Interview with author AJ Jacobs for Shalom Life

The following transcription of an Oct. 21, 2014 interview with author AJ Jacobs has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity. You can find the article at Shalom Life. — Ed.

Q: How would you describe this project?

That’s a great question. I guess it’s part journalism but part adventure, part event, part entrepreneur even though I’m not making any money cause it’s all for Alzheimer’s but I feel like I’m starting an entire enterprise. So, yeah it’s a mix of everything. It’s different from anything I’ve ever done before.

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Marco polo travelled Asia, had knowledge of ‘lands beyond Pacific Ocean’

This article was first published by Shalom Life on Nov. 5, 2014 — Ed.

Almost from the moment “Il Milione” was penned, the veracity of Marco Polo’s account of his time in China has been called into question.

The absence of maps and other documents to corroborate his travel narrative, which he recited while in prison to a writer of romances, has invited critics to attack his legacy, most famously while on his deathbed where he was told to recant his tall tales; and more recently by Frances Wood who claimed in her 1995 treatise “Did Marco Polo go to China?” that his stories of China were plagiarized from travellers. Though she has received much criticism for the book, she is not alone in thinking that Polo never made it past Persia.

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Ari Goldkind, Toronto’s ‘underdog’ mayoral candidate

This article was first published by Shalom Life on Oct. 14, 2014 — Ed. 

Ari Goldkind’s campaign to be Toronto’s next mayor was barely a month old when he was already being written off.

“He has virtually no chance of winning,” Robyn Doolittle wrote in a late March article for The Toronto Star on “fringe” candidates.

When considering the three leading contenders in the race — John Tory, Olivia Chow and Doug Ford — this assessment would normally be sound: How is a 40-year-old criminal defence lawyer with no history in politics going to be heard amongst the cacophony of campaigning by city hall juggernauts?

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Chow: victim of ‘really, really disgusting’ sexist, racist comments

Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow said that the amount and graphic nature of racist and sexist messages she has received during the current mayoral race has been far worse than she has ever experienced in her almost 30-year political career.

Prior to a scheduled debate on Oct. 6 at Centennial College in Scarborough between herself and candidates John Tory and Councillor Doug Ford, Chow told reporters that “I wish my political opponent(s) would actually speak up when these kind of attacks happen.”

The verbal attack in question occurred during the Oct. 1 debate in the Corso Italia neighbourhood, where an elderly caucasian man asked Chow why she –an immigrant who had lived in subsidized housing in the ′90s — thinks that she could run the city of Toronto.

“They just sat there,” she said of the other candidates following that question having been asked. “They made no comment.”

Asked if she thought Tory was correct in implying that Ford was an anti-Semite and a homophobe, she said that she would leave those two to fight among themselves.

“Neither of them have experienced the racist remarks directed to me. I’m the one supposedly spreading creeping jihad, I’m suppose to go back to China, I’m suppose to not be a Canadian. I’ve been attacked.”

The worst of the racist and sexist attacks, she said, are being committed online through Twitter and Facebook.

Chow thumbs through her smartphone for some of the obscene messages she has been sent since she started campaigning for mayor. Photo by Darryl Coote

Chow thumbs through her smartphone for some of the obscene messages she has been sent since she started campaigning for mayor. Photo by Darryl Coote

“It’s just really, really disgusting comments that I can’t say publicly,” she said, offering to show the media examples after having been repeatedly asked to elaborate on the content of the messages.

“It’s not for public consumption. It involves woman body parts, it involves outrages sexist remarks,” she said.

The Toronto Star reported on Oct. 2 that since she had announced on March 13 that she was to run for mayor about 1, 756 offensive posts had been removed from her Facebook page.

“My wonderful staff and my volunteers have been deleting them because they don’t want to show it to me. And from time to time I want to see what it is and when I look at them I thought, ‘My god, in this day I’m still getting that kind of really gross, disgusting comments,’” she said.

Tense Toronto mayoral debate sees candidate Ari Goldkind calling out Rob Ford for anti-Semitism

This article was first published by Shalom Life on Oct. 6, 2014 — Ed.

TORONTO — Issues of public transit and taxes took a backseat at Sunday night’s mayoral debate after candidate Ari Goldkind held Mayor Rob Ford accountable for having previously called Jewish people by a racial slur.

During the four candidate debate, Goldkind was not deterred by the surprise appearance of a tired and ashen-looking Mayor Ford, who is currently fighting a rare form of cancer, and said that Toronto can combat anti-semitism “by not having a mayor who refers to us … the Jewish people in this room, with a derogatory name that starts with K.”

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