Trench 11: A Must-See WW I Story


First off, congratulations to Producer Tyler Levine, Director Leo Scherman, and the entire crew from Carousel Pictures for an unbelievable job on Trench 11, a film noir-esque movie about the final days of World War I, when “a shell-shocked soldier must lead a mission deep beneath the trenches to stop a German plot that could turn the tide of the war.”

Last night’s Canadian premiere, after stints at the Berlin Film Festival and a showing at Hollywood Boulevard’s legendary Grauman’s Chinese Theater last week, was amazingness on a scale worthy of TIFF in September.

Second, I love war films, and this one has now entered my pantheon of must-sees, notably about a war that will receive less and less attention now that all the vets are officially dead from what people once called “the War to End All Wars.” Trench 11 has the claustrophobic cinematography of Cube (1997) mixed in with the wartime multinational, ragtag team feel of Purple Sunset (2001), but shot in a gritty, in-your-face style.

Third, Rossif Sutherland did a fantastic job as our unsung Canadian hero with the beautiful French woman (Karine Vanesse) to make it out alive for when the sauerkraut really hits the trench fans. That one quasi-still frame of Vanesse towards the end was the moneyshot for Sherman, who evoked memories of Ridley Scott pulling at heartstrings with a similar technique in Gladiator.

Fourth, interesting things I learned from the movie: Winnipeg is more romantic than Paris; German food sucks; Brits will drink tea on the battlefield even when in the thick of it; death by tapeworm infestation looks painful, especially when they pop out through your eyes.

Finally, many thanks to Katelyn Cursio for arranging the tickets in advance, Carousel Pix for throwing cool pre-/post-parties, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (@TADFilmFest), and Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.


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CanLit & Toronto’s 2017 IFOA

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Mike Doherty published a piece in The Toronto Star yesterday called “CanLit at a crossroads: Four writers on the state of our country’s literature,” and Steve Paikin (@spaikin) held a roundtable on The Agenda (@TheAgenda) titled “Whose CanLit is it Anyway?” They are, respectively, a good read and viewing.

And don’t forget about the upcoming International Festival of Authors (IFOA – @ifoa), which runs from October 19 to 29.

Per the Star article:

The Glorious and Free? Canada in 2017 panel runs on Friday, Oct. 20 at 8:00 pm; Canisia Lubrin appears three times, including hosting the Dissecting the Villain panel on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 1 p.m.; Lee Maracle is appearing in a number of events including In Conversation With Lee Maracle on Thursday Oct. 26 at 6:00 pm; and Eden Robinson appears in the panel “In Search of Ithaca” on October 25 at 6:00 p.m. The International Festival of Authors runs from October 19 to October 29 at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. For more information and to buy tickets go to .

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Lee Child: Brain, Meet Candy

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In between sweeping fictional epics and treatises on a broad range of subjects, from the origin of modern phytoplankton to explaining theories of economic growth, I like to get my inner Child on. Lee, that is.

As I await my Amazon order due next week (Manhattan Beach, Don Quixote), I have a few days to let my mind wander, so I let it wander all the way to the local library yesterday, where I picked up Make Me, Lee Child’s 8 millionth addition to the Jack Reacher Library for Altruism, Public Safety & Community Affairs.

And for reasons that escape me, I can’t get enough of JR/Lee Child. Or, as Murakami Haruki is super-enthusiastically quoted as saying on Mr. Child’s website, “I like Lee Child!” Good on ya, Haruks! Talk about a ringing endorsement. Maybe someone should have looked at “The Language of Love” before translating that one.

I tried explaining the appeal of Lee Child to my mother last night, but fear I didn’t do a very good job.

“So I’m about 120 pages in,” I began, “and essentially nothing’s happened so far. JR’s in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma, there’s been one minor fight, no deaths, one gun scene, a complete lack of blood, and a mystery tied to the evolution of wheat.”

“Weak?” she asked.

“Nope. Wheat”

“Like a Tweet?”

“Similar, but totally opposite. Like shredded wheat, yet not yet shredded yet. Anyway, Lee Child’s greatest description thus far into the book is of a train station and a mahogany bench. In a town called Mother’s Rest.”


“Not who. Where.”


“Anywho, I’m not kidding about the slowness of it. Best of all, if you asked Matt to edit this as a manuscript, he’d have a heart attack and lose much of his head hairs; there’s alliteration all around, poor man’s poorly punctuation, dialogue bleeding from one character to the next (how many people really say ‘a million to one gets you…’ so often?), and so on and so forth.”

“So why do you like him so much?” my mom asked, equally fascinated and repulsed by my answer.

“I dunno, but I do!”

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Things Fall Apart

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Entropy. There. I said. Are you happy? I called out the entropy in the room.

As everyone knows, entropy is a thermodynamic quantity that changes in a reversible process by an amount equal to the heat absorbed or emitted divided by the thermodynamic temperature.

Or, according to Daniel Dávila, entropy can be seen as “the universe’s pesky proclivity for disorder, ensur[ing] that things fall apart.”

Going to bat for her husband, April Dávila wrote a guest post for Daniel about said husband’s blog, specifically about one of his earliest posts, “If we’re all entropy’s bitches, why bother?” That is a fair and good question, Mr. Dávila.

The premise behind the answer is the following: “Story may not be the only way to deal with the ultimate demise of everything, but it’s one of the best. We can’t stop time, but, with story, we can find our place in it.”

I encourage you to read the entire piece about Entropy’s Bitches (this should be a band name), as Mr. Dávila does an interesting job of eventually getting to why storytelling – but really he means writing – is the greatest, most important, without equal among the arts & sciences, humane to the point of being human, job/responsibility in the world.

Which got me thinking about a book I read years ago for my book club called Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. While performing extensive research upon completing this theory on the evolution of monogamy in humans and human mating systems (get your mind out of the gutter), I came across a fascinating anthropological piece that examined the most important things necessary for human survival.

Not surprisingly, food and water are most critical for our survival. According to one site, we can go about three or four days without water, and about three weeks without food. But this is where the study got interesting. What’s the next most important element for human survival? they asked. Many people might say shelter, and while it’s always nice to have a roof over your head, these anthropologists argued that it was storytelling which came next.

There will never be a way to prove this one way or the other, but deep down I think they’re right. Mankind survived on the savanna for millennia upon millennia without much of anything. And while the invention of weapons backs up the above theory (we need food!), the invention of language, first spoken and then written, lends credence to the “Storytelling Is No. 3” theory.

The why? of this is precisely that which Daniel Dávila gets to in his post, and concludes with a big bang, writing:

“So, the next time you are face to face with the blank page, ask yourself this: What part of my mind, common across culture and history, will help the reader understand her place in impermanence? Or, to put it another way: What experience can I relate that illustrates to the other monkeys that my tree, for now at least, is a safe place to wait out the long night ahead?”

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My Creativity Sucks (When the Weather Is Suckier)

Anger bottled up inside. Should I have tagaltiniorni for lunch? And maybe an acrylic-pour, colourful abstract original artwork painting on canvas in fluid art red, green and white for a friend’s next birthday present?

The weather sucks big cojones today here in whatever it’s fashionable these days to call Toronto. It’s cold and dark and pissing (not raining), so this got me thinking: Does weather affect one’s creativity? Aside from making it easier to procrastinate (like blog) or alleviate stress (smoking), apparently I am also prone to recognize metaphors, think of new pasta names, and come up with abstract gift ideas more seamlessly in weather like this.

There are a lot of sites out there that address if/how crapstain weather affects your creativity, but I wanted some science behind it, which is how I tracked down Laura Geggel (@LauraGeggel) and her piece in Live Science titled “Five Weird Ways Cold Weather Affects Your Psyche.”

Ms. Geggel goes into more depth than merely exploring creativity, but here’s a brief summary of said subject:

Different types of creativity can emerge when a person feels hot or cold, researchers found.

In a series of experiments, researchers found that people who were given a heated therapeutic pad, a hot cup of tea or who were in a warm room were better at creative drawing, categorizing objects and thinking of gift ideas for others.

But when they were cold, the participants were better at recognizing metaphors, thinking of new pasta names and planning abstract gift ideas.

It’s possible that warmth helps people with warm relational creativity, meaning they may feel psychologically closer to other people and more generous toward them. In contrast, cold may stimulate referential, or distant and cold processing, as people may feel more apart from others.

“The tactile experience of physical warmth seems to be one of the most basic cues through which people learn about their social world,” the researchers wrote in the 2014 study, published in the journal Acta Psychologica.

All I know is that if the weather doesn’t get better today, I may be back here sooner rather than later, and posting yet another update…

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Quote of the Day


“Laughter is unfound prayer and the only time a person is completely unguarded.”

— Erin Harris

That’s me momz! Famous? Check. Gifted writer? You bet. Awesomeness factor? Off the charts.

This a real quote because (a) she said it, and (b) the time she did say these words – many, many moons ago, when tigers smoked – I actually wrote them down.

Today, when not coming up with magic like above, she gives of her time at the Older Women’s Network (OWN), a volunteer organization that has, among other things over the years:

•    worked for the expansion of opportunities for older women in the work force

•    pressed governments for economic security for older women, many of whom were left penniless after divorce

•    advocated for affordable housing

•    supported government initiatives to develop long-term care and aging-at-home projects

•    combated ageism and sexism in the media and in government programs

•    continued the process of consciousness-raising through the study of feminist literature and its application to the lives of women

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Book Cover of the Day


The times they are-a-gettin’ tough economically. Today, we’ve all got to grow our portfolios and smoke the lightning when the opportunity presents itself. (I, too, am not sure what “smoke the lightning” means, but it sounds cool.) If things are a big downer at work these days and you need to take a big haul from the pipe of life, there’s hope.

In fact, for those of us who own our own Cessna, there’s an easy solution. As Robert Bach describes so eloquently in Marijuana Smuggling for Fun and Profit, smuggling dope is not just dope, it’s fun and profitable!

JT, you better be taking notes in Ottawa so you can trump your adversaries when NAFTA goes south. Just sayin’…

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Anxiety, Not Depression


“Anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But unlike depression, with which it routinely occurs, anxiety is often seen as a less serious problem.”

On the heels of World Mental Healthy Day, The New York Times has followed up with an informative article about the disorder which doesn’t get as much “play time” in the headlines as its more infamous sibling, depression, but is deadly nonetheless.

Benoit Denizet-Lewis has published a well-researched article titled “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Anxiety?” and the answer, though never easy to pinpoint for any one specific person, is sometimes more obvious when looking at entire groups of people. As Mr. Denizet-Lewis writes:

“For many young people, particularly those raised in abusive families or who live in neighborhoods besieged by poverty or violence, anxiety is a rational reaction to unstable, dangerous circumstances.”

And for those who think that those raised in affluent families have it any easier, he adds this:

“Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University who has studied distress and resilience in both well-off and disadvantaged teenagers, has found that privileged youths are among the most emotionally distressed young people in America.”

Not surprisingly, one thing that ties all young people together – rich and poor – is the anxiety brought on by social media. As one college student put it, “I don’t think we realize how much it’s affecting our moods and personalities. Social media is a tool, but it’s become this thing that we can’t live without but that’s making us crazy.”

It’s disconcerting to learn how so many men and women, boys and girls, suffer from anxiety to the point that they shut down. When I was living in Korea, a lot of the people I knew from other countries would dismiss the heightened state of anxiety there as “Koreanness,” what was euphemistically called a “bballi, bbaali (quickly, quickly)” culture. But it’s not unique to Korea, nor does it only affect teenagers fighting to get into university.

It would seem that many of us are having a tough go of it in modern society. However, according to the article, there are certain things we can do to alleviate the pressure. While these activities are sometimes easier said than done, they include mindfulness techniques, art and equine therapy, and exposure therapy (facing your fears).

I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that when stress/anxiety starts building in my life, the best thing I can do is unplug from social media and, even more importantly, sit down and read a book. That one single act, I think, is the cheapest, quickest and most effective way to mollify the Demons of Angst and Anxiousness.

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Quote of the Day

I loved you; and perhaps I love you still,
The flame, perhaps, is not extinguished; yet
It burns so quietly within my soul,
No longer should you feel distressed by it.

Silently and hopelessly I loved you,
At times too jealous and at times too shy.
God grant you find another who will love you
As tenderly and truthfully as I.
— Alexander Pushkin, “I Loved You”


Although most readers are familiar with the Russian Literary Triumvirate that is Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in many ways Pushkin is seen as the mack daddy of Russian literature. No small feat, indeed.

Today, he is probably most famous for the novel Eugene Onegin, but Pushkin – aside from being considered the father of his nation’s canon of modern literature – is better known inside the frozen borders of that limitless country as its greatest poet. The poem I chose today for the QOTD is one example of his brilliance, though you’ll see countless translations of the same poem all over the interweb.

Per the Wiki entry on this:

“I Loved You” is a poem by Pushkin written in 1829 and published in 1830. It has been described as “the quintessential statement of the theme of lost love” in Russian poetry, and an example of Pushkin’s respectful attitude towards women.


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Editing/Publishing Jobs


Looking for work in the laissez-faire, overpaid field of publishing? Look no further!

Click here to go to Quill and Quire‘s job board and see openings for seven new positions in this stress-free, low-key industry.

And for a rare look into the world of publishing from a fiction POV, check out my short story, “A Novel Idea.”

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