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.

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.

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?



Interesting rituals of highly creative people

Daily Rituals is being published in the U.S. and Canada by Alfred A. Knopf, in the U.K. by Picador, and in Brazil, the Czech Republic, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey by fine publishers in those countries.

Notice that blogging and surfing the web never show up.

I’m glad to see that so many writers stick to routines. I always found that my most productive days happen when I hit the keyboard at 8am and avoid opening email until 9:30. This hour and a half is quiet and productive. My actual output is closer to what I might achieve in 4 hours during the busier times of day.

Here’s a good review of “Daily Rituals” on Good Reads.

Kafka is one of 161 inspired—and inspiring—minds, among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks. Thomas Wolfe wrote standing up in the kitchen, the top of the refrigerator as his desk, dreamily fondling his “male configurations”. . . Jean-Paul Sartre chewed on Corydrane tablets (a mix of amphetamine and aspirin), ingesting ten times the recommended dose each day . . . Descartes liked to linger in bed, his mind wandering in sleep through woods, gardens, and enchanted palaces where he experienced “every pleasure imaginable.”

Read more…


Your retirement cafe

Because it won’t be mine any time soon. 

Sun Life Financial has spent big and planned well for this version of branded content that I found from a link on a retirement site. The link was well placed in a relevant article. The content is simple. Visitors are always a click or two away from going deeper into a planning module.

No doubt, the future of communication for financial services will include a lot more watchable content. What the Sun Life site proves, and what we all know, it that watchable content appeals to every demographic.

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