When I finished writing my first solo show Jewnique, relief blanketed me in a way I never experienced before. "Finally, it's done!" I said to myself more than once. But oh, how wrong I was because although Jewnique went through many drafts before its debut in May 2018, I realized it was far from finished.
Thanks to feedback from friends and family who attended the debut performance, I've been tweaking the show to add more personal reflections on my up-and-down relationship with Judaism. I wasn't as vulnerable as I could have been in the final draft.
At first, when I was confronted with the daunting obligation of editing Jewnique once again, I was frustrated. This? Again? Ugh! But then I began to see the forest through the trees, to borrow a terrible cliche. I discovered the joy of editing, which is something I experienced often with my journalistic work. Now, with an hour-long show requiring some cuts and added material, I was smiling wide at how I could add a phrase here or a joke there and strengthen the show to become something I could see being performed across the world.
Editing takes a different skillset than writing or performing. You have to kill your most treasured lines if they weigh down the story or come off as corny on a second read. You have to be merciless. And in my latest Jewnique draft, I have been cutthroat, so much so I was sad to see some great lines go but overjoyed to welcome new ideas to the party.
If you're a writer disappointed to learn you need to write another draft of this or that piece, learn from my story: Editing can be a lesson in chipping away at your finished sculpture to reveal even more nuances you missed the first time around. And when you get it right, there's no better feeling.
When I was reading John Cleese's autiobiography recently, the Monty Python star dropped a gem of a term I never heard before: pronoid. Known as the opposite of paranoid syndrome, pronoid folks believe everyone likes them thanks to a blind conviction that is almost comical if it wasn't so detrimental to their personalities.
We all are acquainted with one particular fool in the highest office in the world who boasts the most pronoid behaviour many have ever seen. But I'd caution that we've all come across people who bring a dislikable confidence to their behaviour, as if they couldn't ever conceive someone would find them abhorrent.
To be pronoid is to hold horse-blinders to your face and let the tunnel vision carry you through decades of blissful ignorance, viewing a friend's distancing as HIS issue, not a consequence of egotistical boastings. I can't handle these kinds of people, which is why I feel the heat of anger rise in my throat every time I cross paths with an oblivious pronoid who believes everyone's gaze is constantly admiring their every decision.
Maybe the ubiquity of social media has shone a spotlight on this behaviour most vividly, thanks to the quick hits of double-taps hat-tips that tell the pronoid, "You are appreciated, no matter what you do."
I don't have any grand solution on changing those afflicted by such a never-ending daydream. I just prefer to steer clear of such toxicity, even if it's infected a friend or acquaintance whose company I've previously enjoyed. And I recommend you do the same.
Podcasts have replaced traditional radio for me, although I dip into CBC's morning broadcast while I'm making breakfast. There's something about an intellectually nourishing or so-funny-it-hurts podcast that I never could get from radio, but maybe today we're spoiled with how easy it is to find a podcast on anything that interests you.
Then again, I've thought of a few podcasts I'd like to see happen, and even though I'm tempted to give them a shot at some point, I know I don't have the bandwidth in the next few years to produce a 'cast.
Below are some podcast show ideas and if any of the below speak to you, by all means steal the concept and run with it! But let me know, so I can subscribe.
Thanks to the videos produced from my debut of Jewnique and my dear mother's newfound love of photography, I made a photo album of the performance at The Al Green Theatre and some after-party fun.
I'll keep everyone posted on any when my solo show will be staged again in the GTA or elsewhere in Canada. There are some rumblings that an Ottawa or Montreal show could happen later this year.
This summer has given me the opportunity to write about high-tech tires, cannabis investments, why Larry David is a comic genius and Toronto Fringe Festival reviews.
To get caught up on what I've been writing recently, below are some of my latest clips. I included a media appearance I made in a Toronto Star article about Toronto resto Fat Pasha.
I also tweet about my articles (and other stuff) here.
In no particular order...
My 10 reviews of Toronto Fringe Festival shows (NOW)
Why some job ads turn off women (BBC News)
Inside the tires of the future (Vice)
Where to pitch your cannabis startup idea (Lift & Co)
Home chefs are the stars of new food-sharing app LaPiat (StartupHERE Toronto)
Why Larry David is a comedy genius (Crixeo)
I was interviewed in The Toronto Star about my fave dish.
When I logged on to the Star.com website recently, I got wind of news Toronto's flagship paper will soon be adding a subscriber layer to their website, and offering five free articles for non-registered users. I thought to myself, almost reactively: "Damn. That sucks."
But does it? Did I expect my favourite news sites to always bring me free news? Maybe I was spoiled at my days running news network Digital Journal, where we didn't charge for our news content (and don't plan to, if I'm correct in predicting what my successors are doing with the site).
In the past two years, I've paid for more news than I ever have, thanks to a oh-so-due realization I feeding myself from a trough that could be hurting my fellow journalists. I've paid for a Wired print and online subscription, and gladly opened my wallet for two years' worth of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.
I plan on subscribing to TheStar.com, which has fast become my go-to site for Toronto and Ontario news. The reporting of journo stars such as Daniel Dale deserve to be compensated for their work from readers who appreciate what they're doing.
I know many of us still want to wallow in the sandy beach of free news. I do too, in a way. But a more hard-nosed part of me demands I help fund the media outlets I've long enjoyed all these years, much like I pay for Netflix so I can watch movies and shows I would have likely paid for via iTunes or similar service.
It's inevitable some news media needs a layer of paid subscription to survive. Not all, but some. More importantly, legacy media has to rethink its business model, which has been the mantra since Google and Facebook crushed print media's advertising lifeline, but until those industry-shaking ideas take shape, I'm going to help fund the outlets that produce strong journalism I read daily.
When I heard Pet Sematary was getting the remake treatment, and came across the new trailer for the reimagined Predator, I couldn't help but feel a heat rise in my throat.
I got a soft spot for memorable movies whose first entry into our collective theatre deserves no second act. But Hollywood gets greedy, gets dumb, and goes for what worked before. I'm not saying anything new, but I do want to have it down on writing that I would object oh so loudly with oh so many fiery hashtags if the below films were given new life instead of remaining frozen in the quiet amber of an era where they were born.
In no particular order:
STAND BY ME
THE PRINCESS BRIDE
THE TIN DRUM
"A blank piece of paper is like an unassaulted ice floe — whether you’re a well-known writer or a beginner, it’s overwhelming. I teach a second-grade workshop with my grandson right now, and I tell them about keeping a one-inch picture frame on their desks — all you have to do on any given day is what you can see through that one-inch picture frame. I’ll say, ‘You don’t have to write a whole book on birds; just pick one bird.’ We have a lot of pelicans where I live, so I’ll say, ‘Read about pelicans, and then write me two sentences about pelicans in your own voice.’" -Anne Lamott
"The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time." -Mary Oliver
"There is nothing noble about being superior to another person; the true greatness is in being superior to your previous self." -Buddhist proverb
"I think the imagination is the single most useful tool mankind possesses. It beats the opposable thumb. I can imagine living without my thumbs, but not without my imagination. It is not a means of making money. It has no place in the vocabulary of profit-making. It is not a weapon, though all weapons originate from it, and their use, or non-use, depends on it, as with all tools and their uses. The imagination is an essential tool of the mind, a fundamental way of thinking, an indispensable means of becoming and remaining human." -Ursula K. Leguin
"Why is it that of every hundred gifted young musicians who study at Juilliard or every hundred brilliant young scientists who go to work in major labs under illustrious mentors, only a handful will write memorable musical compositions or make scientific discoveries of major importance? Are the majority, despite their gifts, lacking in some further creative spark? Are they missing characteristics other than creativity that may be essential for creative achievement — such as boldness, confidence, independence of mind?
It takes a special energy, over and above one’s creative potential, a special audacity or subversiveness, to strike out in a new direction once one is settled. It is a gamble as all creative projects must be, for the new direction may not turn out to be productive at all." -Oliver Sacks
"Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible." -Stephen King
"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear." -Joan Didion
"If you want to give a voice to the voiceless, if you want to tell the untold stories, you have to find the right language. That goes for prose as well as film, for autobiography as well as documentary. Use the wrong language, and you're dumb and blind." -Salman Rushdie
"In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over. Sure, he's tired. Everyone is. That's not the point. The point is to run. Same thing is true for shipping, I think. Everyone is afraid. Where do you put the fear?" -Seth Godin
I can finally share with you the first video I'm releasing from my May 10 show Jewnique, performed at the Al Green Theatre in downtown Toronto. In fact, this might be the only video I publicly release, because I may stage the show again in Toronto in late '18 or early '19 and I'm not a fan of videos of spoiling the surprise of a one-hour theatre show.
This segment from Jewnique is my profile of Cantor Moshe Kraus, the youngest cantor (liturgical leader) in history, and a survivor of the Holocaust. He lives in Ottawa with his wife Rivkah.
I wanted to stake new ground in theatre/spoken word by introducing the concept of "performance journalism", whereby i blend my journalistic techniques with my storytelling experience. In a way, I'd be performing the articles I'd normally write for magazines, for whom I have written hundreds of profiles.
But by linking these profiles of inspiring Jewish Canadians, and adding the theme of my disenchantment with Judaism, I was able to give the audience a peek into the conflicts I have with my own faith. And that wasn't an easy thing to do.
So I hope you enjoy this profile from Jewnique, and feel free to contact me anytime if you want to share any feedback or have ideas of where the show should be staged next.
It gets a bad rap, but reddit is one of the best destinations for, well, anyone online.
Known as a forum of forums, reddit is broken down by sub-reddits, which are communities dedicated to topics. They can be expected forums, such as /worldnews for headline news or /videos on viral videos. But they can also be niche, such as /freelancewriters for those in the freelance journalism biz. Or /FoodToronto, for all things food-related in Toronto.
I've been a big fan of reddit for around six years, and it's become my go-to source for numerous things, such as story ideas to pitch to editors, the latest info on medical marijuana headlines, documentaries you can watch online free, advice on optimizing my tennis game, and so much more.
That bad rap things...Let's just say some reddit commenters can be uncivil and trolly, but I'd contend the majority of comments are intelligent and polite. There'll be rotten apples in any bunch, right?
I've had some enthralling debates on reddit, with nary a curse word thrown in. I've learned about subjects simply by asking a question to, say, Explain It Like I'm Five, a forum dedicated to requesting a breakdown of something you find too complex to understand.
What I find admirable about reddit is how helpful the community can be. If you ask a question in any city's sub-reddit, you'll get replies within an hour offering tips on what you're requesting. Only rarely will dead air meet my questions. The high rate of engagement keeps me coming back to reddit (which, I'm warning you, can be such a timesuck you'll wonder how an hour passed during a surface perusal of /askreddit).
So what are your favourite reddit communities and why? Feel free to comment below or reply via Twitter.
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Media criticism. Poetry. Creativity. Toronto. Technology. Travel. Sports. Why X-Files rocks.