Writing a Novel

Writing a novel is like going to a casino. If you catch some luck at the slots, or have a royal flush fall your way in poker, or even score an amazing blackjack run—your next trip to the craps table will knock you flat. There is no hardest part of writing a novel; it depends entirely on an individual’s perseverance and, most of the time, luck. This is why writing groups and workshops are so popular; it’s easier to share the pain.

You probably hear the phrase ‘You know, I’m thinking of writing a book’ occasionally. But the hardest thing for many people is to overcome self-doubt and start. No matter where you are, you have the essentials of beginning a novel; many websites have tutorials on the subject, and books written on it can be found at your public library. It’s like parenting; you might feel prepared, but as soon as you begin to tentatively type or handwrite the actual words, you realize how hard it is to not flush anything you write down the nearest toilet. Among writers—not just novelists—that hateful inner voice is known as The Critic, and for the first draft you should shut him off and just focus on pouring your ideas onto paper.

A first draft should be finished as quickly as possible to avoid The Middle Lull, a human-borne computer virus that will probably infect you during the second draft anyway. The typical symptoms include a realization, eighty pages into your first editing binge, that there are far too many holes in the structure; clichéd characters; horrible stretches of dialogue; a pathetic villain; and too many swears for you to ever, ever hammer into a decent manuscript. You’ll know you have it when the urge to quit is irresistible. What you don’t know is that you’re going through a perfectly normal first-novel phase, and if you give up now no one will ever stop asking you at dinner parties when you’re publishing that novel. All you can do is focus on the most pressing problems in the story’s structure—the structure, not the actual prose—and attack them until they still read like shit, but are coherent in the bigger picture.

After you’re comfortable with the characters, and the story as a whole, you should take a lunch break because it’s only going to get worse. What you need to do is print out all the chapters and give them a good spanking one at a time, not moving onto the next until every scene, paragraph, and sentence in the one before is good and spanked. I can just imagine your horror at hearing this. Depending on how you write, whether or not you went to a good prep school, and how sharp your grammar skills are under the influence of beer or something worse at 3:45 AM, you might survive this with a smile. Doesn’t it feel good to torture something that deserves it?

The home stretch, however, will likely make you wish you were still blissfully writing the first draft. It involves swallowing your pride—actually, stuffing it down your throat and throwing some weights in after it to impede its swim back up—and letting the comments of your friends, professors, writing workshop members, siblings, and/or mother beat your novel into shape. Since hard work is detrimental to sanity, many take the criticism personally and lose valuable relationships over a comma placement. Whatever you do, don’t do this. Your novel will need to be the best it can possibly be, because next you’ll have to get an agent to represent it, and she will have to get Random House to buy it off you for $150,000.



Above the Influence is an anti-drug ad campaign I've been seeing a lot of lately. It's not that I disagree with their purpose or message. Or that I diss their well-made flash site that has more info on drugs that I ever knew existed, and scares me. Is it that wise to tell minors all about what they're not supposed to have info on? It's like showing exactly how to make airport water-bottle bombs on CNN. No, I'm totally anti-hippie and anti-everything-that-makes-you-stupider-than-you-already-are-which-is-pretty-stupid already--it's their ads that are now stuck in my head like those dancing Ipod people. So I decided to parody one. Hope they never find out, because I'm planning on taking on Ipod Nano and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! next.

The Original

My version

What they're doing right is not limiting the scope to 'don't do the chronic or a big old police officer is going to come a-GET ya'. They deal with issues that affect their target age group and cause anorexia, drunk driving and compulsive bullying, like body image and the need to fit in. It's amazing that people need to be TOLD that influences aren't all illicit substances, and that having stupid buds can screw you up just as bad. It's also weird that, if you look at more of their ads ( for your convenience) it's obvious that they did a focus group on this.

What they probably found out was 83% of 18-and-under losers are interested in the colors red and black (it puts them in mind of skateboards and graffiti!) and one-paragraph summaries of what you're trying to tell them, because they have a 'short attention span' left over from childhood. (These types are part of an Amish sect that denies the existence of Harry Potter.) The point of my parody is their feet are in their mouths, because advertising is an influence on its own, and going to the website is being under the influence of Above The Influence. Funny, huh?

Let's think about how your average Joe is influenced in society. I don't think his opinions of himself count, but throw them in to be on the safe side. Second of all, there's his family--his uncle that inspired him to be a lawyer when he was a kid; his mom who didn't like him reading in his room and always made him do it on the balcony with the mosquitos, which now makes him snap at his girlfriend if she suggests they move to a deck table for the view. That's a primary influence to many people.

Next, non-family influence. Your wedding-crasher pals, the saxophone player boyfriend, or even that kid in the gym who looks at you funny. Whether close or not, influences of people you aren't related to are very different from family ones.

Then, there's superiority, financial situation, gender--all of society's ideas on how you should look or behave. Like you can't stick out your tongue at your boss unless he turns his back. Or how you can't skateboard after 10 if you're a girl. (Get real!)

Now, Average Joe has a whole lot of influences on his shoulders already. But because we want to torture him, let's chuck in his horoscope--is he an analytical Virgo who verbally snaps the neck of whoever spills coffee on his new Armani? Is he a creative Pisces? Is he fated by the movements of planets miles and miles away to have a rotten Monday?

And then, there's Feng Shui. Joe divorced his wife because the angle of his television set to the staircase did not allow the flow of positive chi, or his personal element (metal) clashed with the energy of her garden when he forgot to water the cotton plant while she was on a business trip. The invisible, powerful forces of chi regulate everything that draws breath--can't they leave you alone, for crying out loud?

And those Tibetan fellows who believe in reincarnation insist your spirit is a total cliche! And then there's the Christians who say you're not you, because God is inside all of us. Doesn't that make you feel awkward? He could be bored silly in there. Factor in the subliminal messages you receive from advertising (perhaps I should stop eating 'till I'm as thin as Ms. Photoshop here), television (Save me, Oprah!), your educational and/or professional background, your political inclination, sexual orientation, and all those politically incorrect things relating to minorities and skin color and--you just feel like you can't spend a single minute without being influenced by something.

So you decide to become a total recluse and avoid any type of past, present, or future influences in your life. Psych! You're being influenced already, because the realization that you're under so many influences influenced you to do it!

There's really no escape. What you come to wonder about is when all the influences end and you begin. Who are you, if not the sum of so many influences squashing you from above since you were born? It's worth to mention that if you've gotten this far, you are prime-cut rib eye steak for a shrink. Congratulations.

No, what you realize eventually is that the ingredients that make you up--all those influences--are in fact what make you unique. It's like a safe code, or a randomly generated Sudoku puzzle online. No one else has had exactly the amount of influences in so many different categories as you do. You're not the flour, the butter, the apples, or the honey, but all of them baked you in a pie no one else could be.

But the scary thought is, whoever you are, you're a stamped license plate. That's all that makes you different from everyone else.

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Why baddies are the best

Holden Caulfield was right; movies can ruin you. But he would’ve leapt out the window at Pencey Prep (and it would be a short story, not a novel) if he’d grown up in this era. Movies have, so far, ruined romance, music, gangsters, pets, and ghost stories. Movies now are like teenagers going bowling in small towns with Axe spray-cologne on (which doubles as the state’s signature air-freshener), because anything goes. You can have fifty French kisses per second per stupid high-school-summer-blockbuster if you like. You can have family-oriented humor (i.e. fart jokes), you can have buckets of gore as long as there’s an R on the DVD, and you can have people singing their asses off even if it’s the Lord of The Rings trilogy!

When Lucas made the first Star Wars, they still knew that a theme was a story’s high-class perfume; a little goes a long way. They also knew that you don’t repeat the story’s point over and over like a mother with nothing better to do, not to fill half a million theater seats, no sir. They didn’t have the safety-net of CG or boob jobs to fall back on, so they didn’t act like they knew they were actors in a movie. But movies were always a pathetic concept—c’mon people, don’t idolize these morons as if they were singers, soccer heroes; they’re paid to pretend. They’re just terrific liars, and that’s all they’ll ever be. But I digress. Movies’ worst murder was bad guys.

This pisses me off, because villains are the chewiest, crispiest, tangiest bit of a story. Who would Harry be without a scar? Nobody. How would Bond pick up his next squeeze? The personals! How would Neo get a Queer-Eye-for-the-Straight-Guy rep change from cagey nerd to lord of physics control? He wouldn’t, he’d just decorate his cubicle all his life without any nightmares about stomach worms or red pills whatsoever! The villain makes the hero grow a set, no matter what the conflict is, and he makes the story’s universe comparable to the real world. If a movie—or novel, or video game, or comic—was a gun, a bad boy would be the trigger.

Nine times out of ten, the villain is better than the hero. He knows the difference between an asset (assassins, destructo-ray) and a liability (compassion). He has quite a comprehensive plan for his life. He spends an awful lot of time on evil pursuits, but still finds the time to pet his cat. He has a unique style in dress, he doesn’t take any sass from his minions, and he often takes the emotional growth of the protagonist into his own hands. He knows that sometimes all you can do about something is laugh. Above all, a villain has power over the story the protagonist doesn’t, whether he is a force of nature, a bully, or the protagonist’s self-doubt.

Ironically, Hollywood ruined being evil in an attempt to jam morale down everyone’s throat while satisfying their needs for violence. And their white-bread protagonists suck so much, villains have to be dressed down for purposes of comparison. Typical Hollywood villains:


-die at the end.

-look like girls.

-say crap that doesn’t make sense (Sephiroth in FFVII: Advent Children: “I plan to use this planet as a ship to travel the galaxy.” Is that supposed to be evil?).

-are bald.

-go crazy in stupid ways (there’s good crazy, and there’s bad crazy. Good crazy is Ichimaru in Bleach; bad crazy is Galbatorix in Eragon).

-have foreign accents, or other American ways to point to someone and say “he’s bad.”

-at the last moment, resort to sissy crap (throwing sand in hero’s eyes) but lose anyway, because unlike in real life, in movies you win by going straight as the crow flies.

Once Hollywood makes money off it, everyone else catches on, so you can expect the trend of villain-mistreatment to continue. But there is hope yet—not everyone has fallen under the ‘he’s bad anyway, let’s make him stupid too’ spell. Here’s my top five of fine baddies, in all their evil glory.

  1. Shishio Makoto (Rurouni Kenshin)

Shishio is one of those success stories that should be told in all American-villain therapy sessions. As a samurai, he was set up like a Molotov cocktail by his superiors, and now exists as a bandage-wrapped mummy that can’t sweat. But did he whine about it?

No! Shishio persevered, and look where he is now; sitting on top of a cadre of Japan’s craziest and best swordsmen with a great love life, a plan to overthrow the Meiji Government, and only a redheaded girly-looking former Bakumatsu assassin to stop him from doing whatever he damn well pleases. Shishio’s coolness is complemented by his bestial tendencies—in a climactic battle upon a pagoda roof, he bites Kenshin the way dogs bite bears—but he also enjoys the more sophisticated things in life, such as steam baths and picnics under an umbrella with his devoted lover, Yumi. Unfortunately, though his unique sword has the ability to catch fire like a match, he can fight in short spurts only; the burns' damage to his sweat glands does not allow prolonged activity.

  1. Yagami Raito (Death Note)

What do you give the boy that has everything—good looks, brains, tennis skills, talent, and popularity? How about a notebook that can kill whoever’s name is written in it?

Once Raito has a goal (purifying the world and becoming a god in the process) nothing can dissuade him; he will cover all his murderous tracks, beat mind maze after mind maze as they are thrown at him by the mysterious, brilliant L, and use every asset available to him, all the while showing to the outside world only a hardworking student with a sense of justice comparable to his policeman father’s.

Raito is unique in that he’s both protagonist and villain; at some point we disagree with his evangelical lunacy and turn to L for comfort. But Raito will stay with us forever, a horrifyingly beautiful portrait of perfection gone mad.

  1. Ichimaru Gin (Bleach)

If there is a hero who sucks, and I mean sucks, as bad as Kurosaki Ichigo—the red-haired, goody-goody, not-angsty-enough-to-have-an-attitude-but-not-a-player-either fifteen-year-old wimp who sees ghosts—there certainly isn’t a villain as awesome as Ichimaru Gin.

Shinigami Captain Ichimaru is all smiles, and talks in very polite Kyoto-style Japanese. But there’s something in his Buddha-esque eyes. In his claw-like hands. In his mysterious power over the events in Soul Society. And you suspect that his mischievous-child façade hides a terrible manipulator the moment Hitsugaya Toushiro, the ‘boy genius’ Shinigami Captain, catches Ichimaru’s sword arm in a block of ice during their duel. Ichimaru’s head turns in slow motion, and for the first time in the show, his eyelids part to reveal dark red pupils. Then, in the same polite voice, he orders his zanpakutou to kill Hinamori, who is unconscious a distance away.

  1. Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter)

Voldemort is the magical world’s Hitler, but that’s not the focus here. What’s cool is how, in Goblet of Fire, he comes back to life. In a backdrop of tombstones, Wormtail takes the three things necessary for the ritual of resurrection; bone of the father, flesh of the servant, and blood of the enemy. Harry, bound and gagged, is shocked at the red eyes watching him through the steam of the cauldron after it’s over. Voldemort speaks politely, even familiarly, to Harry as he paces around, waiting for his followers to show up. That is f*cking evil, man! I should add that the movie ruined this moment completely by not scripting the incantation right, and they even forgot to make his eyes red.

  1. Lan Di (Shenmue)

There’s just something about a member of a Chinese mafia cartel called the Chiyoumen busting into your house and murdering your father. Or about the same mafioso hanging on the ladder of a helicopter watching you beat down his street-gang subordinates on the Yellow Head Building’s roof. That old-fashioned charm of the cold, sharp eyes; the guy that barely says anything whatsoever but what does escape his vocal chords stirs a creamy hurricane of mystery into the coffee of your soul. That man who wears dark green velvet robes with an embroidered dragon to give out the vibe “I don’t give three tenths of a rat’s ass what century it is”. Lan Di is Darth Vader on less crack. And more codeine.

So next time you want to decide whether or not to waste seven dollars at the theater, don’t check if the hero’s hot, or if the hero’s girl has a decent ass, or even if the hero’s best friend has a zany enough sense of humor for you. Check if the villain is bald, girly, or can’t think of his own plots for world conquest. If he is, go have a coffee and play a bit of arcade DDR instead; there’re enough bad guys in the real world, so take your pick.

For free.


G.T.: Gold Tangerine

I grew up on fruit. I never had Tang or Jell-O after school, I missed out on countless flavors of Doritos, and I have almost never had anything out of a real vending machine. What were the results? Hershey’s tastes like dirt, and last time I went sailing I button-pressed a Reese’s just for the novel experience but wound up giving it to someone from New York and hitting my place for a pear instead. I don’t even drink Coke. Mosquitoes will bite through two layers of shirtsleeve to get to my Pina Colada blood. And you know what?

I don’t care. Because fruits are paint daubs of flavor, tangy and cloying at once, hanging around the party to make sure no one gets too glum; they swing from tropical trees in brochures and sport drink labels because of how they set off the word ‘paradise’. Fruits’ colors alone breathe life into your personal elixir, whether it’s Pisco Punch or a Starbucks berry-syrup latte. You can keep your lemon-lime Gatorade, your Absolut Mandarin; I’ll take my sweet stuff straight off the tree and spit the seeds into the garden. And if you’re skeptical of this practice due to experiences of the same old snowboard-waxed red delicious that feels like someone dared you to eat a half kilo of wet sand, look for these lesser-known lovelies.

Guava (soursop):

About the size of a large walnut and pale yellow, it adds a light, refreshing tanginess to smoothies and preserves. However, its many hard, beady seeds make it inconvenient to eat as fruits are meant to be eaten. You have to strain it for the juice, or suck very intently where no one can see how ridiculous you look.


This one kicks tropical ass. The fruit is heart-shaped and somewhat heavy; its dark green peel is spiky like the skin of a dragon. Inside it is creamy white and aromatic, with a similar taste to that of guava, but much deeper and sweeter. The shiny black seeds are pretty but you can also dent mailboxes by spitting them out the car window on the way home. Like a tomato, you can tell whether it’s ripe by the intensity of its tangy perfume.


You heard of this one, right? You crack the long pea-like pods to get to the sour, sticky, syrupy fruit that can also be boiled with cinnamon sticks, guava, and sugar cane to make a drink called ponche. Manually, you have to suck the goo off the seeds, which should be brown and smooth when you’re done with them.


Is a long, gourd-shaped American football with tough green or yellow skin. The skin is peeled to reveal bright orange flesh of a cloying sweetness. Slice it in half when it’s really ripe, and hundreds of black seeds spill out, sometimes already sprouting (plant those; the tree is pretty). The flesh has to be sliced in bite-size pieces with lime drizzled over, but chopped nuts and granola are my little extra when I have it with yogurt.


These are a lot like Monday; they seem to be only slightly fatter than regular bananas but leave a bitter taste in your mouth unless cooked properly.

GT’s Sweet Baked Plantain

1 ripe, but yellow, plantain

Few slices of butter

2 tsp cinnamon

½ juicy lime

3 tsp honey

Preheat oven to 325° F. Place unpeeled plantain in ovenproof dish and transfer to oven. Bake until it becomes black and cracks open, usually 10 minutes, 6 for smaller ones. Remove from oven and slice open lengthwise, adding butter, cinnamon, lime juice, and honey. Cut in bite-size pieces and serve in peel with a round spoon.

It is easy to overcook; once the plantain opens, get it out of there lickety-split. Here the plantains are huge, sometimes even Siamese-twin style, but if you can only find skimpy dark ones trim down the cooking time. An overcooked plantain reverts to its starchy, hard-to-swallow origins.


This one is not little-known, but do you ever actually eat it? I would have a recipe for it, except the damn thing puts up a guerrilla standoff; I should have made a home video of the last time we tried to break into one. Bon Appetit’s technique is as follows; crack ‘eye’ with ice pick, drain out liquid, then break coconut with heavy knife. Well, the closest I’ve ever been to an ice pick is looking at National Geographic photos without buying the magazine, and with my brother’s machete and a claw hammer alternately we had a bitch of a time cracking the nut open.

The ‘meat’ is also too hard on its own. I recommend grating, honey-toasting, and sprinkling over oatmeal or yogurt, because I know plenty of y’all are still into random crap chucked on a plate for breakfast. Such as curled dress shoe tongues (bacon) and a rough square cut out of the living room carpet (toast)—even though you say you won independence from the British ages ago and have a holiday for it.


Xbox's Greatest Hits

The magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly used to be cool. That was when I read it. One section that survived through the years was Desert Island Games, in which a famous person or some other fool was asked what games he would take with him if left on an island with nothing else on it. I can't remember how many games, but it was certainly 3 or 5, that the interviewee was allowed. Here are my compromised 4, yeah, to play on a coconut-powered 15-inch Wega with my fiber-optic controller which is composed of a large seashell with pressure-sensitive barnacles, while keeping my foot on the Xbox to stop it from crawling away, digging a nest in the sand, laying its eggs, and departing for the ocean where it will die from pollution or a stray fishing net if I so let it.

1. Jet Set Radio Future.
Let me quote the wise DJ Professor K: "I'm gonna bust in your head through your cute li'l ears and blow your minds with my sexy voice and out-of-sight sounds! Those of you prone to nosebleeds should keep those tissues handy, suckas!"
He is referring, of course, to the pirate undercover radio broadcasts from Jet Set Radio, a punk-pop station that speaks to Tokyo's oppressed youth. Said youth has divided itself into gangs who have set out to claim their territory by burying the whole city in graffiti. Have I mentioned they're doing this on magnetic rollerblades? You recruit more street soldiers for your gang with challenges from City Rush (a race) to Tag Battle (spray-paint your opponent before they do it to you!) and when you've beat rival gangs and tagged all the buses and billboards in the terminal, that's when the man comes for you. If they have helicopters, get in the halfpipe or wallride to spray the windshields; if they jump on you, skate 'em off. The music is quirky at first but grows on you (I've downloaded Concept of Love and Like It Like That just to relive the good memories!) , the character designs are stylish and the Cel-Shading effect (think of Budokai 2) puts you in mind of this comic-book-esque story. What more could you want from a game? Too bad, because there's more; every character has a signature dance that they do after winning a challenge, or even if you stand still for a while.

2. Shenmue II
It's 1987. Ryo Hazuki, searching for the dude who can lead him to his old man's killer, arrives in bustling Hong Kong, full of interactive people, shops you can buy from, jobs you can have, places you can gamble at, and the martial arts-related plot hooks that tug the story. Want your palm read? The Chun Li chick will do it for a small fee. Want to play classic games that Yu Suzuki, the creator of this game, made earlier such as HangOn and Outrun? If you unlock them in the main story, you can play them from the menu. And on the street are various wrestlers you can beat for money. The cast of characters, whether they help or harm, is diverse and interesting; Joy the fearless motorcyle punk chick, Xuiying the martial artist lady who kicks your ass (Girl Power!), Ren the sexy street gang leader who shares several of your misadventures; and of course, Dou Niu, the fat gangster (and I mean FAT) whose Yellow Head Gang is working for your father's killer.
The intriguing blend of mystery, martial arts, and Asian culture pulled me through, but this game's hidden world (I unlocked hidden mini-comics by taking in-game pictures of people) is the amazing part. You can play darts with various people in clubs, and their styles all differ. You can buy Sonic the Hedgehog toys from Capsule Toy machines. You can buy scrolls of different techniques at a martial arts dojo, and learn new ones from the unlikeliest of people.
This game isn't for everyone. It's painfully slow at times, the controls feel dated (it's a port from the Dreamcast, after all) and the short action sequences can piss you off. But stick with it, because if you're a writer it'll teach you a thing or two.

3. Blinx the Time Sweeper.
Why didn't time control hit video games sooner? Blinx is a cat who leaps into the most dangerous region of time to clean it up. He can pause, rewind, fast-forward, slow-mo, or even record himself to accomplish the same action twice as he battles maniacal pigs who kidnapped some princess. The levels get steadily more complex as you're forced to avoid specific problems using time; the bosses are fun if not breathtaking; and you can buy Blinx different outfits, including a pimp-style zebra suit that comes with an ear piercing.
The gorgeous concept put a whole new puzzly spin on the platformer. It has flaws--the unlockables suck ridiculously--but it's a keeper. I want to play the sequel. Unlike the two previous titles, I never managed to beat this one. It gets too damn hard in the 5th world!

4. Dead or Alive 3
This one's sexist. All the chicks have very revealing costumes, but Jann Lee is the only dude who takes his shirt off. But you can smash your opponent out of skyscraper windows. And destroy old-fashioned temples. And Brad Wong, the wino who looks like he lives to pick fights in bars, has the most unpredictable, interesting fighting style. The two ninjas--Ninja Gaiden hero Hyabusa and Hayate--need to be less emo and more shirtless. It's the most gorgeous fighter I ever played, but like certain celebrities it could live to be uglier and deeper.

I don't think I'll get the Xbox 360 even if I get rich...I'd rather have an Mp3 player for tennis and a Nintendo DS Lite, plus some nice food and clothing. But I'll always remember how good I got at JSRF (I unlocked the villain!) and how Wong steals your cash in the start of Shenmue II, then brings your unconscious ass back to his boat for patching up after the Heavens Gang takes you out.



From this blog ( FOOD FOR THOUGHT: GOVERNMENT ), the author outlines what bugs her about Canadian government.

1. It is not a good thing to relinquish all control to a small % of a population such as a political leaders.

2. I have been married for 35 years. Did you know the government penalizes us if we live in the same household? Every year when I do the income tax, I do it individually because that is what we are. I also do it as spousal where we link our SIN together. Every year we have to pay income tax to the government when we do it as a couple yet we would be getting income tax back if we were doing it as individuals. We both claim single through our employers . . . so what is the problem?

3. When the government decided to send our troops to Afghanistan. We have a history of being peace keepers but now we all of a sudden are on active duty and losing some of our young soldiers. That is something that should have been a public election. If more than 50% decide to go to war than so be it.

4. When the government establish different ages for our young adults.

5) Children have the right to make the decision to leave home at 16 yet parents are still responsible for them.

6) Children can make the decision to live away from home yet cannot get grants without parents' permission for student loans until they are out of high school for 4 consecutive years. . . what's up with that? Parents are still responsible financially.

7) Drinking age is too low. Our young people have more and more problems with bar hopping, partying and wasting their youth. Age should be raised to 21 as it was when I was a teenager. There will still be drinkers but I don't think there would be so many bars in business.

8) We all know what smoking does to our health. It is endorsed by health officials and millions and millions of dollars in advertising. So why are tobacco companies still legally allowed to sell the poison? So what is the difference between marijuana and cigarettes? They are both addictive. There is one difference - marijuana doesn't have the deadly chemicals that cigarettes do.

9) Health Cards - You can't get a health card unless you can prove residency. Yet my daughter's health card number is connected to my health card from 23 years ago when the entire family was under one number. What about the homeless people? They are obviously occupying residency in our cities and yet they can't get a health card.

10) Children not allowed to hear "The Our Father" in schools because it might offend the minority.

11) Sponsorships scandals should not even have happened. The government should not be allowed to be in business. The government should be a government . . . nothing else. That way there are no conflicts of interest and tax payers don't pay for their mistakes.

12) I think we need to take a step back and say "Wait a Minute. I am paying you to work for me but you are not doing your job! That is not what I want.

13) Children can commit murder until they are 18 and not have to suffer the same consequences as an adult. Scenario: Where we used to live, a young man (17+ killed a young girl (same age) because she didn't want to go out with him. He hit her on the head with a shovel and burried her in his parents' backyard under the boat. He got out after three years and lives freely. How would I feel as the parent of the young girl? I think if you're going to make 16 the age for a young person to be able to leave home without the parents' permission, that is the age where if you commit a crime, you are tried as an adult. You want to be an adult? Then suffer the consequences of an adult. This should be put to PUBLIC VOTE!

14) Our Government can lend money to corporations outside our country for major business when there are children starving and where there used to be middle class families, these families are now lower middle class. Our Government oppresses its charges.

15) Last but not least is our same sex marriages. God created Man and Woman for a reason.

This is going to be a long post. look:

1. Are you saying that God didn't make homosexuals? Who did? Same-sex marriages are one of the few things that only affect the people who want them. Move south: you'll like it here.

2. Your president, as far as I know, did not masterbate in a coffin during his initiation into the Skull And Bones Club at Yale University.

3. Your president's father did not smuggle drugs using his Gulf Of Mexico oil rigs.

4. If straight guys play hockey, unlike in base- and football they actually look it.

5. You have more bears than us.

6. Pancakes taste better.

7. You have no oil wells, therefore you don't play presidential whore like Mexico does to America.

8. Energy-efficient beer cooling system.

9. How many kids walked into school with guns there in 2006?

10. National Healthcare.

Besides, you're totally rebelling the wrong way. This is...this is like getting a tattoo of a f*cking peace sign, on your INNER LEG, where your mother won't notice it. It's like fly-fishing and throwing them back. You have to do it without being PC! You have to diss hard, and continuously, not like going to the candy store once in a while! OK sanity time. You do make some valid points like 1 and 8, which applies to US as well, but get some perspective. Canada is America's ice pack when it has a migraine. Mexico, likewise, is its symbolic alcohol relief.


What have you done to my TV?

So over the weekend I had the chance to overdose on cartoons on a 20-inch screen. I should have cleaned the place, cooked a nice dinner and gotten enough sleep for once, but what would I blog about then? It’s been a while since I’ve hung around Cartoon Network, but I used to be quite familiar with the homegrown shows; Dexter’s Laboratory; Courage the Cowardly Dog; Cow and Chicken; Ed, Edd, and Eddy—as well as old guards like Tom & Jerry and the Space-Jam-fall-from-grace Loony Toons. I was never as cool with Futurama and The Simpsons, though they were enjoyable; they stopped short of the true cartoony, or did it with a flair that rubbed me wrong. There’s an art to this, something a little deeper than making money off kids who beg their parents for the corresponding merchandise.

You know what’s happened to cartoons today? They cut corners. Yeah, they have nice 3D-enhanced effects (Futurama, Invader Zim—tell me you noticed how cool the spaceships looked) and brilliant animation is getting easier and cheaper. But they stopped being good. Which brings us to what makes a cartoon good in my book:

  1. WTF potential. Courage the Cowardly Dog is a good example. The style is dark wacky; a brave, purple-hued dog belongs to old people who live on a farm in the Middle Of Nowhere, where all sorts of Goosebumps horrors seem to congregate. Courage screams an average of 150.8 times for every 22 minutes of show, and his screams are quite inventive; his head stretches like a balloon, his ears go stiff, and the teeth fly out of his mouth one by one. I love his screams, whether they’re over a tarantula-filled hotel, a ghostly Harvest Moon appearing in the basement, or a were-rabbit that bites Courage’s beloved Muriel and turns her into a monster that eats the doctor they take her to when her leg swells to four times its normal size. Face it, cartoons were meant to be insane.

  1. Humor. This is where kids’ television really screws up nowadays. Most of it is due to the copy being neutered and dumbed way, way, way down. I’m talking under the dinosaur bones. The cigar-smoking (I always imagine them smoking cigars ‘cause there ain’t no Pez in Hollywood) adults who make these shows think that kids (who apparently are stuffed with so much Ritalin and Micky D’s they need diagrams to take off Velcro shoes) need to be told everything.

Too much information kills every joke. This includes characters saying thoughts out loud as they think them when the thought is obvious (“Oh no! I can’t let that 5-ton rock crush Janet!”) a gasp, exclamation, or facial expression is enough. And that goes the same for characters explaining the plot function over and over, which ruins any surprises (because humor is really a figment of surprise).

Then, there’s corniness. Remember Nacho Libre? How jokes revolved around stupid-for-stupid’s-sake actions, or the friar trying his own cooking and spitting it out? Corniness is a mixture of clichéd, ugly, and annoying; it infects more than humor. Sure, all jokes are old, but don’t resurrect them with anything other than a lightning bolt.

  1. Concept. This is the big one. It has to be original, no question about it, or at least relatively unique. It’s true that the sci-fi masterpiece Invader Zim has a well-worn concept—a downtrodden (racist alien) youth is ostracized by his society and struggles to prove himself—but it’s not a clone of Naruto because of the dark, satirical style it comes with, and Zim’s lovely personality. He and his robot helper Gir (who harms more than helps, which is not original but seems so in context) try to conquer planet earth with a combination of advanced machinery, (justified) disgust for the human race, and the research he gets from posing as a normal boy in a normal (but heavily satirized) school.

It works because of the aforementioned WTF potential: Zim’s spoiled-but-intelligent-child voice quips about the filthy dirtworms as he pokes a diseased-looking roast beef in the cafeteria, his UFO-nut rival Dib throws the meat at him, and Zim twitches in agony as his skin sears. Gir, who masquerades as Zim’s dog, serves waffles to his alien master nonstop as Dib, who has planted a camera in Zim’s kitchen to find out his devious plans, watches in growing impatience. Dib’s sister Gaz seems to be the devil incarnate; purple-haired with a murderous, quiet voice, she enjoys video games so much she stalks a boy who bought the last one in the mall through a climactic battle in a skyscraper where she uses the forces of thunder and Hades against him to get the game back.

The antonym of concept, for me, is ‘gimmick’. They were showing a four-hour marathon of a new (to me) show called Robot Boy. A scientist, afraid of his newest invention falling into the hands of the evil Dr. Kamikaze, sends it to a young fan who becomes quite attached to the chibi robot. It can morph into a total of 3 forms, the last of which naturally kicks the tar out of everything the evil Dr. Kamikaze can throw at it, no competition. There are other problems; the robot talks in can-I-practice-Engrish-with-you baby talk, even though its rightful creator is Caucasian and only the villain is Japanese. The main character’s friend is a fat redhead who screws everything up at the last minute. Come on—the world is crazier than it’s ever been, you don’t even have to imagine insanity anymore, just rip out a page of the Miami Herald and guzzle it down. Way down.

  1. Violence. Does this one surprise you? I’ll have to quote SNL’s Weekend Update again: “Remember the new Tom & Jerrys? When they were friends, and it sucked?” The golden age of cartoons died with parents having the idea that kids were growing up to blow up administration buildings not because of poor education funding, not because of their fathers’ workaholicism, not because they grew up in a society that glorified guns and fighting for ‘liberty’ but because of cartoon violence. Remember the old Daffy Duck and Tom, when their faces were round and they really looked respectively like a duck and cat? Remember how, in the well-made ones, Tom would scream like a teapot having a heart attack when Jerry dropped an anvil/hot iron/safe onto his paw? Remember how the Coyote never talked, he just suffered while the sadistic Road Runner beep-beeped in glee?

No, you don’t, because you’re probably twelve and your parents aren’t home and you’re Googling erotic blogs, but those were awesome. Those toons are immortal, not just because they couldn’t die until it was poker night in heaven, but because they weren’t conceived by a committee that surveyed the most popular cartoon elements and mixed them with 3D effects in a genetically-engineered ploy to make millions. They were born before their parents could say things like, “Joe Lieberman won’t like this, either.” They were made by Hollywood psychos probably sky-high on the hippie drugs of the day who didn’t care if their cartoons subconsciously insinuated death is fun into millions of future Prozac-softened minds; they just wanted to put out the funny stuff and take advantage of corporate America while everyone was busy smoking pot. Didn’t they?

The trends in sharp animation are sweet, but 3D is just a lemon zester—it can make something that’s already good gorgeous. It’s a pity if cartoons lose their bread and butter factors just because someone wants an easy Ferrari. There are some gems out there, like the ones I’ve named plus Spongebob Squarepants (utter genius!) and Kids Next Door, but these are just new-looking on the outside; they are managed by either the grand Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network masters who were responsible for the great classics, or disciples of said grand masters.

If I could put the problem in a nutshell, it’s that TV executives either underestimate ten-year-olds, or fear the parents who watch shows with them. Their own kids probably look dumb to them (their kids feel the same way the other way around, I assure you), because they don’t say anything that a millionaire who thinks golf exciting categorizes as smart. If grown-ups are reading this, rest assured that your child simply doesn’t trust you enough to let you know he’s got a brain in there, which is understandable since grown-ups bomb countries for oil and drug money, perpetuate a world in which their kids often grow up serial killers, and still put saccharine in toothpaste.

At least, here they do. It’s supposed to cause cancer, right?