By Kate Lunau - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
A controversial new test could determine your actual biological age and reveal just how many years you have left
Tomiko Kadonaga, who turned 100 on Jan. 8, will tell you she’s had an easy life. Others would say differently. Kadonaga, who was born in B.C. to Japanese-Canadian parents, was placed in an internment camp during the Second World War, housed with her husband, Saul, in buildings intended for livestock. “The stall where I was had a little blue card outside that said, ‘First Prize Cow,’ ” she says with a wry smile. “I thought, ‘At least I’m first prize.’ ” Her godmother offered Saul a job on a farm in Port Hope, Ont., and a way out; leaving all their possessions behind, they moved to the area in 1942, and had a daughter. Saul died of esophageal cancer in 1989.
Today, Kadonaga, who lives alone in a neatly kept townhouse in Toronto’s north end, is the picture of contentment. Her legs bother her a bit, she says (she gets around with a flowery purple cane), but otherwise she’s in good health. In Canada, average life expectancy is 81, yet more people than ever are living to be 100. In 2011, we had 5,825 centenarians, according to Statistics Canada, up from 3,795 10 years before. As life expectancy continues to rise, it could hit over 17,000 by 2031. Why some people outlive almost everyone else—and remain in good health, even into very old age—remains one of the grand questions of science. Researchers have credited everything from diet and exercise to genetics. A clue to the secret of Kadonaga’s longevity, one we’re only starting to understand, lies buried deep within her cells: the tiny bits of DNA that cap the ends of her chromosomes, called telomeres.
Telomeres shorten as we age, but the telomeres of centenarians are remarkably long, according to Gil Atzmon at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York—more like those of people three decades younger, or even younger than that. Often compared to the plastic ends that keep shoelaces from fraying, telomeres prevent chromosomes from unravelling and fusing to each other. Each time a cell divides, some of the telomere is lost; when it becomes too short, the cell dies. Telomeres are protected by a powerful anti-aging enzyme, one produced by our own cells: it’s called telomerase, which rebuilds telomeres and protects them from wearing down, a discovery that won scientists Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak the Nobel prize in 2009. Healthy people with longer telomeres seem to be at lower risk of age-related illness, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer—the main diseases that stop us in our tracks today.
By Anne Kingston - Sunday, April 21, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
How the Buddhist tradition has been marshalled to grow profits and productivity
When Janice Marturano conducted the “mindful leadership experience” workshop last January at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, she was hoping for an audience of 20—at most. “I was prepared for one or two,” the founder and executive director of the Washington-based Institute for Mindful Leadership admits. She needn’t have worried. There was a lineup; people were even turned away. More than 70 of the world’s most influential people crammed into the room, many standing for 90 minutes to learn “techniques for developing focus, clarity and compassion.” The next morning, Marturano led a meditation—a Davos first—that drew 40 people, two-thirds of whom had never meditated before.
The spectre of masters of the universe chanting Om at Davos serves as only one measure of how “mindfulness” has become the new Western mantra. The technique, linked to Buddhist practice, teaches being present in the moment, always attentive to, and accepting one’s thoughts and responses, without judgment. In a 1977 study, mindfulness pioneer Jack Kornfeld presented the approach as a remedy to Western excesses, or “the egoistic, hedonic treadmill of continually avoiding discomfort and seeking pleasure from outside sources that are ultimately unsatisfying and short-lived.”
Mindfulness entered the medical mainstream in the 1980s as a clinically proven method for alleviating chronic pain and stress. Since then, it has metastasized into an omnibus panacea—to help children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder concentrate, soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder recover and, now, Fortune 500 executives compete. In Paul Harrison’s upcoming documentary, The Mindfulness Movie, psychologist Guy Claxton frames the benefits in mercantile terms: “At the most basic level, mindfulness enables you to get value for money out of life,” he says.
By Anne Kingston - Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 8:00 PM - 0 Comments
Class-action suit puts a spotlight on the rising use of SSRIs among expectant mothers
Last December, the Supreme Court of British Columbia set a bold precedent: it green-lit the first class action suit in Canada alleging that an antidepressant taken by a woman during pregnancy caused a birth defect in her child. Faith Gibson of Surrey, B.C., named “representative plaintiff,” had been prescribed Paxil, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), in December 2002. Her daughter, Meah Bartram, was born in September 2005 with a hole in her heart. The defect was repaired months later, but Meah remains a “sickly” child, prone to infection. Two weeks after her birth, Health Canada and Paxil’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline Inc. (GSK), issued an advisory stating that paroxetine (Paxil’s generic name) taken in the first trimester may pose “an increased risk” of cardiovascular defects.
Gibson’s lawyers allege GSK knew or should have known about the risks and that it failed to apprise Gibson or her physicians. Gibson had asked her doctor if she should go off the drug during pregnancy; she was told it was “100 per cent safe.” More than two dozen women have applied to be screened for class membership since December, says Vancouver lawyer David Rosenberg, who is representing Gibson.
GSK has appealed the decision to register the case as a class action; it contends it acted appropriately in its clinical trials, as well as in the safety monitoring and marketing of Paxil, updating pregnancy information as data became available, spokeswoman Michelle Smolenaars Hunter told Maclean’s.
By Nicholas Köhler - Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 8:00 PM - 0 Comments
From a POW camp in Japan, he saw the flash of Hiroshima; it was the light that would save him and maim him all at once
William Bell was born in Winnipeg on March 12, 1917, to Scottish parents: his father, Bill, a butcher, and Rachel, a homemaker. With his full lips, dark, quiet eyes and a great crop of the thickest black hair, he was an active boy, diving from railroad bridges into the Red River with the Riverside Boys Swim Club, and learning to box. The Depression forced him from school, and at 16 he hopped a rail car for work in B.C., felling trees by handsaw. When the Second World War broke he returned to Winnipeg and, along with his brother Gordon and many of his swim-club friends, enlisted in the Winnipeg Grenadiers. He was 22, Gordon just 19. “Bring back your brother,” Bill’s mother told him.
While stationed in Jamaica, Bill guarded a camp of German POWs, unglamorous work. Otherwise, his memories of that time came to revolve around food, the mark of a mind defined by the privations he’d soon encounter—a Dutch submarine laden with cheese and canned fish, the coffee and nights of beer—and Jamaica remained for him always a kingdom of rum-laced ice cream. Things changed in late 1941, when the Grenadiers left the West Indies for the lush hills of Hong Kong, arriving to the sound of bagpipes. Within weeks, they’d be plunged into brutal combat. On one mission, Bill stumbled upon a nest of Japanese machine guns. His comrade, shot in the neck, died instantly; Bill took a bullet to the hip. Days later, he helped fight the enemy off from a hollow, a dazzling flurry of swords raised above him. He shot one charging officer in the stomach and, with a burst from his Tommy gun, lifted a second in the air before he could savage Bill’s friend with his bayonet. Confronted with hurled grenades rolling underfoot, the Canadians tossed them back. When one landed beyond reach, Sgt.-Maj. John Osborn threw himself on it, sacrificing himself to save his fellows. “It was the bravest thing we had ever seen,” Bill later wrote in a short memoir.
By Sarah Elton - Monday, April 15, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
… conservationists on alert
If you know where to go in Toronto, you can shop for the most exotic of African bush meat: rodents from the forests of West and Central Africa, bats, even cuts of gorilla meat, an endangered primate. “It’s like a mini farmers’ market with tables set out,” said Justin Brashares, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of California at Berkeley, describing the makeshift markets he has visited in Toronto that are specifically set up to sell bush meat. “Animals are in boxes, some things in coolers beside the table. They sell it often in precut quantities,” he said. Small mammals such as bats, as well as fish from the continent, are the most common offerings but Brashares said that as much as 30 per cent of the meat sold can be primate. A vendor sitting at an empty table is a sign that there is more expensive primate meat for sale.
For the past 10 years, Brashares has been running an international study on the bush-meat trade, for which he has monitored the species of wild animals from West and Central Africa sold each month at dozens of underground markets in 40 cities across Europe and North America, including Toronto and Montreal. At every market, at least two locals record what is for sale, along with the quantity available, and send the information to Brashares, who plans to publish the findings. He has an ecologist’s interest in bush meat that grew out of his doctoral research in Ghana, where hunters kept killing a species of antelope he was studying. By examining the global bush-meat trade, he hopes to gain insight into why humans use wildlife the way we do—and the consequences.
The study is international in scope because what was once a staple food for a local population in West and Central Africa has become a globally traded commodity, just like quinoa or chocolate. This one just happens to be illegal in most countries in the world. According to the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, the global bush-meat trade is estimated to be at least $1 billion annually. While most wild animals smuggled into the West from all over the planet—not only Africa—are destined for the pet market, a significant number are headed for dinner plates. It is estimated that 25 million kg of bush meat arrives in the United States each year.
By Brian Bethune - Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
A scroll of an ancient story with a modern punch is reproduced down to the fingerprints
At 6.5 m wide when fully unfurled, with over 200 illustrations, many in rich colour, the manuscript in the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library in Hanover, Germany, is an object of beguiling and still mysterious beauty. It is a megillat Esther, the Biblical book of Esther in traditional scroll form, of the sort read aloud to congregations during the Jewish festival of Purim. Its date of origin—1746—has always been known, thanks to the comments of a scholar who saw it soon after it arrived in the library. But the scroll’s creator was unknown (until recently), it is more lavishly illustrated than most Esther scrolls and, most strikingly, the story is in German, not Hebrew, using text from a Christian Bible.
The allure of the Hanover scroll, both as art and as puzzle, made it a clear choice for the first facsimile scroll ever created by Taschen. The German art-book publisher’s reproduction is exquisitely exact, right down to every creased fold and thumbprint on the original. Taschen is launching its edition—1,746 copies at $700 each—this month in various European cities, New York and Toronto. Emile Schrijver, curator of Amsterdam’s Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, one of the world’s great collections of early modern Jewish writing, and co-author of Taschen’s Esther Scroll, will deliver a talk about it April 16 at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Jewish Studies. Schrijver feels both pulls. “I will speak about how I was able to identify the author,” he says in an interview, “but also how we should understand so unusual an object, a beautiful Jewish religious book in a Gentile language.”
The uncertainties surrounding The Esther Scroll mirror the contrary reactions evoked by the larger story of Esther. Whether taken as a historical account of how a brave Jewish woman turned the tables on a plot to exterminate all the Jews in the ancient Persian empire or, as most scholars think, a historical romance, Esther has always been among the most contentious of Biblical books.
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 3:25 PM - 0 Comments
So after weeks of being consigned to the bargain basement of possible royal baby names, Alexandra has surged in recent days from 10:1 odds to a 2:1 favourite. (Even “Barack” makes an appearance, at 200:1, mind you.)
Well, way back in December–when the pregnancy was initially announced–everyone was plumping for Elizabeth, or possibly Diana.
Here was the list from Ladbrokes, the betting agency:
Yet, within hours of the news that Kate was in hospital with acute morning sickness, I’d created a list of my favourite names for the future monarch—five for a girl and the same number for a boy, along with my reasonings. The first choice? Alexandra (Philip was my top pick for a boy).
While no one is going to know who’s right and who’s wrong until the baby is born—Kate recently said it’s due mid-July—it’s kinda nice to think the world is coming around to my way of thinking. At least in Britain’s gambling shops.
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 9:03 AM - 0 Comments
I always imagined that the cabbage rolls my mom and her sister make–the best, in my books–hail from some recipe that my grandmother’s ancestors brought to Canada from Germany’s Alsace-Lorraine region some 150 years ago.
Nevermind that cabbage rolls and Alsace-Lorraine have little to do with each other. More importantly, it turns out the Vi Moffat, the English woman who lived across the street from my mom and her siblings in Strathroy, Ont., was the one who shared the recipe with my grandmother.
Memories can be tricky.
The 7th annual Terroir hospitality and food industry symposium on Apr. 8 in Toronto, was dedicated to the stories, memories and culture that surround food. The impressive roster of speakers, with nary a French, Spanish or Italian representative in sight–an observation that Scandinavian chef and author Trine Hahnemann pointed out as being indicative of the changing of the guard, so to speak, all had narratives swathed in nostalgic memories to share.
By Jason McBride - Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Meditation teacher gathers Consciousness Explorers Club in ‘collective wonderment’
The Consciousness Explorers Club meets once a week in the living room of a four-bedroom Victorian in the heart of Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood. It’s a spacious room, with high ceilings and walls covered in large tapestries, one of which depicts a tiger. The floor is a sea of oversized throw pillows. The members of the club—a couple of dozen show up on a regular basis—do not, upon ﬁrst glance, look like the wild-eyed psychonauts the name of the organization might conjure. Several members of the creative class—the filmmaker Ron Mann, playwright David Young, journalist Marni Jackson and novelist Christine Pountney—are occasional or frequent attendees, but there are also students, doctors and scientists, most dressed in clothing that would not be out of place in a yoga class. The average age is probably 35. Every Monday, the club meets for a 40-minute guided meditation (a $10 donation gets you in the door), and then, after a tea break, to discuss topics that range widely, from childhood to urban stress. These conversations are called “collective wonderment.”
The club was started a year-and-a-half ago by Jeff Warren, a Toronto-born journalist, meditation teacher and the author of 2007’s The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness. In that acclaimed and amusing book, which the San Francisco Chronicle described as an “Oliver Sacks essay turned inside out,” Warren systematically charts 12 different states of mind, from lucid dreaming to trances, using himself as his primary guinea pig. Before writing The Head Trip, Warren, a lithe, compact 42-year-old, studied literature at McGill and worked as a producer at CBC’s Ideas. At school, he was, in his words, “a disregulated partier,” and it was only after he developed ADD in the wake of a massive brain injury—high on psilocybin mushrooms in his final year, he fell 30 feet out of a tree—that he became fascinated by what he calls “all these flavours of consciousness that people aren’t really aware of.”
One of the flavours that most intrigued him was at the centre of many meditative practices—what he called “a raw, undiluted substrate to conscious experience that forms the backdrop to everything else.” Warren began to dabble in Buddhist meditation toward the end of the decade it took to research The Head Trip. The techniques—which, through extended periods of contemplation, simultaneously develop both detachment and a heightened awareness and sensitivity—helped relieve his chronic neck pain (Warren spent three months in a brace after his accident) and provided a sense of emotional ballast. The immersive intimacy of a week-long retreat in Scotland in 2005, however, was even more epiphanic. Warren realized that meditation was “a dignified attempt to come to grips with being human with the resources you have right there. Not depending on some guru, or some drug, or some psychotherapy. Just a very simple technique that, repeated again and again and again, will eventually change the way you relate to the world at the deepest level.”
Buddhist meditation (as well as other contemplative practices, like Transcendental Meditation) has beguiled North Americans since the beatniks. In the last decade or so, however, it’s become undeniably mainstream. Many progressive companies now provide training in mindfulness, as do hundreds of hospitals, and Buddhist meditation retreats are the new spa getaway. Meditation has become a kind of cure-all, in fact, shown to alleviate depression, improve academic performance and dull pain. But Warren was less interested in meditation as a relaxation and self-help technique; for him, it was the key to understanding how thoughts, emotions and sensations truly function and a method to improve how they function.
As Warren points out, Buddhist monks have spent more than 2,000 years studying their own brains and behaviour. And in the past decade or so, scientific interest in meditation has boomed. In 2000, there were two U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded mindfulness studies; in 2008, there were 128. “Interest has exploded in clinical and applied psychology,” says University of Toronto psychology professor Michael Inzlicht, “and also more and more with cognitive scientists. Meditation’s been shown to be effective in clinical treatment. We know it works and now we want to know why it works.”
Warren wanted to know why it worked too. He was fascinated by the potential cross-fertilization of science and spirituality (neither of which alone were sufficient, he felt, in accurately representing the world). In 2008, after having attended dozens of retreats, spoken to several teachers and read “a tonne of books,” he met Shinzen Young. An American meditation teacher, mathematician and linguist, Young had studied with Sasaki Roshi, Leonard Cohen’s teacher and, at 105 years old, the world’s oldest Zen master. Warren is staunchly anti-guru, but Young became, at least, a life-altering mentor. Warren calls Young a “Mendeleev of the mind”—referring to the creator of the periodic table of the elements—and Young has in fact created a system of 13 meditation techniques that synthesize several contemplative techniques (mostly Buddhist), while largely stripping them of their religious content. Briefly, the techniques consist of different ways of mentally “noting,” or acknowledging and focusing intently on a sensory event (your breath, an emotion, or even a car alarm going off outside your apartment), and then observing that event until it disappears. The techniques are simple, even dry, but the potential benefits enormous: a reduction in mental and physical suffering and an increased sense of fulfillment.
Warren now teaches those techniques himself several times a week, in workshops that typically last seven weeks, and which cost almost $400. (His modest income also comes from speaking engagements and journalism—he’s a regular columnist at the online magazine Psychology Tomorrow.) In casual conversation, his mind can seem like it’s elsewhere, and it often is. When he teaches, however, he’s irreverent and charismatic, and his workshops lack the solemnity typical of many meditation halls. (On his website, he says he will “help you . . . stop acting like a shit.”) “You don’t have to have some kind of secret New Age habit,” he says. “You can enter into a juicy, joyful spiritual practice and keep every bit of your scientific rigour. You don’t have to be so open-minded your brain falls out.”
The novelist Barbara Gowdy started meditating with Warren in the hope of reducing the debilitating back pain from which she suffers. To a skeptic like her, his jargon-free approach was irresistible. “He reminds me of a young Ram Dass,” Gowdy says, referring to the renowned American guru. “He could be a cult leader if he wanted. But he’s too kind and open. He genuinely wants to help.”
Warren now plans to move the Consciousness Explorers Club out of his living room and turn it into what he calls a “21st-century community centre,” where meditation enhances and encourages social justice, activism and creative innovation. (And fun—the club also now hosts a monthly dance party at a Kensington Market bar.) “The whole point of this is first you work on yourself,” he says. “But you do it so you can be more efficient at helping others.”
Late last summer, Warren sought to increase his own efficiency by spending a month in a straw bale house in Alabama, meditating alone for 18 hours a day, under the supervision of Daniel Ingram, author of the infamous Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book. That arduous experience, which Warren chronicled in the New York Times, will become part of his next book, about his own rocky path towards enlightenment. “I don’t know anyone who’s satisfied with just clocking in and out,” he says. “There’s a hunger for meaning. There’s a demand for people to manage their own minds because of the pressure of technology. All this stuff is happening. How do you begin to direct this energy? How can you take that and bring it to people in a way that’s fun?”
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
Made with crowberry, cloudberry and Labrador tea, the Quebecois spirit is grabbing global attention
Gin drinkers, so the stereotype goes, are strong in personality, stiff in the upper lip and, above all, British to the bone. They write about the travails of the poor, diseased masses (Charles Dickens) when not ruling over them (Queen Elizabeth II). They drink it before, during and after sex and/or fisticuffs (James Bond), or bombing Germans (Winston Churchill). In other words they are so much the personification of their preferred tipple: dry, cold, faintly medicinal.
Strange, then, that the recently declared best gin in the world is made across the pond from Mother Britannia—way across the pond, in the hinterland of French North America. Since 2010, Quebec-based Domaine Pinnacle has produced Ungava, a gin made with botanicals harvested exclusively from the Ungava Peninsula, the province’s northernmost point.
It is a difficult gin to miss. When Ungava won a Best of Show award at the prestigious World Spirits Competition last week, a judge noted its “unusual colour that helps grab your senses.” It’s perhaps the most polite way of drawing attention to Ungava’s yellow tint, about which Pinnacle president Charles Crawford is slightly more blunt. “It’s a bit like morning’s vitamin-enriched urine,” he says. His PR people prefer “sunshine yellow.”
By Nicholas Köhler - Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
Sammy Davis Jr.’s sex romps, Michael Jackson’s ruthlessness: Paul Anka’s memoir is an explosive glimpse of the stars he knew and loved
In his autobiography, entitled—what else?—My Way, after the tune he wrote for Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka comes off as a Dante figure, returned from the depths of strange netherworld landscapes—Las Vegas, Los Angeles—dragging up to the earth’s surface a trove of forbidden gossip. “Frank, of all the women you’ve known,” Anka, the aging Ottawa-born teen idol, asked Sinatra shortly before his death, “who was the best in bed?”
You might think Sinatra’s reply—which by the way was Angie Dickinson, praise that fellow Rat Packer Dean Martin, apparently in a position to know, seconded—would remain locked in the subterranean vault of the American entertainment business back in Anka’s heyday, with its high-wattage machismo, the drinking, hookers and collusion with the Mob. A thing of confidence—secret, in other words. Instead Anka, whose name in Arabic means “noose,” as in a hangman’s, dishes on all his famous pals, crafting that rare thing: a celebrity memoir that’s fun to read.
In the lead-up to its publication, and the release of his first CD in six years, Anka is already causing a stir, with expansive excerpts in Britain’s Daily Mail and a TMZ-broadcast rant in which he scolds rapper Jay-Z for not returning his call. There’s something peculiarly Canadian about his comeback—the way Anka’s memoir, told from the point of view of a smart but wide-eyed Ottawa boy visiting the land of excess and crookedness down south, serves to puncture its myths. Here is an aging Dean Martin, sitting in a restaurant with his false teeth in a glass, or Sinatra showing him his colostomy bag. Who knew Anka was the keeper of such secrets?
By Julia McKinnell - Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 12:30 PM - 0 Comments
The mysterious process by which we ignore betrayal
One night, Julie Stone (a pseudonym) arranged for a babysitter and surprised her husband by waiting for him at his favourite bar. “As my husband came inside, a woman jumped up and went over to him and they kissed. When they stopped kissing, he looked up, and our eyes met. I’m kind of watching this and he walked over and said, ‘I don’t know who that woman was.’ I believed him. I thought, ‘That was weird’ . . . and whoosh! That was it. I spent the rest of the evening with him dancing. I never questioned him again about that woman.”
“Whoosh?” ask Jennifer Freyd, a research psychologist at the University of Oregon, and Pamela Birrell, a clinical psychologist, who cite Stone’s case in a new book. “What exactly is this mental process? You could say we study ‘whoosh.’ We have come to call this ‘whooshing’ away of important details ‘blindness betrayal.’ It means you do not, or cannot, see what is there in front of you.”
Stone’s case is one of many Freyd and Birrrell looked at when studying what they call “betrayal blindness”: the mind denying the overwhelming and obvious evidence that one is being betrayed. The phenomenon isn’t limited to the issue of fidelity. A child can be blind to a parent’s betrayal or an employee can turn a blind eye to mistreatment at work. How and why it occurs is the topic of their book, Blind to Betrayal: Why We Fool Ourselves We Aren’t Being Fooled.
By Michael Friscolanti - Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
He loved the Saskatchewan Roughriders almost as much as ice fishing. To learn to be a plumber, he moved to Edmonton.
Jason Leslie Michalycia was born in Prince Albert, Sask., on May 20, 1979, the first son of Leslie Michalycia, the maintenance man at an orphanage, and his wife Jean (née Assman), who sold cemetery monuments. He spent his early childhood in Indian Head, a farming town of 1,500, before the family, including little brother, Curtis, moved west to Regina. “He was a good kid, happy-go-lucky, never got mad at anybody,” his mother says. “He had a little bit of a speech impediment, but as the years went on, it got better.”
Jason was his father’s son. Even as a young boy, he spent hours at his dad’s side, fiddling with engines in the garage or baiting hooks on the ice. “He was a good older brother, too,” says Curtis, three years younger. “One day my parents gave us candy and I ended up dropping mine in the mud. I was very upset, but Jason gave me his last piece with no delay.” Once, when Curtis accidentally whacked another kid with a shovel, Jason took the blame. “He ended up being grounded for something I did. But he didn’t care.”
James Coleman, Jason’s best friend, met him in Grade 5. “Me and him, we were both the class clowns,” Coleman says. “He did a lot of goofy stuff and made us all laugh.” At home, Jason had a habit (equally goofy) of taking things apart to see how they worked. “He was very inquisitive—very inquisitive,” says Don Leir, his uncle. One afternoon, Jason’s dad came home to find his new mailbox in pieces. “He loved to take things apart, but then he couldn’t get them back together half the time,” his mom laughs. If someone asked what he was doing, Jason’s answer was always the same: You’ll see. “Sometimes he’d finish,” Curtis says. “But usually he moved on to something else. You always heard, ‘You’ll see,’ but you rarely saw.”
By macleans.ca - Monday, April 1, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
Photo essay: Close up with the animals of East Africa
When Anup Shah set out in 2007 to photograph the wild animals and birds of the East African plains, he wanted to show them as they’d never been seen before. He camouflaged his camera with mud and even elephant dung and put it on the ground. Then he waited in his car 50 to 100 m away, and watched, trying to determine just when to trip the shutter by remote. He spent four months of each of the next four years travelling, and considerable money in replacement cameras, to get the photographs for his new book, Serengeti Spy, where the images take the viewer right into the centre of the stampeding herd.
Elephants dusting themselves
Juvenile male Cheetah on bonnet of a vehicle
Black-backed jackals feeding on a wildebeest carcass
Mature male lion
Eastern white-bearded wildebeest
An adolescent lion
By Julia McKinnell - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 4:39 PM - 0 Comments
Punishment isn’t the way for the misbehaving feline
What should you do if your cute little kitten grows into a stalking beast that sinks its fangs into your flesh or leaps up to the counter to pee into a teacup? Some cat owners shout at their misbehaving felines or swat them on the nose, but punishment can teach a cat to view its owner with fear, and do nothing to remedy the biting, scratching and peeing outside the box. To stop bad cat behaviour, you could medicate the animal or, worst-case scenario, euthanize it. Or you could do what many vets are doing with their own badly behaved cats: you could heed the advice of an Oregon woman, Mieshelle Nagelschneider, a.k.a. the Cat Whisperer.
Nagelschneider is a former veterinary technician whose uncanny ability to communicate with cats is known to cure the toughest cases—cats that claw the living room drapes, pee in their owner’s shoes or defecate on pillow cases. In her new book, The Cat Whisperer: Why Cats Do What They Do—And How to Get Them to Do What You Want, Nagelschneider promises a cure for nearly every behavioural cat problem; medication is rarely needed, and change takes place in about 30 days. “Cats who have never groomed another cat will lick away at their buddies—and grow all the closer. Cats who have slept apart will curl up next to one another. When I do a follow-up visit,” she writes, “in place of a battlefield I walk into a feline Eden . . . There’s no hissing, fighting or attacking.”
Nagelschneider, a farm girl whose parents raised goats and cows, discovered her talent for taming brutish animals at the age of 4 when she cut out a pair of bunny ears, disguised herself as a rabbit and hopped into a corral where a lone, ornery bull was penned. Her parents had warned her: the bull charged anyone who came near it. Somehow Nagelscheinder knew not to look the bull in the eyes, she explains in the book. She averted her gaze as she reached up to pet the fur on the bull’s head. When her parents found her, the bull was lying beside her, allowing her to caress its neck and head.
By Manisha Krishnan - Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 8:00 PM - 0 Comments
A farm boy from birth and an inveterate family man, he had finally found time for travel and new adventures
Kevin Wayne Wadham was born Sept. 16, 1962, in Uranium City, Sask., the third and youngest child of Keith, a farmer, and Lillian, a housewife. When Kevin was 2, his father bought a cattle and grain farm in Virden, Man., and the family moved.
Kevin, his four-year-old sister, Patricia, and five-year-old brother, Brian, were quickly immersed in the farming world, joining the 4-H club. Though Kevin loved cattle, he despised horses. When the three kids took part in an annual musical ride, his gelding, Spitfire, would always buck unexpectedly. To take revenge on his siblings, who were much better on horseback, he would hide in bushes and scare them while they were riding, or pick up rats and chase the kids around. “He was a brat,” says Patricia. “Most of the time, we’d beat him up.”
Stubborn and blunt, Kevin relished arguing, sometimes getting under his mom’s skin just for kicks. But the Wadhams were tight-knit, often taking camping trips together and travelling for the boys’ hockey games and Patricia’s figure-skating competitions. Kevin was devoted to hockey and played throughout school, including when he went to college in Fairview, Alta., in 1980.
By Pamela Cuthbert - Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
So reviled that it’s at risk of vanishing, this pungent fish deserves a second chance
Next time you order a pizza, you might want to tell your server not to hold the anchovies. The time is now to champion this little stinker, or risk losing it altogether. “We’re asked all the time for anchovies,” says Dylan McCulloch, co-owner of the Daily Catch in Vancouver. “I’ve called all my suppliers, but we can’t get them.” And that’s not because of a run on anchovies in the culinary world. Millions of tons of this oily, bony fish are caught each year, yet instead of getting served up freshly grilled on toast, or salted and cured in olive oil for making fragrant tomato sauces for pasta, they are being turned into fish meal to feed livestock and farmed fish and, given their very high omega-3 content, are being processed for fish-oil supplements.
It’s no wonder; there’s not much competition from the human market. In a world dominated by bland farmed salmon and insipid shrimp, most of us have forgotten to enjoy the anchovy, with its full-flavour impact. But now, a small group of believers is trying to resurrect the pungent anchovy. Some, like chef Lee Humphries of Vancouver’s C Restaurant, who grew up in northern England, have had to overcome a childhood hatred of the tinned fish. Each year during the brief local midsummer harvest season, Humphries exerts considerable effort to get all the anchovies he can. It means cleaning, processing, curing and packing the year’s supply as soon as the catch is in. “It’s a labour of love,” he says of the tedious task of boning the minuscule fish, “but the anchovy is the perfect seasoning.” Humphries uses it in myriad ways: as a pasta-sauce base, with salads such as the house Caesar, in a winter classic of lamb seasoned with mint and anchovy. “It’s not fishy, but clean tasting.”
By Manisha Krishnan - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 9:13 AM - 0 Comments
A passionate athlete and outdoorsman, he was happiest on a ski hill or a frozen river
Peter Kirk Fachnie was born June 22, 1952, in Barrie, Ont., the first of three children born to Lionel Gordon Fachnie and Kathleen Piper. Lionel was a sergeant in the Royal Canadian Air Force, so the family moved often. After the birth of Steven, their youngest, the Fachnies left Borden, Ont., for Penhold, Alta. Lionel piled suitcases and blankets on the back seat of the car, a makeshift bed; Kirk, then 5, and four-year-old Claire stared out the rear window the whole way.
In Alberta, Kathleen, a bank teller, won the kids a pony in a contest. They named it Patches for its brown, black and white colouring. Kirk, a big fan of westerns, rode Patches alongside his dad in a fringed vest and a cowboy hat he was rarely seen without.
When Kirk was 10, his dad was posted to CFB Baden-Soellingen in Germany, where Kirk quickly made friends with the other army brats, playing hockey and baseball. His parents took full advantage of their European location: the family camped all over Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and France.
In 1967, the family moved to Ottawa, where the kids enrolled at Rideau High School. Kirk, 13, though shy at ﬁrst, eventually joined two rock bands, Buster Brown and Trillium, that practised in the Fachnies’ basement. Kirk’s passion was the guitar—he loved the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
By Anne Kingston - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
A look at the new psychiatric guidelines that are pitting doctors against doctors
Every parent of a preteen has been there: on the receiving end of sullen responses, bursts of frustration or anger, even public tantrums that summon the fear that Children’s Aid is on its way. Come late May, with the publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), however, such sustained cranky behaviour could put your child at risk of a diagnosis of “disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.” This newly minted condition will afflict children between 6 and 12 who exhibit persistent irritability and “frequent” outbursts, defined as three or more times a week for more than a year. Its original name, “temper dysregulation disorder with dysphoria,” was nixed after it garnered criticism it pathologized “temper tantrums,” a normal childhood occurrence. Others argue that even with the name change the new definition and diagnosis could do just that.
“Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder” isn’t the only new condition under scrutiny in the reference manual owned and produced by the American Psychiatric Association (APA)—and lauded as psychiatry’s bible. Even though the final version of DSM-5 remains under embargo, its message is being decried in some quarters as blasphemous. Its various public drafts, the third published last year, have stoked international outrage—and a flurry of op-ed columns, studies, blogs and petitions. In October 2011, for instance, the Society for Humanistic Psychology drafted an open letter to the DSM task force that morphed into an online petition signed by more than 14,000 mental health professionals and 50 organizations, including the American Counseling Association and the British Psychology Society.
Of fundamental concern is a loosening and broadening of categories to the point that everyone potentially stands on the brink of some mental-disorder diagnosis, or sits on some spectrum—a phenomenon the American psychologist Frank Farley has called “the sickening of society.” One change summoning criticism is DSM-5’s reframing of grief, that inescapable fact of life, by removing the “bereavement exclusion” for people who’ve experienced loss. Previously, anyone despairing the death of a loved one wasn’t considered a candidate for “major depression” unless their despondency persisted for more than two months or was accompanied by severe functional impairment, thoughts of suicide or psychotic symptoms. No longer.
By Celia Milne - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
Modified in the lab, the Indian curry spice curcumin ‘may be better than a condom’
Could an Indian curry spice become the next big thing in contraception? Curcumin is a natural chemical that gives the common kitchen spice turmeric its yellow colour. Derived from the root of the turmeric plant, it has a history of health benefits spanning thousands of years. “Curcumin has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine in India, to treat almost anything—wounds, joint pain, stomach flu, headaches,” says Dr. Rajesh Naz, professor and vice-chair in the department of obstetrics and gynecology as well as microbiology, immunology and cell biology at West Virginia University, in Morgantown.
Published scientific experiments on curcumin show it has an ability to neutralize many tiny chemical reactions in our bodies. “Anything that is growing fast, it inhibits,” says Naz. This knowledge inspired him to test it as a spermicide. “I read studies showing it works beautifully in inhibiting cancer cells, which are fast-growing. The other fast-growing cells are sperm. They move fast and are highly energetic. I had this idea four or five years ago.”
Naz, who grew up in India and studied medicine in both India and the U.S., is a huge fan of turmeric. He eats it twice a day and even sprinkles a little on his toothpaste to wash away mouth bacteria. “It has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties,” he says. A vast amount of medical research confirms these healing properties of curcumin, and dozens of clinical trials are under way to further test its effectiveness in a wide range of diseases.
By Brian D. Johnson - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 7:45 AM - 0 Comments
A rag-tag opposition forms to battle the African rebel leaders who put guns in the hands of children
Outside their small village in South Sudan, a brother and sister, aged 12 and 13, were eating mangoes in the bush when the bogeyman snuck up behind them. In central Africa, the bogeyman is real, and takes the form of Joseph Kony’s infamous Lord’s Resistance Army, a terrifying cult of guerrilla fighters who, since the late 1980s, have been kidnapping children and moulding them into child soldiers and sex slaves. That day the LRA surprised the kids eating mangoes, they ran. “We fell,” the boy recalls. “They caught me and my sister and took us to the main road. They tied ropes around our necks. My sister screamed and they hit us with a machete.”
But this story ended differently than most: the villagers struck back. “We waited until dark,” says the father of the abducted kids, “then ambushed the LRA at midnight. We shot at them. Some ran away. Others died. I was overjoyed because I thought I’d never see my children again.” The father and his children tell their story in a new Canadian documentary called Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children, based on the 2010 book by Canadian senator and retired general Roméo Dallaire. And their posse is an example of villagers in South Sudan forming ragtag bands to defend their villages against kidnappers—like bush versions of a neighbourhood watch. Often armed with little more than bows, arrows, spears and machetes, they have been dubbed the “Arrow Boys.”
Patrick Reid, the film’s director, followed Dallaire through Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan on a mission to investigate the use of child soldiers. Dallaire, forever haunted by his role heading the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwanda that bore witness to the genocide, has made the issue his personal crusade. Joining Dallaire in Africa was photographer Peter Bregg, who also worked on the 2007 documentary Shake Hands With the Devil, based on Dallaire’s previous book. Bregg’s images offer a rare glimpse into the world of the Arrow Boys.
By Kate Lunau - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 7:30 AM - 0 Comments
The green jobs sector is no longer a niche
For Chris Rogers, owner of Corporate Chemicals and Equipment in St. Catharines, Ont., the wake-up call came when his father Cecil was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 2000. Cecil, who owned the business before Chris took over, had worked in the industry since he was 18. “He opened my eyes to what he thought was the cause,” Rogers says: the vats of chemicals that surrounded Cecil through his working life. “I started to rethink things.” The company, which makes and sells sanitation supplies, started going green—a philosophy that’s affected everything from products to marketing and, of course, its employees. “The green chemistry of today is the everyday chemistry of tomorrow,” he says. The same could be true of green jobs.
Canada’s green economy is growing fast. Our clean-technology sector, made up of more than 700 companies, saw an 11 per cent jump in employment between 2008 and 2010, according to a January report from the Pembina Institute, a non-profit environmental think tank. Once considered a niche, the green-jobs sector is now comparable to the booming oil and gas extraction sector, and has exceeded the aerospace industry, says a 2012 report from Analytica Advisors, an Ottawa-based consulting firm that specializes in clean energy.
- The future of jobs
- College-corporate partnerships
- After the oil boom
- Colby Cosh on the state and education
Canada’s “green-collar jobs” aren’t just found at clean-technology firms. More than 12 per cent of the Canadian workforce “has some sort of environmental initiatives within its work,” says Grant Trump, CEO of the non-profit ECO Canada. Another four per cent of the workforce spends more than 50 per cent of its time on environmental activities, he says. And 17 per cent of Canadian companies—318,000 in total—employ one or more environmental professional.
By Julia McKinnell - Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 8:00 PM - 0 Comments
For the faithful, the Bible offers a wealth of wisdom, including nutritional advice
Christine Andrew, a nutritionist from Vacaville, Calif., has a pet peeve: obese preachers who rail against the sin of adultery while ignoring the sin of gluttony. “They’re quick to talk about licentiousness and alcoholism,” Andrew said in an interview on the phone. “But how come they don’t talk about food and health? Churches want you to pray for [parishioners’] kidney disease and diabetes complications—and they continue to eat their cakes, cookies and pies. I think they’re in denial. That’s why I wrote the book.”
Andrew, who was raised Presbyterian, is a devout churchgoer and author of a new diet book for Christians called Food Isn’t What It Used to Be: A Biblical Approach to Health. Gluttony, lack of self-control and junk food are the main reasons people are getting sick, she says. “The Bible says to deny yourself. Gluttony brings consequences.”
In 2008, Andrew began researching her book by sifting through the Old and New Testaments for references to food and teachings on self-control. “Christians are to bear the failings of the weak,” she writes. “If someone who is overweight eats at our table, we shouldn’t put soda and doughnuts before them any more than putting wine in front of someone who is struggling with alcoholism.” There are examples in scripture of those who go astray, she points out. Samson in Judges 13:24-25 gave in to his weakness, lust, leading to his downfall. “If doughnuts or soda are your downfall and you know this, apply the principle of self-control.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Jason McBride reports on the Canadians competing to win the title of Best Sommelier in the World
To be the best sommelier in the world you must be able to do several things, and to do them swiftly and perfectly. You must not only be able to blindly identify thousands of different kinds of wine, you must comprehensively describe their flavour profiles, pinpoint where and when the grapes were grown, and state the most appropriate foods with which to pair them. You must do all this in two minutes, and in a language other than your native tongue. Your knowledge of every other kind of spirit, from absinthe to vodka, and even non-alcoholic beverages like tea and mineral water, will be similarly tested. In a simulation of fine-dining service—timed, like everything—you must demonstrate you can efficiently and smoothly pour a bottle of wine to one, two, possibly a dozen guests. A single spilled drop, or the incorrect fold of a napkin, may cost you points. And you must do it all with an audience of 5,000 watching.
It was in preparation for this, the Best Sommelier in the World competition, to be held in Tokyo later this month, that a handful of the country’s top sommeliers were gathered at Momofuku Toronto on Valentine’s Day morning. It was only 9:30 a.m. and the restaurant was technically closed, but its beverage director, along with master sommelier Bruce Wallner, had transformed its upstairs bar into a boozy boot camp. A half-dozen decanters filled with various red and white wines, along with 12 glasses, were arrayed on a table in front of Véronique Rivest and Will Predhomme. The 47-year-old Rivest, who lives in Wakefield, Que., and works at Les Fougères in Chelsea, 15 minutes north of Ottawa, is currently considered the finest sommelier in the country—she won both the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) competition and the Pan-American competition in Brazil in 2012. Predhomme, 31, is the head sommelier at Canoe, routinely ranked as one of Toronto’s best restaurants. They are both representing Canada in Japan—the first time we’ll have two candidates in the competition, one of the trade’s most prestigious events.
By Kate Lunau - Monday, March 11, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The ISS — ’alive, in real time,’ thanks to Twitter, Tumblr and Google+
Half a billion people watched Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, in grainy black and white, in 1969. Today, millions are connecting with Chris Hadﬁeld through images, too—the stunning, high-resolution photographs of Earth he beams back from the International Space Station (ISS), where he’s lived since Dec. 21. Hadfield takes command on March 13, its first Canadian commander. Using social media to share his life in space, he’s become the most famous astronaut since Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Of course, they never had access to Twitter. The first live tweet from space came in 2010, but no astronaut has used it as proliﬁcally as Hadfield, who’ll often post several times a day, answering questions or retweeting enthusiastic commenters—maybe a school teacher, a fellow astronaut, or William Shatner—and sharing photos and observations. (Recently, on breakfast: “granola with dried blueberries, dehydrated vegetable quiche, instant pineapple juice, instant black coffee. Suit you too?”) His Twitter following has grown from 20,000 at the time of the launch to over 456,300 today, although tweeting isn’t one of Hadfield’s official duties.
At first, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) bosses were nervous it might cut into his packed work schedule. “For my own peace of mind, I wanted to know how long [each tweet] takes,” says Ed Tabarah of the Canadian astronaut ofﬁce, who managed Hadfield’s training. Hadfield, who returns to Earth on May 13, squeezes tweeting in between other tasks: science experiments, ISS maintenance, exercise to ward off effects of zero gravity, or live chats with public schools. And, of course, time spent resting or talking to his family.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Monday, March 11, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
A born leader with a passion for flight and film, he found his dream job on the TV series Dangerous Flights
John Frederick Driftmier was born Nov. 24, 1982, in Calgary, the first-born son of David, a schoolteacher, and Sophia, a psychologist. Peter, their second-born, would follow four years later. From a young age, John was a natural leader. At age 2, his dad dropped him off at a daycare before heading to church—the toddler’s first time in such a place. David was nervous, curious how his son would fit in. To his surprise, John used boxes as boxcars to organize a make-believe train with the other kids. He sat in front, running the show, acting as the train’s engineer. John, says his mom, was “born to direct people.”
An early obsession with trains later shifted to cameras and airplanes. By the time he was a teen, John yearned to fly. The fastest route to the sky was the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. “He was the son of two pacifists,” says David, who wasn’t keen on a military environment. But John was determined to fly, and joined the cadets at age 12.
The family didn’t own a video camera, but John would beg his parents to rent a camera once a year for his birthday party. “He had a whole movie organized in his mind and he would get the kids to act,” says David. “He would be behind the camera.”