What-not-to-wear this Halloween

Published on The Toronto Observer.

Halloween is the only day of the year when people of all ages are encouraged to indulge in sweets and dress up, so you want to do it right. DIY costumes and pop-culture-inspired looks have become increasingly popular, creating even more possibilities. However, having endless possibilities leaves the door open for poor choices. Every year there is no shortage of people who turn heads because of their inappropriate, offensive outfits. Here some Halloween costumes you should avoid:

Anything related to ISIS or terrorists:

ISIS is a radical-jihadist militant group at war with dozens of nations and is linked to the deaths of millions. The headquarters for ISIS is in Syria, where 7.6 million people have been displaced, the most since the Second World War. Avoid costumes depicting terrorists and refugees alike.

In 2005, Prince Harry made a royal blunder when he chose to don a shirt with a Swastika on it. The party was colonial-themed and Harry was trying to represent The Afrika Korps.

Insensitive jokes aimed at celebrities:

Celebrities are not unfamiliar with mean-spirited jokes at their expense, however some that “cross the line,” says Nicole MacNeil, who works at Party City in Toronto. For instance, imagines that Caitlyn Jenner would not appreciate having the world make a joke of her identity struggles. “I think that would be common sense,” MacNeil says. She says the identities of trans people shouldn’t be punchlines, especially considering the violence some are subject to.

Avoid anything with a Confederate flag:

After the shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina earlier this year a debate sparked in the United States about what the Confederate flag represents. Dylann Roof, the man responsible for the massacre, took a picture posing next to a Confederate flag, as well as various white supremacist symbols, which were discovered in the days following the tragedy.

Cultural stereotypes:

Reducing someone’s set of cultural practices and beliefs into a few simple characteristics for a costume is not an appropriate way to partake in that culture, said MacNeil. “It’s not okay to dress up as someone’s culture or religion if you don’t belong to it or don’t know about it.

Singer-actress Julianne Hough wore so-called “black face” for her costume of Crazy Eyes from the Netflix series, Orange Is the New Black, in 2013. Meanwhile, model Heidi Klum outraged Hindus worldwide by dressing up as Hindu Goddess Kali in 2008.

Sexual kids costumes:

“A sexualized costume for a seven-year old girl is unnecessary and it’s inappropriate,” MacNeil commented, adding that most parents are responsible and won’t buy revealing costumes for their children.  Christine Riddell, a costume consultant at Value Village, says there are always ways to create “fun and tasteful Halloween costumes.”

Former star of Jersey Shore, Snooki, dressed up as a missing child milk carton in 2010. Snooki would probably re-think her costume now that the actress is a mother.

Celebrity costumes gone wrong

– Actress Ashley Benson angered animal lovers with her costume of Cecil the lion, the 13-year old lion shot and killed earlier this year by a U.S. dentist in a Zimbabwe trophy hunt.

– Never one to shy away from controversy, comedian Bill Maher dressed as Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin just three months after the adventurer’s death in 2006 from a sting ray attack. The costume featured a fake bloody stinger protruding from the chest.

– Model Adrianne Curry made light of singer Amy Winehouse’s addiction battles by dressing up as the singer, complete with a syringe in her arm, two years before the star was found dead from alcohol poisoning, in 2011.

Toronto’s budding talent shines at TDot Fest

Originally posted on ByBlacks.com
On October 2 Canadian music history was made. For the first time ever the top four spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart belonged to Canadians.

Justin Bieber, Drake and The Weeknd. They were joined by fellow Canadian Shawn Mendes the following week when the teen’s single “Stitches” broke the top 10.

According to Eb Reinbergs, the man who trademarked “The 6ix”, Toronto has even more talent to offer. Reinbergs is one of the country’s most well-connected entertainment lawyers and a founding partner of Three60Legal law firm. Reinbergs has worked with high-profile clients such as R&B superstar Karl Wolf, electronic-music duo DVBBS, celebrity-chef Robert Rainford and Grammy award-winner Melanie Fiona.

Four years ago Reinbergs organized the Canadian Urban Music Conference, Canada’s first city-style music conference complete with seminars, interactive-workshops and cocktail events. Reinbergs  added to the Conference this year with the introduction of TDot Fest; a free all-day music festival celebrating both signed and unsigned artists from the GTA. This year’s TDot Fest saw performances from Karl Wolf, rapper Rochester aka Juice and Chystina Sayers, formerly of Girlicious, as well as many others.

ByBlacks had a chance to chat with Mr. Reinbergs about Toronto’s maturing music scene.

Eb Reinbergs talking to the crowd at TDot Fest.


What has the successes of Drake, Bieber and The Weeknd done to the music industry here and abroad?

It shows that we’re on the up. It shows that we as a city and a country have arrived. And that is the impetus here at TDot Fest. I’m taking the other 45 acts in the city and saying ‘Hey! Here’s a platform, get your music out there. You may not be at the level of a Drake but he started (from the bottom) somewhere. There are 3 or 4 acts performing tonight and I’ve talked to other people who think they’re ready. This is an opportunity for them to showcase and exercise their skills, like a muscle, and build their ability to perform.

In an interview last year you said Toronto already has the musical talent but we have to build the infrastructure, how do we go about that?

First we have to recognize that there’s a demand for urban music in this city. Once we recognize that demand we have to have the individuals to satisfy that demand, whether it be through showcasing the talents in clubs, or investing money into the artists so we can sell their music, whether it’s streaming or distribution/ Only by giving them a stage like this can we see that there is a demand in the city. I don’t just promote it; I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I tell these artists ‘look at this Square. People are here to see you. I’ll spend my money because I know it’s going to come back and you have to do the same.’ That’s my duty in life, I just want people to recognize it and they will.

There were several workshops and conferences happening, what is the most important thing for the young artists and entertainers to take away from the conference?

I want them to know that the emphasis in the music business is the business. You’ve got to understand the business if you’re going to be successful in it. For example, if you weren’t here yesterday for the conference component then you don’t get to go on stage today. If you’re not willing to learn and hone your craft, then you’re not going to get the chance to exercise the creative aspect of it. And I’m happy to say that yesterday was jam-packed. They loved it. And I only want acts in my conference or my show if -they’re serious about their craft.


Goliath Paw rocks the crowd at a packed Yonge-Dundas Square.

Carlin James, 24, a rapper from Hamilton, was one of the artists who attended the conferences and performed at the concert.

I heard that TDot Fest was your first open-air venue performance, what was that experience like?

It was a great experience for the CUMC, the fans and myself. I’m very strategic with where I perform and I felt that this performance made sense. I thank everybody who came and out and supported, look for my act to get better as time progresses.

What did you take away from TDot Fest and the conference?

I made a lot of good connections and I was able to showcase my talent and catalogue in front of fans of music. I was able to see which songs the people gravitated towards and which ones needed some work. Overall a great experience.

It’s become easier to make music now that the tools are more accessible, but as an emerging artist how do you make yourself stand out?

There are now many platforms that can help propel artists to that next level, but the challenge is staying there. I stand out because I out work and outsmart the competition. It’s all about making the right moves, and the right connections. In 2015 anybody can be famous, but it’s staying relevant, that’s the challenge.

Staying relevant is a challenge all artists face and one Reinbergs hopes initiatives like TDot Fest and the CUMC will help solve. But Reinbergs says it’s something that can’t be done alone and requires a joint effort.

How can everyday people help support and develop local artists?

Honestly, it’s about hearing that one song. So if you see someone at a bar and you like their song, call a radio station to see if they have the track. Giving (the artists) support, going to the shows, showing that we, as a city, are going to support these local acts is where it starts. That $1.29 goes a long way.

What advice do you have for artists who haven’t made it yet?

I like that word; persevere. If you’re passionate about something don’t stop. You can have 99 no’s but the power of a “yes” erases those 99 no’s. Like any sport, if you want to be good you have to practice, practice, practice. You have to get on every stage you can. You have to take the constructive criticism and don’t be angry. Be happy someone said that so you can make yourself better. And maybe in a year, or three, you’ll be where you want to be, where people are appreciating your work.

When you started off you were a corporate financial lawyer but you said it wasn’t something you were passionate about. Why is it important that people stick to their passions?

Because if you stick to your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life. You can make money from anything in life but the only way to be successful is to love what you’re doing because you’re going to work at it day and night and become better at it than the next person. Think about what you’d do if you won the lotto and do it now. The first element of success is to follow your passions. You have to experience it to know it but it’s 100% true.


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How much do you know about money?

Generation Why is a financial advice website for millennials by millennials. 
Generation Why's here to teach you the lessons about money school forgot the tell 
you about to help you become a more independent adult. Read more here.

Dear college/university grad,

Congratulations! You’ve graduated. You’re an adult now. You’re ready for the “real world”, ready to start an RRSP, improve your credit score and adjust your savings plan according to prime minster Trudeau’s new tax cuts, right? Nbd.

"There has to be a cheat sheet somewhere!"

“There has to be a cheat sheet under here somewhere.”

If you were reading that and it felt like you woke you in the wrong class again, join the club. An Ipsos Reid survey found that 60 per cent of Canadians aren’t confident with their financial management skills including 73 per cent of those aged 18 to 34.

Financial literacy is a skill that everyone needs yet they don’t teach it in school. You need to know how money works and how to use it responsibly, especially when it comes to things like getting married, pursuing a professional degree or paying back the small fortune you owe for your “education.”

But it’s not too late. Here are some financial tips school forgot to teach you:

Don’t get in debt or hurt your credit score:

Debt is an amount owed for loaning money from someone like a bank or a credit card company. Your credit score is a measure of the risk associated with lending you money based on your credit use.

“It defines your borrowing character and whether or not you’re worth loaning to,” Elie Dalle elaborated.

Dalle, 33, is a mortgage specialist for a Royal Bank of Canada in North York. He started working at RBC shortly after he graduated university, it was there he learned the financial ropes.

“I wish I had understood more at the time,” he admitted. “I didn’t when I graduated.”

“It’s extremely important that young people understand credit and don’t miss payments,” Dalle added.

Not making payments on time hurts your credit score and makes it difficult to be approved for loans later on. It makes you look irresponsible. Having a bad credit score also means the interest, the fee you pay for borrowing someone’s money, you’re going to be charged will be high.

Imagine buying a five-dollar-foot-long but having to pay six dollars for it because you’re charged a fee for getting your wallet slowly. Silly, right? The best way to avoid fees and high interest is to make a schedule for paying back debts.

Make a budget and stick to it:

The easiest way to avoid using someone else’s money is to use your own. You use your own money by saving it and the easiest way to save your money is to make a budget. A budget is a list of all your expenses (from booze to textbooks) and all your sources of revenue. The purpose of a budget is to find the difference between the expenses and revenue and make sure you’re making more money than you’re spending.

Bruce Sellery, a business journalist and founder of personal finance company Moolala, says it’s important to “address the gap” in one’s budget.

“For young people, it pays to look at what is discretionary – what you can change – versus what you cannot. ” he said.

You can’t save on tuition or rent but Sellery suggested packing a lunch, taking more shifts at work and leaving your debt and credit cards home while you party as ways that “make it easier to save and harder to spend.”

It helps to show your budget to a financially responsible adult Sellery,45, added.

“You’re more likely to do what you say you’re going to do t if you show it to someone,” he explained.

Invest your money:

A budget is a great way to map-out your finances and build a plan according to Hayden Jones, former financial advisor of Primerica Financial Services. Jones, 44, says good saving habits are the key to financial stability and you should start “as soon as you get a job.”

“Especially if you’re living at home and don’t have many responsibilities,” he added.

Jones recomends getting advice from financial advisers at school or friends who are financially savvy for advice. One of Jones’ savings tips is to is to set aside 10 per cent of your income to invest in an RRSP.

An RRSP is “Any type of saving or investment agreement with the government to not tax any growth on the money you’re investing,” Jones explained.

There are different kinds of RRSPs like bonds, mutual funds and stocks. Jones says ask yourself “what (investment) instruments will get me the best return?” when looking into RRSPs.

Think of it like this: If you make $100 a month and you’re going to put away $10 every week, would you rather a plan that adds 10 per cent of your initial investment to your savings every week or a plan that adds 25 per cent of your initial investment to your savings every month?  Your answer should be the first option because after a month you will have saved $40 and earned $4, (let’s assume it’s a non-leap-year February) whereas with option two after a month you will have saved $40 but earned only $2.50.

If this is new to you and you’re intimiadated don’t worry, there’s a lot to learn. Thankfully it’s not as boring as algebra and unlike algebra, this information will actually be useful in the real world. So, if you were planning to “see the world” before you “settle down”, you’ll need a good financial plan in place unless you plan to see the world from a screen.

Canvasser sees job as community commitment

Published in The East York Observer and Toronto Observer.

He’s done it municipally. Now Sam Dyson is doing it federally.

“Face-to-face interaction with people is by far the most effective way to convey our message,” he said. “Most importantly (we) hear what people are concerned about.”

Sam Dyson, 23, is a campaign aide to Liberal candidate Julie Dabrusin (in the Toronto-Danforth riding) in the campaign leading up to the Oct. 19 vote. Having lived in the area all his life, Dyson also volunteered for John Tory during his mayoral campaign in 2014. Dubrusin realizes the value of her team of canvassers.

Julie Dabrusin's campaign aide, Sam Dyson

Julie Dabrusin’s campaign aide, Sam Dyson


“It’s important for them (the community) to see that I’m out there and I’m committed to working for them,” Dabrusin said.

A 2012 study from George Mason University showed that potential voters who were visited by the candidate were 20 per cent more likely to vote for that candidate. Dabrusin has been a resident of Toronto-Danforth since 1998, and she believes canvassing is the most effective way to learn what’s going on with her neighbours.

Although Dyson thinks of canvassing as simply having conversations with voters, he admits that it’s not always easy.

“Knocking on strangers’ doors can definitely be an uncomfortable feeling,” he said.

A 2001 Stanford University study showed that having door-to-door canvassing teams increased voter turnout by 7.1 percentage points compared to mail or telephone calls. However, some people don’t like to be visited by canvassers because they have already decided how they are going to vote or conversely because they have no interest in voting.

“Some people are genuinely not interested and do not want to be disturbed” Dyson said.