Friday, March 31, 2006

Animated Nostalgia

I've always been very interested in cartoons. To my parents' embarassment, I still watch a select few, although I have narrowed the field if that makes them feel any better. I've grown up with cartoons, and it's always fun to look back at them all and commiserate with other University students on the old, cheesy ones we all watched when we were kids, the surprisingly adult ones we'd all like to see again now, and the ones we just hated. Here's a few that I remember:

I barely remember this show, which is a good thing. This was the one based on the dolls, and I can't even find it on so good luck trying to find an episode guide. I have foggy memories of the opening sequence, which had Barbie riding a sparkling dolphin, if I remember correctly. Anyway, the only episode I can remember was, in hindsight, so repulsive I'm not surprised I never watched any more. It concerned one of Barbie's friends who thought she was fat, and had a nightmare about being morbidly obese (and the size of Godzilla), and had her knocking down buildings and eating planes. Who in their right minds would show this to children?

My Little Pony:
Again, based on a line of toys that are currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity, despite the logistical redundance of having ponies ride scooters and bikes, when, they're ponies, for Pete's sake, they're a source of transportation! Anyway, again, I only remember one episode - where one of the ponies cheats on a test by writing the answers beforehand on her pink hoof. I can't remember how they were able to hold pencils in their hooves, but I don't think that problem would have concerned the producers overmuch.

Captain Planet:
I loved this show, and a lot of other students my age remember it with a mixture of fondness and ruefulness. It was sort of like the Cartoon UN, with representatives from five of the seven continents - all teenagers who were given special magic rings that gave them power over Earth (the guy from Africa had that one), Fire (North America's contribution: a red-headed New Yorker who, hilariously, is the oblivious jerk/asshole of the show and keeps trying to hit on the Russian chick, what, five, ten years after the Cold War ended?), Wind (the Russian girl, although the show said she was from "The Soviet Union", that's how old the show is), Water (a girl from China who has a thing for marine biology, go figure), and the rather lame-ass Heart (given to the South American representative, the youngest boy in the group, who has a thing for animals).

I must have really loved the show, because I remember a lot of it - how Whoopie Goldberg played the voice of Mother Nature for the first few seasons, the episode where the American gets amnesia and lives like a Squigee kid, or goes back in time so that he doesn't accept the ring and become a Planeteer, or accidently uses his fire powers while he and his buds are Fantastic Voyageing it through the African's body to stop a virus ("It feels like my insides are on FIRE!" screams the African) or hits on the Russian girl and she almost accepts because they think they're both going to die but then they get saved at the last minute which, apparently, is a total bonerkill.

However, the episode that stuck the most in my mind was the one they did about AIDS - a kid gets diagnosed as HIV positive, and suddenly people don't want him drinking from their water fountain or playing on their basketball team, and Captain Planet has to come and set the record straight about AIDS and HIV. Wow - I mean, this show was made in the early '90s, and they were showing it to kids. Brave stuff.

I saw one episode, and kept hearing it wrong because I remember wondering why everyone was refering to them as the "hat people".

The Mighty Ducks:
This was a far cry crom the actual movie - this one was about not only ducks, but alien ducks from another planet where they played nothing but hockey, so they came to Earth to be the best anthropomorphic duck hockey team EVAR!!1! Ahem.

Darkwing Duck:
This, like The Mighty Ducks, is another Disney TV cartoon. Sure, he's a bumbling superhero duck, but that's easier to swallow than alien ducks from Planet Hockey Puck. Plus, his theme song is still catchy today. "Dark-wing DUCK! When there's trouble you / call D.W.!" He also had an episode that spoofed Spider-Man, where he gets bitten by an irradiated spider, grows eight arms, and becomes, temporarily, Arachno-Duck. I kid you not.

Chip n'Dale, Rescue Rangers:
It's the same Disney Chip n' Dale, only this time they wear clothes (Chip wears the fedora and leather jacket Indiana-Jones-Style, Dale prefers Hawaiian shirts, neither wear pants)! And solve mysteries, along with a fly, and two mice, one of whom has to battle a serious addiction to cheese.

This was a weird show, as it seemed to be an animated spin-off of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, only with Bonkers the wildcat instead of Roger, or Jessica, or anyone from the actual movie. Bonkers is a 'toon, and Police Officer Pickle (pronounced Pick-el) is, supposedly, not. The show wasn't all that entertaining, and also somewhat weird, seeing as they refer to 'toons as different people even though the whole show is a cartoon, so you can't really tell the difference.

This is one of those shows that has gained a HUGE cult following, and in subsequent seasons became aimed more at adults and teens then children. This show was special for two reasons. 1) It was the first completely computer-animated television show. 2) It was Canadian. It was all about the inner workings of a computer, where the "inhabitants" (with names like Enzo, Dot, and Bob the "guardian") have to play games against the "user" (the guy who's using the computer). If the user wins, then the citizens who are stuck in the game get "nullified", which is a bad thing. Bob is a "Guardian" whose job it is to get into the games and help the Mainframers win, so that no one gets "nullified" and, presumably, the dude on the computer gets laughed at by his friends for totally sucking at computer games.

There were so many injokes in this show, which explains why it garnered such a cult following. I mean, they started out by making fun of computer games, then went into making fun of Bugs Bunny, Austin Powers, Star Wars, James Bond, Pokemon, Braveheart, Sailor Moon, The X-Files (where they actually snagged Gillian Anderson as a guest star!) and more. It was an excellent show, but it did get kind of weird and complicated near the end, but I guess that's only to be expected.

This was another show that was aimed primarily at kids, but was full of adult in-jokes to entertain the parents watching the show. I mean, they had the requisite anvil-dropping and mallet-smashing, but also an episode where a retired cartoon squirrel blows up Siskel and Ebert's house, Bill Clinton references, Citizen Kane jokes, and LOTS of digs towards characters and films made by Warner Brothers (technically, the Animaniacs are the Warner Brothers Yakko and Wakko, and Dot, the Warner sister).

This was a dark little cartoon, another one that became more aimed at adults as it continued. It was all about gargoyles (who are the stone statues everyone recognizes by day, but living creatures by night), who, thanks to a curse by an apprentice wizard, are frozen in stone for 2000 years until an insanely wealthy man named Xanatos breaks the spell by transplanting their entire castle onto the top of his skyscraper. They go through the necessary culture shock, and (other than Goliath), proceed to name themselves after parts of NY: Brooklyn is the rebellious second-in-command, Broadway the gentle giant, Lexington the technogeek, Bronx is their, er, gargoyle dog, and Hudson is the retired old fogey who still has some guff left in him.

There were no holds barred in this show, which mixed sci-fi technology with fantasy myth. We had human cyborgs, gargoyle cyborgs, Arthurian myth, African myth, evil scientists, werewolves, flying mutant cats, time travel (backwards AND forewards), Norse gods, robots, Shakespearan troublemakers MacBeth (whose preferred method of fighting is shooting people from a flying jet-glider), Oberon, Titania, and Puck, retired TV stars hoping to make some extra cash, Coyote the Trickster, aliens who inspired the statues of Easter Island, gangsters, the FBI, and an alternate dimension with gargoyles both male AND female - so Brooklyn, Lexington, and Broadway don't have to worry about nookie anymore. Also, this show got points for having a multi-racial heroine named Elisa, who's half American Indian, half Ethiopian, and has a thing for gargoyles named Goliath. Rowr.

There other cartoons I remember watching - Gummi Bears (where bears drink a juice that makes them bouncy, and makes humans who drink it super-strong), Teddy Ruxpin (I remember when he finds his long-lost dad, and the alchemist who longs to be able to turn things into gold), The Raccoons (said animals who try to protect their forest from, I dunno what they are, pink anteaters? They had funny noses...), Care Bears (*sigh*...), and others. But I don't have the space to list them all.

Do you remember old, cheesy cartoons you used to watch? Post them in comments!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Revised "Whiff" Reaction

There's a very fine line between subtle and heavy-handed, I've discovered. My first draft was criticised for having a weird, unexplained character (Eli), a lack of clarity, and a beginning that was too pat and safe. While my classmates said my story was better, now they say that the story is too obvious, the character of Eli is juvenile, and the magic that the main character Chelsea possesses makes it very unrealistic for her to be in the situation that she is.

I can't please everyone, but I'm glad we had the discussion. It's going to be a serise of experiments and rewrites before "Whiff" is good enough to submit for publication.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ten Rules For Writing Epic Fantasy

I'd seen a couple of "Ten rules for writing" around on the book blogs - such as "Ten Rules for Writing Historical Fiction", "Ten Rules for Writing Feminist Revisionist Historical Fiction", etc. etc. For the last ten years, I've been reading primarily epic fantasies (the big fat trilogies), and I've only just started reading "literary" fantasy. Hmm...either way, I do notice there are similarities in style with epic fantasies, and thought I'd provide some fun tips:

Ten Rules For Writing Epic Fantasies

1. The red-headed pot/stable/farmer's boy is ALWAYS the long-lost Heir In Disguise. ALWAYS.

2. Human heroes and heroines must adhere to these physical attributes:
-hair must be as gold as the setting sun, as red as autumn leaves, black as a raven's wing, or platinum silver, if they have Elf ancestry.
-eyes must be sapphire-blue, emerald-green, as gold as a hawk's (as an eagle's also accepted), or amethyst-violet. Red-eyes are naturally attributed to villains, and albinos, who are always villains anyway.

3. The hero, if he is not nobly-born, is conveniently tutored by someone who is, so that he never has to the deal with the inconveniences of illiteracy, bad hygiene, peasant superstitions, and negative views of women.
3a.The heroine, whether or not she is nobly born, is always fashionably dressed but nevertheless Fiery, Independent, Free-Thinking, and Likes to Ride Horses.

4. Elves are always better at everything: they're smarter, prettier, more logical, more environmentally sound, live longer and have better sex. The only reason they don't rule the world is because the job would distract them from their hobbies of tree-conversation, arcane board-game playing, daisy-chain making, and deep-thought meditating.
4a.The only thing better than an Elf is a Half-Elf - none of the annoying aloofness, plus full knowledge of Super-Secret-Sensual Elf Arts.

5. Dwarves are always possessed of voluminous beards and always have a hammer or an axe on hand. They like playing with rocks, are attracted to gold, and have powerful predilictions towards strong drink, which means that they are generally very amusing as drinking buddies, but will inevitably pretend they left their wallet back in the Meandering Mythril Mines of Moktok and leave you with the bill. Also, in a fight they tend to aim for the groin area, but that's more due to their unfortunate height then any particular envy of an opponent's manhood.
5a. Half-dwarves are very uncommon, but one went on to achieve fame and fortune in such television series such as Taxi, and movies like Batman Returns.

6. The hero's weapon of choice is always a sword, never an axe, mace, bow and arrow, or crossbow, although he may make use of them on occasion. He always knows how to use a sword, regardless of training, because really, how hard is it? You pick it up, you stab the guy with the pointy end. Piece of cake. It's not like swords are especially heavy or anything.
6a.If the main character is a woman, then she probably knows how to use a sword too, although heroines tend to rely on magic and herbs as the weapons of choice.

7. Prophesies conveniently lay out the plot of the entire book, including who kills who, who sleeps with who, who cheats on his girlfriend with who, and how the bad guy bites it in the end. Of course, they are never understood by the characters until the event has actually come to pass, because as everyone knows the point of a Prophesy is to laugh about it afterwards over cheap ale and stew, while wondering why no one understood it in the first place.

8. Old men sages are invariably full of wisdom about everything, but are invariably senile by the time the hero/ine asks them for advice, the better for their answers to come out as convoluted riddles to puzzle over for the rest of the book. They also tend to die at the end of the novels, because as I mentioned before, they're old.

9. Villains are motivated by:
-Pride: Prince of Kingdom deals younger villain a nasty debilitating injury that leaves an ugly scar (as opposed to a sexy scar)
-Envy: Step-sibling wants the throne, doesn't bother asking Dad if s/he can borrow it for a couple of hours, s/he'll be totally responsible and bring it back on time and everything, and s/he'll promise s/he won't eat any Taco Bell or drink cranberry juice while s/he's sitting in it.
-Gluttony: Magical villain has an unusual taste for devouring worlds, and thinks the one with all the fiesty princesses and sexy elves on it could be tasty.
-Greed: Villain sees kingdom. Villain doesn't have kingdom. Villain wants kingdom.
-Wrath: Obscure magical race used to live in kingdom before mankind drove them out and built a tannery on the Sacred Banana Tree, and thus wants to kill all mankind, take back kingdom, and plant a more beautiful, successful Sacred Banana Tree that no one will ever be able to build a tannery over ever again.
-Lust: Dude wants Princess, but her nasty father/brothers/cousins keep getting in the way of his obsession. Well, there's an easy way to get rid of them...
-Sloth: It's either take over the world, or clean out the litterbox.

10. The One Person with the Vast, Miraculous, Kingdom-Saving Magical Power is always the One Person with the Least Understanding of How to Use the Vast, Miraculous, Kingdom-Saving Magical Power. Hence, all Vast, Miraculous Kingdom-Saving done with said Magical Power is always performed by accident.
10a. This also applies to the One Person who can wield the Vast, Miraculous, Kingdom-Saving Magical-Plot-Coupon-Amulet.

"Shaman's Crossing", by Robin Hobb

First of all, if any of you readers could enlighten me, how do you pronounce shaman? I've always pronounced it "shah-man", whereas my parents say it like "shay-man". Is there more then one pronounciation, or have I been wrong all this time? Don't worry - it's happened to me before, I used to pronounce doctrines "doc-treens" and not "doc-trins".

Anyhoo, this is Robin Hobb's newest novel. I'm a big fan of Robin Hobb - I have all of The Farseer Trilogy, The Tawny Man Trilogy, and The Liveship Traders Trilogy filling up my bookcase. I love her ideas and her characterization, so I was really looking forward to the first book of her new Soldier Son Trilogy, Shaman's Crossing.

Honestly, though, let me get this out right now: I was disappointed with this book. It was slow-moving, overburdened with more exposition than was necessary, a little obvious, and didn't really pick up until the very end. As well, for the first book in a trilogy, the ending was surprisingly pat, leaving very little open for following books. However, I did like the setting, which was a 18th-19th century vibe, a refreshing change in a fantasy market overflowing with books set in Middle Age European worlds.

Nevarre Burvelle is the soldier son of a soldier son. In his world, their religion dictates that man's destiny is determined by his birth-order - so the first son is the heir, the second is the soldier, the third the priest, and so on and so forth. All sons of a soldier become soldiers themselves, but Nevare and his siblings are spared that when their father, along with many other officers who distinguished themselves in battle, is elevated to the status of lord. Now a soldier son of a noble, Nevarre is permitted to attend the Academy when he becomes of age, and be trained as an officer.

Before he does so, however, his father sends him to be tutored by Plainsman, one of a supposedly barbaric native race that Nevare's people are struggling to "civilise", in order to help Nevarre "know his enemy". The teaching goes horribly wrong when the Plainsman sets him up to destroy a mysterious Tree Woman, and ends up claimed by her instead, but one had to read very far into the book to finally find out what that entails.

The majority of the book is Nevarre becoming accustomed to life at the Academy once he's old enough. Sadly, Nevarre is considered a "new noble", the son of an upstart commoner and King's lapdog, and finds himself facing prejudice and bigotry from the "old nobles", who feel their power over the country has been diluted by the King's sudden elevation of so many soldiers.

This is pretty much 75% of the book: Nevarre and his buddies having to deal with vicious hazing, unfair treatment, horrible living conditions, and irritating amounts of homework. Annoyances come and go, but nothing significant really happens until the very end, when everything comes out in a rush.

Nevarre is also a rather limp character. He longs to earn his father's approval (and his father, while firm, is not a miser in dispensing approval), but has little to no ambition, creativity, or foresight. It becomes increasingly clear throughout the book that the Tree Woman is exerting some bizarre, detached control over Nevarre, but he continues to deny, ignore, and eventually forget it and everything to do with magic. He's also a bit of a prig, especially when it comes to his abrasively irritating cousin Epiny, who believes that by acting like a spoiled child, she'll never have to be married off to live a life of female submission. I hate to say it, but I got the impression that Nevarre's as deaf, dumb, and blind as a post, with little drive with which to motivate his actions.

I think more time than was necessary was spent on endless exposition, description, and commentary describing life and politics at the Academy - I kept waiting for the exciting bits to start, but aside from a few weird dreams, it's all about the minor miracles and quibbles that make up Academy life. When the second book comes out, I think I'll check it out at the library first before shelling out for the hardback.

"Vernon God Little" by DBC Pierre...

...Or as I like to call it, A Series of Unfortunate Events - Texas Style! This is one of those books with a crude, bumbling, but introspective hero who proceeds to get into worse and worse scrapes throughout the novel, until his position seems so hopeless that it's all I can do to read as fast as I can to discover how he'll fight his way out of it, if he can.

Vernon lives in a small town in Texas with his emotionally manipulative mother, her catty friends, and a host of other less-savoury characters. As the novel begins, Vernon is being hauled in for questioning after his friend Jesus goes on a Columbine-esque shooting spree at their high school, killing sixteen people before turning the gun on himself. Vernon, Jesus' one friend, is suspected of being an accomplice to the murders. Vernon, of course, wasn't there during the actual shootings, but the only two people who can confirm it are either dead, or too mentally ravaged by the massacre to offer reliable testimony on his behalf.

And it goes on from there. His situation is considerably worsened by Eulalio ("Lally") Ledesma, a would-be reporter and the novel's most repulsive character, who stirs the media into a frenzy against Vernon, while simultaneously seducing and scamming his mother.

I compare this to A Series of Unfortunate Events because, for the most part, Vernon is surrounded by an absurd collection of oblivious morons who won't pay him the least attention and are easily manipulated by snake-oil salemen like Lally. Vernon, like the Beaudelaire children, is also always on the wrong end of Murphy's Law.

DBC Pierre uses an unconventional writing style cobbled from swear words and misheard labels (Lally explains to Vernon what a paradigm is, and Vernon complains throughout the rest of the novel that the "powerdime" shift is always out to get him) that provides a startlingly visceral look into the mind of a fifteen-year-old. I actually laughed out loud while reading some of the passages of this book, something I rarely do. The book is built from the absurd, the surreal, and the just plain gross, but it provides an effective, if occasionally heavy-handed satire. The ending was also extremely satisfying, revealing twists and secrets that add new colour to the first half of the book.

Other reviews that I've read of this were negative, saying this book was crude and showed the legal system to be a burlesque. I found it to be compelling, but mainly because of Vernon. The writing style and narration follow his opinions and experience, and I could relate to everything.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Updates, and "Mr. Timothy" by Louis Baynard

First off, ever since our hot water was fixed, we have all taken the time to indulge in the occasional longer shower and hot bath. Yippee!

Secondly, I found out that my GPA (so far, at least) for this year is 3.4. The minimum for getting into Library Sciences is, as I mentioned in a previous post, 3.3. This gives me a lot of hope - especially for the two years to come. It might not be so difficult to get into librarian school as I thought. However, Sister #1's GPA is 3.7, and she's a first year ("I'm so disappointed," she says, because her tireless volunteer work for the Special K's various charities such as Hug-A-Hobo and Build A House for Crack Addicts to Jack Up In hasn't left her enough time to study sufficiently. "It's not a 4.0." Fuck off and die, Sister #1.

Also, my Mixed Chorus' final concert was yesterday. It went reasonably well. I had a bit of lack of self-restraint regarding my behaviour during the very long and frustrating rehearsal - it was scheduled to end at 5, and it didn't end until 5:30, when the food-court at the nearby mall closed. I had no idea where to eat or get dinner, but went there anyways and got there just in time to get a decent meal from Mickie Dees. I have a pet peeve for schedules that are 30 minutes longer than they should be.

I couldn't have eaten at a sitting-down restaurant, I was alone - as lame as it may sound, it would have been very weird and depressing to eat alone at a sitting-down restaurant. I couldn't go anywhere else, it was downtown, and it was dark, and I was an unaccompanied, sheltered young woman. I wasn't able to walk 30 feet to the subway station without being accosted by a long-haired, down-on-his-luck (I'm putting this kindly) gentleman begging for change so that he could buy a "coffee". I'm a horribly ignorant upper-class yuppie child, and I have startlingly conservative views from time to time.

Anyway, the concert went well - the first half was very nerve-wracking. Someone, for some reason or another, was taking up more room on the risers than he or she should half, and I was left dangling on the very edge, constantly looking at my feet to make sure I wouldn't fall off while we were singing. Thankfully, whoever the culprit was, they realized their mistake during intermission and I much more comfortable during the second act. Mum and Dad were suitably impressed, and Dad bought a sweatshirt and pre-ordered the recording of our performance from the swag table outside the theatre.

Now, onto the book reviews:

"Mr Timothy" by Louis Baynard

I really enjoyed this, but I have the feeling I would have enjoyed it a lot more had I read Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" first. After all, the main character in this novel is Tiny Tim, only now not so tiny any more. The brace and the crutch are long gone, and he only walks with a slight limp.

Mr. Timothy, as he is now known, is, at 23, a rather listless fellow with no real ideas about his future. Uncle Ebeneezer's wealth has turned out to not be the item destined to give the Crachitts a happy ending. Ebeneezer's money did little or nothing to help the Cratchits, when it comes right down to it, and the most successful of Timothy's siblings, Peter, cut himself off as soon as he was able to. Mr. Timothy still relies on Scrooge's remittance, but his ties to the man, however benevolent and Christmas-loving he has become, shame him.

He finds some purpose to his life when he discovers the bodies of two young girls, both with bloody fingers and horrified expressions but without any other injuries on their persons. He suspects that an immigrant girl named Philomela may be the next target of what turns out to be an underage prostitution ring run by a nobleman, and sets out to protect her.

The story is by turns gripping and humorous, and the excellent writing style of Louis Baynard makes up for the fact that Mr. Timothy is essentially directionless in life. I had no idea what he would do or where he would go if he managed to expose the ring and save Philomela. Otherwise, though, it was very entertaining, explores the consequences of the events of A Christmas Carol, but provides a stand-alone story that will even interest ignorant people like me whose knowledge of the plot of A Christmas Carol comes from The Flintstones, Simpsons, and Jetsons specials that shamelessly rip it off.

Monday, March 20, 2006


The repairman called today at 7:30 am to say he'd be there in half an hour to try and fix our hot water. Hooray!

Yesterday really emphasised our entire family's dependency on hot water. We had to boil pots and pots of water on the stove and the kettle to watch the dishes left untended in the dishwasher, and then I did it again to clean all the dishes made when I baked fudge pudding cake for dessert. To spare ourselves further hours of heating water on the stove, we went out to eat, then came back and had the pudding.

Yesterday night, Sister #2 and I ended up washing our hair over the sink while Mum poured jugs of warmed water over our heads, the way we used to do when we were babies. Sister #1 declined and took a cold shower the next day, but considering we live in Canada, and we just had a record freezing snowfall of 22 cm, it was extremely painful and she regretted it immensely.

I just had my second Japanese midterm today, and it went a lot better, even though I ran out of time so I couldn't finish the composition part (I was to write 7 sentences about a memory, but I only managed 5). I've been giving a lot of thought to my Japanese class, especially since the Registrar is strongly urging me to register for next year's courses in four days. At first I was only planning to take Japanese to get my 6 credits of second (although, technically it's my third language) language courses for my English major.

I originally planned to make Film Studies my minor, but I had a really awful experience with Film studies this year, when my prof went off about socialism and Lacan and Freud and I trailed along, paying very little attention but getting a lot of fantasy writing done. Besides, all things considered, what will Film Studies do for my career choices? I'd like to be a film critic, or a screenwriter, but sometimems Film Studies just seems to me to be one big giant elective bird-course.

Besides, I really took off on Japanese. I faltered a little this semester, because a lot more complicated things got shot my way and my oral comprehension skills are still very slow, but I'm still the star pupil of my class. I mean, if I really needed the 6 credits so badly, all I had to do was take French 101, challenge the exam with my 12 years of French immersion, and get the 6 credits for pretty much nothing.

A Japanese minor also offers me a lot of opportunities. First of all, with my skills, it'll be sure to boost my GPA, which will make it easier to get into Library Studies. Secondly, it also offers me jobs in tourism and translation. I could take a translation course, and get a job writing for NewType or something. Translate manga for a living.

Still, film is fun. I like movies. I LOVE movies. But in the end, what will Film Studies leave me with? I came out of my Hollywood Film class with absolutely nothing. My third year is coming up, and it's about time I started thinking about my future career. I'd like to be a novelist of course, but I need something else to pay the bills while I write on the side.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Time-travelling back to the days of yore...

Don't buy from Sears, people.

We found out yesterday, that due to their repairman's incompetence, our family has no more hot water. We had a near-record 18cm snowfall yesterday (in March!), and we had (and still have) no hot water. That means no dishwasher, no washing machine, and no hot showers!

And guess what, the repairman who can fix what the first repairman screwed up won't be coming until tomorrow! So I'll be washing dishes by hand, we'll either have to shower at the YMCA (or not at all), and wear dirty clothes until then. This disaster has served to remind me of how spoiled and lucky our generation is - one hundred years ago, a lack of hot water wouldn't have bothered anybody. They already washed all their dishes and clothes by hand, or else they had servants to do it for them. Granted, in this day and age, hot water or no hot water, I'm allowed to go to school, my marriage will not be arranged, and I won't be considered a hopeless spinster if I'm not married by the time I'm twenty-one.

"North to the Orient" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This was the last of pile of books-as-Christmas-presents that I received, and like most of them, this was not at all what I had expected.

A memoir of a lady pilot? I thought. Is this just going to be the journals of some ace flying gal who was able to cobble some basic writing skills together to make a legible account of her adventures?

Apparently not - Anne Morrow Lindbergh didn't do most of the flying (her husband, Charles, did), but instead she eloquently, articulately, and beautifully recounts the trip she and her husband took from Maine to China in their two-seater airplane. She goes on at length about her humiliating incompetance with operating their Morse code radio, the Thanksgiving dinner they shared at an isolated village in Northern Canada, and how she almost drowned in the Yangtze river.

She doesn't just provide a blow-by-blow account of her travels, she delves into thoughtful introspection about the nature of the landscape, the purpose for their trip, and the learning experiences she goes through. She, like me, discovered a lot of things that she wasn't expecting.

It was a joy to read this.

Friday, March 17, 2006

"Jane Austen: A Life" by Carol Shields

Unlike Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, this book actually made me want to go out and read Jane Austen's novels. I've never read any them as of yet, and of the film versions I saw snippets of Pride & Prejudice, the BBC miniseries, and the first half of the Keira Knightly version. The latter was dead boring, and the sound was absolutely awful. The whole family despised it and couldn't understand how it was gathering all these positive reviews.

However, I quite liked Bride & Prejudice, which was the Bollywood Indian version, transplanting the politics of 1800s English marriage onto modern day Indian families. Also, Ang Lee's Sense & Sensibility was tolerable - if I ignored the flighty Kate Winslet and the constipated-looking Hugh Grant and focused on yummy Alan Rickman. I have also started watching Clueless, Alicia Silverstone's modern remake of Emma, at least five times, but as of yet I have never seen it all the way through to the end.

Anyhoo - this biography was very interesting. Jane Austen, given the Five Qualities of a "Great" Writer I mockingly listed below, didn't follow any of these qualities either, and I find that we share certain things in common, if I may not be too presumptuous in saying so. Jane Austen, Carol Shields believes, was very comfortable in routine, like I am, and found it nearly impossible to write when upheavals ruined her schedule. When her families moved, when she went to live with one of her (five) brothers to help out with their children, her pattern was disrupted.

She also remained a lonely unwedded spinster until she died (of breast cancer, it is suggested) at age 41. Her family was poor but respectable, and she was preposed to by a relatively well-off family friend, but he wasn't book-smart enough to satisfy her, and she rejected him very messily after first accepting his proposal. I can identify with that kind of dilemma. A used to have a young man at my anime club who I hung out with, and I considered him relatively harmless and genial company until he asked me out on what I assumed was a date. I accepted, rashly, and then as the prospect of spending time alone with him and his woeful speech impediment came closer, I made up some kind of excuse (too much homework, I think) and ran to the nearest bus. I haven't had a serious conversation with him since.

Part of me thinks this was right - if I was physically repulsed by his appearance, manner of speech, and dodgy family history to the alarming extent that I was, it wouldn't have been fair to either of us to have tried sustaining any type of serious relationship. Still, there is a part of me, and who knows, this part might have been in Jane Austen too, that felt I was a shallow, heartless person, rejecting a young man based on his appearance, manner of speech, and dodgy family history. This voice continues to imply that I am no great beauty myself, that I have serious problems dealing with large groups of people and being discrete and reading the emotions of others, and that due to such flaws I have absolutely no right whatsoever to be picky when I could easily become the lonely old cat lady who dies a virgin, as Carol Shields suggests it is likely Jane Austen did.

Still, at least she had her novels - although as an author she remained anonymous for most of her career.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Five Reasons Why I'll Never Be a "Great" Writer

First off, allow me to issue a retraction: I'm now reading Jane Austen - A Life by Carol Shields, not Claire Tomalin - and the copy does have a picture, which I have now posted.

Secondly, this is a humourous piece. As my loyal readers know, I have enough confidence in my writing to send it to magazines and believe that one day I'll be picking up my Hugo/Nebula/World Fantasy/Locus/Arthur C. Clarke award for my work. I've just tended to notice a great many commonalities (read: cliches) among the truly "great" writers' lives.

So, in no particular order, Five Reasons Why I'll Never Be a "Great" Writer:

1. I do not own, and neither am I "owned by", any cats: Almost every writer I've admired seems to be possessed by anywhere from one to twelve of the furry critters. "So and so lives in Connecticut with her seven cats", "Such and such resides in Santa Monica with his two cats", "Whatsherface lives in Montana, where she dotes on her five felines, two dogs, eight lizards, two boa constrictors, and twenty-five hamsters." My Mum believes the tendency for writers to own pets, cats in particular, is because as a species, writers are solitary creatures, who need companionship from time to time but not the inconvenience of having to go outside and exercise.

Petting cats stimulates the mind to write, it seems, so until I move out of my parents' house, I'll have to content myself with stroking teddy bears and pillows to jump-start my imagination.

2. I am not an alcoholic, a drug addict, or a heavy smoker: Neither do I have any particular prediliction towards strong drink (I never have more than one glass at a time, and only coolers, because they are less yucky then other liquors). Stephen King used to be into rum (alcohol) and coke (powdery stuff). Lewis Carol was apparently heavy into opium. I had one gulp of whisky four months ago and thought the experience akin to vomiting, only in the opposite direction. I'm high on life, people, so if history is any judge, my writing is doomed to be boring.

3. I live in a decidedly un-exotic place, where I have lived my entire life: I live in Canada, in a city that is not big enough to be considered a fashionable trend-setting metropolis, not small enough to be seen as a pokey one-screen-movie-theatre town, and not old enough to be historically relevant. Amy Tan's family moved to a new house, town, city every six to twelve months or so, if her memoirs are any indication. What am I supposed to write about? Our mall? Our one street of kitchy shops that are rapidly being overtaken by Starbucks, Chapters, and Earl'ses?

4. I had a wonderfully happy and uneventful childhood, raised in a good, upper-middle-class neighbourhood in a well-adjusted, religious, moral, intelligent family: My mother stayed home to raise her three children, without sacrificing her hungry intellect - she cooks! She cleans! She's researched the geneology of her family back 30 generations! She's teaching herself Hebrew so that she can re-translate the Bible! My father is a hard worker who devotes himself to his job and was never absent to the point that it was detrimental to my well-being, and also he's completely, faithfully, romantically devoted to my mother after 21 years of marriage.

They never even had the decency to have an exciting, challenging engagement frought with social obstacles straight out of a Jane Austen novel - no evil in-laws, no protests from Mum's upper-class parents about her match with a man from lower-class upbringing. The only point that gained any contention was that Mum and Dad only knew each other for six weeks before getting engaged.

My sisters are also free of mental problems, life-threatening illnesses, genetic defects, and addictions of any kind that would have made for a best-selling autobiography. Sister #1 is the active one, with an odd penchant for bending, breaking, bruising, or bumping body parts that are not supposed to be bent, broken, bruised, or bumped by doing decidedly un-active things, like flicking light-switches. Sister #2 is the social butterfly, who's only point of controversy is her tendency to flash her buttcrack in the low-rise jeans she insists on wearing.

And finally, 5. Like my sisters, I also lack mental problems, life-threatening illnesses, genetic defects, and addictions: I am not clinically depressed, I have never been suspected of having bipolar disorder, gender dysfunction, or schizophrenia. I do not believe I am a hack who can never write a sentence that is not drenched in superficial lies that are the reason humanity is trundling down a path to destruction. I do not look at my work and weep that its heartbreaking beauty/truth/insight/creativity will never be recognized by blind/dishonest/ignorant/unimaginative society, particularly those peons of society who happen to be employed at publishing houses.

I doubt that I will ever write a novel that will make me believe, "I have completed my life's purpose, my work is done" and proceed to tie myself to a stone and drown myself in a river, blow out my brains with a shotgun in a dusty attic, slit my wrists in the bathtub after leaving a trail of rose petals leading to my place of demise, swallow raw opium, leap off the roof of City Hall, or contract consumption and perish while coughing romantically into a bloody handkerchief, along with my unborn lovechild by my achingly handsome male secretary.

There you have it, Five Reasons Why I'll Never Be a "Great" Writer. Should I stop trying? Definitely not - I still have time to royally mess myself up.

"A Moveable Feast", Ernest Hemingway

Well, this was my first foray into Hemingway country. In A Moveable Feast, this slim (and very quickly read) novel details certain events in Hemingway's life between 1920 and 1926, most of it spent in Paris, drinking wine, eating oysters, and occasionally writing.

Being a memoir of sorts, it didn't really have a plot, other than to watch Ernest wander around Paris and Europe, making do with very little money, gambling at the racetrack once or twice, and having bizarre (and often very inebriated) interactions with such figures as Gertrude Stein (who's portrayed as fickle, careless, and biased), Ezra Pound (generous and kind to a fault) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (who apparently has a vicious, insane wife, can't hold his liquor, and harbours an irrational hatred against Europeans).

I haven't read any of Hemingway's other works (other than the short story "Hills Like White Elephants", which didn't really do anything for me), or Gertrude Stein's, Ezra Pound's, or F. Scott Fitzgerald's, either. I've often heard how Ernest Hemingway was famed for his sparse, short sentences, but I must have heard wrong. Often he has very long and rambling sentences, but his language is very precise and plain. For instance, in "Hills Like White Elephants", instead of having the female character say - "I beg you, could you please be quiet?", the woman instead rambles "Could you please please please please please please be quiet?"

One of the more interesting points of A Moveable Feast is where Mr. Hemingway explains why he uses a style like this - he used to use a more elaborate, detailed, adjective-heavy style, but it was superficial. He wants to write about "truth", and only wants to write down absolutely true things, so he uses plain words that everyone uses instead of big ones that are heard more rarely. Personally, I think that's bull. Hemingway, you're a novelist. The whole point of fiction is to write a giant book full of incredible lies in such a way that the reader believes them even when he or she knows perfectly well they're not true. So, by all means, use common language - but you're not writing truth, you're writing lies intended to fool people.

I know it may sound silly to write of Hemingway as if he's here, reading this, when in fact he was already dead (by suicide) when A Moveable Feast was published. While at first I feel angry that, like so many other supposedly "great" writers, this one felt the need to betray his readers, family, and the gift God gave him and kill himself. I know I have to be understanding - apparently, Hemingway was very depressed, and possessed a number of other health problems. As a (relatively) mentally healthy young woman, I have no concept of depression, no idea of how it affects a person, and I remain completely uncomprehending of the motives that can lead a brilliant person to suicide. I just see that Hemingway was a great writer, and instead of writing, an activity I associate with bringing joy and accomplishment, he blew his literary brains out.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"The Opposite of Fate" by Amy Tan

After gnawing desperately away at the cold, dead nut that was Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Living to Tell the Tale, Amy Tan's memoirs were a breath of fresh air. What was surprising to me, at least at first, was that there weren't an ordered, chronological memoir like Marquez's - actually they were a collection of musings, e-mails, speeches, and essays that Amy Tan wrote separately and then compiled into this volume. This resulted in a few facts overlapping and being repeated in different chapters as if they were new.

She writes about her earlier life, like how her mother was always threatening to kill herself, and how her father and older brother both died of brain tumours within months of each other, and how they were always moving to a new house every six to twelve months.

She also writes about her writing, and, in a very hilarious chapter, how university and high school students have pinned her as this literary genious who's put all this secret imagery and symbolism into her books when she has really done no such thing. It's comforting - sometimes I feel like I'll never reach the greatness of the century's greatest authors, but now I know that all the symbolism and subtle socio-political arguments brought up by these books were actually put in there by overzealous interpretations of grad students.

Also, she's in a rock band - the Rock Bottom Remainders, with these others writers like Stephen King! That's fantastic! Later on she recounts how she helped bring the Joy Luck Club film adaptation to the screen, and how she's dealt with being labeled a "minority writer".

All in all, it was a lot like Stephen King's On Writing, in that it gave details about her life, as well as invaluable writing tips. Because, honestly, for an author, their lives are about writing.

But now that Amy Tan's book is over and down with, I'm on to Hemingway.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Living to Tell the Tale" Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Well, I finally finished it. I got maybe 1/6th of the way through it before the reading required for my second semester of University required me to put it down to read the works whose priority came first. Then, I had to finish reading the big batch of Warner books sent to me to be reviewed by The Green Man Review. I sent in a whopping number of four reviews, for Last Sons, Mystic Empire, Those Who Walk In Darkness, and What Fire Cannot Burn, and they all got published to day at I highly recommend you read them.

So anyway, back to Living to Tell the Tale: My Nana bought it for me for Christmas, because I'd asked for autobiographies or memoirs of writers. Gabriel Garcia Marquez won a Nobel Prize for literature, so what better memoir, right? Hmmm...

He uses this technique of magical realism, and sometimes it works, but for the most part it allows for some bizarre turns of phrase that make absolutely no sense when translated from Spanish into English. He also has an enormous family of parents, grandparents (from both sides), siblings, illegitimate half-siblings, cousins, and about a hundred friends from the numerous schools, colleges, and magazines he worked for/studied at. All of them with long, intricate Spanish names, all the time, all repeated in their entirety, to the point where I mentally skipped over them because it took too much time for my brain to try and pronounce them while simultaneously trying to remember who they were.

I got the gist of his life, but I wasn't too fond of his writing style, although I can relate to some of his writing troubles. As he describes himself, Gabriel Garcia Marquez was cripplingly shy and timid, and was prone to thinking his better stories were pieces of crap as well as to certain periods of writing laziness where he'd send in mediocre pieces to his editors and watch as they tore them up (literally) in public. He also was, and apparently remains, a horrible speller, which seems ridiculous to me considering the amount of books he's claimed to have read.

I'm surprised that, given his self-proclaimed timidity, how he managed to garner a career in the writing business, but then again, I'm not exactly the most confident individual in person, either. I don't hate my work (at least initially - when I read it back it's f'ing brilliant, man!), but most of the writing that's received the most attention (from CBC, who asked me to send over some pieces to consider hiring me into a focus group to help write a teen-oriented sketch comedy show, who contacted me in February 2005, and whose show has not been able to become a reality due to the CBC radio strike and a general lack of interest and funding; and from SEE Magazine, whose editor read my articles, thought I wrote a good lead, and commisioned me to write an interview for photographer William Jans and a movie review for The Shaggy Dog) has never seemed to me to be my best work. I want to be a novelist for a living, not a journalist, but it's my nonfiction work that apparently catches the eye.

So I can relate, somewhat, to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I haven't read any of his work (other than a short story "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings"), and the enormous amount of detail, backstory, superstition, and mythology he puts into the book makes it nigh incoherent.

Friday, March 10, 2006

My Checklist for Today

1. For God's sakes, try to pay attention in Canadian English class.
2. Read The Odyssey, or at least the parts with Penelope and Kirke/Circe in them.
3. Write Shakespearean Essay (Henry V vs. Richard III), then write Canadian English Essay. (Margaret Atwood & Mythology)
4. Do some Japanese.
5. Correct/edit classmates' short stories for Creative Writing Class.
6. Try my hand at Reading 'The Willow King' and The Boy Who Would Be Queen, novels that I have left out to dry for the past few weeks, then rewrite "Whiff" and finish "Magic Doesn't Grow On Trees".
7. Prepare for University Mixed Chorus mini-tour tomorrow
-Pack water
-Pack choir attire
-pack books, AND MP3 player (because reading in cars for too long gives me motion sickness)
8. Diddle around on internet for no reason.
9. Eat supper (mmmm, risotto!)
10. Watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - hopefully, if Mum can rent it.
11. Watch High School Musical on Family Channel - it's supposed to be really good, and I'm a sucker for teen movies that don't include jokes about semen and poo.
12. Read Living to Tell the Tale I'm finally nearing the end - bless my Nana's heart, I'm reading this for her, but I swear to God, with all of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' asides about his enormous circle of family and friends with long, elaborate Spanish names, when I'm finished reading this I'm not going to remember a single thing.
13. Go to bed, dream of Patrick Dempsey and Spider-Man.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Story Feedback

Well, yesterday I had my Creative Writing class and everyone gave back their copies of my story "Whiff" with their thoughts on it. The general concensus:
1. Original idea (a woman who manipulates and captures smells for memory purposes)
2. Good pacing
3. Good introduction of SF idea (with a regular customer coming in before the special, plot-starting customer).
4. Didn't understand the motivations for special character (a rape victim who wants the scent-memory of her attack bottled)
5. Eli, an apprentice infatuated with the main character, is contrived.
6. The first, regular customer who came in helped establish the SF setting, but was too safe and simple - I should start amping up the suspense and distress of the main character from the start.
7. Why did smell of the rape include latex? Suggests the rape is premeditated.
8. The rapist (who turns out to be the main character's fiance) knows his girlfriend can smell thoughts - why would he be with her if he's a CALCULATED rapist?

So now my job is the revise it, and then re-submit it three weeks later. Sounds good to me.

I also went and spoke to my university's writer-in-residence about the story I sent him in November ("Desert Muse"). His comments:
1. Good story
2. Good storyteller's instinct (good pacing, etc.)
3. Story seemed like a part of a bigger picture (ie, a novel)
4. Some parts were overwritten, almost purple
5. Should have been proofread better -lots of spelling errors and missing words.
I was actually really worried about this one - I can't remember if I sent it in to my Fantasy Writer's group and re-edited AFTER I sent it to the writer-in-res, or BEFORE. If I did it before, that means I sent a copy riddled with wretched typos to Realms of Fantasy, which screws up my chances.

Well, at least there's hope for Whiff - I already have an idea of how to fix it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Silver- and Small-screen Follies.

Okay, now, I'm not very knowledgeable in marketing or in advertising. But every once in a while, I come across a movie tagline that is just so creepy and wrong that it's a wonder that those people who do study marketing and advertising didn't catch it before I did.

There's this new movie coming out in Britain, called Stormbreaker. It's starring many famous British gents, namely Ewan McGregor, Bill Nighy, and Robbie Coltrane, and it's about a 14-year-old boy who moonlights as a spy. Sounds a little like Agent Cody Banks, right? Now, the idea of a teenage spy is not entirely unappealing, and the guy who plays the, er, Stormbreaker, Alex Rider (Alex Pettyfer) is very, very pretty.

But get the tagline: You're Never Too Young To Die. What the hell? Could somebody please tell me how this tagline could be anything but disturbing and depressing? I mean, the whole point of spy and criminal-heist movies is that we suspend our disbelief. The reasons these movies are fun, and not horrifying, is because we, as the audience, convince ourselves that no matter how much trouble they get in, the main characters will come out okay.

That's why, at the prospect of a 14-year-old spy, I'm more intrigued then curious as to why this boy's parents would allow him to be a spy in the first place. I'm sure if Alex Rider's parents saw the tagline, You're Never Too Young To Die, they'd yank him right out of spy-school, or whatever, and ground him for the rest of his life.

There's no way in hell that a 14-year-old would be a spy, so don't trying grounding the audience in reality with creepy taglines like that. Please.

In better news, I heard it on the grapevine that there's a pilot in production for NBC called Heroes, which is supposed to be about normal, average people who discover they have superpowers (and not just the basic ones like speed and strength and X-ray vision and all that crap). Oh yeah, and it also stars the guy who provides the sole reason I tolerate the existence of Gilmore Girls, Milo Ventimiglia! Fantastic! I'm so watching it!

If, of course, the pilot is accepted - which I really hope it is, because it'll kick all kinds of ass!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Madam Librarian...

Okay, you can't make fun of librarians.

You just can't. Honestly, you may think that all you need is enough hand-eye coordination to type your own name and put books back on the shelf, but it's so much more than that.

You see, I want to be a novelist. Now, while I may want to be a novelist for a career, I have to be realistic and admit that it's probably going to take a very long time for me to be able to make a living writing full-time, so I have to find a job that I love that will pay the bills while I'm cranking out the next Hugo winner on my laptop.

Mum suggested Libary and Information Sciences. My first thought was Cool! I get to work around books, and type on computers and put books back on the shelf! What a simple, easy job.

Nooooo. No no no no.

Today I went to the main office of my University's School of Library and Information Sciences. It's a tiny school, as schools go. Here's where, after a long conversation with the woman at the SLIS office, I got a giant kick in the expectations department.

Despite their tinyness (it's only one floor on the libary), it is the only school of its kind in the province. They get 200 applicants a year, and can only accept 45 students. That means, according to the helpful woman (I should have asked for her name, but I forgot and I didn't), that I need a killer GPA of at the very least, 3.3. My GPA is currently 3.2, which is fairly decent, but not enough to get into SLIS even on a slim year. Sometimes, they even get 4.0s and 3.8s. This means, ladies and gentlemen, that even if I manage a 3.3 by fourth year, if some 4.0 applies at the 11th hour, I could get bumped off.

I'm only in my second year, though, and the SLIS only looks at the GPA of my final two years, so I still have a few months to get my act together.

Still, I have quite an act to get together. I'm extremely, extremely lazy. The reason I have a GPA of 3.2 is because I'm pretty much brilliant. Just imagine if I applied myself! But applying myself means giving up reading my fantasy novels and writing my fantasy stories and watching my movies and television....*sigh*.... I don't know why, but I've always felt like I have to work very hard just to work very hard. I never feel like I'm challenging myself, I always feel like I'm doing just enough to pass, so that I can go back to reading and writing and watching television. And I never know how to do more than enough to pass - I have a remarkable lack of imagination in that particular area.

Still, I could always try - I have three papers coming up at the end of the month, and if I ace them I can raise my GPA, and my stellar marks in Japanese should keep my grade point average afloat. The thing is, I'm pretty bad at reading people, socially. This means I can be wretched at reading my professors and finding out what they expect from me in an essay. In my two years here, I've never gotten an A on an essay. Never. Not even an A-. Always a B+ at the very most. I'm supposed to be a writer, why can't I write a good essay? It has nothing to do with style, it's all the tiny details - I don't focus enough, or I'm focusing too narrowly, but "I always have good ideas". Argh.

Back to SLIS - the woman also warned me that it is a huge workload - they jam all the information and courses they possibly can down their students' throats in a two-year period.

Now, why would I want to enter a school that needs a inhuman GPA and hands out a monstrous courseload? Oh, yeah, they have a 90% employment rate for their graduates.

Today's Going to Be a Good Day

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the start of lent. I didn't really make any Lenten promises other than not buy junk food, so most of the promises I did end up making were made on the spot, on Wednesday, and I'm going to try very hard to make them stick. The following things to be done for lent:

1. No buying junk food: I thought this was a good thing to do instead of "no eating junkfood" - this means during birthdays and celebrations when junk food is offered, I can still be gracious and accept goodies.

2. No more long showers: My hair is really, really short - it takes ten seconds to get all wet, five seconds to lather up, and another ten seconds to rinse off. There is really no unselfish reason why, for the last year or so, my showers have tended to be ten to fifteen minutes long.

3. No more swearing: Unless I'm quoting someone, and even that in moderation. I decided that on Ash Wednesday when I quoted a character from The 40-Year-Old Virgin telling someone to, um, copulate with their mother, and the people around me all reacted in embarassed surprise. Hmmm....

4. Excercise everyday: Except for Tuesdays (the cleaning lady comes early) and Sundays.

5. Brush my teeth everyday: I know, like, what am I, ten? I still hate brushing my teeth - I'm so tired when I get to bed, that I just don't wanna bother, or floss, but I really should, because I hate going to dentist and having my gums torn apart by their pointy metal things.

6. Keep my room clean (and make my bed): This is primarily because I got a gorgeous new pink patchwork quilt, and the bed just looks nicer when it's made up all straight and perfect, and if the rest of the room's untidy it just looks out of place. Plus, while reading Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace, one of her characters relates how she likes cleaning her room and making her bed because when she returns to it after a long day she can pretend a maid's made it up for her. I keep that image in mind when I do it.

But anyway, now having a clean room and starting a routine where everything is in place, things go so much easier. I like having a routine, a schedule, and managing to create and adhere to a schedule wear things go smoothly and on time is a very cheerful way to start my day. Before, I was always rushing out to catch the bus at the last minute, without a hat and with my (slightly longer at the time) hair still wet from the shower, so that it froze to my head like a stiff little helmet. Unpleasant.

Anyhoo, today, I'm expecting three good things: first, SEE Magazine is going to publish my interview with William Jans, so I can send them my very first freelance invoice for $40. Second, The Gateway will be publishing their "Ignored by the Oscar" nominations, and hopefully they've included the small piece I did on how Judd Apatow and Steve Carell, and their script for The 40-Year-Old Virgin should have been nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Third, two days ago, let me know that my order has been shipped, so I should be receiving a big box full of Kate Elliot novels in the mail today.

Hopefully. Also, there's a new The Office and My Name is Earl and CSI on tonight. I've stopped watching TV on certain nights as of late (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, actually), so Thursday is the big TV night for me.