Montreal's senior monthly since 1986

Feb '10

Columns

The unusual suspects

Almost daily there is a new report linking chemicals in our everyday environment to cancer, from our shower curtains to the canned food we eat. This illness has been steadily on the rise since the 1950s.

Consider these facts, published by Health Canada and Canadian cancer agencies in 2004:

  • In the 1930s, 1 in 10 Canadians could expect to develop cancer over their lifetime.
  • By the 1970s, that number was 1 in 5.
  • By 2004, 1 in 2.4 Canadian men and 1 in 2.7 Canadian women may be diagnosed with cancer.

Over 23,000 chemicals are present in Canadian industrial and consumer goods such as pesticides, cleaning products, food, personal care products and plastics. Not all chemicals in all products have been tested adequately, as even when safe levels are established for a substance, time or length of exposure and interaction with other chemicals is not always taken into account.

The good news is that as public awareness grows, the rules change. Health Canada is in the process of compiling a "hotlist" of suspected toxins. And cosmetics companies must now declare the ingredients that make up their products.

For now a consumer's best defense is to read the label. Here are a few substances to avoid, from the Cancer Smart Guide published by Vancouver's Labour Environmental Alliance Society and available locally from from Breast Cancer Action Montreal:

  • Bisphenol-A, an endocrine-disrupting chemical present in plastic bottles and containers identified by the number 7 in the recycling triangle symbol on the bottom.
  • Benzyl Violet, also listed as Violet 2 or 6b, is a colouring in various products including nail treatments, and a possible human carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
  • Coal tar derivatives, present in products such as hair dye.

Although the link between dark hair dyes and cancer has been debated, a study published in the International Journal of Cancer (2004) stated that "in women, use of rinse-type hair dye was associated with a modestly elevated risk of bladder cancer." According to the Cancer Smart Consumer Guide, a 2001 California study found that longer-term use of hair dyes increased the risk of bladder cancer in hairdressers, who were five times more likely to develop the illness after working for 10 years or more.

More info is available from the Breast Cancer Action Montreal website at bcam.qc.ca or by calling 514-483-1846.

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Canada 55+ Games celebrate

On your marks! Senior competitors get read to rumble at opening ceremonies (photo: Gary Black)

The 6th annual Canada 55+ Games wrapped up in Dieppe, New Brunswick August 31, with a record 1503 participants competing in 20 categories, from track and field, swimming, and hockey to more sedentary activities such as cribbage, scrabble, and bridge.

Athletes of note included Florence Storch of Alberta, javelin gold medalist in the women's 90+ competition, and Doreen Erskine of Saskatchewan, silver medalist in the women's 85+ shot put.

Formerly the Canada Senior Games, the event was renamed in 2006 due to "too many participants complaining about being called 'Senior!'"

Info on next year's games will be available at 506-382-2008 or canada55plusgames.com.

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Goldilocks goes mattress shopping

When I moved into my condo I decided to treat myself to a new mattress. There was nothing really wrong with my old mattress but it was 10 years old and I had it topped off with a memory foam pad. I disliked having the foam topper separate from the mattress so off I went mattress shopping.

I visited a few locations of a major mattress chain, did some web research and followed the advice of salespeople. I was torn between the semi-firm and the plush model. I was told that as a side and occasional stomach sleeper, I'd be better off with a firm mattress. I specifically said I didn't want a mattress that retains body heat.

Each mattress comes with a warranty, but if there is any stain or tear it voids the warranty even if defective. The only way to have the warranty upheld is to buy a protection plan. I opted out.

Many stores guarantee the best price and will undersell any competitor on an identical bed. But manufacturers rename the mattresses for different stores so comparison shopping is almost impossible.

After a few nights of poor sleep, the verdict was in on my new mattress. I hated it. It was way too firm. I needed a mattress that relieves pressure points. This one didn't. On returning to the store, the softer model felt good, but how can one know after just minutes of lying on it? You're only allowed one comfort exchange, What would happen if I hated the second mattress too?

There were no marks on my first mattress and I was able to exchange it for $35. I talked myself into loving the softer mattress the first few nights. But who was I kidding? It was way too soft. I was beginning to feel like Goldilocks. It was impossible to turn around in the bed without being fully awake since it required sitting up to do so. No matter how I slept I ended up down in the sagging middle which felt like a steam bath. After sha­ring my problem with customer service, I was sent an inspector, who after one glance at the mattress declared it to be defective.

Back to the mattress store. Not wanting to take chances this time, I opted for the newest mattress – full latex, no springs – and took the middle model, semi-firm. My full-body pain disappeared within a couple of nights. But the upgrade cost close to $600.

After a few weeks of sleeping on a latex mattress I can say that it's as cool as promised. However, I began to notice a sag in the middle and began experien­cing lower back pain. Thinking I was going mattress crazy, I took a long, straight wooden stick and performed my own inspection. Sure enough, the stick did not lie flat across the middle of the bed. At this point I would do anything to have my old mattress back.

I phoned customer service and was told the inspector would contact me in a week. A week later I left a voice message. After finally speaking with customer service I was told that there was no record of my request. I sent off a cranky e-mail to customer service and with the aid of a store manager I was offered an immediate exchange. Now it's a matter of deciding whether to just switch it for the same brand or go with a different make and model. The online reviews are very mixed for all brands, and difficult to read when sleepy and in pain.

I've never felt so confused about a purchase, worried about making a choice with such impact on my quality of life. My helpful store manager told me she'd try to work something out to my satisfaction and get back to me early next week. So the story ends in suspense. If it doesn't all work out I may end up sleeping on the floor.

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Kids having kids

Claire (not her real name) is 16. In two months, she will graduate from high school at the top of her class. This summer, she will travel abroad on an internship with Doctors without Borders. In September, she will begin studying Pure and Applied Science at Dawson. In October, she will give birth to a baby boy.

"I've always been more mature than most people my age so I don't see a problem with having a baby," Claire says. "The way I see it, if I start having kids early, I finish having kids early too and I'm not too old and ugly to have fun by the time my kids go away to college."

Claire says she is going to work as the manager of a Shell gas station and move out of her house to marry her boyfriend, who is 26, as soon as possible.

According to Angela Freeman, a pediatric psychologist, the phenomenon of teens wanting to become parents is neither a new trend nor a rare one.

"I've dealt with cases where 12-year-olds came to me, telling me they felt they were ready to become parents," Freeman said. "Most of them don't go through with it, but sometimes it happens." Freeman explained that this usually appears when a child did not have a real family life, or had a bad one. Having an older significant other is also a reason teens may resort to having children. She says that being involved with an older person and trying to keep the relationship interesting is a lot of pressure.

"Teens often agree to do things per the demand of their older significant other, but the drastic decision of having a child at 15 or 16 usually indicates that the person has extremely advanced emotional dependency," Freeman said. "The most likely scenario is that these teens have never felt loved by anyone until they met this man or woman and they are not willing to give that up."

Claire, who is already four months pregnant, says she decided to have a baby because she felt it was the right time in her life. Her parents say the young girl never showed any signs of emotional instability and claim they were not aware she had been dating an older man for over a year.

"I knew they wouldn't approve of my boyfriend and that they wouldn't approve of me having a baby, that's why I didn't tell them," Claire said. "It has nothing to do with me being ashamed. I am so proud of being pregnant. It's the only good thing that's ever happened to me." After meeting Claire, Freeman says she is not surprised by her decision. She was an overachiever being run into the ground.

"Often, overachieving teens feel like the love of their parents depends on their achievements and they seek the unconditional love a child will give them," Freeman said. "They feel the need to start a family so that they can avoid making the same mistakes with their children that they feel their parents made with them."

Freeman says teens will continue having children younger and younger as family values disintegrate in North America due to the lack of family bonding or parental presence in a child's life. "I was never very close to my parents and I really want to be very close to this baby," Claire said. "I want to be like the Gilmore Girls with my son. Yeah, that would be nice."

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Chinatown belongs to everyone

photo: Rachel Lau

Chinatown, the place to discover Asia in Montreal.

At least, that’s what I thought until I found out that the small streets near metro Place d’Armes no longer accommodate only Chinese, but are filled with Montrealers of all backgrounds itching for an oriental experience.

“On some days there’s a half and half mix,” says Kico, an employee at Commerce Chung Fung. “But I have mostly Caucasian customers.”

They are attracted to Chinatown by the current craze in Japanese fashion and cartoons. There’s no better place to buy jewellery, clothing, books and more, directly from Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

“There are somany white Harajukus, Bishies and Otakus,” he says – Harajuku and Bishie are two styles of Japanese dress, while Otaku is a derogatory term for someone obsessed with Japanese cartoons. Outside the Japanese community people seem to be proud to call themselves Otaku. “It’s odd to see French kids wearing J-Rock outfits. Mainly they buy plushies, stickers, Japanese dramas and posters with Naruto or Final Fantasy on them.”

The first time I went to Chinatown, two of my friends took me to a small café called L2. For someone who was brought up in a traditional Chinese family, I have to say that for once in my life, I had no idea what I was eating. This is because some restaurants have had to westernize their menus to accommodate Western diners.

“They always want to eat General Tao Chicken,” notes Xiu-Lan, a waitress at Magic Idea. “Sometimes they bring their Asian friends and even they ask for General Tao. It’s funny, because we’ve westernized Asian children.”

The original dish is General Tso’s Chicken, dating back to the 1600’s Qing dynasty. The modified version is a popular dish introduced to North America in the early 70s as an example of Hunan and Szechuan-style cooking. Unlike our beloved sweet, honey-covered General Tao Chicken, traditional Hunan meals are quite spicy and not very sweet.

Xiu-Lan says that the influx of Westerners into Chinatown is good for business. “Every day I get more and more Caucasians coming in. They come here to try something different. Like bubble tea, they don’t know what it is and they come here to find out.”

One amusing result of the intermingling is the sight of non-Asians fluent in Chinese or Japanese addressing us in our “mother” tongue and getting nowhere, since some of our families haven’t spoken it in generations. Montrealers, thinks Xiu-Lan, are exceptionally open to other cultures and quick to adopt some of their features. “People who come from Asia dress like Caucasians and try to fit into the society. But people from here are trying to find something different so they can stand out. I think it’s definitely a good change.”

Today’s Chinatown, like much of the city, has become less an ethnic enclave than a multicultural marketplace. For those who haven’t been lately, it’s worth a trip to see the change firsthand.

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Larry's Shoes closes after 68 years

Al Levy

Larry's Shoes, a fixture on Queen Mary since 1940, closed its doors on August 31.

Back in the 1920s, Alan Levy's grandfather, a recent immigrant to Montreal, founded M. Levy Shoes on St-Laurent near Napoleon, not far from Moishe's Steakhouse. His son Larry followed Horace Greeley's famous advice to 'go West, young man' and opened the Queen Mary location in 1940. Alan joined in 1961 and assisted until 1986, when Larry retired at the age of 86. Alan then ran the shop on his own for 22 years. Until now – truly the end of an era.

The store was always family oriented. In 1997, the focus shifted to seniors, reflecting the changing demographic of the neighbourhood. In this age of Asian imports, Al Levy reminds us that Quebec was once a center of quality shoe manufacturing with brands like Slater, Tetrault, McFarland-Lefevbre and White Cross. In the 1970s, the U.S. invaded with names like Florsheim and Brown. More than shoe offerings are disappearing with this closing. Al Levy is known in the district for his humourous schmoozing and recollections of history. Larry's was always good for shoes and sympathy, and will be sadly missed.

"Summing it up, my clients were my extended family, and many are upset. When you build up a lot of trust, it goes a long way — the handshakes and the hugs hurt. This is the end of one chapter, and the beginning of another."

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Westmount--Ville-Marie spoilers like their chances

Lagacé Dowson talks with constituents Ginette Carrier and Carole Henelly

At press time it seems certain that the four byelections scheduled for September 8 will be canceled, and a general election called for October 14, following Thanksgiving weekend. Two Westmount—Ville-Marie candidates visited The Senior Times prior to the call, when it was still the only race in town, to talk in depth about policy differences and their shot at victory.

What emerged was a picture of unprecedented scale, presence and funding for the NDP and Green campaigns. Both have targeted the riding with an expectation of record gains, at the very least.

If there's any seat in Canada to which the Grits feel entitled without a fight, it's Westmount—Ville-Marie, red since 1962 under its former names and boundaries and home to institutions like Don Johnston and the departing Lucienne Robillard. But after the Liberals' 2006 slide to under 50% in the riding, and the stunning NDP upset in Outremont, massive resources are pouring into previously moribund campaigns, betting on the possibility of a protest vote — against the Opposition.

Much-hailed CROP and Léger numbers showing the Liberals and NDP neck and neck on the Island — at a dilute 18 and 19 percent respectively — make anything seem possible. "We saw what happened in Outremont with Thomas Mulcair last year, a supposedly untakeable Liberal bastion — it's a little bit the same kind of phenomenon," declares the familiar voice of CBC Radio Noon. "I think they have this feeling that all this time voting Liberal hasn't served them necessarily as well as they were hoping, especially with this last minority government — they voted Liberal and they've gotten a de facto Conservative majority."

If the sound is newly partisan, it's because that voice, Westmount's Anne Lagacé Dowson, has been freed from the bonds of journalism and thrown into the race on behalf of the New Democrats, aimed squarely at the Liberals' opposition record and the once-assured seat of former space chief Marc Garneau. On leave from the CBC as rotating guest hosts take her place, Lagacé Dowson puts forth a soaring critique of the Dion era: "The Liberals are not the party they once were. On 43 confidence motions they've absented themselves. People feel taken for granted by the Liberals — they didn't send them to Ottawa to pass Conservative legislation. The NDP is a party that's been steadfast in its resistance to the Harper agenda."

She discounts any concerns over splitting the federalist vote in the riding, citing Bloc candidate Charles Larivée's low-profile, barely existent campaign. She sees the meager Bloquiste vote (13% in 2006) as up for grabs and uses the phrase une perte de vitesse as an apt summation of their woes. The same lack of returns felt by longtime Liberal voters, she says, is felt among Bloc support, with a "sharing of progressive values" making her party the likely beneficiary.

On the environment, Lagacé Dowson argues that the NDP's Five-Point Green Agenda is "more all-encompassing" than the Liberals' Green Shift plan, but eschews the infamous Carbon Tax, which has been "a mixed success elsewhere" in reducing emissions. "Rather than going after people with less latitude to fix the problem," she says, the NDP Green Agenda puts the burden where it belongs — on polluters. The plan also calls for a transfer of one cent per dollar of the gas tax to municipalities, and the development of so-called "green-collar jobs" through funding and tax incentives.

Clearly more self-assured than the average neophyte, Lagacé Dowson makes the case that "journalists have made good MPs" and know how to listen. Their presentation skills are often above average as well. But what about actors? The spoiler to the spoiler is former Sirens star, current host of the cable series Regeneration: the Art of Sustainable Living, and Green Party deputy leader Claude William Genest, a veritable Gatling gun of eco-soundbites and, as a fifth-time candidate, the veteran of the race.

No "shackles and handcuffs to special interests" — Genest

No longer a contender for first Green MP, with Saturday's announcement of ex-Liberal Blair Wilson's jump to the party, Genest could nonetheless see such "momentum" — a term that comes up frequently — raise his chances even further in an especially Green-friendly area. "This is the greenest riding in Canada," he says. "Our highest numbers. Second place Green finish provincially. It's our biggest campaign in the history of Quebec, by orders of magnitude. We're the second choice of 50% of Canadians. We're the only party that's growing, nearly doubling every election. People respond to us," he professes, "because they see we're citizens looking to take responsibility, not politicians trying to take power."

With the Liberal Green Shift and the NDP Green Agenda on the table, have the Greens not been marginalized on their own issue?

"Everybody's green now. It's more of a green veneer on things." The Liberal plan, he maintains, is insufficient. "You can shift taxes till the cows come home. Without ending subsidies to Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, you're still rewarding polluters and rewarding excess consumption. Scandinavians use one-third to one-half the energy per capita we do. Why? They're not better people. They've made policy choices that make them competitive. Why aren't we at those levels? Where was Liberal green policy all those years we fell behind?"

Genest's disdain extends left as well: "I'm so disappointed with the NDP," he says. "They take Thomas Mulcair, this supposedly great passionate advocate for the environment, and what do they do with him? They make him Finance Critic just to shut him up."

NDP policy neglects innovation in his opinion. Countering the notion of giant green bureaucracy, Genest overflows with market-oriented ideas that he urges those on fixed incomes in particular to consider simply for economy's sake. Green windows, lightbulbs and appliances are just a start. The slow adoption of hybrid technology is curious to him. "My Prius gets me 45 miles to the gallon. That's money in my wallet. People talk about investment when they really mean speculation — like the stock market. This is a real investment, with returns that are guaranteed, starting right away, aside from the ecological benefits." Genest also cites leadership in "net metering" initiatives elsewhere — Germany, California, and now Ontario and BC — which require electricity providers to purchase back power generated by customers who use solar and wind installations, which feed surplus electricity back into the grid, typically at night. "It's your meter literally spinning backwards. That's money in your wallet too. Why aren't we doing this everywhere?" he posits rhetorically. "In Germany, they have to buy it back at eight times the billing rate. And guess who has the highest rate of solar-generated power in the world now?"

Reducing consumption and replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy isn't just an environmental imperative but a "tremendous economic opportunity," says Genest — and an alternative to mounting ecological costs, mounting waste, and further resource extraction that won't pay off for years. "It's more of the same," he insists with evangelical fervour, "versus pots of gold under our nose tomorrow! It takes policy choices. The Green Party doesn't have the shackles and handcuffs to special interests that keep it from happening."

Election day in Montreal will hinge on the recovery of the Liberal machine and its ability to get out the vote. For the Garneau campaign to match NDP and Green efforts in this respect is a tall order. Whatever the result, Westmount—Ville-Marie constituents can count on sending a star MP to warm the benches this October.

Polling station info will be available online at www.elections.ca and tollfree at 800-463-6868.

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To our Shirley Cohen on a special birthday!

Congratulations to our beloved Shirley Cohen, who celebrates her 80th birthday September 13.

Shirley has been a devoted member of The Senior Times team for 15 years, coming out of retirement to learn and master the art of selling for a market she knows formidably well, along the way endearing herself in particular to our Members of Parliament and Members of the National Assembly.

Shirley is always positive, hard-working, and insistent on ensuring that our paper grows and prospers with every issue. We miss her dearly when she vacations in Florida for three months each year, but even from Florida she manages to stay in touch with her clients and make sure they don't miss an issue of The Senior Times.

Shirley never fails to call and check up on those in trouble and in need of a kind word of support. She has been a great and loving care giver to her husband Marvin as he has undergone serious health problems. Her eyes sparkle with love and pride as she shows us pictures of the latest brilliant moment of her youngest grandson or recounts the achievements of her older grandchildren.

Marlene Jennings, MP for Notre-Dame-de-Grace–Lachine, has these words to say about Shirley in a special message for the occasion:

"Those who know you well and are fortunate to be close to you day in and day out speak of you with great admiration and respect. Your love and commitment to family and friends never fails to impress them.

"For my part, I can vouch for the fact that you are a salesperson extraordinaire! We hear from you, in my office, as regularly as the seasons change. From what my staff tell me, you master the art of friendly persuasion. Yes, you know how to shower them initially with warmth and poetic kindness, but they know that when Shirley Cohen beckons, she has a mission, and the earth trembles! It is very difficult to turn you down!

Happy Birthday to a great and wonderful lady. We love you, Shirley. Many happy returns!"

And from each of us at The Senior Times, past and present, our warmest wishes and deepest appreciation for all the Herculean efforts, exemplary patience, and kindhearted wisdom.

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Health Canada, seniors, and listeria

Health Canada's now-infamous 2005 advisory to seniors, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals, warning against consumption of non-dried deli meats, has come under predictable criticism as insufficient in the wake of the listeriosis outbreak.

The warning remains posted on the agency's website at health.gc.ca, a few clicks away from the main page, but consumer advocates are asking if that's enough publicity for a potentially fatal risk.

"Maybe we need warning labels (on the food), because the message isn't getting out there," Dr. Doug Powell, associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University, told Canwest News last week. "And the consequences are bad. The kill rate is about 20-30%. That's really high for a food-borne pathogen." According to Powell, the listeria bacterium can grow on food even when refrigerated.

Health Canada defends its communication efforts, maintaining that "there are a number of food safety tips and fact sheets and a lot of consumer education on (listeria)."

Its inspection standards are also currently under fire, but experts warn against a more draconian approach. Keith Warriner, University of Guelph professor of food microbiology, defends those standards as judicious and safe. "Once (listeria) becomes established in a processing environment, it's very difficult to remove," he told the Toronto Star. "You can reduce numbers to low levels by sanitation and good practices, but it's hard to eradicate. What we do in Canada is say, 'We know that listeria is ubiquitous, that it will be in processing plants regardless of what preventive standards we have.'" Only hazardous concentrations, defined by federal regulations, will prompt a recall.

This is a different policy than in the US, where plant inspections enforce a zero-tolerance policy on listeria. One single cell of it triggers a shutdown. Since it lives everywhere, meat recalls are a spectacularly regular occurrence stateside, climbing to 118 per year in 2006. As a result, companies minimize self-reporting whenever possible, and consumer confidence turns to consumer fatalism, tuning out the risk more and more with each new announcement.

While defence of a more nuanced approach may be unpopular in the wake of the recent tragedy, it's important to note that listeriosis is a regular occurrence, mostly running its course without treatment but occasionally proving fatal, almost exclusively among high-risk groups with weakened immunity. Demands for more stringent protocols, in the belief that 100% eradication is possible, offer little increased protection to those most vulnerable. Public service broadcasts on every risk to their condition are no more reasonable an option.

Successful future efforts at reducing contamination will likely depend on two things: technology to prevent listeria growth in packaged foods, and standards of education for food handlers and caregivers equal to our standards of inspection and disinfection.

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Shortchanging the short

This past July, Bobby Ackles, the President and CEO of the BC Lions football team, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 69.

By all accounts, Ackles was greatly liked and respected. He had started out his employment with the Lions as a water boy in 1953 and enjoyed successful careers as a football executive both in the Canadian Football League and the American National Football League. Unfortunately, many of the comments lauding him seemed to stress his having overcome his height of less than 5 foot 4:

"To be a man so small in stature and accomplish what he did in our league and in the National Football League is incredible" – Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Eric Tillman

"While Ackles wasn't very tall, the shoes he left under the desk are awfully big." – Kent Gilchrist, The Province

"Small in stature, but a giant in life." – Winnipeg Free Press

"The president and CEO of the BC Lions was a great little football man who had been around the game all his life." – Mike Beamish, Vancouver Sun

Similarly, sportscaster Brian Williams and an executive with the Lions drew attention to the fact that Ackles reached great heights notwithstanding his diminutive nature. Without meaning to, these commentators are saying that being short is a shortcoming that must be transcended.

Have these people never heard of the likes of Woody Allen, Ludwig van Beethoven, Mel Brooks, Truman Capote, Charlie Chaplin, Eddie Fisher, Michael J. Fox, Francis of Assisi, Buckminster Fuller, Yuri Gagarin, Mahatma Gandhi, Harry Houdini, Immanuel Kant, John Keats, René Lévesque, Aristotle Onassis, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Pope, Martin Scorsese, Paul Simon, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Voltaire and Paul Williams – none who exceeded 5 foot 5?

Notice that I excluded Charles Manson, the Marquis de Sade, Baby Face Nelson, Mahmoud Ahmedinijad and Josef Stalin from the above list.

It is not the stature of a person that presents the problem, rather it is the prejudice directed to the "vertically-challenged" that must be addressed.

We might say that good things come in small packages, but as a society we're obsessed with height and perhaps even hard-wired to prefer people who are tall. Economists have long been aware that short men earn less than taller men. The average height of a Fortune 500 CEO is around 6 feet (roughly 3 inches taller than the male average). Taller people earn approximately $1000 per inch more a year than short ones. This is comparable to the earning discrepancies that exist on the basis of gender and race.

Discrimination expert Dr. Mahzarin Banaji, a psychology research leader at Harvard, uses his Implicit Association Test (ITA) to demonstrate that "the vast majority of us harbour deeply rooted negative feelings about shorter men." The IAT is a highly respected tool designed to quantify subconscious prejudices. In a comprehensive study, Dr. Banaji discovered that "height bias is in your face... It's as strong as other very important biases such as race bias or gender bias." His results were consistent regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity.

In a 1995 article in The Economist, author Jonathan Rauch stated that "height hierarchies are established early, and persist for a long time. Tall boys are deferred to and seen as mature, short ones ridiculed and seen as childlike. Tall men are seen as natural 'leaders' – short ones are called 'pushy'... The men who suffer are those who are noticeably short: say, 5'5" and below. In a man's world, they do not impress. Indeed, the connection between height and status is embedded in the very language. Respected men have 'stature' and are 'looked up to,' quite literally, as it turns out."

That Bob Ackles could start off as a lowly water boy and climb to the top executive position in a large organization is truly impressive, inspiring and worth mentioning – the fact that some people stress he did so as a short man, while perhaps not being the height of prejudice, is the prejudice of height.

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Editorial: Obama shines light for Canada

Anyone who watched Barack Obama's magnificent acceptance speech at last month's Democratic Party convention could only have been impressed by the man's rhetorical skill and the magnitude of this historic moment.

This man is gifted, not just by his use of words – simple words that pack a mighty punch – but also by his ability to touch on the concerns of average Americans at a critical time in their history. His nomination speaks volumes about how the political culture in that country is evolving. His Yes We Can promise of change in such key areas as Iraq, healthcare, and the growing wealth-poverty gap mobilized millions – of people and dollars – from across the spectrum. As power beckons, however, there are signs that Obama is retreating from some of his potentially controversial stands. One example is his reversal on denying retroactive federal immunity to phone companies involved in the Bush domestic wiretap program.

As The Nation magazine reported last month under the heading Change We Can Believe In, progressive Americans who are supporting Obama delivered an open letter to him during the convention, demanding that he not cave on a series of crucial commitments. These include:

  • Withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed timetable
  • Universal healthcare
  • A more progressive financial and welfare system
  • Public investment to repair infrastructure
  • Fair trade policies
  • Shifting billions from fossil-fuel consumption to alternative energy sources.
  • Restoration of the freedom to organize unions by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

This last point is key to allowing American unions to turn around their erosion in membership, which has hurt the middle class. The Act would allow arbitration on first contracts after 120 days without an agreement, and would stop employers from ordering secret ballots where the majority of workers sign union cards without evidence of coercion.

This is what real change means and these areas clearly distinguish Obama from McCain, whose inherent promise of Òmore of the sameÓ stands in stark contrast to Yes We Can.

***

The intensity and passion seen in Denver and the hope inspired by Obama can only spill over into the upcoming Canadian election. Why Stephen Harper wants one is something of a mystery. The polls show him picking up support in Quebec at the expense of the Bloc, but losing some in vote-rich Ontario.

One hypothesis is that he wants to bleed dry the Liberals' war chest at a time when it can't match Tory fundraising, which is short-term thinking at best – if another Harper minority results, all he'll have done is weaken the Liberals' finances for the inevitable follow-up vote.

Another possibility is that he wants to get the election behind him by mid-October to limit the progressive spillover from the Obama campaign, which can only help the opposition.

Whatever his reasons, Harper has yet to make a convincing case that the current arrangement is holding him back.

Liberal leader Dion, stopping briefly in Westmount to support Marc Garneau, assured The Senior Times that when an election comes, seniors' issues will top his agenda, including his Green Shift plan, which he said is of special concern to grandparents.

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Biden or Palin: who's really pro-life?

When Republican nominee John McCain chose the little-known Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, 44, to be his running mate, he obviously saw three things she would bring to the ticket: she's a woman, she's young and she's pro-life.

Questions about Palin's experience, or lack of it, become more acute when you compare her to Barack Obama's choice of running mate.

There is no question that Joe Biden adds heft to the Democratic ticket. He's a Roman Catholic from a blue collar background, two constituencies in which Obama is weak. He has a solid background in foreign affairs and military policy, after six terms in the Senate, where he chairs the foreign relations committee. He recently returned from Georgia where he was consulted by the Georgian government. As the conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan put it, "he's a senator who doesn't just call foreign leaders – they call him."

The scrappy Biden will also do for Obama what James Carville did for Bill Clinton – act as an attack dog. The Globe and Mail calls his selection a sign of "a welcome determination to take the fight to the Republicans on their home turf of national security."

One element of the Obama-Biden ticket will come more to the fore now that Sarah Palin's pro-life credentials are so high-profile. Both Democrats are pro-choice, despite Biden's Catholicism. Does this mean Democrats will lose the pro-life vote? Not necessarily. Democrats have made a significant shift in their abortion policy. Besides the commitment to choice, their platform explicitly states that there should be a reduction in the number of abortions.

Obama and Biden have statistics to rally in their favour in appealing to social conservatives. For openers, most data now show the pro-choice approach to be more effective at achieving ostensibly pro-life goals: reducing both the number of late-term abortions and the number of abortions overall. Key to the issue is preventing unwanted pregnancies. Pro-choice figures like Obama are the ones who champion wider access to birth control, and it's been pro-choice elected officials who've fought for insurance coverage of the procedure and the introduction of new and more effective contraceptives. Only 11% of sexually active American women forego contraception, and this 11% account for half of the abortions in the US. Obama and Biden support the comprehensive sex-ed programs that have been proven to work. McCain and Palin support no-sex-until-marriage programs which have been proven to fail.

Abortion won't be the major issue in November, the economy will. But Obama and Biden will need votes wherever they can get them, and the pro-life faction may take another look at the Democratic ticket if they realize it's the real pro-life ticket.

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Picking the right trip for a single senior

Ever since I lost my husband I've traveled alone and thoroughly enjoyed my trips. Sadly, my recent riverboat cruise on the Danube did not match my expectations.

At the Captain's 'Welcome Cocktail Party' I knew I had chosen the wrong cruise. I was the only elderly female and nobody came to the rescue as I stood in a corner with a glass in my hand. This would never have happened to a man! I felt like an immigrant: sink or swim! The Danube isn't exactly swimmer-friendly! Nor is it blue. This most serenaded and venerated river, considered by some as a metaphor for life, is smelly, has a sickly greenish colour, and drags pounds of algae. Pollution has caught up with it.

The dining room tables were elegantly set for 2, 4, 6 or 8 but the maitre d' was nowhere to be seen. I fled to my cabin and opened the windows wide. ­ The splashing sounds of the river lolled me to sleep.

The riverboat was brand new but its architect had not discovered a sensible location for the only fuse box on my deck. It was housed in my closet. I was disturbed several times by a hunk of an electrician trying to fix somebody else's blown fuse just as I'd emerged from the bathtub wrapped in my towel. He told me arrogantly that he had not designed the ship. It occurred to me later that he could have been Jack the Ripper and nobody would have missed me!

The 20-day trip started in my favorite place, Prague. It was so crowded that I could barely maneuver my way across the famous Charles Bridge. Massive crowds blocked the view to the Moldova River and the hurdy-gurdy blaring 'New York, New York' was irritating. I spent hours in Prague's famous Jewish quarter. The ancient Jewish cemetery with about 12,000 tombstones, clustered into a small space, is so unique, moving and peaceful. In Salzburg 'The Sound of Music' had taken over from Mozart!

The second half of the cruise took us through the Balkans and the Iron Gate to the Black Sea, which was blue! This is rough territory of awe-inspiring beauty. Its complicated history is soaked in blood and full of rage, superstition, corruption and war. Some actually believe that Dracula, cruelest ruler of the 15th century, is still haunting the area. At his tomb on the Romanian island Monastery at Snagov I wondered whether it was empty. Did Dracula ever exist or is he just a frightening figment of the imagination, good for Hollywood?

By that time two couples had invited me to dine with them. We didn't share a lot in common but had some good laughs and this, together with a visit to a trendy beauty parlour in Vienna, helped my state of mind.

I blame myself for not doing enough research before signing on. My recommendation to anyone who travels alone is to find out beforehand what to expect, especially if you're a senior and single.

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Every day a blast at Sun Youth summer camp

Sun Youth day campers enjoying a ride on the Garden Train at Exporail

What a summer it's been at Sun Youth, especially for the children at our day camp.

Despite the poor weather conditions, every day was a blast for the 80 kids. Throughout the summer, our friendly counselors organized many activities to put smiles on the faces of the young campers.

This year, day camp started June 23. As usual, parents registered their children months in advance to be sure to get a spot. Parents appreciate that for a very reasonable cost, their children are busy all summer long and fed breakfast and a hot lunch, plus a snack in the afternoon, enough for plenty of energy. Children are grouped by ages 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, and 11-12, with 18 counselors supervising.

Day camp is a great place to make new friends. Kids come from very different backgrounds, both socially and culturally. Special financial arrangements are made with parents living on limited incomes. The maximum fee for the full 8 weeks is $500.

Outings included a day at the waterslides, fun in the sun at Sablon Beach and Parc Jean-Drapeau beach, a Jungle Adventure trip at the Laval resort for the two younger groups, and bowling trips every other week. At Sun Youth, they took part in photo club activities and arts & crafts on alternating weeks. Big thanks go to Wayne Oliver (photo club) and Carlos Anglarill (arts & crafts) for organizing these activities.

One of the most popular activities this summer was the visit to Exporail at the Canadian Railway Museum in Saint-Constant. On July 25, eleven enthusiastic nine-to-ten-year-olds enjoyed a day of fun and activities, riding the streetcar and the Garden Train, driving miniature trains and climbing aboard locomotives. The visit was organized by Exporail and CIT Roussillon, the South Shore transit company that recently inaugurated regular daily service to the museum, to celebrate Exporail's new door-to-door accessibility from downtown Montreal, providing lunch and transportation and a conductor's hat for every camper.

Camp ended August 15 with the traditional talent show for parents. After a day at the waterslides, the children returned to Sun Youth for a dinner with their parents. There were prizes for campers, such as Best Smile and Most Helpful. For every group there was also a ÒSuper CamperÓ chosen. These four lucky kids won brand new bicycles.

Campers displayed their skills on stage, ending with a video montage showcasing the summer's highlights.

Registration for next year's Sun Youth Day Camp begins March 2009.

Info: 514-842-6822

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Estate planning calls for tough questions, experienced advice

I'm often asked: what does estate planning mean and how does it apply to me? Proper estate planning ensures that your wishes will be met when you are no longer around. In addition, it allows for the orderly transfer of assets with a focus on reducing the impact of taxation.

Proper planning can dramatically increase the value of an estate. People are often shocked at the taxes owed to the individual governments on final disposition of RRIFs once both spouses are deceased. In addition, capital gains on non-residential real estate and recapture of depreciation on final disposition of these assets can lead to enormous tax exposure for future generations. Clients with large investment portfolios can be subject to huge capital gains liabili­ties once both spouses are deceased. One can easily roll over assets between spouses tax free, however the same rules do not apply to the children. I've seen many estates greatly diminished through poor planning or indifference.

One area of estate planning that requires particular interest is that of second marriages and blended families.

Without proper guidance it is possible that the deceased natural children lose out completely due to assets being transferred to the second spouse, and upon the demise of this second spouse, assets are inherited by the second spouse's own natural children. In this scenario all of the original family's wealth has just been transferred to an entirely different family due to poor planning.

Sometimes the use of Family Trusts are recommen­ded as a way to creditor-proof estates and reduce taxes. There are instances as well where adult children are incapable of managing large sums of money on their own and the proceeds of the estate are governed through a third party who dispenses money accor­ding to the wishes of the deceased for a finite time period. There are many examples of businesses in Canada that have not survived multiple generations due to infighting amongst siblings contesting the desires of their parents or squan­dering fortunes through mismanagement.

There is so much information readily available to address these issues. Do the research. Ask yourself some difficult questions. How will you be perceived by your own children after you are gone?

Seek out the resources of a trusted professional with proper accredi­tation and a good track record. Don't leave things to chance. Make sure your heirs (and not the government) receive the fruits of your lifelong labours.

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Linguistic chauvinism reigns supreme

The French hate the Germans, The Germans hate the Poles. Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch, And I don't like anybody very much!

The Merry Minuet, Kingston Trio, circa 1960

One of the less attractive qualities of ethnic and linguistic identity is its association with intolerance towards outsiders. Many languages designate those who are mutually intelligible as "speakers" or "people" — Those who speak a language deemed incomprehensible are labeled as the "others," or "babblers."

A few examples are in order. The Ancient Greeks used the onomatopoeic term barbaroi ("babblers") to mock anyone whom they deemed incomprehensible, i.e. anyone who used a language other than Greek. This word came into Latin as barbarus, with the same meaning, and bequeathed to us the words "barbarous" and "barbarian." The Chinese bestowed on the Miao and Moso tribes of South China the name "southern barbarians" and "miserable ones" because they did not understand their speech. The Slavs conferred the name Nemet ("mute" or "dumb") on their German neighbours.

The view that one's own language is superior to others is widespread, and many reasons are supplied in defense of this chauvinistic hypothesis. A language might be viewed the oldest, the most logical, the most phonetic, or the language of the gods. Some of the claims have been particularly preposterous. Sixteenth-century German writer J.G. Becanus argued that German was superior because it was the language Adam spoke in Eden. Luckily, he claimed, it was not affected by the later Babel debacle because the early Germans (the Cimbrians) did not participate in the tower construction. Becanus informs us that the Almighty later caused the Old Testament to be translated from an original but now defunct German into Hebrew.

Languages are prone to attribute negative qualities to foreign influences. In the English language we refer to an unauthorized absence as taking "French leave." The French retaliate by taking "English leave," (filer à l'anglais). Norwegians and Italians join the French in also taking "English leave."

Foreign idioms referencing English provide a snapshot of attitudes towards those in the English-speaking world and it would appear that the honesty of anglophones is questionable. In French to "fleece somebody" is to anglaiser quelqu'un and both the French and the Italians refer to con games as the "American swindle." In Serbo-Croatian the expression praviti se Englez translates as "to act like an Englishman," i.e. to act as if nothing is wrong in the hope that a situation will sort itself out. One humourous French idiom that references the English is les Anglais ont debarqué which is used as a euphemism for "I have my period."

Outsiders are liable to be blamed for vice and immorality in our midst. No example better exemplifies this than the disease syphilis. The Italians attributed it to the French and called it Mal francesse. The French turned the tables and called it Mal de Naples. The Germans also targeted the French and labeled it Franzosen bšse Blattern ("French bad blisters"). The English called it "French pox," or the "French disease" and referred to the baldness that syphilis produced as a "French crown." To be "Frenchified" meant to have a venereal infection and a "French pig" was a venereal sore. The Russians blamed it on the Poles, who in turn called it the "German Disease." To the Dutch, it was Spaensche Pokken ("Spanish pox"). Once the disease was transmitted eastward to India, Japan and China, it emerged as the "Portuguese disease" and not surprisingly, Turks held Christians responsible. Finally, in the 16th century it received the designation "syphilis" which seemed to have universal appeal. The name derives from the name of a fabled syphilitic shepherd in the poem Syphilis, sive Morbus Gallicus by Italian poet Girolamo Fracastoro. This fable relates the story of the shepherd Syphilis whose blasphemy so angered the Sun God that he saddled poor Syphilis with an eponymous new disease.

Linguistic chauvinism dictates that not only is one's mother tongue "infected" by foreign influences, but that the alien languages are even responsible for the infections.

Howard Richler's latest book is Can I Have a Word With You? He can be reached at howard@theseniortimes.com.

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Sharing secret thoughts

Alzheimer's Disease is a long journey taking a family through many stages as the disease progresses. Each stage brings different reactions and emotions.

The early stage is difficult on families because the AD individual is aware of the changes they are going through: memory loss, confusion and difficulty performing familiar tasks. The person may become depressed as they recognize these changes and losses, over which they have no control. They are often treated with antidepressants.

Still struggling with the diagnosis, families are relieved to know why their loved one's behavior has changed. They are also confused because there are many good days with no symptoms.

In the later stages, the family witnesses their loved one's inability to manage their own care. They no longer recognize faces – they have a blank look in their eyes that makes us wonder how much of the person we knew is still there.

My friend would visit his mother once a week in the nursing facility where she lived for several years. She had been an accomplished professional and a strong maternal force. My friend spoke to me of being emotionally wiped out by these visits. He no longer recognized the bedridden woman as his mother and had mourned her for years. She no longer recognized him either. When she died, he felt a mixed bag of emotions – relief, and guilt at feeling relief. At the funeral, he told me that her death had been a blessing.

Family members ask what they would want for themselves if they were in this position. They remember their family members as independent and strong people and feel that they would never want to be dependent on others for all their needs.

One important purpose of a support group is being able to share thoughts with others who will nod in understanding and not sit in judgment. It is a safe place to share feelings of anger, frustration, sadness and grief.

Some of these thoughts would be viewed by mainstream society as taboo. But nothing is taboo among people going through similar experiences and feelings.

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Potluck Pizza: how to astound your friends and keep it simple

The request was cottage country basic. "We're doing potluck. Bring over what you have." A simple request but we were at the cottage and the store was half an hour away. The cupboard was almost bare: a package of whole wheat flour – now why had I bought that? – lots of tomatoes, and some cheese from the farmer's market. Some salad stuff, but someone else was bringing a salad.

A-ha! Pizza. Everyone loves pizza, but few make it. Frankly, after you've baked it a couple of times, you won't want to buy it. I had to make the dough from scratch at the cottage, but the Flavour Guy isn't averse to last-minute inspiration, and will buy raw pizza dough at the supermarket or even beg it from a pizza parlour.

For cottage country pizza, I was going to prep everything and then bring it to the neighbour's for baking. The neighbour had pans and, most importantly, an oven – something lacking chez nous.

For the toppings, the simpler the better. Take fresh tomatoes, 1/3 of a pound or 150 g per person, cut them into small chunks, salt them and let them drain in a strainer or colander for an hour or so. Add fresh herbs – basil and oregano are nice – and ground black pepper. For the cheese, grate a half cup per person of soft cheese such as Mozzarella, mild cheddar, Gouda, Bel Paese, Fontina – these all work well – and mix in a little freshly grated Romano or Parmesan. Mild goat cheese (not feta) is good instead of the others but break it into small pieces and dot it over the pizza. Remember, this is potluck – work with what you have. If you don't have tomatoes try canned or fresh asparagus, thin slices of sweet pepper, cooked broccoli, sliced mushrooms, etc. But don't overload the pie or the crust will be soggy.

The flavour punch comes from the oil: heat a cup of olive oil in a small pot and add a tablespoon or more of finely chopped garlic and a teaspoon or less – depending upon your personal heat quota – of chili pepper flakes. Cook this slowly until the garlic just starts to sizzle and remove the pot from the stove. This spicy oil is fantastic brushed on any flat bread, like stale pita, and cooked on a baking sheet in the oven at a moderate heat – 375°F or 190°C – until the bread is golden.

When everything is ready, turn the oven to as high a temperature as it will take without broiling, around 500°F or 260°C. For baking, a pizza stone is nice but the Flavour Guy is adept with cast iron frying pans or a thick cookie sheet or whatever is handy. Use two oven racks, one at the oven's highest level and the other at the lowest. After the oven is at the right temperature, put the pans in for about 10 minutes and be careful. Use thick oven mitts to bring them out just before you put in the dough. The hot pans give the pizzas a great crust.

Once the pans are in the oven, go into action. Lightly flour your hands and the counter surface. Take a wad of dough about the size of a small grapefruit. Flatten it between your hands and stretch it to a 6-inch circle. Then roll the dough using a rolling pin. No pin? Try a wine bottle! If the dough sticks, shake a little flour over it. Turn the pizza 90 degrees after each pass to keep from overstretching one side. You're aiming for a shape no larger than the pan you're putting it in.

Timing is everything. Take the pan from the oven and put something under it – a wire rack, a trivet, a towel – to not burn the counter. Put the dough in the pan, and slip the pan back to the top rack in the oven. Wait a couple of minutes until the dough comes easily off the pan and the bottom starts to brown. Remove the pan, flip the dough, brush it all over with the spicy garlic oil, then cover it with a handful of tomatoes and another of cheese. Put the pan back on the top rack for about 5 minutes or until the top of the dough starts to brown. Work on the next pizza. When that's ready, take the one from the top rack and put it on the lower rack. Keep doing this until you have them all done. Serve at once with a salad, a bottle of wine and a towel to wipe the sweat from your brow. This is pizza that you've worked for, and it's worth it.

Barry Lazar is the Flavour Guy. You can reach him at flavourguy@theseniortimes.com.

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Chalet BBQ a beacon of stability in an ocean of change

Over 62 years into its hot streak, NDG's landmark Chalet BBQ on Sherbrooke has made an enduring business out of sticking to one specialty — slow-cooked charcoal-grilled chicken with a unique, smoky trade-secret sauce handed down through the ages and shrouded in mystique. The flavour, unlike any standard chicken joint fare, prompts enough fan testimonials — spanning multiple generations — to give the most jaded aficionado reason to try.

"It's still the same family that runs it," says Daniel, head of the establishment for the past 20 years. "We haven't changed a thing, that's the beauty of it. Staying with what you know best, that's the secret. When I started, the boss said, 'Danny, just make sure you serve good food, and lots of it, at good prices, and don't worry about the rest.'"

Apart from the sage advice and distinct barbeque recipe, he attributes his lasting success to a few other key ingredients: "Other places use natural gas. We use charcoal. Most of our customers like it well cooked, a bit crispy. Others like it a bit different. Our policy is we do it the way you like it. Everybody's got a favourite. My staff know by heart what our regulars like. And we never charge for extras."

Sampling the half chicken dinner, accompanied by fries and coleslaw, the singular taste raises an eyebrow at first bite. Special enough to stir talk and idle speculation on its constituent parts, it raises one burning question: how has such craft stayed confined to NDG all these years and not propagated worldwide?

"People ask us about opening another location," says Daniel with a laugh, "but you think you can find people like Carmie every day?" A celebrity waitress by any measure after 15 years at Chalet BBQ, Carmie and her contribution to the ambiance are cited by fans as often as the recipe among reasons to visit. Another top draw is queen of seniority Lucia, serving customers for over 50 years. "I have great staff," he attests. "It's not me. I've got great kitchen people and fantastic waitresses. That's why people are loyal. We get to know them."

Such accolades were borne out during a Thursday lunch visit, with zealous service and speedy refills in a relaxed, low key environment suited to quiet conversation. It's unbeatable for business lunches, as long as you keep your fingers off the paperwork once the food arrives, and even a first date, wherever a vintage oldschool vibe is called for.

Daniel guesses about three quarters of the clientele are over 40. He notes that the flipside of loyalty is a strong preference for continuity. "We moved one thing," he says of a minor redecorating effort, "and everyone's asking me, 'Why did you move that? I liked it there.' So we learned if it ain't broke don't fix it." Patrons of all ages will thus find the atmosphere comfortingly retro.

As a specialty outfit, their menu doesn't take long to read, but there's a deeper logic to doing one thing well, learned from prior restaurateur experience: "Sometimes they ask, 'Why don't you put ribs on the menu, or this or that on the menu?' When the place gets busy like this, you know how much that slows things down? Our chicken takes an hour and a quarter to cook. This way it's ready right away when you order." And the food does indeed arrive at breakneck speed, making any big discussion a better idea to leave until afterwards.

This find, already familiar to many readers of The Senior Times, is a top candidate for any Best-Of itinerary when showing out-of-towners around. Chalet BBQ is at 5456 Sherbrooke W, by the Decarie Expressway overpass, and has free parking in back.

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Cotton Castle gives rise to spa-city in Southeast Turkey

Barefoot in the travertine pools

There is a certain ease and carelessness that I feel when traveling with a tour group as opposed to traveling solo. When traveling solo I do the research. I know exactly where I’m going and why. I memorize a map of my destination along with all the attractions. Surprises are minimal. As part of a tour groupmy survival instincts take a back seat and I coast along knowing my tour guide will be taking us to all the hot spots.We were on our way to a place called Pamukkale – Cotton Castle in Turkish. Located in the Denizli Province in southeast Turkey, it is a major tourist attraction not to be missed.

Our little tour bus rolled into town late at night. Mustafa, the hotel owner and chef, welcomed us joyously into his hotel and did not waste any time putting food on the table. He insisted we fuel up on food and sleep for our big hike in the morning. A hike? Hmmm… I wondered what could possibly be so grueling that I was stuffing my face to do it.

Climbing the Cotton Castle

The next morning I dressed for the hike, careful to respect the unofficial Muslim modesty rule that we were politely asked to obey throughout our Turkish trek. I wore jeans, a tank top and a little sweater to cover my shoulders. Mustafa, our tour guide, informed us that most of the way up the travertines we must be barefoot. This was starting to sound a little strange. But from what I had experienced so far, strange was no stranger in Turkey.

We started out from our hotel, walked a couple of streets, turned the corner and were suddenly in what looked like a winter wonderland, in the middle of the southwest Turkish landscape, in October. It seemed as though the entire side of the hill was covered in glistening white snow.

As we approached the foot of the hill, Mustafa explained that this anomaly was white limestone from calcium deposits. We were standing in an area that was struck several times by earthquakes, which gave rise to hot springs. The water flows down the mountain and deposits its calcium while cooling, creating this very unique-looking blinding white frozen waterfall. We slowly made our way up the 250-metre hillside to the plateau, barefoot and in disbelief. The water flowed between my toes as I carefully wandered up the hill. I stopped occasionally to bask in the scene. The prayer call of the mosque echoed while I watched the many tourists march up the hill in their speedos and string bikinis. I suspected the unofficial modesty rule did not apply in Pamukkale.The bottoms of my jeans were getting wet. It was hot. I suddenly wished I had worn my bikini so that I could jump into one of the pools of hot spring water on the way up. The youngest of the group, and always the slowest, I was last to make it to the top.

Hierapolis ruins

The ancient city of Hierapolis awaited us atop the cotton castle we had climbed. Founded in the 2nd century BCE by Eumenes II, King of Pergamum (an ancient Greek city in modern-day Turkey) the spa-city prospered with the help of the healing powers of the water. Tourists can still swim in the 36°C ancient sacred pool – the Antique Pool. Sounds impressive but the Antique Pool is saturated with tourists, kiosks and overpriced cafes. Much more impressive was walking through the white-stoned, pillar-lined streets of the ancient city, imagining its beauty and glory centuries ago. There is a brilliant Roman theatre located behind the Antique Pool, which seats 12,000 spectators. It occurred to me that the cities of today are not much different than the ancient cities. Nonetheless, the ancient cities had a certain magnificence and grandeur that our modern-day ones are much lacking. From one perspective we’ve come so far as a civilization, but from another we haven’t even budged.

The sunset from the summit was like nothing I had ever seen. Beautiful reds and yellows glow from the white limestone spring-water pools. Looking past the pools and the cotton castle into the vast deserted land ahead is breathtaking.

I slowly made my way back down through the warm waterfall, enjoying every moment of this natural phenomenon while at the same time trying my very best not to slip. One wrong step and I could have slid all the way down the castle. It was dark when I reached the bottom, and the rough limestone made my feet as smooth as butter.

The next morning we all piled back into out little tour bus and chugged up the twisty cliff-hugging side roads along the shores of southwest Turkey to rendezvous with our next dazzling and bizarre surprise of a destination.

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Expensive, enchanting Trieste: first stop on our spontaneous summer adventure

Trieste canal

Our first stop on this summer's adventure was Trieste, Italy at the Northeast top of the Adriatic Sea. Trieste has all the best qualities of Italian cities — accessible on foot, terrific tomatoes, marvelous mozzarella, and fabulous fish that tastes like it just came out of the sea. Then there's the gelate — multi-flavored Italian ice-cream in its various forms — yogurt, sorbet and rich cream — at every corner, which became a serious threat to my diet.

Our hotel, the 2-star Alabarda, was friendly but offered only 30 minutes of free wifi in the room. This seemed rather stingy when we later compared them to other hotels in Albania, Macedonia, and Greece, places we would visit later in the month.

This is the first time we took a laptop to Europe. It fit nicely into our knapsack on wheels and we rarely took it out of the hotel rooms. It was nice to not have to find the local Internet cafe, usually crowded with smelly teens. We had bought a $10 adaptor at Trudeau airport, which simply attaches to the plug and then goes into the wall. A helpful rep at Bureau en Gros told me that more expensive converters are unnecessary for laptops, which already have the ability to run on 110 or 220 volts.

Sunset in Trieste

We arrived on a Saturday and spent most of the day catching up on sleep and walking the streets that run around the Grand Canal. The first afternoon, I walked across the street to the Supermercado and purchased some succulent peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, and cheese, as well as a perfect size orange melon resembling a cantaloup. The next morning we enjoyed a wonderful cafe latte at one of the spots along the canal. Fancy coffees are the only thing cheaper than Montreal, apart from the wine and gelate.

The music in the bars and restaurants is awful — loud and aggressive. We asked one waitress to change it and she happily obliged.

We had three restaurant meals in Trieste (eating the second meal from the supermarket deli counters) and the average bill was 30 euro ($50) including wine and sparkling water. The service was always friendly and accommodating.

Muggia fishing tackle

The hotel gives out a special menu for a restaurant that is two streets away: Risorante Pizzeria O-Scugnizzo. For 20 euro you can have Primi (First Course) pasta, Secondi (Second Course) fish or meat in tiny portions; Contorni (salad or grilled veggies), and Bevanda (Beverage) — either mineral water, ¼ liter wine or beer. We weren't that hungry or willing to splurge yet again so we asked if we could share. We could and did! Irwin had the spaghetti with fresh mussels and clams (both in the shell) and I had the secondi of grilled squid. Restaurant food in Trieste and in Rome, as we were later to discover, is well prepared and fresh but beyond our budget.

On the second day, we visited the port and decided not to take the cruise going to the Greek Islands for one week. We weren't ready to be packed in like the grilled sardines I had for lunch, listening to loudspeakers and unable to stay in a place longer than a few hours. At least that's the impression we had of cruises before we took one two weeks later in Greece.

Instead we boarded a chug-a-lug to Muggia, a half an hour away (6 euro return) and toured a lovely little port town, sampled more gelate and more delicious coffees. You get the picture!

What a beautiful little town. We would have inquired about the apartments for sale at 140,000 Euro if it hadn't been a lazy Sunday.

On the third day in the evening, we boarded a ferry headed for Durres, Albania for a return visit to this budget land of friendly people and hair raising rides along mountain cliffs. Next issue Albania — still the best kept secret in Europe.

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Innovative artist goes for the funky

Une, Deux, Trois Tasses

"I'm on a high right now. Many good things are happening in my life," says Cote St-Luc artist Carol Rabinovitch.

"My son just got married and so did my daughter, within two months of one another. My husband and I are ecstatic but I'm also excited about the art show" – an exhibition at Cafe Volver featuring acrylic and one-of-a-kind ballerina prints, displayed beside the work of established artists Myrna Brooks Berkovitch and Joyce Slapcoff Stuart. "The response was fabulous."

"Myrna's mixed media art is magnificent. She's my mentor and she inspires me as my teacher. Joyce's oil landscapes and ballerina prints are appealing. I felt honoured to be in the same show," says Carol, who is coming into her own in a big way. She has exhibited at six Montreal galleries, and her whimsical works have been in solo shows at Gryphon d'Or and Dix Mille Villages.

Her work has also been featured at Mountain Lake Arts Auction on PBS, The Art for Healing Foundation at Maimonides, and Mesquite Restaurant. At one exhibit, she showcased her collages of recycled objects featuring bottle caps, CD fragments and badges. Called Blue Hawaii, it was a hit.

Her fun personality pops out in each one of her paintings, from wardrobe, watches and wedding scenes to shoes, dancers and musical instruments. "My passion flows in bright colours. I take the traditional and make it whimsical and illogical. I'm often told that my paintings are unique and highly imaginative."

Jazz Queen

Carol has the uncanny knack of creating a new version of something ordinary that she sees. In her piece Jazz Queen, a shirt sporting the word Ôjazz' and a male musician's face have been morphed into a Picasso-like female playing a saxophone. It's full of her signature swirls and dots. Vibrant, almost kaleidoscopic, it seems to move before your eyes. You can almost hear the music.

"My overactive mind turns the mundane, such as a teacup, into an amu­sing version. On this tea theme, I created an Alice in Wonderland series of paintings." There is joy and humour as teapots dance about in a colourful background speckled with spirals, stripes and dots. Talent pours out of her, just like the tea in her teapots. Called Party of Teapots, this series' themes are painted on tiny 7-inch-square canvases, currently on display at TMR's Gallery Archipelago.

"I never set out to change the image – it just happens, but I see that each piece shares a commonality: vibrant colours, simple lines and seemingly unrelated objects are prevalent. They seem to go together. I'm just happy that people respond to my art with a giggle and smile. They must have something going for them."

Hot Hot Hot

Admittedly, Carol says, she may be a tad crazy. Even her son nicknames her Crazy C. "Sometimes, I have to remind myself that less is more. I just want to keep adding more decorative motifs." But she certainly has found her crazy calling. It's at the end of a paintbrush. To date, Carol has sold several of her paintings abroad and locally.

She also generously donates her art to charity fundraisers. Her website is at earthartgallery.com.

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Exciting season begins at The Segal

Human relationships in all their intensity, laughter and sometimes tragedy take centre stage this season at the Segal.

Christopher Hampton's adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons, based on an 18th century French novel about "lust, greed, deception and romance" launches the season this month.

A pair of former lovers attempt to seduce and manipulate others around them. But when virtuous Mme de Tourvel becomes the focus of the Vicompte de Valmont's attentions, predator falls in love with prey, with fatal consequences.

October's offering will be the Tennessee Williams classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, directed by Greg Kramer. This is the third production in a series of Williams' plays mounted by The Segal. "One of the key aspects of our theatre's mandate is to produce classics that remain socially relevant today," says Bryna Wasserman, Artistic Director.

The season continues with the February production of the Pulitzer Prize winning drama Buried Child, by Sam Shepherd. A long-lost son, Vincent, and his girlfriend return to meet his Norman Rockwell-esque relatives. But bliss is only on the surface in this painful portrait of a disintegrating and dysfunctional family.

March will bring director Diana Leblanc to The Segal in the production of Tryst, a psychological thriller by Karoline Leach about a homely seamstress consigned to the backroom of a London hat shop in Victorian England. With no future to speak of, she falls into the arms of George Love, seducer and robber of desperate old maids. "This is as entertaining a story as you'll encounter," Wasserman says.

As a change of pace, in April, Manitoba Theatre Centre's Artistic Director Stephen Schipper will return for Joe Dipietro's endearing and warm-hearted comedy Over the River and Through the Woods.

"Dipietro wants to know why each generation makes sacrifices for the next, why no future generation can ever fully appreciate those sacrifices, and how both generations can find a balance between holding on and letting go."

In June the Yiddish Theatre will host the first ever International Festival of Yiddish Theatre.

"My mother founded a Yiddish Theatre in Montreal 50 years ago this year and the festival is an opportunity to celebrate this historic milestone," Wasserman says.

The Segal's Yiddish Theatre contribution will be a unique Yiddish version of The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Info: 514-739-2301or segalcentre.org

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I Musici: good things come in small packages

Pat Gueller

Magician Pat Gueller will be on hand to launch the first concert in I Musici's Piccoli series, The Wizard's Book of Spells. The concert on Sunday, September 14 will be followed by other concerts especially conceived for children throughout the year. Storyteller Suzanne De Serres will welcome artists from various backgrounds, including circus, dance, magic, theatre, mime and art. Before each show a musician in the orchestra will talk about his or her instrument. The music on the program will feature works by Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Respighi and more. Concerts are presented in French at Ogilvy Tudor Hall, 1307 St Catherine W, 5th floor. $12/$8.

Info: 514-982-6038 or imusici.com

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Nascent academy entertains possibilities

Gisele Rucker and George Doxas, Music Director of the academy

When 16-year-old Ryan Cons took a Media Workshop course at the brand new Academy for the Performing Arts at the Segal Centre, he discovered it takes a lot more than a state-of-the art camera to create a video worth watching.

"We learned to handle the camera to add ambiance to a scene, and how to do interviews, how to zoom in and create special effects, and how to be in front of the camera." Cons says he learned to see with a critical eye. "My teacher, Paul Shore, used to say, 'You don't want to go to a movie with me because I'll criticize everything.'"

As well, the novice filmmaker had to confront the agony of editing, which he says he found the most challenging. "A movie's made with many takes. Editing is basically taking out stuff that's not important."

It's too early to say whether Cons will become a filmmaker. But one thing is certain: his appreciation of film will have grown immensely.

"Research has shown that performing arts education has significant impact on children," says Gisele Rucker, director of the Academy, as she describes the new lineup. "It allows them to achieve greater academic success and develops self-confidence and resilience." She says another goal of the Academy is to make the arts accessible to the community by keeping the fees affordable and not requiring previous knowledge. Besides the Media Workshop program, there are courses offered in Circus Arts for children (2-13), Theatre Performance (9-17), Theatre Production (high school students) and Music (2+).

There is a practical music session offered to preschoolers, featuring elements from the Kodaly and Orff methods. There are courses in drums, saxophone and guitar, and jazz and rock combos, as well as two music history courses for adults. All courses are taught by professionals experienced in working with kids.

She doesn't have to stretch her imagination too far to see the Centre becoming a foundation for the future. In her thirties she joined the Yiddish Theatre, met her future husband there and years later brought her son to join the cast.

Everything is possible. Rucker speaks of bringing the arts outdoors, perhaps involving the neighbourhood with performances in the park. "We want to provide a safe place to explore and take risks artistically, where students are allowed to dream and play."

"We've just begun, this is a new voyage," says George Doxas, director of the Music Program, who has four decades of instrumental, choral and Big Band Jazz teaching under his belt. He speaks of kids "getting in through the ground floor" and evolving with the Centre through the years. "Once we have a group of kids who know something, we'll streamline the courses."

The future, vast and limitless, still lies ahead. "The exciting thing about working here is that there's a long-term vision," Doxas says. "This kind of commitment makes everybody want to do that much better."

To register, call 514-739-7944. For more information, call Kasia Leskiewicz at 514-739-2301 x 8379.

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Epona Foundation: smoothing the ride through life

Savana riding (photos: Andrew Soong)

The boys are understandably nervous meeting the lady reporter. They know they are being interviewed about Epona – an organization that keeps kids in school by offering them free tutoring and horseback riding lessons, and they're not sure what to expect.

Initial questions are answered by typical teenage nods and uh-huhs.

But when the conversation turns to horses, Kenry, 13, and Justin, 9, become surprisingly articulate, even eloquent – eager to share their vast knowledge of horsemanship.

"You brush the horse with a curry comb, with a circular motion then use a brush to remove all the dirt," says Kenry, explaining how to gently lean on a horse before attempting to lift his hoof to clean it. "You use four fingers to check that the girth is not on too tight," says Justin, describing how to comb a horse's mane so it doesn't get caught in the bridle. Their knowledge is impressive. Red and blue ribbons, won in a competition at Ormstown, hang proudly in the living room. Their mom, Gloria Julian, says the boys' marks have gone up and believes the confidence gained at Epona has transferred to their studies. Kenry agrees. "My work is getting better. My teacher says I'm a good student to teach."

Front to back: Tanae, Savana, Kiki

The bottom line at Epona is academic success, says Peter Desmier, a youth worker at Batshaw Youth and Family Centres for over 30 years and founder of the four-year-old Epona Integrated Riding Foundation. "One thing I've noticed about kids living with a great deal of stress is that their education suffers," Desmier says. "The whole concept of Epona is working with kids over a long time to develop a relationship so they graduate."

To help "at-risk" children, Desmier drew upon an experience from his own childhood. "I spent a summer feeding, cleaning, putting out to pasture, doing everything involved with horses, except riding. We would spend hours brushing and taking care of the horses. It was magical."

When Desmier finally decided to return to riding, he met Jackie Poirier of Free Spirit stables – a like-minded person who had been contemplating starting a riding facility "for kids who would never have an opportunity to ride" – and Epona was born.

Kenry with his tutor

"I knew the first kids' parents through social services and other programs in the community," Desmier said. "Now they're being referred from school boards and our website."

The other Epona programs partner with community organizations to help kids 5-18, including Stay-In-School (tutoring), Literacy, and Mentoring programs, where Epona graduates return to tutor younger kids and earn riding time in the process. Epona works with parents and within the schools.

Dawson student and Epona mentor Atiba Howell, 18, doesn't yet know whether he'll go into law or police work – but he knows he'll devote over four hours a week as a volunteer tutor with Epona in the long term. As one of the first Epona riders, he describes himself as having felt shy and isolated. He recalls his encounter with the first live horse he'd ever seen. "When I saw the horse's size I said to myself, 'Okay, buddy, you're not going on one of those!'" As he learned to send the right signals to the 1000-pound animal, he realized his mare "Griffin" wouldn't "just warm up to anybody" but liked him especially. So did everybody at the stable. "Eventually I thought it was really cool. Everybody's really nice and you never feel left out when you're there." Howell believes his schoolwork would have been fine with just tutoring. "Without riding I would've had the grades. But with Epona I actually got the courage to speak."

Justin has learned a lot about horsemanship

Desmier instructs his staff and volunteers to ensure the kids feel "it's about them" and asks that they wait for and greet the kids warmly as the bus rolls up to the stables. "This is such a simple yet powerful gesture. It would be a missed opportunity if neglected," he writes in a memo to his staff.

When Sandra Permanad's children Jamal, 9, and Gariba, 7, joined Epona's tutoring program, her young family was going through turbulent times. To make matters worse, her French was not strong enough to help her older son with his schoolwork. She says she had been too stressed to play with them, and Epona in their lives was a godsend, since the kids came home from the sessions smiling. "It really made the load lighter," she said. She fiercely believes in the value of learning.

"Without education you're nothing. Whatever you want to do you're held back."

She wants for her kids nothing more and nothing less than all loving moms want. "I want them to have a good education and a good job."

Epona has a dedicated group of seniors who help with the fundraising that the organization depends on to survive. All volunteers are welcome. For information or to donate call 514-421-7433 or visit eponafoundation.com.

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What's Happening September 2008

Art for art's sake

Starting Thursday September 11, 11 am – 6 pm, the Thomas More Associates present the 44th Exhibition and Sale of Art by Contemporary Professional Quebec Artists and a special retrospective of the works of the late Sarah Gersovitz. Vernissage: Tuesday, September 10 from 5 – 8 pm at 3405 Atwater. Info: 514-935-9585

Friday, September 19 to Sunday, September 21, the Bonsai and Penjing Society of Montreal hosts its 30th annual bonsai show at the Tree House of the Montreal Botanical Garden. Info: 514-872-1782

Until Wednesday, September 24, view the oil paintings of Ann Kruzelecky and meet the artist Sunday, September 7 from 2 – 4 pm in the media room at Beaconsfield Library. Info: 514-428-4460

Starting Thursday, September 25, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts explores the role of music in the works of Andy Warhol, featuring photos of Elvis, Marilyn, Liz, and Mick Jagger. Info: 514-285-1600

Bazaars and sales

Saturday September 6, 10 am – 2 pm, St Clement's Church holds a rummage sale, Saturday September 20, 10 am – 2 pm, a flea market and Saturday, October 4, 10 am – 2 pm, a book fair at 4322 Wellington, Verdun. Lunch will be served. Info: 514-769-5373

Saturday, September 27 at 9 am, All Saints Anglican Church holds a garage sale at 7325 Ouimet, Verdun. Info: 514-766-0556

Clubs

Wednesday, September 10 at 7:30 pm Shaare Zedek Sisterhood hosts an evening of kosher wine tasting, honey and other treats with chef Garen Blais at 5305 Rosedale. $15. Info: 514-484-1122

Saturday, September 13 at 9:30 am, Montreal Urban Hikers Walking Club meets at Victoria Hall, 4626 Sherbrooke W. Info: 514-938-4910

Saturday, September 20 at 8 pm, Montreal's Single Person's Association hosts a Mix & Mingle dance party at St Catherine Labour Church, 448 Trudeau. $12. Info: 514-366-8600

Monday September 22 at 1:15 pm, Teapot 50+ Center holds an information session about Old Age security and Wednesday, October 1 at 1:30 pm, a budget workshop at 2901 St Joseph. Info: 514-637-5627

Events

Sunday, September 7 at 7 pm, CANGRANDS celebrates Grandparents' Day and discusses the importance of grand-parenting at 6350 Terrebonne. Info: 514-733-4046

Sunday, September 7 at 9 am, the Winners Walk of Hope benefits ovarian cancer research at Mount Royal Park Smith House, 1260 Remembrance. $25. Age 15 and under walk for free. Info and pre-registration: 877-413-7970 x 232

Thursday, September 11, the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada organizes a day trip to Quebec City. Call for reservations. $73. Info: 514-733-7589

Thursday, September 18 from 1 - 4 pm, the Atwater Library holds a beading workshop. $15. Info and registration: 514-935-7421

Friday, September 26 to Sunday, September 28, The Montreal Public Poetry Festival hosts the world's first fringe-like festival devoted to poetry with a line up of 100 poets at Cafe Culturelle, 5124 Sherbrooke W. Info: 514-484-9958

Sunday, September 28, join the Montreal Zoological Society on a trip to the cranberry interpretation center at St-Louis-de-Blandford. Members $50, non members $55. Reserve by September 16. Info: 514-845-8317

Wednesday, October 1 at 7 pm, West Island Palliative Care Residence hosts Fashion Show for Funds at the Chateau Vaudreuil Pavilion, 21700 Route Transcanadienne, Vaudreuil-Dorion. $50 / VIP $100. Info: 514-693-1718

Wednesday, October 1 at 12:30 pm, Atwater Library marks the 80th anniversary of Dr. Norman BethuneÕs arrival in Montreal. Info: 514-935-7344

Lectures

Thursday, September 11 at 7:30 pm, Wendy Edwards gives a workshop on ovarian cancer at Beaconsfield Library. Info: 514-428-4460

Wednesday, September 17 at 12:30 pm, historian Aaron Krishtalka, Dawson teacher, speaks on Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica at Atwater Library. Info: 514-935-7344

Wednesday, September 17 at 1 pm, Dinu Bumbaru speaks on preserving Montreal's architectural heritage, at the Montreal Council of Women at 2700 Rufus Rockhead, opposite the Atwater Market. $6. Info: 514-768-1245

Wednesday, September 17 at 7:30 pm at Temple Emanu-El Beth Sholom, Jerusalemite Eliezer Yaari discusses Israel's strategies for coping with internal challenges, 4100 Sherbrooke W. Info: 514-937-3575

Thursday, September 18, 1:30 - 3 pm at Pointe Claire Library, Dino Riccio presents a photographic journey of China's silk road. Info: 514-630-1218

Literary fare

Saturday, September 6 from 10 am - 4 pm, Thomas More Institute holds a book sale and open house at 3405 Atwater. Info: 514-935-9585

Sunday, September 7 at 12 pm, Howard Shrier discusses his mystery thriller, Buffalo Jump at the Leisure Institute, 425 Metcalfe. $5. Reservations required: 514-937-9471

Wednesday, September 10 at 12:30 pm, Julie Barlow speaks on recent developments in France and her latest book The Story of French at Atwater Library. Info: 514-935-7344

Wednesday, September 10, Centre Greene holds a fundraiser and reading of Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre's upcoming production of Life is a Dream at 1090 Greene. Info: 514-287-8912

Wednesday, September 10 at 10 am, Michael Tritt reviews Away by Amy Bloom at Temple Emanu-El, 395 Elm. $8. Info: 514-937-3575

Wednesday, September 10 at 7:30 pm, Atwater book club, led by author Mary Soderstrom, discusses De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage, at the library. Info: 514-935-7344

Thursday, September 11 at 5:30 pm, Renata Witelson Hornstein will launch her Holocaust memoir A Tumultuous Journey: Horror, Hope and Happiness at the Jewish Public Library. Info: 514-345-2627 x 3010

Thursday, September 18 at 7 pm, Atwater Poetry Project features readings by poets Maxianne Berger and Peter Dale Scott at the library. Info: 514-935-7344

Saturday, September 20 at 8:30 pm, Temple Emanu-El Beth Sholom presents film screening and discussion of My Dear Clara at 395 Elm. Info: 514-937-3575

Tuesday, September 23 at 7:30 pm, Monique Polak discusses What World is Left (my mother's untold story) at McGill Faculty Club, 3450 McTavish. $10 / $3 students. Info: 514-484-0146

Wednesday, September 24 at 7:30 pm, the Jewish Public Library holds a book launch of Women in Power, a novel by Blema Steinberg. $10 / $5 students and JPL members. Thursday, September 25 at 7 pm, Concordia hosts a lecture by former senator Michael Kirby on the launch of the Mental Health Commission of Canada at Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, 7141 Sherbrooke W. Info: 514-486-1448

Thursday, September 25 at 7 pm, Penn Kemp, Paul Serralheiro and Barry Webster read poetry and prose at The Yellow Door, 3625 Aylmer. $5. Info: 514-398-6243

Thursday, September 25 at 12:30 pm, Atwater Library hosts a reading and talk by poet Dennis Lee. Info: 514-935-7344

Tuesday, September 30 at 9:30 am, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini will be reviewed at Beaconsfield Library. Info: 514-428-4460

Saturday October 4 from 10 am - 2 pm, St Clements Church holds a book fair at 4322 Wellington, Verdun. Info: 514-769-5373

Music

Thursday, September 11 and Friday, September 12, Ogilvy series at Ogilvy Tudor Hall features Johann Sebastian Bach. Info: 514-982-6038

Friday, October 3, POP Montreal presents Burt Bacharach live in concert at Eglise St-Jean-Baptiste, 309 Rachel E. $55. Info: 514-842-1919

Theatre

Until Saturday, September 13, Montreal Theatre Ensemble and John Abbott College Department of Theatre and Music, presents Of Mice and Men at the Casgrain Theatre, 21275 Lakeshore, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. Info: 514-287-8912

Until Sunday, September 28, Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre presents Dangerous Liaisons at 5170 Cote-Ste-Catherine. Info: 514-739-2301

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Limitless Learning September 2008

Computers

Increase your computer skills in an intimate setting at Atwater Library and Computer Centre. Private lessons are available.

Introduction to Windows and email: Understand the basic functioning of Windows and email. The course runs for 8 hours at $115, 10 am - 12 pm Mondays to Thursdays in October, and 6 pm - 8 pm Mondays and Wednesdays in October and November.

Introduction to Excel: Format worksheets, use numerical functions, create graphs, charts, spread sheets, analyze data, plot trends and sort information. The course runs for 8 hours at $115, 6 pm to 8 pm, Mondays, November 3, 10, 17 and 24.

Searching the Internet: Search for news and information, learn web pages, saving and printing. The course runs for 4 hours at $55, 10 am - 12 pm, Mondays and Wednesdays in October and November.

Introduction to Word: Create, edit, print, save, use formatting tools to adjust headers and footers, grammar and spelling. The course runs for 8 hours at $115, 10 am - 12 pm Mondays and Wednesdays in October.

Facebook: Connect with friends and family using today's hottest social networking tool. $15. Friday, September 26, 10 am - 12 pm.

Get organized: Learn how to create, label and organize your files and folders. $15. Wednesday, October 15, 10 am - 12 pm.

Christmas cards: Create cards with Word. $15. Friday, November 14, 10 am - 12 pm.

Info: 514-935-7344 or atwaterlibrary.ca

Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors Computer Learning Center offers basic and advanced computer classes five days a week. Be comfortable and familiar with operating Windows applications including Word, spreadsheets, graphics, games and the Internet. Courses are $90.

Info: 514-342-1234 x 7348

Computer courses at Pointe Claire Library run Monday, September 15 until December. $35 for 6 hours. Learn introduction to computers, Internet, Internet plus, Excel, Excel plus and Word. Register by September 9 for residents and September 10 for non-residents.

Info: 514-630-1218

Fitness and wellness

The Creative Social Center invites everyone to join their folk dancing group Wednesdays from 10:45 am to 11:45 am. Folk dancing engages body and mind through movement, music, social interaction and learning new steps.

Practice yoga postures with Ruth Dranov and learn to stretch the muscles for a better range of motion. Classes take place Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 am - 12 pm.

Aerobics has been named the fountain of youth as it benefits all the bodyÕs organs, including the brain. This course runs Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 am - 11 am with Ruth Dranov. 5237 Clanranald.

Info: 514-488-0907

Teapot 50+ Center at 2901 St-Joseph in Lachine offers a variety of ways to stay fit. Starting Thursday, September 25 at 1 pm, their 10 week course of chair exercises is designed for those with limited mobility. $3 per class.

Starting Tuesday, September 9 at 9:30 am, Rona Donald teaches aerobics. $3 per class.

Starting Tuesday, September 9 at 1:30 pm, Marie Schaffhauser teaches line dancing. $35 for 10 weeks.

Yoga classes with Shalini start Thursday, September 11 at 1 pm. $100 for 10 weeks.

Info: 514-637-5627 or theteapot.org

Vanier College offers aquatic courses Saturday, September 13 to Sunday, December 7.

Call 514-744-7000 to register.

Humanities

The McGill Institute for Learning in Retirement offers study groups to people 55 and over. Participants choose from literature, music, history, religion, travel, and creative writing. Learning from one another is the name of the game. The new term begins Monday, September 22 for ten weeks. Orientation is Thursday, September 11 at 688 Sherbrooke W, Suite 229.

Info: 514-398-8234 or mcgill.ca/milr

Analyze current affairs at Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors. Examine political corruption in national and international politics. Courses run Tuesdays from September to November. $15 to $36.

Info & registration: 514-342-1234

The Pointe Claire Library offers Genealogy courses beginning Wednesday, October 1 from 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm and 6 pm – 9 pm, at the Pointe Claire Library. $30 for 6 hours.

Info: 514-630-1218

Revisit the myth of Helen of Troy at Thomas More Institute. Trace the changing visions of her and discover why this is a classic of Euripides, Stresichorus, Theocritus and Ovid. Course begins Wednesday, September 24 at 3:45 pm and runs for 12 weeks. Other humanities courses offered by Thomas More include Across Asia on the silk road, Berlin: expelling the ghosts of history, and Freedom and equality and the spirit of inquiry.

Info: 514-935-9585

Vanier College offers courses in world views, knowledge, ethical issues and industrial electronics Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 6 pm - 9 pm, 9 am - 1:20 pm and 6 pm - 10:20 pm.

Info: 514-744-7000

Languages

Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors offers basic and intermediate English, French, Spanish and Hebrew. Develop and improve conversation and reading skills. For times and fees, call 514-342-1234.

Teapot 50+ Center holds intermediate Spanish courses with Irma de la Luz PŽrez starting Tuesday, September 9 at 10:30 am.

Info: 514-637-5627 or theteapot.org

Vanier College offers introductory and literature courses in English and French. A placement test is required for all English courses.

Literary Themes, Literary Genres and Introduction to College English, run Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6 pm - 10 pm.

Elementary French with intensive runs Saturdays, September 6 to October 25 from 9 am - 3:30 pm.

Info: 514-744-7000

Learn Yiddish at the Jewish Public Library starting Monday, September 8 from 7 pm – 8:30 pm. $86 students, $96 library members, $106 non-members.

Info: 514-345-2627 x 3006

Performance

The recorder group turns music into a fun activity at the Creative Social Center. Classes are Wednesdays 9:30 am - 10:30 am with Edna Janco.

The Creative Social Center choir sings a repertoire of popular, traditional and classic songs. The choir class is Thursdays from 1 pm - 3 pm with Brian Brice.

To register: 514-488-0907

All would-be thespians are welcome to join the Teapot 50+ Center drama group with Kevin O'Halloran. Rehearsals start Friday, September 12 at 1 pm.

Info: 514-637-5627 or theteapot.org

Visual arts

Cummings Centre for Seniors offers photography classes this fall.

Learn how to transfer images from your digital camera onto a computer and do basic photo editing. Bring your camera with attachments and manual. The course starts Wednesday, September 24 from 9:30 am - 12:30 pm. $21.

Improve photo-taking skills and master the technical and artistic aspects of digital photography. Learn how to control shutter speed, ISO, white balance and flash. Get acquainted with digital retouching and printing software. View and discuss contemporary artistic photography as a means of acquiring helpful photo-taking tips. Wednesday, October 29 to November 19 from 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm. $65.

Learn to paint and work with acrylics, prepare a support, mix colour, and create textures. Enjoy this versatile medium through stimulating projects with personal guidance. Materials not included. Mondays, September 8 to December 1 from 9 am - 12 pm. $150.

Discover the facets of creating with glass and create small projects using techniques in glass mosaic, stained glass and glass fusing. Materials not included. The course runs Wednesdays, October 29 to December 3 from 9 am - 12 pm. $70.

Info: 514-342-1234

Learn to draw and discover your creativity at the Creative Social Center with Miriam Cohen, Wednesdays from 10 am – 12 pm and 1 pm – 3 pm.

Eugene Jankowski teaches sculpture Wednesdays 9:30 am - 11:30 am.

Starting Monday, September 8, Gordon Hincks invites everyone to come by and paint up a storm. $70 for the 10 week course.

Info: 514-488-0907

Writing and music

Starting Wednesday, September 24 from 3pm – 5 pm, Beaconsfield Library holds creative writing workshops with Timothy Fain. $40 members, $45 non-members. Registration until Friday, September 19.

Info: 514-428-4460

The Creative Social Center creative writing group provides a space for aspiring writers. Classes are given by Judith Castle.

Call 514-488-0907 to register.

Creative writing starts at the Pointe Claire Library Thursday, September 18 from 3 pm - 5 pm. $40 for 10 hours.

Info: 514-630-1218 x 1632

It's 'all about music' at Thomas More Institute. Discover the basics — timbre, rhythm, harmony and acoustics, get to know the orchestra and its instruments, study the sociology of music-making and philosophize about music. The course starts Monday, October 20 at 1:30 pm for 24 weeks.

Info: 514-935-9585

Continuing education

E.N.C.O.R.E. begins registration Tuesday, September 2 for Fall courses including acrylic painting, drawing, bridge, music-jazz, philosophy, Tai Chi, yoga, quilting, world crisis, creative writing, and hand-writing analysis at 1857 de Maisonneuve W.

Info: 514-484-1846.

Dawson College Continuing Education offers credit and non-credit courses. Classes include business administration, computer science, economics, English, French, history, humanities, mathematics, mechanical engineering technology, psychology, sciences, social sciences and sociology.

Info: 514-933-3771

John Abbott College offers credit and non-credit courses. Most credit courses are in three hour sessions over 15 weeks. These include business administration, computer science, economics, English, history, humanities, mathematics, physical education, psychology and publication & web design.

Non-credit courses are offered evenings and Saturdays. Classes include business, computer, computers & digital photography, dance, entrepreneurship, event planning & fundraising, finance & investment, fine arts, professional development, languages, pharmaceutical technology and retirement.

Info: 514-457-6610 x 5355 or 5361

Vanier College provides introductory courses in social science, science, business, accounting, geography, management, mathematics, physics, and marketing evenings Monday to Friday, starting at 6 pm.

Info: 514-744-7000

Workshops

Pointe Claire Library offers workshops and conferences. Pointe Claire residents register Tuesday, September 9, from 10 am - 9 pm. Pointe Claire non-residents register Wednesday, September 10 at 10 am.

Info: 514-630-1218 x 1632


South of the Border September 2008

Vermont

Burlington Book Festival

Friday, September 12 to Sunday, September 14, Burlington's annual celebration of the written word features readings, signings, panels, workshops and presentations by nationally renowned authors at downtown venues. Info: 802-865-7211

Field days and festivals

Starting Thursday, September 11, old fashioned agricultural fair. Cambridge. Info: 800-889-5555

Taste of Deerfield Valley

Saturday, September 13 at 10 am, this event is under the tent at the Clock Tower at Mt Snow Resort. 15 restaurants participate. Info: 802-365-7650

Wine and food

Starting Saturday, September 13, the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts has a gourmet dinner prepared by top Vermont chefs including tasting premium. Shelburne Farms Coast Barn features VermontÕs food products, wines from local and international wineries, live music, an auction and wine lottery. Info: 802-652-4500

Classic car show

Thursday, September 18 to Sunday, September 21, the annual British Invasion Classic Car Show takes place in Stowe, Vermont. This three day festival features more than 800 classic cars. Info: 802-253-5320

Fairbanks festival weekend

Saturday, September 20, celebrate rural creativity with artisans and craftspeople who demonstrate knowledge and skills that shaped the landscape of the rural northeast St Johnsbury. Info: 802-748-2372

Stowe Octoberfest celebration

Friday, September 26, this two day Bavarian Blast celebrates Vermont's splendid Autumn season, with Oompah bands, German cuisine and a silent auction. Route 100, off I-89 exit 10, 10 miles north of Waterbury. Info: 802-253-8506

Harvest market

Starting Saturday, September 27, Vermont's fall family harvest fair features the Underhill and Jericho communities. Parade, live entertainment, flea market, Vermont artisans. Info: 802-899-1722

Demonstrations, displays, decorating

Starting Saturday, September 27, celebrate the annual Vermont fine furniture and woodworking festival in Woodstock. With live music and food. Info: 802-747-7900 or vermontwoodfestival.org

Fall foliage festival

Saturday, September 27, the East Burke Vermont Autumn Foliage Festival features crafts, food, games and demonstrations. Info: 802-467-1266

Plattsburgh

Farmer's market days

Thursday, September 11 from 1 pm - 4 pm, a farmer's market takes place to promote local food produced in the Adirondack Region. Info: wildcenter.org

Mountains antique show

Saturday, September 20, antique lovers and collectors will enjoy featured items of rustic furniture, hunting & fishing boats, and Native American materials at the Byron Park. Info: indian-lake.com

Adirondack antiques weekend

Saturday, September 20 and Sunday, September 21 from 10 am – 5 pm, a preview of premier antique and vintage furnishings managed by Rod Lich, Inc at the Adirondack Museum. Info: adkmuseum.org

Adirondack harvest festival

Saturday, October 4 and Sunday, October 5, the 4th Annual Harvest Festival. Info: adkmuseum.org

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Discover the artist within

Registration has begun at the CSL Parks and Recreation's Adult Art Socio-Cultural programs, given at the aptly named Rembrandt Park Chalet. If you've never dabbled in watercolour, oils, acrylics and pastels, but always dreamed of trying, there are courses for novices like you. If you're an experienced painter, you can enhance your skills with advanced painting techniques. Courses are given both in the day and the evening, and both residents and non residents are welcome. There are special rates for seniors.

Info: 514-485-6806

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Meet a Friend September 2008

Mary – Healthy widow, 78, available for coffee and light company, nothing serious. Outgoing, with a good circle of friends, but missing male companionship and conversation, even if it's about cars.

Geoffrey – WWII vet, 82, 5'11" and financially independent, world traveler, likes to cook, seeking a woman 72-75 to travel with to Europe and take to Legion dinners and dances.

To contact Mary or Geoffrey at Meet a Friend, send your letter and a recent photo to: Meet a Friend, c/o The Senior Times, 4077 Decarie Blvd, Montreal, QC, H4A 3J8.

If you'd like to Meet a Friend, you can send your description of 25–30 words with a $15 cheque or money order to the above address, or email your description to editor@theseniortimes.com and call our office at 514-484-5033 to pay by credit card. We reserve the right to edit for clarity and brevity. All contact info is kept confidential and all responses are forwarded from our office.