V i v i a n  S o n g
Freelance writer
Freelance writer
Lifestyle
Goodbye to all that, Toronto
Published in The Toronto Star, September, 2010.

I love you Toronto, I really do.

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.

Futurists: Guides on the road we'll travel

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.

Glee is the new home for high school geeks

Published in The Toronto Star, April, 2010.

I’m a total Gleek now.

But in high school, I was a certifiable nerd-bomber.

Which is 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.

Lady Vava channels her inner gaga

Published 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.


Meet the new mayor in Town

Published in 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.

The Digital Divide

Published in 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.

Under-the-table dining

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.

Add pro choreographer to wedding list

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.

Turning back the hands of time

Published in The Toronto Star, December, 2009.

Cosmetic hand rejuvenation is little known in Canada, but it's slowly gaining ground as the final frontier among the anti-aging obsessed. In this Botox-padded generation, quick scans of a woman's neck and hands are dead giveaways for her age, the ultimate "hands of time."


Back to the '80s


Published in The Toronto Star, October, 2009.

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.”


Thirtysomething and ignored...by the beauty industry

Published in The Toronto Star, October, 2009.


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.



Mixed blessings

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers, January, 2009

Danielle Lafond has what's called an "ethnically ambiguous" face.

Her features are inscrutable, defying any tidy categorization of race or ethnicity.

Her big chocolate-brown eyes are deep-set and the arch of her brow high. Her skin is a deep shade of olive, her hair black and straight, and her nose small and pert.

She's been mistaken for Mexican, aboriginal and Caucasian — depending on where she is or who's addressing her. Lafond, 30, is half Chinese and half French-Canadian but like U.S. president-elect Barack Obama, who is largely referred to as simply black by both media and himself, she identifies with her more visible half — her Asian heritage.

For her, every pitch is a hit

Published in The Toronto Star, July, 2009.

I am an infomercial junkie. I'm a sucker for kitchen gadgets endorsed by former-tough-guys-turned-cookware-peddlers like Mr. T and George Foreman. At the risk of dating myself, I'm Cliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show, who would watch infomercials wide-eyed, rotary telephone at the ready, yelling "$19.99" at the TV.

Cabin fever: Muskoka experience well worth the wait

Published in The Toronto Star, August, 2009.

MUSKOKA–I'm trying to refrain from sounding smug, but even I can hear the forced tone of nonchalance inmy voice. My hairdresser is making idle chit-chat and has asked me what I'm  up to on the weekend. "Oh," I say casually, "I'm just going to the cottage."


Bike vs car

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers May, 2009.

I was beaten, bloodied and bruised in the Toronto Sun newsroom yesterday.

As the lone commuter cyclist in a heated debate with a handful of reporters and editors, I dodged attacks on bad biking etiquette with some defensive verbal driving, and swerved around openly hostile attacks about my fellow two-wheeled kin.

Priming for your close-up

 

 

 

 

 

Published in The Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers, July, 2009.

The camera may not lie, but it need not be so unforgiving.

News anchors, TV personalities and random moms in home movies everywhere have been cursing the ingenuity that brought us high-definition images, for its uncharitable way of magnifying every flaw, fine line and blemish on flat-screen TVs.

Heavy-handed makeup and brushstrokes are also amplified, challenging makeup artists to create flawless complexions and provide a natural look under the scrutiny of an HD lens, which magnifies up to six times more than a regular camcorder – a feat that sometimes requires a cosmetic sleight of hand.


The re-wired generation

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers May, 2009.

Depending on who you talk to, we are bringing up either the dumbest generation of youth or the smartest.

They are simultaneously the most narcissistic and coddled of generations, and the most civically engaged, altruistic wave of kids in decades.

It's a schoolyard fight that has divided experts into two camps: Those who believe online social networking sites such as MySpace, Twitter and Facebook are perpetuating the most socially awkward, aloof and apathetic of generations, and those who say we're rearing collaborative, masters of communications, who will rise above all others.

Facebook in court

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, May, 2009

Be careful what you post on Facebook or MySpace, because anything you say or upload can and will be used against you in a court of law.

Last year, for example, an Ottawa court heard that a civil servant had started a clandestine affair with an old friend she reconnected with through Facebook during a messy custody battle involving three kids.

"Facebook will be seen as a gold mine for evidence in court cases," said Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in ethics, law and technology at the University of Ottawa.

Becoming web dead

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, May, 2009.

It was 3 a.m. when Lori Paris sleepwalked her way into work, ready to anchor the overnight shift at her local radio station.

As always, she went to log into her Facebook account looking for the company of virtual friends at a lonely hour, but was blocked, greeted instead by hostile "error" messages flashing on her screen.

"Then a co-worker who works down the hall ran down asking, 'What do you need help with?" Paris recalled.

Will it be away or home?

Published in The Toronto Star, October, 2004.

I'm already getting nostalgic.

I wrap my hands lovingly around my ritualistic Tim Hortons double double coffee and savour the sweet solution of cream, sugar, and caffeine.

When I'm on the subway, I smile at fellow Torontonians during peak rush hour, who return my gesture of friendliness with confused, sometimes frightened looks.

I stand in the middle of my new apartment, sighing at the recollection of the many gleeful hours I spent Ikea-ing the place.

I'm nostalgic because I may be leaving the city I've built my life in for the past eight years to move to the U.K.

Sky-high surprises

Published in The Toronto Star, August, 2004.

In the past four years, I have flown to exotic locales, sunned myself on mile-long beaches while sipping margaritas, kept various lovers strewn across the continents - none of whom spoke a word of English - engaged in raucous behaviour in the galleys and lavatories and travelled for free on my time off.

Yes, I used to be a flight attendant. And yes, stereotypes are full of half-truths.

The world according to Wikipedia

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers March, 2007.

Were you to look up the entry Rocky Mountains in Wikipedia recently, you would have happened upon a curious little ditty that went something like this.

“Waters from the Platte River, the Snake River and the Rio Grande are known for their healing properties, able to cure conditions like excema, dehydration and syphilis. When mixed with equal parts sugar and lemon juice, it is said to be a refreshing tonic in the summer,” it read. It was flagged as vandalism, taken down at

10:35 p.m. by a one Vsmith who issued a stern warning to the author.

A brainiac version of Wikipedia

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers March, 2007.

Readers may recall a recent experiment conducted by Sun Media that altered the text of a Wikipedia entry to read that the waters of the Rocky Mountains are known to turn people into furless rodents if consumed between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

It was a cheeky experiment that would be unlikely to see the light of day on a new online encyclopedia project headed by Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger that launched this week.


Published in The Toronto Star, January, 2010.

There's something increasingly indecipherable in Canadian living rooms and closets.
Worlds are colliding, say fashion and design experts, erasing borders and blurring ethnic lines when it comes to home decor and street style.
It's an attitude that has been encouraging homeowners to mix sari cushions with East Asian-inspired living rooms, and fashionistas to layer Bohemian, gypsy elements with rich colours and textiles from India.

A soldier's valour

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, December 2008

Will Salikin admits he romanticized the role of the Canadian soldier.

His purpose was simple: To help the downtrodden, bring ravaged villages back to life, and establish peace where, for decades, there was none.

They were missions that aligned perfectly with his former life as a non-ordained clergyman with the United church.

Postcards from the edge

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers March, 2007.

A pretty girl in a snug, sapphire-blue formal dress smiles confidently from a 4-by-6 inch postcard while her dark, wavy hair blows away from a young, painted face. On it, someone has written this: “Bulimia isn¹t making me as thin as I'd hoped.”

Smartest city in Canada

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers March, 2009.

KINGSTON, ONT. -- Folk here sure are clever.

Residents in this waterfront city outsmart the rest of Canada, with more PhD holders per capita than any other major Canadian city, according to Statistics Canada figures and some number crunching by Sun Media.

In a city of 152,360 people, 2,545 hold earned doctorates -- that means 1.67% of the population holds a PhD and the prefix Dr. to their name, triple the national average of 0.56%.

Most caring city in the Canada

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, March, 2009.

LONDON, Ont. — Bill Corfield is among Canada’s most caring Canadians and resides in one of the country’s most caring cities.

He lives here where nearly one in two residents over the age of 15 volunteered in 2004.

Corfield, 88, was the recipient of the Governor General’s Caring Canadians Award in 2000 for devoting 50 years of community service, which manifests itself in pockets of the city where he’s left an indelible, yet anonymous, mark.

Quirkiest city in Canada

Published in Sun Media papers, March, 2009

We looked far and wide, but Sun Media’s search for the quirkiest community eventually settled on a town that’s simply out of this world.

It’s not exactly the final frontier, but Vulcan is a place where few have boldly gone before. Midway between Calgary and Lethbridge, Alta., residents have built a Star Trek empire in the middle of the Prairies in honour of the name they coincidentally share with Spock’s home planet.

The naked truth about sex

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers May, 2009.

Ladies, it's time to man up and talk about our feelings — our sexual feelings that is.

In a Sun Media/Leger Marketing poll, we're bringing salon and spa chatter — the female equivalent of locker-room talk — out into the open, asking women to throw back the 200-thread-count sheets and tell us what sexy time is like in boudoirs across the country.

Sexual healing

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers May, 2009.

When Isabelle Hemard was young, making love was just for fun.

She says she never really needed anyone. But now that she's 43, those days are long gone.

Hemard is a single, childless, divorcee looking for love. While she doesn't sit at home in Toronto belting out the single woman's anthem made popular by the movie Bridget Jones' Diary, she admits in a frank and refreshingly honest conversation that no, she doesn't want to live, all by herself.

Too nice to orgasm

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers May, 2009.

This is a public service announcement for all you women out there who have thrown back your heads, feigned guttural screams of pleasure and thrown in an extra epileptic seizure spasm for good measure during a romp — you know who you are.

Sun worshipper's cautionary tale

Published in The Toronto Star, June, 2009.

Nicole McSweeney always knew she was at a high risk of developing cancer.

It was a latent threat that plagued her quietly but persistently: She's pale, freckled, a natural redhead, and suffered blistering sunburns during her teens.

When she reached her 20s, McSweeney, now 40, became vigilant about checking her moles. When she noticed a small, pink one on her right cheek, she sought the advice of her family doctor.

But it wasn't the facial mole that caught her doctor's attention.



Frugal versus cheap: Thrift is in but where to draw the line? A shopping expedition shows both sides
Toronto Star

With global markets mired in uncertainty, the notion of thrift has taken on a noble tinge. Financial insecurity has spawned trendy words like "frugalista" and "recessionista/recessionitis." Prudent consumption is considered admirable, while lavish displays of wealth are insensitive and crass.

But where do we draw the line between being frugal and being a tightwad? What's the difference between a savvy spender and a penny-pincher?

How to find a job...when everyone's laying off

Published in Sun Media, November, 2008.

After being laid off from his job at Dell, Joel Brett created a Facebook support group for colleagues in the unemployment line.

He formed "I got laid off from Dell" in January to help workers from the Edmonton office keep in touch and provide a job forum.

Three months after he was let go, Brett, 23, was recruited straight from the site for a job that paid $13,000 more than his previous position at Dell.

The great Canadian sex survey

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers October, 2007.

Put the chocolate-glazed doughnut, set down the double double and throw away the remote.

Because, in the immortal words of urban poet laureates Salt-N-Pepa, we at Sun Media are sitting Canadians down to have The Talk.

Let's talk about sex, shall we?

Dreaming of love

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, October, 2007

One-third of Canadians would rather dream about sex than have it. Instead of diving under the sheets for naked nookie, 29% of the 1,524 Canadians surveyed in a Sun Media-Leger Marketing sex poll said they'd rather slip into something more comfortable -- more flannel, less silk -- and get a good night's zees.

Turn-ons

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers October, 2007.

Blonds may have more fun, but brunettes have more allure. It was a head-turning moment at Sun Media when it was learned that Canadians across the board said they prefer brunettes over blonds in a Sun Media-Leger Marketing poll.

In fact, not only did 36% of Canadians say they found brunettes more appealing, but they also said they prefer black hair over blond tresses. These sentiments are strongest in Alberta, where 40% voted for a sultry and dashing brunette, followed by 20% who voted for midnight black and 16% who prefer sunshine yellow tresses.


Cheating hearts

Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers, October, 2007

Private investigators tailing their middle-aged subject knew they had busted him when he walked into a non-descript building in downtown Edmonton and out walked a cross-dresser.

His wife hired Covert Investigations Inc. to follow her car salesman husband and confirm her nagging suspicions. Turned out he was fornicating with the 26-year-old owner of an escort service housed in a den of sex. As payment, the woman was driving around town in a shiny new luxury car.

Delivering relaxation

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, February, 2009

Sarah Simpson and Christopher Smith learned they were pregnant while teaching and living in Japan.

It was an unexpected surprise, upending their childless, spontaneous, "fly by the seat of the pants" lifestyle as a young, adventure-seeking married Canuck couple.

What they needed, Smith decided, was a getaway or "babymoon" to help his wife out of her first-trimester funk and regroup as a couple.

Jingle hells

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, December, 2009.

If you're thinking about breaking up with your partner, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Couples in rocky relationships are entering what's been called National Break-Up Season, the period between the December holidays and Valentine's Day when, according to a Yahoo Personals poll, people are more than twice as likely to think about breaking up than at any other time of the year.

Sugar daddy diets

Published in Sun Media, February, 2009

ST. CATHARINES, ON -- Elizabeth has had her fair share of indecent proposals.

As a member of the online dating site sugardaddie.com, the 26-year-old -- who asked that her surname not be used -- has been courted by millionaires with raging libidos, transcontinental plane tickets at the ready, and oodles of cash to spare.

But times are tougher now, and even sugar daddies, it seems, are feeling the pinch.

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