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.
As many of you know, I've embarked on a full-time freelance career after more than a dozen years working out of a newsroom. It was definitely one of the best decisions I've made in a long time, and I wake up every morning invigorated, determined, inspired.
Which is why I wanted to learn more about the freelance and entrepreneurial life from a book recommended in a Seth Godin online course. Escape from Cubicle Nation is known as a classic book on finding your voice as a freelancer, no matter your beat. The 2009 book from Pamela Slim reinforced a lot of what I know already about shirking the cubicle life and hunkering down to devise a plan to be a self-starter, but it also enlightened me on a few light-bulb moments that I want to share with you.
First, she explains why we should avoid the cubicled life. She writes:
We’re not meant to sit in meetings for hours and hours, hashing out technical details that everyone knows will be changed next week anyway. When our job responsibilities call for us to perform a task that we find meaningless and trivial, we choke down our urge to say 'That is absurd, and I won’t spend my valuable time that way!' and do it anyway in order to be responsible and a team player.
When I first leapt into freelancing full-time, I wondered where I would find those daily social interactions that fuelled some of my creativity. Talking to people is a great way for writers to learn more about the human condition (says Captain Obvious). But when you're solo or at a work-sharing space, the atmosphere is a bit more lonerish. And that's why Slim's passage here spoke to me:
Begin to reconnect your emotional and intellectual selves by exposing yourself to creative environments or activities. You crave beauty and truth so find ways to express both. Nature is a great way for waking up the emotional self, same with art and music and really sensuous food.
I've promised myself this summer to write and read more in High Park and Trinity Bellwoods, and venture on day trips to go hiking. I also plan to spend a week in Montreal to expose myself to new people, fresh activities, new ideas.
I also want to highlight another passage:
We spend a lot of time on busy work that makes us feel like we’re doing the right things in our careers or business but often is quite unimportant. Develop some rigorous criteria for what you will work on, based on being true to our essential self. Look to work on things that will leapfrog you to new creative and personal heights, and not just plug along like an old tired and dutiful steam engine.
That's easier said than done. I like to busy myself with projects that I think will develop new skills in my journalistic or arts education business, but I need to be very hard-assed about what I dive into this year. I have two major poetry projects debuting in 2018 - a book and one-man show - and I have had to cut out some other pursuits that didn't contribute to those ends (or my bank account). It sure wasn't easy but sweet Jebus was it necessary!
To find those projects that awaken your bone marrow, Slim suggests asking yourself two major questions:
Will I be a better smarter more compassionate human for having attempted this, regardless of the outcome?
Will the world be a little better because of my efforts?
And the two writing projects I have ahead of me will definitely contribute to nurturing my creativity, feeding my curiosity, and definitely boost my compassion as both a writer and human. It's hard to predict how the world will react to my book and show, but I like to think they are unique enough to stand out in a crowded marketplace, and yes, if I pull it off successfully, they should definitely enhance the communities I hope to reach.
As noted before, I highly recommend Escape From Cubicle Nation if you have a fiery project you'd like to turn from Bunsen burner flame to blazing inferno.
I'm starting a new weekly list on my blog called The Friday 5, where I'll list 5 recommendations in a specific category, like podcast episodes (this week) or graphic novels (next week).
These five podcast episodes have been making me laugh, think, maybe even think-laugh! I'm interested to hear your top 5 podcast eps you've been enjoying recently, so hit me up in the Comments or on Twitter.
In no particular order:
It's a question I've thought about it for awhile, in light of several people I know on Facebook who use the platform to share the most intimate details of their lives. Many of these users express how depression and negativity is hurting them at that particular moment. I can't guess their motivations, but these posts elicit sympathy, pity, comfort, camaraderie and the kind of communal hug I don't see on any other website.
So what would happen to our relationships and our online community if Facebook suddenly went RIP? Or got hacked and we lost all our connections to each other via our Friends lists. I'm curious to see where we would go to share what matters to us most, to offer a consoling comment. On Twitter? In person?
I don't have an answer for this question, but instead I'd like to learn from you what connection you have with Facebook that would be severed if the social network suddenly went all Friendster. What would you lose? Or would you gain a newfound sense of freedom and interact with your true friends IRL?
As many of my blog readers know, I'm a TED Talks nerd. I watch a talk almost every day, whether I'm curious about business issues, tech advances, inspiring stories, the creative process.
A recent TED Talk attracted my attention recently: Know Your Worth, And Then Ask For It, by pricing consultant Casey Brown. In only 8 minutes, she was able to perfectly sum up what many of us have surely been wondering for awhile: I'm definitely not getting paid for the value I provide to my boss/clients.
I won't get all Coles Notes on you and bullet-point her talk, so I've embedded it below. Definitely worth a watch if you've wondered how to boost your value as an employee or entrepreneur, especially if you're a woman who feels cheated by the pay inequality in the world today:
About David's Blog
My musings about the arts, Toronto, technology, journalism, sports.