While the sketched illustrations might have you considering this book as one for kids, rest assured that Art Matters by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell is for everyone and anyone. And not just for artists and creators but also for those who are bookcore for life and adore reading, and those who want something positive to filter into their life amid the bitter winter months.
I picked up this book from the library last week on a lark, remembering how I always enjoy Gaiman's books and tweets and especially his invigorating commencement speeches. This guy knows how to engage an audience, no matter the medium, and he really absorbed me right from jump in this battle cry for creating great art in this slim 112-pager.
He waxes poetic on the allure books held for him, especially libraries, before delving into his main thesis: no matter how ugly and evil the world may seem, we can find some light in the books we read and the art we create.
Gaiman drops delectable gems of wisdom in the book, which may sound obvious to those of in the trenches of creating art, but nevertheless still deserves to be bullhorned: "When you start off, you have to deal with the problems of failure. You need to be thick-skinned, to learn that not every project will survive."
Also, Gaiman recounts how success, once you're lucky enough to find it, can be intoxicating and a whirling dervish of an experience, so much so you might let it all fly by too quickly: "The hardest lesson for me, I think, was to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places."
I could keep going but this book is too good to spoil all of its tips and insight, so I'll finally urge you to pick up this book, or maybe gift it to a teen who's just embarking on their book-loving or art-creating ways. No matter the age of the reader, they'll undoubtedly feel that spark of inspiration begin to brighten in their belly as they read Art Matters.
We live in a mirrorworld, so much so it's not readily apparent to us at first blush. Some of you experienced this new reality via innovative tech such as Pokemon Go and Google Earth, where a virtual world parallels our own streets and parks and stores. And I think this is revolutionary in a way we haven't yet fully grasped.
Why? Because augmented reality and its cousin virtual reality hasn't slipped into the mainstream as easily as other mobile tech. AR/VR can be clunky, niche and come with the baggage of "Why should I care? I don't play Pokemon." But this new platform could radically overhaul how we view physical spaces, like the above photo. Hold up a phone or tablet to a street and you can see the Yelp ratings of restaurants and retailers.
In the mirrorworld, everything could have a paired twin. That random lamppost, even, could hold a wealth of data about its history, the material used to make it, famous folks who might have taken a photo next to it. And don't think we mortal humans will be the only ones to take advantage of this AR-enabled tech. As Kevin Kelly writes in Wired magazine, "Robots will see this world. Indeed this is already the perspective from which self-driving cars and robots see the world today, that of reality fused with a virtual shadow. When a robot is finally able to walk down a busy city street, the view it will have in its silicon eyes and mind will be the mirrorworld version of that street."
In 2016, when I wrote about AR used in design and architecture, I thought this would be the Next Big Thing, coming to a design firm near you. But it's been slow going, perhaps due to the price of AR or the cold shoulder some old heads have given such a new untested tech. Still, I think AR will be a monumental movement within the tech space that will touch every aspect of our lives, at some point, whether in health-care or retail or gaming.
Many people are anxious about AR dragging us into cyberspace. But, as Kelly writes in Wired, "The great paradox is that the only way to understand how AR works is to build AR and test ourselves in it. It's weirdly recursive: The technology itself is the microscope needed to inspect the effects of the technology."
This melded mirrorworld will come with hitches, like any new tech, but I'm enthralled by the many directions it can be spun, even if AR doesn't end up as a personal touchpoint for me. I'm not in the design scene, or building auto-parts via AR-enabled tablet, but I'll still be watching this complex and weird landscape evolve, as I'm sure it will.
As a freelance journalist who doesn't need to take root at any office, except my work-sharing space whenever I'm in the mood, I don't need to get at any particular time. I always try to be awake by 8:30 a.m. so I can take advantage of my morning. But last week, and from now, getting up at 7 a.m. has been my go-to wakeup time.
It started randomly on Tuesday when I couldn't fall back asleep, and a part of me thought: Damn, now I'm going to hit that fatigue wall at 1 p.m. But isn't anxiety all just fear about being afraid of something that hasn't happened? Thankfully, no wall was hit, let alone lightly flicked, and my energy levels kept surging way past 5 p.m. and even at sundown I wasn't feeling the expected grogginess I'd always associated with an unusually early wakeup.
Maybe this is me getting all adulty, or my body's sleep rhythm requiring fewer hours with shuteye. So I decided to repeat the 7 a.m. wakeup on Wednesday ,then Thursday, and each day I got more done with my journalistic assignments and poetry work. That dip rarely happened, and when it did the eyelids might have drooped but never to the point where I needed to nap. P.S. Not a napper, never have been. It feels like such a sleep-tease.
I remember listening to Tim Ferriss podcasts in which he interviews successful entrepreneurs about their morning habits, and so many of them got up before 8 a.m. I practically felt embarrassed recounting my startup days and stretching awake at the luxurious hour of 8:45 a.m. (my work day started at 10 a.m.). In lieu of that shame, I'm now feeling empowered to wake up at 7 a.m. on weekdays from now on, in order to chomp on more hours during my day and go to bed at a reasonable hour.
If you told Teenage Dave he'd willingly wake up at 7 a.m. without requiring such an ungodly disturbance to my inevitably thrilling dreams, he would've flipped ya the bird or something equally '90s. And I wonder if that dude could've swallowed his instinct to sleep in til 10 a.m. and try an early-morning regimen, even if it was simply an experiment for the sake of science.
Yeah, I agree. No way he would've done that back then.
I feel like I've been to - and produced - dozens of hand-wringing panel talks on the future of journalism. It's a juicy topic to dig into, despite the obvious frustration hovering every chin-stroking insight lobbed by a media pro: We truly don't know what's going to happen to journalism.
But some of us, some journalists with deep roots in history writing and thoughtful analysis, can at least present what kind of diagnosis that is sickening the world's magazines, newspapers and online outlets. And most recently, that rarity belongs to author Jill Lepore, who just wrote a vital longread on U.S. journalism's many challenges.
The New Yorker feature, in the Jan 28 print edition, takes us back to ye ol' glory days of newspaper competition and one-upmanship (and it was always 'man' back then), but we don't get rocked in a cradle of complacency in Lepore's piece. Instead, we are quickly bombarded with the heady challenges outlined in Lepore's reading of The Merchant of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts.
What I appreciate about Lepore's criticism is how she doesn't let Abramson off the hook, such as when reporters at new media outlets like Vice are seen as "impossibly hip, with interesting hair." Lepore says hold up, holster the snarky sidearm, and recognize what's happening when online publishers begin to even scoop legacy papers: "...there is a changing of the guard worth noting, and it’s not incidental: it’s critical."
Even if you know the story of Jonah Peretti founding BuzzFeed, it's worth poring through Lepore's recounting of the site's rise and pivot, and then pivot again. We've all been reading about BuzzFeed News recently and how Mueller has called out their most recent report on Russia-Trump ties, so Lepore's look back at a Silicon Valley gambit is a lesson for many new media publishers out there.
I care about the future of news reporting, because this industry is too essential to a healthy democracy to see it get crippled at the knees. Layoffs, heady competition from Google/Facebook, mismanagement and partisan politics plague today's journalism space, and Lepore is quick to point out how a future solution can't be read in the tea leaves. Instead, we can learn a quick lesson or two from The Guardian funding itself via philanthropy, for example.
Or take this topsy-turvy fliparoo you might have noticed: "BuzzFeed News became more like the Times, and the Times became more like BuzzFeed, because readers, as Chartbeat announced on its endlessly flickering dashboards, wanted lists, and luxury porn, and people to hate."
Some longreads are well worth the investment in your time, so if you're concerned or at the very least curious about the state of journalism today, Lepore's overview will catch you up...if not freak you out.
...have a soft spot for KD Mac n' Cheese with tuna and parmesan cheese à la first-year university?
...still use their Hotmail email for contest sign-ups and T-shirt giveaways at NBA games?
...scowl at people who cut their nails on the subway but don't say anything to them cuz you're Canadian?
...wonder what happened to the band Arrested Development? Tennessee was my jam.
...have a bad feeling about Space Jam 2?
...bond more with their left-leaning parents now that they're also exasperated by Trump and Ford and the alt-right?
...still have a tough time spelling "rhythm"?
...secretly want to learn how to beatbox?
...rewatch old X-Files episodes, but only the standalone monster-of-the-week ones, not the alien-storyline episodes?
...really hate when people overuse #hashtags on #Twitter, because it makes a #tweet look like it got bad #acne?
...think "Syphilis" would be a beautiful name for someone if it didn't mean what it means?
...feel kind of guilty for fast-forwarding the sponsored ads on a beloved podcast?
...have nightmares about being ransomware-hacked because you've been watching too much Mr. Robot?
...air-guitar to the killer Slash solo in November Rain?
What a year for 5-star films, in both fiction and documentary! I'm talking the beautiful Robin Williams doc, the thought-provoking Annihilation, the oh-so-fun Black Panther, the kickass-heavy Upgrade, the return of the Coen Brothers magic in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the-
OK. Let me just get to the list in a penultimate post in my Best-of-2018 series. After, check out my top longreads, podcasts and books of 2018.
As always, in no particular order...
Available on Netflix, this documentary on the life and legacy of producer Quincy Jones was truly one of the more engrossing music docs I've seen in a minute. It's inspiring to remember how Jones has been so influential in shaping the careers of Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra even Will Smith during the Fresh Prince era. I got a feeling I'll be rewatching this doc, especially with friends who might not be acquainted with the glory that is a Quincy Jones album.
If you know me, you know I have great admiration for Natalie Portman's acting talent (and yes, maybe I got a bit of a crush too, shhhhh) and with Annihilation she's able to broaden her acting range in an intelligent movie I wouldn't want to spoil by spilling too many details about its plot. What you get with this sci-f beaut are stunning visuals, original ideas standing apart from cliche Hollywood tropes and a freaky scene that could be the most horrific three minutes in 2018 cinema.
Thanks to a listicle I saw on the The Ringer, I gave this sci-film a whirl and wow, was it ever fun and unique and thrilling! Taking place in a future where AI exoskeletons and cyberweapons are the norm, Upgrade is part Robocop part Bourne Trilogy but acts as more of an homage to those films without borrowing from each of them too liberally. I have to hand it to lead actor Logan Marshall-Green aka Discount Tom Hardy for one heckuva performance.
Sorry To Bother You
Laketh Stanfield made this film a hoot but it was Boots Riley's vision, complete with absurd twists and crackling dialogue, that made Sorry To Bother You a standout flick in '18. I can't get over some of the scenes in this film, so much so I'm biding my time for a second watching when memories of the first screening fade further into the recesses of my brain. The soundtrack is this year's best IMO.
You've read all the glowing reviews, you probably revelled in the Wakandan majesty of it all, and you've heard Ryan Coogler's praises sung as high as possible. But take a step back and really dig into the main feat Black Panther pulled off in an era of superhero movies getting it wrong: the villain was actually layered. What BP gave us in Killmonger is motivation and rounded character arc, unlike one-dimensional antagonists in Spider-Man 3 (Sandman? Utterly forgettable) and Batman v Superman (Jesse Eisenberg couldn't convince me to believe his Lex Luthor).
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
If you ever saw the Heath Ledger and Chris Farley docs, you're not what you're in for with this Robin Williams retrospective, with some truly heart-breaking quotes from Williams' friends such as Billy Crystal. You'll be choking up between laughs in this remarkable portrait of a young artist caught up in drugs and booze and depression and feeling alienated even amid the parties and sexcapades. He was sad and lonely, as some of are when we put on a brave mask to face the world. I'm surprised this didn't make the Oscars shortlist for their top docs of the year, because you can't look away from how the filmmakers told Williams' story.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
I always come into a Coen brothers film with high expectations, because I've rarely been disappointed by any of their work, although I have yet to see the tepidly-reviewed Hail, Caesar! With this Netflix release, The Ballad adopts an anthology model by releasing 25-minute stories only linked by the era they live in - The Wild West. Star turns from Liam Neeson, Zoe Kazan, Tom Waits and Brendan Gleeson polish this gem of a film even brighter. Some of the stories end with a faint whimper of a sigh, others with a sharp gun blast, and they each display a vision of humanity so wonderfully wrapped in a tight bow, no fat on these short films.
Three Identical Strangers
Up there for doc of the year, Three Identical Strangers takes us back to 1980s New York when three identical twins shook up America with their unusual story: they found each other separately, never having grown up with each other. Why that is forms the backbone to a self-discovery tale chock full of humour and pathos. I particularly liked the endings, but, well, liked is too tender of a word, because it aggravated to see how these mensches were wrapped up in bureaucracy beyond their control. Let's just say this is a doc you want to see all the way through aka don't put this on at 1 a.m. on a Monday.
You Were Never Really Here
I can't remember anything interesting coming from Joaquin Phoenix since The Master but this blood-drenched thriller has renewed my respect for Phoenix's smouldering emotions he brings to his characters. He plays a grizzled veteran who saves girls from sex traffickers but gets in deep with a more complex mission when a rising politician hires him to track down his kidnapped girl. The violence can be a turn-off for some, but it all fits into the narrative and never goes gory for the sake of it.
Birds of Passage
Thanks to the Toronto International Film Festival, I caught this film because I had a feeling it was going to be a winner AND not enjoy a theatrical release. I was right on both guesses, and I couldn't recommend this poetic film enough. Filmmakers will especially marvel at some of the cinematography soaking this Colombian film with colour palettes perfectly mirroring the drama taking place. A cautionary tale of how the War on Drugs shattered so many lives in South America, Birds of Passage has deservedly been nominated for an Oscar and I predict it'll take home the trophy and give director Ciro Guerra his first golden trophy.
Long-form journalism really levelled up this year, for reasons I haven't yet explored. You would think with so many newspapers and magazines shuttering that investigate and deep journalism would give way to clickbait and easy gets; thankfully, 2018 gave us top-notch longreads from some unlikely sources, such as The Daily Beast, New York Magazine's Intelligencer and even CBC's interactive team.
In no particular order, here are my top long-form articles of the year...
How an Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald’s Monopoly Game and Stole Millions
One of the most engaging reads I've come across in a long time, I'm not surprised Hollywood embroiled itself in a bidding war for the film rights to this story. In a nutshell, it's about an ex-cop in charge of the Monopoly game McDonald's launched in the 80s and ends up becoming a fascinating probe into the seedier side of these innocuous games parents inevitably played to keep up with their kids' nagging. Jeff Maysh has a nose for what makes a kickass longread and his blood, sweat and fearlessness comes through Crystal Pepsi-clear in this nostalgic return to innocent days made all the more sinister by a rogue selfish Ohio dude.
Worst Roommate Ever
I've been lucky to have had decent roommates back in the day, so I couldn't relate to several what New Yorkers had to deal with when Jamison Bachman took a room in their apartment. But I can imagine that seething frustration at dealing with a guy who skipped rent, blamed others for things they didn't do, The details the reporter unearthed are the kinds of things a j-school prof teaches about adding the perfect amount of colour to a profile. We can practically be in the slippers of those roommates who had to watch Bachman take advantage of their kindness, to the point where you practically want to scream at the screen, "Just call the police on him!" So yeah, maybe not a beach read.
The Untold Story of Robert Mueller's Time in Combat
Robert Mueller isn't taking reporter questions or inviting any podcasters to interview him. The lead investigator into the Russia-U.S. investigation seems to be shrouded in mystery...until you take the time to read Wired's exhausive profile of Mueller, focusing on his time in the military during Vietnam. You can get a more rounded view of what drives Mueller and why President Trump should be shaking in his PJs. Mueller doesn't fuck around, to put it bluntly.
This is your brain on pot
I'm used to getting my longform interactive reads from the likes of NY Times and Buzzfeed but hat-tip to CBC for shedding its rep as stodgy and staid (at least for a moment) to deliver a concise and comprehensive feature on how cannabis's THC affects your brain. It can be confusing to newbies and stoners exactly how cannabinoids affect our own endocannabinoid system so give this a scroll if you want to understand how you're affected by cannabis use. With Canada legalizing cannabis in 2018, we should see more of these interactive sub-sites that help explain headier concepts to Canadians just dipping their toes into the greenery.
This is a late entry to my best-of list, but a Toronto Life expose on the topsy-turvy career in Toronto's startup community deserves a mention. And luckily it's written with flair and style and energy. Mark Pupo recounts his days working for several Toronto startups and identifying how the positions he took on fit as well as a shrunken Christmas sweater. He knew this wasn't the right path for him but along the way he collected so many anecdotes and oh-so-true characteristics of this city's bustling tech space, I can't help but recommend this longread to anyone who's even leaned into the startup community in Canada. You'll feel less alone, trust me.
This post was a toughie because I enjoyed so many memorable podcast episodes this year. But I made some hard decisions today to pare it down to the top five episodes that stood out to me.
Honorable mention does to the many kickass episodes in Seth Godin's Akimbo, the fine folks at Weed + Grub, Canadaland, Beautiful Anonymous and the live shows courtesy My Brother, My Brother and Me.
In no particular order...
Episode: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
In this love letter to films, Unspooled profiles a new movie each episode and hosts Paul Scheer and Amy Nicholson break down the appeal of each prolific work. My favourite in their debut season has to be this on-ehour look at Spielberg's gem E.T., a classic I revisited in late 2017 when I realized that, heck, I haven't seen this movie in around 15 years. It still holds up, for all the reasons the Unspooled hosts share: sharp writing, telling the story (for once) from the child's perspective, breaching a sentimentality that rarely veers into predictability. Scheer and Nicholson have a free and easy chemistry that makes listening to Unspooled a pure joy. Amy Nicholson The Extra-Terrestrial
Podcast: Hidden Brain
Episode: Starving the Watchdog
I've long been fascinated by neuroscience and social science, and Hidden Brain combines both in each episode, dissecting a certain aspect of human behaviour in each ep. In this late 2018 standout, host Shankar Vedantam looks at what happens when a local newspaper vanishes from a community requiring those municipal watchdogs to oversee law enforcement and politicians. It's harrowing stuff, especially when we learn about the studies concluding how government corruption increases when those media outlets aren't around to hold public officials accountable. This episode might be treading familiar territory for anyone with knowledge of the battered media landscape, but I'd reco this episode just the same, mainly due to how succinctly Hidden Brain argues for journalism to thrive in communities in desperate need of those critical reporters.
Podcast: Reply All
Episode: The World's Most Expensive Free Watch
Few podcasts shine a light on the seedier niches of tech and social media than Gimlet's Reply All. My fave this season was their deep dive into an odd corner of Instagram where shady companies promote free watches which end up being anything other than gratis. The ep ends as you'd expect but along the way you get a detailed picture of just how easily someone can get wrapped into the frenzy of getting free stuff online. It's a cautionary tale that will undoubtedly be relatable to anyone who's felt they were swindled into getting something other than they wanted, whether online or IRL.
Podcast: Business Wars
Episodes: The Netscape vs Microsoft Browser Wars series
It's hard to flush out one segment of this six-episode series recounting the Net browser battle between Netscape and Microsoft. If you only have vague memories of the Netscape browser (such as myself), you'll want to take this adventurous trip down a geeky lane to get acquainted with a young Marc Andreessen and a hustling Bill Gates, both of whom had their peaks and valleys when they unveiled their new browsers for the nascent Net market. Even if you aren't a big tech head, but got a thing for competitive spirits between entrepreneurs, you'll want to give this series a listen. Honourable mention goes to BW's other fantastic series this year, where they revisited the fight between Xbox and Playstation.
Podcast: The Moment With Brian Koppelman
Episode: Seth Godin
"If you write every day in public, your brain will behave in a different way. We are hiding because we got taught to hide by the mechanistic managers who only want us to focus on quality." That's just one of the many thoughtful and inspiring quotes by marketing guru Seth Godin, who I've long admired for his cogent analysis of making great art and what it takes to be a freelancer. In a conversation with the writer and host Brian Koppelman (who never just sticks to a list of questions but lets the conversation flow freely), Godin covers a lot of ground, from the importance of finding a fulfilling life beyond what the market dictates to pursuing excellence to why we resist making decision and so much more. I might be biased because I love me some Godin but I challenge you to spend an hour with this ep and tell me you weren't encouraged to think differently about your life and/or the path you want to take to be a better person, in some way, in any way.
For the first time in recent memory, I read more non-fiction than fiction books over 12 months, which is not to say I didn't try reading some recommended novels but most of them ended up being lacklustre and I shelved them (er, returned them to the library) within a few chapters.
Thankfully, this year has given readers a gold rush of other engaging and entertaining books, which range from comedic memoirs to inside scoops on Apple to a harrowing journey of a Holocaust survivor. It was hard to narrow it down to five books but that's the life of an infrequent blogger who has a pocket of time on Saturday to tackle non-client work!
Without further delay, here are my top 5 books of 2018:
LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng
You nitpickers out there will say Ng's second book is a 2017 release, which is true, but it was in September '17 so it's close enough, and I didn't get around reading it until two months ago, so can you please pump the brakes on the hatorade? Thanks.
So Little Fires Everywhere is undoubtedly one of the best novels I've read in at least 18 months, when David Mitchell's ghost story Slade House floored me completely. What Ng accomplishes in this book is remarkable: she insightfully flushes out what makes functional families veer into disfunction, without ever veering into caricature or stereotype or deadened pacing. She has such a firm grasp of what keeps readers gripped to read more, I couldn't believe the reading sessions I was indulging in with Little Fires Everywhere. I average usually 30 minutes per sit-down, but her book had me glued for at least an hour at a time. This was one one of my rare fiction reads this year, and I'm glad I took a risk on an author I never heard of but came recommended from the New York Times book section.
ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGH SIDE OF LIFE by Eric Idle
If you're in any way a self-described Monty Python nerd, you have to silly walk, not run, to get this long-awaited memoir. Bonus points if you read John Cleese's top-notch memoir, because Cleese laid the groundwork for the pre-Python account of how British comedy was evolving in the 60s and Idle picks up where Cleese left off. By being so candid with his seemingly crystal-clear of oft-told but rarely detailed stories of, say, how miserable it was for the troupe to film Holy Grail, Idle gifts Python fans with an insider's tale that is truly hilarious to read.
I reviewed this book for The Washington Post, so rather than repeat myself, I'll just copy-and-paste my closer: "It’s the kind of book you’ll want to read twice — once when the genius of Python sketches are fresh in your memory, and once when those scenes have faded so you can be reminded how these comedy rebels shook up an art form that was due for a dose of surreal silliness."
LIKEWAR: THE WEAPONIZATION OF SOCIAL MEDIA by Peter W. Singer
You might have heard of this thing called the Internet Research Agency in Russia that paid staff to pretend to be Americans and sow dissent among Republicans and Democrats, sometimes pretending to be Black Americans who urged Americans to vote for Trump or stay home on Election Day. But what cyberweapons expert Peter W. Singer does with LikeWar is excavate more details about exactly how this was pulled off and other similar propaganda warfare waged across the world. LikeWar is an eye-opener, especially if you aren't reading Wired as voraciously as I do; so if you want a clear picture of the niche corners of the Web brimming with deep-fake videos, ISIS online recruitment strategies and fake-news viral messaging than you'll want to give this book a read.
CREATIVE SELECTION: INSIDE APPLE'S DESIGN PROCESS DURING THE GOLDEN AGE OF STEVE JOBS by Ken Kocienda
I used to write exclusively about tech awhile back, when I started my career as a journalist, and I love documentaries or longreads about the hardware of software that make some of gadgets so damn cool. The iPhone OS is one such area of interest for me, and I finally came across a new book that offers Appleheads an in-depth reveal that I don't believe has ever been written before. Ken Kocienda spent his entire career as a designer and engineer at Apple where he famously came up with the iPhone keyboard we all tap away on like a pianist on speed. Did you know the design could've been entirely head-scratching if Jobs didn't give his blessings to Kocienda's iteration? See below for what I mean:
Kocienda doesn't reveal just the origin story of the iOS keyboard but also the Safari browser he helped make what it is today. So if you got a thing for software engineering or how a behemoth like Apple operates, Creative Selection is one heckuva page-turner.
THE LIFE OF MOSHELE DER ZINGER: HOW MUSIC SAVED BY LIFE by Moshe Kraus
This pick is an outlier to many of you because it's a rare find and self-published and on an obscure person to many but a truly important inspiration to me. Moshe Kraus, a Holocaust survivor and cantor in Ottawa, formed part of my solo show Jewnique; I interviewed him about his time at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, what he found in Jewish music, and how he found a way to remain faithful to his religion when everything around him told him that only chaos and evil reigned supreme. Few memoirs have me get ferklempt but Krause's book did in more than one segment, but it wasn't all tragedy, lest you think Kraus didn't find joy in the aftermath of the Holocaust by bringing his cantorial talent to Mexico City, Johannesburg and Israel, among many others. If you want to get a sense of Kraus's story through my piece on him in Jewnique, see below:
Look at that smile. Pascal Siakam is having the greatest time running up the court with the ball because he knows he's unstoppable. He realizes he can get to the rim with ease, maybe with one of his spicy spin-o-rama moves, and back there, Joel Embiid is lumbering up the court, yeah he knows it too. He has this look of resignation on his face that says, "Oh man, not again."
Not again because in the most recent Raptors-Sixers game, the Raptors won once more, their second win against this top-tier Eastern Conference team. After Wednesday's demolition of the Warriors, and Tuesday's impressive blowout of the Clippers, the Raptors now reign supreme over the NBA, taking the #1 spot at 23-7.
The Raps' point differential is 8.6. They sit second in FG%, just behind the Warriors. Kyle Lowry leads the league in assists (10) and a mind-blowing stat from Kawhi Leonard's career maintains during his stint on the Raps: He has more steals than personal fouls.
Stats and W-L record is one thing but the pace of play is simply entertaining to behold. Coach Nurse has the team running fast after an opponent's made FG or a rebound, with Lowry blasting passes down court to a streaking Siakam or Leonard. Then add the improved play of Serge Ibaka (is there a jumper he can't hit?!), the choking defense led by Leonard, and the steady Freddy play of Van Vleet of late, and you get a recipe for success that the Raps haven't seen in the DeMar era.
I miss DeRozan but I don't miss how he didn't let the Raps space the floor effectively. With Lowry making more plays through pick-and-rolls and finding cutters, he isn't in that static stand-around mode so common when DeRozan was given the ball to work one-on-one. I'm really loving how everyone is making that extra pass to find a wide open three pointer, or unselfishly sharing the rock to that player matched up against a smaller defender. It's beautiful basketball.
I've been watching the Raps for as long as they've been a team and I haven't anticipated a postseason as hungrily as I am in 2018. Today's roster is deeper and more talented than any I've seen, playing with the kind of energy and swagger you'd expect from a healthy mix of young blood and veteran talent. Where this team goes in the playoffs is still nerve-wracking to many hardcore Raps fans with deep memories, but I'm confident these guys will find a way to crush the competition in the East and make it to the Finals with a talented lineup that should strike cold fear into any Western Conference team we match up against.
What do you think? Are the Raps for real this year? Comment or tweet at me via @SilverbergDave
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