Category Archives: non-fiction

Skinny Bitch, Skinny Lies: Beware of vegan and vegetarian agenda


Remember when Oprah exposed James Frey’s Million Little Lies… er, Pieces? The latest New York Times best seller, Skinny Bitch, is following in those footsteps as public skepticism turns to anger at the self-proclaimed “know-it-all” author who is selling her biased opinion (along with misinformation) to a hungry audience desperate for weight-loss. (Can you tell that irks me?) I mean, the strong should protect the weak, shouldn’t they? Tell the whole truth, and nothin’ but? Who’s with me? I’m all for a good novel, but if it’s your opinion you’re writing about, be upfront and honest and let people know that they need to research what’s right for them. Don’t sell your opinion as the gospel of how to get skinny… that’s like waving crack under the nose of an addict. And SKINNY? Aren’t we trying to stop perpetuating the need for “skinny” to our young? Perseus Books publishing house should be ashamed of themselves (and renamed Cuckoo Books) for not vetting and fact-checking their non-fiction works. Gah!

Here’s an article titled, Setting the Skinny Bitches Straight, that made me shout Hells Yeah! after every paragraph. And it was written by a skinny bastard too.


Filed under Awesome, book reviews, non-fiction, world news

The advantage of circumstance, is no advantage at all.

At some point in your life, a moment comes that breaks you. It’s a break that you can hear. It echoes through your body like the metal gears of an old clock suddenly snapping loose from its tight wound precision. It’s the sound of a mind coming apart. It’s the swan song of idealism, the undoing of a lifetime of beliefs, the disassembly of romantic notions, and the silent surrender of the last of your youth.

The moment before this sound, you were presented with a choice. Not an everyday choice, but one of those choices that sneaks up on you in a moment of opportunity. It’s a panicked choice that gives you only seconds of consideration, praying upon the weak and flawed curious nature of your fears. It’s not enough time to battle the selfish advantage that opportunity brings—and it has little regard for even the most principled of minds. Good… just needs more time to battle evil. And so sometimes, weakness wins.

The moment you’ve made the choice, you can never undo it. Regret and shame settle in like a new blanket of skin, and a profound loss battles your guilt for centre stage. The consequences of your choice seep deep into the nooks and crannies of your thought centers, like the silent flow of lava cementing the dry, cracked plains of the earth. It traps you. Crippling you from the inside out.

And that’s when you hear it. The grinding gears of an old clock.

Suddenly quiet. Void of animation and life.

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the content whisperer

Magazines were the original social networks. They filled a void for otherwise isolated individuals and the content transported them outside their community.   Brands promoted their products through this early network with static advertising placement that shouted “LOOK AT ME.  BUY ME.  LOVE ME.”

Early television formats featured someone standing motionless at a microphone telling stories.  Much like the technology evolution from radio to television, this print to digital content evolution has left folks standing around delivering static content in a dynamic environment.  Technology changes faster than corporate mindset.

Thankfully, the gap is starting to close and we’re seeing Brands and marketers leading with diversity in content innovation.

Social networks are about sharing.  It’s important to understand the distinction between sharing, and being shared with.  Value, not persuasion, is the core of the social sharing ecosystem.  Content must be dynamic not static—put the microphone down and put on your dancing shoes.

As a brand, providing value in content is about storytelling.  Storytelling is a long-standing tradition at the heart of all families, communities and cultures.  Effective and dynamic story-telling develops deeper, emotional connections that allow readers to be a big part of the experience.

So, how do you tell an effective story?

Imagine your brand as a big book of stories.  Each story must have your brands corporate message baked in (not obvious posturing), it must be relevant, timely, provide value, allow for consumer interaction, and be engaging.  You want your audience to turn the page and read the next story, don’t you?

With that in mind, let’s use Coca-Cola’s 70/20/10 content rule.  70% of your stories should be the low-risk, solid useful content your audience expects—appealing to all audiences.  20% of your stories should be higher-risk, solid useful content that is directed to specific segments of your audience—your loyal consumers.  The last 10% of your stories are where you can set your hair on fire.  It’s the content that reaches out to the edges, or comes at your idea in an entirely new way. Your audience might not be there yet or they might be right there with you.  It’s the crazy, never-been-done-before-and-might-fail ideas.  This is high-risk, but it has the potential to achieve the highest share rate and is also where your future 70-20% will come from.

Ultimately, content innovation is driven by the combination of old ideas and new configurations.  Readers don’t want to be told information in a static one-way drop.  They want to have a conversation about the information, be swept away into the information, they want to be affected and share that information within their own social circles.

Brand stories should be a distribution of creativity with a content excellence that would make a ruthless editor weep tears of joy.  You want to be dramatically different—not just noise in the digital airwaves.  But how many different ways can you do it?  The possibilities are endless!

A good example of a Brand leading their story through innovation is the grocery retail chain, Longo’s.   They are telling you their brand story—quite literally.   They are exercising their 10% and pioneering into new content configuration frontiers.  They are bringing journalistic blogging together with traditional publishing techniques for a compelling story that is fun, engaging, and worth the attention of their audience.

And hey, it can even be plopped into my e-reader with RSS.

This is an idea of brand storytelling through actual storytelling.  Check out Longo’s creative non-fiction brand story here.

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Filed under creative non-fiction, Social Media, social strategist, social writer

Defiance [dih-fahy-uh ns] –noun: A daring or bold resistance to authority.

I defied nothing at all.

I followed the rules.  I obeyed the orders commanded by the subjective authority and cynicism of naysayers.  I let others dictate my pace and destination. 

And that is just not true to who I am.  

But I’ve been inspired anew and I’ve got a one finger salute ready.

I’m about to defy everything.

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The News Writer versus the Social Writer

In this business, we writers watch each other very carefully.  We keep an especially twitchy eye trained on those corporate staff writers with their pages of accolades.  It’s not their fault.  The collective ego of society convinces us that there is value in those accolades.  They need it to have value.  But the new generation is on to them.  They’re bored with them.  The slow-acceptance of these primitive thinking newspaper executives allows them to keep ramming their ‘glory days’ references up our wazoos.  They tote by-lines noting decades of combined newspaper writing experience—like that means something now.  It doesn’t.  There is no edge there.  It’s just old news.

If you’ve been in southern Ontario, you might have heard of  It’s part of the Torstar conglomerate—residing under the Metroland division.   Having paid some dues in the Torstar ranks, I lack the restraint in using them as an example of newspaper ego.  With a history of contracting for them, I can tell you that they are—as any other large corporation—in it to win it.  Focus on numbers and profit, and understand very little about the culture they’re cultivating. 

They are big management types making uninformed decisions based on old-school thinking.  Times have changed for the print houses—but their mindsets have not.  They’re struggling to keep their traditional identities out there in a shifting landscape.  (It’s really more of a landslide.)  Enter the  Truthfully, I don’t know much about the division, and I do know a couple of good, qualified people tucked in to the production side of things.  However, this is an example of a traditional print house trying to carve out a corner of the new media market.  This translated identity is based on expired knowledge—and they seem to believe that it is a benefit to them.  Their social presence lacks personality and something about their blog started a school-house-size fire deep in the crevices of my writer patience.  There are three writers—all clearly part of the newspaper club—with a collection of flat information that reads like the dry pamphlets littering the waiting room of my dentist’s office.  Harsh, right?   Pffft!  I’m their audience too.

Us social writers, already eking out our living—in real time—know something about the new audience that newspaper folk just don’t know.   There is no apocalyptic gone-to-press deep breath.  You are engaging your audience the second you post—and you’d better have written something that captivates, woos their hard-working souls and embraces the social nature of everything.  The competition is tight.  Every second person you pass is a blogger.  Stories are free.  There is no query process for commercial anymore.  The competitive strategies for landing article gigs are obsolete.  There is no more old-school news.  Nobody wants it.  Nobody listens.  Nobody reads it.  If you’re not giving the reader a little bit of fun and a whole lot of wow—they’ve moved on to the next site that will.  250 words.  That’s how long you’ve got to entice your audience or they’ll be backing out of your page before it finishes loading.  News writers and feature writers listen up; you’ve become obsolete.  It’s time to get your toes wet as a Social writer—or get the deuce out of our way. 

I respectfully apologize (in advance) to the staff writers of the for posting an excerpt from their “About Us” page.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a run-on sentence that can dry out my corneas.  With 30 years of skilled newspaper writing and editing experience—who the frak edited this?

“The skilled team of writers at brings together the experience a 30-year veteran of newspapers and magazines who has worked as a news reporter, feature writer, senior editor and web editor; a writer and newswire service editor; and a consumer and trade magazines writer and online writer and editor.”

You lost me at skilled team of writers.


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Filed under non-fiction, on writing, Social Media, social writer, world news

Lock up all the tooters—prohibition on public flatulence is here

For those of you planning on travelling to Malawi, you might want to reconsider your diet.  Government officials are slugging it out over the introduction of a new bill that is meant to battle pollution of the atmosphere in any place that might harm the public—and according to the Justice Minister—this means keeping your crack sealed.  I suspect he’s read one too many livestock-versus-the-environment articles.  Just to be clear Mr. Minister, it’s burping cows.  Burping.  

The Minister is not alone in his bid to ban normal body processes from public.  There is actually a Facebook fan page for the cause.  Seriously.  What is going on with these people?  And who do they live with that this has become a driving passion in their lives? Do they know that they could be depriving their off-spring of a normal upbringing?  I can’t imagine my youth without thousands of elusive ducks taking cover under the kitchen table while we ate—at least that’s where my father said they kept disappearing to.   Or my grandfather with his explosive finger that he came back from the war with. Go ahead—pull it and see for yourself.  Don’t even get me started on young boys who have such command of their innards that they can break wind at will—and provide a comedic display of musical accompaniment.  To this day I am still in awe of Danny O’Connell from 4th grade.  Dude—Stairway to Heaven is over 8 minutes long!

However, if you find yourself teetering on the side of pro-ban, there are options.  In 1998, Buck Weimer patented the first pair of underpants that had a replaceable charcoal filter.  (How bad must one’s gas be that you have to invent filtered undies just so you can stand to be around yourself?) If those aren’t your style and you’re looking for something a little more long-lasting, I’d like to point you in the direction of therapy.  If this bill is passed, it won’t be long before new practices start popping up alongside other natural healthcare practitioners referring to themselves as new-age ass whisperers.  Your benefits will cover it—not to worry.   

I, myself, am planning a career change in anticipation.  I’m going to set up a practice next to a community of cabbage-eaters. Oh hey… Malawi! 


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“But now the LORD opened the mouth of the ass…”

Believe what you want.  Just don’t bring it to my door on a Sunday morning — unless you were invited — or come bearing gifts.  And just to be clear — a sampling of scriptures in ‘The Watchtower’ magazine you leave with me is not considered a gift.

Jamie is Jehovah’s Witness — not that there is anything wrong with that.  He has been visiting me on and off for about 5 years now.  He blows in like the wind — always with a friend — dressed to the nines in his black suit and tie.  Under his arm he keeps his good book.  His bible.  His truth.  I have never invited Jamie in — we seem to have a front porch understanding.

We have talked — at length — about his beliefs, as well as mine, and never could two people be more different.  He believes he has the truth.  If he doesn’t spread the message of GOD — as he believes it — then he has failed.  He’s doomed.  I believe religion is personal — that all paths lead to the same destination.    I do admire his tenacity though.  His relentless willingness to convert me — to instill me with “the truth”.  We’ve adopted a sort of fair-weather friendship and sometimes I miss chatting with him when he hasn’t been around. 

This past Sunday he came to me with his ‘book’ and quoted to me from the Book of Numbers — an obscure bible passage about a talking donkey.  I didn’t quite understand his point but his conviction amused me — so I obliged him with wide-eyed interest.  And then it happened.  He came to the passage where he quoted, “Why have you beaten your ass these three times?”, and the child in me giggled uncontrollably with a “you said beat-your-ass” maturity.   Jamie kept reading — although the veins in his forehead pulsed with his frustration and disapproval.

I’m not certain what keeps him coming back.   Am I the ass whose mouth the LORD has opened?  Perhaps.  I have always thought of myself as a Jack-of-all-trades — the truth may be that I’m the Jack-of-all-asses.


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If you can’t live without me… why aren’t you dead yet?

Punctuation gets a bad rap these days.  There is little concern for the art and mastery of grammar in an acronym-texting world.  We don’t even realize how much we are missing.  There are some of us who break out in the sweats when we see a sign in a storefront with incorrect grammar or a wayward apostrophe dangling dangerously off a newspaper headline.  There are even those of us — in that select group — who sneak about at night with permanent marker stained on our fingertips, creeping through the city restoring the balance of commas everywhere.  Proper punctuation is just good manners and truly good manners are invisible.  As Lynne Truss wrote so freely, they ease the way for others, without drawing the attention to themselves.  How many friendships and relationships have been broken due to fundamental flaws in correct punctuation? Take this letter for example — written to Jack — from Jill, with an obvious loving message.

Dear John, I want a man who knows what love is all about.  You are generous, kind, thoughtful.  People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.  You have ruined me for other men.  I yearn for you.  I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart.  I can be forever happy — will you let me be yours? Jill

Now, read the letter again littered with marvellously mispunctuated abuse.

Dear Jack, I want a man who knows what love is.  All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you.  Admit to being useless and inferior.  You have ruined me.  For other men I yearn!  For you I have no feelings whatsoever.  When we’re apart I can be forever happy.  Will you let me be? Yours, Jill

Jack is certainly getting an earful.  Things could have ended quite differently for Jill, if she hadn’t been an indifferent and ignorant punctuation sinner.  To be fair, there are many people who are interested in the way punctuation can alter the sense of a string of words — although they, much like Jill, likely couldn’t punctuate their way out of a paper bag.

So, what has happened to punctuation?  Why is it so disregarded?  I implore you to re-connect with your inner grammar stickler and make the effort to be more sensible with your semicolon.  When you blink in horror at a badly punctuated sign and are unable to move or regain any sense of perspective after you have been blindsided by an abused apostrophe, take a deep breath, and look around.  Do you see others feeling the same panic and isolation?  Are they rocking on the spot and whispering in a petrified sixth-sense tone that they see dead punctuation?  Be brave.  Reach into your pocket and pull out your black — and well used — Sharpie.  Give in to the righteous urge and restore the assaulted sensibilities of the grammatically forlorn. 

Save yourself.  Save us all.


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Filed under creative non-fiction, non-fiction

Grief, it’s about me — not you.

When we are not courageous enough to adhere to the convictions of our faith and beliefs, grief allows us the out — to wallow in our own smallness.  It is an accepted voice in our head.   When we grieve a loss of life, we grieve for ourselves.  We feel the loneliness that their absence has given us, and we pity ourselves for that loss.  It is easy to be consumed with grief.  To allow every adversity and loss to seep in and control who we are.  We are born of the earth and understand from very early on that physical life is not forever.  It is a cycle.  It is not for us to decide the nature or timing of the death of that physical life.  It is, after all, only a fleeting blink of a life.   Yet, still — we mourn.

 So, what happens to us when our great faith falters?  When we know our loved ones no longer suffer, and that their energy can never die?  It is our own utter misfortune that consumes us.  It blindsides our faith and pushes us back in the direction of our selfish and limited minds.  It is the inevitability of being human.

 Grief is about ego.  It’s about losing sight of the bigger picture.  It’s about the selfish nature of our existence.  What do we grieve for?  We grieve for ourselves.  The dead are not dead — energy cannot be destroyed.  The spirit of the soul — of the one you love — is pure energy.  Even in their physical absence, those that have moved on reach out to teach us this understanding.  They speak to our souls to campaign for the strength of our faith.    

 “Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow; I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain; I am the fields of ripening grain
I am in the morning hush; I am in the graceful rush.
Of beautiful birds in circling flight, I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom, I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing, I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry, I am not there.  I do not die.”
                                                            ~Mary Elizabeth Frye


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Pet Peeve #1

I’ve never been one for keeping lists, however, in lieu of the frustration and anger that eats away at me after experiencing impolite encounters with strangers, I’ve decided to document a list in order to cleanse myself in a purposeful vent.

SO… It’s a daring and wanton Saturday night and I had decided to walk to the corner store to treat myself to a soda before I nestle down in my pyjamas to watch a movie.  It’s busy at the store and I stand in line waiting for my turn to pay for it.  The man behind the counter is quite friendly and he asks me how I’m doing while he rings in my single purchase.  Before I can respond,  the woman behind me reaches PAST me to place her purchases on the counter.  Now it’s a small space, not like the large belt of a grocery store where the empty black vastness of it stretches out behind you just begging to have things put on them, I’m talking very little maneuvering room, so her soda and candy bar are staring me in the face and I have to reach around them, quite literally, to pass the friendly man the money to pay for my soda.  Not only is her stuff in my way, but she has taken up position beside me at the counter, squeezing her generous frame into a very uncomfortable personal space issue for me.  When I turned to look at her, she is staring me dead in the face with her arm draped over the debit machine as if to say “come on lady, git er done”.  I mean it’s one soda I’m buying –  not one of everything in the store!  Is she kidding me breathing down my neck with her impatience?

I look back to the friendly man at the counter, he raises his eyebrows and shrugs to me acknowledging the ignorance of the hillbilly behemoth apparently loose in our neighbourhood.  So I  say to him, as politely as I can muster, “well it looks like she is in a bit of a hurry” which seems to me to be an innocent observation, and definately much kinder than what the younger me would have said.   The friendly man nods and gives me a smile while Gargantua remains oblivious  – still boring holes into the side of my head with her jelly donut glazed eyes.

I’m not sure if she really was in a hurry to get someplace, or she just could not wait to cram that KitKat between her bloated lips.  I was trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. (Hooray for me.)

But if you’re reading this… you oversized, ignorant and mannerless barbarian… mind my personal space.  Wait in line for your own turn like the rest of us, and keep your disrespectful nose OUT of my turn.  You are not better than me, you are not more important than me, your time is not more valuable than mine.   It’s basic variety store etiquette you Neanderthal.  Evolve already.

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Filed under creative non-fiction, non-fiction