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.
When I encounter a fallen tree, often felled by brutal windstorms in Ontario, it's a bittersweet moment for me: On one hand, I'm upset such a stalwart of nature has been decimated and shred; on the other hand, I find a curious beauty in broken trees.
Sometimes, I see fallen trees as pull-back-the-curtain peeks into their guts. I find it fascinating to investigate its roots, its history, its beginnings. It's the part of nature rarely revealed to us.
Sometimes, I compare this new misshapen chaos as Magic Eye pictures aka autostereograms, which allow some people to see 3D images by focusing on 2D patterns. But here, in its 3D glory, I can see images emerge much like clouds can reveal something to you that was hidden when your eyes were cast to the ground.
In this felled tree I spotted at Gibraltar Point at the Toronto Islands this week, I can see the outline of an owl at its elbow, at the top portion of the photo. Can you see it too?
Recently, I dug deeper into the human relationship to trees, and I came across this quote capturing such a bond, courtesy Leonardo da Vinci:
Throughout human history the tree structure has been used to explain almost every facet of life: from consanguinity ties to cardinal virtues, systems of laws to domains of science, biological association to database systems. It has been such a successful model for graphically displaying relationships because it pragmatically expresses the materialization of multiplicity (represented by its succession of boughs, branches, twigs, and leaves) out of unity (its central foundational trunk, which is in turn connected to a common root, source, or origin.)
Several times, I've talked with friends about the pros and cons of living downtown in Toronto, and I often get asked, "Don't you hate all the bustling sounds of the city?" My reply is a resounding, "Nope! Don't mind it all, in fact!"
Something about the white-noise of pedestrian chatter and busker music and traffic hustle all get remixed into a soundtrack I truly enjoy having run behind my everyday. The city is energy. The city is community. I never felt that in the suburbs, at least in North York. Maybe I wasn't mature enough, or open-minded enough, to look for that kind of energy in suburbia.
But. Now I'm on the Toronto Islands, here for a week-long residency to work on my next poetry book. I'm surrounded by enveloping green and curious ducks and breezes stone-skipping off the lake water...I definitely don't miss the cacophony of Toronto right now.
I was reading poetry while sun-tanning on the Gibraltar Point beach, letting my feet squeeze into the sand, the heat gently baking me. Not too hot, though. It was perfect. I miss this. I need this.
Thing is, I thought I would would miss the city sounds. Because as I got older, I learned to appreciate every nuance of that downtown collage. I could find comfort in the dogs fighting over the same hydrant, or curl a smile when a car blasted some old George Clinton. Something about the constant radio of the urban mess...it pulls me in. Then lulls me.
I'm rambling. What I mean to share with you, as if you didn't come to this realization dozens of times in your life, is how being around nature can be so refreshing for city residents like me. Especially since I don't have a cottage to escape to, nor do I have friends who regularly go camping (anymore).
It's only Day Two of this residency but I'm already feeling energized and realized by this rekindling my relationship with the natural world. I know, that's odd, the calm coupled with the thrill, but I guess that's the ebb and flow of dipping into Mother Earth's dance.
And it's been a long time coming, but wow it feels good to be her dancing partner this week.
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.
About This Blog
Media criticism. Poetry. Theatre. Toronto. Technology. Travel. Sports. Why X-Files rocks.