question, and hair is to be tied back or held under a scarf or kerchief.
Pickett, 54, suffers from fibromyalgia, myalgic encephalomyelitis — better known as chronic fatigue syndrome — and multiple chemical sensitivities or MCS.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and tender points.
in The Toronto Star, May, 2010.
When Joanne Saraiva went to her doctor for her chronic pain and fatigue and debilitating mental fog, the physician chalked it up to depression and sent her to a psychiatrist.
She was just depressed, her doctor said, and had taken on too much. After all, Saraiva, now 50, had changed jobs, was raising two boys and had suffered a loss in the family.
But after a year of visits, the psychiatrist looked at her and confirmed what, deep down, Saraiva always knew.
She wasn’t depressed. There was something else more insidious at play.Travelling with the kiddies
Published online at msn.ca's Travel section, June, 2010.
may be a highway, but when you’re on the road with cranky kids in
the back seat, the last thing parents want to do is ride it all night
Published online at msn.ca's Travel section, June, 2010.
Beth Schofield is getting ready to take her two girls to Paris, where
they’ll stay free for one summer month, just as they’ve done in
Scotland, England, Italy, Spain and Holland.
Published online at msn.ca's Travel section, May, 2010.
Some of the world’s weirdest and wackiest festivals are so outlandish we couldn’t make them up if we tried. You name it, someone, somewhere has made a sport or celebration out of it. Whether it’s racing outhouses, commemorating a frozen dead guy, or bog snorkelling, we’ve got a few international events that will make you go hmmm. And say huh?
at msn.ca's Travel section, May, 2010.
She is the woman who picked you up when you fell and scraped your knee on your first bike ride. She’s the one who wiped away your tears when your first love dumped you for the bustier, 13-year-old hussy down the street, or for the prematurely moustachioed boy in the next grade. She bore you three beautiful children, enduring pain the likes of which you, if you’re a man, will never know. This Mother’s Day, send the woman in your life on a vacation that shows her how much you appreciate her, “I told you so’s” and all.
in The Toronto Star, April, 2010.
I’m a total Gleek now.
But in high school, I was a certifiable nerd-bomber.
why I, like so many of my fellow social misfits — the
other tragically geeky, peripheral, shadowy, anonymous high schoolers —
have embraced the TV show Glee with such an unusual fervour.
Glee is our anthem show. It’s for those of us who had nowhere to go during the lunch hours throughout high school, so ate ham sandwiches in the library study carrells while reading Madame Bovary or Jane Eyre (cue guffaws of sneering now). It’s for those of us who spent our weekends studying or reading, and went to our proms dateless. It’s for those of us, like me, who sang in a girls group.
Or, as executive producer Ryan Murphy said, this show is for anyone who’s ever gotten a wedgie.
The Toronto Star, April, 2010.
David Lord bears no malice toward the doctor who casually dismissed his bipolar wife’s ovarian tumour as intestinal flu and sent the couple home.
He harbours no anger toward the nurse who turned to him with contempt and asked, “Is she always like this?” when Leslie couldn’t contain her agony and cried out in pain in the hospital emergency room.
There is no fury, even though, one week, after the emergency visit, the woman he had been married to for only three months, died in his arms from an undiagnosed tumour that had twisted into itself, cutting off her blood flow and killing her at 42.
But Lord does have a message he’d like to convey to all health-care professionals when it comes to helping the mentally ill.
Half a dozen asthma sufferers ranging in age from 2 to 59, are either reclining comfortably on patio lounge chairs engaging in small chit chat, watching the BBC DVD Planet Earth, or happily shovelling piles of rock salt into a plastic pail.
The walls of the Speleocenter Harmony are covered in a thick, crystalline coat of salt and the floor is likewise carpeted in crunchy rock salt. A fine saline mist is circulating throughout the room which is meant to clear mucus accumulation in airways.
in The Toronto Star, April, 2010.
Rick and Maureen Ampleford are recounting how events unfolded on the day they learned their 27-year-old son had died from an asthma attack.
Maureen remembers Mark’s exact last words during a brief phone conversation at 3 a.m.
Rick can recall every word of his phone conversation with the hospital staff in Ottawa, before the doctor broke the news.
online at www.msn.ca's Travel Section, April, 2010.
Disclaimer: If you’re the type to follow guests around your cream-coloured home with red wine stain remover, you may want to avert your eyes now. This photo gallery celebrates international food fights that encourage participants to sling foodstuffs in public spaces and roll around in muck. Here’s a list of street food brawls that allow us to play with our food.
Inside the hallowed halls of academia resides a potent mix of youthful idealism, unbridled energy, and a dash of willful defiance.
It’s where young people begin to challenge the world they live in, ask questions, and, if unsatisfied with the answers, mobilize to voice their discontent.
For the late Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, the university campus was the natural setting from which to raise awareness and promote Earth Day’s inaugural debut, on this day in 1970.
online at The Toronto Star, March, 2010.
For eight years, Ann Marie Wilson sought marriage counselling for what she believed to be her poor communication skills.
she was having with her husband, Carl — to whom she had been married
for 39 years — were going around in interminable circles.
blamed herself for being a “witch” and being impatient, and her adult
children scolded her for being unreasonable.
It wasn’t until they discovered that Carl, 72, had Alzheimer’s disease that the pieces started to fit together.
Published in The Toronto Star, online
edition, February, 2010.
During her first Canadian job interview, Dianna Jiang stumbled on the employer’s opening question.
It was the standard, Tell-me-about-yourself” invitation that most job interviews start with which threw her off.
Jiang, 33, chuckles as she recalls how she began to recount mechanically her vital statistics and her life biography: “My name is Dianna Jiang and I come from Shanghai...It would take time for Jiang to reconcile her traditional Chinese beliefs, which place value in modesty and humility, with the North American work ethos.
MARKHAM — Having “Canadian experience” on the resumé means squat to managers at Samtack. And it shows.
As one of the largest computer-and-parts distributing companies in Canada, the Markham-based company has been using a hiring formula that taps into the skills of international immigrants, instead of dismissing their native work experience as irrelevant, as many companies might.
in The Toronto Star, March 2010.
The lady in me has gone a little gaga.
It took some needling and some prodding for her to materialize but eventually I was able to summon my inner vixen. Apparently, she is a fabulous shade of gunmetal silver and manifests herself in the form of oven-mitt insulation.
I've spent the entire day channelling my inner diva at The Make Den sewing studio at 1207 Bloor St. W., where I attended a Lady Gaga sewing workshop that paid homage to the pop artist's mad sense of style.
It's a huge leap for me and I'll provide a full disclaimer here: When it comes to fashion, I'm pretty vanilla. I partially blame my adorable but fashionably rigid mother, who likes to pair mint-green sweaters with mint-green pants and a "pale green" handbag as an accent. Think really cute limesicle on short legs.
Pubished online at www.msn.ca's Travel section, March, 2010.
Whether you’re traipsing through the rain forest or lounging pool-side at an all-inclusive resort, you never know when an all-in-one, steel-cutting, nail-filing, egg-slicing, universal remote-channel-changing screwdriver could come in handy. Especially ones that come in a range of assorted colours.
Here are a few gadgets and accessories we think make for great traveling companions.
denial feeds the obesity beast
Published in The Toronto Star, March, 2010.
Take a look at your child. Now go back and take another long, hard
There’s a serious culture of denial among today’s parents, experts warn, and it’s sabotaging the future of our kids.
A slew of studies have found that parents are failing to recognize when their children are overweight or obese, often underestimating their weight.
It’s a huge disconnect, pediatric experts say, and one that could be contributing to the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.
Published online at msn.ca's Travel section, March, 2010.
Nowadays there’s a festival for everything. And while we love any excuse to throw a party or make a competition where previously there was none, like toe-wrestling (which does exist) some festivals are more family-friendly than others. Depending on your comfort level with nudity and dangling man bits in public, here’s a list of worldwide festivals and events that are adults-only or R-rated.
Published online at www.msn.ca's Travel section
They may have no lines and may give rather wooden performances, but these characters have been known to tower above the biggest names in Hollywood.
Famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the ancient pyramids of Egypt, and the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, have all played starring roles in box office hits as either treacherous villains or steadfast allies: Trapdoors and death-defying heights become foils for swashbuckling heroes, while the glimmer of sparkling lights inspire romance and love.
Here are a few favourite blockbuster hits which centre around famous international landmarks.
Published in The Toronto Star, March, 2010.
Rhonda Abrams sees the sun in a new light. For years she was afraid of it. Skin cancer had killed her mother at the age of 49.
The sun became her foe and Abrams protected herself by wearing hats and long sleeves, seeking shade whenever possible.
But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 45, Abrams started to reconsider her ideals and decided she had been misguided in her fears.
By hiding from the sun, she deprived herself of an important vitamin she now credits as being pivotal in her recovery from cancer: The sunshine vitamin, D.
The Toronto Star, March, 2010.
Meet Chris Tindal, the new "mayor" at City Hall.
He has checked in at 100 Queen St. W. so many times on Foursquare, a new social networking site, that he earned the title the same day he registered to run in the real world for city councillor in Ward 27. He considers it a cosmic cyber sign.
Foursquare is the latest in social media tools to take North America. It is gaining momentum in Toronto, too, but is meeting significant road bumps along the way.
online in The Toronto Star, February, 2010.
When Veronica Chan learned she would have to lose weight to manage her diabetes, her immediate reaction was one of dismay.
She was proud of her soft hips, full cheeks and round belly. It was a weight she maintained deliberately in accordance with Chinese beliefs — that obesity is a positive sign of affluence and good health.
Despite their lower body weight, Asians are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than Caucasians. Rates of diabetes are skyrocketing among Asians in North America and East Asia.
The Toronto Star, February, 2010.
For five years, I was the doughy, middle-aged bespectacled guy of sub-average looks, who sported a sad combover and cheap, polyester-blend suits. The guy with the fierce inferiority complex in the company of my smug, hipster friends who made everything look easy and effortless.
But recently, a near-death experience forced me to cross the line.
I have joined the ranks of trendy, premium-coffee drinkers who spend hours gently tapping away at their loved ones, dressed down in jeans and a hoodie and, on occasion, a bit of stubble.
Hi. My name is Vivian and I'm a Mac user.
Published in The Globe and Mail, February, 2010.
They're an exclusive secret held deep within the city's culinary underworld. Gastronomic speakeasies, or underground restaurants, are deliciously clandestine affairs known only among foodie elites and local celebrity chefs.
For the uninvited, participation might mean rustling up a reference, or even writing a personal essay.
Vivian Song speaks to a few underground supper-club proprietors who offered tips on scoring invites and proper etiquette at these covert events. So if you ever do break bread with these precious few, just remember: Stick to the menu.
Published in The Toronto Star, January, 2010.
Katherine's father is battling dual enemies in the twilight of his life.
One has been slowly stripping him of his energy and eyesight; the other has been robbing him of his memories.
The two work insidiously in tag-team fashion: With dementia, her father forgets the last time he's eaten; because of Type 2 diabetes, his body is unable to properly convert glucose into energy.
While both can be age-related diseases, a growing body of research is showing an even stronger link that connect the two: Insulin.
Published in The Toronto Star, January, 2010.
As choreographer Christine Caponi recites the words to "Tonight's gonna be a good night" by the Black Eyed Peas, Frances and Randy Kim – or "Frandy," as they're called – mimic a hammer swing ("Go out and smash it") and feign surprise ("Like, oh my God").
The Vaughan couple is performing the dance from their 20-minute wedding show, staged for 300 guests last fall after they were pronounced husband and wife.
Elaborately choreographed dance routines are becoming increasingly popular at wedding parties. Couples are outdoing each other on YouTube, which has become a virtual library of wedding dances gone wild, returning 65,000 hits in a recent search.
Ah, the eighties.
It was a time when young people were addicted to love, living perpetually in a neon-coloured Funkytown that they built on rock and roll, dancing on the ceiling and doing the Conga.
It was a time when girls just wanted to have fun and were simply irresistible with their Bette Davis eyes.
And after a long, 20-year-winter of neutrals and monochromatics, the fashion and beauty industry are finding new inspiration in this decadent generation of colour schizophrenia and leg warmers, and “bringing colour back.”
The bedside table is laden with
potions and lotions.
In her starch-white lab coat, a
modern-day alchemist squeezes a drop of this and a squirt of that into her
plastic cauldron of youth, and gives it a good stir with her wand.
Beside her, Rya Prozes lies with her
eyes closed, patiently waiting to receive her monthly balm.
The alchemist is skin therapist Cynthia Whaley. The potion, a brew of botanical mixers, multi-vitamin and hydrating agents.