We've all heard common advice for eluding the swine flu such as getting the vaccine and washing your hands a zillion times a day but now I'm going to share my secret tips with you in the hope that you remain well and happy.

chocolate * 1. Buy yourself some fun-size chocolate bars. It's Halloween and they're everywhere. Chocolate makes many, many people happy. You want to keep your immune system super happy during flu season, don't you? Sure you do. I recommend a 12 pack of Crispy Crunch (go on, they're tiny) but whatever the twelve pack of your choice is will work just as well.

*  2. From now until when the swine flu epidemic is over, only hang out with superheroes. With their superhuman immune systems you won't have to worry about them passing on germs to you. Unfortunately, this option didn't work out so well for me as one of the superheroes I was hanging out with was The Torch and there's now been some fire damage to my apartment. The Hulk was here at the time and got angry on my behalf and inadvertently destroyed my bathroom. Thank God Wonder Woman and Batman dropped by and helped get things back under control! But I have to say, it was annoying the way Batman kept staring out my window, searching the sky. I mean, hello, are we hanging out or do you have something better to do? Make up your mind, why don't you! Anyway, just be cautious about which superheroes you choose to spend your time with.

* 3. Get yourself down to your local Blockbuster Video while their current 30% off sale is on and treat yourself to a previously used copy of Wii game Escape From Bug island for a grand total of $6.88 (price may vary according to your regional taxes). Yes, it's a very early Wii game and kind of wooden and cheesy but you get to battle giant praying mantises, moths etc. Adrenaline, baby, it's good for you. What more could you want for $6.88?

Escape From Bug Island

* 4. Buy yourself a Tim Hortons donut. This tip works similarly to #1. I know it can be difficult to force yourself to eat a donut— especially if it's something like Boston Cream, chocolate glazed or kiwi lime but exercise some self-discipline—remember, this is your health we're talking about!

The Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day* 5. Watch The Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day. For the endorphins, which recent studies show enhance the immune system, relieve pain, reduce stress and increase well-being. It's impossible to watch this movie with a straight face—from Randy's markered head to the boys' home made security office uniforms when they try to rob a bank, the final TPB offering is a laugh riot. For increased flu-fighting potential eat a donut or several fun-size chocolate bars during your viewing.

* 6. Build/purchase a robot to pick things (which may be contaminated with flu germs) up for you, open doors (which may be contaminated with flu germs) and shake hands (which may be contaminated with flu germs) on your behalf. This is the twenty-first century and where are the flying cars already? But if we can't have the soaring cars, at least let's get going with the robots. If you're not very good with technical matters yourself, and are therefore unable to construct your own robot, contact your local community college and get one of the tech students to whip you up one on the cheap, right now before they graduate and their robot design prices go through the roof. Be sure not to buy a Terminator, though, particularly if you happen to be John Connor or someone close to him.

*7. Customize your dart board by covering it with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's face. The space between his eyes should serve as the bull's eye, of course. Again for the endorphins. We really want to keep that immune system bolstered!

Stephen Harper dartboard

* 8. Go trick or treating this Halloween, no matter your age. When you've been around for decades, like I have, you might not think you can go trick of treating any more. Won't the neighbours shun you or maybe even call the cops? No, see they won't have any clue it's you! Just get yourself some kind of goofy face mask. Kids are tall these days, I figure as long as you're not over six foot three, you're good to go. If you're taller than that, I do recommend you hunch over (maybe wear a costume that supports a hunched over personna). The money you spend on your costume will pay itself back in candy later in the evening and you can find out which of your neighbours give out the really good stuff and write yourself a reminder to drop by their house again next Halloween.

* 9. If you're a writer, spend your time inside your abode staring lovingly at your newest book instead of going out into the world where swine flu lurks everywhere. If you're in the middle of penning a new novel, you can just gaze loving at that on your laptop screen. If you're not a writer but are an avid reader, stare at your own favourite book(s) and/or reread them. If you don't enjoy reading quite possibly you already have H1N1—I mean, clearly something's wrong with you, how can you not enjoy reading!

Stephen Harper mask * 10. If you absolutely must leave the house to pick up supplies (like the Escape from Bug Island game and Tim Hortons donuts) Buy yourself a Stephen Harper mask this Halloween. People will stay away from you in droves (and therefore, so will the H1N1 germs), especially if you offer to sing Beatles tunes for them. Of course this only works within Canada. Outside our borders limited knowledge about our nation will render this defense useless. Also, in certain ridings, particularly those with a decidedly leftwing bent, people may feel compelled to throw rotting fruit and other assorted items at you but don't worry, they still won't want to get close and will be tossing from a distance, leaving you untainted by the swine flu microbe. In the United States, a possible substitute option is a Sarah Palin mask.

Happy Halloween! 

Happy Halloween!

Pink monopoly - that's how you know it's meant for you, girls!Between tackling some minor copy-editing on The Lighter Side of Life and Death and working obsessively on my current book I haven't been around much but there have definitely been things I've wanted to link to lately so I'm going to pass some of them on now.

First, RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is hosting a poster contest for their college campus campaign. “The winning poster will be used to promote sexual assault awareness on college campuses all over the U.S., reaching over 1 million people nationwide. The winning artist will be mentioned on our website (rainn.org) and have their design downloaded and printed for display by schools and crisis centers!” The deadline is Friday, November 13th so if you're an artist who wants to do some major good with your work, check out the details here.

Kate Townshend, a writer and teacher, has a very informative blog entry up at The F-Word about the gender bullying going on in primary school playgrounds. Kate writes, “it seems obvious in some of the schools I go into that the boys know things are weighted in their favour, at least in the short term. By 11, they have already learnt that calling a girl fat effectively finishes the argument. It doesn’t matter whether she is actually fat or not. It has become a code word which makes it clear that since female self worth is built upon looks, it is easily destroyed by male indifference or antagonism.”

The U.K. based Pink Stinks campaign believes, “that body image obsession, is starting younger and younger, and that the seeds are sown during the pink stage, as young girls are taught the boundaries within which they will grow up, as well as narrow and damaging messages about what it is to be a girl.” Pink Stinks aims to, “redress the balance by providing girls with positive female role models chosen because of their achievements, skills, accomplishments and successes.”

Be sure to have a look at their name & shame page, where they highlight some of the worst marketing aimed at girls.

The Washington CityPaper posted an article about the sex ed gender divide revealed by a survey of about 250 District high school students’ thoughts on sex ed. “According to the study, young women expressed a greater interest—and perhaps difficulty—in speaking openly about personal sexual issues” with sex partners and health educators. Young women also said they had a tough time talking about sex with their parents. “Male participants reported an easier time talking about sex with their parents than the female participants.” Heterosexual girls in the study expressed a greater acceptance of GLBTQ youth and “were more likely to desire an increased visibility for GLBTQ issues in the sex ed curriculum.” While locked drugstore condoms produced shame and frustration in both males and females, it was the girls in the study who expressed shame in carrying condoms. “Young women are afraid that they will be judged as promiscuous by others or misunderstood by their partner if they carry condoms. To avoid misperception, some female focus groups participants reported leaving the responsibility to their boyfriends.”

Finally, I saw the below clip on Broadsides (Antonia Zerbisias's Toronto Star blog) yesterday.

Jack Layton spoke about the incident the next day commenting that, “During question period we have been witnessing undeniably sexist heckling from members of the government side. This abuse is growing hotter, it is growing more frequent and there is more bullying. I can hear some of it now, except in this case it is not targeting women as it all too often does in this chamber. It targets women representing opposition parties, all the opposition parties in the House...I call on the government's leadership to really get a grip on its members and set a higher standard.

And so the gender bullying that begins on the school playground continues right into the House of Commons. Well, isn't this a far cry from Stephen Harper's attempt at playing a warm-blooded human, crooning With A Little Help From My Friends at the piano with Yo Yo Ma? Here we can see what Harper's party really think of female MPs and some of the citizens they're governing. Pregnant women concerned about H1N1 vaccinations...hardy har har. Isn't it hilarious, people thinking their little peasant lives matter? Where do the peons pick up these ludicrous ideas?

sith lord harper

Sure Prime Minister Harper gets by with a little help from his friends, we just shouldn't go getting confused that common citizens are of any concern to his government. It's all about the Death Star with him, same as it's always been.
A very big thanks to Dave Jenkinson who interviewed me back in early June and has written up a profile of me for CM Magazine! When Dave first contacted me and said the interview would be sixty to ninety minutes I warned him that I couldn't imagine what my introvert self would have to say that would take anywhere near that long. But Dave was so easy to talk to that the time just flew by.

Check it out: CM Magazine Profile
So if the first chapter of The Lighter Side of Life and Death were a song it would be Santigold's Lights Out. Not the lyrics necessarily but the overall feel of the song.

There's so much positive energy in this song that if experts could figure out how to harness it I'm sure it would be more than capable of stopping H1N1 dead in its tracks.

This, I believe, is what the best day of your life sounds like:

Sure some trouble sets in during Chapter Two etc. but we don't need to think about that right now.

I should also mention that I've heard word that the cover for The Lighter Side of Life and Death should be going up at various online bookstores within the next two weeks. As soon as I get the official thumbs up I'll add it to my website and blog—hopefully with Chapter One soon to follow!
Happy turkey and pie times to all my fellow Canadians! I hope you're enjoying some good food and good company this weekend.

These are some hard times for lots of people—many of us are having to change our expectations and redesign our life paths but we have to try to stay hopeful and remember to celebrate the good things in our lives. Things like pie, our parents, puppies, the pretty changing colours of fall and the woman at the cornershop who always takes the time to chat.
apple pie

Also thanks to Alanis Morissette for giving us this cool song of thanks.

And a very special thanks to the person who nominated One Lonely Degree for a Cybils award. That made my heart jump! Thank you!If your own 2009 favourite book(s) for young people aren't yet nominated you have until 11:59 on October 15th to jump in and remedy that.
Can I just remind you that I called this, people? Okay, I didn't nail the tunes and we're not in election season yet after all but you gotta admit that my powers of perception are impressive.

Stephen Harper and Yo Yo Ma. For real. Umm...yeah. Watch out for the Prime Minister's release of those Pitbull and Jason Myraz covers soon.

Not bad Steve-o but if you really want to rack up some cool quotient points you should try, oh, maybe repairing Canada's reputation as a peacekeeping nation, focusing on fighting the damage our country's inflicting on the environment or committing to battle child poverty.

I know, I know. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...
Melissa Silverstein over at the Women & Hollywood blog has been doing some really exceptional writing about the rape of a thirteen year old girl committed by Roman Polanski in 1977 and Hollywood's mind-boggling reaction to his recent arrest:

* Does Being An Artist Trump Being a Rapist?

* The Silence is Deafening

* Rape is a Feminist Issue

It's staggering the amount of Hollywood (and European) directors and actors who have stood behind Polanski and petitioned for his release, shocking to hear Whoopi Golberg proclaim on The View that, "It wasn't rape-rape," and Peg Yorkin, founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation, state that, "My personal thoughts are let the guy go. It's bad a person was raped. But that was so many years ago. The guy has been through so much in his life. It's crazy to arrest him now."

Yes, the rape happened over thirty years ago. Yes, Roman Polanski has directed some very well-regarded films. Yes, he's had a hard life.

None of those things change the fact that in 1977 Polanski plied a thirteen year old child with alcohol and Quaaludes and then raped her. At the time the victim was well under the legal age of consent (which was sixteen in California in 1977). But regardless, she didn't consent. Quite the opposite. She tried to fake an asthma attack to keep her distance from Polanski and said no several times during the attack. I don't want to go into much detail here in case people find it triggering but if you're so inclined you can read the victim's very disturbing grand jury testimony at The Smoking Gun.

The Hollywood bigwigs standing behind Polanski either aren't aware of the awful details or don't care. Shame on them all.

Of course, not everyone in Hollywood supports Polanski. Comedian/actor/writer Chris Rock was the voice of reason when he appeared on Jay Leno last week. If you missed it you can see him start into the subject at the 2:45 mark.

Others who have spoken out against the rape include producer Bo Zenga (Scary Movie, Soul Plane) and director Kevin Smith but so far that list is sadly short.

In a recent interview Harvey Weinstein (who's been circulating the pro-Polanski petition) stated that “Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion.”

To that, I say, as Chris Rock did on Leno, "Are you kidding me?"

For the most part compassion is not what's on display here. When you have such a slew of influential people from the entertainment world coming forward in support of a rapist I think it behooves others with equal influence and opposing views to rise up and counter those negative ideas.

So what's going on with the actors and directors whose names don't appear on the petition and who aren't mouthing idiocies about 'rape-rape'? Your silence doesn't tell us anything, folks. Isn't there something you'd like to say to all the young women out there and to the men who see these girls as easy targets?

I've been wanting to mention this for awhile and finally got the paperwork so can happily report that my fourth YA novel, Delicate, will be jointly released by Random House Canada and Random House U.S.A. in May, 2011. The story is told in alternating points of view and is about second cousins, Ivy and Lucan, who become friends over the course of one complicated summer.

I'll post more info about the book in due course but for now I'm glad just to be able to publicly proclaim its existence...or future existence. It's written, of course, but is currently in an unedited state, sort of like a bill dreaming of becoming a law!

Anyway, here's one of the songs from the book's playlist. There are some songs that I come to associate so strongly with my various books that I can't hear them without thinking of the characters and Young Folks is one of them:

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