If you know me, you know I claim to have a sweet tooth. I've long made such an admission in order to push away the responsibility of my own actions, of my shopping habits that lead me down the dessert aisle.
I've heard that researchers have found people credit their successes to internal forces while blaming their failures on external issues. So my love of sugar...it's not my fault, right? I was born with a sweet tooth.
Every week, I make bad decisions on what I put in my body and that sullying of my health has to end. Maybe you can relate to my habits: My supper won't be complete without a bit of dessert to cap it off, even if it's a long-forgotten Aroma chocolate hiding in my jacket coat pocket. Or I'll find an excuse to get ice cream in the summer, claiming to myself, "Oh it's hot out, I deserve this cone."
That's not to say I've been trying to reverse poor eating habits. For the past 5 years, I've been off pop and I no longer buy fruit juices. I prefer mayo with my fries, because ketchup tastes too sweet to me. I use cinnamon instead of sugar in my coffee.
I have a long way to go, though. And I'm writing this post to hold myself accountable, so I can look back at what I wrote a month ago and gauge if I lived up to my promise to drastically reduce the amount of sugar I eat.
That doesn't mean I'm going to swear off every dessert ever (I just discovered an Italian resto near me with amazing tiramisu...Damn it!). I'll simply make smarter decisions at the grocery lineup or at restaurants. I'll choose fruit salad over cheesecake. I'll ease up on wine, which has loads of sugar. I'll remind myself eating trail mix might feel healthy, thanks to their nuts and sunflower seeds, but those candied pineapple and Smarties aren't doing my diabetes risk factors any favours.
Like many of you, I've had a tough time with food. It has always been social for me, while also being a comfort during times of stress. Or I'll mindlessly eat garbage while binge-watching TV shows. It's soooo easy to fall into destructive routines that take a lot of energy to change, but if I want to avoid the many ailments associated with sugar consumption, I can't get lazy. Not at this age.
I'm framing my decision like this: Dave, you had a good run. You indulged in every exorbitant dessert imaginable. It's been a delicious 38 years, right? Well. That was fun stuff, but it's time to bring new flavours to your taste buds. Maybe it's time to cook this new ratatouille dish your buddy told you about. What about that peach and kale smoothie you've been meaning to try?
With this shift, I know I can curb the sugar I eat, but it's not going to be a cakewalk (ugh, great, now I'm thinking about cake). It'll take willpower, determination and effort to find other ways to satisfy that sweet-tooth craving. My life depends on it. Literally.
I've long been a fan of the Seth Godin idea of shipping it, even if it's not perfect. The "it" can be a product, new idea, book, show, etc. The marketing guru and prolific blogger said in 2010:
Shipping is fraught with risk and danger.
Every time you raise your hand, send an email, launch a product or make a suggestion, you're exposing yourself to criticism. Not just criticism, but the negative consequences that come with wasting money, annoying someone in power or making a fool of yourself.
It's no wonder we're afraid to ship.
It's not clear you have much choice, though. A life spent curled in a ball, hiding in the corner might seem less risky, but in fact it's certain to lead to ennui and eventually failure.
Since you're going to ship anyway, then, the question is: why bother indulging your fear?
It's such a spot-on idea to me: Take that fear of failure and channel into shipping the goddamn thing already, and tweak it once you get feedback from mentors, those you trust, strangers.
Godin's ship-it mantra has been on my mind with my solo show project Jewnique. Part of me wanted more time to fine-tune its edges, polish the poetry, but May 10 was the date I declared as its world premiere and I wasn't afraid to ship something a bit raw. A bit messy.
I had the lines down cold, felt the spoken word in my body, and worked with stage managers on using the props and stage effectively. I was ready.
Despite all that, a voice in the back of my head nagged me with, "If you had another month, you could really sharpen the show."
But I steeled myself to mantra over and over: Ship it, Dave. Get it out into the world and then let's see what people think.
Thankfully, the crowd who came out on May 10 has given me overwhelmingly positive feedback. Also, with a big phew, I didn't flub anything, and the final reveal was staged perfectly. So Jewnique...shipped!
As Godin's theory goes, shipping it is the first step in making something great. Now comes the difficult stage of marketing, editing, networking, seeing where else this can be shipped.
I want to bring this show to more audiences, to more cities, and since I built it, some people came, and now I can work to see where I can smooth out some wrinkles.
I prefer that process, than its more cowardly cousin: build it, keep editing, hiding it from view, stay curled in a ball.
I got thinking recently about why I embarked on this journey to launch my first solo show. Jewnique has taken up an enormous amount of my time and energy, so much so I've had to scale back on some money-making gigs. So if this solo show isn't going to put food on my table or pay my rent, why did I dive yarmulke-first into the show?
It's simple: I'm not motivated by money. I'm motivated by stretching my creativity.
One of the reasons I went freelance after 12 years in a full-time job was to pursue creative projects that would fulfill me. It's not hard to make money as a journalist; what's difficult is finding an opportunity that would invigorate my passion for spoken word, while also teaching me something new about who I am as an artist.
I've done the touring thing, I've done the poetry slam-producing thing, and I've published a book of poetry. What I have never done is written and performed a 40-minute show, threaded with a consistent theme. What I have never done is write so introspectively about my relationship with Judaism. What I never thought of doing until recently is blending my journalistic experience with my spoken word talent.
Jewnique is more than just a one-night-only performance. It's the beginning of a journey to welcome initiatives that connect me to what's been missing in my life, whether that means analyzing what I've stiff-armed Judaism my entire life, or learning more about myself as a theatre artist.
I'm not one for hyperbole but I can say with the utmost conviction that Jewnique is one of the most difficult projects I've ever tackled. As challenging as it is, mining my own thoughts and frustrations with my faith has been enormously cathartic, and I've undoubtedly discovered more about myself with these poems than other pieces I've written in the past decade.
So I hope you can be witness to this journey I took. If you're in Toronto on May 10, head to Al Green Theatre (750 Spadina) for 730pm with the show beginning at 8pm. $10 cover and it's all ages. See you there!
This two-word pablum says as much as "OK" by bloating the verbiage by one syllable. It's as if people use "fair enough" when they have nothing constructive to add to an argument or conversation. It's the white flag of conversation. Want to give up on a chat and steer it somewhere else? That's where "fair enough" comes in, but otherwise it should exit stage left and spent the rest of its days golfing in Florida.
"I'm so OCD about that!"
When OCD is thrown in conversation as a way to stress how obsessed you are about something, I grate my teeth. OCD has struck my immediate family heavily, and it's not a disease to throw around like, well, "fair enough." If you have any form of OCD, you might get a pass, but if you don't, please consider using a different phrase to express your attention to detail. Otherwise, you'll likely offend someone who's truly suffered from OCD's chokehold.
As a journalist, I despise language that seeks to deride my profession and colleagues simply because that particular news hit isn't favourable to the speaker of such derision. We all know "Fake news!" was born from Trump's face-hole, but too many everyday folks are taking up the battle-cry. The term should only apply to truly phony news, which Buzzfeed's Craig Silverman has been tracking for years, and whose work I highly recommend you check out.
I don't hear or read this often, but when I do, I cringe. It's one of those words, like "moist", that can ignite a strong reaction in someone, and to me "douchebag" is just a lazy insult. What's the sayer meaning with that affront? Less of an asshole, more than a scumbag?
I come across this phrase most often as a journalist, thanks to the dozens of press releases I get daily. Tech startups are particularly fond of saying a new kind of technology has been "baked into our new product release," when they could have easily said "built into." What's with all the baking, CTOs?! You're not in the kitchen, and the more "baking" you do gives the impression you're pulling words from a synonym list just to make you sound smart or hip or smartly hip.
This is a new one to me...not the written use of "LOL" in messages but as a rejoinder to say out loud. As in, a joke is said, and then someone says "LOL" instead of actually laughing out loud. WTF? I mean, what the fuck? Are we so lazy with our language we don't actually want to emit the laughter bubbling in our chest and instead spit out an acrostic substitute? I know there's slang from the younger set that us ol' fogies might not understand, but if we're heading to the path of letters to express an appreciation for humour...I fear for what's next, folks.
I am so proud of this 3-minute trailer for my solo show Jewnique, which is a new feeling for me, that is, having a trailer that I can call my own. Thanks to my buddy Jacob Frenkel, an exemplary editor, and his videographer colleagues, this trailer perfectly captures some of the stories I'll be sharing on May 10 at Al Green Theatre in Toronto.
Few endeavours have been as challenging and rewarding as this project. I've learned a ton about myself as an artist, while also finding out more about my relationship to Judaism with the writing of these profiles of Jewish Canadian trailblazers.
Graphic designer Ian Todd also brought his talents to Jewnique by crafting these eye-catching posters. Torontonians should be seeing posters and flyers of this show around town in the coming weeks.
I'll post more updates about the show throughout April.
If you're curious about the journalism I've been producing recently, this blog post is for you.
Below are some recent articles I've written for media outlets such as Crixeo and NOW, as well as the alumni magazine for the University of Michigan. Enjoy!
What you need to know about The Handmaid's Tale
My NOW review of Soulpepper's Animal Farm
Inside the documentary on Jane Goodall
How students are learning with prison inmates in Ontario
A profile of Jean Twenge, a psychology prof researching how today's teens are using technology
Author, designer and podcaster Debbie Millman recently said on a Tim Ferris podcast:
Of the many, many excuses people use to rationalize why they can’t do something, the excuse “I am too busy” is not only the most inauthentic, it is also the laziest. I don’t believe in “too busy.” I think that busy is a decision. We do the things we want to do, period.
Those sentiments resonated with me strongly. I've said it before, and I've heard others say it too: "Yeah I'm super busy, I don't have time to tackle everything." Such a sighing statement is usually side-dished with "But I wish I had time for X and Y!"
Thing is, we DO have time for X and Y if we prioritized our schedule differently. I suffer from this most apparently with my love of new TV shows: I know I spend too many hours taking in the new Jessica Jones series or catching up on Fargo. Instead, I should be learning more about Toronto Jewish history for my current project, or applying for grants, or working out.
At least I'm recognizing where I can shift my priorities. Other people are still dead to that inner voice that says, "You're not busy. You just want don't want to do that thing you say you should be doing."
There's an odd cachet around saying you're busy. It's as if you're boasting about the many responsibilities swirling around your life, perhaps leading to invaluable successes you'll reap once that "busy life" eases up. But I think the business of being busy could bankrupt our confidence; instead of strengthening our willpower to push away distractions, the idea of an overwhelming life acts as a salve. Yeah, I'm so busy I just couldn't take on this creative projects that means a lot to me. Gots to keep the lights on!
Millman also says, "You can’t let being busy stand in the way, even if you are busy. Make the time to do the things you want to do and then do them."
So I'm not watching series like The Walking Dead any longer. I'm waking up earlier to get more out of my day. And I'm reevaluating my priorities, almost monthly, to set a schedule for myself so I'll be free to do what I want, when I want. Being a freelance writer offers me that flexibility, too, that may not be available to 9-to-5'ers.
Such a shift in my mental energy will do wonders for my psyche...and the creativity flowing through me, begging to taste air.
Welcome to my trip to California, in photos I snapped while in San Jose and San Francisco. I went to Cali to visit my friend Mike McGee, he of the palm tree adoration, to workshop my solo show that will debut in Toronto on May 10. It was a much-needed break from the Toronto cold. San Jose is definitely a city worth checking out, as you can see from my pics above.
Below is a slideshow of my time in San Francisco, such as visiting the cafe where Kerouac and Ginsberg once frequented, and a view of me by Fisherman's Wharf with Alcatraz in the background. I only spent a day and a half in SF so the next time I'm there I'd like to absorb more of that city for at least three days.
Before Facebook, there was MySpace. Before YouTube, we watched videos on Google Video. Before Sonos and Alexa you might remember HomePod. (Thankfully, many people don't).
Some people think they have have to race to get their ideas off the ground, without poring through the user experience, the design, business model, etc. I've seen this in the startup space in Canada, having covered it for 15+ years as a journalist, but I've seen this be-first-or-else anxiety infiltrate the spoken word scene, the theatre space, in sports too.
Example: You shouldn't launch an arts festival unless you have everything in place first. I was once part of an ambitious Toronto arts fest that ended up capsizing because it didn't have the budget for the artists it invited, and the fest only featured its spoken word segment, which I helped lead. I saw, from the inside, how racing to be first can be thrilling, sure, but you end up with blind spots that could lead you errors in judgement.
Seth Godin has a great quote on this ideas race: "Be an inventor if you choose, but don't expect that you'll be the one driving the bus once the masses decide to get on."
Being a good journalist is easy. Better a great journalist is challenging. What I've learned in my 15+ years reporting on news from around the world is just how wide the gap can be from good to great.
For anyone struggling to elevate their skillset to the next level, I wanted to pass along a few tips I learned in my time as a journalist and editor, and it doesn't matter which beat you tackle, where you work or your age.
About David's Blog
I write about journalism, freelancing, the arts, Toronto, technology, sports and why egg nog is under-rated.