Friendship, Aristotle & Books (that espouse Aristotle’s views on friendship)

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Simple and straight-to-the-point message above. Me likes.

In a piece titled “How Difficult Is It To Find An Aristotelian Friend?Gregory Sadler (@philosopher70) exerts quite a bit of energy going through ancient texts, specifically Aristotle’s (or those about the Greek philosopher’s views), to figure out what it takes to develop the fullest sort of friendship. His own piece was inspired, at least in part, by Luciana Siracusano and her article in the Columbia Spectator titled “An Aristotelian friend is hard to find.”

Friendships, like human beings ourselves, have evolved over time. It would have been hard to nurture a pen pal relationship 20,000 years ago when we didn’t have any writing systems, pens, or paper, for example. Just as it would have been impossible for Aristotle to develop a meaningful friendship with kids on Facebook through his non-existent Interweb. (The Greeks only had Ataris, Vic 20s and Commodore 64s.)

For those more cerebrally inclined, do read the above articles, as it’s interesting to note how Team Socrates/Plato/Aristotle pretty much got everything right that they spoke about at length more than two millennia ago.

For me, I was more interested in the literary angle. What are the most enjoyable/enduring books about friendship? If you’re to believe Goodreads, all we need in this world is the complete works of J.K. Rowling. (Here’s the list of their top 459 books on the subject. Alternatively, here’s the Amazon Top 100 Books on Friendship.)

After doing a bit of research and putting my Friendship Cap on to consider this for a bit, I came up with my own list of books on the subject that I can either vouch for personally or trust the source it’s coming from. However, unlike most lists, this is in alphabetical order, so there’s no NUMBER 1 OF ALL-TIME! Just great reads that help us appreciate two of life’s real treasures simultaneously: books and friends.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

The Body, Stephen King

Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien

Norwegian Wood, Murakami Haruki

A Separate Peace, John Knowles

Truth & Beauty, Ann Patchett

This list may not be perfect – not even close to fully explored – but at least it offers readers some different options to consider the next time you want to read a book about friendship…that was not written 2,500 years ago.


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Using Instagram as an Author

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With so many social media sites and ways to promote yourself as an author, especially if you’re self-published, it’s hard to know which ones to attack and which ones to avoid. Personally, I like the advice someone once said that went something like this: “Choose one or two that you feel comfortable with and really go after that market.” The truth is that otherwise you will burn out very quickly trying to keep up with SMS Joneses and not even have time to hone your craft.

Should you wish to use Instagram as one of your hallmark sites to amp up your game, here’s a piece from Adrienne Erin (@adrienneerin) over at The Book Designer called “Top 7 Ways Authors Are Using Instagram” that may help you a little.

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Book-related/Publishing Job Openings

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For the week of Sep. 18-24…

Assistant Category Manager @TNG, the largest periodical wholesaler and distributor of books and magazines in North America. Deadline: Oct. 15, 2017

Assistant to the President & Publisher @Penguin Random House Canada, the juggernaut of global book publishers. Deadline: Sep. 22, 2017 

Book Retail Positions @BMV Books, for its new store opening on Queen St. West. Deadline: Oct. 10, 2017

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Franzen: ‘Nough Said

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Franzen’s ‘Oh, shitfacker’ look. ‘I have to answer this turdball’s question without suffering from road rage? Shoot me in the fact right now, but mind the hair.’

“Reading Jonathan Franzen on form is like watching a baseball star toss a ball, knowing that behind the casual gesture is a virtuoso talent and 10,000 hours of practice.” 

– Emma Brockes (@emmabrockes), The Guardian

When I say Jonathan Franzen’s name, I feel like the douchebag from the Viagra ads being run on TV ad nauseam these days. (You know the one where the bald, tone-deaf fashionista dude is waiting for his prescription when he says, “No, no, no, Jean-Luc! I said Viagra!” Then he turns around and goes, “Just saying the name Viagra gets me off. Vi~agra,” he continues in a pseudo-Spanish accent, attempting to imitate a…matador? Who knows. Then the freak-a-zoid goes, “VIAGRA! Viagra for every man, woman and child. Viva Viagra!”)

Anywho, that’s how I feel when saying Franzen’s name out loud. Without the sick, twisted parts, that is. There’s something refreshing about a writer that openly takes on Michiko Kakutani, feels ashamed about his breakthrough/mass coming-out-party novel, uses big words and actually knows what they means, has 9 of 11 road rage signs positively identified after a recent refresher driving test, and abhors social media to the point he feels sorry for young writers today who have to spend more time [INSERT STUPID VERB HERE]-ing than writing creatively.

I was going to make this a Quote of the Day post originally, but realized after reading a great article in The Guardian titled “Jonathan Franzen interview: ‘There is no way to make myself not male’” that I’d throw in a whole bunch of quotes because it’s like every time Franzen opens his mouth some mysterious treasure emerges that makes me like him a little bit more.

Here are a few choice bits from this particular  interview, which Ms. Brockes nailed if only because she got so many great sound bites in one sitting:


“[I]t feels like a protection racket. Your reputation will be murdered unless you join in this thing that is, in significant part, about murdering reputations…Why would I want to feed that machine?”


“[W]riting becomes more autobiographical, the less it hews to actual lived experience. The text takes on meaning when you start to depart from experience. Because then it starts to tap into the writer’s nature.”


“I thought I would write for a small audience. And had put all the stuff that was really shameful to me… it’s hard to conceive of now, that I was ashamed of writing a book, deeply ashamed, cripplingly ashamed of writing a book that turned on a mother’s wish to have the family together for Christmas.”


“I’m not a sexist. I am not somebody who goes around saying men are superior, or that male writers are superior. In fact, I really go out of my way to champion women’s work that I think is not getting enough attention. None of that is ever enough. Because a villain is needed. It’s like there’s no way to make myself not male.”


“It was a tragic misunderstanding. I blame myself, because I said things that were stupid. And hurt a number of people…I also blame Oprah [for the misunderstanding of his invite to be on her show] because, from our very first conversation, it was clear we were not speaking the same language. I didn’t scream when she called me. I said, ‘Oh, hey.’ And was trying to talk like a media professional to a media professional. And she didn’t know what to do with that.”


“They [the younger generation] seemed politically not the way they should be as young people. I thought people were supposed to be idealistic and angry. And they seemed kind of cynical and not very angry. At least not in any way that was accessible to me. And part of what journalism is for me is spending time with people who I dislike as a class. But I became very fond of them, and what it did was it cured me of my anger at young people.”


“Technology itself is the Stasi. Technology is the genie out of the bottle. And the Stasi didn’t actually need to do that much. It didn’t arrest that many people. Even with all its resources, it couldn’t do that many full operations. So it counted on people censoring themselves. And controlling their own behaviour for fear of the Stasi, without their needing to lift a finger.”

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Toronto Winter Island Artist Project Residency 2018

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Call for Proposals – Winter Island Artist Residency 2018

Artscape Gibraltar Point (@gibraltarpoint) is seeking project proposals from artists working in all media for the Winter Island Artist-In-Residence program for 2018.

Deadline is 12 p.m. EST on October 10, 2017.

Click here to learn more and to download an application form.

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The French “Resistance”

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Anything to do with languages gets me hot. Like, really hot. Therefore, I often put on a pair of half-pants and a “sleeve is short shirt” (not a “Y-shirt“!) when reading/talking about man’s greatest invention.

Case in point: a piece from Mark Nichol titled “15 French Words and Phrases That Don’t Mean That in French” courtesy of Daily Writing Tips (@writing_tips) and via @elizabethscraig.

I think my favourite one from this list is the “piece that resists” (piéce de resistance). I’m not really sure why. It’s just funny. And funny things make me laugh.

On a similar note, my brother and I often like to discuss (ad nauseam most times) the bastardization of English in the Korean language (otherwise known more prosaically as “borrowed words” or jokingly as “Konglish”). As seen in the example above, a dress shirt/button-down shirt is now called a “Y-shirt” in (South) Korean (though technically comes via “Janglish”). Why (pun intended)? Who knows.

Other examples include “handphone” (cell phone –> mobile phones go in your hand, right?), “selfka” (selfie –> “self” + “camera”), and “hochikiss” (stapler –> for reasons lost on me, named after the American ordinance engineer Benjamin Hotchkiss, who specialized in developing a revolving barrel machine gun).

When it comes to North Korean Korean (or chosun mal as they call it – “spoken Chosun” (the last Korean dynasty before Japan annexed the Korean Peninsula in 1910), things are, like everything else in that country, different. But I’m going to save that for one another post, assuming the world is not brought to a pile of ashy ashes before then by a certain boy-man leader who wears the finest duds east of the mighty Amrokgang (the Yalu River, as pronounced in North Korean dialect).

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BookBub: ebook Heaven

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If you haven’t heard of BookBub (@BookBub) by now, and you enjoy reading ebooks, you’re doing yourself a serious disservice. In a nutty nutshell, this is what the Bubs is all about:

BookBub is a free service that helps millions of readers discover great deals on acclaimed ebooks while providing publishers and authors with a way to drive sales and find new fans. Members receive a personalized daily email alerting them to the best free and deeply discounted titles matching their interests as selected by our editorial team. BookBub works with all major ebook retailers and devices, and is the industry’s leading ebook price promotion service.

Basically, after signing up and answering some questions about your reading habits, you get an email every day waiting for you in your inbox completely tailored to your literary wants and predilections, offering ebooks at prices that are craaaaaaazy cheap (or free).

Did someone say free and cheap? Yipper, skipper! Go and check out the website today.

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ATTN: Action & Thriller Screenwriters


Per the @screencrafting website for action and thriller screenwriters:

This contest is open for entries!

Winner will receive $1,500 and introductions to Hollywood pros.

Jury includes some of the industry’s top execs and producers.

Final deadline: October 11, 2017

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Kafka Makes His Canadian Court Debut

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It really is the small things in life that bring me a tremendous amount of pleasure. One of these things is when anything literary or linguistic makes its way into a court of law, which it did recently in New Brunswick, that scandalous little province always punching above its weight class.

In an article titled “Just what does ‘Kafkaesque’ mean? A New Brunswick judge weighs in,” Canadian Press journalist Rob Roberts reported from Fredericton about Paul Lynch, a local lab janitor, who was nailed for his 7th DUI-related offense in 2015. According to Roberts, “Because of his prior convictions, he [Lynch] was immediately remanded pending sentencing, and later sentenced to six months in jail.”

Here’s the problem: Nobody came to his hearing and he was never able to make a phone call, so when he didn’t show up for work the next day – or the 180 days after that – his employer fired him.

Seem logical and by the book? Well, not if you have a cursory understanding of Franz Kafka. Per the article, “In a new ruling, Justice Hugh McLellan defines Kafkaesque as the struggle ‘against rules and forces that cannot be understood.'”

What the Franz?

“Labour adjudicator John McEvoy ordered the health authority to give him his job back, in a decision that declared ‘no one . . . should face the Kafka-like situation faced by Lynch in respect of his inability to contact his employer.'”

While a little more out there than the “Oxford commagate” debacle in a Maine court case earlier this year, it’s interesting to note that Justice McLellan even invokes the legendary Prague, Bohemia, Austro-Hungarian (now Czech Republic) writer’s name in the first place, as notable publications like The New York Times and The Atlantic have published pieces in the recent past asking whether “Kakaesque” is “‘a word so overused it has lost all meaning?'”

Perhaps that’s why younger readers now say Murakamiesque? Should you need any clarification of what this adjective means, definitely pick up The Elephant Vanishes, though A Wild Sheep Chase and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle would suffice as well.

Literature aside, how can a Canadian citizen be arrested, convicted and then essentially forgotten about – and all without a single phone call?

I suppose you could ask The Globe and Mail (“Here’s how to fix a broken system“),  The National Post (“No faith in our justice system“), The Huff Post (“Canada Doesn’t Need To Fix Its Justice System. It Needs a New One“), or The Georgia Straight (“The Canadian justice system is so broken it’s criminal“).

Then again, if you wanted a slightly more objective POV, you could refer to last year’s report from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, which graded provinces and territories in five categories: public safety, victims support, efficiency, fairness and access to justice, and costs and resources. Benjamin Perrin, a UBC professor of law, was one of the report’s authors.

How did Canada’s most populous province fair in the report card assessment? We suck, bottom third of the provinces, and an overall rating of a C+. Why, you ask? According to one CBC report by Alison Crawford, “Perrin points to how police can directly lay charges in Ontario.” That’s right. They don’t need the OK from the Crown beforehand (like in Quebec), nor do they even need the consent of an alleged victim.

As a result, says Mr. Perrin, “[T]here’s an awful lot of people being dragged through the Ontario criminal justice system who are ultimately having their charges stayed, withdrawn or acquitted. That is costing millions of dollars to the province but it’s also plugging up the system so that really important cases don’t make it through..”

That fact is scary enough, but what’s even more frightening is that Canada ranked 12th among 113 countries surveyed in 2016, according to the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, “the world’s leading source for original, independent data on the rule of law.”

So, Mr. Lynch, if you think you had a Kafka-/Murakamiesque experience going through the justice system here in Canada, imagine what it would have been like in bottom-of-the-heap No. 113, Venezuela, 18 spots below Sierra-freaking-Leone and two spots down from Af-oh-my-ghanistan.

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OAC Indigenous Culture Funds

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For residents of Ontario, the Ontario Arts Council’s (@ONArtsCouncil) Indigenous Culture Funds (ICF) programs are officially open for business. The ICF programs for individuals and organizations have been established to support First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, culture and way of life.

Applications are now available for all three funding programs under the ICF:

ICF Small Grants

  • What this program supports: Short-term community, culture and way-of-life projects in Ontario with grants of up to $5,000.
  • Who can apply: Ontario-based Indigenous organizations, groups and individuals. First-time applicants, youth and Elders are all encouraged to apply.
  • Deadline: Applications accepted year-round.
  • Full details on this program.

ICF Project Grants for Individuals, Groups and Collectives

  • What this program supports: Larger community, culture and way-of-life projects in Ontario, with up to $30,000 for short-term projects and up to $60,000 for long-term projects.
  • Who can apply: Ontario-based Indigenous organizations, groups and individuals.
  • Deadline: November 1, 2017 at 1 p.m.
  • Full details on this program.

ICF Project Grants for Organizations

  • What this program supports: Large-scale projects undertaken by Indigenous organizations in Ontario, with up to $60,000 for short-term projects and up to $120,000 for long-term projects.
  • Who can apply: Ontario-based Indigenous organizations – including not-for profits, schools, service organizations, community centres, councils and more.
  • Deadline: November 1, 2017 at 1 p.m.
  • Full details on this program.

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