Contrary to popular opinion, if you think positively, you might actually be doing yourself more harm than good.
According to research from Gabriele Oettingen, a professor of psychology at New York University, the more we think positively, the less we actually achieve. Why? "Positive thinking impedes performance because it relaxes us and drains the energy we need to take action," Oettingen says in Aeon.
She goes on to explain: "Such relaxation occurs because positive fantasies fool our minds into thinking that we’ve already achieved our goals – what psychologists call ‘mental attainment’. We achieve our goals virtually and thus feel less need to take action in the real world."
I can relate. With my current poetry project, a book I'm aiming to complete by December, I envision all the good things that come from a published book - the launch, the touring, even how I'd design the cover. I'm proud of a few of the poems I've written so far, but I can feel myself relax too easily. These days, I feel like I'm behind on tackling the bulk of the work, and I can see how my positive thinking may have had that affect on me.
Instead, what I should be doing, what we all should be doing, is mental contrasting. Oettingen explains it like this: "Combining positive fantasies with thoughts about the realities in their path might do the trick. If we could ground positive fantasies in reality, perhaps we could negate the soothing, lulling quality of these fantasies and stir people to action."
This type of thinking primes us to tackle challenges that seem possible to overcome, and to shy away from obstacles that we believe are insurmountable. It comes down to realistic vs unrealistic goals, and snagging those achievable wins.
So in my case, instead of the daunting task ahead of completing a book of poetry, I'm chipping away at it. I'm aiming to write a new poem every week, even if it's a shitty first draft. Even if it's a haiku. I don't want to feel defeated by the overwhelming task ahead of writing dozens of poems by December, so instead of carving up the coming weeks to make this goal achievable.
And I'm refraining from fantastical thoughts of book launches and goodreads.com accolades. I'm focusing more on what's stopping me from writing more, whether it's journalistic tasks or social outings or just laziness. Heck, I've watched every episode of Party Down in the past two weeks but haven't written a poem I'm proud of...and that kind of behaviour needs to change.
I'm curious what you think about positive thinking. Feel free to comment below or tweet me @SilverbergDave
I love that moment when you're 12 and you find something that speaks, nay, megaphones to you so completely you dig into every archive to find the complete opus of that magical wizard. To me, Monty Python were those wizards. I couldn't get enough of their silliness, even if I didn't understand all the foppy British references. Or the little and big digs they were making at establishment entertainment and politics.
But today, when I rewatch Python films, especially Life of Brian and their Flying Circus sketches, I get a renewed feeling of appreciation for their genius. And it almost makes me wonder how much else I missed as a kid.
With Cleese and the gang, I always adored their wordplay, such as in the tinny-word sketch or the argument-clinic classic. But on a deeper dive, and with a greater awareness of their tight editing, the sketches almost make my jaw drop. I can see how the punchline setup works perfectly in most of their sketches, and their wacky turns aren't so random after all.
Just watch the mastery that is the Cheese Shop sketch to revel in how the timing has to be absolutely perfect for some of those lines to hit right.
When I learned more about religion, especially Christianity, and took a Latin class or two, all those Life of Brian jokes brought more intelligent nuance to the comedic buffet the fellas were dishing out.
When it comes to music mentors, Jimi Hendrix is up there for me. In high school, I couldn't get enough of Little Wing, Wind Cries Mary, Watchtower, but in the last few years I've been hearing more of the poetry bulbing bright in songs like Castles Made of Sang, If 6 was 9. I remember rocking out to his chunky riffs, but did I really listen to his lyrics?
As a poet, I've learned to see the rhythm of language as clearly as a melody in a tune. It takes some excavating, maybe some Wiki-lyric hunting, but in the end I'm lovin Hendrix now more than ever.
Of course, we've all had the opposite experience. A band we really admired as a kid just doesn't cut it anymore, even when you go to that first album that spun you into binge-listening weekends (sorry, Throwing Copper by Live). But I think we can overlook those shiny heroes we put on a pedestal back in the day...and they don't always kick you in the face from that height. The best ones have you going through their back catalogue like you did decades go, smiling even wider now.
When I recently bought another Erik Johansson print, I realized I haven't yet blogged about his photographic mastery...or three other artists that have caught my eye recently.
I see the talent of visual art to be magic. To create something so arresting out of nothing is the sort of wizardry that amazes me, and mystifies me. I don't have an inkling of artistic talent that could come close to being presented to the public in any way, and since it's been so elusive to me I really appreciate when the talent simply drips off artists I come across in my adventures as a lover of many creative streams.
This post is dedicated to four inspirational artists who have affected me in some way, some this year, some in the past decade. They hail from across the world, but thanks to the Net you can can check out their portfolio online (although I do encourage you to support the artists by buying any prints or merch that catch your eye).
Here we go...
I don't remember when I first learned about this Swedish photographer-artist, but I've long been entranced by his surrealist work. Johansson is a master of Photoshop artwork, where he snaps pics and then manipulates images to create these new fantastical scenes.
Although it might look like special effects were applied to his work, Johannson has said no CGI touches his art and he fashions new pieces by tweaking photos in PS or combining his photographs to create one new eye-catching photo.
When I first hung up a Johansson print on my wall, many people visiting my apartment for the first time immediately asked about "that weird fish photo." And I told them to see Johansson's work online and every time they've come back to me to say how incredible it was to survey Johansson's viscerally arresting depictions.
If you like a good horror or sci-fi film, you'll fall in love with Karen Jerzyk's photos. I'll soon be profiling her for an article later this month, and rest assured you're in for a treat if you want to learn about what motivates this talented artist with a penchant for the otherworldly.
Jerzyk is a fan of shooting in abandoned creepy homes and warehouses, and using natural techniques (again, no CGI) to create bold new images from her pics. Witches tower over kids in bed, butterflies look as if they're swarming women with flowing robes, and underwater photos showcase a new kind of terror.
I can see why her photos might not be for everyone, especially for those used to relaxing in front of pastoral paintings, but if you got some steampunky and gothy edges in you, Jerzyk's photos will speak to you. I can't believe a horror director hasn't yet employed her yet to work on a film, in any way. It's pure WOW kinda stuff.
Full disclosure: Komi is a buddy, but undoubtedly I'd be profiling him here if I didn't know him personally. The Nigerian-born Ottawa artist and poet has long amazed me with his stunning portraits on canvas, such as the work he created for a poetry festival where several star artists are compiled into one piece. Which is hanging on my wall.
Olaf has impressed audiences globally with his afro-futurism artwork, which is unlike anything I've come across. His use of colour is distinct and vivid, and often faces can be holding expressions that speak novels about their personalities. Olaf has been branching out to work in 3D and augmented reality artwork, which is a digital trend I'm closely watching. I'll be sure to keep my readers posted on Olaf's next big project, because I got a good feeling about this guy's career trajectory.
I only got acquainted with Nado's work this month but I'm a fan. The Quebecois artist won acclaim for a unique creation of typewriters solely made from gun parts. As he writes on his site: "The series elicits a reflection on the strength of words that surpass that of weapons and its impact over time."
I also am feeling his series of sculptures of women made from sewing machine parts, again making a statement with the core machines he used as tools to create new art and artistic statements.
When artists repurpose junk into treasure, I take notice. I've long admired those who can see the beauty in the discarded and who can get both playful and provocative with the artwork they create from the ashes. Nado is an artist to watch, undoubtedly, but so are many other one-man's-trash artists, such as Toronto's Cycle Critters, who fashions new sculptures out of bike parts.
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.
About David's Blog
My musings about the arts, Toronto, technology, journalism, sports.