Montreal's senior monthly since 1986

Feb '10


Pioneering performers push the envelope

June 2009

Anyone with open ears growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s knows the innovative pianist Dave Brubeck.

His LP on Columbia, Time Out, featured two compositions in odd time signatures – Take Five and Blue Rondo à la Turk – that presaged the freedom explosion in music that was to follow. Take Five, written by the lyrical alto saxophoinist Paul Desmond, was in 5/4 time, while most jazz pieces at the time were written in common, or 4/4 time, or in 3/4 or waltz time. Brubeck’s classic quartet, with which he turned Take Five into a pop hit, included Desmond, the drummer Joe Morello and bassist Gene Wright.

Dave Brubeck

The band stayed together until 1967, when Brubeck called it quits to focus on his first love – composing. The fact that at 88 he is writing new material and performing is extraordinary and his every appearance at this stage should be regarded as historic. Brubeck’s wife, Lola, recently said Dave used to make love to her counting these very odd time signatures. Four of his six children are jazz musicians, including cellist Matt Brubeck who plays avant music with Marilyn Lerner and drummer Nick Fraser, son of Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages. Dave Brubeck’s 50-year tribute to Time Out is at Salle Wilfid Pelletier of Place des Arts at 7:30 pm, July 4 and tickets cost $49.50 to $79.50.

Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Queens, N.Y., Tony Bennett at 82 is widely regarded as on of the best singer of standards the U.S. has produced. He has a superb voice, great control, and a way of turning every song into his own.

His route to the top was not an easy one, and his style fell out of favour in the rock-heavy 1960s. But jazz lovers recall his marvellous recordings with Bill Evans, in particular his rendition of Waltz for Debby, that helped propel him back into the picture in the late 1970s. The Boulevard of Broken Dreams was his first hit, but his signature tune became his unique reading of I Left My Heart in San Francisco. His vocal chords are not what they used to be, but he he remains a delightful and entertaining icon. Tony Bennett performs at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier of Place des Arts, July 3, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $74.50 to $124.50.

Ornette Coleman

Texas-born Ornette Coleman, 79, taught himself to play alto sax, moved to Los Angeles and while working as an elevator operator developed his own harmonic concepts. His idea was that an improvisation could develop independent of a tune’s chord structure. He tried it out at the Hillcrest Club in L.A. in a band with Montreal pianist Paul Bley and they all got fired. But history was made. Ornette remains a pioneer and hero to those who enjoy the outer edges of jazz. He played here in the 1980s with his harmelodic group, featuring a double rhythm sections and his session is a must. The Ornette Coleman Quartet plays at 9:30 p.m. July 9 at Théâtre Maisonneuve of Place des Arts. Tickets cost $49.50 to $69.50.

Lee Konitz, 81, rose to prominence as part of the Miles Davis nonet and the famous Birth of the Cool recordings that ushered in a new age.

In contrast to the hot passions of bebop, where Charlie Parker’s alto sax was seen as the ultimate, Konitz became the chief exponent of the cool school. His lean tone, dedication to the essence of a tune and pared down expansion has stood the test of time in more than half a century as a performer.

Lee Konitz

But Konitz never stands still, never repeats standard tunes ad nauseum and fits easily into modal playing rather than depending on chord changes. And he constantly challenges himself by playing with people who could be his grandchildren. His gig here is with American bassist Jeff Denson, German pianist Florian Weber, and Israeli drummer Ziv Ravetz.

Lee Konitz and Minsarah perform on July 3 at 10:30 p.m. the Gesù, Centre de Créativité. Tickets cost $36.50.

George Wein, 83, began his career as a jazz pianist but achieved his greatest fame as founder of the Storeyville jazz club in Boston and in 1954 the Newport Jazz Festival. It was the grandaddy of all jazz festivals and the one around which all others are modeled. Some of the great recordings of post-war jazz were made there.

Wein in 1960 created the Newport Folk Festival, which became a mecca for the burgeoning folk and youth culture, featured such giants as Pete Seeger and Bill Munroe and showcased emerging stars Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. In 1982, Wein reunited some of the jazz greats who played at Newport in its heyday, performing here and at other festivals.

He’s back this year playing straight ahead music with the so called Newport All-Stars, featuring the great tenor sax player, Lew Tabackin, the only other senior in the group. Wein, by the way, is also famous for his wine cellar.

George Wein and the new All-Stars perform July 10 at 8pm at the Théâtre Jean Duceppe for Place des Arts. Tickets cost $38.50.


Conservative attack ads betray narrow values

June 2009

The Conservatives are showing signs of desperation with their ugly attack ads against Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. They have spent hundreds of thousands — evading spending controls imposed during an election period — with the series run on privately owned TV.

They make the preposterous claim that Ignatieff is only in it for himself, that he returned to Canada after living abroad for more than 30 years purely to pursue his careerist goals. He’s accused of being a cosmopolitan, which many of us will remember, is the kind of thing anti-Semites used in their screeds, accusing Jews of being rootless people only passing through for personal gain.

This campaign tells us more about the Conservative party mindset, and that of some core supporters, than it does about Michael Ignatieff. Most Canadians are proud of how he carved out an international career as a respected university professor at Harvard and observer of historical trends. He became an international public intellectual with his books, documentaries, and interviews with leading thinkers. His idol is the late British philosopher, Sir Isaiah Berlin. Yes, he lived in London, Belgrade, and Cambridge, Mass. Yes, he is learned and worldly. Yes, he has acquired liberal democratic values from his distinguished family — his Canadian diplomat father George Ignatieff and his grandfather, the Red Tory academic, George Grant.

They used to hurl similar epithets at Pierre Elliott Trudeau, his enemies deriding him as an Outremont intellectual who never had a real job and spent much of his youth traveling the world. Many of us are happy with Ignatieff ’s decision to lead the Liberals. He is superbly articulate and knowledgeable. He is learning to reconcile varied constituencies. However, we dispute the Liberals’ decision to support mandatory jail sentences for serious drug offences. They don’t want to appear soft on crime, but the failed war on drugs in the U.S. shows this is the wrong approach.

Although we do not know yet where he stands on every issue, we are confident his policies will reflect a deep understanding of history and how this country can better balance its international interests.

The Tories are scared that at a time of dissatisfaction with them, Ignatieff and the Liberals look better and better. A recent poll shows the attack ads are hurting Ignatieff, but also damaging Conservative support. A Toronto Star/Angus poll last month showed that while 42 per cent of respondents said their opinion of Ignatieff worsened after seeing the ads, fully half said their opinion of Harper also worsened. Mario Canseco, vice-president of the polling group, commented that while the poll tries to paint Ignatieff as an arrogant elitist, Canadians actually think Harper is the more arrogant one.

The Conservatives are trying to appeal to Canadians suspicious of the liberal values Ignatieff represents. In so doing they are alienating the urban majority of this increasingly multi-ethnic country who see in Michael Ignatieff a leader who is well placed to restore our standing in the world and put the Liberal brand back on track to challenge Harper with a more progressive approach.


A music lover’s guide to the fest

June 2009

Like many Montrealers, Moz Taylor looks forward to that rite of summer, the Montreal jazz fest, but perhaps with a touch of trepidation.

Moz Taylor hosts a jazz radio show Photo: Kristine Berey

“It’s the busiest time of the year,” says the host and producer of Jazz Boulevard, a late-night radio-show for night owls, featuring news, interviews with jazz artists from near and far, and mostly, “music, music, music.” The program recently won the Best English Community Radio Show of the Year award at the 2009 SOBA (Sounds of Blackness Awards) Gala and will celebrate its 5th anniversary on Friday, June 12, with local jazz artist Susie Arioli co-hosting the show with Taylor.

Stevie Wonder

Surprisingly, Taylor is not the jazz aficionado you’d expect him to be. “I grew up listening to whatever was coming out of the radio,” Taylor said. “I knew about jazz all my life, but came to it from a populist background. I’m not a ‘jazz freak.’ I’m always looking for an accessible edge in a song.”

Though Taylor originally got a business degree, something was missing from his life. “Music became an irritating hobby – I wanted it to be more,” he said. So he got a second degree, this time in music. “I had to reinvent my life, to make a leap of faith.”

Ranee Lee

His instincts were right on, and in the years before accepting the radio gig, Taylor established his credentials as a composer, songwriter and audio producer here and in the States.

His definition of jazz is generously broad. “Jazz can be very elitist, like 20th century music,” he says. “There is the music our parents grew up listening to, like Billie Holiday or the other extreme, as soon as anything starts sounding recognizable, you’ve got to destroy it. I lean on the accessible side, globalization and cross pollination of all styles.”

Taylor says everything, hip-hop, African, Indian, can blend into jazz. “Just look at the jazz fest, with Stevie Wonder opening. It’s much more than a jazz festival, it’s a music festival.”

Taylor said the event’s success – in its 30th year it professes to be the biggest jazz fest in the world – is partly due to its musical diversity. “It’s been a longstanding discussion at the festival: How pure are they to their roots? Jazz is a very indie-driven music form. It doesn’t have the infrastructure of pop. You need to have a big music festival to bring in people, allowing you to invite big-name jazz artists. Jazz purists would disagree, but all the big jazz fests have broadened their appeal to draw in larger audiences.”

Angele Dubeau

This year’s festival boasts of “very robust” programming, Taylor says. He explains the program is organized into several thematic series. For example, Jazz d’ici features local performers, including Ranee Lee, Oliver Jones and Michel Donato. “Montreal artists never had as much access to the stage as this year.”

Some of Taylor’s picks include Eliane Elias, an artist from Brazil who brings the Bossa Nova beat to her music, Lee Konitz accompanied by the jazz trio Minsarah (Hebrew for “prism”) and the Battle of the Bands, featuring the music of bands “that have gone on longer than their founders, where two big bands go on stage and go through that whole canon of big band music.”

Though the Montreal International Jazz Festival ends July 12, there are two other festivals, one in Ottawa and another in Burlington, that Taylor will be covering. “This becomes a ver y busy time. I always feel like I need a vacation afterwards.”

The Montreal International Jazz Festival runs from June 30-July 12. For info call the Bell Info-Jazz line at 514 871-1881 or visit

Tune in to Jazz Boulevard Fridays from midnight to 2am at 102.3 FM or To listen to past shows, visit


Ignatieff ’s Liberals looking cool, collected – and ready to win

June 2009

These days the federal Liberal party appears to be on a roll. They are in a dead heat with the Conservatives nationally and are well ahead of them in both Ontario and Quebec. The Conservatives could easily lose their 10 seats in this province, and without Quebec they have no hope of winning a majority in Ottawa.

Which brings us to their leader. Stephen Har per has been off his game for some time. Other than building up the deficit – now $50 billion and counting – Harper has little of import in the legislative hopper. His minority government has little to show for the first 100 days of the current parliamentary session. Unless you count the recognition of the capital’s Beechwood Cemetery as the National Cemetery of Canada.

Harper’s troubles began last fall when he ruthlessly tried to reduce public funds for his political opponents. When the three opposition parties tried to fight back by setting up a tripartite coalition that included the Bloc, Harper cut his own throat in Quebec by lashing out at the perfidious separatists. Tory numbers in the province dropped like a stone.

When Harper belatedly realized the coalition was a real threat to his hold on power, he scuttled off to Rideau Hall and convinced the Governor General to shut down parliament. It was a demeaning stratagem and the voters recognized it as such. Hence Harper’s drop in the polls. Hence the low grumbling in some Tory circles that Harper will never win a majority government and, indeed, will be lucky to win another minority one.

One name mentioned as Harper’s successor is that of justice minister Rob Nicholson. He is Harper’s most competent minister. The big rap on Nicholson is that he is from the West. After Manning, Day and Harper, some Tory strategists feel it is the turn of the East, which would make Elmer McKay a better fit. There is even some talk that Jean Charest, now in his third term as Quebec premier, might move back to Ottawa to lead the Conservatives. It is a long shot, but so was Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby. Whether Harper stays or goes, his decline in the polls has been mirrored by the rise of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. After he took over from Stéphane Dion, some Liberals worried that Ignatieff did not have a killer instinct, that he was unable to go for the political jugular. The Liberal leader put paid to that when he dispatched his old friend Bob Rae from the leadership contest.

Rae’s only hope was to have a national leadership contest. Ignatieff replied that the fight should be settled by the Liberal caucus. Ignatieff prevailed and Rae threw in the towel. A good thing, too. The last thing the Liberal party needed was another internecine struggle between two candidates. After all, for years the party was racked by the fight between the Chrétien and Martin factions.

So Ignatieff was crowned at the Vancouver convention last month and the party emerged under his leadership more united than it has been in years. In his powerful convention speech, Ignatieff took on Harper directly : “For three years you have played province against province, region against region, individual against individual. When your power was threatened last November you unleashed a national unity crisis, and saved yourself only by sending parliament home. Mr. Harper, you have failed us. If you can’t unite Canadians, if you can’t appeal to the best in us – we can. We Liberals can build a federalism based on cooperation, not confrontation.”

Since the convention, Ignatieff has not shied away from tough issues. He has said he might have to raise taxes. In light of the biggest deficit in our history, surely that is self-evident and reveals Ignatieff to be an honest politician. Ignatieff has also said bluntly that he will not make further “concessions” to Quebec. He says this province has all the power it needs, and he is not in favour of amending the constitution to give it more.

Instead, Ignatieff has invited Quebecers to join a national project, and in that regard he has mentioned construction of a high-speed rail link between Windsor and Quebec City.

The main Ignatieff policy plank coming out of the convention was employment insurance. In keeping with his unity pitch, he is suggesting a system of uniform national standards to replace the existing patchwork structure. And he is ready to make this an election issue.

Even so, I doubt very much that there will be an election before the fall. Neither the Bloc nor the NDP are ready, and the Liberals need to raise a lot more money before they can match what the Tories have in the bank.

Ignatieff is often described as “cool”. In that regard he resembles Pierre Trudeau, also a public intellectual. He has even been compared to Barack Obama, arguably the “coolest” politician on the planet.

Certainly there is no politician in Canada who is provoking more buzz than Ignatieff at the moment. You can tell the Tories are worried when they mount a series of expensive ads slamming Ignatieff because he spent so much time outside the country.

Actually, the Harper government is not really concerned about Ignatieff having been away. What really concerns the Tories is that Ignatieff is back and ready to take them on in the next election, which he has a better than even chance of winning.


Parent support – a legal obligation

June 2009

We all know of the quarrels that go on regarding child support, especially in the context of divorces. But once children reach adulthood, what financial support do they owe their parents?

Under Quebec law, parents and children owe each other support where there is a need. So, do parents ever sue their children for support? Yes. Are they successful? Sometimes.

The support you owe your children when they are young is an all-embracing maintenance that includes educating and feeding them as well as providing them with a certain lifestyle. The support your children owe you is that necessary to provide you with the bare necessities when you are not capable of providing them for yourself. Any help awarded by the court will take into consideration the needs and circumstances of all parties and the time necessary for the parent to acquire sufficient autonomy to support him or herself.

A 52-year-old mother who was no longer working and was about to be evicted from her apartment sued her three sons for support. She had sold her house and moved to the city, which she couldn’t afford, without any thought to the future. Her children had forewarned her that they would stop all financial help. The court held that she was capable of working and had an obligation to support herself. However, it would take her some time to find work and she could not be left destitute. The judge ordered the sons to pay support for four and a half months, in an amount commensurate with their ability to pay, and to pay their mother’s back rent. He also ordered the mother not to bother them directly or indirectly by telephone, correspondence or otherwise under pain of contempt. The judge was apologetic about his judgment and explained to the sons that it was a matter of justice and he dared hope they would understand his thinking on the matter.

In another case, a mother claimed support from her four children. She had been receiving alimony from her ex-husband, who had moved to the United States. She was receiving a disability pension and had received cash amounts at the time of her divorce. She had a house, but refused to sell it and she continued to spend compulsively, incurring large credit card debts. One of her children had loaned her money to help pay her debts; the others didn’t have the means to do so. The court held she should sell her house and use the money either to supplement her pension or to chase after her ex-husband. Her motion for assistance from her children was denied.

Whether or not a parent will be successful in claiming support from a child will depend on the circumstances. But if the right to make such a claim does exist and the child against whom it can be or has been made predeceases the parent, the right will survive the death of the child. This means that if a child who has been helping you out financially, or has an obligation to do so, should pass away leaving his assets to those other than you, you have a right to claim financial help from the estate. This must be done within six months of the death.

A child can fulfill his obligation toward his parent by taking that parent into his home. One mother was receiving financial assistance from three of her children who were no longer able to continue supporting her. She then asked for social assistance and instituted proceedings against her two remaining children, who were better off. One of those children, a son, offered to take his mother into his home. The mother didn’t want this, saying that living with him would be intolerable as she would have no privacy. The judge found this was not a sufficient reason to refuse his offer and held the son’s obligation would be fulfilled by taking his mother into his home and providing her food. He ordered the remaining children to pay support to their mother in amounts commensurate with their means.

Most of us hope we will never need our children’s financial help, and we hope they love us enough to offer it if we do. However, it is comforting to know that a court can order it should it ever become necessary.


Incontinence: nothing to sneeze at

It doesn’t kill you, but it can make your life hell. Incontinence affects 55 per cent of women over 60 and can have devastating emotional, social and physical consequences, such as falling, isolation and depression.

“One study shows it will take an average of 7 years for a woman to talk to a health professional about her incontinence,” says Chantal Dumoulin, researcher at the Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal.

Dumoulin and her team are trying to refine and target treatments more accurately.

“If we learn to better identify those who will benefit most from pelvic floor exercises, then it will be easier to get funding from the government to treat these women,” Dumoulin said. Right now, 70 per cent of women do improve with exercise, but in the other 30 per cent, the cause may be neurological, requiring a different approach.

“My primary training is in physiotherapy,” Dumoulin explains. “I look at the patient in terms of general function. We found that incontinent women will stay home more, have less strength in their legs and are at a greater risk for falling.” Dumoulin is inviting women, both continent and incontinent, to form exercise classes that may treat or prevent this insidious problem.

“We evaluate the pelvic floor muscle and leg strength, provide training and follow up two to five years later to see if their risk of falling has diminished.”

Classes are formed as soon as there are enough participants.

To join a class call 514-340-3540 ext. 4129


Outgoogled, yes, but at least we’re not ant-like

When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.

–Mark Twain

June 2009

Let’s admit it, dads: Father’s Day does not have the profile of Mother’s Day. Even on the eve of Our Day, Mom’s day “outgoogles” Dad’s 2-1, and according to commercial calculations, people spend significantly less on Father’s Day than on Mother’s Day. On the other hand lads, let us refrain from diluting our brew with maudlin tears, because there are several lexical advantages to being male.

Most importantly, there is no term in English that recognizes the right of a woman to kill her husband. We have the word “uxoricide,” which entered our lexicon in the mid 19th century to refer to the murder of a wife by her husband but (so far) no word to describe the legitimate or illegitimate murder of a husband is recorded in any dictionary. So ladies, remember that from a lexical perspective, while the English language will countenance you killing your mother (matricide), your sister (sororicide), your brother (fratricide), your father, (patricide), and even your dog and rabbit (canicide & leporicide), the offing of your husband is verboten.

Aside from not possessing a word that legitimizes “hubby-whacking,” here are several other lexical pluses to carrying the y chromosome. To extend Simon & Garfunkel’s list, I’d rather be a hammer, major, and governor than a nail, majorette and governess. Also, as a male, I can be described as avuncular, which means resembling an uncle, with connotations of being friendly, helpful and good-humoured, whereas a woman can only be so described by the entomologically sounding “aunt-like.”

Notwithstanding that maternity is a matter of fact and paternity often a matter of opinion, men easily outdistance woman in their ability to pass on surnames based on their chromosomal arrangement. The term “patronymic” receives 391,000 Google hits; whereas “matronymic” receives a paltry 16,100. Patronymics – names derived from a male’s ancestors such as Davidson, Ivanov, MacDonald, and O’Connor – are very common. Matronymics, such as Dworkin (named after Devorah) or Rifkin (named after Rivka), are quite rare. The presumption when one hears the word polygamy is that it refers to a man having more than one wife, but in fact, it merely refers to having more than one spouse of either gender. The actual word for having more than one wife is “polygyny,” which receives 510,000 Google hits compared to “polyandry” (having more than one husband), which gets 317,000 Google hits. Of course, the propensity of men having a greater quantity of concurrent spouses than women will not seem advantageous to some men.

Cynics would have us believe that Father’s Day was established as a result of effective lobbying by the Hallmark Corporation. In fact, when the holiday was proposed, there was no such thing as a Father’s Day card. American Louise Sonora Smart Dodd first proposed the idea of a “father’s day” in 1909 after listening to a Mother’s Day sermon. Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honour her father, William Smart, who became widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd’s mother) died in childbirth with their sixth child. He was left to raise the newborn and his other five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington state. It was after Mrs. Dodd became an adult that she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent.

The first Father’s Day was observed on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington. At about the same time in various towns and cities across America, other people were beginning to celebrate a “father’s day.” In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father’s Day. Finally in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day.

Father’s Day, however, was not widely celebrated in the US until the mid-1930s and was not recorded in print before 1943. In Canada, the holiday gained status in the late ’40s and took hold by the early ’50s.

Enjoy your cologne or tie, guys.

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


Tanzanian choir to perform

On June 20 the Voices of Africa choir and their director Simon Wanchira from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania will help Zerf Productions celebrate their 20th birthday at le Manor in NDG.

The choir will raise awareness and funds for children with HIV and Aids in Tanzania. The Zerf team plans to scale Mount Kilimajaro in September to raise money to drill a well at the Kikuhe orphanage in Kilimanjaro. The cost of this project is $40,000. Limited tickets are available at the door $25, seniors $15. Info:


Generations sends kids to camp

Generations Foundation’s Summer Breakfast at Buffet La Stanza in St. Leonard May 22 was sensational.

The EMSB, CSDM and LBPSB school boards were represented by busloads of kids with their principals, teachers, and counsellors. Participants included Services Financiers SFL, the Junior Hockey Club of Montreal and Expos Denis Boucher and Ron Piché. The Junior Hockey Club and the Montreal Canadiens donated auction items and prizes, and there were door prizes from many companies. Magician Blair Marshall performed and created animal balloons.

Magician Blair Marshall (right) joins Generations’ Natalie and Adrian Bercovici along with students and lunch supervisors Rose (left) and Jacqueline (back) from St. Gabriel School Photo: Michael Miller

The new Q 92.5 team broadcast on location with Ken Connors and Suzanne Desautels. The Q on-air auction offered two packages, each containing a weekend getaway at Wyndham Cap Tremblant, a day at Fanny’s of Westmount, a gift certificate from La Coupole and lunch with Aaron Rand at La Sirène de la Mer or golf with Ken Connors. The event raised $80,000 in spite of the H1N1 flu virus, the new St. Leonard location and the economy. Our supporters know the importance of a summer camp experience. Through their sponsorship, many kids will have the chance to be in the country enjoying outdoor activities. There will be fewer children and teens on hot summer streets.

Generations Foundation feeds more than 6,500 children daily in 72 schools and learning centres, including single and expectant teen mothers. Teachers say the daily meals make an enormous difference in their interaction with students. There is no fee for students, nor do we receive government grants.

Unfortunately, some of our loyal supporters have died, and coupled with the financial downturn, funds have decreased. That is why the breakfast fundraisers are so important to us. We will hold a Back to School Bagelthon Fundraiser at St. Viateur Bagel on Monkland in September to kick off the start of the 2009-2010 school year. Please join us then. To help Generations help kids, call 514-933-8585


Steeldrums: more than just fun

Playing the steeldrum is an ideal form of music therapy because it keeps you mentally alert and maintains digital dexterity.

Savoys Steelband workshop is a non-profit organization whose mission is to teach the techniques of playing the steeldrum, an instrument that was invented in Trinidad and Tobago in 1939.

Their focus is to introduce the steeldrum to seniors. They have grown from four students to 14 in the past nine years.

As a consequence they don’t have sufficient steeldrums for all of their students.

To raise funds to buy more of these expensive instruments they will perform Sunday June 14, at Theatre Du Grand Sault, 7644 Edouard at 6:30 pm. Admission: $5 donation. The seniors will be up against a group of young steelband players at this event.

Info: 514-595- 7187


Garden-fresh Asean fusion

June 2009

The entranceway to Asean Garden is a large, sunny, stone terrace. As you enter there are comfy booths to the left and a bar that stretches the length of the restaurant to your right. At the back, there is a colourful fish tank (the contents are not for eating) and the kitchen, open to viewing. The owner greeted us immediately and led us to a table at the centre of the restaurant.

Asean Garden offers three different menus and options. The lunch special includes soup, a spring roll and rice and starts at $7.25; the all-you-can-eat option is $22.95 Sunday through Thursday and $25.95 Friday and Saturday. This is not your buffet style. You order from the menu and choose from sushi, Thai, Chinese, dim sum and Szechuan dishes. Of course, you can also order à la carte; main dishes start at $11.

The chef has 20 years of experience, which is evident in the taste. Everything is fresh, from the sushi to ever ything in the all-you-can-eat choices. The owner told us the fish is never frozen. Chicken dishes are made from all white meat jumbo chicken breasts.

Upstairs, a large dining area for parties and catering seats up to 85.

We got the royal treatment. We sampled a variety of dishes from the all-you-can-eat option. First came rainbow and veggie maki. The presentation was beautiful with the wasabi sculpted into the shape of a leaf, soy sauce in teapot-shaped dish, and the rolls arranged in a circle with lettuce adornments. The chilled, just-prepared sushi was excellent. It was served with the good kind of chopsticks that don’t break apart and splinter in your hand.

Next came the salt and pepper squid. It was a little bit spicy, but not excessively so and arrived garnished with red and green peppers and onions. The squid was breaded and not too salty.

The last dish we tried was the Pad Thai, served with jumbo shrimp, lime, nuts and tofu. It was hearty and the sauce was thick.

Asean Garden is located at 5828 Sherbrooke W., corner Regent, in NDG. The restaurant delivers to Montreal West, NDG, Hampstead and downtown. Open daily from 11am to 2:30pm and from 5 to 11pm Thursday to Saturday; 5 to 10pm Sunday to Wednesday. Info: 514-487-8868


On with last summer’s Greek island cruise: Kos and Syros

June 2009

Dining out in Kos

After Bodrum Turkey, our Easy Life Cruise sailed to the Greek island of Kos , not far away, but I believe t he ship just sat out on the sea over night to give us the idea that we were sailing far, much like the overnight train to Toronto does.

We walked into the old part of the town and then along the beach for two kilometres until we turned inland and found a mom-and-pop place for lunch. Hidden in a nondescript alley, it served up the best Greek food we ate that week. The couple – and their parrot – were friendly, serving us, their only customers, on the terrace.

This friendly couple and their parrot served us our best meal of the week

We loved our Kos coffee shop, not far from the port, and spent hours that day playing chess and making use of their free outdoor Wi-Fi to e-mail our children.

Forgive me for not mentioning the sights; my knee doesn’t do sightseeing. That is perhaps why I have been accused of writing about little else than food in my travel pieces. And to prove my point:

Syros: our beautiful, welcoming and all-around favourite Greek island Click image to view larger version.

That evening we dined on the seashore watching children and parents playing on the rocks. We met a lone Canadian tourist and exchanged stories about our travels. And then we slowly walked back to our coffee shop for more Wi-Fi and half attended an outdoor concert of musicians playing on the plaza.

Some time in the middle of the night our ship sailed to Syros, which again wasn’t far, and turned out to be our favourite island.

Mykonos, the stop after Syros, was our ‘unfavourite’ island. The two are polar opposites. Syros is real; Mykonos is unreal. Syros is authentic; Mykonos is plastic. Syros is friendly; Mykonos is unfriendly, especially when you ask them why it costs $5 for a cup of coffee. “This is Mykonos,” they answer. “What did you expect?” I’ll probably give in to Mykonos next issue with a picture gallery of the superficially beautiful but off-putting island where we were relegated to eating outside a grocery store a kind native led us to.

The women of the co-op cafeteria

Our first view of Syros was of the gentlemen chatting and reading the morning paper along the port in little cafés. They had left their wives at home, as older generation Greeks and Italians are wont to do.

We and our cruise mates seemed to be the only tourists. There is a reason for this: Syros is the administrative centre of the Cyclade islands, so the economy is doing just fine without us. In an effort to do a better job on Syros than I did on Kos, let me enlighten you on some history. Syros has been inhabited since the stone age. Homer called it Siriin. Legend has it that the first inhabitant, Keraunus (Lightning), went to the island riding on the back of a dolphin after his ship had sunk. On Syros, the oldest acropolis in the Cyclades has been found. Its architecture has been strongly influenced by the Venetians, who settled there at the beginning of the 13th century until the Turks took over in the 16th century.

We spent most of the day in the capital, Ermoupolis, or Queen of the Cyclades. We toured the Apollo Theatre, a mini copy of Milan’s La Scala, then meandered around the lanes behind the port and found a café with tables outside, playing Greek music. We bought the CD, but this music never sounds the same when you take away the warm sea breeze, the painted white and blue shops and houses, the cobblestone lanes and the sounds of Greek emanating from the surrounding venues.

Children playing on the rocks in Kos

We found a delightful women’s cooperative cafeteria for lunch, one of two on a lane that runs parallel to the sea. You pay per portion and it’s all home cooked, literally.

We took a bus ride to a nearby beach and bathed ourselves in the clean beauty of the bay.

For those with more time and better knees, there is an archaeological museum and a medieval village, Ano Syros. From there you can visit the Catholic Cathedral of St. George and the monasteries of the Jesuits and Capucins from the 18th and 17th centuries. Ano Syros holds music festivals every summer.

We returned to the ship after our beach excursion and ate on board – always a disappointment. If we ever find another Easy Life Cruise going to islands we haven’t yet visited we’ll know not to take the half board. Unfortunately, all the cruises seem to go to Mykonos.


Guys, you only have to do it once

June 2009

Getting dressed up is simpler for men than women. When it comes to tuxedos, guys have to make a big decision once: How many buttons? Then for each special event they need to make sure it still fits and is clean. While tuxedo styles change in terms of the number of buttons, one to three buttons are classic options that always work.

Shirts have changed for the first time in a long time. The standard wing-tip collar, typically worn with a bow tie, has given way to a flat-collared shirt, but still with pleats and sometimes with a white- on-white design. With this style, a regular tie is worn. To make it dressy, choose a black satin tie or one with a dash of silver in it.

Cummerbunds are giving way to the vest, which is king these days – worn with a matching tie. Suspenders aren’t very popular, but they are comfortable and work best at keeping your waistband up if you have bit of a paunch. The effect is smoother – especially when you take off your jacket for all that wild dancing.

Pat Formal Wear Rental, 5425 Verdun. Phone 514-768-9332. The service at this family-owned haberdashery, in business for 62 years, will thrill you. For as low as $79.99, you can rent your tux, shirt, studs, suspenders or cummerbund, tie, hankie and pants. They also sell tuxedos as well as 31 colours of vests and matching ties. Ask about the used tuxedos for $125-$175.

Classy Warehouse Store, 8211 17th (at Jarry). Phone 514-728-6200 or visit This liquidation centre sells discontinued lines and some used rentals. Black jackets cost $50-$75 (white or ivory are $50), pants $25-$40. Complete your outfit with vests ($25), shirts ($9), shoes ($5), ties or suspenders ($2). If you get a last-minute invite to a formal event, they can get you a tux in an hour. Other location: 6768 St. Hubert (upstairs), 514-277-7641.

Boutique Jacques, 5970 Côte des Neiges. Phone 514-737-1402 or visit For the well-dressed man who wouldn’t dream of going “discount shopping,” this boutique concentrates on top-of-the-line men’s domestic and European suits. Tuxedos ($250-$650) are higher-end, too, so the wool will be softer, feel more comfortable and drape better on your body. There is a complete tailor shop on the premises.

Sandra Phillips is the author of Smart Shopping Montreal. You can find money-saving ideas on her shlog at


To tweet or to eat? My modern-day diet dilemma

June 2009

“How do I tweet thee, let me count the ways.” That’s what Elizabeth Barrett Browning might write if she were around today.

150 years ago, however, a lass sent a sonnet by Royal Mail knowing it would get to her man. Today, she could use Canada Post (with but one delivery a day and none on weekends), but she’d more likely send Robert Browning a love note by email or Twitter and she’d keep in touch with him throughout the day on social networking sites such as LinkedIn (where “relationships matter”), Facebook and MySpace. You need to use all of these to make sure something gets through.

But what does this have to do with the FlavourGuy? What does this have to do with cooking? Lately, I have been on Twitter. People who use twitter put out “tweets”. These are messages of 140 characters. That’s short for any message. Mrs. Browning’s would be limited to haikus. Those who write tweets might be called twits but I haven’t seen this term listed officially. In joining Twitter, I read comments by people with similar interests. For example, I follow fellow food writers and those with sharp opinions on local politics and culture. And some of them follow me.

From what I read, some people have thousands of followers and may in turn follow thousands of others – tens of thousands sometimes. Where do they get the time? Or as the Firesign Theatre once noted “How can you be in two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all?”

Now, I can do many things while I am at the keyboard – work, watch TV, listen to the radio or music, network – often all at the same time. One thing I can’t do is cook. And this is where the FlavourGuy gets worried.

Recently I have noticed that I am making larger meals, enough to last several days. Steak for two? Why do this when I can cook one for 10 and have lunch ready for the next several days. Or fruit. “Wham!” goes the knife as pineapple, cantaloupe, apples, oranges and bananas are diced into a fruit salad large enough to last a week. If this looks sluggish after the second day I can always throw in yogurt and ice and blend up a smoothie. After the third day, it’s not bad as a topping on ice cream. As it slides from compote toward compost, I freeze it at the penultimate moment and have it ready for muffins. Nothing is wasted and hours are gained for more tweeting.

But does this does make sense? After all, the FlavourGuy lives to eat. I don’t eat so that I can spend more time talking, or rather tapping, about eating to people I’ve never met. My Twitter “followers” currently include an Aussie urging me to buy real estate in Melbourne and a woman in Texas who can show me “how to make $37,000 from your computer in just a few short hours.” Enough. I am putting myself on a Twitter diet (and ditto for all social networking sites). I will ration my time at the keyboard so that I can increase my time at the stove – and maybe squeeze in more time for Browning and love. Let me count the ways.

In the meantime, with Father’s Day approaching, I share a family favourite that my dad whipped up following a European trip many years ago: curried herring. It’s simple and so good every deli should stock it. Thanks, Dad.

Take a jar of marinated herring. Drain off the liquid. Add a few tablespoons of sour cream and a tablespoon of curry powder. Mix this together and let it sit overnight. It should keep in the refrigerator for several weeks and is great on toasted rye bread or bagel slices.

Contact or follow him at


Trust grandchildren to make the right choice

June 2009

“Do I have to come to Sunday night dinner? I have an important soccer game.” A fellow grandparent asked my advice on how to respond to her 13-year-old grandson’s question. As an educator and psychologist, I have reflected about and written on how to best handle these kinds of situations. As a grandfather, I can also reveal that one of my granddaughters just recently asked me, “Do I have to be at the Passover Seder? I have the annual Girl Guides party that night.” Fellow grandparents will have their own versions of this situation.

There are a number of factors to take into consideration: the feelings of the grandchild (and the grandparents), the issue of responsibility, and the role of the parents. In regard to all three of these factors, an open dialogue is crucial and the key component is mutual respect.

The acknowledgment of the child’s feelings is important. The child feels a conflict: He wants to be with his friends (particularly intense with preteens and teens) and would be sad and disappointed to miss out on the activity (soccer, girl guides), but also worries about hurting the grandparent’s feelings. Will the grandparent be sad or angry?

Assuming a close and loving relationship, the grandparent (particularly we adoring ones) will be tempted to tr y to please the grandchild. Feel free to talk about these feelings and do not hesitate to remind the child of the adult’s emotions. This is not to instill guilt, but it is always recommended to be as honest as possible about how one feels.

The final choice must remain with the child. This is also an excellent opportunity to talk about responsibility. Was there a prior commitment to come to the Sunday supper or the Passover Seder? Did the soccer game or girl guides event crop up later? Here an analogy can be used: You are invited out by a friend, and then later another friend (more attractive?) issues an invitation for the same time. The ethical thing to do is to keep the first commitment, and be as honest as possible with everyone concerned.

The third factor, no less important than the other two, is the need to consult the parents, and to get their view of the matter. If possible, one tries for a common position. If grandparent and parent do not agree, it will be more difficult. However, they can at least present the two points of view, and still leave the decision to the child.

Postscript: The grandmother who raised this question has reported that her grandson cheerfully chose to attend the Sunday dinner. My granddaughter told me, after a few days of reflection, that she was “happy to come to the Passover Seder.” Furthermore, she announced that she might raise the question of why Girl Guides had scheduled their party on the evening of an important Jewish Festival!

Dr.Schleifer (Ph.D. Psychology, McGill; B.Phil. Philosophy, Oxford) is a Professor of Education at UQAM. He is the author of Talking about Feelings and Values with Children and Mutual Respect with Teenagers.” Website: Submit questions on grandparenting to


We’re making plans for the summer, too

June 2009

Now that the nice warm weather is upon us, people are making their plans for the summer. Whether planting flowers, working around the yard or taking a trip with the family, everyone wants to make the most of this season. Sun Youth is also planning ahead for the summer.

For the second year in a row, Sun Youth will embark on a summer food drive in order to cope with the increase in demand for the emergency food bank. In 2008, even before there were talks about recession and financial slowdown, our organization was making an urgent appeal to the public and to companies to receive non-perishable food donations to replenish our almost empty warehouse shelves. The increase in basic food prices and the high cost of gas have both augmented the number of people asking for our food bank services and decreased the quantity of food items received as donations. Thus, we saw a 13-per-cent increase in demand and a 30-per cent decrease in donations last summer.

Now that our country is officially in a recession, more and more people are knocking at our doors for emergency assistance. At this moment, Sun Youth provides emergency food assistance to over 2,500 families a month. This represents an increase of 24 per cent over last year. Despite the amazing generosity that the public and companies showed during the last holiday period, these resources won’t be sufficient to assist all of the underprivileged families requesting our services this summer. In that spirit, we urge Senior Times readers to contribute to our emergency summer food drive. Donations can be dropped off directly at Sun Youth headquarters at 4251 St. Urbain. Pickups can also be done for large donations collected at organized food drives. Companies such as food distributors are also encouraged to donate to our food bank, and pickups can be arranged.

Although this latest emergency food drive has just been launched, some companies and foundations have already answered our cry for help. On May 28, Sun Youth received a very generous donation from the RBC Foundation. Tommy Kulczyk, Assistant to the Executive Vice-President and Director of Emergency Services at Sun Youth received a cheque of $10,000 from Richard Légaré, vice-president for the Montreal-centre region at RBC Royal Bank. This amount will be used to purchase perishable food to include in the food hampers given to our clientele.

Bell employees also contributed over $5,000 to this summer’s food drive by giving funds to purchase milk and eggs.

Sun Youth would like to thank everyone who has already contributed as well as those who will support us this summer. For more information on how to contribute to Sun Youth, call us at 514-842-6822 or visit us online at


Revenue properties: Invest in your future

June 2009

A growing percentage of my real estate practice has centred on revenue properties, because of the changing needs of my clients. When clients first approach me to help them buy a rental property, the conversation generally begins like this: “Find me a good deal – a duplex or triplex – something small and not too much trouble.” Remember, a “deal” is very specific to individual goals and needs.

Take a duplex or triplex in LaSalle, for example, which costs approximately $345,000 and $415,000, respectively, and generates between $11,000/year and $18,000/year, respectively. Revenues are obviously higher when all units are rented and if there is a “bachelor.” However, if you consider what a triplex in LaSalle costs relative to a 6-plex ($433,000) in Verdun, the investment becomes more interesting when the latter generates an average of $39,000/year. This is a better “deal” as far as “bang for your buck.” However, if you are the type of investor who likes living in 1,000 to 1,200 square feet on the main floor with the possibility of a finished basement, a yard and tenants above you paying on your mortgage, then a duplex or a triplex is a great choice.

Also, the age of the property is important, but renovations are even more critical. A renovated full electric plex with breakers is always more desirable, especially when the tenants pay their own heat. Location is an important factor, too. For example, the design of the city of Verdun places a metro close to just about everyone. Owning a plex near a metro helps to attract and secure tenants. Parking is usually a premium, so tenants without vehicles live near services and public transportation.

What if one or more of the tenants does not pay the rent? Fortunately, this does not happen often, but the risk is highest in a duplex and lowest in a 6-plex. The greater the fractioning of the total revenue generated by the tenants, the lower the risk to the owner for covering the cost of the total mortgage.

Also, you must grow your revenues to increase the return on your investment, but it is always a “work in progress.” What can be renovated? Are the revenues maxed for the area or is there room to grow? A 6-plex with a vacancy can be an attractive purchase because it allows you to increase unreasonably low rent(s) toward market value. Nearly 75 per cent of the estimated sale price of a 6-plex in Verdun is based on the revenues generated, but this relationship is considerably weaker for a duplex or a triplex.

Finally, a rental property pays you in three ways: 1) revenues; 2) property appreciation; and 3) tax benefits. Consider that the average price of a 6-plex in Verdun at the end of 2008 was 5 times greater than that in 1985. The mortgage, heating, maintenance, insurance, and tax costs are all tax deductable, too.

Contact Daniel Smyth at 514-941-3858


Montreal pain researcher joins Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

June 2009

Dr. Ronald Melzack’s interest in studying pain started off as a scientific problem, much like studying vision or hearing. “It was just plain curiosity about pain,” he said about his recent induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

It wasn’t until he was a postdoctoral fellow in medical school at the University of Oregon and “met all kinds of people in terrible pain that could not be treated” that the study of chronic pain became his lifelong passion.

Last month during a ceremony in Montreal, Melzack was inducted into this country’s medical hall of fame along with four other individuals recognized for winning their place in Canadian medical history. Located in London, Ont., the hall of fame is dedicated to honouring Canadians who have changed the world’s health care landscape.

“I’m thrilled,” Melzack said of becoming a member of the Hall of Fame that has honoured such medical pioneers as Banting and Best, known for their discovery of insulin. Melzack’s pioneering research into pain mechanisms and pain control spans more than a half century and has had a major impact on every field of medicine dealing with patients who suffer from pain, in particular chronic pain.

Ronald Melzack is “thrilled” with his induction into the medical hall of fame Photo: Martin C. Barry

Born in Montreal, Melzack first became interested in the connection between pain and environment at McGill when he studied the reactions of dogs to pain stimulus. For the first six months of their lives, one group of dogs was raised in kennels while the others were raised in homes with small children. The dogs who had no interaction with children reacted more to “being pinched.”

A leader and visionary in his field, Melzack made four major contributions in the field of pain.

With the support of Dr. Joseph Stratford, Melzack co-founded the first pain clinic in Canada known as the McGill University Montreal General Hospital Pain Center where he served as research director from 1974 to 2000. The clinic is known to be one of the best organized centres for pain treatment in the world.

In 1965, Melzack developed the gate-control theory of pain in collaboration with neurophysiologist Dr. Patrick Wall.

The theory produced an explosive growth in research and resulted in experimental and clinical psychology becoming an integral part of pain research and therapy. Then in 1968, Melzack published an extension of the gate theory, proposing that pain is a subjective, multidimensional experience produced by parallel neural networks.

Another breakthrough was the development in the mid-70s of the McGill Pain Questionnaire, now the most widely used method worldwide for measuring pain in clinical research. It was developed during Melzack’s postdoctoral years, when he recorded more than 100 words to describe pain. Then with the help of a statistician, he obtained quantitative measures for each descriptor.

His fascination with phantom limb pain led to the publication in 1989 of the “neuromatrix theor y of pain.” In it he proposes that we are born with a genetically determined neural network that generates the perception of the body, the sense of self, and can also generate chronic pain, even when no limbs are present.

The world’s knowledge of pain might be a different today if Melzack had chosen to pursue a different path. While working toward his postgraduate and doctoral degrees during the early 1950s, his brother, Louis, was establishing the foundations of the Classic Book Shops chain that would eventually become one of Canada’s leading retailers of paperbacks.

“They wanted me to go into the book business and I didn’t want to,” he said. “By this time I was really hooked on psychology. Louis thought an academic life was nice, but I would never really earn a living.”

That’s when Dr. Victor Goldbloom, who was then a young pediatrician and a regular customer at one of the book shops, advised the family that they should give the future Dr. Melzack their full support. Goldbloom remains in touch with him to this day.

Mrs. Hull, whom Melzack had met in the course of his postdoctoral research, was instrumental in developing the McGill Pain Questionnaire. A diabetic, she experienced phantom pain following the amputation of her legs. “She would get throbbing pain, burning pain, crushing, all these adjectives,” Melzack said. “And then I began to write down all these adjectives. And then other patients would use other adjectives – a variety of them.”

Pain researchers are getting a better understanding of a condition known as fibromyalgia, according to Melzack. “The stress system is highly involved in it,” he said. “We know that there are trigger points, sensitive areas in the body where you’re likely to find the same pattern in virtually everybody, which means that these muscles seem to be under some strange tension for reasons not known. It produces depression and is activated by depression. But now there’s so much more research on it and it’s become so prevalent.”


Dawson icon fears retirement: “I’ll miss them too much.”

June 2009

After 52 years of teaching, Greta Hofmann Nemiroff says she still likes everything about it – except maybe marking.

“It’s pretty difficult to think of retiring,” says Nemiroff, a teacher at Dawson College. “I’m not afraid of not having things to do. I’ve spent most of my life with people between the ages of 16 and 25 and I’ll miss them too much. That’s my fear.” Nemiroff is the coordinator of the Creative Arts Literature and Languages program at Dawson College and a New School Teacher. In New School, students have the option to take their humanities or English courses using the principles of humanistic education.

Nemiroff stumbled into New School almost by accident. She was instrumental in setting up Vanier College and organized the English and Creative Arts departments. She was there for three years when she fell ill and was became temporarily blind. “I was at home crabby and grumpy because I couldn’t do anything,” she says. Her ex-husband was meeting with a Dawson teacher who was setting up a new program called New School. So Nemiroff advised him. “And that was that,” she says.

She saw an ad looking for staff for New School and didn’t apply. “The coordinator phoned me and asked why I hadn’t applied. I said that I was quite comfortable at Vanier and he said, ‘That’s the trouble, you shouldn’t be comfortable.’”

She began teaching at New School in 1973 and was asked to be the director in 1975, a post she held until 1991.

She says she recognizes the generation gap between her students and herself. “I am really very bored with teenage culture. I don’t find it very deep or very interesting. So I told the kids that I wanted them to learn about my old lady culture.” She explains that she wants to show her students what Montreal has to offer because many of them only know a very narrow world. She takes them to the theatre, the symphony and museums. “My job as an educator is to help people stretch their worlds, not retract them into even smaller little circles.”

Greta Nemeroff takes her Dawson College students to museums, the theatre and the symphony Photo: Scott Philip

Being with young people doesn’t make Nemiroff feel younger. It reminds her how old she is. “I think that I am 71 years old. There is nothing like being with young people to realize that you are not a young person,” she says. But she always tries to pick topics for her classes that her students can relate to. “I want to find something that’s important to them. First I come up with a theme: friendship, love, home...” She explains that she still faces a lot of challenges when trying to appeal to CEGEP students. “I’ll often ask kids, ‘How many of you have read a whole book beginning to end?’ Most of them haven’t. I just feel that a whole culture is closed to them.” She says that if the students had the motivation or self-discipline to read a great work, or to go to a museum, they would discover interests and broaden their understanding of what happens in the world. “It’s hard to sell that to students because they’re dealing with so many things in their lives. They’re dealing with a world that can spin very much out of control very quickly for them.”

She finds that it can be a challenge to get them to focus, one of many Nemiroff faces as an educator. “Each human being is a mystery and learning to understand that person and where that person is coming from is a task. I learn a lot about human motivation.”

She loves to learn about people and what makes them tick. “To me, it’s extremely exciting to see people grow. What could be better than to see young people grow and see their consciousness change? I’ve been in touch for 30 years with people I have taught and saw them through having babies.”

She says that following the lives of past students and getting to know so many people is interesting. “It’s like living in the centre of an extremely complicated novel.”

Nemiroff is a big supporter of the CEGEP system, but says that it has many flaws. “I’m not sure that they realized how expensive it would be to put in this new level of education. What’s happened is that teachers’ workloads have doubled.”

She explained that when the CEGEP system was relatively new, the teacher/student ratio was 25 to one, and has now increased to 45 to one. “I just don’t think that we are able to give the students the kind of attention that many of them need. “I think that CEGEPs have been a success story overall, but I also think that the resources that are going into them are diminishing and that’s really a shame.”

Between 1991 and 1996, Nemiroff took a five- year break from Dawson to chair the Women’s Studies program at Ottawa University, but returned to New School. “It’s the love of my life.”

Nemiroff says she adores teaching, but is finding it harder to multitask. “What happens when you get to be my age is that you get tired. I used to be able to juggle a whole pile of balls in the air.”

She says that the realization that she can no longer handle many tasks at once is shocking.

But she doesn’t envy the young people that she teaches one bit. “One year, my students asked me if I feel jealous of them, because they’re 18 and in a wonderful state and I’m a hag. And I said ‘Well, if I were a believer, I would be down on my knees thanking the goddess that you only have to be 18 once in your life.’”


MTC’s new electronic fare system is no magnum opus, seniors say

June 2009

Despite a claim by an official of the Montreal Transit Corp. (MTC) that implementation of its new Opus electronic fare card is proceeding smoothly and there have been few if any complaints, some Montreal seniors say they have run into difficulties obtaining the card while having their I.D. photo taken.

Following the introduction last year of the Opus card, bus tickets, as well as CAM bus/metro passes, have almost disappeared. And electronic cardboard passes loaded with six fares, which the MTC had also deployed, are gradually being phased out as the MTC adopts Opus as its pre-paid standard.

The Opus card, designed to be loaded with 10 fares at a time for $20, has been available until now for $3.50 but is rising to $7 on July 1. After that date, an Opus card will be the only way to get on the bus or metro, unless you’re paying one fare at a time for $2.75 in cash. While regular users don’t require a photo on their Opus pass, seniors and students who pay a lower fare do.

Josephine and Hugh McQueen, two retired residents of Notre Dame de Grâce, went to the Monkland Centre one recent Saturday morning to be photographed. They had also decided to take up an offer the MTC had made to seniors of a free Opus card in exchange for their old golden age public transit I.D. passes. The Monkland Centre shoot was one of several the transit agency set up to accommodate those unable or unwilling to travel downtown.

“They advertised they were going to start at 10 in the morning, so we decided to get there at 9,” Hugh said. “There were about eight people ahead of us, but unfortunately nothing had been set up by the Opus photographing unit. Nor had anything been set up by the caretaker of the place. And so people kept arriving and filling up the seats and there weren’t enough seats for everybody.

“Of course, there was a great deal of confusion because no one knew who would be coming first,” McQueen added. “I think for some of the people who came later than us, it was extremely confusing and when we left there were still more people arriving, and they had perhaps ten times as many people waiting as had already been served at that point.” Even now that the McQueens have their Opus cards, they remain confused about charging them with fares.

Norm Shacter, a retired Westmounter, complained of being forced to wait in line after going to have his picture taken at the Opus card photography outlet on University St. He said he wasn’t aware there were any other options even though he tried to find out on the MTC’s website. “I felt it was unfair because we’re very elderly and waiting an hour for us is a lot harder than waiting is for students, most of whom were listening to their iPods,” he said, adding that there were no seats.

A glance over the last few weeks at the Montreal Gazette’s Squeaky Wheels question-and-answer column suggests that many transit users in Montreal are also mystified by the Opus system. The card can be purchased at metro stations and at some private retail outlets. Once you have a card, you must put put the monthly fee on the card at the beginning of each month at an automated console, located in the metro station.

While instructions on the console invite users to purchase fares by inserting $20, it is not clear that you must first have an Opus card.

The MTC also has a secondary system of electronic passes made of cardboard. Initially designed to hold up to six fares at once, these cards are now being issued with just one fare at a time.

The MTC has encountered other problems with the Opus system. For technical reasons, some combination train, bus and metro fares can’t be on an Opus card at the same time.

According to Marianne Rouette, an MTC spokeswoman, nearly 672,000 Opus cards have been sold by the MTC since last year when they were launched. She expressed surprise upon being told of the complaints. “We made a lot of publicity about the fact that we were going to have different places where the picture and the Opus card could be issued,” she said about Shacter’s remarks.

Concerning the seating problem, she added, “It might have been a busy day.”


What's Happening June 2009


Thursday June 11 at 3pm the watercolor art class of Place Kensington Seniors Residence presents their annual vernissage and painting sale. Portion of proceeds donated to Batshaw youth and family centers. Wine and cheese will be served. 4430 St. Catherine W. Info: 514-935-1212.

Until June 26 Concordia University presents their 7th annual graduating students exhibition with works representing a wide range of fine arts disciplines at 1515 St. Catherine. Info: 514-848-2424 ext. 7962

Until August 2 Mile-End Gallery presents Abstraction, an exhibition of abstract art by the artists from the Collectif Ame-Art. Vernissage June 18 from 6pm - 8pm. Info: 514-271-3383.


Mondays at 10am the Teapot 50+ Center has a walking group at 901 St. Joseph, Tuesdays there is a cycling group, and Fridays Scrabble is offered. Info: 514-637-5627

June 10 at 7:30pm Atwater book club discusses The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf. 1200 Atwater. Info: 514-935-7344.

Saturday June 27 at 9:30am Montreal Urban Hikers walking club hold their monthly weekend walk in Nun’s Island at 38 Place du Commerce. There will be a car pool from Lionel Groulx Métro at 9am. Confirm before June 20 and bring water and comfortable shoes. $2. Info: 514-366-9108.


Wednesdays from 11am-12pm Centre Greene, 1090 Greene, offers tai-chi based movement and stretch classes. Info: 514-931-6202.

Thursdays at 2pm Centre Greene, 1090 Greene, offers ballroom dance classes for those living with stage 1 and 2 Parkinson’s. Must bring an able-bodied partner. No drop-ins. Info: 514-484-2016.

August 24 to 28 Centre Greene holds the Green Avenue Ballet Camp. Age 8 and up. Registration ends July 17. $240. Info:

This Spring and Summer Atwater Library offers computer workshops in Flicker, family history research, booking travel online, facebook, job hunting, ebay, blogging, powerpoint, searching the web, windows, e-mail, excel and word. Info and registration: 514-935-7344


Friday June 12 from 1pm-3:30pm the Catherine Booth Hospital hosts its Osteoporosis Clinic day at 4375 Montclair. Refreshments. Info: 514-481-0431.

Saturday June 13 at 7pm and 9pm Studio 303 presents Danse Pour Tous with performances of African dance, yogadance, contemporar y and hoopdance. $5 in advance, $10 at the door. Info: 514-393-3771.

Co-owners of MonTango: Andrea Sheperd and husband Wolfgang Mercado doing the tango at NDG park

Wednesday June 17 at 10:30 am Unitarian Church of Montreal hosts a midday meal with music. Bridge and scrabble at 10:30am, music and meal at 1:30pm. $5. Info: 514-934-4956.

Wednesday June 17 at 1pm Scottish Centre of Montreal hosts a Gordonians Whist at the centre located at the corner of Stephens and Champlain. $2.50. Info: 514-768-1301.

Wednesday June 17 from 8am-7pm the Teapot 50+ Center invites you to join them for a day in the 1860’s and travel back in time to a place where ever ything was simple at Upper Canada Village. $33. Info: 514-637-5627.

June 20 at 8pm Single Person’s Association invites all 35+ singles to their June Mix and Mingle Dance Party at St. Catherine Laboure Churrch, 448 Trudeau. $12. Info: 514-366-8600.

June and July National Council of Jewish Women of Canada offers its 2009 summer travel festival with trips to Ottawa, Charlevoix, Hudson Village Theatre, Saratoga Ballet, Upper Canada Playhouse, Lac Brome Theatre, and Festival de Lanaudiere. Info: 514-733-7589.

Sunday June 28 at 10:45am Unitarian Church of Montreal hold their annual picnic service in Westmount Park. Bring your own chairs, food and blankets. Info: 514-485-9933

June 25 and 30 Atwater Libaray presents a beading workshop at 1200 Atwater. $25, includes supply kit. Advance registration required. Info: 514-935-7344.


Monday June 15 at 7:30pm the Jewish Geneological Society of Montreal presents a lecture by Simon Jacobs titled The History of the Jewish Community Quebec City, at the Gelber Conference Centre, 5151 Côte Ste. Catherine. Info: 514-484-0969.

Tuesday June 16 at 7:30pm Rabbi Ebbin leads a discussion titled What’s Love Got To Do With It: Sex in the Bible at the Beth Zion Congregation, 5740 Hudson. Info: 514-489-8411.

MonTango, 5588A Sherbrooke W., offers free trial classes in Argentine tango from June 22 to 25 at 6pm. The regular summer session begins June 29. Also, from June 26 to Aug. 28, the school holds tango in NDG park every Friday from 6 to 9pm, with an introductory lesson at 6:30. Everyone welcome, with or without a partner. Info: 514-486-5588 or

Tuesday June 16 from 7pm-9pm Loblaws Cavendish hosts lawyer Allan Gold, who will lead a lecture and discussion regarding wills. 6600 St. Jacques. Info: 514-933-0643.

June 17 at 2pm and June 18 at 7pm Robert Adams reviews Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall. $25. Info: 514-488-1152.

Starting July 2 CSSS Cavendish is offering Jog Your Mind - a free ten week series for seniors designed to promote cognitive vitality. 5800 Cavendish, rooms 20-21 from 9am-11am. Info: 514-484-7878 ext. 1366.


Tuesday June 16 at 6:30pm Symphony Grand Salon in Delta hotel hosts the MCO’s Viennese Concert Ball. The Montreal Chamber Orchestra is fighting to continue its mission of providing free concerts to Montrealers. Proceeds go to Funding the MCO. $150, $70 tax-deductable. Info: 514-871-1224

Friday June 19 at 8pm St. Johns United Church, 98 Aurora in Pointe Claire, hosts the Palmetto Mastersingers and Montreal Welsh Male Choir. Repertoire: Mozart to Motown, Beethoven to Beatles. $15. Info: 514-693-1186.


June 12-20 St. Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival presents Alex Eddington performing a solo comic monologue titled Tired Cliches at 4170 St. Urbain. $11. Info: 514-849-3378.

Friday June 12-14 at 8pm Westmount Community Theatre performs The Ballad of the Sad Café at Westmount Park Church Hall, 4695 de Maisonneuve W. Free. Donations are welcome. Info: 514-486-7423.


CLSC René-Cassin is looking for volunteer greeters to man the medical clinic. And on Monday June 15 volunteers are needed to help out at an elder-abuse awareness event. Info: 514-488-3673 ext. 1351.

June 17 - June 25 from 10am to 11pm the Yiddish Theatre Festival is looking for volunteers to help staff the festival. Participants will be assigned hours according to their schedules. There will be an orientation session on June 15 at etiher 5pm or 7pm. Info:


Province takes on Alzheimer’s challenge

June 2009

In a show of solidarity to the 120,000 individuals and their families across Quebec struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease, 500 walkers converged at the Quay of the Old Port for the third Rona Memory Walk organized by the Alzheimer Society of Montreal on May 31. Across the province, 20 other Alzheimer Societies organized walks as well, with the goal of raising $2,000,000 to improve the Society’s programs and services. “We make up a large family of solidarity,” said Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay. “There is a strong message of hope; ever y step is important.” Alzheimer Montreal raised over $83,000.

The supporters of the 5km walk heard some good news as Yves Bolduc, minister of health and social services, said that Quebec will create an action plan regarding the management of Alzheimer’s Disease and other chronic illnesses. Bolduc made public a report drafted by a team of experts, led by Dr. Howard Bergman, an internationally renowned researcher in aging, titled Relever le défi de la maladie d’Alzheimer et des maladies apparentées. The recommendations in the comprehensive report, which pinpoints challenges and defines objectives, will play an integral part in the strategic plan that the health ministry will elaborate over the next six years, Bolduc said.

500 walkers joined the memory walk at the Old Port Photos: Kristine Berey

Hope came also from Marguerite Blais, the minister responsible for seniors and families, who said that the province recognizes the crucial role caregivers play in managing the illness and that funds would be available to help them. “Of a budget of $200 million over 10 years, at least 75 per cent will be devoted to people who work with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or a related illness. The ultimate goal is to sustain, accompany, relieve and inform people who care for their loved ones in circumstances that are often very difficult.” Alzheimer’s Disease, a neuro-degenerative illness, has no known cure and no reliable method of early diagnosis. Although medications can now slow its progress, there is no treatment that can alter its course. With the aging of the population, the number of people affected is rising astronomically. “One out of five baby-boomers can expect to suffer from Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Bergman says.

While this year 100,000 Quebecers have the disease, in 20 years 160,000 will be affected. In the United States, the advanced stage of the disease is diagnosed in a patient every 70 seconds. In 2000, costs related to the illness across Canada reached $5.5 billion.

Yet, internationally, research into Alzheimer’s and related dementias remains chronically underfunded. According to Bergman’s report the funds allocated to Alzheimer’s by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research represent 3 per cent of their budget. In 2007-08, $26 million was allocated to Alzheimer’s research while $170 million was earmarked for cancer research. The impact of this disease on the health care system is underestimated, Bergman says.

Gilles Duceppe walks alongside Helen Fotopoulos and Marguerite Blais

For example, Alzheimer’s patients with another chronic illness will stay in the hospital twice as long as a person the same age and with the same illness but without Alzheimer’s. Research is also important, Dr. Bergman said, because it is conceivable that not far in the future a medication may be developed that may alter the course of the disease, in which case early diagnosis would be imperative. Recently Dr. Hemant Paudel of McGill University and the Lady Davis Research Institute at the Jewish General Hospital took one step closer to that goal. Paudel discovered that the action of a single phosphate on a particular protein in the brain is the culprit responsible for the tangles that wreak havoc in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. “The possibility of early diagnosis now exists,” Dr. Paudel says. “The enzyme which puts this phosphate on [the protein] can be targeted by drugs, so therapies can be developed. This discovery gives us, for the first time, a clear direction towards the early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s.”

Dr. Bergman’s report is available in French at

For information or to donate to the Alzheimer Society of Montreal, call 514-369-0800.


Making decisions for a parent is difficult

June 2009

Your parent has received a diagnosis of dementia. After years of concern this should not come as any great surprise. So where do you go from here?

Let’s take a step back. The time to have the “conversation” with your parents about what they would want if they were not able to care for themselves is when they are healthy and before they become cognitively impaired. Let’s also assume that you have a mandate in the event of incapacity. With the “conversation” and the mandate, you are equipped to make the right care decisions.

A diagnosis does not mean immediate change. It is a medical confirmation of what you have probably guessed. It’s possible to stay in our own homes as long as there is no safety risk.

Questions to ask before making drastic changes

• Has your parent ever wandered away from home or got lost?

• Is the person eating properly; has there been any noticeable change in weight?

• Is the house in reasonable order, or is laundry piling up and garbage accumulating?

• Does your parent smoke; have there been any accidents; is there evidence of cigarette burns?

• Are showers being taken regularly?

• Do you feel that your parent could make proper judgment calls if asked for money?

• If there were an emergency would your parent be able to call 911 and explain?

• Are they willing to accept help at home?

• Are there any physical issues; are the stairs in the home a safety risk?

At some point it may become clear that the parent can no longer live alone, even with home care help, and a move begins to seem like the only choice. This is one of the hardest decisions a child will be faced with.

What distinguishes Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) from other illnesses is that logical and intelligent discussions with the parent are no longer possible.

Ideally, all siblings agree on the move and where it will be. Family support is so important. Support groups can also be extremely helpful for adult children as well as for spouses. Children with little support from family or friends can find themselves in a very lonely place. We should all look around our circle of family and friends to see if we should offer a helping hand to anyone who may be in this situation.

An adult child in denial mode who is unable to make decisions as needed can compromise a parent’s safety.

How nice it would be for children if their healthy parents sold that three-story home before they became unable to manage on their own. This applies not only to the cognitively impaired, but also to those who have physical challenges.

Questions and comments can be sent to bonnie@


Byron’s picks for this year’s Fringe Festival

June 2009

The 19th edition of the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival runs from June 11 to 21 and includes 90 presentations. Most are about an hour long and will be shown six or seven times each.

Chris Gibbes is detective Antoine Feval

Prices range from $4 to $12. The paid events are spread out in 10 theatres and three “off fringe” venues downtown. In addition, there are 43 free events at the Fringe Central outdoor stage, located at St. Laurent and Rachel, along with the beer tent and box office, where you can pick up the essential free program of events. Now for this year’s top picks.

Brazil Nuts marks the fourth appearance in Montreal of the inventive Susan Jeremy. Her 1998 show Was That My 15 Minutes? won the Just for Laughs prize. Brazil Nuts deals with gay and immigrant rights.

How to get your Foot in the Door Without Losing It brings back Derick Lengwenus, a favourite deadpan comic. jem roll will perform his newest routine, Leastest Flops, having recharged his batteries in Laos and Vietnam. This energizer bunny motor mouth is ready to charm us with updated versions of his best work. As well as adding some new pieces, Jem also promises to be more theatrically physical to heighten his comedic, lyrical and always witty repartee.

The cast of Pre/Intervention

Dance Animal, choreographed and directed by Robin Henderson, is our own Montreal version of Hollywood’s Busby Berkely. Featuring 10 well- coached dancers, this extravaganza literally explodes before your eyes.

Pre/Intervention is written by actor Graham Cuthbertson. Six top young Montreal actors portray a family in crisis as the daughter moves into her first apartment. They describe the piece as a “meta-theatrical comedy of errors.”

Penumbra is directed by Montreal favourite Paul Van Dyck, who has performed in Paradise Lost, Sahara Crossing and Dracula. He has been able to corral an all-star cast of four to put on Katherine Dempsey’s play about sex and technology through two couples at different stages of life and love.

Tired Clichés, created by the “King of the Fringe,” T.J. Dawe, will knock your socks off. Although this year marks T.J.’s first absence in Montreal since his first appearance many years ago, he is well represented by a new production of this show, performed by award-winning Alex Eddington, resident artist at Tarragon Theatre of Toronto.

Last year, Jonno Katz of Australia impressed with his direction of the successful show The Sputniks starring Elison Zasko. This year, he wrote and acts in The Accident, a fusion of theatre, comedy and dance involving two brothers and cooking.

Dance Animal is wild

Six life-size puppets and the live, effervescent Lana Schwarz come from Australia in Granpa Sol and Grandma Rosie. Schwarz plays Nurse Jackie at an eldercare facility, who discovers there is far more to aging than getting old. This highly visual show mixes verbatim testimony with endearing comedy.

Antoine Feval is “Victorian England’s most overlooked detective” who emerges from the shadow of Sherlock Holmes as embodied by Chris Gibbes. Clueless deduction meets deceit in 75 deliciously funny minutes.

Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is adapted by Neal Corrin into a streamlined 75-minute version.

This group of grads from N.Y.U.’s heralded theatre program have become a favourite of the Edinburgh Fringe. Sportssexdeathporn is described as a dance theatre multimedia work centering on a naïve housewife lured into her husband’s Ponzi scheme.

Don’t overlook the many fine French shows as well, including one by Pablo Picasso (yes, that Pablo!).

For information, call 514-849-FEST or visit


British to Yiddish at the Segal Centre

“This is England, circa 1890, where the British gentry are fair game for Gilbert’s razor sharp wit,” explains the director of Pirates of Penzance, Bryna Wasserman. “The star of the show, before anyone steps on stage is without a doubt, the translator.”

Gab Desmond plays Fayvl and Kerry-Anne Kutz is Malka photo: Randy Cole

Al Grand’s adaptation whimsically transforms the popular standard from British to Yiddish. The original English plot line remains intact with Frederic, an apprentice indentured to pirates until his 21st birthday, wooing Mabel, the Major General’s daughter, only to discover that he was born on a leap year and won’t be free to marry her until 1940.

In the Yiddish version, the Major General becomes the Groyser General, an Orthodox Jew and friend of Benjamin Disraeli. Mabel is Malka, Frederic becomes Fayvl, a Yeshiva student, and Ruth, the hard-of-hearing nursemaid who mistook her master’s instructions to apprentice the boy to a pilot (not pirate), becomes Rivke. To her, the wayfaring pirates brandishing their swords appear as a group of kosher butchers and the mayhem that ensues is pure Gilbert and Sullivan hijinks, replete with tongue-in-cheek satire and the legendary high-speed patter.

“It’s fun to go back and forth between the 19th century British silliness and sarcastic, campy Yiddish remarks – and remarkably smooth,” said an actor backstage.

Pirates of Penzance continues until June 16 at the Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre, 5170 Côte Ste. Catherine. Tickets range from $17 to $44.

Call 514-739-7944.