“Letters to Hip Hop”

“Oh, Just Browsing”

“Family Dinner”

Poetry Collections

  • Ongoing. Poetry published on this blog.
  • November, 2022. Graveyard Poems. Self-published. Toronto.
  • January, 2021. The Breakup Suite. Self-published. Toronto.
  • February, 2008Levitations. Trainwreck Press. Newfoundland. Out of print.
  • February, 2007El Pensamiento se Hace en la Boca, with Jose Walter Calderón Hernández and Horacio Ayala. Gärtner Publicidad. Pereira, Colombia, South America.


Prose Collections

Investing Content

Short Fiction

Creative Non-Fiction


SEO Articles

  • November, 2019-March, 2020. Clients include Professional Roofers, R Courier, GoDay, PureFilters, Ample Organics, Yarnspirations, Salesforce Search, Patient News Dental Marketing, Malwarebytes, and Poynt 360.


Theatre Reviews 

(The Theatre Reader is no longer live)

Book Reviews

Music Reviews

Record Store Profiles


  • August 7, 2014.  “If On A Winter’s Night Michael DeForge.” Sequential.
  • June, 2014. Young People We Really Like Are Saying. Luminato Festival’s Light News newspaper. I provided commentary on Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle of films, Mariano Pensotti’s play Cineastas, and Kid Koala’s Nufonia Must Fall Live.



Select Articles

Coal Mine Theatre Slays With Killer Joe (Sewer Lid, 2016)

When presented with people who live in a vacuum, the prudent thing is to determine just how far their limited worldviews extend. In the case of the characters in Tracy Letts’ 1993 debut, Killer Joe — adapted for the screen in 2011 and starring Matthew Mcconaughey — the answer is not very far. But that’s exactly the point.

The play follows the Smiths — a working class family from Dallas — after Chris (Matthew Gouveia) convinces his father Ansel (Paul Fauteux) to have Chris’ mother murdered for the insurance money. Ansel’s daughter Dottie (Vivien Endicott-Douglas) and current wife Sharla (Madison Walsh) soon catch on and implicate themselves. The family hires local cop Killer Joe Cooper (Matthew Edison) to carry out the job.

Though technically a dark comedy, this production of Killer Joe shares more with a documentary as the Smiths are dead ringers for Donald Trump supporters. Coal Mine’s Artistic Curator, Ted Dykstra, said it himself minutes after curtain call on opening night, “If you were wondering who’s going to be voting for him, now you know.” The audience laughed. He said he wished it wasn’t that funny.

In our defense, most of the play’s jokes manage to be hilarious and incite laughter as a defense mechanism or release valve against human suffering. When Chris says of his mother, “I hate that bitch,” and Ansel responds with a child’s earnest selfishness, “You’re talking about my ex-wife. I’m the one who found her, ” the infantilization is just as funny as the need to laugh off how they’re talking about murdering someone. When Ansel and Dottie enter a vegetative stage at the sight of a television with the instantaneity of a two-year-old, it smothers us with our own screen dependencies like shit in a dog’s face.

This is In Yer Face theatre, after all, where too-close-for-comfort is the preferred method of ingestion. Set inside the Smith family trailer, the audience is seated so close that the front row’s feet rest on the living room carpet. Jagged lines in the dirt under the dining room table suggest a recent scuffle. The bathroom patrons use (before showtime only!) is the same one the Smiths call their own. Without the distance of a news sound bite’s brevity, intrusion is something to get used to. The payoff, you’ll find, is worth it.  

Killer Joe takes the radical humanist stance of affixing a domestic, sociological lens onto North American politics by getting to know the people threatening to make it great again. The characters’ egoism can feel like five plays simultaneously unfolding. Misogyny is doled out with the poise of inherited wisdom. Genuine care is a rarity; glimpses of it surfacing are perverse in their renewal of faith in people only to tear it down moments later. Amidst the gunshots and blood splatter, a simple “You alright, guy?” or affording someone the privilege of changing clothes never carried such incredible weight.  

The characters’ generally hammed-up interaction, paired with the gruesome subject matter, makes them neither wholly realistic nor paper-thin assemblages from sitcoms, christianity and conservative politics, but an uncanny mix of both. They project theatrical versions of the happy-murder-song gimmick of Guns N’ Roses’ “Used to Love Her,” which might see them dismissed as stereotypes, stock realist takes on Married with Children without the softening veneer of make-believe. But stereotypes are exactly what they’re supposed to be. Plenty of Trump rally footage confirms the resemblance.

Smart production choices help focus the discrimination and dysfunction as indicative of a voice seldom heard. Cutting the sound on Joe and Dottie as she slips into a black dress doesn’t belittle sexual abuse, it displays it for us in horrifying phenomenological suspension, it gives room to get past our moral filters into a place of empathy. Killer Joe may have passed judgement on the Smiths in 1993, made fun of their backwards ideology in the interest of preventing it. Not anymore, though. Irony has long overstayed its welcome as weapon of choice.

Endicott-Douglas plays Dottie as a vessel, a medium who doesn’t know what she’s transmitting or who it’s for. It’s hard to tell whether she’s conscious or sleepwalking, innocent or underestimated, and we’re left with nothing but textures to read her. The result is a hallucinating angel. There’s this blissed-out, clown-smile trance she falls into at the dinner table, roughly two-thirds through, that might be your new visual cue for evil.

Gouveia brings the slime in buckets and never relents; yet he gets across by meaning well. Chris’ passionate, misguided drive toward self-improvement over mere money is endearing, a light with faint traces of purity. He salvages our hope in people by guarding his love for Dottie and comes off noble for it, a commendable mark to hit for someone who wants to kill to finance his deadbeat lifestyle.

Edison is graceful and understated in keeping Killer Joe as small of a person as he can muster. His deadpan charm grows suspicious, robotic, into a way of overcompensating for a history we’re left to imagine.

Paul Fauteux’s comic timing is sharp as a switchblade. How he empties Ansel’s conscience to the lowest possible level of sentience while killing every punchline  is almost computer generated. How he caresses that Budweiser and remote control exposes displaced love like a hockey player tweeting an injury. The warp speed with which his selfishness stops being cartoony draws the audience in by inertia.

Madison Walsh just is Sharla. The script asks a great deal of her and all she does is flex.

Years from now, this production should be remembered as a period piece, unabashedly of its time, all up in the chaos of history being written.

Spend Wisely, Retire Early: Five Steps to Success (Go Day, 2019)

The key to a comfortable retirement isn’t a secret, it’s just hard to implement. It goes by the name of delayed gratification, or the practice of forgoing luxuries now to save that money for spending in the distant future.

The main problem here is that, as human beings, we are pretty much hardwired to want our gratification right now. Even if it comes at the expense of living out the final decades of our lives without the amenities we deserve.

It can be quite a challenge to ignore that French pastry in the window, even though it’ll run you over five dollars and you’re only a short walk from home. The same can be said for bigger purchases, like cars and houses, because owning them signals that you have reached a certain status in life. The question is, can you afford them without having to work until you’re sixty-five? If you stick to the following five spending tips, the answer will be a resounding yes!

Know Yourself

The first step on your path to accelerated retirement is understanding your relationship with money. If there’s cash in your wallet, will you always find a way to spend it just because it’s within arm’s reach? Or are you more the type to swipe a credit card throughout the day without feeling like it’s real money?

There are roadblocks you can put in place to curb this behavior and keep yourself from falling on hard times. It could be as simple as carrying the form of currency you are least likely to spend. You could also enlist a friend to go over your expenses every month to keep you accountable for unnecessary purchases. If you do find yourself in need of a temporary fix, see if a payday loan can be your bridge over troubled water. Working with a trusted online lender like GoDay can help provide financial support when you need it.

Built-In Leeway

Pick two days a month to treat yourself to something you love. Make sure it’s reasonably priced, but working it into your budget so you always have something to look forward to. Consider it your reward for keeping your finances on track. Here’s a handful of suggestions.

  • An ice-cream cone at your local parlor
  • A rickshaw ride across the neighborhood
  • A drink with friends

It’s important to make room for indulgences alongside responsible spending habits. Life is short and we should enjoy it as much as we can without jeopardizing our lifestyles as senior citizens.

Choose Money Over Time

When you’re focused on saving, reallocating your time can help you put more money away. It comes down to doing a little work instead of paying a premium for someone else to do it for you. Case in point: ordering takeout. There’s no sound reason to pay twenty or thirty dollars for dinner when you could unthaw some chicken and frozen veggies and cook yourself a meal for under five dollars a plate. Becoming an expert in the kitchen really pays off if cooking is a regular part of your schedule.

It’s a similar dilemma with public transit versus the convenience of ride-sharing. While the latter is certainly more comfortable than the former, it’s also many times more expensive. The frugal alternative—waiting for the bus—may involve a lot more waiting, but at least you’ll get paid to do it with the taxi money you’ve saved.

Pay Yourself First

Paying yourself first means taking a small percentage of every paycheck and investing it in a portfolio of financial instruments that will grow in value over time. The most common are stocks and bonds.

The money you contribute to your investment account grows on its own while you’re free to focus on family and your career. What you’re blessing yourself with here is an additional stream of income, one that will turn into a nice nest egg over a few decades. When you’re ready to retire, your hard-earned savings will protect you from any financial emergency.

Of course, if money is tight, your basic necessities and current liabilities are the highest priority. If you need the extra support, research payday lenders with a reputation for helping customers through life’s temporary setbacks.

Embrace the Generic

Many fail to account for the difference in price between a brand-name product and its generic alternative. It may seem like the high-end bar of soap is only forty cents more than the bulk brand. It may also feel like generic aspirin, though cheaper, won’t be as effective as the pills from the company that owns the rights to the ‘Aspirin’ name. What gets lost in the decision is how the price premium can reach twenty-five percent or more!

Once you do the math, it all becomes clear. It is outrageous to pay five dollars for every twenty you spend, just to enjoy the prestige of a brand-name lifestyle. The truth is, the cheaper soap will do a good job, and the generic aspirin will make your headache go away. Be practical and use those savings to extend your golden years and make them as exciting as they can be.

It’s only by optimizing every financial decision that you can truly take control of your money. That means thinking about the best way to spend every dollar before handing it over. And you can only know what’s best for you if you have clear-cut financial goals to guide you into the future. As a base case, providing for your spending needs in old age should certainly be one of them.

It can seem pointless, a downright waste, to not pay up and enjoy life now when the expensive concert ticket or tropical vacation is only one click away. But this is just an illusion. In most cases, your days as a granny or grandpa are simply too far away to feel worth caring for. You can’t be certain about what your life will be like in a generation, but chances are you’ll be around to find out. The trick is accepting that you cannot predict how you’ll change into old age and saving precisely because the future is uncertain. Prepare for any eventuality and it’ll be smooth sailing come what may.

The Role of Software in Cannabis Production (Ample Organics, 2020)

Licensed cannabis producers have a multitude of responsibilities when it comes to getting their products in the hands of patients to improve their quality of life. They begin with proper planting methods but quickly extend out into matters of inventory management, regulatory compliance, and the development of high ethical standards to carry the blooming cannabis industry into the future.

Because there’s simply too much to keep track of by analog means, cannabis software companies have taken the initiative and created programs that help cultivators keep up with rising demand. Here are three areas essential to business success where they’re lending a helping hand:

Inventory Management

An expertly engineered cannabis inventory management solution affords you a bird’s-eye view of your finished goods so you can gain insights about recent sales and maximize your bottom line.

Rather than following vague intuitions about what products are moving, and which are not, it’s important to make rational decisions to follow through on your particular business plan. By aggregating data into a visually appealing platform, and facilitating its compilation by means of wireless scanners, cannabis inventory management becomes a cinch when software is on your side.

Regulatory Rigor

Cannabis producers must maintain a plethora of forms to comply with the Cannabis Act’s mission to vouch for the public’s health and safety. A lack of attention to detail can lead to failed inspections and a dip in revenue due to either recalled product or facilities that have to go offline.

The key is to rely on cannabis compliance software that can automate the gathering of this information and make it easily accessible upon request. That way, your business will run smoothly, and you’ll be able to build trusting relationships with governmental agencies and fellow producers to consolidate market share and strengthen the industry as a whole.

Seed-to-Sale Monitoring

Any cannabis growing operation, whether small in size, or spanning multiple warehouses, must track every step from the planting of seeds to the shipping of finished products to guarantee consistent quality. But as brand awareness grows, and your employees can no longer reliably track plants on their own, technology will have to enter the fold so you can scale up in a sustainable fashion.

An excellent seed-to-sale software platform will not only meticulously record the details of your cultivation, packaging, quality assurance, and sales and patient management efforts, it will also keep your data secure with the latest in encryption technology.

Why scramble to locate product that doesn’t meet your high standards when software can help you trace it for less time and money so you can get back to business?

It’s clear that cannabis software is a catalyst for any new venture in the industry, one that the best programmers will be able to customize to fit your evolving needs. If you’re ready to level up as a producer and take your business to uncharted heights, going digital is your path of least resistance. Partner with a cannabis software company today and you’ll be amazed by the efficiencies they’ll unlock for you.

Review: Homewrecker (Coyote Collective/Leroy Street Theatre/Scapegoat Collective) (Mooney on Theatre, 2018)

If a play’s purpose is to offer a take on a specific subject, I’m expecting a nuanced perspective to run through its core, and that is certainly the case with Homewrecker.

Currently running at The Assembly Theatre, the story centres on a cheating, self-loathing divorcee named Craig (Blue Bigwood-Mallin) eager to figure out where he went wrong, and Veronica (Susannah Mackay), the woman he cheated with, whose steely resolve he needs to put himself back together. Craig’s basement apartment—uncanny in its execution by set designer Chris Bretecher—sets a believable backdrop for the play’s extravagant central conceit: Craig’s $5000 offer to Veronica for a night’s company to prove to himself that he’s able to avoid seducing her again and is thus not the deviant sexual animal he thinks he is.

Playwright Daniel Pagett deftly uses Craig’s offer as a springboard to probe the tenuous nature of trust, the fictions that sustain us, and the complexities of loving someone you don’t like, all through a handful of jaw-dropping twists that continually replenish the play with fresh life. As the self-ruminations deepen and the conversations grow increasingly heated, the actors’ supercharged performances make it enjoyably difficult to distrust anything they say.

With the help of loaded, stylized blocking from director Anne Van Leeuwen, Pagett teases out buried feelings through images and ideas that are unrelenting in their humor and specificity. He is a poet with the gift of wit and bestows his characters with a strong sense of emotional awareness such that they are able to laugh at their problems. Pagett has fun with Craig and Veronica’s deep-seated sense of vulnerability as weakness and indulges in it without reservation. He acknowledges the audience’s presence by continually pulling the rug from under their sense of his characters’ identities.

Bigwood-Mallin layers Craig with hardness and world-weariness as the play progresses, such that the self-conscious mope we meet at the beginning feels like a limited facet of the conniving man we meet later on. His emotional range and control made me flip-flop on my feelings about him at least three times and appreciate how easily an embodied performance can sway. This is riveting stuff.

The same goes for Mackay, whose performance is authoritative and dialed-in to what’s happening in front of her, as if there were nothing else going on in the world. Veronica’s focus is that of someone possessed by the fortuitousness of the situation she finds herself in. She is the perfect sassy foil to Craig’s uncertain sulk, exuding the kind of piercing confidence he is looking to integrate into his newfound singledom.

The connection between these two is magnetic from the start, feeding off each other’s energy to imbue Pagett’s rapid-fire dialogue with explosively felt authenticity. They are masters of transformation, going from guarded strangers to confidants and back with a commitment that feels like close-up magic in the venue’s cozy space.

The plot twists were by far the highlight for my guest, Erika, who found them to be high stakes without interrupting the narrative flow. In spite of adultery being familiar dramatic territory, she says, the play takes a common story and elevates it into a tantalizing entertainment and immersive character study. One that lays out rather thoroughly the many ways in which we try and fail to control who we love.

Homewrecker is on all my counts a superb piece of theatre that should not be slept on. The combination of a script with conceptual rigour where every line is considered and performers willing to suffer through their characters’ growth makes for a captivating night out to say the least.

How the Right Sales Team Can Help Your Business Grow (Salesforce Search, 2019)

As an entrepreneur, you’re probably no stranger to wearing a multitude of hats to see projects through. This is especially true if your business is in its infancy, when new partnerships or investments play a pivotal role in keeping the lights on.

Eventually, though, your clientele will grow to a point where you can’t handle the influx yourself. You simply won’t be able to answer every request for your products and services in time to avoid leaving money on the table.

This is why you need a carefully curated sales team to back you up and lock in new business as it rushes in. Whether you conduct the search in house, or delegate it to a world-class sales recruitment agency, your potential hires should fit a profile of excellence that shares these major tenets.

Master Networkers

Your salespeople should each have a book of contacts with the potential to get your business in front of the people who need it. It’s recommended that they have ongoing, trusting relationships with these contacts such that you may build on them moving forward.

Additionally, the ability to make new contacts without aggressive sales tactics should always be close to the top of your checklist. Experienced salespeople can find new business wherever they happen to be:

  • Social events
  • Industry gatherings
  • Social media

Depending on your staff and internal resources, you may find it difficult to access talent at the elite level. Popular job search sites can be inefficient, presenting you with too many decent but unexceptional candidates to go through. On the other hand, a reputable sales recruiter can cut through the clutter and find you a quality employee ready to dig in for the long haul. Make the choice that benefits your company culture as well as your bottom line.

More Than a Job

Superstar salespeople will see a greater purpose to their work beyond exceeding sales projections year after year. They’ll bring revenues in, make no mistake. The point here is that tirelessly showing up to make sales requires a kind of motivation money alone can’t dictate.

Search for a sales team that sees your business as part of a greater story, one where giving back to society and watching out for future generations is at the heart of every new initiative. Beyond a commercial venture, your salespeople should see their role as an opportunity to give back to the community where your business resides.

Voracious Readers

Lastly, let your sales recruiter know that you only want to hire a team made up of voracious readers of people. What do we mean here? We mean they should be expert communicators who can interpret social cues and facial expressions and react to them on a moment’s notice. Clients want to be cared for as per their own tastes and a salesperson should adapt to them without losing a beat.

Building the right sales team to share your business with the world isn’t supposed to be easy. You need to narrow down thousands of candidates into a few that fit your values and your vision to ensure the best possible results. This is no small task, but it is within your power. Simply think through every resume and consult with sales recruitment experts for guidance and you’re well on your way.

Four Pillars of a Successful Cannabis Producer (Ample Organics, 2020)

While the landscape of licensed cannabis producers is expanding at an incredible rate, the number of businesses that are thriving in the industry remains quite low. This is due to a lack of expertise when it comes to laying down a solid foundation to scale a business on.

Rather than carefully considering a strategy and patiently deploying its constituent elements, competitors are more concerned with entering the market quickly and aggressively, this at the expense of costly and avoidable mistakes along the way.

Holding steadfast to business fundamentals may not be the most exciting option at times, but it’s always the most effective way to put the probability of continued success on your side. With this thought in mind, here are four pillars every licensed cannabis producer can adopt to gain a foothold in the market.

Regulatory Compliance

Perhaps the most important way to give your cultivation operation a long runway is to have a system in place that helps you comply with cannabis regulations. Because the Cannabis Act is a complex piece of legislation, it can be difficult to abide by it without cutting in to the time you’d otherwise be spending on moving your business forward.

In the interest of reclaiming this time, you should consider partnering up with a cannabis compliance software provider like Ample Organics, whose seed-to-sale software can track your plants throughout their lives and enable you to supply regulators with all the information they need.

The data points regulators care about fall under the umbrella of Good Production Practices, which are rules in place to ensure that the quality of your cannabis products lines up with their intended uses. Data points include:

  • Methods employed to keep within THC and CBD variability limits in your cannabis products
  • Pest control and microbial and chemical contaminant reduction management
  • The details of your sanitation program covering every stage of production
  • All documentation related to your up-to-date Health Canada licensing

From a broader perspective, it’s your responsibility as a licensed producer to also follow Good Manufacturing Practices, which exist to ensure that all drugs are produced to rigorous quality standards.

The result of all this meticulous work is increased transparency and trust with clients, governments, and fellow producers, setting the stage for new ventures and partnerships that will establish your longevity in cannabis production.

Profitable Market Share

Establishing dominance in a burgeoning industry means little if it proves detrimental to the sustainability of your business. Racking up debt and diluting existing shareholders as a means of growth cannot carry on indefinitely. At some point in the near future, your operation will have to back up brand awareness and market share with tangible earnings.

The bar for determining a winning product can be easily forgotten when your business is receiving good press on a steady basis, and seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue, so it merits a mention: your return must exceed your cost of capital and have favorable prospects to continue to do so into the future. Passing this bar, over and over, is the only way to influence the industry on your own terms without compromising cash flow generation.

As you attract new clients, onboard more patients, and transform into a meaningful employer in your community, you’re going to need data analytics capabilities to keep up with demand and maintain your leadership position. That’s where business intelligence software enters the picture.

Business Intelligence

You can’t serve your clients without having a clear sense of their ever-evolving needs. The key is to have a readily accessible way of tracking and monitoring these needs to improve the quality of your business decisions. To this end, consider reinforcing your business with a cannabis management software platform capable of providing you with market and product-level data.

That way, you’ll be able to compare client histories in every region of your operation and adjust your inventory as needed. You’ll also get a leg up when it comes to planning for the future and getting ahead of your competition by making investments they simply don’t have the software-enabled power to see.

Allocating capital by shooting from the hip may work if fortune is on your side, but you’re less likely to keep to your principles due to resulting. This freewheeling approach can’t stand up to knowing your business by the numbers, formulating a plan based on them, and staying on process in spite of sort-term difficulties because you’re confident in the analysis.

A Patients-First Mentality

Beyond producing a simple commodity, your responsibility as a cannabis cultivator is about making patients’ lives easier by providing them easy access to medicine that will ease their pain and allow them to live more fulfilled lives.

Making customers happy may increase a venture’s bottom line in the long run, but the motivation behind it must transcend commercial interests to make a real difference. This is why, to improve your relationships with clinics and health agencies, the technology you use to onboard new patients must comply with high ethical and security standards.

You can reach them by focusing on cannabis management software that encourages collaboration across industries, and inspires a sense of community among those your serve, by minimizing data errors and wait times, and having redundancies in place to make sure patients are matched with the right products to suit their respective conditions.

Given the extreme levels of excitement surrounding cannabis legalization and the growing number of cultivators to meet demand, it’s easy to believe that a rising tide will lift all boats and extend this belief indefinitely into the future. Unfortunately, this is no more than a pipe dream unless your business rests on a legal and technological foundation that allows it to flourish with integrity, efficiency, and meticulous regulatory compliance.

Rushing in to a new venture when the market is hot qualifies as herding behavior, the equivalent of buying in high when fervour is at its peak, leaving little room for a satisfactory return. Instead of following the crowd, be bold and adopt a contrarian stance, one where careful deliberation and the efficiencies of software carve out your legacy over the long term.

Spoken Word Takes a Turn for the Outrageous (Torontoist, 2014)

How a new poetry series is turning heads and making friends by breaking all the rules.

Inaugurated last November at The Central, Outrageous has become Toronto’s outlaw spoken word series. The monthly sampling of poetry and song—open to anyone who’s wrestled with language for their art—features artists who don’t care for tradition or political correctness. It’s a mishmash of cultures, media, and styles, in which slam poets follow sound poets, free-jazz improv duos follow singer-songwriters, and the occasional ventriloquist or Slavoj Žižek impressionist makes an appearance. Together the artists form a community modelled after an aboriginal concept known as “the circle”—everyone who attends an event and steps into the Outrageous circle is expected to get along irrespective of conflicting artistic or moral stances.

Host and series creator Elizabeth Burns conceived of Outrageous as a space in which art could be anything anybody wanted it to be. She had become disillusioned by arbitrary standards of good and bad art, and with the notion that art history is strictly progressional—a straight line headed toward perfection. She wanted to strip these away so that everybody could be more comfortable: the performers could say exactly what they want, drawing from any artist they want, and the audience wouldn’t judge them for it. Burns and her team—co-host James Ryan Gobuty, photographer Glenn Pritchard, and marketer Theresa Burns—achieve this in two ways. One, they keep Outrageous a free show so that its value as an experience isn’t predetermined by whatever it means to give people their money’s worth. Two, they keep the show playful, making fun of themselves, the audience, and the upward mobility spoken word series are expected to foster. In so doing, they distance Outrageous from narrow definitions of what art should be.

Outrageous’s lawlessness is most evident in Burns’s brash stage presence and feigned indifference as host—you may find yourself simultaneously insulted and delighted. She’ll thank the audience for coming and say how sick she is of hosting in the same breath. If the audience won’t quiet down, she’ll silence them with dick jokes and expletives. She is a constant thorn in her performers’ pride: in the middle of jazz duo Lottery Tickets’ set at Outrageous VII she asked if they could play some music. Before conceptual artist Miles Forrester read at Outrageous VIII, she noticed he was wearing cut-off jean shorts and asked the audience to stare at his legs as he walked on stage. “As much as the show has made an overwhelming amount of strangers feel comfortable,” Burns says of her crass hosting style, “it has been successful because it has made people uncomfortable. I want to know that you’re actively using your mind here—that you are feeling something. And maybe if it sucks you’ll be inspired enough to find a better experience elsewhere, or to make your own.”

By the end of Outrageous VII, the only instalment held at Habits Gastropub, the manager banned Burns and her comrades because diners were put off by the vulgarity onstage. Highlights included guitarist Yoav Gurevich simulating orgasm by guitar solo, and Lottery Tickets vocalist Alex Hood ripping his shirt off with Gobuty’s help and threatening to kill Burns for her heckling (about two-thirds of the way through the video below—unsurprisingly, heckling is something of an Outrageous staple). At Outrageous VIII, Burns, who frequently asks male performers why they haven’t taken their shirts off, led by example and removed her own. The night also saw Burns introduce poet J.C. Bouchard with a moving story about how the two of them, along with Bouchard’s young daughters, spent a relaxing afternoon at the park (Bouchard later revealed that he doesn’t have children). At Outrageous IX, when Bouchard returned to the stage for the open mic portion of the show, Burns and Gobuty tried to undress him while he read. His struggle to keep his rhythm (and a straight face) as Burns’s disembodied hand went for the next button on his shirt contributed to the show’s typically irreverent tone.

Outrageous employs an atypical curatorial process for choosing artists. “When selecting features, I don’t ask for examples of work,” Burns says, “and I really don’t want to hear a long list of poetic achievements. I just want to know you’re interested and that you promise me at least one piece you feel you couldn’t perform anywhere else. I can confidently say it’s worked out far beyond well. The idea is to do, say, think, and feel things that aren’t outright accepted at other places. [Outrageous] is the show for everyone, regardless of their tastes.”

At Outrageous the performance environment isn’t competitive. Those who abide by the constraints of form and subject matter that come with trying to crack the CanLit canon are welcome because their work is antithetical to the uncensored, unapologetic fare Outrageous offers. Oneupmanship is pointless when there’s no hierarchy to ascend and the goal of the show—to bring together disparate forms of creative expression—has already been achieved. The only measure of a work’s success is how well it’s received by a crowd as diverse as the city itself.

“If there wasn’t an authority on ‘good art,’” Burns says, “there would be no Outrageous.”

The Causes and Consequences of Canada’s Rising Household Debt (GoDay, 2019)

It’s more than a little perplexing to see that personal insolvencies in Canada have increased 10% from a year ago last October, this according to figures released last December by Statistics Canada. The jump is comparable to recessionary periods such as the 2007-2008 Financial Crisis, and the period from 1989-1992 when the combination of low oil prices and tight monetary policy brought the Canadian economy to a halt.

The confusion stems from how current interest rates are low, unemployment is low, and wages have been rising accordingly; yet, this rosy economic climate has enabled Canadian households to accumulate $1.76 in debt for every dollar in disposable income, putting them at risk of financial hardship in the event of an unexpected economic shock.

The problem is that steady work and an abundance of cheap capital make the idea of increasing one’s personal debt load much easier to stomach. This has led to people overextending themselves and given rise to online payday lenders like GoDay that exist to lift clients out of emergencies when no other source of cash flow is available. But seeing as those closest to default have nowhere else to turn, they end up using these lenders with greater frequency and falling further into debt. Let’s look a little deeper into how all this came to be:

Let the Good Times Roll

Given how the last decade has been a stellar one for the global stock market, it makes sense that a risk-on mentality reigns pretty much anywhere you look. The same can be said for North American real estate prices, which have risen so dependably that many erroneously believe that they never go down. Behavioral economists refer to this phenomenon as recency bias, or the tendency to extrapolate recent data indefinitely into the future.

The result is that people forget about the bear markets of old and begin to equate higher risk with higher returns instead of prudently diversifying their assets over the long term.

Low Interest Rates

Because interest rates have been so low since 2008, Canadians have steadily added to their mortgage debt, including just under a 7% jump from a year ago last October. In total, there’s $1.5 trillion in mortgages nationwide, representing two-thirds of Canadian household debt.

The danger here is that reversion to the mean seems to hold no sway in whether or not it makes sense to take on further financial obligations. When bond market prices eventually correct down toward their long-term averages, interest rates will rise, and refinancing debt will no longer be a viable option for those already in the red.

The Importance of a Safety Net

Borrowing beyond your means can lead to relying on payday loans to service existing debt. This creates a spiral that can end in seizure of assets and an ever-increasing amount of interest owed.

This is why it’s golden advice to accumulate an emergency fund, ideally six months worth of expenses, before borrowing a single dollar to fund your needs. It’s also key to make rational financial decisions based on a realistic assessment of your long-term earnings power. That way, you’ll always have a cushion to cover interest payments as well as any unexpected issues with your health, car, or place of employment.

While Canadians’ debt is worryingly high on the whole, the strength of the country’s economy suggests that it’s not widespread but the burden of an overextended few. There is then reason to believe that a wider awareness of the principles of financial responsibility might turn the situation around. Let’s all do our part to make it so.

Charlotte Cardin’s Big Boy (Under the Deer, 2018)

The Montreal singer and multi-instrumentalist, Charlotte Cardin, is my choice for the most interesting, most promising artist to emerge from a Canadian singing competition since Hedley started ruling the airwaves and Carly Rae Jepsen—who placed third on Canadian Idol in 2007—turned into a leading 1980’s pop revivalist.

After placing fourth on the first season of La Voix—the French-Canadian version of The Voice—in 2013, Cardin took the next three years to develop a style as eclectic and personal as it is accessible to mainstream listeners. On her debut E.P., Big Boy, this means upcycling pop music’s standard verse-chorus-verse song structure into a canvas for some of her strongest traits: confessional songwriting, nuanced vocals, and minimalist instrumentals that blend elements of jazz, electro, hip-hop, and R&B into grooves that’ll bob your head until it swims.

Cardin offers six songs that explore the end of love to a systematic degree, changing relationship scenarios in every song, and inhabiting the speakers with a gonzo-level of commitment that allows all of their edges to show. She is distinctive in her enunciation for being able to find new ways to bend words in the service of mood. In this way, she’s a jazz improviser, elevating Big Boy into catharsis, making words you use on a daily basis emote as you didn’t know they could.

The eponymous opening track is sultry R&B number directed at a lover who doesn’t want to take things any further than an initial tryst. Cardin delivers it with a taunting, playful tone, poking at the beloved’s lack of resolve, but also filling it with desire that betrays feelings yet to dissipate. All this is punctuated by some cascading hi-hats that back her up by being a total tease for the hypothetical recipient. She croons,

My boy is not a man yet

But boy, do I love it when you kiss my neck.

It’s the mania at having to sit with unreciprocated desire that she pulls off so well. She sounds like she is of two minds, wanting to give all of herself to the beloved but also to simultaneously take it away. The music reflects this division, the piano work awash in heavy brooding while the drums dance around her words like a devil on the shoulder.

A split mind becomes a major theme of the album and a major source of its humanity. Cardin’s protagonists aren’t afraid to express contraction amidst the anger and paranoia of their newfound solitude. We are listening to songs about people who were adored, who became integral parts of the speakers’ lives, and whose absences could entail nothing but apocalypse. There is something crushingly relatable about finding yourself to not be enough for someone and Cardin is continually tapped into it.

This is so on the single, “Like It Doesn’t Hurt” featuring Nate Husser, an electro-tinged banger that gets at the walls we put up with people who step unceremoniously out of our lives. Cardin is steely in her portrayal of the ache for a former lover whose embrace lingers like a phantom limb. Her cognitive dissonance is mirrored nicely in the lazy, pulsating synths and the dainty drum patterns they radiate from.

I’ve been around

Your body upside down,

But I can’t touch you,

In any fucking way.

She repeats this hook as if entranced by the false promises of longevity these moments of intimacy can contain. They feel too good to consider them never happening again, as opposed to their inevitably finite natures intensifying the experiences themselves.

Cardin has chemistry with Husser, who plays the lover, and whose rhymes are tightly woven with fragility hip-hop sorely lacks. The song is a picture of the unrefined anger of holding it against someone for letting their window to love you pass on by. As such, it is a moving take on the state of feeling like an open wound.

The third track, the headbanging “Dirty Dirty”, is perhaps Cardin’s greatest performance in terms of translating the ambiguity and instability of the recently dumped. She plays someone whose lover has left her for being too young, and really sharpens her tongue to convey the cosmic irony of the world withholding someone from you for being yourself.

So I can cry for my age, my life, and my face,

And I can cry ‘cause I got so much she has not

And I will wash off all the dirty, dirty thoughts I had about you.

Her words consume the boom-bap inspired beat, piling on the outrage and existential despair over handclaps that lend an arena-rock quality to the proceedings. There is a tone of entitlement that runs through the song—in that the speaker believes she deserves the relationship—that captures a universal reaction to loss with understated grace.

“Talk Talk” is an atmospheric song about sleeping with someone in your social circle and having to deal with the rumors of everyone else finding out. Continuing the trend of production mirroring subject matter, the uncertainty of the keys and drums is matched by the speaker’s declining confidence in how she is being perceived. All three trip about, on the brink of falling apart, only to implode in a visceral finale befitting the betrayal.

Cardin gives repetition a higher-order purpose here, one that turns one of pop music’s more tedious traits into a sound literary decision; namely, mimicking the obsessive dwelling that can come from being vulnerable with another person and having it blow up in your face. She creates a palpable sense of unease by returning to the shit they talk as one might poke at a sore tooth with one’s tongue, or slow down during an accident in the other lane. There is a devastating rawness to the track that comes from her openness to being a conduit for anxiety.

The two closers round off the album with an objective change in perspective. Cardin reflects on the ephemerality of love in “Les Echardes” and on the inescapability of memory in “Faufile”. Both are tender piano ballads in which she takes her emotive powers even further—French being her mother tongue—increasing the subtleties of her voice for an enjoyably more complex listen. She positions these tracks as meditations on the previous four, surveying them from the vantage point of experience, where their failures of attraction are not the catastrophes they once seemed but byproducts of wanting to get outside of herself through the hearts of others. The closers’ restrained arrangements contrast with the first four tracks’ vibrant rhythms like maturity and the experiences it comes from.

In sum, Big Boy is a concept album about unattainable love that speaks to your guts, with a singer at the helm who is unafraid to delve into the less flattering sides of desire with deeply felt fidelity. It offers beauty made from hardship, giving the work the potential to help people feel less alone about who they’ve committed to. That makes the album good literature, living laid bare, its mechanisms brought into relief for those who need to brush up on reality while they put on headphones to take a break from it.