It's not just a name, it's an institution. Actually, it's just a newsletter.

Newsletter No. III: Hardship that leads to inspiration, Malcolm Gladwell on ketchup and a documentary about marriage and making art that packs a punch

The Rules


1. Don't send to anyone who doesn't want it;

2. Don't send too often;

3. Include a link from 

something on Netflix

4. Include a suggestion to 

something you cannot find on Netflix 

(in theatres or otherwise)

5. Always give 

one book recommendation

, fiction or non

6. An interview, TED talk, podcast type thing, or maybe even a play


Netflix: Cutie and the Boxer

If you were to judge this movie on its opening minutes, never mind the title, the poster and your reaction when I told you that those two in that picture up there are an aging Japanese couple; (he's a starving artist in New York) you probably wouldn't believe me if I said it was worth watching. So let's let the people who get paid to do this for a living aka Rotten Tomatoes convince you if it’s worth an evening.


Online Article:

“The Ketchup Conundrum” by Malcolm Gladwell

“Mustard now comes in dozens of varieties. Why has ketchup stayed the same?”

Years ago The New Yorker published a long piece (do they publish any other kind?) about the life of a truck driver. The article’s journalist rides across country with the driver of a sixteen-wheeler giving every detail of this man’s life, the stresses and joys, the challenges, the freedom and inevitable boredom. In other words, it very narrative-effectively put you in the driver’s seat of a lifestyle you'd otherwise never know. It was a terrific piece of feature writing and I ate it up with a spoon. Soon after I got my first subscription to a magazine that had untill then intimidated me.

Here then is another not intimidating (or high brow) favourite by none other than Malcolm Gladwell. By this point (2004) “The Tipping Point” was already a phenomenon and his next mega bestseller, “Blink”, was just a year away. According to a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, Gladwell was “commanding” a fee of no less than $45,000 for each talk he gave and was giving as many as thirty a year. That was ten years ago. His stature has only grown since. Here’s a good example of why.


Non-fiction Book: "Tiny, Beautiful Things" by Cheryl Strayed

Before she wrote the memoir that would become the movie “Wild” with Reese Witherspoon, Cheryl Strayed, as Steve Almond writes in the introduction to “Tiny, Beautiful Things”,

… had two small kids at home, a mountain of debt, and no regular academic gig. The last thing she needed was an online advice column for which she would be paid nothing.

But this is what she did, creating Dear Sugar for a site called The Rumpus. ‘Dear Abby’ this is not. Because Sugar never stands above those she advises. Quite the opposite. She would reveal, with such unabashed honesty, of her own troubled and often self-destructive life, tapping into the kind of true empathy we all yearn to receive. Like all true, and thus rare, bits of inspiration … it’s because it comes out of a place of hardship.

To get a sense how not ‘Dear Abby’ this is, here's one (of many!) paragraph of Dear Sugar's famous response (the book is named for this letter) to a young woman in her 20s asking Sugar, then in her 40s, what advice she would give her younger self. The “Self”-directed response begins, "Stop worrying about whether you're fat. You're not fat. Or rather you're sometimes a little fat, but who gives a sh*t?" A few paragraphs later she delivers this brief anecdote:

One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin, you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of  two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.

4. Not Netflix (in theatres): The "Steve Jobs" movie


1)      Aaron Sorkin

2)      Aaron Sorkin wrote “The Social Network”, “Moneyball”, “The West Wing”, “The Newsroom” and “A Few Good Men”.

3)       Aaron Sorkin wrote “A Few Good Men” (the play before the screenplay) when he was twenty-five. Twenty-five!  (I was going to gaijin bars in Osaka when I was twenty-five. Or at least, I went to one, once. Long story.) Imagine the first thing you write gets produced on Broadway then made into a film starring Tom Cruise (when he still did acting) and Jack Nicholson (him too). Lord almighty.

4)      Hype is annoying. This is the real reason I chose this still-in-theatres flick (and not say the pretty darned stupendous "Bridge of Spies" - see it on a big screen!). I hate when hype has people sheep-flocking one way and missing the other. “The Martian” was well worth watching. I’m glad Matt Damon et al have what to celebrate over. But “Steve Jobs” is just as good and people are missing out.

5)      Also, there won't be any feature films for adults if adults stop going to see smart movies in the theatre. Not to mention the fact that this movie about Steve Jobs does not in any way, shape or form star Aston Kutcher

5. Play now on in


: Nicholas Billon’s “The Butcher”

Governor-General award winner Nicholas Billon’s play, "The Butcher" playing till Nov 14, is gripping, at times hilarious and pretty damn terrifying. The play reminded me of Mamet at his best in its ability to be smart art fun intense goodness all at once. [Full disclosure: Nic and I have eaten chicken wings together; but I wouldn’t include his play here for that, fine chicken wing accompanist though he may be.] But don’t take my word for it; how about The Globe and Mail’s four star review (thanks Matt Beam - your post reminded me of this piece).

Also, it ends in a week. Don’t be a jerk. Go. You won’t regret it.

6. Song:

Prejudice by Tim Minchin

If you've never heard of Tim Minchin ...

Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.

And as May Ishida Mendelsohn, aged four, always says: sharing is caring (at least she does when stealing food off daddy's plate). Interested folk can sign up here --> or up there, top right.

PS: Sharing is Caring.