Category Archives: Journalism/Opinion

The True Tale of the Shipwreck and Twist of Fate that Brought My Grandparents Together

Mike Crisolago, Zoomer Magazine, Grandma, Grandpa, Valentine's Day
Growing up, I’d heard the story many times: grandpa was a young sailor with the merchant marines when his ship that sunk at sea, grandma saw the newspaper article with his photo and dreamed of marrying him years before she’d met him, the incredible twist of fate that brought them together, and the moment she was shocked to find out he was the man from the newspaper article years earlier.

I’ve always wanted to document my grandparents’ story, not just because it’s so fascinating and unique but because, in a way, it’s my entire family’s story. As it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought the time was right to finally write it, and I feel extremely privileged and honoured to have been able to do so for Zoomer Magazine:

On August 27, 1946, violent ocean winds pummeled the merchant marine freighter Fort Boise against the unforgiving rocks off Dog Island shoal, near the coast of eastern Canada. Fog engulfed the doomed vessel and, according to an account in the Toronto Daily Star, the wind and waves conspired to, “(break) her back within an hour.” Blind in the haze and tossed about in the wreckage, the crew made a desperate dash for the lifeboats….

Please feel free to check out the entire story for yourself on the Zoomer website by clicking here.


Labour Day, The End of Summer, and the Worst Jobs to Return to on Tuesday Morning

Photo copyright PhotoStockMonster

In Toronto, the annual launch of the Canadian National Exhibition, or The Ex, often serves as the wake-up call that summer is almost through. Then, once Labour Day hits, the reality sets in that summer’s done and it’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving, Halloween and, soon enough, Christmas (only 115 shopping days left!).

Now, before the end of season depression kicks in, consider that things could be much worse come Tuesday morning. I personally count myself lucky as someone who is working in the profession he always wanted to. But it’s hard to imagine someone aspiring to be, say, a funeral clown or a lunatic keeper.

Sound ridiculous? I would have thought so too. Then I did some research for a piece for Zoomer magazine called “Labour Day: Be Happy You Don’t Have These Jobs.” These professions existed, along with many other strange and often extinct ones like it. Some are questionable, while others top modern lists as professions considered “the worst” in Canada or the U.S.

So for those dreading Tuesday morning, read the Zoomer article and count yourself lucky that at least you’re not going back to your job as the person with the bucket who stands under the elephant. What am I talking about, you ask? Read it and you’ll understand. Trust me.


10 Things You Might Not Know About Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, Books, Arts/Literature

Maurice Sendak, beloved author and illustrator of the wildly popular children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, among others, passed away today at the age of 83. The cause of death was complications due to a stroke.

In honour of Sendak’s life and work, I compiled a list of 10 facts about his life and work that the average person may not realize. What historic tragedies are symbolically represented in Sendak’s stories? What movie did he believe was the best children’s film of all time? Who did he model the wild things after?

Much like how many beloved Disney-treated fairy tales find their origins in darker, more sinister stories, Sendak’s work was often informed by personal suffering, as well as the many social and political horrors he encountered as a child. To find out more, check out my article 10 Things You May Not Have Known About Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) on the Zoomer magazine website.

Grappling with a Python

Terry Jones, Monty Python, Toronto

On the theme of April Fools and jokes, this is a shot taken when I met and interviewed Terry Jones of the legendary British comedy troupe Monty Python. I have a short list of people I hope to meet and interview during my career, and this interview allowed me to check off one of those names. On this day of gags and pranks, I figured I’d post a shot of myself with one of the greatest comedians of all time.

April Fools Goes International

An 18th century gag  by Jonathan Swift that ruined the career of a prominent British astrologer; a French pilot’s prank on enemy troops during the First World War; the classic story of the Swiss spaghetti harvest; an impersonator leads audiences on as U.S. President Jimmy Carter during a confrontational CBC interview: these are a few of the best April Fools jokes ever played.

Click here for the list I compiled on Zoomer magazine’s website and feel free to leave your own favourite pranks in the comment section.

In Honour of Bob Marley’s Birthday, the Story of My Surprise Interview with his wife Rita Marley

Happy Birthday Bob Marley, Rita Marley, Bob Marley, Donisha Prendergast,  RasTa: A Soul's Journey, Interview, Zoomer magazine

UPDATE: The interview discussed below is now available online at this link.

In honour of Bob Marley’s birthday, I thought I’d recount the day I conducted a surprise interview with his wife, Rita:

A few weeks ago, in preparation for this month’s issue of Zoomer magazine, I was asked to conduct an interview with Rita Marley — singer, Rastafarian, and widow of the legendary Bob Marley. The interview, was to be conducted via email, so I did my research, wrote up my questions, and sent them to Mrs. Marley’s publicist. On the day that I was to receive the answers to my questions, my cell phone rang. When I answered, I heard this on the other end: “Please hold for Rita Marley.” The next thing I knew, Mrs. Marley was on the line, ready to be interviewed for our magazine.

At that moment I was working on another assignment and didn’t have the questions I’d sent to Mrs. Marley on hand. Luckily, she’s a very kind, intelligent woman and for the next 40 minutes I conducted a telephone interview with her as I recalled the questions I’d sent her while simply going with the flow of our talk and coming up with new ones as the conversation progressed.

Mrs. Marley was incredibly gracious with her time, and aside from being an intelligent and well-spoken interviewee, she was also very funny. When we finished the interview and hung up the phone, I sat back in my chair and closed my eyes and simply tried to take stock of the situation: Rita Marley, Bob Marley’s wife, just called me on my cell phone and we talked for 40 minutes. I couldn’t believe it.

I’ll always be extremely grateful to Rita Marley for calling me that day, as it was truly one of the biggest thrills of my career and a moment I know that, as the years go on, I will never forget.

My interview with Rita Marley appears in the March 2012 issue of Zoomer magazine, which should be on newsstands very shortly.

RasTa: A Soul’s Journey: Up right now on the Zoomer website, however, is my review of RasTa: A Soul’s Journey, a fantastic documentary by Bob and Rita Marley’s granddaughter Donisha Prendergast in which she travels to eight countries around the world, tracing the history of the Rastafarian movement, all the while taking part in her own personal journey to discover who she is, where she came from, and where she’d like to go. Click here for my review of RasTa: A Soul’s Journey.

Ronnie Burkett and Penny Plain

Ronnie Burkett, Penny Plain, Factory Theatre, Toronto, Zoomer magazine, Play Review, Interview

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ronnie Burkett, a man many call the world’s greatest puppeteer. After seeing his latest show, Penny Plain, at Toronto’s Factory Theatre, I understand why. The following excerpt is the introduction to my interview with him, which is currently posted not the home page of Zoomer magazine’s website. Below the excerpt are links to both my full interview with Burkett, and my review of Penny Plain:

Canadian Ronnie Burkett is one of the world’s premier puppeteers. For 25 years, his Theatre of Marionettes has been gripping adult audiences with plays featuring the unique combination of mature, thought-provoking, philosophical themes enacted on stage with puppets. Burkett’s current show, Penny Plain, set during the apocalypse and featuring a cast of characters including the blind and aging Penny to psychopaths, cross-dressers and even Geppetto and Pinocchio, is currently playing at Toronto’s Factory Theatre. Burkett recently spoke with Zoomer about Penny Plain, what goes into his craft, his fears as a performer and one embarrassing on-stage incident in Amsterdam.

Click here for my full interview — Strings Attached: One-on-One with Puppeteer Ronnie Burkett

Click here for my review of Penny Plain