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Shopping smart, shopping green

Sandra Phillips is no shopaholic

March 2009

Few people know as much about purchasing wisely as Sandra Phillips, known to many as Montreal’s “shopping guru.” Since summer 1986, she has combined her feminine intuition, hunting and gathering instincts and tireless footwork with a great dose of common sense, providing Montreal with its very own annual buyer’s bible, Smart Shopping in Montreal, updated every year.

“I learned at my mom’s knee,” she says of her early introduction to the art. However, she stumbled upon her vocation quite by accident.

As program director of a study group, she booked a speaker who talked about shopping-ops on one particular street. “She had a small stapled pamphlet about a word I had never heard – ‘Chabanel!’ ” This was a defining moment. When the opportunity to buy this tiny business came up, Phillips didn’t hesitate. “I knew nothing about writing or the book industry – so of course I said ‘yes’.”

She spent one year doing research to expand the information, armed with a map of Montreal and a kid filled stroller in tow. The rest is history. The book was an instant success, turning Phillips into a local celebrity – to her amazement. “When I first put it together, it never occurred to me that this was an ‘evergreen’ book,” she says. Since then, Phillips has appeared on radio, television and has written her own newspaper column. She currently dispenses retail advice through her blog, smartshoppingmontreal.com.

The project, directing consumers to the best deals in town, continues to be challenging. “I visit 1,500 stores and factories a year,” she says, adding that she does all of her investigations “undercover,” trying to appear as nondescript as possible. When “workshopping,” she looks at price, quality and service. “I have to capture the essence of an entire business in a single paragraph.” Surprisingly, when it comes to shopping, Phillips is a minimalist, believing that sometimes less is more. She operates by the old carpenter’s adage “measure twice, cut once,” or rather “know more, pay less. “Shopping is something everyone has to do, but nobody has the time,” she says. The green movement’s three Rs, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, can be applied to Phillips’s shopping philosophy, with the happy result of saving time and money. “I buy what I love, use it for a long time, and get it fixed,” she says.

Knowing where to go is part of the plan. Phillips says shopping at liquidation centres, factory outlets and discount stores can shave 20 per cent off bills for everyday necessities. Knowing when to go, as outlined in her book’s “shopping calendar” indicating the times of year different items can be had for the cheapest price, is key.

Nor is it any longer a stigma to buy used clothing at places like Village des Valeurs or at “friperies,” Phillips says. “The entire younger generation shops there. Buying second-hand, shopping locally, fixing things, you’re not using any more of the Earth’s natural resources. There’s a whole trend of young shopkeepers opening stores with a ‘green’ concept.”

What about the “shopaholic” gene? How does she separate business from pleasure? “You’re assuming shopping is a pleasure,” she answers. “If you’re asking if I like shopping, the answer is ‘no’ – that’s why I wrote the book.”

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Easy cruising with a first stop at the isle of Kalymnos

March 2009

We arrived in Piraeus, the port of Athens, very late after a comfortable train ride and made our way by taxi to our hotel, sharing the ride with a young geologist who lived nearby. The taxi driver tried to charge us for two trips and after a long argument, he left with a nice tip for one trip.

Our room was underwhelming, especially for 89 euro ($144 Canadian), measly breakfast included. The next morning we walked around the picturesque yacht bay and found a more reasonably priced hotel for our return after our cruise. This nicer and better situated hotel was 55 euro, and would serve as our base for visiting Athens when we returned.

The view whose beauty brought me to tears

Our hotel manager told us we could walk to the port. Unfortunately it took an hour and by the time we arrived, I was a wreck! Irwin was fine, though. We boarded EasyCruise, a British line, for a one-week tour of Bodrum, Turkey, and the Greek islands of Kalymnos, Mykonos, Syros and Kos. Our cabin had a window, an unexpected upgrade from our booking of an inside cabin. Later, we learned we had probably paid more than most of the people on board who had made their reservations through the Internet.

All things considered, this was our kind of cruise: low key, with a lot of attention given to time spent off the ship. The ship typically docked between 10am and 2pm and left the port in the wee hours. This left us plenty of time to explore and no worries of being left high and dry at the destination.

Our tiny cabin was by no means luxurious, with two side-by-side cots and a small bathroom, but it suited our needs just fine and we soon settled in like campers, happy not to have to make accommodation decisions for an entire week.

The first lunch offered was a buffet that seemed plentiful and reasonably varied until we realized that it was the introduction to almost everything we would eat on board for the entire week. This was not going to be easy for a vegetarian, and the portions, after the buffet, weren’t the largest. I soon tired of Calamari and skimpy salads. I was most disappointed with the lack of Greek foods I have always loved in Montreal, such as tzatziki and taramosalata. Clearly this food was British with a touch of Greece.

The pool was a large bathtub that we could observe from the interior dining room. One young man thoughtlessly dove in head first and came out bloodied on the last morning of the cruise. The pool had to be emptied, but somehow the man got away without neurological injuries. Many of the servers and the doctor were from Russia and Ukraine, giving the cruise a definite multi-cultural feel. What we liked most was the mixture of cruisers – families, boomers, honeymooners and seniors from Europe, Canada and Australia. On the first day we docked at Kalymnos, which is approximately 100 square kilometres. The view from the dock of the terraced pastel houses built on the mountainside was so beautiful it made me cry.

It was a quiet Sunday and we set out strolling along the port past the touristy restaurants (only to return to one later after searching in vain for a more authentic one). We walked up through the serene, winding lanes

One of countless photo-worthy doors

past countless photo ops, featuring intricate blue and white achitectural designs on the faded facades. Flower pots draped their wares over doors, window boxes and archways. Like good journalists, we took postcard-worthy pictures of almost every one of them.

We returned to the port for a mediocre lunch served by a British boomer who had “retired” to the island. She advised us to hop a bus to the other side of the island and get in some beach time, which we did. It took about half an hour to reach the smooth sands and crystal clean water of the little village we had chosen to visit. At 5 pm we began an hour wait for the bus back, not having checked the schedule before we left. The small bus finally arrived and became more and more crowded with locals and tourists as we neared the port.

We relaxed on board that night and at 10pm the ship began its 24-hour journey to Bodrum, Turkey, our only destination that was not an island. I was excited to be going back to Turkey, a country we explored for five weeks, five years ago – even if this time it was just for one day.

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Why should a woman be more like a man? Sexual differences uncovered

Men and women are different, Susan Pinker says

March 2009

“Yes, I’ve paid the price, but look how much I’ve gained. If I have to I can do anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman!”

Women who came of age in the early 1970s will remember the bold mantra of Helen Reddy’s 1972 hit. After all, it was the sexual revolution and we had stepped into the Age of Aquarius, into the freedom that allowed us to do anything aman could do. But do women really want to be like men?

In The Sexual Paradox: extreme men, gifted women and the real gender gap, Susan Pinker turns this notion on its head, disputing the 40-year-old assumption that there are no behavioural or learning differences between the sexes.

Pinker says her book, an interesting mix of research and real-life profiles, “tells the story of sex differences and why we feel the way we do and why we make some of the choices that we make.”

Pinker’s first chapter describes her coming of age in the feminist movement of the early 1970s at a time when she was graduating from high school and “stepping into adult choices.” As she looked back to this time, she saw herself as part of a huge change in what was expected of young women and what they expected of themselves both in the workforce and in their educational choices. “The people of my generation were the foot soldiers of a massive change in what women were deciding to do with their lives. We were the ones who really shifted the entire landscape.”

At the time women felt they could be just like men, Pinker says. “It was expected of me and I expected of myself that I would act just like a man. I would make the same choices. I had all the freedom in the world. Nobody ever said I couldn’t do what I wanted to do and it was expected I would do what a man would do.”

Pinker says that it was “a huge shock” when she discovered she “didn’t have the same feelings” as her husband when their first child was born.

“The fact is, we are not men.”

Then how are the sexes different? Where we see the greatest differences, says Pinker, is at the extremes. Men are more variable, “more dumbbells, more Nobels.” She writes that men “demonstrate a wider range of strengths and disabilities. So there are more very stupid men and more very smart ones, more extremely lazy ones and more willing to kill themselves with work.” Women, she says, are “more clustered around the central scores, average and above average.”

Perhaps the greatest difference is what motivates career choices and the sacrifices men and women are willing to make to climb the career ladder. Women, she says, are more likely to choose people oriented professions and more willing to change or leave jobs when they threaten to destabilize their families or infringe on their relationships.

“Over 80 per cent of women will make adjustments to their careers because relationships are important to them,” she says, “some deciding to stay at home with children or find a job that allows them the flexibility and autonomy to look after aging parents. They want to have involved, engaging family lives and they are not willing to give up their relationships in order to have a career.”

But it’s not all about relationships. A woman, she writes, is more likely to change careers or adjust her career “opting for what (is) meaningful for her over status and money.” She is also more likely to have a variety of interests while a man tends to have one passion and pursue it doggedly.

In her book she describes women in high-powered business and academic careers who give up the fast track to spend more time with their children or pursue interests. As expected, married male academics publish more than their female counterparts, who tend to put their families before their published papers. “Research on women of our generation showed that women our age have an average of 10 to 12 career interruptions where men of the same education have two.”

For 40 years, women have paid the price for trying to be “clones” of men with “huge stresses,” Pinker says. “Many years ago when women were so far behind and so excluded, to get what men had we had to act like them. We had to dress like them, we had to have careers like them, we had to make the same choices, we had to work the same hours, and I think now 40 years later, this can have huge costs for women and, paradoxically, can be more discriminatory. If you expect women to achieve tenure or achieve promotions in their 30s when in Canada we know that that’s when women have their babies, that’s discriminatory.”

And their mental health suffers as well. Pinker says women are much more likely to suffer from depression, part of the cost of trying to be like men or worse, trying to “be everything. This is an example of where biology and socio-cultural issues interact.” But men don’t have it easy either. One misconception about biological sex differences is that they favour males, Pinker says. “On the contrary there are biological reasons why men have shorter and more fragile life spans and more developmental problems and some of this … is because women have more of the long view and are more moderate. This ability to invest in your environment and your relationships actually has a biological impact.”

This sexual difference in women is what Pinker calls “the empathy advantage,” giving women, as they age, more psychological and cognitive strength than men. “The social connections that women make and the biology that promotes those connections promotes a long life and psychological health,” she says.

Pinker’s career decisions have reflected her ideas about what motivates women to make certain choices and takemore risks thanmen. “I was a psychologist. I was teaching at a university. I was very successful in what I did, and I had started writing a column for the Gazette called Healthwise, on psychological problems in children and families. I discovered it was more fun than my real job.”

Now, Pinker writes a question and answer column on interpersonal and ethical issues on the workplace for The Globe and Mail. She gave up her private practice when she began writing her book in 2002. She says her book “has a lot to say to grandparents who want to be engaged with their grandchildren, to understand them in a more profound way.”

This is especially true of learning disorders.“ Many of them grew up in an era where attention deficit disorder didn’t exist, or was just on the verge of being identified. Certainly we know a lot more about the genetics and the biology of a lot of these disorders than we ever did before.”

Her research on boys with developmental problems is encouraging. “Each chapter on men focuses on a different kind of developmental disability and how these boys managed to succeed. I’ve had emails from men who have struggled in their past and they find it extremely hopeful because I tell the stories of men and how they manage to succeed despite these vulnerabilities.

Pinker always comes back to her point. Women must follow their own biological paths that give them more pleasure, more comfort and more meaning. The news for older women is that they have a definite advantage over their male counterparts. “Women are living very long lives and it’s possible that women of 60 have another 20 years of working life, and they’re not ready to retire. A lot of them have a lot of life and creativity and energy. There’s room for second careers.

“Provided women take care of their health, they have a lot of time and energy to pursue their interests. Women may want to pursue something that they didn’t get a chance to do earlier.”

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FADOQ looks at quality of life

One year after the public consultations on living conditions for seniors, Quebec has officially recognized FADOQ’s expertise in evaluating private senior residences. The Fédération de l’âge d’or du Québec is the largest provincial non-profit organization, with a membership of 250,000, advocating on behalf of Quebecers over 50.

In one of the largest funding agreements ever signed between the provincial government and a nonprofit organization, the Ministère de la santé et des services sociaux, the Ministère de la famille et des aînés and FADOQ will work together to the benefit of 80,000 individuals living in senior residences.

Over the next four years the agreement will target nine regions including Montreal where the Roses d’Or Programis already in place, gradually expanding the program throughout Quebec. So far, the Roses d’Or Program has provided the standards of quality for private residences to voluntarily follow, establishments that were not previously regulated in the same way as government-run institutions. As well, it has been publishing a guide to the residences it has assessed in each region.

As of 2009, both public and private residences must be government certified regarding their administration. The complementary mandate now entrusted to FADOQ seeks to develop a program that will work towards ongoing improvement of both residences and smaller facilities. The existing program is now being restructured and by 2010, visits to residences will be carried out by staff from Regional Coordination and a volunteer who will assess client satisfaction.

Unlike government certification, which seeks to enforce socio-sanitary standards, the Roses d’Or program will be exclusively devoted to evaluating the quality of life and the well being of residents.

Residences that have so far qualified for the Roses d’Or distinction will keep this recognition until the end of the revision process. The Roses d’Or residence directory will remain available and be updated on FADOQ’s website, carrefour50ans.com

For more information call Andrée Demers Allan, 514-844-6919.

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The FOFA Gallery presents a scenic trio

Vitaly Medvedovsky Airport

March 2009

Listening to the Mountains is an exhibition of landscapes on small panels. The artist, Nicole Bauberger, is based in the Yukon. This collection of small paintings depicts the scenic area surrounding her house. According to Bauberger, she was aiming to portray “the conversation going on between the dynamic skies and strong wide mountains.”

Bauberger will also present 100 Dresses, an interactive residency. Under the watchful eyes of viewers she will create 100 small paintings of dresses, all inspired by life in Montreal. Titles may include dress of slush, dress of the mountain seen between the buildings, taxi dress, etc. These will be displayed in the gallery’s Black Box.

In Landscapes, current MFA student Vitaly Medvedovsky presents a series of paintings depicting scenes remembered from his childhood in the former USSR.

Here’s the catch: His family left the Soviet Union in 1990 a few months before the country fell apart, when he was only 8 years old. So how much of his work is historical, and how much is a boy’s whimsical fantasy? Since nothing remains to size it up against, we have no way of knowing; the imagined world of his heritage is more real, in a sense, than any existing remains of that fallen era.

These will be showing at Concordia’s FOFA Gallery, 1515 Ste. Catherine W., RoomEV 1-715, until March 13. The gallery is right next to Guy-Concordia Metro. Gallery hours: Monday to Friday from 11am-7am.

Admission is free.

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Literacy Unlimited

Literacy Unlimited, a community resource dedicated to the advancement of literacy, offers a free, bilingual service for adults who struggle with reading documents or filling out forms. By appointment only. Call 514-694-0007.

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An odd love story at the Segal

March 2009

The Leanor and Alvin Segal centre presents Tryst, a romantic drama featuring a combination of seduction, intrigue, greed, deception and humour.

“I was spellbound when I saw Tryst performed in New York City, so I felt compelled to produce the play,” said Bryna Wasserman, artistic and executive director of the Segal Centre.

Tryst is the story of an aging playboy, George Love, who makes his living by seeking out desperate, love-starved spinsters. Once the marriages are consummated he takes off with their possessions. The play is about his latest conquest, a drab seamstress, who works in a Victorian London hat shop. She falls for his subterfuge at first, but then the plot takes on unexpected emotional twists and turns.

“Tryst is a love story of the oddest sort,” said director Diana Leblanc. “They are both such desperate people.” C. David Johnson, who has played the role of Chuck Tchobanian on the CBC television series Street Legal, will play George Love. Michelle Giroux will play Adelaide.

Tryst is at 5170 Côte Ste. Catherine from March 8 to 29. For information on tickets and times, call 514-790- 1245 or visit www.admission.com

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Musical happy hour is back!

Violinist Andrew Van among performers Photo: Joanne David

March 2009

Make your way into the parlour of the JMC House Chamber Music Hall and experience the enchanting ambiance of legendary evenings in 19th century Vienna.

Jeunesses Musicales is featuring four passionate chamber musicians: Andrew Van, violin, Jean Philippe Tremblay, viola, Audrey Nadeau, cello, and Serhiy Salov, piano. On the program are two major works of the chamber music repertoire by the master of German romanticism, Brahms.

In the Parlour with Johann Brahms (1833 - 1897) will perform at the JMC House Chamber Music Hall, 305 Mont-Royal, March 18 at 6 pm.

Info: 514-845-4108, ext. 221.

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World-renowned poet to speak at Atwater Library

March 2009

“The last thing I expected to end up doing was writing,” Nourbese Philip said. “What I wanted to be most of all was a spy, and after reading about spies in World War II, spying was much more real to me than writing.”

Philip is a poet, writer and lawyer who was born in Tobago and now lives in Toronto. Although primarily a poet, Nourbese Philip also writes both fiction and non-fiction. She has published three books of poetry, Thorns, Salmon Courage, and She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks. Philip was the recipient of the YWCA Woman of Distinction award in the arts. “The experiences of Black women and girls are foremost in Nourbese’s works, as are issues of belonging, language, place and location,” her nominees said. Philip’s short stories, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in magazines and journals in North America and England.

Thursday, March 12 at 7pm Philip will read her poetry at the Atwater Library, 1200 Atwater. Admission is free. Info: 514-735-7344

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Humanists also deserve a voice

March 2009

In her letter in the Gazette, (Sunday, March 1) “Why do atheists worry about God?” Sheila Mediena expresses concern about the Humanist Association of Quebec’s forthcoming campaign to adorn 10 city buses with the ad: “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

She wonders why atheists, who, she writes, “put their faith in humanity” don’t “put their money into something useful for humanity – like supporting schools for girls in Afghanistan, instead of polluting our environment?”

Let us set the record straight for those who connect religious belief and humanitarianism: There is no correlation. Humanists are no more likely to be humanitarians than those who believe in God. Furthermore, humanists do not necessarily “put their faith in humanity” any more than believers do.

To answer Ms. Mediena’s question, atheists have the right to be “preoccupied” with the fact that most of the world believes in God and yet acts of unspeakable horror are committed by believers.

In the last 50 years, atheists have tried to soften their message that there is no god with a more positive approach, using the term “humanist,” which emphasizes that we are responsible for our ethical behaviour and should enjoy life to the fullest because there is no afterlife.

If believers have the right to plaster slogans that warn people about what will happen to them if they do not accept the Lord – and to let us know how much God loves us regardless of what sins we commit – humanists have the right to let people know they can take it easy and enjoy life.

If Ms. Mediena is worried about physical pollution, both types of ads are equally at fault.

– Barbara Moser

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Browning meat adds taste

March 2009

I have a bone to pick with Vikram Vij, or rather a bone to brown. Vij is one of Canada’s top chefs. His Indian- fusion restaurant – Vij’s – in Vancouver has been a hit since it opened in 1994. His cookbook practically wafts turmeric, coriander and cumin as you turn each page. His easy-to-make masala – a basic curry sauce – is worth the purchase on its own. But Vij does not brown meat.

Browning (turning the food more than grey, less than burnt) caramelizes the natural sugars in any food, whether it’s onions or oxtails. When you make toast, you’re browning it. Browning does not sear the meat and “lock in flavour.” Browning changes flavour. It makes food sweeter. Every stew I make has something browned in it, always the onions and always the meat.

Vij makes his sauce and tosses in the chicken, beef, lamb or goat. It’s very tasty, but it lacks the depth that browning delivers. I asked him about this once when we happened to meet in Montreal. “My wife’s family browns,” he told me. “I don’t. It’s quicker to cook without browning.” Well yes, browning takes time, but the Flavourguy is after, umm, shall we say … flavour? This is a major philosophical position. Do I want speed or schmecks appeal?

Do you want the kitchen to ooze an aroma that says “I’ve been at this stove all afternoon and boy is dinner going to be great”? Or are you simply after “Hey, I made this and it only took me a few minutes”? It’s your choice, but I know where I want to go for dinner. So the mitts come off for this one. While Vij’s recipes are a little long for this column, you can find some of them at vijs.ca. I like them, but I brown the meat.

In the meantime, how about an oxtail stew? You can get the ingredients at most Caribbean grocery stores. If you drop into Arawak at 5854 Sherbrooke W., you get cooking advice, too. Here’s a variation on their recipe.

For 2 people: Take 4 large pieces of oxtail, a couple of onions and some garlic, carrots, potatoes and acorn squash (as much as you want of the veggies). Dredge the oxtails in seasoned flour (I like thyme, salt, pepper, and dried chilis). Brown the meat in fat (oil, butter, ghee – I like shmaltz) in a large saucepan and add the onions, garlic and carrots. Brown the onions. Deglaze the pan with a cup of wine or stock (it doesn’t matter which, each has a different but tasty accent – OK, I use red wine).

Cover the pot and put it into a low oven (around 225F or 110C) for at least five hours or until the meat falls off the bone. After the first couple of hours, pour off the liquid, separate the fat and return the gravy to the pot. Check the stew regularly and add a little more liquid if it gets too low. Just remember: You are braising the dish, not drowning it.

In the last hour, cut the potatoes and squash into fork-size pieces and add them to the pot. Add whatever other vegetables you like (red peppers, leeks, etc.)

You can make the same dish with short ribs or veal shanks or even chicken thighs, but if you use chicken don’t cook it as long. Now, try this recipe again without browning. See, you’ve lost nothing but the flavour.

Barry Lazar is the Flavourguy. You can reach him at flavourguy@the seniortimes.com

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Working with and not against the need to hide and hoard

March 2009

A common behaviour of individuals with Alzheimer’s is to hide or hoard items. Sometimes there is a history of collecting beautiful or valuable objects, like my Swarovski crystals and mini teapot collections. The problem is that memory impairment prevents the affected person from locating the hidden items. You are fortunate if your loved one has a special hiding place. In this instance, you may be able to find the missing keys. But many times there is no such special place and finding keys, watches, and dentures is a difficult if not impossible task. Trying to find hidden car keys when you are late for an appointment can push an already stressed caregiver over the edge. There are a few ways to help deal with this behaviour. First, declutter your home. There are fewer hiding places and items will be easier to find in a clean, organized home.

Second, hide valuables in a locked drawer. This includes jewellery and documents. Make a second set of keys and keep them in the locked storage place. Dentures and eyeglasses are difficult since they are necessary for daily living. Reading glasses could be bought in dollar stores but full prescription glasses and dentures are costly to replace. Many caregivers have found objects in the garbage, fortunately before they were thrown down the chute. Make a habit of checking garbage bags. Not a fun activity, but it could save you hundreds of dollars if you locate missing dentures.

Just because someone has Alzheimer’s does not mean that they will not enjoy wearing their jewellery as before. But what do you do if her diamond pin, handed down from her mother, is at risk of being lost? Some families have copies made of irreplaceable or valuable jewellery, allowing their loved one to continue wearing familiar and meaningful pieces. Shopping for new costume jewellery can be a fun activity as well as solving the problem of lost valuables.

If your loved one has a special hiding spot it is not necessary to empty it out completely. Take out what you need, but leave some items behind. Your loved one will continue to hide items there, but at least you will know where to look when something goes missing. This hiding and hoarding behaviour is common in nursing facilities. Staff is sensitive to this problem and is on alert to notice objects that may seem out of place. Report what is missing. You may notice your loved one sporting a bright red sweater you recognize as not belonging to them. Perhaps it seems odd to you, since red was not a favoured colour. At the same time you may see another resident clutching the decorative pillow from your family member’s bed. If neither patient is disturbed by this, try not to react negatively. You are dealing with many challenges; let this one go.

One daughter, who saw her mother in a different sweater each time she visited, found humour in the situation. Her mother had always been fashion conscious and her daughter felt that her mother was enjoying finding new clothes to wear. She would tell her mother how lovely she looked in her new sweater and felt comfort seeing the smile on her mother’s face.

Comments and questions can be sent to bonnie@servingmontrealseniors.com and may be used in future articles.

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No doubt about it: three must-see performances

Lina Roessler and Alain Goulem Photo: Yanick Macdonald

March 2009

The Centaur theatre has mounted a dynamite production of Doubt, the Pulitzer and Tony award winning play. Coincidentally, this gripping drama comes to us on the heels of the film version featuring some blockbuster stars.

To get the feel of this Catholic grade school gripper, I attended the movie on Shrove Tuesday and the play on Ash Wednesday. My purpose was to analyze the differences in the live and filmed treatments. Mea culpa, I should have known there would be no difference as the author, John Patrick Shanley, wrote the screenplay and directed the film as well. Thus, the comparison boiled down to the cathartic feel of live theatre vs. the greater sweep and close ups of Meryl Streep’s every grimace. See the stage version before the film so as not to diminish the sparse but clever indoor limitations.

Lucinda Davis Photo: Yanick Macdonald

The Centaur actors were forbidden to see the film first. It is a testament to the power of a well written text that Alain Goulem’s liberal Father Flynn and Brenda Robins’s austere Sister Aloysius capture the same nuances as Hoffman’s and Streep’s antagonists, down to the Bronx accents. Lina Roesssler as the innocent Sister James and Lucinda Davis as the mother of the possibly abused boy were perfect in their pivotal roles. Director Micheline Chevrier added kudos to her 25-year cross-Canada experience, assisted by rising star Robin Henderson.

Another must-see play is The Assumption of Empire, which runs until March 22 at Main Line. Penned by local playwright Ann Lambert, hermost ambitious work spans 30 years in Montreal, from 1978 to 2008, as she mixes a personal drama against the background of momentous world events. Frequent collaborator Laura Mitchell stars, supported by Alice Abracen, Lambert’s real life daughter. Eduardo Pipman, Mitchell’s husband composed original music for the piece. They are joined by two vets from Segal Centre, Bill Croft and Tim Hite. The play closes March 29.

Tickets and info: 514-739-7944

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Cuba’s socialism a work in progress

March 2009

Fifty years ago, on December 31, 1958, a ragtag band of bearded, gun-toting dreamers marched into Havana and forced the corrupt, Mafia linked regime of Fulgencio Batista to flee. Revolutionary and controversial changes followed, including the nationalization of property and an end to private enterprise.

Thousands fled, but Fidel Castro’s regime ushered in a set of social priorities that serve as a beacon for many who believe in a radical alternative to laissez-faire capitalism. Still, celebrations were subdued in Havana this year because of uncertainty about the ailing Castro’s health and mounting internal pressure in Cuba for change, some of which has begun, albeit somewhat timidly.

Canadians are involved to some degree in this bold experiment, with all its negatives, because we are the primary source of tourism there. Whereas solidarity tourism was for years the main source of visits to the island nation, it is now Cuba’s main source of foreign exchange. And what do we see when we visit its beaches or wander around the historic, albeit crumbling, vestiges of Spanish colonial architecture in Havana? We see mothers and fathers walking home with their five-year-olds in the ballet outfits from their after-school classes. What other country with similar GDP, population and natural resources can boast of 30,000 doctors? What other country in these circumstances has virtually eliminated illiteracy while offering the basic security of food, shelter, health care and education for all?

Yes, there has been a price paid, and there is internal pressure for change. When professors and professionals would rather be tour guides and waiters because of tips, there has to be an adjustment. Salaries will have to be boosted so highly trained people can afford to do their work.

Raul Castro, the new leader, is more of a realist than his idealistic brother. Beans before bullets is his mantra. Among changes he has introduced are the Chinese and Russian buses that have made a huge difference in comfort to Havana commuters. Cubans are now allowed to visit and stay in hotels formerly reserved for foreigners, and they can have cell phones and computers. But information is still tightly controlled and Cubans need special permission to get Internet access. This restriction cannot last.

Ironically, an end to the U.S. boycott of Cuba can only accelerate the pace of change there. U.S. President Barack Obama has other priorities, but normalization of relations is overdue. When it happens it will have positive and negative effects. On the plus side, communication among peoples with differing social values can only be beneficial. Cuba will have access to a huge tourist market 135 kilometres away. But before that can happen the two countries have to talk and Cuba will be asked to compensate Americans for property seized in 1962. Hopefully, normalization will not include the Mafia-run casinos gangster Meyer Lansky was once planning to line Havana’s Malecón oceanfront with. (In The Godfather, Part II, Lansky is portrayed as the mythical Hyman Roth.) And it would be a shame to see Old Havana peppered with McDonald’s and Coca Cola signs.

There is something beautiful about how neighbours help each other in Havana, how Cubans take pride in their culture, how live music thrives in the city’s bars and cafés. Cuban ballet is first class, there are theatres throughout Havana, people actually talk to each other, and the pace of life is leisurely. Some of this may well change in the emerging Cuba.

Other shifts we have noticed: Many Cubans have had enough of the personality cult surrounding Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. They want the social values, and the security that goes with them. They don’t want a society where people have to skim off the top, or cover up for those who do to survive.

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Think movies don’t help shape language? Forgeddaboutit!

March 2009

The movie Slum Dog Millionaire, which won the Best Picture award at the Oscars, demonstrates the power of movies on society, showing how a boy from the slums of Mumbai can seemingly defy Indian fate through his own efforts.

Similarly, it can be argued, the movies Deep Impact (1998) and Head Of State (2003), featuring Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock as U.S.presidents, paved the way for the election of Barack Obama.

While the power of films to shape society is oft noted, their power to shape language is often forgotten. When Rhett Butler tells Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939), “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” it marks the first time the word “damn” was allowed to be voiced either on the radio or in a film. Also popularized this same year is the expression, “Are you a man or a mouse?” asked of Jimmy Stewart by Carole Lombard in the movie Made for Each Other.

Many expressions from movies display a cool insouciance or an attitude of defiance that explains why they so readily become buzzwords, particularly for young males. Some examples of such are “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse,” (The Godfather – 1972); “Go ahead, make my day” (Sudden Impact – 1983), and “You’re a funny guy. …I like you. That’s why I’m going to kill you last.” (Commando – 1985.)

Also, movie dialogue helps us express ourselves. Let’s say you want to convey frustration. You could do no better than Peter Finch’s rant in the 1976 movie Network, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” If you want a catchphrase that explains the need for an ambitious plan to have a large initial investment, try, “If you build it, they will come.”(Field of Dreams –1989). Movie phrases also provide us with shorthand expressions. In 1996, for example, Jerry Maguire gave us a pithy way of saying that rather than making things complicated, one should merely do what is required: “Show me the money.” Sometimes new expressions come into our vernacular from films regardless of the context of the film being lost. A case in point is Robert De Niro’s line from the 1976 film Taxi Driver, “You talkin’ to me?” which is usually stated in a whimsical way. However, in the movie, De Niro plays deranged taxi driver Travis Bickle, who taunts himself in a mirror repeating in a belligerent mantra, “You talkin’ to me?”

Movies also have provided us with expressions that affirm our fondest desires. The line “There’s no place like home” was popularized in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Thanks to the 1977 film Star Wars in which Ben “Obi-wan” Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker, “May the force be with you,” we now have a secular blessing in our lexicon.

Another mob movie, 1997’s Donnie Brasco, features Johnny Depp in the title role as an undercover police officer taping the illegal activities of gangsters. He is asked by a fellow officer listening to the tape about the meaning of the ever-repeated expression “forgeddaboutit” and provides the following analysis: “ ‘Forgeddaboutit.’ It’s like if you agree with someone, like ‘Raquel Welch is one great piece of ass’ – Forgeddaboutit! But then if you disagree like ‘A Lincoln is better than a Cadillac’? – Forgeddaboutit! But then if something is the greatest thing in the world, like those peppers – Forgeddaboutit! But it also means ‘Go to hell,’ like if I say to Paulie, ‘You have a one-inch pecker,’ and Paulie says, ‘Forgeddaboutit!’ Sometimes it just means ‘Forget about it.’”

And you thought the TV’s The Sopranos popularized the term “forgeddaboutit?”

Forgeddaboutit!

Howard Richler’s latest book is Can I Have a Word With You?

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Extinct: a wildlife species that no longer exists

Are harbour seals at risk? Photo: Mike Baird

March 2009

In the last 500 years, since the first European settlers began to arrive, over 30 species of wildlife have become extinct in Canada. Currently over 30 plant and animal species are considered to be “at risk” in this country, meaning they may disappear forever unless something is done to improve their chances of survival.

It is estimated that at least 13 of our plant and animal species have become extinct on the planet and at least 20 others are no longer found in Canada. Climate change, industrialization, pollution and the consequential destruction of the environment are some of the threats to the Earth’s biodiversity.

At this time, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is in the process of deciding whether the harbour seal population of Lacs des Loups Marins (Ungava Peninsula) should be legally protected under the Species at Risk Act.

Isolated for at least 3,000 years from harbour seals that live in the ocean, this particular populationmay number as few as 100 individuals. In the past their numbers declined because of hunting, but now hydroelectric development of their habitat is the major threat they face.

When a species is declared to be at risk, legal measures may be implemented to limit encroaching development and effortsmay be under- taken to encourage the population to thrive.

The public is invited to have a say in the fate of the harbour seals of Lacs des Loups Marins. You may comment on whether you believe these animals should qualify for protection. To do so, or for more information on species at risk, visit www.sararegistry.gc.ca or call 877-775-0848 before March 31.

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Filming with a cause

March 2009

Since the camera was invented, it has borne witness to the human condition. During the 10th Action Week against Racism, the 4th edition of the Montreal Human Rights Film Festival will present 72 films from 22 countries, continuing the 7th Art’s tradition of raising awareness among the fortunate while giving a voice to those who may not speak for themselves.

The festival, which runs from March 12 to 22, will open with the North American premiere of “8,” co-produced by Lissandra Haulica and Marc Oberon, who invited eight well-known film-makers to create a reminder of the “Millennium Development Goals.” In 2000, 191 countries had resolved to halve extreme poverty by 2015.

There will be 56 documentaries, 9 fiction films and 7 animated works presented throughout the festival, including nine recent documentaries from Quebec. Many screenings will be followed by discussions with special guests. The works will explore the impact of civil war on the people of Iraq, the conflict in the Middle East and political repression in Albania, Philippines, Chile and Tibet. Women’s and children’s rights will be highlighted as well as the dangers facing human rights workers and journalists.

Although Canada is known as a leader in human rights, it is not without its challenges, in particular regarding the rights of Aboriginal people. Canada was one of four nations who voted against the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. Not too shy to take a look in “our backyard,” three Quebec films will follow marginalized or homeless women in their struggle for survival. Other works will focus on gay rights, the environment and the relocation of Inuit families.

As well, a photographic exhibition featuring the work of 32 photojournalists will be held at UQAM’s Coeur des Sciences, 175 President Kennedy, and Cinéma du Parc, 3575 Park. The exhibition will feature 5200 images from 61 countries. The vernissage, free, will take place on Friday March 13 at 6pm. Info: anthropographia.org Tickets for screenings, $7, will be on sale beginning March 5 at Cinéma du Parc, 514-281-1900 or cinemaduparc.com, and at the NFB cinema, 1564 St. Denis. Info: ffdpm.com

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Are we cultivating Dr. Faust’s garden?

March 2009

Elizabeth Johnston is fascinated by the potato. Photo: Nicole Ferrero

A rose may be a rose, but a potato can be so much more. In No Small Potatoes: A Journey, Elizabeth Johnston transforms the much-loved but seemingly insignificant spud into a prism that reflects the social, political and medical concerns surrounding the biotechnological manipulation of the world’s food supply.

In her introduction she states that she will explore the potentially irrevocable changes creeping up on us, initiated by agriculture and business practices driven by corporate interests.“Global corporations are changing the face of the potato through monocrops, factory farms, patents and genetically modified organisms (GMOs),” she writes. “These issues may seem far away from the concerns of most people today, especially in the Western world, where the gap between rural and urban communities, and their respective lifestyles, continues to widen. But what is invisible to the naked eye can have the profoundest effect on our daily lives.”

Johnston takes the reader on a journey to PEI, Saskatchewan, Ireland, Scotland and Peru, introducing us to “heroes and whistleblowers” who are touched by issues she raises. These people demonstrate that it is possible to take a stand in the face of big business and reclaim one’s voice and dignity. Genetic modification differs from traditional cross-breeding practices in that it is done across different species, producing an organism that has never existed in nature. Plants are manipulated to resist herbicides (often made by the seed company), allowing the farmer to kill weeds without damaging his crop. They can also be engineered to produce a toxin in order to fight pests.

The biotechnology industry’s claims are compelling, especially with the promise of new medicines on the horizon. An ad by the Council for Biotechnology Information in Canadian Gardening magazine read: “Would it surprise you to know that saving a crop from a virus helped save a community from disaster?” The industry claims that genetic engineering can reduce the need for pesticides and obtain greater yields in areas where crops are difficult to grow, potentially alleviating world hunger. On the other hand, Greenpeace, organic farmers and public interest groups are concerned that the safety of the technology has not been proven in the long term and may pose an environmental threat by accidentally contaminating non-GM crops. Some examples of this, cited by Johnston, who footnotes her statements scrupulously, have already happened.

Though proponents say GM foods have been safely consumed for years, some scientists would take things slower. “Genetic manipulation of food ignores millions of years of evolutionary context,” David Suzuki notes on his website. “It is bad science to assume rules of heredity acquired after thousands of years of agriculture are equally applicable in the infant field of transgenic strains.”

Richard Béliveau, a UQAM biochemist and author of Foods that Fight Cancer, is not worried about the safety of GM foods since “no study has succeeded in establishing any carcinogenic character in these foods.” But he says in his book that the technology is potentially devastating to the environment. “In our opinion, it is imperative that the efforts now deployed in the production of genetically modified organisms be limited to a strict minimum in order to avoid a potential ecological catastrophe.” The UN estimates that 75 per cent of food crops have already been lost over the past several decades.

For many the main issue is one of personal choice. To date, over 70 genetically modified and other novel foods have been approved for sale in Canada. Consumers have consistently asked that GM products be labelled here, as they are in the UK and in 45 other countries. The majority of those polled say they would not eat such products if they could avoid doing so. Yet in Canada genetically modified soy, corn, grapeseed or canola and cotton are grown and may be present in up to 70 per cent of the processed foods in supermarkets, including infant formula, breakfast cereals marketed to children and the old standby, Kraft Dinner. These crops may be used in animal feed as well.

Johnston became intrigued with the potato 20 years ago when she viewed it through the lens of her camera while taking a dark-room photography course. For years she learned all she could about what the potato stands for in our collective consciousness. But it was at an “amazingly informative” conference organized by the Council of Canadians on “Science and the Public Good” that the book took shape. At the conference she would also meet some of the people who inspired her to broaden the scope of her research.

“It became less of an aesthetic inquiry and more focused on health and safety,” Johnston said. “I felt I had to pass on the information I found, realizing that something can be done, that it’s not too late to have a say in how our food is grown.” The potato, supreme comfort food with associations to nourishment, folklore and history, has the capacity to elicit strong imagery and emotions. As a point of departure in a work that explores the human costs of a relatively young but revolutionary technology, it is a stroke of genius, a metaphor that reveals the writer’s literary orientation. For any food shopper who has read the book, the humble potato will serve as a daily reminder to remain informed and vigilant.

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Marriage contracts a good idea for common law couples

March 2009

Say “marriage contract” or “common law contract” and people think, “how unromantic.” Not so many years ago couples about to marry regularly entered into marriage contracts. However, the law has evolved to provide greater protection to those who are married.

With the existence of family patrimony laws, which establish rules as to the evaluation and division of the family home(s), furniture, vehicles and registered funds between the couple upon death or divorce, marriage contracts have become less popular. But what happens when you want to live together as a couple and not marry, as more and more people are doing?

As mentioned in a previous article, if you’re not married and choose to live common law, there is no right to spousal support upon separation. Also there may be a question as to what happens to savings and property accumulated during the relationship. What happens to the condo you are living in which is in the other person’s name? How do you support yourself? How do you protect yourself?

As difficult as it may be to think about an eventual break up at such a romantic moment, it would be wise to enter into a common law contract as you begin a life together. So long as that contract is not in violation of any of our laws pertaining to contracts in general, the courts will enforce its terms should your ex-partner refuse to do so.

What should be provided for in the contract will vary with each individual situation and will depend on such factors as the age of the parties, their health status, their individual assets and savings, the number of dependent children they have, their income, their earning capacity, their accumulated debt load, and other obligations they may have.

In most cases it should include a list of what items belong to each party, a statement of how expenses will be shared and under what circumstances that contribution might change (e.g. birth of a child, loss of employment), who will own assets that might be accumulated during the relationship, who will be responsible for managing the various aspects of the household. It should also provide how, in the event of separation, the assets accumulated during the relationship will be divided, what, if any, alimentary support should be paid, who will remain in the family residence, how the contents of the home will be divided, whether the family home will be sold and how the proceeds will be divided, who will keep the car, who will pay the debts.

There is no reason such a contract cannot be modified during the time the parties are together should circumstances change.

One always hopes a relationship will last forever, but in the event that it does end, hopefully the common law contract can act as the catalyst that permits the parties to remain friends rather than adversaries sitting at opposite tables in a court room.

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Heaps of praise from younger reader

Dear Editor,

I was just looking through the February issue of the paper and needed to write to you immediately to say how much I enjoyed it. Those stories about seniors sweeping themselves and others into action to address the serious issues of our times, the moving history lesson, the thoughtful editorial, the unusual amount of space given to political-economic analysis from a point of view other than the Fraser Institute’s... even a paean to vinyl... wow.

Your paper is a much better read than any of the mainstream media – or other local papers. Thanks so much and please keep it up.

I forgot to mention that I’m not even in your readership demographic

... early 40s ...

– Judith Shapiro

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California Dreamin: A beach, a courthouse, a university and a glass of wine

March 2009

Santa Barbara, otherwise known as “America’s Riviera” is only an hour and a half drive from the massive and traffic filled city of Los Angeles. Ninety-two miles up the beautiful California coast is a stylish little community with red-tiled roofs, citrus trees in cozy backyards and wine vineyards.

Santa Barbara is a picturesque escape I like to frequent where surf attire is, was, and always will be the norm. It is nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean and lies on the east-west portion of the coastline.

As you drive up to Santa Barbara from the south you come across a pretty little seaside town called Summerland.

Summerland view of the ocean

Yes, that’s right, it wasn’t a typo. I almost want to move there just to have my address listed as “Summerland.”

As a native Montrealer, I truly appreciate the scene. The main drag of this sleepy Santa Barbara suburb is sparsely occupied with restaurants, cafés, wine boutiques, only one bar that I could find, and several antique shops.

Just north of Summerland and along Butterfly Beach…I’m not kidding, it’s Butterfly… is one of the wealthiest communities in the United States, the elegant Montecito. Many celebrities own property here, including Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.

The Four Seasons Resort, the Biltmore Santa Barbara, sits on Butterfly Beach. The stunning Spanish colonial style hotel not only has rooms and suites but also 12 private cottages sprawled throughout the hotel gardens. If you can’t afford the $575 US for a standard room, there is always the all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch buffet for a mere $68.

Classic cars at Woody’s BBQ

State Street is the main street in downtown Santa Barbara. There is a lot of overpriced shopping as well as California style restaurants and cafés. Wine tasting is a religion here. Several wineries are accessible by foot from State St. – all within a square mile.

I typically like to avoid courthouses, but the one in Santa Barbara is the exception. The Santa Barbara County historic courthouse is a beautiful Spanish colonial-style building built in 1929. The surrounding sunken gardens host several city celebrations of Spanish history.

Classic cars and southern California go hand in hand. The mild climate enables the vehicles to live long lives. It’s not uncommon to see cars from the 1950s and ’60s cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway (a.k.a Highway 1).

I don’t know much about cars, but I can appreciate their beauty. The Gamblers, a local car club, hosts a gathering of classic vehicles at Woody’s BBQ in Goleta every second Saturday of each month. Classic car owners ride in style into the parking lot to proudly display their manhood – I mean works of art – to the public.

The University of California Santa Barbara, UCSB, is at the seaside tip of Goleta. It is one of the United States’ top universities, not to mention one of the most beautiful. Framed by the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, it is a humble and relaxing setting, where students stroll along the beach between classes. The buildings are modest. There are no towering structures to take away from the serenity. Students walking back to the dormitories in wetsuits with surfboards in hand are a common sight. I walked through the halls of the Department of Mathematics and thought about how my grandfather, Leo Moser from Edmonton, had enjoyed his sabbatical year at UCSB in 1969.

Whenever I go to Santa Barbara, I can’t help but think of my mother, my very own Saint Barbara.

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Big puppets reveal a little girl’s bravery

Big puppets reveal a little girl’s bravery

Photo: Jean Albert

March 2009

The puppets are coming! The inspiring prize winning play Maïta, last performed in French at the World Congress and Festival of the Arts four years ago, is being presented in English by Geordie Productions.

“After watching the French presentation, I called Théâtre de la Vieille 17 and the Théâtre de Sable (the play’s a collaborative production) to try to work out a way to present it in English here,” said Dean Patrick Fleming, Geordie’s artistic director.

Written by Esther Beauchemin and translated by Henry Gauthier, Maïta has made a trilingual tour in several US and Canadian cities as well as in Mexico. The theme is moving and can inspire the entire family to talk about children relegated to a life of labour.

“I believe this is an important show for children and adults to see,” said Fleming referring to the play’s plot. Maïta, the 8-year-old daughter of a Southeast Asian puppet maker, is sent by her father to work in a factory in order to pay off family debts. His parting gift is Issane, a precious puppet whose prettiness sparkles in the 1461 pearls that Maïta’s mother has stitched into the enchanting puppet companion. The pearls represent the number of days Maïta will have to work until she is reunited with her father. Every night, she delights all the other children working in the factory by revealing the enchanting tale of Issane – the Princess of Light. The story is also made powerful by the beauty of the tall puppets that bring the stage to life.

Given that the play will open on Geordie’s Mainstage only a few days after International Women’s Day, the timing has impact. “As the piece unfolds, Maïta comes to represent a kind of feminine leader who tells a tale about hope and freedom,” said Robert Bellefeuille, Théâtre de la Vieille’s artistic director.

Everyone loves a puppet show, and ultimately, this is what Geordie superbly delivers in premiering Maïta. The stage is transformed into a world of spectacle where coloured lights shine on traditional Indonesian shadow puppets – sure to mesmerize and entertain children age 7 and up.

Maïta opens Friday, March 13 at 7pm and runs until March 22 with a series of matinées. Performances are at D.B. Clarke Theatre, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve W. Tickets range from $13.50 to $16. Info: 514-845-9810.

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Pope’s reaction to Williamson curious and disappointing

March 2009

It is now clear that Catholic-Jewish relations have been seriously damaged by the Vatican’s lifting the excommunication of a schismatic bishop who is a Holocaust denier.

Vatican authorities claim Pope Benedict XVI was unaware of the anti-Semitic attacks that Bishop Richard Williamson has launched in the past. Is this claim credible? Williamson’s diatribes have been in the public domain for years. In 1989, for example, Canadian police considered filing charges against Williamson under Canada’s hate speech laws after he gave an address in Quebec charging that Jews were responsible for “changes and corruption” in the Catholic church, that “not one Jew” perished in Nazi gas chambers, and that the Holocaust was a myth created so that the West would “approve the State of Israel.”

Williamson also praised the writings of Ernst Zundel, the German born Canadian immigrant whose works include Did Six Million Really Die? and The Hitler We Loved and Why, both considered mainstays of Holocaust denial literature.

A 2008 piece in England’s Catholic Herald documented Williamson’s anti-Semitic record and included a judgement from Shimon Samuels, director of international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to the effect that Williamson is “the Borat of the schismatic Catholic far-right.” Samuels also said at the time that Williamson is “a clown, but a dangerous clown.”

To be sure, the subjects of Williamson’s controversial views are not confined to Jews. He has also suggested that the 9/11 bombings were not the result of airplanes hijacked by terrorists but rather “demolition charges,” has criticized The Sound of Music for a lack of respect for authority and has expressed sympathy for what he described as the “remotely Catholic sense” of the Unabomber for the dangers of technology.

A number of strong voices have spoken to condemn Rome’s rehabilitation of Bishop Williamson and none more so than Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who reminded the Pope that in her country denying the Holocaust is a crime. Several Jewish groups have suspended all dialogue with the Catholic Church and, by all accounts, the French bishops are furious. Recently the New York Times questioned why no U.S. or Canadian bishops had publicly deplored the Williamson scandal.

It is also curious that the moderate German Cardinal Walter Kasper was not consulted in this whole damaging affair. Cardinal Kasper is the head of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Jews.

Nevertheless, the Vatican moved swiftly to try to contain the widespread damage done by the Williamson affair. The Pope confirmed that he was looking forward to his visit to Israel this May. The Secretariat of State said that Bishop Williamson must retract his views unequivocally if he is ever to serve as a bishop in the Catholic Church. In the meantime Bishop Williamson has been dismissed from his post running a seminary in Argentina and the government there has expelled him from the country.

To make matters worse, the Pope named a new bishop in Austria whose well-known public utterances are as outrageous – he described Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans as divine punishment for homosexuality and abortion, and the Harry Potter books as Satanic – as Bishop Williamson’s are evil.

This appointment raised such a storm of opposition in the Austrian Church that the appointment has been rescinded. The irony here is that when a bishop is appointed the diocesan authorities submit three names for the Pope’s consideration. In the Austrian case the Pope rejected the three names and appointed another candidate so unpopular he had to withdraw.

There may well be a silver lining to the affair in Austria. If the Vatican backed down because of opposition at the local level, will this set a precedent for future Episcopal appointments. At the very least it would seem that Rome must take more seriously the views of the local church. In fact, this would be in the spirit of Vatican 11, which urged a more collegial governance for the Church.

Both the fracas over Bishop Williamson and the aborted appointment in Austria beg the question of whether the universal Catholic Church can be competently led by a small group of male celibates isolated in Rome. It is a question that requires an urgent answer.

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Calling all bike award recipients for 25th anniversary

March 2009

In the weeks preceding the holidays, food stocks at our warehouse fell to an alarmingly low level. In an explosion of generosity unseen since the ice storm of 1998, donors came through for the 18,000 who were promised a holiday hamper. Sun Youth is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its annual bike giveaway program. These bikes will be awarded to youth whose actions have had a positive impact on their communities or who have shown extraordinary courage when facing exceptional circumstances.

Do you know of a young Montrealer who deserves a new bike, a safety helmet and a bike lock? Send the person’s name and age and what he or she did to merit a new bike. Please include your name and telephone number.

Send submissions to Sun Youth – Bicycle Committee, 4251 St.Urbain, Montreal, QC, H2W1V6 fax 514-842-5241 or email bicyclettebike@ sunyouthorg.com no later than March 27.

Fifty deserving candidates will be honoured in May on the birthday of the anonymous donor responsible for this distribution. For 24 years, this donor has allowed Sun Youth to distribute over 1,000 new bicycles to deserving youth. For this 25th anniversary, former recipients of this award are asked to contact Eric Kingsley at 514-842-6822.

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Clans that accompany new couples can be challenging Relationships

March 2009

Coupling is no longer simple at any life-stage. The good thing, however, is that outdated notions of lonely old widows and widowers settling for “companionship” have mercifully been shredded. As we expect to spend more time than ever in our senior years, it is not unusual for people to have second, even third vibrant relationships. But these new beginnings bring new challenges.

Whereas marriage was once sometimes disrupted by one or two meddling mothers-in-law, imagine the cast of characters more mature couples must contend with. Changing and alternate lifestyles have added relatives that don’t yet have definitions in the English dictionary. I mean, what do you call your ex-husband’s nephew? And do you invite him to your next wedding?

Seniors have accumulated clans with children, grandchildren and daughters-in-law twice removed. Everyone brings their own issues to create a complex emotional base, into which a new partner must struggle to integrate.

For starters, new relationships rarely sit well with our need for predictability. Old time friends get disgruntled having to abandon the familiar. The condo might get redecorated many times over. Some birdlike grannies of yesterday down more than a single swig of sherry at the implications of senior romance. And grown children don’t necessarily adjust well to Grandma “getting it on.”

Our choice of partners is no longer limited to age or life-stage. Older men are fathering children. Older women are dating younger men.

Whereas many adult children welcome the idea of their parents having a companion, they have mixed feelings of loss and loyalty. Sometimes seeing someone new in Dad’s old chair can stir up unresolved grief.

Take Grace and Eddy. They met at an investment club a few months after Grace’s husband, who had Alzheimer’s, was placed in a nursing home. It had been a happy marriage, and Grace and the children had time to mourn gradually, during the years of his slow decline. By the time placement was necessary, the man they knew was gone.

Suddenly Grace was rarely home when the children phoned. She began to spend weekends with her new “friend” Eddy and was unavailable to babysit New Year’s Eve for the first time since the twins were born. The children had mixed emotions about this new liaison. It was strange to think of Mom as a woman. What felt stranger was that Eddy was the older brother of her son’s college roommate.

“We must be supportive of Mom,” they confided in each other. “After all, her happiness is what counts most. And, frankly, I’ve never seen her look so good!” But mixed feelings complicated their good intentions. The entire configuration was so different from the natural order of things that it just felt, well, weird. Everyone had to work hard to readjust their expectations. One of the daughters chose to understand this in therapy.

The only person who had no problem sorting this out was Grace’s 95-year-old mother. Her opinion was stubborn, clear and conflict-free: “She’s nuts! That’s all I have to say. My daughter’s gone off her rocker!” This take on things was etched into an ancient roadmap that was far too old to bend. Modern thinkers, however, do not have the luxury of nestling into old-fashioned stereotypes.

The growing pains that come with change are never easy or age specific.

Ruth Reiner, a member of The Canadian Writer’s Society, is a psychologist, couples therapist, and motivational speaker. She is the author of Divorce: Dips, Dives and Daffodils. She is in private practice in Westmount and the Eastern Townships.

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Good ol’ fashioned home cooking

March 2009

When we walked into Fireside, a friendly family oriented restaurant on the corner of Van Horne and Victoria, we were showered in hospitality. The smoky smell of meat cooking was mouthwatering. The walls were adorned with paintings of landscapes and orange lighting that would put any diner at ease. Anyone over 50 will feel like they’ve stepped back into their youth.

We were seated immediately in a comfortable booth, with high backs to give the illusion of privacy. As we were removing our outer gear, we were presented with a generous portion of tangy coleslaw, two giant pickles and four slices of rye bread to munch on while we perused our extensive menus. Both my guest and I ordered from the table d’hôte, which includes soup, dessert, and coffee or tea. We chose from chicken, filet mignon, lamb chops and burgers, among other offerings. Our waitress was friendly and catered to our every need almost immediately.

Both the beef and barley and the chicken noodle soups were and flavourful – obviously homemade. My chicken brochettes, done to perfection, were served with french fries and salad. The home-style fries, made with real potatoes, were crispy outside and soft inside. The salad was served with a house dressing that was both light and savoury. The portions were so large that we took home leftovers. My guest ordered the grilled chicken breast with mashed potatoes and salad. The meat was juicy and tender. It was well done – but not burnt – well-seasoned and flavourful.

For dessert my guest had rice pudding that was thick and fresh. I ordered a baked apple, sprinkled generously with cinnamon. Both were tasty blasts from the past. Another dessert option was prunes. For a good old-fashioned meal, Fireside is definitely a good choice.

The prices for the dinner special range from $12.50-$28.95, with appetizers starting at $3.25. Fireside is located at 4759 Van Horne, corner Victoria. Call 514-737-5576.

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Sculpting the bonds between students and seniors

March 2009

Students and seniors often have misconceptions about each other. The Yellow Door and N.D.G.’s Centennial Academy are coming together to break the generation barrier.

“This project came about when I wanted to match the group of seniors that I was working with on a weekly basis with students because I felt that they were such a dynamic and lively group,” said Dominique Desroches, coordinator of the Yellow Door seniors social club.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts gives organizations such as these a chance to use their resources and tailor projects to their needs.

“I really believe in the value of intergenerational programs because of what it gives to both the students and the seniors – a better understanding of different generations,” Desroches said. “There are a lot of stereotypes going both ways.”

She says the seniors she works with were ambivalent about working with students when she proposed the project. “They imagined loud, boisterous kids who maybe weren’t very respectful.”

Ben Sklieas and Claude Serebrykoff

“I don’t usually talk with seniors,” says Ben Sklieas, a Centennial student. “I spend most of my time with teens. It’s fun getting to learn about different types of people. Over the past few months I’ve been forming friendships with everyone – seniors included.”

The group has been meeting at the museum at the end of every month since October. Past art projects include a still life drawing of an object that they felt represented them, and a collage of newspaper clippings, drawings, and pictures that were important to them.“The whole theme of the project is around telling your story,” Desroches said. “I really wanted it to be about sharing lived experiences. A teenager’s lived experience is very different from someone who has lived in 10 countries and is 85 and retired.”

Desroches explained that while the students don’t have as much experience, they can still bring their diverse backgrounds and personalities to the project. And she said they have a great deal to learn from the seniors. This month, the group members were instructed to make clay sculptures of people who had influenced their lives. Leona Olioff, a Yellow Door member, said she enjoys the entire experience. “I love to create things. It can be so ridiculous, but it’s wonderful to get your hands dirty. I’m not really good at following rules and instructions, but I make something – and that’s just about the best thing there is.”

Desroches said that at the first meeting it was a group of “seniors” and a group of “students” getting to know each other. “But now it’s not really a group of seniors and a group of students – it’s a group that’s working together. It’s really nice to see the barriers broken down

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Etiquette equals respect

March 2009

"I believe a most serious problem for the American people to consider is the cultivation of better manners. It is the most noticeable, the most painful defect in American civilization." – Oscar Wilde

The world has changed since Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen. Etiquette is dependent on culture. What is good manners in one country may be unacceptable in another.

Talking with one’s mouth full is one example of obvious bad manners in western countries. In some countries you can eat with your hands out of a communal bowl, and it is expected that you belch if you liked the food.

In England in a posh house it is rude to strip your bed – it means that you do not want to return.

The format of handshaking, kissing cheeks or hands differs from country to country.

Flowers taken to a German hostess must be handed over unwrapped, the stem covered by a strip of paper.

The politesse du grande monde at the time of Louis XIV is dead. Blushing women no longer curtsy before men.

All the same, a certain decorum is required. Respect for others is imperative.

At a gathering, forget your personal problems and keep hot subjects like war, politics, religion and personal finances to yourself.

Organ recitals listing your medical problems make unappetizing conversation at a tea party.

In the meantime the words “please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry” go a long way and make life a lot more pleasant.

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What’s Happening March 2009

CLUBS & CLASSES

Monday, March 9 from 6-8pm, the Atwater Library offers a computer workshop on intermediate e-mail techniques for experienced e-mail users. 1200 Atwater. $15-$20, advance registration required. Info: 514-935-7344

Tuesday, March 10 from 1-3pm, discover your creativity at the Creative Social Centre Drawing Workshop with artist Beverly Zawitkoski, 5237 Clanranald. $10, supplies included. Wear old clothes. To register: 514-488-0907

Wednesday, March 11 from 10am-noon, the Atwater Library offers a computer workshop on mail merge and labels. 1200 Atwater. $15-$20, advance registration required. Info: 514-935-7344

Monday, March 30 to Friday, April 3 at 7pm, MonTango offers free trial classes in Argentine tango for beginners. Everyone welcome, with or without a partner. 5588A Sherbrooke W. Info: 514-486-5588 or www.montango.ca

Mondays at 6:15pm the Parts In Peace Choir holds a potluck dinner followed by a 7:30 rehearsal at the Unitarian Church of Montreal, 5035 de Maisonneuve W. New members welcome. Info: 514-484-5559

Tuesdays at 1:30pm, the Women’s Art Society meets at the McCord Museum, 690 Sherbrooke W. $8 guest fee. Info: 514-737-7268

Tuesdays at 7:30pm, Carmina Choir meets at the Unitarian Church of Montreal, 5035 de Maisonneuve W. New members welcome. Info: 514-931-9028 or 514-843-6497

Wednesdays John Abbot College Sports Centre in Sainte Anne de Bellevue holds a Karate and Chi-Kung workshop. Info: 514-457-0323

Wednesdays from 11am-noon, Centre Greene holds a Tai Chi-based movement and stretch class at 1090 Greene, Westmount. Info: 514-931-6202

Thursdays at 2pm,Centre Greene holds ballroom dance classes for those with stage 1 and 2 Parkinson’s at 1090 Greene, Westmount. Bring an able bodied partner. To register: 514-484-2016

Concordia Senior Non-Credit program offers undergraduate courses for 55+ at a greatly reduced fee. Info: 514-848-2424 x 3893

EVENTS
Sundays Pointe-à-Callière Museum of Architecture and History offers free admission to grandparents (65+) and their grandchildren under 16 at 350 Place Royale. Info: 514-872-9150

Monday, March 9 at 5:30pm, Congregation Beth- El hosts a Purim Party at 1000 Lucerne. Come in costume. Info: 514-738-4766

Friday, March 13 at 6:30pm, St. Paul’s Anglican Church holds a St. Patrick’s Day supper at 379 44th street, Lachine. $25 Family/ $11 adults / $5 children. Info: 514-634-1965

Tuesday, March 17 from noon-3pm, the Teapot Centre holds a St. Patrick’s Day lunch and horseracing event, 2901 St. Joseph, Lachine. Info: 514-637-5627

Wednesday, March 18 from 2-4pm, Manoir Clanranald holds an open house. Everyone welcome. Also, every Monday there is tea and activities for all. Please call to reserve. 5201 Clanranald. Info: 514 577-5060

Saturday, March 24 Academy of Art and Design will host a fundraiser, Design for Diversity, a gathering of student fashion designers and models raising money for charity at Champlain College, 900 Riverside Dr, St. Lambert at 8 pm. $20. Info: 514-677-6775

Saturday, April 4 noon-3pm, Salvation Army sponsors an Easter 55+ luncheon at 1655 Richardson. $15 advance payment. Info: 514-288-2848

Saturday, April 4 10am-3pm, Hungarian United Church hosts a spring bake sale and luncheon at 50 Graham, TMR. Info: 514-483-6916

Saturday, March 14 at 8:30pm, Royal Canadian Legion Verdun hosts a St. Patrick's Dance and Sunday, March 22 at 3:30pm, an open-house with music after the parade at 4538 Verdun. Info: 514-769-2489

Sunday, March 29, the Zoological Society will visit the Laurentians for sugaring off. Info: 514-845-8317

FILMS
Thursday, March 12 to Saturday, March 22 the 4th edition of the Montreal Human Rights Film Festival at Cinema du Parc and Cinema ONF. Info: 514-842-7127 x 225

Sunday, March 15 at 2pm, Jewish Public Library presents the film God, Man and Devil (Yiddish with English subtitles) at 5151 Côte Ste. Catherine. $10/$5 students and members. Info and tickets: 514-345-2627 x 3006

LECTURES

Monday, March 9 at 6:30 pm, Carole Williams of Trent University speaks on “Puncturing History’s Blindness” as part of the Speaking of Photography Lecture Series 1515 Ste. Catherine W., EV-1.605. Free admission. Info: finearts.concordia.ca/news/

Tuesday, March 10 from noon-1pm, the Unitarian Church holds a brown bag lunch and reading of Alice Munro. 5035 Maisonneuve W. Info: 514-485-9933

Thursday, March 12 at 7pm, Yellow Door hosts a night of poetry, prose and music at 3625 Aylmer. $5. Info: 514-939-4173

Thursday, March 12 at 12:30pm, Henry Mietkiewicz speaks on Superman’s Canadian cocreator Joe Shuster at Atwater Library, 1200 Atwater. Info: 514-935-7344

Thursday, March 12 from 7-9:30pm, Economist Jean-Fréderic Lemay and Michael Sacco of ChocoSol fair trade have a roundtable discussion on fair trade at Librairie Paulines, 2653 Masson (corner 2nd Ave). Info: 514-849-3585

Friday, March 13 10am-noon, Gary Schroder, president of the Quebec Family History Society, conducts a workshop on family history research. $15-20. To register: 514-935-7344

Tuesday, March 17 at 12:30pm, Atwater Library holds a St. Patrick’s Day celebration featuring Irish music and a talk by Lorrie Blair of the Centre for Canadian Irish Studies. Info: 514-935-7344

Tuesday, March 17 at 7:30pm, Frederic Boudreault speaks on “The Depth of the St. Laurent and Saguenay Rivers: a closer look at its inhabitants at Montreal Anglican Diocese.” 1444 Union. Info: 514-845-8317

Tuesdays March 17, 24, and 31 at 7:30pm, Jewish Public Library hosts “A Kabbalist in Montreal: The Life and Times of Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg” with Professor Ira Robinson at 5151 Côte Ste. Catherine. $40 /$25 students and members for the series. Info: 514-345-2627 x 3010

Thursday, March 19 at 8pm, David Wilson speaks on “Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About our Lives” at Oscar PetersonHall, 7141 Sherbrooke W. Info: 514-848-2424 x 2595

Thursday, March 26 at 12:30pm, Edie Austin, Gazette Books Editor, speaks on newspaper book coverage at Atwater Library, 1200 Atwater. Info: 514-935-7344

Wednesday, March 11 at 1pm, historian and satirist Sam Allison speaks on history and the environment at John Abbott College, 21275 Lakeshore, Ste .Anne de Bellevue. Info: 514-457-6610 x 5167

Thursday, March 26 at 7:30pm, Moshe Szyf speaks on “The Hagaddah: What is theMessage?” at Jewish Public Library, 5151 Côte Ste.Catherine. $10/$5 students and members. Tickets: 514-345-2627 x 3042

MUSIC
Thursday, March 12 at 7:30pm, Trio Résonance plays Nature and Romance at St. Columba by-the- Lake church, 11 Rodney, Pointe Claire. Suggested donation is $10. Info: 514-364-3027 or 514-697-8015

Thursday, March 12 at 8pm, the Concordia Department of Music presents the Oscar Peterson Laureate Concert featuring Lucas Haneman at Oscar Peterson Hall, 7141 Sherbrooke W. $5 /students free. Info: 514-848-2424 x 2595

Saturday, March 14 at 3pm, St. Clement’s Anglican Church presents pianist Su Jeon at 4322 Wellington. Info: 514-769-5373

Sunday, March 15 at 7:30pm, Ensemble Sinfonia performs Wagner, Mahler and Sibelius at Oscar Peterson Hall, 7141 Sherbrooke W. $20/$10 students and seniors. Info: 514-848-4848

Wednesday, March 18 to Saturday, March 22 Foundation Arte Musica presents the complete 68 string quartets of Haydn over 4 days at Pollack Hall and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. $25/$15 seniors/$10 students. Info: 514-398-4547

Wednesday, March 18 at 8pm, McGill Jazz Orchestra plays at Pollack Hall, 555 Sherbrooke W. $10. Info: 514-398-4547

Saturday, March 21 at 8pm, Orchestre Symphonique de L’Isle performs Chabrier, Chausson and Piazzolla at Oscar Peterson Hall, 7141 Sherbrooke W. $20/$10 students and seniors. Tickets at Admission, 514-790-1245 or admission.com Info: 514-848-4848

PLAYS
Until Saturday, March 22, Unwashed Grape presents The Assumption of Empire by Ann Lambert at Mainline Theatre, 3997 St. Laurent. $20/$17 seniors and students. To reserve: 514-849-3378

Until Saturday, March 28, Leanor and Alvin Segal theatre presents Tryst, by Karoline Leach at 5170 Côte Ste. Catherine. $35/$31 seniors. Tickets: 514-739-7944

SALES AND BAZAARS
Saturday, March 28 9am-3pm, St. Thomas More Women’s Club holds a flea market and craft sale at 978 Moffat, Verdun. Info: 514-768-4741

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