The Mail

The Mail

July 28 1997
The Mail

The Mail

July 28 1997

The Mail

Immortality, or at least greatly extended life, is not only unattainable, but undesirable (“Forever young,” Cover, July 14). What sort of immediacy does a person who knows they will live a long time experience? Will we get more out of life knowing that we can squeeze experiences in some time later? I am certainly not denying any personal wish to live as long and as vibrantly as I can, but I will suggest to those who crave immortality that they are wasting the time they have.

Elixir of youth

Eric Braekevelt, Edmonton

A couple of years ago, I was caught up in the melatonin craze, which was then sweeping North America. My experiences, though, weren’t great. I often had extremely vivid dreams that left me feeling exhausted in the morning. I’m all for exercise, healthy eating and taking reasonable amounts of vitamins and herbal supplements. But when it comes to ingesting hormones like melatonin, that’s an entirely different matter.

Greg Rohovie, Lethbridge, Alta. E

As a scientist who has studied various physiological effects of melatonin in rodents, I am concerned about safety, and feel that the Health Protection Branch is correct in being cautious about approving melatonin’s use. I also think the argument that drug companies have no incentive to carry out extensive testing because they cannot patent a naturally occurring compound is a red herring. Academic scientists or clinicians who advise patients to take melatonin can write up and submit a protocol to do such a trial. The fact that no one seems to be doing this suggests to me that I’m not the only person who feels we may be looking at snake oil. This is not to say that melatonin is unimportant. Inducing sleep and preventing jet lag are legitimate uses for the pills. There is very interesting work suggesting it is a powerful free radical scavenger. It’s a long way, however, from what we have now to claims that melatonin will help you live past 100.

Gerald R. Buzzell, Professor, department of cell biology and anatomy, University of Alberta, Edmonton B

g Your articles on aging were ex5 tremely interesting and informais tive. Several times, however, you £ misinterpret life expectancy. This I is a mathematical average of how long people at various ages are likely to live, and does not necessarily reflect an increase of maximum possible lifespan. For example, it has been clearly shown that the primary increase in life expectancy at birth in developed countries in this century is the result of declining child mortality, not increased longevity. Thus, the low life expectancy last century was not due to people dying in middle age, but rather that they could not even survive to reach middle age.

Dr. Barry Goldlist, Director, division of geriatric medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto B

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR should be addressed to:

Maclean’s Magazine Letters 777 Bay St.,Toronto, Ont. M5W IA7 Fax: (416) 596-7730 E E-mail:

or: Maclean’s welcomes readers’ views, but letters may be edited for space and clarity. Please supply name, address and daytime telephone number. Submissions may appear in Maclean’s electronic sites.

Herbal store owner Chanchal Cabrere (“The eating-right approach”) seems to have it all together when she suggests that people should “do one really crazy, silly thing each day.” Her suggestion reminded me of a bumper sticker that read: “Don’t take life too seriously, it’s not permanent.”

Bill Bolstad, Regina

Before his time

More than one reader pointed out that, in a photograph of the late Charles Taylor in last week’s issue, the (white) horse in a painting was not the famed (and brown) colt Northern Dancer, as stated (“A reporter in China,” Obituary, July 21). The painting, in fact, is Barbarry Horse and Jockey by the 18th-century English sporting artist John Wootton.

Somalia report

Whew! For a while, I thought that the Somalia inquiry was going to expose and help purge the double standard that exists within the department of national defence, thus restoring credibility to the Canadian Forces by identifying where the real leadership shortcomings were (“Bitter to the end,” Canada, July 14). But, thankfully, our Liberal government stepped in and cut short the inquiry and denounced the final report showing all Canadians what real leadership is and how to handle distasteful and politically damaging situations.

Dan Presseau, Digby, N.S. E

You seem to overlook a fundamental flaw in the Somalia report itself—sweeping allegations have been made without compelling or irrefutable evidence. Moreover, the commissioners are calling for severe action to address these unfounded allegations. Common sense says that one simply cannot claim that the entire military senior rank structure is “rotten to the core” unless one has firsthand and current knowledge of the whole structure. Did the commissioners visit all the operational headquarters themselves? From what has been said in public so far, especially by the commissioners, it seems that the vast majority of our senior military leaders have been most unjustly accused of unprofessional conduct, and certainly have not been proven guilty of any wrongdoing.

Peter T. Haydon,

Bedford, N.S. E

Don’t kid yourself, there is much interest in the Somalia inquiry (“Duplicity and cowardice,” From The Editor, July 14). Canadians know that the government desired a Warren commission-style report, full of lies, deception and no accountability. But the commissioners did the contrary. They revealed the truth about what they found, blamed high-ranking officials, named names and revealed government interference.

Michel De Lottinville, Elliot Lake, Ont.

'Out of touch'

My husband suggested I read Barbara Amiel’s column in the July 14 issue (“Slogging though yet another social season”), well knowing that I normally skip her right-wing diatribes. In it she refers to a new lower class of British society: secretaries and nurses. As a nurse, I take exception to her assumptions. As a woman, I am amazed at how out of touch with society she really is.

Valerie Fiset, Ottawa 111

At least Amiel was writing about something she knows about for a change. If you insist on publishing her writing, it would be best if we could be spared her columns about world politics (of which she knows little) and Canada (of which she knows nothing).

Noel Boulanger, Vancouver

Canada in Hong Kong

Amid all the hoopla surrounding the handover of Hong Kong to China, I searched in vain for some mention of the Japanese occupation of the colony and the fact that some 2,000 Canadian soldiers took part in the futile defence of the colony in 1941. Finally, my favorite columnist, Allan Fotheringham, mentioned that Pierre Trudeau, then-prime minister, stopped in 1970 to place a wreath at Sai Wan Bay Military Cemetery (“They cheered, they wept, and they left,” July 14). Bravo Foth. At least someone remembers.

Philip Doddridge, New Richmond, Que. Ml