We’ve all been here. Nuff said.

Born Weird – not a confession

If you have siblings, this won’t seem so Weird

Andrew Kaufman’s novel “Born Weird” was nominated for the Steven Leacock Award in 2013. It’s the most recent book selection at the Wheatsheaf Literary Society – the oldest, established, permanently floating, men’s book club in Toronto. I’m one of 7 children and I found the sibling relationships well developed, pretty indicative of life in a large family and a little familiar in places.

I recommend this novel as a highly entertaining work of fiction with a happy ending although it has been dogged by a few lukewarm reviews. The Quill & Quire offers a nicely balanced review that shouldn’t prevent you from supporting Mr. Kaufman and his weirdness. He seems like a funny and talented guy. You can read the Quill & Quire review or just buy the book. The Wheatsheaf Literary Society will be interrogating this work on humour in mid-March. I may revisit this post with an update.

Totally compelling content

How often do you thank a brand?

Thank you GoPro for making this kind of content available. Watch this on a big, hi-def screen and imagine yourself making this kind of leap.

The meaning of happiness – for busy people

Too busy to read? Flickr to the rescue.

You could read all of ‘The Cossacks‘ by Leo Tolstoy or you could  just search the Web for the book’s real meaning. If you opt for the second, easier, lazier alternative, you could end up on this dude’s Flickr page. He’s scanned the one page that sums up the nature of happiness for Olenin, the “wealthy, disaffected Muscovite who joins the Russian army and travels to the untamed frontier of the Caucasus in search of a more authentic life.” Let’s hear it for the Internet!

What’s really funny is that this dude (in a rush to wisdom) was in too big of a hurry to generate a decent scan.

Now – what to do with all the time you’ll save by not reading all those old Russian novels?

BTW – Anna throws herself in front of a train. You can skip that one too.

Pretend you read it.

Amazing tech at the Cleveland Museum of Art

So long bicep cramps

If you’ve suffered from the bicep cramp that sets in after you’ve wandered through a gallery or museum while holding an old-fashioned audio guide, you’ll love what the cats at the Cleveland Museum of Art – Gallery One – are doing with fantastic interactive technology. Having just toured the new Toronto aquarium with kids in tow in Toronto, I’m convinced that interaction is the key to getting kids turned on to art.

Great read. All Quiet on the Western Front

100 years later and little has changed

This month the Wheatsheaf Literary Society is tackling the war classic “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque. Advertised as The Greatest War Novel of All Time, this is an account of a young soldier’s struggle to understand why he should be killing other young men who are just like himself at the request of an administration. These ideas are as poignant today as they were  in 1933, when it was published and during WW1, in which it is set.

With so many wars being fought on the ground today, I have to imagine that many young soldiers struggle with the same issues. Remarque’s young character Paul Baumer could be a combatant in any army, anywhere on earth, right now.

This is a powerful, well written account of humanity. Certainly worth the read.


For lighter fare, check my portfolio of not so heartbreaking material at Hire John the Writer.

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Breaking news. Or not.

Some ads try to trick us. That’s OK. People trick people all the time. However…

It’s not breaking news. It’s just “Breaking:

It’s a New Program (according to the headline).

But wait, the Program Expires This Month (according to the big yellow box).

Hire a writer who refuses to do this kind of work. Hire John the Writer.

Why we writers ask about links.

Students are directed to the bulk gift card page after deciding it’s a good idea to buy their teacher a bottle of booze. So much for the starving student.

So far, this is a good idea.

Here’s a surprise link for the LCBO

The headline made sense: Buy your teacher booze!

But the banner links to the “bulk gift card” page on the LCBO site where students can “Select from the following card designs and enter the number of card(s) you wish to purchase”.

When I was a starving student, I didn’t have a budget to bribe my profs in bulk and cover the shipping fees on custom gift cards.

Maybe things have changed. I should have been a teacher.

Hire a writer who is going to ask about links and fulfillment. Hire John the Writer.

We must fight ambiguity

Ambiguous copy and lazy line breaks conspire to create a whopping WTF?

Here’s an ad from Harper’s Magazine (not a cheap media buy) that seems to go out of its way to confuse the reader.

Is the man on the bike an “incomparable senior” who happens to be living in Pennsylvania? Or, as the client hoped, is this about a senior living facility in Pennsylvania that just happens to be incomparable?

This is ambiguity as its finest.

Furthermore, “incomparable” is a lazy adjective that really adds nothing to the subject. All things can be compared to other things if you have the imagination and language skills.

Could Pennswood Village not be compared to a five-star resort or Disney World or Heaven or a metaphysical state of some kind?

Clarity is king when it comes to writing good content. Fight ambiguity. Hire John the Writer.





Yorkdale Mall thinks we’re all idiots

Cute idea Yorkdale. I get it. Little race cars for the kids.


I would refuse to write this copy on principle

Attention Yorkdale shoppers: DO NOT PUT CHILD IN BAG! Seriously?

And the thing that offends me the most is the exclamation point. Does the message need the help of an exclamation point?

Maybe a smiley face?



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