The case for Michael McKean being the real winner of this year's Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
The biggest snub I saw in this year's Emmy nominations was Michael McKean, who plays Chuck McGill in AMC's Better Call Saul. In Season 3 of BCS, McKean got me verklempt, seething with anger, deeply compassionate, and in awe of this afflicted character.
For those who haven't gifted themselves with McKean and the rest of this exemplary cast in BCS: Chuck is Saul's driven calculating lawyer-brother, who says he suffers from a disease that makes him violently ill when he encounters any type of electricity. Cellphones, electric lights, appliances, barcode scanners are all off limits to Chuck.
What McKean does with that odd sickness is truly remarkable: his face contorts in unbearable pain when someone uses a cellphone near him, with all of that emotion straining through his clenched eyes, seething lips. McKean doesn't overact here but conveys that inner struggle he's facing as someone who wants to be respected by his peers, and seeks to save face, but can't contain the illness raging through him.
His performance alone relating that pain should give him at least a nod on the Emmy list for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama. But Chuck McGill isn't just there to evoke sympathy from Saul, who is slowly breaking bad every season. Chuck is a dick, plain and simple. We see that dickishness even more on display in season 3. We want to hate how Chuck treats his brother.
Without giving much away, I can say there were moments I was hoping Chuck would just get his for the bullshit he gladly put Saul through. And judging by fan reaction on the sub-reddit dedicated to the show, my feelings were't isolated.
But through McKean's genius of acting just enough but not so much it veers into melodrama, Chuck steers our sympathies towards his own battle as a plagued lawyer-legend hoping to reclaim his glory from yesteryear. How the Emmy folks didn't see the fantastic work by McKean here as even worth an Emmy nomination is beyond me.
You might know McKean's work as a steady fixture of comedic characters found in Christopher Guest classics such as This Is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind. But the funny chops take a backseat to a deep vitriol and a side of desperation that rarely blend into a TV character's psyche.
Thanks to his work on Better Call Saul, I'm greatly invested in seeing what else McKean does next in film or television. Without a doubt, he made an already engaging season 3 of this show even more addictive.
Finally, A hat-tip to Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould for casting a star whose light truly deserves to shine to all corners of the TV world.
Yes, that headline speaks the truth...I was a Bar Mitzvah teacher for around 6 years, and even dabbled with it in my early 30s after I gave up the job full-time. In fact, you can say I'm still a Bar Mitvzah teacher, it's just that I don't have any students nor am I seeking to get back into that life.
For those unaware, a Bar and Bat Mitzah teacher instructs young Jewish kids, at 12 years old, how to read from the Torah. It's a rite of passage for Jewish kids, and it often involves learning Hebrew and singing the tune that accompanies the parsha or portion for the week of that Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
I learned a lot about myself when I dove into this job at 19. Below are some realizations that might ring true for you, especially if you teach:
I've long had a soft spot for Huntsville. Dating back to 2002, I have been visiting Huntsville to bring spoken word to its high school students, thanks to the team at the Huntsville Festival of the Arts.
Major kudos to Rob Saunders and Suzanne Riverin for inviting me many times over the years - sometimes solo, sometimes with other GTA poets - to inspire the youth there who consistently show immense talent in the arts.
So when the HFA team asked me to write a poem about the festival, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this summer, I immediately said YES! and got writing a short ode to Huntsville and the festival.
Here it is, complemented by lovely illustrations.
And for more info on what HFA does, visit their website.
In Part 1 of this series, I listed my favourite restaurants in Toronto, from the steakhouse Jacob's to the stellar Mexican spot Playa Cabana.
In this post, I'll reveal some of the more standout dishes that have me returning to a particular restaurant, and I welcome your feedback/questions in the Comments section or on Twitter.
Let's get right to it...
Fat Pasha's Cauliflower
Yes, cauli makes the list because you've never had roasted cauliflower like this before. Anthony Rose's Middle Eastern joint on Dupont crafts a practically perfect side: perfectly roasted, the massive veggie comes complete with cubed halloumi cheese, hot sauce, tahini, pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts. It's massive enough to feed two but if you're feeling ambition go for it!
I'm a big fan of brisket and have sampled it at many Toronto spots, but Barque's cut always has me crawling back. It's tender, moist, with enough burnt edges to make it addictively sumptuous. Barque's other meats are also tasty, but I've had better ribs elsewhere, so if you have to choose one dish out its extensive menu, I'd recommend the brisket.
Seven Lives' Gobernador Taco
The lineup in this Kensington hot-spot can be daunting, but the Gobernador taco is worth the wait. Packed with house-smoked tuna, grilled shrimp and cheese, the signature taco at Seven Lives gets mad respect for always being consistently delicious. Note this is more of a take-out spot and there is limited seating and standing area.
Kiva's' Matzah Ball Soup
Diving into the deep end of this Jewish soup requires a trek up north to Kiva's near Bathurst and Steeles, but if you're a fan of a great matzah ball soup, Kiva's is the place to be. I'm always impressed by their massive matzah balls and a soup base that is never too salty or bland. L'chaim!
At this Susur Lee resto on Wellington, your meal won't be complete without getting the Luckee Duck. It's an unusual dish insofar you have to wrap duck slices in "momo wraps" and fill it apple, leeks, watercress, cranberry compote and dip it into hoisin sauce. Duck is hit-or-miss for me but there's something about the succulent cuts at Luckee, and how the cranberry nicely complements the meaty wraps. [Photo below]
Cafe Boulud's Lemon Ricotta Hotcakes
This breakfast dish is pure yum. The lemon and ricotta go so well together, you would think this combo would be a staple at brunch spots across the GTA. Hat-tip to the chef for blending the two ingredients so seamlessly, without sacrificing the flavour of either. Drizzling the hotcakes with Ontario maple syrup makes this dish the ultimate indulgence.
Greg's Ice Cream's Toasted Marshmallow
I couldn't resist bookending this post with a quick word about my go-to ice cream spot in Toronto. Greg's has long been fielding Annex'ers hungry to try some of his wild flavours, and while some are too out-there for my tastes (the Lager one is gross) my fave is toasted marshmallow. Supposedly, Greg and his team roast the marshmallows themselves. And I believe it. What hits your buds is a fresh sweet taste of marshmallows, tinged with that campfire flavour. Just don't get a pint of this goodness, because it'll be gone within 24 hours...I know that from experience.
I don't usually give sneak peeks of new work, that even my editor hasn't seen yet, but I'm trying to be more open to the idea of being quick to market, getting valuable feedback, working hard on polishing the first draft.
So this is draft #1 of a new poem called Burn that will appear in my 2018 book of sci-fi/horror poetry, courtesy ChiZine Publications. It's a shorty. And as mentioned, feedback is always welcome, whether in the comments section below or on Twitter via @SilverbergDave. Enjoy.
When the world burned, we were kissing each other’s clavicles.
It came fast and heavy,
like the tornado of fire.
We closed our eyes and let the heat shudder over our curled bodies.
It was the closest we’ve been for seven months.
And we stayed that way, long after the rubble was excavated
long after the sifters tasted the last grumble of dirt,
Our bones became trophies of raised-fist triumph,
her hands still on my hips.
From the short-rib beef tacos at Playa Cabana to the dumplings at new Thai resto Kiin, below are my top restaurants and dishes in Toronto.
This is part 1 because part 2 will look at some of the odder dishes I've been feeling across the city. I welcome your feedback and your picks, since I'm always on the lookout for new restos.
And in no particular order...
Best Mexican Spot: Playa Cabana
Why? Three words, friends: Short. Rib. Tacos. There's nothing more succulent than this badass dish perfectly balanced with Mexican spices, guac, and braised in ancho chiles. If you're averse to intense spiciness, don't sweat it, this dish will be your alley. I'd also recommend the octopus tacos and their massive burritos, but be warned the latter is best if you got a hefty appetite.
Best Steak: Jacob's
Why? In a city filled with top-notch steakhouses, Jacob's is still my #1 thanks to its succulent cuts. Sure, it's pricey, but with steak you get what you pay for. I also get a kick out of the Caesar salad mixed right by the table. And you can't go wrong with a resto that features volcanic salt!
Best Italian: Enoteca Sociale
Why? This Toronto classic resto deserves your attention, even if it's a bit of a cliche pick. Noodle dishes are perfectly cooked and seasoned, without overdoing it on the sauce tip. The Carbonara is especially yummy, and their cocktails were surprisingly creative. Highly recommended for that special date coming up.
Best Asian Fusion: Dailo
Why? I was recently introduced to this resto and it's now on my must-try spots for any Toronto couple looking to enjoy shared plates. Their tasting menu stars some of the best lamb neck I've ever had. I also had a heavenly moment savouring their Miso Salt Cod Brandade, thanks to its dried chili yauhjagwai.
Best Thai: Kiin
Why? Prior to checking out Kiin, which opened last month, my #1 Thai resto was Pai, so it was little surprise that Kiin's chef came from Pai. If I had to pick one dish to try at Kiin, I'd suggest the Royal Thai Platter, a selection of four colourful dumplings, graced with pickled vegetables or roasted coconut or lemongrass. Especially cool was a cute dumpling that fit into a carved piece of cucumber, shallowly filled with plum sauce. Definitely worth treating yourself.
Best Pizza: Pizza Libretto
Why? No surprise here to any Toronto downtowner. The 'za is delicately flavoured without being inundated with greasy cheese, and the crust is deliciously light. My go-to pizza is the duck confit pie, with bosc pear slices and rosemary spices. I haven't had the apps but friends who've dabbled with that part of the menu haven't been disappointed.
Best Burger: Drake Hotel on Queen West
Why? I know what you're thinking: Come on, brah, this city is filled with burger specialists and you choose the Drake?! Don't knock it til you've tried it. I'm not sure what the Drake chefs do to their trademark burger, but it's one heckuva tasty patty! It's decently sized and comes between one heckuva bun that tastes hella. The burger is incredibly filling so you'll likely need to share the accompanying frites.
Best Brunch: Rose & Sons
Why? If it weren't for Anthony Rose revitalizing Dupont, this street would just be a haven for people jonesing for a good coffee (thank Jebus for Ezra's Pound!). Rose & Sons has consistently been wowing me with their rotating menu but I've always loved their brunch mainstays like the monstrous PLB Special Melt (pictured below) and their mouth-watering cornbread. Be warned it gets packed on the weekend, but some brunch items are available during their weekday breakfast hours.
Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of my top resto picks in Toronto!
I was recently introduced to the idea of making a schedule of the upcoming week, broken down by hour, slotting in the responsibilities and duties coming up. I at first thought the idea was pedantically obsessive, but I've been trying to live by the maxim "When was the last time you did something for the first time?"
I've never scheduled my week by the hour, let alone by the day, especially as a freelancer, when assignments would pop up and upend the timeline I set up earlier. Then again, what do I have to lose?
So I broke down each day in 15-minute lines and wrote out what I had to do each hour, from interviews to working out to shopping to writing articles. It felt odd, like I wasn't giving myself any flexibility, but I realized something crucial in planning my week: I need some structure as a freelancer. I can't be flailing in the wind all the time, as freeing as that is.
Now, I'm using this schedule to ensure I stay on point with my job, social life, dating life, etc. I'm on top of shit, and that control is a structured outlook I welcome now. It isn't set in stone, so I can flip things around when surprises flit in and out of my week. But at least I got the backbone of what I need to do in a week.
Being a freelancer means you have to be an entrepreneur and your own boss. And so far, the idea of hourly scheduling has given me the perfect solution to any anxiety I have about not knowing what I need to get done when.
When I think about what imagination means to me, I remember running home from school to write my fantastical novels, with cutesy titles such as The Weather Wizard and The Warlock's Ring. Any guesses on my main influences?
Creativity was more than just a course in junior high school, a curriculum notch to check off. I was hungry to feed my pages with ideas swirling around my head that needed to be given life. I wanted to write every night. And I did.
So when I came across the below passage from the Ursula K. Le Guin memoir Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000–2016, with a Journal of a Writer’s Week, I couldn't help but feel some emotions stir within my ribcage. The fantasy author perfectly summed up my view on the value of imagination, how it's been co-opted by Corporate America (and by association, Corporate Canada), how it's an "essential tool of the mind" and why it's vital to learning more about the human condition.
Here is Le Guin's look at imagination, and if it resonates with you, I'm curious to learn more about what you think on Twitter, via @SilverbergDave:
In America the imagination is generally looked on as something that might be useful when the TV is out of order. Poetry and plays have no relation to practical politics. Novels are for students, housewives, and other people who don’t work. Fantasy is for children and primitive peoples. Literacy is so you can read the operating instructions.
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.
I hear voices agreeing with me. “Yes, yes!” they cry. “The creative imagination is a tremendous plus in business! We value creativity, we reward it!” In the marketplace, the word creativity has come to mean the generation of ideas applicable to practical strategies to make larger profits. This reduction has gone on so long that the word creative can hardly be degraded further. I don’t use it any more, yielding it to capitalists and academics to abuse as they like. But they can’t have imagination.
Imagination 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.
Twitter Search is under-rated. If you're savvy about using keywords to filter results you want, Twitter's search tool can be a handy way to find cool events going down in any region.
For example, I'm going to Ottawa soon and I have some spare afternoons and evenings. I inputted the Saturday I'm there and "Ottawa" into Twitter Search and got a decent stream of results. In several tweets I noticed some free street festivals, concerts and panel discussions going down the weekend I'm visiting.
Granted, not every tweet promoted an event. Some were people tweeting they were visiting Ottawa that weekend. But it took me five minutes to parse through the search results and find at least three shows I didn't know were going on in Ottawa by doing a Google search.
Maybe I'm late to the Twitter Search game, but hopefully this small pro-tip can help you find events around a region you may not know so well.
And even if you live in a busy city, why not search for a random date + your city and learn more about under-the-radar events and festivals that could be just what you need this summer.
Last night, I was ecstatic to take in an evening of investigative journalism, past and present, hosted by the Canadian Journalism Foundation. At the Roy Thomson Hall, a panel discussion began the evening, where The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald joined Democracy Now's Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman and Metro columnist Vicky Mochoma. Later, Matt Taibbi of The Rolling Stone discussed what he learned about Trump and reporting on U.S. politics while on the campaign trail.
It was a damn inspiring night to be a journalist. Almost everything they said reinforced my belief that today's journalists need to be courageous, unrelenting and determined in holding the powers that be accountable for their actions.
Taibbi taught us that journalists can't think polls are all lollipops and gummy drops. They can be wrong, they can lead journalists to complacency. Look at all the polls predicting a Clinton presidency, and how Ivy League journalists truly weren't in tune with Middle America, Taibbi said.
Most importantly, dig deep. He recognized how the media only reported on surface topics with Trump, and gave him a buffet of free airtime to boot. Where was the dogged reporting Woodward and Bernstein would be commending today?
That's where The Intercept and Democracy Now come in. In the panel discussion, some gem-like quotes danced into our ears: Glenn Greenwald reminded us that people lose faith in governments that lie, but remember...all governments lie. Not just Trump, but Bush with Iraq and Johnson with Vietnam. Scahill said more than once that all journalists should be activists, contrary to what the Star thinks about Desmond Cole. Be angry at what's happening today, Scahill told the journalists in the room. If you see injustice, how could you truly be objective?
Goodman raised a salient point on how we know the names of the Manchester bombing victims, but what about the children killed in Yemen raids last week? Or last year? "Why don't we know who they are and what they wanted to do? The media is selective about who they portray as victims, and that says a lot about who we are," she added.
Despite Trump branding every critical journalist with a "fake news" tattoo, journalists have to be even hungrier today to get the scoop, the journos said. And if the mainstream press isn't doing it quick enough, the indie outlets like the Intercept are happy to join the fray. In fact, they have no other choice. The U.S. administration is so fractured, so infantile, America's standing around the world is at risk. Not to mention its citizens who voted in a buffoon who would rather coddle his ego than read his daily intelligence briefings.
Strange times we live, the journalists also said, without really saying it. But sometimes, the pen can be mightier than the sword.
About David's Blog
My musings about the arts, Toronto, technology, journalism, sports.