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The old hacks who make The Ex-Press the glorious, old-school rag that it is.

Mob Rule: Part 10

Mopping up after a bloodbath The price of doing business in New York City gets pricier by the day, forcing 'family-style' operations to retreat behind the reinforced steel walls of a downtown fortress while the local chamber of commerce hides its anxiety behind a fake smile By John Armstrong   When the first wave of medics had unloaded I went back down and found Meyer and Ricco then excused myself and headed for the nearest washroom, walking briskly but carefully; my bowels were sending urgent messages. Meyer came in while I was still in the stall. “You all right, Jackie?” I was covered in sweat and felt like I might never eat again. “Fine,” I answered. “Just need a minute.” I heard Meyer strike a match and smelled cigar smoke, which was probably a wise idea on his part. “It’s perfectly natural,” he said after a minute. “Survival mechanism. If you crap yourself you’re less attractive to predators. Saw it on a nature program. ...

Pop Culture Decoder: Mom Boobs

Laying bare the effects that parenthood can have on the pointer sisters By Misty Harris You know how after performing a lot of hard work, you exhale all remaining volume from your chest, slump over and just surrender to gravity? The same goes for breasts after having a child. My breasts, anyway. Like weary warriors retreating from battle, they have been deflated. First, there were the rigours of pregnancy, which saw the twins change size more times than Jonah Hill. Then there were nine months of breastfeeding a tiny human, who paid them roughly the same respect a cheetah does a gazelle. And, finally, there was the post-nursing weight fluctuation, which saw my lady lumps take on so many different appearances, they’ve been cast in the next Transformers movie. But because this is a column about decoding, specifics are needed. With that in mind, let’s abandon all propriety and break down the reasons that “mom boobs” are a thing.* Biology: Although breastfeeding ...

The Sick Days: Part 7

Dressing like a lady and other lessons for a cub reporter Looking back, an essential lesson for female journalism students should have been how to deal with sexist notions that our almost entirely male professors held, and that existed in the newsrooms we would soon walk into By Shelley Page In journalism school, we learned how to shape a story into an inverted pyramid, ask open-ended questions and be fair-minded. What if we wanted to get a big important man to talk and we were female? Well, I learned that lesson in my fourth-year investigative reporting class after I was told to interview Liberal Senator Colin Kenny for a book being written by one of my instructors, John Sawatsky. I was nervous and Kenny was impatient and gave short, unhelpful answers. Although it was bitterly cold outside, he opened his window and seemed to lean into the howling winter wind. My tape recorder barely picked up his answers. Back on campus, I told Sawatsky and Professor Joe Scanlon, ...

Mob Rule: Part 9

A family reunion ends with gunfire The mob bosses hope a friendly get-together at the Waldorf will defuse mounting tensions and expose the enemy, but the plan for peace is shattered like a ballroom chandelier, 'spraying shards like shrapnel from a crystal grenade' By John Armstrong I didn’t have a chance to phone Vanessa the next day until it was after 6 p.m. and when I did steal a minute, she wasn’t in. From the moment I stepped through the doors at work at eight that morning I’d been running back and forth from the Waldorf to the phone at my desk, overseeing arrangements for the meeting that night. The catering alone was a nightmare, given that many of the family Bosses were elderly and needed special foods – one could have no salt, another could have no dairy, another was allergic to shellfish, or nuts or something else – and then there was the problem of seating. Many of them were allergic to each other. Despite the long history of peace up to this point, there ...

Spawn a love affair with Maple Mustard Grilled Salmon

Maple Mustard Grilled Salmon makes for a hearty treat that's easy to prepare and doesn't require many ingredients By Louise Crosby Many are the times I’ve wracked my brain for something quick and easy to make for dinner, and this salmon recipe has often sprung to mind. It’s tweaked only slightly from Chef Michael Smith,  FoodTV host, cookbook author, and “official food ambassador for Prince Edward Island.” (Watch the Food Network and you can’t miss him.)  I’ve made it a million times. The recipe is simple to prepare, doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, and lends itself to innovation; dress it up with a pinch of curry or chili powder, or take it in an entirely different direction with some chopped parsley and dill. Substitute honey for the maple syrup, marinate for the allotted time or skip this step altogether, grill it on the barbecue or pop it into a hot oven. Whichever path you take, it will be delicious, especially served with crispy roasted ...

The Sick Days: Part 6

Sweet Young Thing Seeks Star Job Like crows trying to snag the choicest flesh off a dead squirrel, we crowded around the program head hoping to snag the choicest assignments for our first week. By Shelley Page Does it matter more who we were then or what we went on to do? Graduates from my summer reporting program at the Toronto Star became Editor-in-Chief of the Globe and Mail; a best-selling author of crime fiction; a prominent columnist; foreign correspondents; a journalism professor; a rock critic; and a Pulitzer Prize winner. But almost three decades ago, we sized each other up around a long table in the Print Room, the bar on the ground floor of the Toronto Star building at One Yonge Street. There were 18 of us, mostly in our twenties. Four were women. Two others were from Carleton; both were guys, one a very good friend. At 21, I was the youngest, but one of the few who had daily newspaper experience. Amid us mostly scrappy j-school graduates, was a summer ...

Adios, Buena Vista Social Club

The venerated Cuban act made famous by Ry Cooder's chart-topping recording are on their final tour, but even as octogenarians, the surviving legends send chills through the nervous system By Rod Mickleburgh It was a magical night, mixed with a heavy dose of poignancy, as the vaunted Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club made its final appearance in Vancouver. There will be no more tours. Many of the aging Cuban music stars we got to know and love from Ry Cooder’s venture to Havana in the 1990’s are no longer with us. Only five Buena Vista originals are left, and one of them, the incomparable diva Omara Portuondo, will soon be 85. She could barely walk onto the stage at the Chan Centre. As soon as the music started up, however, her fountain of youth kicked in, transfixing us still with the haunting power of her voice and an aching ability to caress the lyrics. Spanish really is the loving tongue. For most of her short set, we were on our feet, showering her with the adulation ...

The perfect potato ode to Thanksgiving

Yukon Gold and Sweet Potatoes Anna The fancy potato cake first made famous by Julia Child is a tasty alternative to the standard holiday mash slathered in gravy By Louise Crosby Thanksgiving in my extended family has become a huge affair. That’s because we now number 25 people, plus any others who happen to be in the picture. The brave household that offers to host must find enough tables, dishes and cutlery to seat everyone, and usually cooks the main event, in this case a turkey. The rest of us bring appetizers, mashed potatoes and other vegetables, and a few desserts, typically involving pumpkin or apples. Pot luck, it’s the only way to go with a crowd like this. Notice I said mashed potatoes. Feeling like a change, I offered to make Duchess potatoes this year. Admittedly, these are labour intensive. You start with mashed potatoes but then add egg yolks, cream and butter. This mixture is spooned into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and piped into swirly mounds, ...

Mob Rule: Part 8

Dinner at Number 4 Patchin Place Voltaire said ‘the finest system would be democracy with the occasional assassination,’ and New York's established mob families couldn't agree more By John Armstrong Don’t ever get Joe started on his apartment, if you can still call it that. Every time he buys a few more paintings or sculptures he ends up buying the next unit over and knocking out a few non-essential walls. It’s more art gallery and warehouse now than it is living space. It’s beautiful though, don’t get me wrong; just that I wouldn’t want to dust it. Number 4 Patchin Place is in a gated cul de sac in the Village just off West 10th between Sixth and Greenwich, 10 or so three-story row houses in red brick and black wrought iron in close proximity to the coffee bars and galleries of the bohemian district. That would have been enough for Joey to buy it but it’s who lived there before him that sunk the hook. The poet e.e. cummings lived at No. 5, long ...

Mob Rule: Part 7 – continued

We met the Goombah The date with the lovely Vanessa continues, but after surveying a history of violence, she asks her suitor some tough questions By John Armstrong I’ll leave out the details of our trip to the Museum of American History. Everyone’s seen the wing devoted to the Big Takeover a thousand times anyway, either in person or onscreen. That said, I still get choked up when I stand before the towering statues of the Great Outlaws – Dillinger gleefully burning the mortgage records after emptying a bank vault, or Pretty Boy Floyd delivering Christmas dinner to a starving family on welfare - and then the massive 20-foot painting that summarizes the Second Revolution, starting with the Bank Crash and Depression and then the breadlines, the Hooverville riots, and the government troops firing into hungry, unemployed, desperate crowds. I’m always drawn to one section that shows union busters clubbing men and women on a picket line while fat, cigar-smoking politicians ...