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.
On my birthday, I often instinctively think: Wow, I'm so lucky, to have the life I have, the friends and family who care about me, the poetry slam scene, the journalism work sustaining me, a healthy body and mind.
But more often than not, I push that pop-up thought out of my head and remember there wasn't much luck involved. I didn't happen upon the spoken word scene, I didn't enjoy journalistic assignments falling into my lap.
It all took work. And long hours. And networking. And time taking on responsibilities that others would stiff-arm.
Like Toronto Poetry Slam. Not everyone has the bandwidth to start an arts series from scratch, later assembling a killer crew of volunteer poets and poetry fans who help run the slam and other shows. There was no luck involved here. We pack the Drake Hotel every two weeks because we all work tirelessly to promote the show, strategizing on how to advertise effectively on Facebook or bridging the gap between our scene and the literary scene. Case in point: In 2017 we partnered with Toronto's International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront Centre, the first partnership of this kind. That wasn't luck.
I'm not where I heard the following line, but I suspect it was in Terminator 2, of all places: There's no fate but what we make ourselves. Was it fate I started Toronto Poetry Slam and now it's become one of the most popular literary events in Canada? Was it fate I decided to become a freelance journalist two years ago and have enjoyed the kind of success I never thought would come to me so soon into the 'lancing world?
No. I focused on my goal and went for it. I put on horse-blinders and didn't sway from my mission, whether it was to get published in The Washington Post or working out more than twice a week (I average 3x/week now) or writing my first solo show (book off May 10, folks!).
So on my birthday, I like to look back at what got me to where I am today. And I'm proud to say there was little luck involved and a whole boatload of blood, sweat and fears I may fail. But I haven't. Which has me on perma-smile right now as I type this post.
For those unawares, I'm debuting my first solo poetry show in May and I'll be launching a new type of poetry format I'm calling "performance journalism." This project involves me interviewing fascinating people and telling their stories via spoken word, using real quotes and extensive research to infuse the poetry with hyper-realism.
Coming to Toronto May 10 to Al Green Theatre, this show features six profilees, and two weeks ago I revealed the first trailblazer, who contributed greatly to Holocaust education and chazzanut in Canada.
Now, the second reveal...JUDY PERLY, owner of Free Times Cafe on College Street in Toronto!
Her story is enthralling, whether you've tasted the glory that is Free Times' Jewish brunch buffet on Sundays. If you want a peek of the food available at that historic buffet, check out the video above.
I don't want to say much more about Judy's story and the Cafe's relationship to Jewish Toronto, so you'll have to come to my show to find out! Contact me for details anytime.
Next week, I'll reveal my next profile subject...Stay tuned!
Let's talk food, peoples. I've been looking hither and yonder for kickass recipes online, and I've amassed an impressive Chrome bookmark folder of 30 recipes I've been enjoying. They range from breakfast smoothies to creative salads to pasta dishes to slow-cooker recipes. Today, I want to share a few of my faves.
I do have some go-to recipes offline, but I'm not a huge fan of writing out cookbook pages. Another time, perhaps.
Below are some delectable recipes that are simple to make and inexpensive too:
Zucchini Noodles n Shrimp with Avocado Pesto: I admit, I don't make the noods from scratch but when I go to farmer's market I might get a bag of zucchini noodles for this recipe. Avocado pesto goes so well with shrimp I'm surprised this is the first time I've had this pairing. The shelled pistachios also bring a freshly nutty flavour to the dish.
Cauliflower Hash: I get bored of breakfast foods easily, even though as a kid I could down bowls of Corn Pops with nary an eye-roll. These days, I like to bring more veggies into my breakfast, which is why this GIF recipe of cauliflower hash is so handy. I fry and egg and lay it atop the cooked cauliflower and feel free to add hot sauce if you're feeling a morning mouth-boost.
Udon Stir-Fry With Coconut Curry Sauce: This recipe came to me thanks to The Toronto Star's Karon Liu and I've done a variation of it before, but this one really packs a lot of punch thanks to the coconut, which I don't often add. If you're on the move a lot and don't have time to prep for lunch or dinner, this recipe should be your new best friend.
Slow Cooker Butter Chicken: I love Indian food and butter chicken is so damn tasty on a cold winter night. Thanks to my slow cooker, I can have my whole spot smelling delicious. Be sure to get basmati rice as a perfect complement to the chicken, but also free to opt for naan if you're not feeling rice.
Honey Mustard Chicken: Also a simple as a dimple chicken recipe, this take on the bird sees a delectable mix of honey mustard and white wine and aromatic spices such as rosemary. I've often paired this with some brussell sprouts or steamed broccoli, and have used leftovers in pitas or sandwiches.
"I wrote a poem about Danny Devito! Have I seen him in any TV shows or movies? No, but I like how his name sounds."
"I've heard about poetry slams. It's mainly angry poetry, right?"
"I want to write a poem about wearing shorts. Cuz pants suck."
"Wait, you can make a living being a poet?! You're joking, right?"
"This class is sooo much better than math."
"Has anyone ever told you that you sound and kinda look like Seth Rogen?"
"Has anyone ever told you should get into radio? You should, you have a voice for it."
"Can I write a poem about how great Trump is?" [Hisses from fellow classmates] "Yeah, guess I will, just to piss off people."
Today is one of the most important days in the Jewish calendar, where we remember the many Jews lost in the Holocaust. This day has meant more to me this year than in others due to learning about the Holocaust from someone who survived a concentration camp and told me his story in person from his Ottawa home in the summer.
I was talking to former cantor Moshe Krause because he is one of my profile subjects in my upcoming solo show debuting May 10 at the Al Green Theatre. What Moshe has been through, the pain he's endured, the family he lost...it's as heavy as heavy gets, and it was difficult to hear him break down in tears telling me what he went through.
My first solo show will profile six Jewish trailblazers in Ontario, who influenced their respective fields immensely, such as Moshe with Holocaust education (and chazzanut, too). In fact, this 91-year-old singer has been dubbed the youngest cantor of all time, when he took the reins of a synagogue in Budapest when he was 16.
I truly can't wait to tell you more about Moshe's story, and the many other pioneers in Ontario Judaism, on May 10. His story greatly affected me and I know the audience will learn more about resiliency, faith and survival through Moshe's fascinating life.
If you want to learn more about my show, feel free to contact me anytime. I'll be revealing more profile subjects for this show throughout the next few weeks.
Today, Toronto learned Raptors PG Kyle Lowry made the 2018 All-Star Game reserves, a couple weeks after we got the good news about Demar DeRozan making the starting lineup. Boom! The one-two punch of the best backcourt in the NBA is getting respect once again.
The Raptors sit comfortably in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, thanks largely to how Lowry and DeRozan have lifted the team with consistent offence and non-stop hustle. To honour these badass athletes, who also are IRL best friends, check out the videos below:
Those were the funnies, but here are the highlights that make Lowry and DeRozan All-Star calibre:
For no apparent reason, here's a throwback pic of these guys when they were just fresh-faced newbies to Toronto:
About This Blog
Media criticism. Poetry. Theatre. Toronto. Technology. Travel. Sports. Why X-Files rocks.