Thursday, 25 April 2013


It is obvious that we can no more explain passion to a person who has never experienced it than we can explain light to the blind. ~T.S Eliot

I have been thinking a great deal about passion lately; how we live our lives either consumed in it or totally devoid of it. We tell our children to find that thing, that essence, that almost indescribable entity that will bring unfettered enthusiasm to their lives, and then we send them out into the cold dark reality and say "Now, go and try make a living doing it!" (insert cold water shower here!)

Please don't misunderstand me. For those of us fortunate enough to find our "passion" and live the dream, there can be nothing better. We see our jobs as vehicles for a higher purpose. We have managed to turn our hobbies into loves and our fascinations into eager excitements. We enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Wouldn't we all love to say that we have lived our passions?

The Husband can. And so can his best friend and business partner Twin Son of a Different Mother. They have been involved in a passionate labour of love for almost seven years and this weekend we hope to begin to see the fruits of that labour. I cannot adequately express how much pride, love, and admiration I have for these two forward thinkers. It isn't as though a simple bottle of newly released artisan whisky will bring about world peace or cure cancer, but it has brought a renewed sense of spirit (no pun intended!) and fire to The Husband about which most of us can only dream. He is invigorated, energized, and revitalized every single day that he goes to work. How many of us can actually say that?

It hasn't been easy. Worthwhile endeavours rarely are. And while Mr. Eliot had trouble explaining passion, I think that after watching The Husband over these many years, I might be able to aid in the definition.

Passion is doing something you love when you have no knowledge or expectation of financial reward. You want it, hope for it, and pray for it, but you continue to do it knowing that the money may or may not be there in the end.

Passion is found in the sheer joy of the daily experience and not necessarily in the payoff.

Passion is the continuation of the dream when everybody around you is telling you that you are bat-shit crazy!! (That list includes family, friends, spouses, critics, strangers, government bodies and too many others to mention.)

Passion is fighting through the roadblocks set up to deter you from the dream.

Passion is rejoicing in the incremental steps forward.

Passion is allowing for the nutty and off-the-wall ideas to flourish.

Passion is the excitement you feel when that first bit of praise, that first Twitter RT, that first Facebook like comes in and provides you with a small pat on the back.

Passion is the animation in your voice, the light in your eyes, the childlike exuberance you exude when discussing your project.

Passion is defined by your creativity and finds its genesis in your self-worth. 

To The Husband and Twin Son.....I toast to your passion. 

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam
Shecheiyanu v'kimanu, v'higiyanu lazman hazeh

Blessed are You Adonai our God Ruler of the Universe
Who has given us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this day!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Petitioning the Petition

I just received a link from a friend of mine for an online petition. This particular cause is actually one that is close to my heart. It purports to attempt to save the beleaguered Canadian Jewish News from extinction. After 42 years of service to the Jewish community, the CJN has found itself in much the same position as many other print publications, (some much larger papers with far bigger circulation numbers) and has announced that it will be shutting down in two months time. I want to state up front that I am a regular reader and a paid subscriber of the CJN and have been for a very long time. And while I do take issue with some of its editorial policies and its tendency to ignore or act dismissive of Reform synagogues not named Holy Blossom, I am a supporter of the paper and its mandate. So what I am about to state might strike many of you as odd.

This petition is silly.

I get that we as a community are upset about the loss of an institution. We should be. But signing an online petition like this one accomplishes absolutely nothing.

Who are you petitioning? The publishers? Don't you think they want to save the paper and the jobs of the people who work for it?

Who are you hoping will be affected by this petition? A donating angel? Good luck with that. Why would any single person throw good money into what is obviously a losing enterprise?

The CJN's problems are many. They have a shrinking advertising base that has become convinced that there are better ways to reach their target audiences than by placing a (frankly!) very expensive quarter to half page in a weekly with a small circulation. Their online edition is poor at best, with a difficult to navigate site, little advertising (MONEY!!) per se, and chunks of the paper aren't even available there. They have been slow off the mark with social media and don't do a great job with either their Facebook or Twitter feeds. Their core readership is aging and they are obviously having trouble attracting younger subscribers. And don't even get me started with the homogeneity of their columnists and editorials. Differing perspectives on a wide range of topics would be nice! These problems aren't new. Ask The Toronto Star, The New York Times, The Globe and Mail or any of the other thousands of print publications that have recently hidden content behind paywalls. The internet has changed the way newspapers function and those that have been slow to react are paying the price.

But why is the petition silly?

Because it does nothing to address the core problems that the CJN is facing. If every one of those signing were to subscribe, my guess is it still wouldn't be enough. Are you signatories all willing to pony up? Are you willing to put your money where your names are? Are you willing to advertise? Are you willing to pay for content? Are you willing to donate? Are you willing to fund this proposition?

The CJN is worth saving in spite of the issues that I have outlined. As a Canadian Jew, I want a publication that informs and provokes and provides needed data for my community. But it also needs to adapt itself to the realities of the twenty-first century.

Sorry folks. Let's find a better way to help than an entreaty that isn't even worth the bytes spent typing our names.

Friday, 12 April 2013

What to Do When the Lights Go Out?

What is the one thing in this world that you could not possibly live without? Now don't get all spiritual on me. I'm not talking about the obvious stuff like food, shelter, clothing, love, family, health, companionship etc. Those things are givens and go without saying. I am delving into the extraordinarily selfish and materialistic side of all of us. The one thing that when push comes to shove you couldn't be without. Is it your car? Your TV? Maybe it is your phone? For me, there is simply no debate. The one thing that I cannot stand to be without is power. Not power in a political or family dynamic sense, but real plug-in-the-wall, the fuses are all working, don't stick your finger in the socket power. Nothing sets me more on edge and causes me more anxiety than a power outage.

At the very moment that I am putting these words to paper, (yes paper! With an actual pen!) I am suffering through yet another blackout up here in the North Jewish Ghetto. Weather related power outages occur with some regularity in my neighbourhood due to the mid-Twentieth Century technological idiocy of constructing above ground power lines next to mature trees. Whenever a major storm happens, winter or summer, Mother Nature sees fit to drop a limb, branch, or trunk onto said electrical-bearing connections, leaving half of this part of the city in the dark and cold. Today's April nastiness is no exception, and I have been left to putter in the eerie stillness that is my house for the last hour and a half.

Think about all that is dependent on power. The lights are the obvious, but modern technology has tethered us inextricably to all of those coursing volts. I can't make a phone call unless I use my cell phone, which I can't use too much lest the battery drains and I cannot recharge it because I have no power. (We do have an analogue phone with a hard-wired jack that we keep handy for these situations, but for some reason it isn't working right now either. We think that the cable guys might have messed with it during their last visit. Of course, one only discovers these things during a crisis!) I can't cook. The oven is out, as is the microwave. I don't want to open the fridge or freezer too often because I am trying to keep the food within as fresh as possible. I do have a gas stove, so that is something. If we are still in the dark come dinnertime we certainly won't starve, but it will definitely be somewhat more challenging.

It is starting to get cold in here. I have been reading with some amusement, some Facebook statuses from friends in the south who are complaining about the heat and their lack of air conditioning. I'll take being hot over being cold any day. Wanna trade?

I had just finished working out when the lights went out. I haven't yet been able to shower, mostly because our bathroom is rather dark and I am a bit concerned for my safety. That, and the total vanity that goes along with not being able to dry my hair. I am not usually high maintenance.....except when it comes to my hair. No blow dryer equals no public appearance.

I can't do housework. No laundry or vacuuming. Small blessings? I can't spring clean the closets which has been on my to-do list. Too dark. I need a flashlight to read and all of my electronic diversions such as computer, recorded music, television, Internet and the like are all power-dependent. Nope. Being without power is truly a first world 21st Century problem.

We have done this to ourselves. We have become totally power-dependant. Our grandparents never seemed to freak out when the lights when out. What did they do to keep themselves busy in these situations? Could it be that they actually talked to one another?? They inquired after each other's well-being and expressed interest into what they were doing? Or maybe, they just enjoyed each other's company. Stunning!

I am not usually a nostalgic person. But I do admit to being a bit freaked out by how much I am at the mercy of Power Stream. Maybe some things were actually better in the "good old days." Or maybe I just need to simplify my life a bit more. I have had my eye on a really nice throwback rotary phone I recently saw on Ebay. Too bad I can't order it until the power is restored.