Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Parta signs 2 new major customers in Europe as eValue™ Social Media ROI Suite is Ramping Up

In Beauty, book reviews, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Technology, travel, Writing (all kinds) on July 31, 2012 at 11:26 AM

Image result for Parta Dialogue


MONTREAL and PARIS, France, July 31, 2012, /CNW Telbec/ – Parta Dialogue (TSXV: PAD), an expert in Social Campaign Optimization and Social Learning, announces two new global customers in Europe for the eValue™ Social Media ROI Suite: a global software developer & a major public transportation provider.

“Today’s announcement continues to reinforce Parta’s complementary social media agency offering expert in engagement and optimization. Our experience has given us the unique ability to solve our customers’ social media pain points. As the strategic global early adopters list continues to grow, we believe it will further propel the eValue™ Suite into the spotlight of America, Europe, and Asia,” states Paul Allard, CEO of Parta Dialogue.

The growing number of global brands adopting eValue™ confirmed by recent market trends indicates that marketers will require data to justify campaigns and social media marketing budgets. The Association of National Advertisers recently reported that 62 percent of marketers indicated that the inability to prove ROI in new media platforms is their current top concern.


PARTA offers Social Media and Social Learning solutions to its clients from offices in Montreal, Paris, and Mexico and is the developer of leading eValue™ Social Media ROI Suite:

Many visionary businesses already employ PARTA’s solutions for internal and external online engagement. Among these are Renault, Orange, Michelin, Hydro-Québec, Iusacell (Mexico), Dassault Systems, Nestlé Waters and Crédit Agricole.

PARTA is listed on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol PAD and operates through two subsidiaries:

#engagementlabs, an all-digital agency offering a targeted range of social strategies, customized engagement platforms and analytic tools to measure performance and ROI totally focused on social engagement &

edu-performance totally focused on internal engagement and productivity, Edu-Performance offers customized Social Learning and online training solutions:

“Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accept responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.”


For further information:Tom Liacas, VP Social Media
Parta Dialogue Inc.
+1 (514) 771-5120

Paul Allard, President & CEO
Parta Dialogue Inc.
+1 (514) 831-4245


In Beauty, book reviews, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Movie Reviews, Music, Opinion, Radio Podcasts, Religion, Technology, travel, Video Work, Writing (all kinds) on July 31, 2012 at 11:24 AM

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Guelph-Humber Student – Akim Burke’s Work

In Business, cars, Writing (all kinds) on July 31, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Akim Burke is a University of Guelph-Humber Media Studies Student

Akim Burke is a University of Guelph-Humber Media Studies Student

Image result for Akim Burke - University of Guelph-Humber

Over the last few years, there has been a significant shift in the automotive industry, and its big three superstars Ford Motor Company, General Motors (GM), and Chrysler. These three major auto retailers have hit a financially devastating pothole that has seemed to not then out quite yet. GM, Ford, and Chrysler have been the big men on campus for what may seem as forever within the halls of the auto production. Their sky-high sales and stock ratings are now a thing of the past and have come to an abrupt stop after the start of the recession. The recession has put a heavy damper on the Big 3’s sales and has substantially strained the financial capabilities, forcing GM to let go roughly 10,000 workers in the U.S and Canada combined, with Ford and Chrysler the following suit.

General Motors downward stock trends from December 2007 to November 2008 in the New York Stock Exchange (see below)

Ford Motor Company stock trends on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) see below

Sales have dropped in such a harsh manner that Ford, GM, and Chrysler have joined together with Ron Gettelfinger (President of the United Auto Workers) to plead for their own bailout from the government. It has been said by many that this is has been the worst sales since World War II. In other words, these well-known companies are on the verge of either bankruptcy or higher layoff figures.

Along with the devastating blow from the recession, another notable fact about domestic dealers against imports is the fact domestic dealers like the big 3 cannot really sell their vehicles in other countries besides North America because of the sheer size of the vehicles they sell. Whereas the foreign import brands have the ability to sell their products in their own countries and also in foreign markets while still making a profit. Import brands such as Toyota and Nissan have become the forerunners within the auto industry, and have begun to leave the original Big 3 behind. This is a fact that is surely very sobering to the North American auto producers. It looks like the there has been a dramatic change in supremacy in the auto industry, having the tables turn in favour of import brands and against domestics.

Moreover, as time has passed, the criteria and methods by which consumers buy products (cars especially) have been altered as well. Now because of the recession consumers are more aware of how and what they spend their hard-earned dollars on. Therefore big-ticket items such as a vehicle take great contemplation and meet most if not all of the standards they have. After hearing the thoughts from some members of the public, it has been a sort of consensus on what criteria a vehicle must meet before they commit to placing any money on the table. A car must be reliable, gas conscious, and affordable.

The reliability of a car is an essential criterion that is probably on in the top 5 on most car buyer lists. To have a reliable car takes a sizeable amount of worry out of the driving experience. By not having to think about if a car will break down or fall apart soon. Take Mearle Hodgins for a prime example, with his 1992 Scottsdale Chevrolet 1500 half-tonne truck. Hodgins is a retired from a 20-year managerial position with MSA (Mine Safety Appliances Company). This was a job that had him traveling on a regular basis, sometimes for extended distances. For 17 of those 20 years at MSA, he owned the Chevy truck (made by General Motors). When asked about the longevity of his vehicle he said, “For the 17 or so years I`ve had that truck, besides the routine check-up every few thousand kilometres I haven`t spent any money on repairs or things like that. It has really been the best car I`ve driven, besides my old Corvette” he chuckles.

In addition to the reliability of a vehicle, it must be a gas conscious car, not a guzzler. For 18-year-old high school student Thanuya Mohanathas, this is even more so important because of her extremely busy schedule. She currently owns a Honda CRV, sports utility vehicle. She candidly explained why she decided on her purchase of the CRV instead of another brand or vehicle; “First of all, I need the space because I`m usually the drop off the person of the family and I like to go out with a few friends every now and then. And have you seen how high the prices of gas were a few months ago when I just bought it. I needed something that would get me where I needed to be, on time, and still let me keep some money in my pocket for important things like food” she laughed. Though gas prices have lowered recently, it is still one expense that can be kept at a more desirable rate for a driver.

Furthermore the third on the top 3 criterion a vehicle must have is affordability. This is something that is a concern for most consumers, not just because of the recession but just in general. By having an affordable vehicle, it allows consumers to free up cash, which would otherwise be wasted away on the purchase of this big ticket item. Consumers are in a time where funds may be either low or just cannot be spared because of other bills and things of that nature. Affordability is a dynamic very high on University of Guelph-Humber student Kristina McGarry, who currently owns a Nissan Xterra, but is searching for a new smaller vehicle, possibly an Acura 3.2 because the expenses for her current SUV are getting too high. “I’m looking for something that won’t kill off my bank account since I am a student and all. Because I love my Xterra but I’m just not feeling how it`s just taking a huge portion of my paycheque, do you get me”? She said. I suppose by her new choice of car which just happens to be an import brand as well, domestic brands maybe are too highly priced especially for students, and new drivers.

By the slope domestic auto retailers are slipping on, it appears to be that they are not meeting the standards potential customers are looking, which is forcing them to domestic brands that probably give more for their dollar, and even possibly more tailored to them during this time of financial strain. It may not be so much that domestic brands are not meeting some of their needs, not at the same level of their foreign counterparts.

Works Cited
Financial Post. Market Snapshot: General Motors. 20 November 2008. 20 November 2008.
—. Market Snapshot: Ford Motor Company. 20 November 2008. 20 November 2008.
Praet, Van Nicolas. “Automakers must plead their case again.” 20 November 2008. Financial Post. 20 November 2008.

Office Space

In Beauty, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Movie Reviews, Opinion, Writing (all kinds) on July 30, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Jennifer Winters Writes About the Movie Office Space – Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Winters

Image result for Movie Office Space (1999)

Written by: Jennifer Winters

When I think of the words office space, I can’t help to think of the movie titled “Office Space” (1999).

Where people living in the 90’s working for a software company and not fulfilling their true desires out of life. We all have days where we are at work and nothing is going right. No matter how hard we are working, the universe is trying to tell us, “Today is not going to be the day.” We have all had our Unnerving bosses that demand ay too much of us, or they know it all employee who you would like to express a few words which are not “happy birthday.” There is this one specific scene of this movie that I hold very dear to my heart. While just getting fired from the software company the three gentlemen are driving and one of the guys took a “going away” present for them to enjoy. You just watch this movie to get the full appreciation, but they had stolen a printer and smashed it into little bits with a baseball bat in an open field. I had recently gotten the chance to do the same, at work not too long ago; we were closing down the store for good and had an old printer that could not be saved. For almost 6 months we were all saying, “we can’t wait for office space the printer.” Taking aggravation and frustration on work equipment seems to have some sort of release and coping mechanisms while not hurting anyone. Its moments like this that I do like, that those who take on jobs that are not necessarily their passion but having a steady income takes determination to be able to stick it out. Hopefully, soon there will be enough jobs that everyone can get the chance to do what have really wanted and not have to settle.

Pride In, Pride Out!

In Beauty, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, travel, Writing (all kinds) on July 29, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Jennifer Winters Writes about Pride Past and Present – Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Winters

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Written by: Jennifer Winters

A couple of months ago I was asked by a friend what is the purpose of the pride parade, and for the first time in almost 5 years, I was stumped without an answer. As a proud member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgendered, Intersexual, Queer, Questioning, 2-Spirited community, it just seems to get a little much and I lose the purpose of why I march.

I had to sleep on the question that my friend had asked me, and I started to think about why I had marched in the first place. For me it was about finding acceptance, holding my head high and not being afraid of whom I was. When I found out there was a pride parade for all of these things I had jumped on it, and wanted to be a part of “my own kind”. The fact that I had to Google the correct terminology I found ironic.

Jennifer Winters Writes About the Pride Festival in Toronto – Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Winters

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Does it really matter what sexuality you are, or what gender identity you have? The word pride means a feeling of self-respect and has satisfaction with the achievements you have made or striving to make in one’s life. Being proud of yourself for accepting who you are is one of the hardest things to do, but do we really need to parade all of our bits to everyone to see.

This year I had made an executive decision to skip pride this year, due to all the politics that have been involved with protests and “making a statement”. It is my understanding that pride isn’t about making a statement it is to be proud. There are still some countries where women are not allowed to have their face seen, we are in the year 2010, and that is still happening, until we are all equal there shouldn’t really need to be separate parades for different sexualities. I completely respect those who do the march for those who can’t, and if that was that I would be right there with them, but it has gotten drug and booze infected as the years go by, even though there are clean spaces available it just doesn’t feel the same. This is not to say that I won’t go in years to come, but a year off to gain some perspective of the reasons why I march is something that I am willing to take a look at. For some, it is just one big party, but the politics of it just don’t seem ideal in my opinion.

This Flag is a Symbol of Gay Pride – Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Winters

Image result for Pride March in Toronto

This could be me just being bitter and I can certainly accept that. Some of my friends including myself got a lot of flak for “not standing up for our cause”, may cause is to make sure we still have what we always wanted, freedom. The freedom is to be whoever we want to be, and be successful, freedom from within, and having a choice. Going back to the original question that was asked of me “the purpose of a pride parade” I had to tell her it is no longer about what it once was. As long as I have my rights, and I am proud to be who I am, I do not need to march about it, straight people don’t have a parade, and do we really still need one? That is the question I have for you.

How to Talk to Crazy People – Book – Emerging Cover Design

In Writing (all kinds) on July 28, 2012 at 8:29 PM

Laurie Cover - 4

My editor, Laurie Kallis, came up with the great idea to give a more sparkling title to my book coming out in the fall of 2012 with Donna Kay Kakonge, M.A. The book`s former name was Only My Voice…now it is called How to Talk to Crazy People. The photo above is another version of the working cover design also by Laurie Kallis, who also came up with that title for the chapter even.:-)


In Beauty, Creative Writing, Culture, Environment, Health, Living, Media Writing, Music, Opinion, Religion, Technology, Writing (all kinds) on July 28, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Feeling Inspired Can Sometimes Be an Effort - Photo Courtesy of

Feeling Inspired Can Sometimes Be an Effort – Photo Courtesy of

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By Nick Goodwin

I know what it is like to feel uninspired. Sometimes the only option is to channel this frustration and use your strength of mind. Create an opportunity for moving forward with something. Sometimes you won’t find the inspiration you’re looking for until you try something first. I’ve heard it said that experience comes from making mistakes, trial and error. If people did everything right on the first try we would have no need for communication.

I find my inspiration through people, including myself. As a human being I have needs and wants. These things keep me motivated. I find inspiration through music and being involved in the world. Getting out of the house often helps to rekindle my mind-state. You never know what you might see when you get out of the house or how it might make you feel. In any case, channel that energy into something positive and generate some inspiration for the future.

It is our imperfections that give us a chance to be unified. If people did everything right on the first try there would be no chance for jealousy to be turned to admiration using the power of good will. There would be no opportunities for acknowledgement. There would be no room for improvement. It is our imperfections that give us infinite room to grow.

No matter how great technology may become, the beauty is found within the simple things. Those who don’t try and take the time to appreciate life’s immediate privileges may miss out on the point.

1 Love TO

In Creative Writing, Culture, Entertainment, Living, Media Writing, Movie Reviews, Music, Technology, Writing (all kinds) on July 27, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Nick Goodwin Does a Review of a Website - Photo Courtesy of

Nick Goodwin Does a Review of a Website – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for I Love Toronto

By Nick Goodwin

A couple of friends of mine have put together a great website. It is a blog website which showcases Toronto’s arts and entertainment, as well as culture and cause.

Toronto’s is a great place to kill some time. There is new interesting material uploaded daily. The members in charge showcase many Toronto artists who are putting in work and creating new magic through their mind-boggling creativity.

1 Love TO is more than just a blog. The movement has profound intentions. The website is designed to generate attention and inspire feedback to Toronto’s art and culture.

People make beautiful things so they can share them with others. They want attention and feedback. It is a priceless concept to be able to share your opinion and is definitive when feedback is encouraged.

1 Love TO is truth being told in relation to Toronto’s development as an artistic community. It is a universal playground where communication is fast-paced. The concept “1 Love” is to stress that people of any place, face, or race are to be welcomed and considered with total respect. Help 1 Love TO leads by example and encourages the growth of a beautiful thing.

Maybe you have an interesting story about something in Toronto that you feel deserves universal attention. Contact 1 Love TO with your idea (bottom left on the homepage). Anything’s possible.


In Business, Creative Writing, Culture, Environment, Health, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Technology, Writing (all kinds) on July 26, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Discovering Appreciation Can Be Difficult in Our Busy Lifestyles - Photo Courtesy of

Discovering Appreciation Can Be Difficult in Our Busy Lifestyles – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Appreciation

By Nick Goodwin

Sometimes the hardest thing is being able to appreciate something when you know you have it the best. People can be insatiable and often the truth is that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. If people could appreciate the “now” to a greater extent they could be more conservative, creative, and intelligent.

In today’s society, everything is always on the go. For one, the laws of time keep us eager to get something done, to make a difference. One of the greatest things is when two people share an appreciation for something. Not out of respect, but, when two people actually share an appreciation for something by natural cause. We are all similar in structure but very different in personal particular interest.

It is important that we as people strive to have a greater appreciation for the world that we inhabit and try to understand thy neighbour. Take the time out of your day to express yourself honestly, however, respectfully.

A person’s day is like a great party. An awkward arrival. Your day begins and people start to arrive but you’re barely awake to make more than a few grunts of small talk. Once the place fills up nobody has time to listen to what you have to say, even though you have the energy to spill your guts. The equivalent of a busy day at the office. As people take off and make their way home through 5 o’clock traffic you have time to listen to the radio and be part of a diluted conversation. The equivalent of a hazy conversation at the end of a wild night.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that when society is in full function we lose a connection with each other as individuals. We lose sympathy, empathy, and considerable ability. We are focused and we have a purpose.

Survival of the fittest.

Only My Voice Renamed How to Talk to Crazy People

In Beauty, book reviews, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Disability, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Music, Opinion, Radio Podcasts, Religion, Restaurant Reviews, Sports, Technology, travel, Video Work, Writing (all kinds) on July 25, 2012 at 5:31 PM

Laurie Cover - 4

My editor, Laurie Kallis, came up with the great idea to give a more sparkling title to my book coming out in the fall of 2012 with Donna Kay Kakonge, M.A. The book`s former name was Only My Voice…now it is called How to Talk to Crazy People. The photo above is the working cover design also by Laurie Kallis, who also came up with that title for the chapter even :-).

What is honourable?

In Culture, Education, Health, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Writing (all kinds) on July 25, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Nick Goodwin Says You Should Treat Others How You Want to Be Treated - Photo Courtesy of

Nick Goodwin Says You Should Treat Others How You Want to Be Treated – Photo Courtesy of

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By Nick Goodwin

What is honourable? My idea of honour is living by a code of unconditional love and trust. I also feel honourable when I practice my abilities as an artist and express myself honestly. I don’t believe in a good defense or offense. Life isn’t a game, after all.

I do believe it is honourable to learn from your mistakes and to study the lives or your family. I think knowing the history of the world is a very honourable thing. To be open-minded and considerate are powerful traits not to be abused. Unconditional respect for those around you can sometimes be difficult but still commended in the end.

Breaking the bounds of opinion and respectfully pursuing what you feel to be your true path is something I try to cling to as honourable. What is honour? Is it a sense of self-respect? Is it selfish or ignorant? Honour could be what you make it. To make the lives of those around you better is honourable. To be selfless (not reckless or ruthless) is honourable. Honour is not a boring pursuit, but, a challenge of one’s universal integrity.

It is a debate of right and wrong – a considerate respect and appreciation. The unspoken efforts of those that help you get by, by your side. To treat those how you wish to be treated is honourable.

Happiness Shared

In Beauty, Culture, Environment, Health, Living, Opinion, travel, Writing (all kinds) on July 24, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Nick Goodwin Writes About Happiness Being Shared - Photo Courtesy of

Nick Goodwin Writes About Happiness Being Shared – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Happiness

By Nick Goodwin

One thing that I believe in is that happiness is most real when it is shared. It is the good and truth of understanding between two individuals. All of the life’s greatest joys are based on a perceived connection.

This doesn’t mean that you should spend your whole life insisting on person-to-person contact. I’m sure I would get lonely if I was isolated from people for too long, but a little distance never hurt anyone. It’s like the saying “if you love something, set it free”.

There is still a connection. An understanding between two individuals who travel separate paths. They keep each other going knowing the other would be proud. They keep themselves going knowing that they have the unconditional support of those that really understand them.

To be reunited is a very powerful experience.

I wouldn’t have the same appreciation for my family and home if I didn’t have to leave at some point. It is a comfort to know that people naturally turn to each other to share happiness. It is relieving to see people doing good in the name of a better life.

Clothing Line

In Beauty, Business, Culture, Education, Living, Technology, Writing (all kinds) on July 23, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Nick Goodwin Adds His Own Designs to Clothing - Photo by Nick Goodwin

Nick Goodwin Adds His Own Designs to Clothing – Photo by Nick Goodwin

By Nick Goodwin

I love to create original clothing. I am a design guy. Not too long ago I took the time to hand paint a whole bunch of plain clothing that I picked out. For some of the garments, I created stencils so I could reuse my choice of design. For other items, I simply created something one of a kind.

Nick Goodwin Creates Designs on Clothing - Photo by Nick Goodwin

Nick Goodwin Creates Designs on Clothing – Photo by Nick Goodwin

One of my goals is to have my own clothing line. My strategy to work towards this is to make a living as a freelance artist. I am experienced in doing graphic design, illustrations, murals, painting, custom clothing and creative writing.

Nick Goodwin's Creative Designs Continue to Inspire - Photo by Nick Goodwin

Nick Goodwin’s Creative Designs Continue to Inspire – Photo by Nick Goodwin

Everyday that I pursue this independently I learn a little more about the challenges that I will face. I have met a lot of people that already have their businesses underway. A lot of them have years of experience on me and it tends to make me even more anxious to get something going for myself.

Nick Goodwin Wants to Own His Own Clothing Line - Photo by Nick Goodwin

Nick Goodwin Wants to Own His Own Clothing Line – Photo by Nick Goodwin

I love being creative. A great privilege is to be able to make something that other people can see and appreciate for themselves.

This Design by Nick Goodwin is Perfect for a Club Scene - Photo by Nick Goodwin

This Design by Nick Goodwin is Perfect for a Club Scene – Photo by Nick Goodwin

Nick Goodwin Even Makes Skirts - Photo by Nick Goodwin

Nick Goodwin Even Makes Skirts – Photo by Nick Goodwin


In Culture, Living, Media Writing, Music, Opinion, Radio Podcasts, Technology, Writing (all kinds) on July 22, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Cover Art for Listening to Music By Donna Kakonge - Photo Courtesy of

Cover Art for Listening to Music By Donna Kakonge – Photo Courtesy of

Listening to Music

By Nick Goodwin

My best writing is done while listening to music. Music is my vice and my motivation. My parents are the reason why I love music so much. They used to take us on car trips when we were young. Every car ride with my dad we would listen to music on the radio or tapes. He would ask “Who’s this?” to quiz us and we would listen even more carefully to try and figure out who the artist is.


My mom isn’t the family expert on music but she’s pretty good. I’m sure my dad has helped her a lot with her musical index, as he is most definitely the one with the extensive knowledge of many different genres and artists.

When my mom was pregnant I think my parents spent a lot of time playing Bob Marley to make sure I was a relaxed and healthy child. I can remember being not much older than 7 and running and jumping off of a stool in the family room, rocking out to music while my parents would try and vacuum and clean up. We would pretend to air guitar and anything we did pretty much have a soundtrack. Wherever my Dad goes he has a radio. There is so much variety out there these days that we are all very blessed to live in this day and age. To be able to experience the amazing sounds of such legendary musicians is very incredible.

Music makes my world go around. I am open to every genre. I do not discriminate but I do prefer classic rock, folk music, and hip-hop.

To find out more about music, Donna Kakonge has a book called Listening to Music that can be bought at

Remix Fundraiser

In Business, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Events, Living, Media Writing, Music, Technology, Writing (all kinds) on July 21, 2012 at 3:00 AM
The Remix Project Has Changed Nick Goodwin's Life

The Remix Project Has Changed Nick Goodwin’s Life

Image result for The Remix Project - toronto

by Nick Goodwin

Just recently The Remix Project had a fundraiser at Circa nightclub for their “Give Money Make Change” campaign. At this fundraiser members of the project (including myself) were granted the opportunity to showcase their artwork at the event. I had three of my paintings on display at this momentous gathering. The Remix Project put together a great art show as well as a silent auction. The artists came through with beautiful photography, computer artwork, creative paintings, and more.

Give Money Make Change is a campaign that continues to operate. People from everywhere are encouraged to donate to such a unique and effective program.

The Remix Project provides a facility for talented at-risk youth from all over the city of Toronto. It is a place where a young person’s life can be entirely transformed and positive momentum is created.

Make sure to visit to understand how real this program is.

Donna Kakonge with Hugh Reilly and Sandra Kyrzakos on “Liquid Lunch” – – “Beautiful People” Upcoming

In Beauty, book reviews, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Disability, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Movie Reviews, Music, Opinion, Radio Podcasts, Religion, Sports, Technology, travel, Video Work, Writing (all kinds) on July 20, 2012 at 2:18 PM

The pilot episode of “Beautiful People” with will premiere live at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 23, 2012. The guests will be Isabel Murambiwa and Macs Shallwani. Feel free to watch the show as long as you want online forever!
Connect with Donna Kakonge at: to be booked on the show!

Second show already booked for Friday, September 7, 2012!

Practicality. What is practical?

In Beauty, Business, Culture, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Writing (all kinds) on July 20, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Nick Goodwin Knows that Being a Freelance Artist is For Him - Photo Courtesty of

Nick Goodwin Knows that Being a Freelance Artist is For Him – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Nicholas Goodwin - toronto

by Nick Goodwin

I think one of the hardest things about trying to be a successful artist is the reality that your ability to serve your community isn’t entirely practical. I have experienced many types of work apart from art-related jobs and they have helped me to become at least more practical than I would be had I decided to be strictly an artist.

One of the hardest things when it comes to dedicating yourself to being an artist is that often times you have to get out into the world and experience something through everyday struggle in order to be inspired. I would say that limiting yourself to very few activities that are constant routine would not be a very inspirational route. However, everyone is different and this is just my opinion.

I have had many jobs and I believe this is because to stay in one place for too long becomes too routine for me to feel that I am still developing in the way that I hope to. This attribute makes me unpractical to work for anybody but myself. I am a very good listener and try to be very understanding of others. I think these attributes are what help me a lot and make me a practical freelance artist.

My whole life I have been surrounded by family and friends that lead very practical and focused lifestyles. I have always been a little different in the sense that I always had a blurred vision of what I wanted to do because it never came with a job title and wasn’t listed in a post-secondary course selection manual.

Media Advisory – MP Bernard Trottier to visit Cancer Care Ontario

In Beauty, book reviews, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Technology, travel, Writing (all kinds) on July 19, 2012 at 3:10 PM

Image result for bernard Trottier, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore,

TORONTO, July 19, 2012, /CNW/ – Bernard Trottier, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, will visit Cancer Care Ontario to meet with researchers carrying out innovative health research projects with funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The visit is part of a series of visits that Government representatives will make to research institutions across Canada.

Date: Friday, July 20, 2012

Time: 11:30 a.m.


Cancer Care Ontario
620 University Avenue
Toronto, ON
M5G 2L7

Media are invited to proceed to the 7th floor where they will be escorted to the visit location on the 6th floor.

For further information:

Media Enquiries:
David Coulombe
CIHR Media Relations

Media Advisory – Minister Uppal to visit University of Alberta

In Beauty, book reviews, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Technology, travel, Writing (all kinds) on July 19, 2012 at 3:08 PM

Image result for University of Alberta

EDMONTON, AB, July 19, 2012, /CNW/ – Minister Uppal will visit the University of Alberta to meet with researchers carrying out innovative health research projects with funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The visit is part of a series of visits that Government representatives will make to research institutions across Canada.

Date: Friday, July 20, 2012
Time: 10:00 a.m.

Health Sciences Education and Research Commons
Edmonton Clinic Health Academy
University of Alberta
11405-87 Avenue
Edmonton, AB

As the entrance to the HSERC suite is undergoing renovations, a media table will be set up in the second-floor main corridor outside the suite to assist members of the media. Please also look for directional signage within ECHA.
For further information:

Media Enquiries:
Raquel Maurier,
Media Relations, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

David Coulombe
CIHR Media Relations

Twenty-Four Hour Toronto

In Business, Culture, Entertainment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Movie Reviews, Music, Opinion, Technology, Writing (all kinds) on July 19, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Nick Goodwin Writes About 24 Hour Toronto That Can Help You Find a Late Night Snack - Photo Courtesy of

Nick Goodwin Writes About 24 Hour Toronto That Can Help You Find a Late Night Snack – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Toronto, Ontario, Canada at night

By Nick Goodwin

Are you ever awake late at night and can’t find something to do? Sometimes people want to get out on a weekend but can’t find something creative enough to maintain their interest. This site is full of interesting places that you may not know exist within the city of Toronto.

Check out this website called 24 hour Toronto. They have listings for everything from late-night bingo to all night recreation facilities:

This site basically informs you of what exactly is open during the late hours of the evening or the early hours of the morning.

The website is not just for the locations of entertainment facilities. They provide you with important stuff like emergency numbers for facilities like youth shelters. However, they do also provide an extensive list of places where you can go to get your late night dancing in or your midnight snack.


In Beauty, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Pets, Religion, Writing (all kinds) on July 18, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Kirk Verner Writes a Poem – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Caterpillar

By Kirk Verner

As you blossom from a furry bug into a beautiful butterfly, I watch in amazement.

I think I like you both ways?

Your orange fur looks like skin.

Can you see me with your eyes?

The peak of your wing, peaks my interest.

Please don’t fly so fast.

I need a picture,

to remember this moment forever.

There…rest on that vibrant lily.

I love the purples and greens when they blend together like a colourful soup.

Come back to my garden soon butterfly…please!?

Kirk Verner

Donna Kakonge with Hugh Reilly and Sandra Kyrzakos on Liquid Lunch – Thursday, July 19, 2012

In Beauty, book reviews, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Movie Reviews, Music, Opinion, Radio Podcasts, Sports, Technology, travel, Video Work, Writing (all kinds) on July 17, 2012 at 7:35 PM

donna1 - by mary macdonell

Donna Kakonge will be making another appearance on “Liquid Lunch” Thursday, July 19, 2012. Check out previous, present and upcoming episodes of “Liquid Lunch” on @

Anti-Social Networking

In book reviews, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Events, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Technology, Writing (all kinds) on July 17, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Kirk Verner Writes about Anti-Social Networking – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Anti-Social Networking

By Kirk Verner

How about these social networking sites? How do you feel about them? Aren’t they great? I beg to be different and beg to differ. These mind-numbing social sites are all that people talk about.

“I have over 10,000 friends on MySpace. 3,500 people on Facebook. And, 143 people follow me on Twitter.” Imagine that, close to 14,000 people spying on your mundane daily activities; simply splendid!

“I love to share my personal thoughts with others. Everyone is so interested in me! Popularity rules!” I know how stomach-churning this may sound, but this is the sort of rubbish I have to overhear each and every time I decide to venture out merely to grab a cup of coffee.

I was having some computer issues the other month and was forced to take my laptop in for a slight overhaul. The computer technician said that I would be without my computer for only a few days. I didn’t think that a few days would be a big deal at all…I was wrong.

It did not take long for me to realize how much I missed my computer. I had only been without it for 21 hours when I became as lonely as Bambi. I truly missed my light-weight, digital companion. The way the “enter” button clicks when compressed is exhilarating!

Somewhere in that 21st hour, I decided that I MUST get to a computer and check my email; see, I’m a popular lad, even without Facebook, Myspace, or any of those other social networking sites. So, I needed a computer. Where to go? The only place I could think of that has free internet service was the library; load up the children, off to the library!

The library was basically empty. There was nobody scouring the long bookshelves for the perfect book. There was no one sitting quietly at a work-station, studying, learning, absorbing information. But, every single public computer, ten in total, was occupied. My knee-jerk reaction was to abandon ship and head back home, but I couldn’t leave. I reminded myself that I needed to crawl about the web, so I took a number and a seat and began to wait in my impatient manner.

After about 15 minutes of staring at the dirty carpeted floor, I decided to stretch my legs; I was getting a little eager, angry, and ready to leave. As I slowly moseyed past the ten glowing computer screens and the lethargic, code-blue-like patrons that sat on the stiff wooden seats in front of the screens, I noticed that nine of the ten computers were being wasted by simpletons surfing their way back and forth from social networking sites. All of a sudden I realized I had to get out of there in fear of losing control and raising my voice, in turn, breaking the unwritten rule of all libraries. So, I left. I wanted my own computer back!

I couldn’t believe what I was doing. My cranium became filled with unrest as I paced around like a psychopath, longing for my own computer. I had one email address to check, and this was how I was acting. It made me shake my head for a moment and wonder what it’d be like if I had two, three, or even four emails to check or sites to update. I don’t even have the time or enough patience to cook tomato soup.

Needless to say, I did get my laptop back within a few days. I was finally happy again. No more painfully, annoying trips to the library; back to the simple pleasure that only my “enter” button can deliver to me when struck. I hadn’t checked my email in three whole days. I figured there must be close to 50 emails waiting to be read in my Hotmail inbox…I was wrong again. I had four emails. Two of which were junk mail. So, much for Mr. Popular.

I don’t want to sound like a full-blown curmudgeon, especially at my young age, but I know that I am not the only anti-social networking human out there. Please people, just like masturbation and drug abuse, leave your social networking at home. Be a narcissist, and pat your own back in private.

New York’s Alright…If You Like Red Snapper

In Beauty, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Writing (all kinds) on July 16, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Kirk Verner Writes about Red Snapper in New York City – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Red Snapper

By Kirk Verner

The air is sticky, not hot and humid, simply sticky. I have never been to New York City before, so I assume this is how it always feels here in mid-June. The smell protruding from the sewer-covers is definitely as awful as I once read a journalist describe it by saying, “Once the sweet sickness from of [the] belly of this city hits your nose hairs, they’re turned to dust and you begin to gag.” It is that ridiculous.

It is great to know that it only took me nine hours on the Greyhound to make it here from Montreal; I am now in a world-famous city. Well, at least that is what “they” say; I will decide for myself; sixty hours and counting.

The bastards at the border patrol office pestered me and singled me out for questioning last night while crossing the border on the bus. The other passengers sure got upset when the questioning of me alone wasted a good hour of everyone’s time. The questions were amusing, “Got any drugs son? What’s with the tattoos? Are you a biker?” I mean really, what a pile of rubbish. But, that was last night; it is now a fresh day in America!

Where to start? So much to see and do; I should get to Battery Park. I heard that from there you can see the Statue of Liberty and it is also close to Ground Zero; must-see attractions. A fine local woman has been kind enough to sketch me out a crude map on a piece of loose-leaf I had in my bag. According to the map, I am destined to take the New York City subway.

These things are actually trains! Loud, obnoxious, and the tracks crawl with mice and rats; the rodents are all big in New York City. This is a lot different than Montreal. It won’t take me long to get to Battery Park, well at least not according to the map.

I made it, without even a knife in the ribs; New York City isn’t that rough. The air is twice as sticky down here in Lower Manhattan. Ground Zero is a sombre place; it’s hard to believe that on September 11, 2001, all those people were scurrying around here like little rodents in the subway tracks. It is an awful thing, kamikaze terrorism. I decide to buy a knock-off New York Yankees hat from a Chinese woman adjacent to the meagre site; I thought my hatred for the Yankees would remind me of this hideous part of town. I place the baseball cap on my head and continue roaming throughout the streets.

I guess my new Yankee hat makes me fit in. Three friendly fishermen greet with a smile as I discover that they are fishing for Red Snapper, directly in front of Miss Liberty herself. I have found Battery Park! Miss Liberty is nowhere as interesting as these three Chinese fishermen. I ask them if I could reel one in if they get a bite. They smile and all speak at once, “Yeah…yeah…you fish!”

It doesn’t take long before the men are shouting and handing me an enormous fishing-rod. This thing must be 10 feet long. The thick fishing-line glistens in the sun as I start hauling in whatever is shaking its head at the end of this massive pole; the test of this line must be high because I haven’t stopped reeling, and the line hasn’t snapped.

The great beast leaps from the scummy water, sort of a last-ditch effort for survival, as one of the men tries to net the angry fish. It takes him three tries to get to the floppy brute ashore. The Red Snapper stares at me with its glossy eyes as the men quickly tackle the task of skinning a 15 pound, greasy fish from the tainted waters that surround this island.

I cross my legs on the grass just beside a garbage can that the two butchers are missing badly with useless red snapper parts. I pour myself a vodka and orange juice from my bag, light a skinny cigarette, and enjoy being in New York City for the first time.

January 7, 2010

Sit Down Tracy

In Beauty, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Music, Radio Podcasts, Writing (all kinds) on July 15, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Kirk Verner Gives Props to Sit Down Tracy – Photo Courtesy of Kirk Verner

Listening to Music

Kirk Verner
February 24th/2010

Calling all Canadian music gurus! Calling all couch potatoes who are feed-up with boring, mundane bands from Toronto! Calling those who “think” they know what is hip and fresh, but truly have no idea due to their pop-culture brainwashing…extra detergent! I’m talking about a band that, in my eyes…I should say ears, will be soon taking over the airwaves and the Junos in the very near future. I classify them as a well-measured blend of Tegan and Sara, Hank Williams (the cool one…the original), and the White Stripes; they call themselves SIT DOWN TRACY!

The self-proclaimed indie/country/rock band, SIT DOWN TRACY, hailing from chilly Winnipeg, Manitoba, has recently commenced a tour, their very first, promoting their freshly press debut album, “Roaring Noon”.

The album is bound to perk an eardrum or two. The simply mesmerizing voice of lead singer and guitarist, Janelle Mailhot, is what will initially draw you to this band. The solid, steadfast rhythm section clashing with frolicking fingers on wooden fretboards is what will keep you tuned in until the last note of the last song on “Roaring Noon” is struck; did I mention that they also have an accordion player!
SIT DOWN TRACY is still just another unsigned Canadian band, but with a little exposure and some recognition, they are bound for success. The adventure starts tonight in Thunder Bay and will continue on through Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and many more communities not knowing yet what is on the way!

SIT DOWN TRACY will be in Toronto, at Rancho Relaxo, on February 28th at 8pm and again on March 6th at the Poor Alex, again at 8pm. If you’re not from the Toronto area, go check out the band’s Myspace page for show listings in Southern Ontario and Quebec.

So, forget about wasting your money on the latest ring-tones and go support something Canadian already! I’ll see you all at the Toronto shows!

“Steel Wool on a Stick”- book review by: Kirk Verner

In Beauty, book reviews, Business, cars, Creative Writing, Culture, Disability, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Health, Home Decor, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Religion, Writing (all kinds) on July 14, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Kirk Verner Writes about Steel Wool on a Stick – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Steel Wool on a stick by Jeff Block

By Kirk Verner

Copious amounts of marijuana, fistfuls of Prozac, sleeping in cars, and a pedal bike; you’d think this was a story of a down-and-out Tour de France hopeful, but the case could not be further from reality. Nor is it a story of a self-pity blown degenerate waiting for life’s hand-outs to come within grasping distance. This is a story of one man’s quest to find out what he wants to be when he grows up; a task often more difficult than one thinks, and Jeff Block ‘s testimony is sure to lay claim to this statement.

“Son, you get one chance in life to be born into wealth and you blew it!” –Dad

This single quote, which commences the book, sets the reader up for what is expected to be an off-the-wall, witty reflection of a journey to the soup line; but, that is not what is contained in this 191-page paperback. Instead, Jeff Block takes his readers on a path of hardship, failure, and disappointment. There is nothing humourous about suicidal thoughts, and this is just one of the hardships faced by a man with a university degree, a daughter, and a heap of debt the size of a year’s harvest of roses pilled and burnt in Times Square.

From a floor trader in Chicago’s financial district to driving a limousine, to menial desk jobs, all the way to whirling seemingly pointless cocktail napkin roses in bars, Jeff Block can honestly say he has been there and done that. Searching, seeking, scouring for that perfect job is not a course that comes equipped with a user manual, but with the author’s “I refuse to work for anyone again,” attitude and a bounty of ambition the perfect job came to him, turning out to be a hobby he claims to have put on steroids.

“Steel Wool on a Stick” is a loose handbook for self-starters, entrepreneurs, or anyone dying to have a career where they can honestly say, “I love my job.” Unlike many, Jeff Block has found his calling, his niche, his “dream job”.

JUSTPAPERROSES.COM is his company and also the premise of the book. An Internet-based company created by a passion, Jeff Block is now making a healthy living, working from home, doing what he loves. His attitude, “If I can do it, you can do it,” is not original, and the contents of these pages are not a step-by-step instruction booklet on how to become rich and famous; it is a story of persistence, dedication to one’s passions, and the will to never give up.

“Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.” This true-life quote closes the book and opens the eyes of anyone who reads it. Do you one day want a Corvette in your garage?

Kirk Verner
March 29, 2010

Terrified In Toronto

In Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Environment, Events, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Technology, travel, Writing (all kinds) on July 13, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Kirk Verner Writes About G20 in Toronto – Photo Courtesy of Kirk Verner

Image result for G20 in Toronto

By Kirk Verner

Toronto, Ontario
June 22, 2010
2:08 PM EDT

Downtown Toronto is a fortress. I stand on the corner of Bay Street and Front Street feeling more rodent-like than human. I look left and then right, searching for a pile of cheese hidden amidst the kilometres of fencing. The feeling of insecurity pulses all around me faster than the enlarged raindrops filling a puddle at my feet. Is it possible to smell fear? It must be, I can smell it. It is the smell of burning rubber escaping from the feet of fast walking businessmen trying to “wrap-up” this week’s workload early enough to avoid coming to the office on Friday. The light scent of salt can also be detected by my busy nostrils; it is the smell of foreseen tears, I can taste them in the back of my throat. The G20 Summit Meeting is gracing Toronto.

I’m not sure if hosting one of these wretched events is as enjoyable for the regular people of Toronto as much as it is for a gaggle of suits trying to bolster the image of Toronto into one of “first-class” ranking. Signs hang in nearly every storefront window in the area disclaiming any association with the events that are sure to unfold this weekend. Some of the hand-written notes even display heartfelt apologies from business owners to their patrons using words like, “Unfortunately…, Under the circumstances…, Regrettably…, and Please return on Monday…” Now that I notice it, the sidewalks are free of many people; free of determined shoppers, tourists lugging bags overflowing with Blue Jays’ gear, and actually free of anyone that isn’t sporting some sort of weapon, mask, or bundle of Zip Ties I assume will serve as handcuffs in a pinch.

Kirk Verner Writes About Downtown Toronto During G20 – Photo Courtesy of Kirk Verner

Streets are lined with sturdy, at least eight-foot high and in some places even taller, fencing. It is the sort of material you will find lining the exteriors of carnival rides; the thick steel that essentially holds your brains and entrails inside of a pod as you are hurled around in every direction. It is the type of fencing that has an inch-wide diamond pattern covering its face; cleverly manufactured to be too small for any would-be terrorist to fit their creepy, little toes through, yet large enough for the Riot Squad to saturate frantic crowds with pepper spray.

The presence of extra police and security is everywhere. FBI-looking cronies wearing snug black suits, sunglasses, and gloves linger in areas only I would roam. They frown at me and furrow their brows while I walk. I feel like Osama Bin Laden, minus the cracker crumb blown beard and M-16; although, I would like to challenge old O.B.L. to some skeet shooting.

I am now standing in front of Rogers Centre, the home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Scalpers try to sell me tickets for tonight’s Jays/Cardinals matchup, but I am still memorized by the fencing and police activity. Like cattle rambling to water on a summer’s afternoon eight or so officers on bicycles slowly pedal past me up a slight slope underneath the CN Tower; the paved path in which they ride would certainly be blanketed by the tower’s ominous shadow on a sunny day, but not today. I ponder buying Blue Jays’ tickets but am reluctant due to my desire to spend very little time in this concentration camp of an area. “Click…click,” goes my camera, and I am off.

Kirk Verner Writes About The G20 Summit – Photo Courtesy of Kirk Verner

If I am to die a hideous death it will without a doubt be granted by my own hands; I refuse to be on the World’s News as simply b-roll. You will not see me downtown or on a subway for a week. I only wish for the best, but fear the worst.


A Tale of Missing Underwear

In cars, Events, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, travel, Writing (all kinds) on July 12, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Kirk Verner Writes about an Interesting Bus Ride – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Men's underwear

By Kirk Verner
July 4th/2009 11:14 p.m.

The 60C bus rattles loudly down Yonge Street as I sit in a scotch-induced haze; I’m heading home after a long night in the studio. I’m sitting in the back half of the bus, staring at a middle-aged Asian man with a curly, black mullet and a brown leather jacket. He seems suspicious to my keen sense for the unusual. He nibbles at his fingernails; a hideous habit he seems to have a problem with. I simply continue to watch the man, I guess trying to make him feel even more uncomfortable than he already appears.

He turns his head quickly towards me, and attempts to look deep inside of my mind; he will not win a stare-down against me. He quickly turns back to his original position and begins toying with something that is sitting on the seat next to him. He makes sure his back is concealing whatever it may be that is sitting between him and the smudged window.

The automated voice of the bus announces that Steeles Avenue is approaching; I remain fixated on the sketchy Asian man. He seems lost as he frantically looks out his window, searching for a landmark or possibly a street sign. He reaches up towards the yellow bus-cable, pulls the cord, and stands up in preparation to exit the bus that slows down. The back door opens and the man rushes off. He takes a quick look at me through the closing back door; I am still examining him. Neither of us shows any emotion as our encounter is terminated due to the proceeding bus.

I chuckle to myself as I think of what has just occurred. I reach inside of my backpack and pull out my portable CD player and commence my music. As I grin from the music now playing in my ears, I glance over to the now vacant seat that was just occupied by my new Asian friend. I see what the man was toying with. A white bra with purple polka-dots sits crumpled beside an orange pair of women’s underwear. The skimpy underwear is not that of a child, but certainly not that of an elder woman; they must belong to a teenager or a young lady. What was that man doing with these?

My over-active imagination immediately begins brewing up a scenario that may or may not be far from fiction. I think of the last story I heard of an Asian man on a bus; the horrible monster, Vincent Lee.

Could The Man Kirk Verner Met On The Bus Be As Evil As Charles Manson?

Could The Man Kirk Verner Met On The Bus Be As Evil As Charles Manson?

Perhaps the underwear belongs to his daughter? Maybe he’s just returning home from the laundry mat? But it is now almost 11:30 p.m.? Maybe the man is a transvestite? Or maybe, just maybe, I was sitting beside a murderer? I could now be sitting mere feet from his trophies and or potential criminal evidence.

The strange thought gusts out of my mind as I once again hear the automated voice of the bus announce my stop. I hastily gather myself as I peek once more at the lost underwear before exiting the 60C bus.

I think it would be a perfect time for a killer to dispose of a body in Toronto. There’s a garbage strike. Now two weeks in, it would be plenty long enough for a body to decompose beyond recognition. Perhaps buried in a pile of maggot infested garbage bags, in a happy Toronto park, rests the owner of this underwear.

July 5/’09

Canada stuck-up about its writing, but not too much

In book reviews, Business, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Events, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Writing (all kinds) on July 11, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Rachel Muenz Writes About the Giller Prize - Photo Courtesy of

Rachel Muenz Writes About the Giller Prize – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Giller Prize

By Rachel Muenz

Canada has often been criticized for being too snobby about its writing.

William Deverell recently wrote in the National Post that in Canada “there is a push to reward insipid stuff that will never sell” and Canadian publishing is suffering because of this.

I partly agree.

Though I’ve liked most Giller Prize and Governor General’s Award winners I’ve read, they usually aren’t packed with thrills and excitement. If they hadn’t won awards, I probably wouldn’t have bought them in the first place unless someone told me they were really good.

But this doesn’t mean that Canada should break out the awards for anything that sells well.

Canadian schools, libraries, and literary awards should choose books that both entertain readers and change them through the themes and techniques the books use to tell their stories.

There’s not much point in rewarding beautifully-written, thought-provoking books that people find too boring or difficult to read. A book’s message will never make an impact if only three people read it.

Yet, books that are just dumb entertainment without getting readers thinking shouldn’t be pushed either even if they do make big money. Canadian popular fiction writers should only be honoured if they also give their readers something meaningful to think about and debate.

Along with excellent storytelling and entertainment, good writing should always be important as well.

It wouldn’t be fair to writers who spend hours perfecting every sentence to give the Giller Prize or Governor General’s Award for a book that sells millions but is badly-written. Crappy writing should never be encouraged.

Yes, Canada needs to open its heart to popular fiction, but not too wide.

– with files from the National Post

Burla awards (originally published for Share Newspaper)

In Culture, Education, Writing (all kinds) on July 10, 2012 at 3:00 AM

they are all winners but one takes prizethey are all winners but one takes prize

BURLA Awards Recognize Youth

Published December 15, 2006, in Share Newspaper

The 2nd annual BURLA awards at Burke’s Books and Picture Framing highlighted three young women for the first time last week, but in the end only one took home the prize. Crystal Hosannah of Oakwood Collegiate won for her essay on literature that was inspired by her Mom.

“I talked about when I was a little girl and my Mom used to lead me into the bookstore and I would just wander around there for hours just reading the backs of books,” says Hosannah.

Her favourite book is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which she read when she was eight. Hosannah says winning the award is a pleasant surprise.

Among the other nominees for the BURLA were Hannah Watson-Jackson and Nyomi Puil, also of Oakwood Collegiate. Watson-Jackson wrote about how writing has treated her, compared to the kids she sees in her co-op placement who hate writing. Puil wrote about how more young people are turning away from books and discovering a virtual self.

Veteran writers like Pamela Mordecai also received an award. Among Mordecai’s books is Her True-True Name, a blockbuster work on Caribbean women, edited with her sister Elizabeth Wilson.

“I can only say that I am very honoured to receive the award and I think Sam and Rita (Burke) are wonderful people,” says Mordecai about the owners of the bookstore. “I can’t think of any other persons I would have liked to receive it from. I remember Lenny and Gwen Johnson from Third World Bookstore and Crafts. But I see Sam and Rita as continuing that tradition and I am just completely honoured, delighted and humbled to receive it.”

Mordecai shared the stage with the Governor-General’s award-winning poet Dr. George Elliott Clarke. Clarke read from his new book Illuminated Verses, with photos by famed photographer Ricardo Scipio. The book celebrates the beauty of the Black woman’s body through pictures and poetry.

“I’m extremely pleased that we’re doing the launch for the book here at Burke’s Books,” said Clarke. “I’m also pleased to be part of the program that will honour Pamela Mordecai. I’ve known her for a number of years and whose work I respect greatly.”

Elliott Clarke teaches at the University of Toronto and has numerous books of poetry, including an anthology Fire on the Water Vol 1. and Vol. 2, and George & Rue which came out earlier in 2005. His latest book, Illuminated Verses, consists of 38 nude photographs.

“It’s the first book of its kind ever,” says Clarke. “People can decide for themselves. I think it’s a gorgeous book; it’s a beautiful book because of the photographs. If they want my opinion, the photographs are absolutely great, and the poems are pretty good too.”

Books like Clarke’s and Mordecai’s can be found at Burke’s Books which hosted the event with the help of CBC radio producer, Nick Davis, and educator Linette Spence. The celebration of Black literature was the brainchild of the wife and husband team, Rita and Sam Burke.

“We started the bookstore 11 years ago, without one customer,” says Sam Burke as he greets guests who congratulate him on his success. “It was like giving birth to a child, and you watch that child grow and evolve into an adult. Last year, when we celebrated our 10th anniversary, it just seemed a natural thing to reach out even more because there are some wonderful people in this community.

“We’re privileged where we are here to meet and to interact with them. The BURLA is just an evolution. And especially this year, we’re very excited because of the student award that we’ve added to that. That’s really what it’s all about, it’s about the young people and tomorrow and all the hopes and the aspirations that they have, and to know that someone can say, yes you can do it. Yes, you’re capable. It’s just exciting.”

Next year, the Burkes have some plans in place for the BURLA. They plan to expand the student participation. He says he’s not at liberty to say at this point.

For this year, the winner of the youth BURLA, Hosannah, gets that extra push to continue reading and writing. She says reading becomes especially important because the media is telling people what to think and what to do.

“It’s time that we kind of gets back to the reading,” says Hosannah.

Harry Potter theme park has company

In Business, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, travel, Writing (all kinds) on July 9, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Rachel Muenz Writes About the Harry Potter Theme Park - Photo Courtesy of

Rachel Muenz Writes About the Harry Potter Theme Park – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Harry Potter Theme park

By Rachel Muenz

When the new Harry Potter theme park opens in Orlando in spring 2010, it may end up being the most popular park based on either a single book or series of books. But it won’t be the first.

Information on the Internet shows that honour goes to Parc Astérix.

Inspired by the French comic book series and later cartoons starring Astérix the Gaul, Parc Astérix opened in 1989 north of Paris. It is one of the best amusement parks in the world and has rides and shows based on René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s popular character.

A quick Internet search shows there aren’t many more books that have been made into theme parks and most of them, like Parc Astérix, are in Europe.

Finland’s Moomin World is a children’s theme park based on the Moomin books by Finnish novelist Tove Jansson, who died in 2001. The books, written between 1945 and 1970, feature hippo-like creatures called Moomins.

Rather than rides, Moomin World has trails and the houses of characters from the books where children can relive episodes from the stories through different activities. It opened in 1993.

The Harry Potter park will also join a park based on the works of another great British author – Charles Dickens.

Dickens World opened in Kent in May 2007 and is full of Victorian everyday life like Dickens’ novels, though the dark side is toned down somewhat. There are also rides based on his books such as a Great Expectations Boat Ride.

Also influenced largely by the film adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s series, the Potter park will definitely give these other parks a run for their money.

Universal Studios,’ the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will have a replica of Hogwarts, shops selling Butterbeer, Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and roller coasters based on Harry’s adventures.

– with files from, BBC News,, Wikipedia, and

Hairy Chats at Accents on Eglinton – Revised Date – July 21, 2012 at 5:00 p.m.

In Beauty, book reviews, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Movie Reviews, Music, Opinion, Radio Podcasts, Religion, Sports, Technology, travel, Video Work, Writing (all kinds) on July 8, 2012 at 5:38 PM

The Politics of Black Hair Online Course Book

5 video games with the best stories ever

In Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Technology, Video Work, Writing (all kinds) on July 8, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Rachel Muenz Writes About Video Games - Photo Courtesy of

Rachel Muenz Writes About Video Games – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Video games

By Rachel Muenz

Storytelling in video games seems to be getting bigger and more important year after year. There are now professional video game writers who craft game stories as carefully as any novelist or scriptwriter.

While the actions a player can perform are still the most important part of a video game, there are some stories out there that would still keep me playing even if the rest of the game was crap.

Out of all the games I’ve played – mostly for Nintendo systems – here are the five I think have the most moving stories.

1) Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

I actually didn’t like this game when I first started playing it. It was the amazing story that kept me going. The main character, selfish and revenge-driven Kalas, is not the usual perfect hero, but he still has a good side too. The game puts you in the role of Kalas’ guardian spirit, sucking you right into the game’s beautiful fantasy world and forging a strong connection between you and its characters. There are also different possible endings based on decisions you make in the game.

2) Baten Kaitos Origins

This prequel to the first Baten Kaitos matches and at times outdoes the great storytelling in the first game. It’s darker, more violent and action-filled than the first game’s story and the voice-acting for the little movies between game action is miles better. The plot twists are even bigger in this story, though I somewhat expected them because of the shockers in the original game.

3) Golden Sun: The Lost Age

The sequel to another of my favourite games, The Lost Age concludes the story begun in the first Golden Sun. While I loved the story in the first game (it’s the only one I’ve played over and over just to experience the story again), The Lost Age adds even more layers and surprises to the plot. You find out characters that were just evil in the first game aren’t so bad after all and the ending brings both tears and joy.

4) The World Ends With You

This is the most recent game story that’s really pulled me into a game’s world. Though it’s a bit cheesy, it also has characters you end up loving and a darker side too. It is about a bunch of dead kids playing a game to get their lives back, after all. The story is told in awesome comic-book style panels and playing a game that gives you the chance to rise from the dead if you win, but permanently destroys you if you lose, makes you feel pretty bad-ass.

5) Chrono Trigger

Though first released in 1995, Chrono Trigger’s story still shines out among those of today’s games. Again, it’s the typical saving-the-world plot, but time travel adds more depth to the characters and setting. You have to save the game’s world in all its different eras to win, setting it apart from games of the same genre. Chrono Trigger also does a great job of making you feel for the characters and has a very sad twist that you have to work through to get to a happy ending. Like Baten Kaitos, the ending depends on your actions in the game.

For more information on role-playing games, the genre these games belong to, see

– with files from Wikipedia

Ontario strongest wind power in Canada

In Beauty, Business, Culture, Education, Environment, Living, Media Writing, Technology, Writing (all kinds) on July 7, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Rachel Muenz Writes About Wind Power - Photo Courtesy of

Rachel Muenz Writes About Wind Power – Photo Courtesy of

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By Rachel Muenz

Ontario continues to outpace other Canadian provinces and territories in the wind energy sector. The province has eight new wind power projects lined up, some of which are already under construction, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

Although Ontario doesn’t have the highest number of projects, they should still help the province keep its place as the number one generator of wind-powered electricity in Canada.

The projects are to be completed between now and 2012 and will add almost 1437MW of energy to the 1161.5MW currently generated by Ontario’s wind farms, the association’s website says.

Most recently, reported that Korean company Samsung wants to build a wind farm on the north side of Lake Erie.

The company and the Ontario government haven’t come to an agreement yet but the farm would have 200 turbines if built. In the article, the government said a deal with Samsung would be a huge boost to Ontario’s green manufacturing sector.

If true, that would put Ontario even further ahead of Quebec, which is second to Ontario in wind-generated power. Data from the Canadian Wind Energy Association shows Quebec generates just 531.8MW from its 10 wind farms.

And, Ontario also leads the country in number of wind farms with 24 while Alberta is second with 22, generating 523.9MW of electricity. Nova Scotia is third with 19 farms, but only produces 59.3MW.

But Quebec is the only province that beats Ontario in one area of wind power development.

Ontario’s eastern neighbour has the most wind power projects announced with 23 set to be finished between now and 2015. Quebec’s projects should add about 2890 MW to its existing wind power production when they’re completed.

Ontario’s goal now is to have 4600MW from wind power by 2020 while Quebec plans to have 4000 MW by 2015.

The only areas in Canada without wind farms are Nunavut and the Northwest Territories and so far, they do not have plans to build any in the future.

– with files from, the Toronto Star and the Canadian Wind Energy Association

Warm gadgets for a cold winter office

In Business, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Home Decor, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Technology, Writing (all kinds) on July 6, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Rachel Muenz Writes About Computer Gadgets - Photo Courtesy of

Rachel Muenz Writes About Computer Gadgets – Photo Courtesy of

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By Rachel Muenz

With winter on the way and a colder than normal fall already here, drafty offices can be a frozen Hell for any worker. But there are plenty of gadgets out there to help anyone stuck at a computer all day cope with the cold.

Here are just a few products that will keep you warm this winter:

ValueRays Mouse Hand Warmer three-piece set:

This set includes a blanket pouch, heated mouse and heated mouse pad. The fleece pouch keeps in the heat generated by the mouse and mouse pad, helping your hand stay toasty. The infrared heated mouse and mouse pad run on USB connections and the company claims they relieve arthritis pain and chills caused by bad circulation.

Cost: US$69.95 from

ValueRays USB Heated Keyboard Warm Wrist Pad:

For people who have sore wrists made worse by the cold, ValueRays says their ergonomic keyboard pad will also relieve arthritis and other kinds of joint pain. Like the mouse and mouse pad, it generates a steady temperature between 99 and 104 F and the case can be removed for cleaning.

Cost: US$19.95 from

Mr. Coffee MWBLK Mug Warmer:

As expected, the Mug Warmer keeps your coffee or tea warm while you work away at your computer and starts heating only when you put a mug in it. But, some customers on complain that it only keeps drinks lukewarm while others love it. Overall, it has a four-star rating out of 18 reviews on Amazon.

Cost: $US9.45-12.68 on but is only shipped in the U.S.

HeatMax Heated Socks:

If your office has a nasty draft around your feet, HeatMax’s socks should help. HeatMax says the socks keep in heat from the company’s Foot Warm-Up inserts with an elastic band around the toe. The heat lasts for six hours and most people who bought the socks on Amazon seem to like them as they have a four-star rating out of five reviews.

Cost: US$9.95-12.99 on but are only shipped in the U.S.

Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater:

Lasko’s small, portable heater has an adjustable thermostat, three different modes and a safety feature that keeps it from overheating. In the summer, you can also use it as just a fan. But, though the manufacturer says it’s supposed to be quiet, a few Amazon shoppers said the fan was loud and the heater didn’t last long. Most shoppers were satisfied though, with the heater getting a four-star overall rating out of 188 reviews.

Cost: US$24.08 on but is only shipped in the U.S.

Note: Products not tested by Donna Magazine

– with files from and

Your Support is required‏

In Beauty, book reviews, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Technology, travel, Writing (all kinds) on July 5, 2012 at 9:51 PM

Bukhari, Rufeeda Flyer for recruiting Immigrant teachers for research study

‘Healthy’ cereals often just sugar in disguise

In Culture, Education, Entertainment, Health, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Writing (all kinds) on July 5, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Rachel Muenz Writes About Healthy Cereals - Photo Courtesy of

Rachel Muenz Writes About Healthy Cereals – Photo Courtesy of

Image result for Quaker Harvest Crunch

By Rachel Muenz

You may have seen the Quaker Harvest Crunch commercials. The ones with the middle-aged dad using reverse psychology so his son and father won’t eat his Harvest Crunch. He tells them it’s “bad” for them with its fruit and nuts and doesn’t taste good.

As the audience, of course, we’re led to believe exactly the opposite. That it’s both tasty and healthy. But Harvest Crunch is just one cereal in my cupboard that isn’t as healthy as it’s marketed to be.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation says cereal should have no more than 6 grams of fat per serving to really be good for you and no more than 240 milligrams of sodium per serving.

An article in Alive, a Canadian health magazine, says you should also check the ingredients lists of cereals before buying. The ingredient listed first is the one that makes up most of the cereal. If sugar is number one, it means you’re getting mostly sugar.

Harvest Crunch, along with over half the cereals in my house, did not stack up to these recommendations. Here’s how they did:

A 2/3-cup serving of Quaker Harvest Crunch Original:

Though it says it “makes a nutritious snack” on the box and has 0 trans fats, it has 9 grams of regular fat and 7 grams of saturated fat. It also has double the amount of sugar suggested by the Heart and Stroke Foundation with 12 grams. A look at the ingredients list shows Harvest Crunch is mostly rolled oats but brown sugar makes up the third largest percentage of the cereal. At least it doesn’t have much sodium with only 35 milligrams.

A 3/4-cup serving of Quaker Life, toasted cinnamon flavour:

Quaker did not fare well, overall. A bowl of its cinnamon-flavoured Life cereal, though just 130 calories without milk, has 9 grams of sugar. Whole grain oats are the number one ingredient but sugar is number two, meaning that Life is pretty much just a bowl of sugar and oats. Again, the sodium’s not bad at 170 milligrams and there’s not much of any kind of fat, but that’s still a lot of sugar.

3/4-cup of Kellogg’s Just Right:

While the box boasts Just Right is low in all kinds of fat – 2 grams fat, 0.3 grams saturated, and 0 grams trans – it’s still over the 6-gram maximum of sugar with 7 grams. It also just meets the sodium requirements at 240 milligrams per serving. But, even though it has too much sugar, it does have some nutrient value. The main ingredient is whole wheat and sugar is just number five on the list.

Despite all that sugar, at least I can take some comfort in knowing my brands of choice, MultiGrain Cheerios, and Corn Flakes have passed the sugar and sodium test.

a 1-cup serving of General Mills MultiGrain Cheerios:

A bowl of MultiGrain Cheerios is just 120 calories, has little fat and just meets the Heart and Stroke suggestions with 6 grams of sugar. It’s a little high in salt but is still under the maximum at 200 milligrams. Sugar is high on the ingredients list in the number three spot but this cereal is mostly whole grain corn.

1 and a 1/4-cup of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes:

Not only does it have the biggest serving size, but Corn Flakes are also the healthiest choice in my cupboard. They’re only 110 calories and have 0 grams of any kind of fat, unless you add milk and only 2 grams of sugar. Sugar is second on the list of major ingredients though, after flaked milled corn, which makes me wonder a little about the vitamin content. It’s also high in salt, but still under the 240-milligram maximum with 220 milligrams of sodium in each bowl.

While it’s a bit depressing that over half my ‘healthy’ cereal is full of sugar, at least I know which ones to avoid now. And, though I’m often still hungry after some Corn Flakes, seeing how much healthier they are, I guess it’s goodbye cruel Life, hello Corn Flakes.

– with files from and Alive magazine

Author profile: James Valitchka

In Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Living, Media Writing, Writing (all kinds) on July 4, 2012 at 3:00 AM
One of James Valitchka's Nine Books is Superheroes Don't Have Dads - Photo Courtesy of

One of James Valitchka’s Nine Books is Superheroes Don’t Have Dads – Photo Courtesy of

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By Rachel Muenz

James Valitchka’s writing has put him on an ambitious road.

His ninth book, Superheroes Don’t Have Dads 2, is to be released Nov. 3 and focuses on his link to President Barack Obama. Valitchka got to meet and speak with Obama for a few minutes as part of a school trip to Washington on Jan. 19, 2009, the day before the president’s inauguration.

The 14-year-old author says it’s his dream to follow in Obama’s footsteps and become President himself, either that or the Prime Minister of Canada. As a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S., he would be eligible for either position.

That goal might be unrealistic to some, but Valitchka says this is the path he was meant to follow, though he adds he’s intimidated by the challenges he faces at times.

“It is strange because so many people tell me [being Prime Minister or President] is my calling and I feel it sometimes driving in the car with my mom,” he said in an email interview on Oct. 9. “I know that God has a purpose for my life and it’s scary and overwhelming but I have to be obedient.”

Superheroes Don’t Have Dads 2 is the sequel to the book that launched Valitchka’s writing career, Superheroes Don’t Have Dads. Published when he was just eight, that book went on to become a national bestseller and also proved Valitchka as a leader when he went on a tour to encourage literacy and discourage bullying.

Now an established motivational speaker as well as an author, Valitchka has plenty of good advice for young writers. He says his favourite part of writing is the creative aspect and adds writers shouldn’t be afraid of using their imaginations.

“I love escaping from the world as it exists and creating hope, new experiences, better experiences, with a pen or pencil or computer,” says the Appleby College student. “I always tell [other] students, ‘Go for it. Let your imagination run wild!’”

Valitchka says keeping a notebook with them at all times is also very important for young writers to capture that wild imagination.

“When I get the words I can lose them so easily and I don’t remember them later,” says Valitchka, who also runs two organizations that help youth, Stand Up and Speak Out – Voice for Children and Youth and Global Youth United for Success.

For Valitchka, overcoming the fear of sharing those words and finding the time to write are the biggest challenges he faces. But even with schoolwork, sports and hanging out with family and friends he still makes time to write for half an hour each day.

When he gets stuck with his writing, Valitchka says he takes time away from the problem, like he does with any other.

“I take a day off and usually in a quiet time a voice will speak to me and it is so beautiful I have to write it and those are always the best parts of the story,” he says. “When we are still we hear God’s voice and he is the best storyteller in the world.”

Writing in your own voice, no matter what editors or other people might say is also important for young writers, Valitchka adds. But he also points out that, although writing is fun, it’s not something people tend to make money doing.

“You have to be very realistic about a career in writing,” Valitchka says. “It doesn’t pay the bills.”

At the same time, he says staying positive is important, especially for young writers, who often aren’t taken seriously.

“You have to know who you are and believe in yourself and others,” Valitchka says. “When I’m faced with negativity, I say, ‘Nice to meet you, take care’ and I’m gone.”

As far as the writing process goes, the young author says he writes about what he’s experienced but also uses his imagination. He says he both plans and improvises when writing.

“For essays, I use an essay outline,” Valitchka says. “For story writing, I use my heart.”

However, he says he used more structure and planning when writing Superheroes Don’t Have Dads 2 because it is a sequel. He’s also working on another book, Mischievous Maiya, about his four-year-old sister.

Although being a world leader is Valitchka’s long-term career plan, he says he’ll still keep writing even once he’s achieved his goal.

“I will always write because that is how I connect with others and that is very important to me,” says Valitchka. “If God gives me a story, He expects me to do something with it and about it.”

It’s not mine, it belongs to the universe.”

For more information about James Valitchka or to contact him, visit his website For more about Stand Tall and Speak Out, visit

A Sprint to a Clothing Line Published in Pride Magazine – June 29, 2005

In Beauty, book reviews, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Sports, Technology, Writing (all kinds) on July 3, 2012 at 3:00 AM

Ben Johnson with a Beauty Pageant Winner – Photo Taken By Donna Kakonge


Ben Johnson, the fastest man in the world according to a 1988 World Record time of 9.79 seconds, is now in the clothing business.

“I just like good clothing, good fabric, good taste and I think that this type of business is the right thing for me to get involved in,” Johnson says. I’ve done this many years ago. I’ve done this for 30 years and this isn’t the first time I’ve had my own clothing line. In 1987 I had my own clothing line in Italy and it didn’t really take off because of the public. So I decided to come back 18 years later and do my own stuff.”

The official launch of Ben Johnson’s new line was held at Metro in Toronto at 296 Richmond St. W. on Thursday, June 23rd. Lucid Options, a multi-service advertising agency helped to organize the event.

“I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants for the last four weeks,” Christeena Mitchell, Business Director with Lucid Options said. “It seems like everyone is having a really good time so far. I think what’s really important is to show Ben’s clothing in the most positive light.”

About two hundred people came out for the event, including media and wholesalers looking to market Johnson’s line.
Although Johnson made an attempt in the clothing business in the past and it didn’t work out he thinks now is a good time. “If you can’t start, you can’t finish. So this is the time to do it.”

“My target market is kids between [the] age[s] [of] 8 to 35 years old, but the clothes are widespread. Anybody can wear it,” Johnson says.

Johnson describes his clothing as the design being nice and the colours being different.

“It’s good quality stuff,” Johnson says. “It’s not anything cheap. But the price is not high-end stuff, the price is right in between the other apparel clothes, but it’s very good quality.”

Johnson does most of the designing because it’s something that he’s been involved in for 30 years.

“I’ve worn a lot of clothes over the years, I feel the fabric, I feel the quality, and I make the adjustments. I say I don’t want this, I want this. Everything is fresh. It feels very soft, the material is very beautiful.”

Johnson also has running shoes.

“The running shoes are different because they have more support on the heel, on the arch, because most people have a low arch. And the heel is not very thick to get the compact of running – you can have problems in your hip or in your back. So I’ve made sure there’s an extra cushion for everything.”

Di-anne Hudson has a background in law and also helps with the designing of the clothing with Ben Johnson. She mentions that Johnson’s family has been in the clothing business for years. His mom and sister both sew and make clothing and he grew up with that around him.

Where Johnson is responsible for the athletic wear, Hudson is responsible for the casual wear.

All the materials for the clothing are made in Canada, which is something everyone involved with the Ben Johnson Collection, is proud.


Winter activities that should be brought from country to city

In Beauty, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Writing (all kinds) on July 2, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Rachel Muenz Writes About Winter Activities - Photo Courtesy of

Rachel Muenz Writes About Winter Activities – Photo Courtesy of

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By Rachel Muenz

Back in January 2009, an article in the Toronto Star said Toronto should to do more to help its citizens love winter. The city should celebrate the cold and snow instead of complaining about it, the story said.

I couldn’t agree more.

Coming from the boonies, there’s always been a ton of fun things to do in the winter. I’ve always looked forward to it and was surprised by how much people hated the snowy season when I moved to Toronto. But, after finding out how little there is to do outdoors, I can see why Torontonians dread the first snowflake.

With winter already in the air, here are some pursuits from the country that should be imported to the city:

A sugar shack:

I’m not sure how it would be done but I’m sure someone smarter than me could figure it out. Put a sugar shack in the middle of downtown Toronto. Or at least snack stands to sell maple syrup products. What’s more fun than eating vanilla ice cream drizzled with maple syrup or a box of maple candies? Children and their parents could learn about how maple syrup is made and stay warm beside the boiling vats of sap.

Ugly snowsuits:

Torontonians are just too fashionable to keep properly warm. No wonder they hate the cold. In the country, people dress to stay warm even if they look like complete idiots. For just one day – Ugly Snowsuit Day – Torontonians would have to dress up in the most awful-looking, but warmest, clothes they own. At the end of the day, prizes would be given for the ugliest outfit.

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing:

Toronto’s parks should be made more welcoming for both these sports. Stations could be set up in existing buildings where people could rent skis or snowshoes and warm up with hot drinks and snacks. Workers would be on hand to lead a nature ski or snowshoe through the park and get newcomers more comfortable on their skis. You could also buy birdseed to feed the birds along the way.

Snowball fight:

I’m sure kids in Toronto’s schools have snowball fights just as often as children from the country, but it should be made into a city-wide event. For a Saturday afternoon, if there’s enough clean snow, Toronto should shut down part of Yonge Street and have a free-for-all snow brawl. There would be rules for safety, of course, no head shots, but anyone could enter. Registration fees could go towards supporting homeless shelters and there would be food and prizes afterward.

Cardboard toboggan races:

An annual event in my area, cardboard sled races need to be brought to Toronto. Teams build, decorate, and then race their toboggans down park hills and get prizes based on design and number of races won. Sometimes the creations are pretty ridiculous and it’s great fun to watch with a hot chocolate in your hand, especially when people go for a tumble.

How could you not love winter with activities like these?

Torontonians wise to vehicle theft but not auto insurance, sources say

In Business, cars, Culture, Education, Living, Media Writing, Opinion, Writing (all kinds) on July 1, 2012 at 3:00 AM
Rachel Muenz Writes About Car Thefts - Photo Courtesy of

Rachel Muenz Writes About Car Thefts – Photo Courtesy of

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By Rachel Muenz

A little education can go a long way. It can vault someone into a higher-paying career, help people understand different cultures and keep them off the streets. It can also help reduce car theft.

Auto thefts in Toronto have been dropping steadily for the past few years, according to figures from the Toronto Police Service. In 2007, a grand total of 8,506 vehicles were stolen in the city, while in 2008, thieves made away with 6,687, a 21 percent drop from the year before.

And, so far this year, there’s been a further 20 percent decrease with 4,175 vehicles stolen as of Oct. 13.

Const. Wendy Drummond of the Toronto Police Service’s public information unit says this is likely because of increased knowledge of car theft and more focused policing.

“People are becoming wise to car security,” Drummond says. “The manufacturers are installing anti-theft products in the cars, people are using them and our general and overall police patrol have specialized units with auto theft.”

Thanks to information campaigns in the winter, more people know that thieves often steal cars when owners leave them running in their driveways with the keys in them, she adds. Drummond says Torontonians are also more aware of another type of auto theft that begins with a theft in their houses.

“We’ve had educational and public awareness alerting people to break and enters to their homes where usually high-end vehicles [are] parked in the driveway,” Drummond says. “[Thieves] would take the car keys knowing that they’re going to be right near the front door and then steal the car.”

Most of the new housing developments in Toronto also have secure parking garages to keep cars, which have also helped reduce theft, Drummond adds.

But there is one area where all drivers, not just ones from Toronto, could use a little more education – auto insurance.

In Ontario, there are mandatory types of auto insurance coverage and optional ones. Drivers need the mandatory coverages to drive legally in the province since they protect you if you’re injured in an accident or at fault in a collision.

But James Geuzebroek, manager of media relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says the mandatory coverages do not cover auto theft.

To be covered if your car is stolen, you need to get comprehensive coverage, Geuzebroek says.

“Comprehensive, which covers theft, is one of those optional coverages,” he says. “So you don’t automatically have it.”

And, while Geuzebroek says most people know they need different kinds of coverages to protect against auto theft, there are still many who probably don’t.

“It’s true that many people just . . . don’t understand auto insurance well, so it is always a good idea to take the time to talk to your insurance provider and make sure that you do have the coverage that you want,” he says.

Geuzebroek says comprehensive coverage will give you the value of your car if it is stolen and not recovered, even if your car is left unlocked. However, comprehensive coverage is probably only worth getting if your car is worth stealing, he adds.

“If you’re driving an old beater, maybe [comprehensive coverages] aren’t necessary for you,” he says. “Maybe they’re not worth the premium that you have to pay for them.”

That cost varies depending on the make, model and year of your car and the kind of neighbourhood you live in, Geuzebroek adds. He says if someone makes a claim in a neighbourhood where auto theft is rampant their rates will probably go up. However, if a car is stolen somewhere where auto theft is rare, a claim likely won’t have an affect.

Also, there is one thing about auto theft coverage, in particular, most people don’t know.

If things are stolen from your car, unless they are auto accessories, they aren’t covered by auto insurance but by either home, condominium or tenant’s insurance. And some companies need evidence of a break-in to cover the theft, so if your car was left unlocked, you may be out of luck when making a claim.

Geuzebroek says many people don’t know items in their cars aren’t covered because most people don’t read up on their insurance.

“Insurance is a subject that is important . . . but it’s not one that many people are all that interested in taking the time to learn about,” he says. “We tend to buy it and renew it without really . . . giving much thought to what coverages our policy does have or what exclusions it has.”

To avoid getting stuff stolen from your car, both Geuzebroek and Drummond suggest keeping items, especially expensive electronics, cash, gifts and clothing in your home or at least out of sight. And, of course, keeping your car locked is always important.

“It’s a theft of opportunity,” Drummond says. “If you make it easy for the person they will target that vehicle as opposed to one that clearly has some type of security system or one that is locked or one that is secured in a secure garage.”

For more information on auto and other types of insurance, visit the Insurance Bureau of Canada website:

For tips on preventing auto theft visit the Toronto Police Service’s auto theft webpage: or the Ontario Provincial Police’s Provincial Auto Theft Team website:

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