Episode #105 - The Fellows: International Neurosurgeons

June 15, 2018

The brain is a mystery, historically eluding learned scientists, philosophers and other great thinkers. Even today, it seems, doctors responsible for its care still haven't totally figured it out.  

Exploring this, Paul speaks with four young neurosurgeons from around the world. They are (left to right in episode photo): Miguel Marigil from Spain, Claire Karekezi from Rwanda, Carlos Valasquez from Honduras and Joao de Almedia from Brazil. The surgeons are also known as "fellows", short for the Toronto-based "fellowships" they are undertaking in their field of medicine and which are highly specialized mentorships. Together, they address the personal and professional challenges of being a neurosurgeon, the exceptional duty of care they have to their patients and cultural differences in the practice of medicine between their home country and Canada.  

Special thanks to Dr. Fred Gentili and his wife Gina for helping bring the participants, otherwise far apart geographically, of this rare and important episode together. Learn more about the University of Toronto neurosurgical program, in which Dr. Gentili and the fellows are involved, here.

Episode #104 - How Sex and Guns “Hook-Up”: Jooyoung Lee

June 6, 2018

What does understanding those involved in online dating and gun violence have in common? Exploring the possibility of this unlikely connection, Paul talks to Jooyoung Lee, professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, about how "ethnography" allows us to enter the life-worlds of individuals and ultimately see things from their unique, though sometimes morally difficult, point of view.

 Drawing from his recent work on the mental and physical challenges of gunshot survivors, as well as the popular course he offers, "Sex in the 6ix", about Toronto's complicated (and at times dangerous) dating scene, Jooyoung illuminates that to truly know people, you must spend time with them. Their essence can never be captured from afar. Venturing outside of the classroom, as Jooyoung encourages his students, is necessary to do that.  

 Learn more about Jooyoung here

Episode #103 - Doing Photography the “Old” Way: Vincenzo Pietropaolo, Bob Lansdale and Clint Hryhorijiw

May 25, 2018

The Dark Room Unofficial Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival Special

Welcoming this year's Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Paul talks with documentary photographer, Vincezo Pietropaolo, and Bob Lansdale and Clint Hryhorijiw of the Photographic Historical Society of Canada, about the fading art of pre-digital photography. Central to the discussion is whether the proliferation of cameras, namely the smartphone variety, is helping produce better or mediocre photography, as well as what overlooked advantages doing photography the "old" way (i.e. with a film camera) there are for both the photographer and their art. Moreover, the group explores the ethics of photography--not bound to any particular era--and the value and importance of respecting them, especially in documenting difficult social and other realities.

Episode #102 - Survivor of Early Childhood Sexual Abuse: Chris

May 21, 2018

The content of this cast is upsetting. Listener discretion is advised.

Paul talks to "Chris", 31, a survivor of early childhood sexual abuse, primarily at the hands of his biological parents and in a seemingly ordinary, suburban community. In this difficult episode, Chris, for the first time publicly, speaks about what happened during the abuse, the immense challenge of both physically and psychologically escaping it and why, in the process, he has come to reject the idea of himself as a "victim." Rather contentiously, Chris is adamant that--no matter how bad your circumstances--the inability to achieve a desirable future ultimately amounts to personal failure.


Episode #101 - Mother’s Day Special 2018

May 13, 2018

Dr. Paul Salvatori talks with a panel of insightful and courageous mothers-- Samra Zafar, Joanne Charmet and Michelle Alfano-- about the rewards and challenges of motherhood. The mothers share their lived experiences of strained familial relationships, balancing work and professional life and undying love for their children. Exploring areas often left out of mainstream discussion about Mother's Day, the roundtable brings to light difficult though praiseworthy aspects of motherhood, speaking to the strength required therein. Learn more about Samra at samrazafar.com and Michelle's powerful memoir, The Unfinished Dollhouse, about raising her transgender son here. Special thanks to the wonderful staff at the Toronto Public Library for sponsoring and helping make this roundtable possible.
Producers - Dr. Paul Salvatori, Gina Fabiano, Angeline Pizzirusso
Co-Producer & Online Media Manager - Robyn Lewis
Writer & Host - Dr. Paul Salvatori
Sound Editor - Peter Bull
Music - Dr. Paul Salvatori

Episode #100 - Season 2 Wrap-Up

April 2, 2018

On this final episode of Season 2 of The Dark Room, Paul and Jordan talk about their experiences during the past year of podcasting, what emotions and feeling they were left with. The Dark Room will be returning for Season 3 later on in the year and to fill in the gap we will be debuting some of the new shows that we've been working on! We'd like to thank all of our listeners for your continued support! The show wouldn't be much without you guys! Be sure to visit www.thedarkroom.ca to keep up to date with our new projects as they are released!

Episode #99 - The Perils of Privilege: Phoebe Maltz Bovy

February 13, 2018

Depending on who you ask, people will give you a different reply as to who is the most privileged in our society. But as of late, "privilege" itself is commonly used to refer to someone's unearned advantages, making it easy for them to overlook or be indifferent to the plight of the less fortunate.

Paul and Jordan talk to social critic and writer, Phoebe Maltz Bovy, about this understanding of "privilege" and whether it lends itself to properly addressing and ultimately eliminating social injustice, such as racism and sexism. She reveals how attacking people on the basis of their privilege, as when telling them it renders them ignorant, divides people and makes ending oppression more difficult. In Phoebe's view, both the privileged and non-privileged can, as allies, play a direct role in making the world a fairer place.

Learn more about Phoebe and her recent book, The Perils of "Privilege"here.

Episode #98 - Orlando Da Silva

January 30, 2018

We often think of lawyers as embodying a warrior spirit, invulnerable to pain. Tough as nails, they, unlike the rest of us, do not “hurt” within.  

Paul talks to seasoned lawyer and award-winning mental health advocate, Orlando Da Silva, about what is more accurate: pervasive mental illness within the legal profession. While opening up about his own struggle with depression, Orlando reveals the normalized but dangerous pressures of the profession, such as continually sacrificing time with loved ones, and which sadly led him to attempt suicide. However, reflecting his personal strength and courage, Orlando remains committed to promoting better mental health among lawyers, concerned more about happiness than advancing their careers.

Learn more about Orlando here.

Episode #97 - Modern Whore: Andrea Werhun

January 8, 2018

Prostitution is considered to be the "world's oldest profession", yet it remains taboo in many parts of the world. For some, however, it is life-affirming.  

Paul and Jordan talk to former escort, Andrea Werhun, and advocate for the differently abled, Paul Swartz, about the value and importance of sex work. Beyond the physical, Andrea and Paul reveal how such work provides clients with emotional and psychological fulfillment, central to a meaningful life and which may be otherwise wholly absent from the client's own. The group also discusses the continued struggle for the decriminalization of sex work in Canada, especially the unnecessary moral and religious barriers that hinder its progress.  

Learn more about Andrea, including her recently published book, Modern Whore: A Memoir, at modernwhore.com and Paul here. In addition to being a seasoned real estate agent, Paul is the subject of Short on Short, a documentary by co-hosts Paul and Jordan, on the difficulty of being a small statured man.

Episode #96 - Hip-Hop in the 6ix

January 2, 2018

Long before the “6 God” Drake, Toronto has had a thriving hip-hop scene. Since the 1980s, early Toronto rappers such as Maestro Fresh Wes, Michie Mee and Kardinal Offishall, have been testimony to the city’s impressive talent and paved the way for other hip-hop artists to shine--locally and abroad.   

Exploring Toronto’s hip-hop scene, Paul and Jordan talk to a diverse and insightful group: emcees Mindbender and Leo Noir, DJ Mike Stoan and hip-hop scholar Ola Mohammed. The group candidly discuss what is unique and distinctive about Toronto hip-hop itself, how Drake--as one of the most accomplished rappers in recent memory--has significantly changed hip-hop in the city and barriers to success that exist for up-and-coming Toronto hip-hop artists.

Stay tuned early 2018 for "Memories of a Bender", an exclusive The Dark Room mini-series featuring stories about the underside of Toronto's hip-hop scene.

Episode #95 - A Mortician’s Tale: Gabby DaRienzo

December 13, 2017

We are accustomed to viewing video games as unnecessarily violent, containing graphic depictions of death. Some, however, are spinning death in a new light. 

Paul and Jordan talk to video game developer, Gabby DaRienzo, about her recent creation, A Mortician's Tale. It is a video game that requires the player--as a funeral director--to both care for the business and emotional side of death, from preparing the bodies of the deceased to comforting the bereaved. Though seemingly dark, the game, Gabby shares, is deemed "death positive," helping people talk more openly and comfortably about death. 

Follow Gabby on Twitter @gabdar

Episode #94 - Imprisoned Innocence: Ken Klonsky & David McCallum

November 28, 2017

Laws are in place to protect the innocent from being punished. But what happens when those entrusted to uphold them, do the opposite?

Paul and Jordan talk to David McCallum, imprisoned 29 years for a crime he did not commit, and Ken Klonsky, pivotal to his eventual release, about the events surrounding David's wrongful conviction and the unfair justice system responsible for it. Exploring how much has changed since, the four delve into important issues of race, false confessions, and the right to a fair trial. As David and Ken reveal, though wrongful convictions still persist, we--as concerned citizens--can help end them by holding governments legally accountable.

Learn more about David and Ken here.

Episode #93 - Skin Deep: Steven Burton

November 8, 2017

How much do we, in actuality, “judge a book by its cover”? Is artificially altering someone’s appearance enough for us to think differently of them?

Exploring this, Paul and Jordan talk to documentarian, Steven Burton, about digitally removing—via Photoshop—gang tattoos from photographs he took of ex-gang members, in the United States. Beyond aesthetics, Steven reveals he did so in order to remind audiences of the humanity of ex-gang members, overshadowed by their tattoos which continue to stigmatize them in real life. Steven’s photographs, before and after tattoo removal, are part of his new and original book, Skin Deep, accompanied by unflinching statements by the ex-gang members about their hopes, fears and dreams along the path of creating a positive (crime free) life for themselves.

Learn more about Steven here.

Episode #92 - The Woman Who Remembers Everything: Rebecca Sharrock

October 24, 2017

Many of us with busy lives have a hard time remembering what we did yesterday or even moments ago. We are comforted by the thought, however, that when our lives move at an even and steady pace, we exercise a "good" memory. But how good?  

Paul and Jordan talk to Rebecca Sharrock, one of a handful of people worldwide who have what is known as "Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory" (HSAM). Remembering all the events of her life from infancy, Rebecca shares how she went from thinking her exceptional memory was normal to realizing, initially with the help of her parents, the rare gift it is. Though, as Rebecca reveals, this gift can be rather challenging, causing her to relive painful emotions of the past. Still, Rebecca is empowered by her difference and through mental health advocacy encourages others to embrace theirs--as the foundation for a truly unique and meaningful life.  

Learn more about Rebecca here.

Episode #91 - Reach Out Together: Aanchal Vashistha & Kathy Chu

October 9, 2017

Mental health has become a popular topic in our culture. It seems practically everywhere there are heartfelt ads supporting those battling depression, anxiety, and other illnesses of the mind. Yet, there oddly remains a reluctance to personally disclose the difficulties of one’s own inner life. Some wish to buck this trend—and collectively so.

Paul and Jordan talk to Aanchal Vashistha and Kathy Chu, from Reach Out Together, about the tragic suicide behind the group’s inception and how it underlines its compassionate mandate to destigmatize talking about mental health challenges, ultimately helping those suffering in silence. By the same token, Aanchal and Kathy reveal why Reach Out Together is also committed to bringing people together at their life-affirming events—from candid conversation to vibrant dance socials—to promote happiness and well-being through the often overlooked power of face-to-face interaction. In an era characterized by “chronic loneliness," Reach Out Together offers a refreshing alternative to the isolation many have, unfortunately, become accustomed to.

Learn more about Reach Out Together here.

Episode #90 - American Circumcision: Brendon Marotta

September 25, 2017

For many, hearing “circumcision” is enough to feel uncomfortable. It evokes not only physical pain but causes self-consciousness about what, quite literally, hardly sees the light of day. Paul and Jordan talk to documentarian Brendon Marotta about what led him to create his new and original documentary film, American Circumcision, and the controversy that still remains around male circumcision in the United States and abroad. Historically a common practice, though waning in frequency today, male circumcision has received minimal attention from documentary filmmakers. Brendon reveals why, especially given the health and psychological risks of the practice, breaking that trend is necessary and the ethical, cultural, and medical value a larger discussion about it will have for both present and future generations. Learn more about Brendon and his film here.

Episode #89 - Photographer: Manuela Cacciaguerra

September 11, 2017

Is everyone a photographer today? Has the simplicity of taking pictures on smart phones rendered trained photographers insignificant?

Paul and Jordan talk to Manuela Cacciaguerra about her seasoned career as a documentary photographer, capturing everything from natural disasters to media shy politicians, and why--despite the proliferation of digital cameras--there has not been a swell of great photographers. Recalling earlier years, Manuela shares important lessons she learned in the lengthier process of using non-digital technology, such as film, that accounts for much of her artistic and professional success. Moreover, as someone who often spends extended periods of times with her subjects, Manuela reveals how the photographer becomes akin to an anthropologist, learning about their interior world just as much as their outer.

Follow Manuela on Facebook here.

Episode #88 - ASMRtists: Sarah Marchand & Chelsea Dab Hilke

August 28, 2017

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), characterized by a tingling sensation produced by soft whispering and sounds, is quickly gaining popularity online, especially on YouTube and other social media. It is commonly a one way experience, whereby the ASMR artist performs for their audience, feeling a gentle euphoria in turn.

Paul and Jordan talk to Sarah Marchand and Chelsea Dab Hilke about their new theatrical production, ASMRtist, and how, using ASMR, they go beyond and arguably defy this experience. Unlike most ASMR performers, Sarah and Chelsea are interested in dissolving the boundary, such as the computer screen, between themselves and audience. In doing so, they--blurring the line between art and real life--invite the audience to directly take part in ASMRtist, co-creating the story onstage.

Learn more about ASMRtist here.

Episode #87 - Child Marriage Survivor: Samra Zafar

August 26, 2017

Canada is often regarded as a beacon of democracy, where many, internationally, flee dangerous and oppressive conditions to live a life free from harm. Tragically, however, some are subjected to those very conditions on their arrival, unnoticed by the community around them.

On the heels of her recent TED talk, Paul talks with international speaker and human rights advocate, Samra Zafar, about surviving a child marriage that began at age 16 when she was forced to move to Canada to marry a man unknown to her. Nearly two decades later, she is today an inspiring example of courage and resilience, having escaped her abusive marriage and empowering herself through higher education--a dream of hers since childhood. As Samra reveals, there is the potential in all of us to, despite the worst of adversity, realize the future we want for ourselves, rather than dictated by others. In her quest of compassion, Samra also leads "Brave Beginnings,” an organization dedicated to helping others escape abusive relationships and lead happy, independent lives.

Learn more about Samra at samrazafar.com

Episode #86 - Documentary Filmmaker: Kwame Damon Mason

August 14, 2017

Paul and Jordan talk to Kwame Mason about his groundbreaking debut feature documentary, Soul On Ice: Past, Present & Future. Exploring the film together, Kwame reveals the difficult, but ultimately heroic, journey of Black hockey players in the NHL, and the important lessons it teaches us about the destructiveness of racism, as well as courage and resilience in the face of hatred. Taking an interesting turn, the episode also delves into the history of the Toronto hip-hop scene, and how--as in filmmaking--discussion the scene can progress when artists collaborate rather than simply compete. 

Learn more about Kwame and the film at soulonicemovie.com