Author Archives: harrisrh

This.

Image result for tessa virtue, long time running

I had no interest in figure skating before Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skated into my life.

Maybe this is why we need the Olympics. To reach higher. To aspire to greater heights. To be the best we can be. To bring art and dance and sport together.

To elevate us.

And that’s what these two decorated Olympians did. They  made us better as people because they showed us, through a figure skate dance, how and why we can do more. As humans. As people.

This is what the Olympics is about.

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Real-life Superheroes: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

Canada’s sweethearts

When I lived in South Korea between 1997 and 2007, Koreans would often ask me, “What’s the difference between Canadians and Americans?”

It’s a fair question. Many people around the world have asked me that same question. I won’t pretend I have the one answer that will make people go Ohhhhhhhh…so that’s it!

Instead, I will offer something from today’s Toronto Star that pretty much encapsulates one of the fundamental differences between our two great countries, the melting pot and the mosaic.

In an article titled “Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to pay tribute to Gord Downie in Olympic gala skate,” we have now learned that Canadian Olympic superstars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who just captured gold for their second time in figure skating, will skate to The Tragically Hip’s “Long Time Running” on Sunday for the Pyeongchang figure skating gala.

Which brings us back to the original question: What separates our two remarkable countries?

We in Canada are a country of people who love to say “Soooory.” We apologize to others when they are in the wrong. We hold the door open for strangers without expectation of being thanked.

Canadians have been accused of being somewhat bucolic and provincial at times compared to their American brethren, and while that’s true (now and again), Sunday’s skate by Virtue and Moir will capture the very best of why I am proud to be Canadian.

They are unrivaled Olympians in their discipline, loved by an entire country, and will honour a near and dear Canadian who passed in 2017 who, it just happens, was a good friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. I can guarantee you that more Canadians will watch that skate live than have watched our men’s or women’s Olympic hockey teams.

Why? Because we love to be united in Canada by the sentimental. We revel in it. We’re flawed and imperfect as a country because, by definition, we are composed of human beings. But we try really, really, really hard to rise up past the shit that so often sinks other countries.

This comes in stark contrast to (yet another) horrible mass shooting at a school in the United States, where the Second Amendment will continue to plague and divide an incredible country, one in which its president needs a bullet list of questions to come across as empathetic when meeting with survivors of the latest massacre in Florida.

In Canada, we celebrate diversity and honour that which unites – not divides – us, even if it’s something as silly as a poet, a hockey game, or a prime minster weeping in the House of Commons because our country lost a beautiful person that brought out the best in all of us.

If that stands as provincial and bucolic, then I guess that’s what we are as Canucks. And I’m proud to be one.

On a side note, and for all those who love the Hip, I think Virtue and Moir could have chosen two other songs to skate to, “Wheat Kings” or “Nautical Disaster.” But they didn’t. They chose “Long Time Running.”

Whatever. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that these two rock stars, our national sweethearts, are bringing us closer together as a country in a time when nations, kind of like the one just south of us, are being ripped apart by violence, hate and propaganda.

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, my love for you is boundless, my gratitude eternal. You are real-life superheroes.

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New Murakami Film Set for 2018 Release

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Lee Chang-dong, one of Korea’s most celebrated film directors (Peppermint Candy, Oasis, Poetry), is set to release an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning,” which was originally published in The New Yorker in 1983 and subsequently as part of a short story collection called The Elephant Vanishes.

The movie, titled Burning, is a mystery thriller that follows two men, one of whom is a novelist, and a female model after they get involved in a “strange incident.” It stars Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, and Jeon Jong-seo.

Click here to read the full article and learn more details about Lee Chang-dong and the movie itself.

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How It Feels to Write a Book

Love, love, LOVE this little diagram! Thanks to @thelaceylondon for tweeting this out earlier.

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By Endurance We Conquer

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Or in Latin, Fortitudine Vincimus: “By Endurance We Conquer.”

Writing for @NewYorker, David Grann has an article titled “The White Darkness: A solitary journey across Antarctica” that is nothing short of mind-blowing, breathtaking and inspiring.

The piece follows the journey of Henry Worsley, a 55-year-old British Army officer, who attempted to become the first person ever to trek the entire continent of Antarctica on his own, without the aid of animals or servants or, I don’t know, valets.

A thousand miles. Up 10,000 feet to the summit of the Titan Dome and then down to the other side, from the bottom of South America to the bottom of New Zealand.

Why would someone do this? The reasons are many and varied, but Mr. Grann does a thorough job in exploring the historical background, both of Mr. Worsley and his family as well as one of the continent’s most legendary explorers, Ernest Shackleton.

The story is captivating in and of itself, but for me it brought to mind one of my favourite pieces of CanLit, Wayne Johnston’s The Navigator of New York,  a work of historical fiction set at the turn of the 20th century as (mostly) Europeans and Americans attempted to “conquer” the Arctic. Johnston, the author of another brilliant novel called The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, has long been compared to Don DeLillo, so if you’re a fan of the Underworld author, definitely check out Wayne Johnston – and David Grann’s piece from The New Yorker!

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Russian Storytelling

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As many of my friends and followers will know, I am a big fan of Russian literature. From Pushkin, Chekhov and Dostoyevsky to Tolstoy, Turgenev and Bulgakov, the country has long seduced me with its books from a young age.

Now Karl Ove Knausgaard over at the New York Times has penned a great piece titled “A Literary Road Trip into the Heart of Russia.”

If you like/love Russian literature, read this piece. It goes out to my friend elisabethm at A Russian Affair.

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Best/Funniest Book Titles

Image result for fall on your knees     Image result for tequila makes her clothes off

It’s that time of the year once again for the best book title lists. (Actually, that’s not true. I’ve never put together a list like this before.)

I was  reading something in the newspaper today and it got me to thinking about great book titles, both memorable and humorous. So, after some Jack Handy-like deep thoughts, I put together the following list. If you have any suggestions or feel a title is missing, please feel free to leave a comment below. I’ll try and update the list as I hear back from people.

BEST TITLES

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald; The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera; A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje; Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman; The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner; Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway; Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Murakami Haruki; Catch-22 by Joseph Heller; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

FUNNIEST TITLES

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss (the joke here being that with a single comma, panda bears are suddenly serial killers); Dude, Where’s My Country? by Michael Moore (apparently still MIA); How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young (don’t we all secretly want to know the secret to this?); The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks (the best part of this title is that Dr. Sacks treated a patient who actually thought his wife was a hat); Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach (solid reading for your toddlers); Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off by Cara North (doesn’t it for all of us, though?); Don’t Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining by Judy Sheindlin (Judge Judy has spoken!); A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka (great title, even better novel)

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New Self-publishing Podcast

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If you’re thinking of self-publishing a book, you need to do as much research as possible beforehand. Inevitably, something will go awry in Denmark along the way, but as long as you’re well-armed in advance, you should be okay.

IngramSpark is one of the giants in the industry (along with Amazon’s CreateSpace) and they have lots of great resources for writers, one of which is their new podcast service.

Check out the IngramSpark website if you’re thinking of going down the self-publishing path, then give these podcasts a listen. At the very least, you’ll learn about other people’s experiences in this industry and there’s no such thing as too much knowledge.

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Our Continued Search for Meaning

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“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I reread Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning last week and was reminded from the very first chapter why it has become an essential part of the 20th-century canon of literature. It’s exquisitely written, touches on the most important elements of survival, and is a firsthand account of what has perhaps become synonymous with the most base evil we are capable of as human beings: Auschwitz.

I remembered the profound lessons from my first reading, lines such as the following:

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“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”

But what I forgot in the ensuing years is something perhaps even more remarkable. Frankl survived Auschwitz. Just saying that one name makes me, the casual observer 70 years on, shudder in revulsion. By all rights, Frankl could have Nazi-bashed his way through the book while imparting these pearls of wisdom. Another one of which is the following:

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“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

Instead, Frankl humanizes his Nazi captors and tormentors. He gives them a sense of self, of feeling (or non-feeling), of emotion, and of human traits latent within us all. That, quite honestly, is what shocked me most the second read through.

If you haven’t read Man’s Search for Meaning, I highly encourage you to do so. It is a most sobering account of the human condition in the most extreme of situations.

I end this post with one of my favourite quotes from the book, one of those passages you have to read, again and again, because it’s both otherworldly profound and yet so basic a concept one can only scratch their head and think, Now why didn’t I ever look at it that way?

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”

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2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize

Calling all nonfiction writers! Now’s your chance (assuming you’re Canadian) to earn $6,000 and a little fame along the way.

If you’ve got a piece of nonfiction writing (pretty much anything) and you’re willing to invest $25 in yourself, then click here to learn more about the contest.

Deadline is February 28, 2018 and there’s a strict word count limit, so make sure you read the rules and regulations thoroughly. Good luck!

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