298. TMTF’s Top Ten Cartoons You Should Watch

I spend more time watching cartoons than any grown man should. Needless to say, I regret nothing.

The fact is that cartoons can be innocent, bright, smart, and funny. While the media is often jaded or cynical, cartoons are pleasant, and unapologetic about it. I appreciate them.

That said, some cartoons are much better than others. Today we’re listing ten of the best, because making top ten lists is what we do.

This is a list for Western animation. Anime (Japanese animation) is in a category by itself and deserves a list of its own. Someday, perhaps!

Discerning readers may notice that nearly all of the shows on this list are pretty recent, airing within the past decade or so. This is because I avoided cartoons until a few years ago. Growing up in Ecuador, I watched only the few shows my family had on tape. I mostly rejected cartoons in middle and high school, dismissing them as “too childish,” and only rediscovered them as an adult. (The irony has not escaped me.) Most of the cartoons I’ve watched are recent ones, which is why this list lacks any really old classics.

Let’s take a look, ladies and gentlemen, as TMTF presents…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Cartoons You Should Watch!

10. The Powerpuff Girls

The Powerpuff Girls

When an absent-minded scientist blends “suger, spice, and everything nice” to create perfect little girls, he spills an untested chemical into the mixture and produces the Powerpuff Girls: a trio of young superheroines who protect the innocent, defend their city from all evil, and attend kindergarten every weekday.

The show pokes fun at superheroes, monster movies, campy science fiction, and pop culture in general. Its playful tone and subversive humor are a blast. The Powerpuff Girls is full of charming little touches, from its hilariously incompetent mayor to the fact its greatest villain is a chimpanzee with an exaggerated Japanese accent.

9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Beneath New York City, in some dark, forgotten sewer tunnel, dwell four fearless fighters. They emerge at night to patrol the streets and protect the innocent. So what if these heroes happen to be turtles?

Nickelodeon’s recent take on the Turtles is refreshingly lighthearted and self-aware. It mixes the whiz-bang style of comic books with the stylish action of old kung fu films, holding it all together with some really good writing. The show never takes itself or its story very seriously… but then its protagonists are nerdy mutant turtles, so that may not be such a bad thing.

8. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated

Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated

In Crystal Cove, a touristy town that proclaims itself the “Most Hauntedest Place on Earth,” four teenagers and their dog solve mysteries. These kids, who call themselves Mystery Incorporated, debunk the town’s “supernatural” phenomena as the tricks of frauds and criminals… much to the chagrin of Crystal Cove’s mayor, who wants the town to keep its spooky reputation. When Mystery Inc. is contacted by someone called Mr. E, they find themselves caught up in a bigger mystery than they can imagine.

I saw one or two older Scooby-Doo cartoons as a kid, and they were kind of terrible. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated astonished me with its excellence. It has character development, a story arc that stretches across the entire series, and an entire episode spoofing the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Best of all, Fred Jones—who was a bland stereotype in every version of Scooby-Doo up to this point—is reimagined as someone cheerful, well-meaning, slightly neurotic, and endearingly inept. I honestly don’t think Scooby-Doo will ever manage to be any better than this show.

7. The Legend of Korra

The Legend of Korra

In a world divided among four nations, a messianic figure called the Avatar arises in each new generation to maintain peace and balance. Each nation represents a classical element—water, earth, fire, or air—and certain people can control or “bend” one of these elements. The Avatar is the only person who can bend all four. This time around, the Avatar is a short-tempered young woman named Korra. She must master her abilities and navigate the political complexities of her world to keep things from falling part.

I’m bending the rules with this one. (Pun intended. I’m so, so sorry.) The Legend of Korra is neither Western animation nor anime, but something in between. Its characters are nuanced and compelling. The action scenes are wonderful, and the animation is some of the best on television. Best of all, the world of The Legend of Korra is a magical mix of Asian culture, steampunk technology, and beautiful scenery. Korra would be much higher on this list, but it never quite achieves its full potential, and an even better show steals its lofty place… but more on that later!

6. Samurai Jack

Samurai Jack

When a young samurai from feudal Japan is flung by a demon into a post-apocalyptic future, he sets off on a surreal journey to return to his own time. The samurai’s travels take him from futuristic cities to lonely jungles, and he meets everything from aliens to crazy Scotsmen. Wherever he goes, the legend spreads of a brave, kind, noble warrior: the samurai known only as “Jack.”

This show is probably the most artsy on this list, and also the most cartoony. It brings together the zany humor of The Powerpuff Girls with elegant action scenes and measured pacing. Samurai Jack uses dialogue sparingly; sometimes whole minutes go by without anyone speaking. The visuals tell the story. The show is strange, stylish, and thoroughly enjoyable.

5. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic

In a fairy-tale world populated by candy-colored ponies, a bookish unicorn named Twilight is sent to a small town to “make some friends.” After settling in and meeting the town’s eccentric residents, Twilight begins to understand the importance of friendship. She and her friends live, learn, and occasionally save the world together.

This is a show for little girls, and it’s kind of awesome. (Its fans are also pretty neat.) It has all the sentimental, sappy, twee nonsense one would expect from a show about magical rainbow ponies. It also has some great writing, solid characterization, strong moral values, upbeat humor, and charming innocence. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is a much, much better show than it has any right to be.

4. Phineas and Ferb

Phineas and Ferb

It’s a beautiful summer day, and stepbrothers Phineas and Ferb know exactly how to spend it: building some outlandish, impossible contraption in the backyard. Their older sister, refusing to allow such reckless behavior, tries vainly to get them in trouble with their mum. Meanwhile, in another part of town, an evil scientist tries to conquer the world—well, that might be overambitious. He’ll settle for the tri-state area. All that stands between him and its innocent residents is an elite secret agent… who happens to be Phineas and Ferb’s pet platypus.

Phineas and Ferb has been around for years, and it’s still finding ways to subvert its simple formula for each episode. It’s the most self-aware show I’ve ever seen, peppered with droll dialogue, clever gags, and catchy music. Among other things, the show’s evil scientist, the lonely and forgetful Dr. Doofenshmirtz, is probably the funniest character I’ve seen on television.

3. Dan Vs.

Dan Vs.

Dan is convinced that everything and everyone in the universe, from his neighbors to modern art, is out to get him. He won’t take it lying down! This jobless misanthrope will go to any lengths to get back at whatever or whoever he thinks has wronged him. Chris and his wife Elise, Dan’s only friends, are often dragged along on his madcap schemes for vengeance.

Dan Vs. manages to be sharp and satirical without ever resorting to vulgarity or profanity. Dan is hilariously unhinged. I wouldn’t want him as a friend, but from a safe distance his schemes are great fun to watch. One of the show’s creators compared him to Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, saying “I think of the Dan character as Calvin as a grownup, if his life had gone horribly wrong somewhere.” Dan shares Calvin’s paranoia, intelligence, ill temper, and absolute lack of common sense. Dan Vs. is smart, biting, and a joy to watch.

2. Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls

Mabel and Dipper Pines, twelve-year-old twins, have been sent by their parents to spend the summer in Gravity Falls, Oregon. They stay with their Great Uncle (or “Grunkle”) Stan, who runs a shady tourist attraction called the Mystery Shack. Although Dipper is disappointed to be stuck in a small town, he soon finds a journal detailing the supernatural monsters and mysteries of Gravity Falls. As Mabel and Dipper begin unraveling the riddles of this sleepy little town, Grunkle Stan, a gruff skeptic and shameless shyster, does his best to swindle the tourists who visit the Mystery Shack.

Gravity Falls has been called “gently twisted,” and I think that’s a good description. The show is equal parts funny, intriguing, heartwarming, outrageous, and weird. I would call it just a good comedy, except that it’s also packed with riddles and ciphers for fans to solve, and held together by a really compelling mystery. I’m not sure what exactly is going on in Gravity Falls, but I can’t wait to find out.

1. Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar - The Last Airbender

Before The Legend of Korra, there was an Avatar named Aang. When one of the four nations, the Fire Nation, wars against the others, Aang and his friends must stop it and restore peace before the world burns.

It takes a few episodes to hit its stride, but once it does this show never falters. This not-quite-anime predecessor to The Legend of Korra creates a world as beautiful and fully realized as Tolkien’s Middle-earth, and populates that world with a ridiculous number of memorable characters. Avatar: The Last Airbender isn’t merely a kid’s cartoon. It transcends its medium to become as deep and gripping a story as any I’ve seen… while never losing the gleams of humor and silliness that made it fun in the first place.

O people of the Internet, what cartoons have you enjoyed? Let us know in the comments!

297. TMTF Reviews: Resident Evil 5

There was once a survival horror game called Resident Evil 4, and lo, it was greatly praised. It played like a dream, thrilled like a nightmare, and was tons of fun. Critics adored it. Gamers enjoyed it. Even those of us who don’t like violent or scary games gave it a try and thought it was pretty fantastic.

Then its sequel, Resident Evil 5, was released. It met with disappointment and even outrage. It was accused of being uninspired, unoriginal, and—of all things—racist.

What can we say? Is RE5 an unappreciated classic, or is it bland, repetitive, and even offensive?

CAP-056 RE5 Gold Ed PS3_FOB_m03

Resident Evil 5 is campy, frustrating, insensitive, and… surprisingly excellent.

RE5 is the bloodstained, action-packed tale of Chris Redfield, an agent working for an organization devoted to stopping bio-terrorism. He is dispatched to an African country to investigate rumors of BOWs—Bio-Organic Weapons, monsters created through genetic tampering. Together with his ambiguously African partner, Sheva Alomar, Chris punches, shoots, and slices his way toward saving the world from megalomaniacal bio-terrorists.

There are a lot of good things to be said about this game. It’s violent—obviously—but also a lot of fun to play. The environments are brilliantly designed, aesthetically and mechanically: they look great, and they’re easy to navigate. Gameplay hasn’t changed much from RE4, which is a really good thing. The third-person, over-the-shoulder view makes exploring and shooting a breeze.

One of the things I liked best about the game was, oddly enough, reading about it. The game’s options include files containing background on the plot, characters, and enemies. These optional files delivered a lot of interesting information without burdening the game proper with long-winded exposition. Players wanting to immerse themselves in the story of RE5 can read these files; players wanting simply to shoot monsters in the face can play the game without tedious interruptions.

RE5 is fun to play, but not without its faults—many more, I’m sorry to say, than its remarkable predecessor. As long as we’re discussing a game set in Africa, we had better start with the elephant in the room.

Is RE5 racist?

During his mission in Africa, Chris, a white person, ends up shooting a bunch of black people. Granted, these Africans are BOWs infected with mind-controlling parasites, but it still seems awfully racist on the surface. It wouldn’t be so bad if Chris’s partner, Sheva, were unambiguously African. However, she’s light-skinned, speaks unaccented English, and seems more European.

Worst of all, at a few points in the game, the African BOWs dress in a primitive, tribal fashion. This is explained by a footnote—the parasites controlling these Africans cause them to revert to the customs of their distant ancestors—but this depiction of stereotypically savage African natives is the nastiest I’ve seen since Heart of Darkness.

Not Culturally Sensitive

This is not culturally sensitive.

In the end, I think RE5 is not racist. Its enemies happen to be indigenous Africans in the same way the enemies in RE4 happen to be Spanish peasants. There’s no intentional prejudice. There is, however, staggering insensitivity. I’m astonished that apparently nobody on the development team of RE5 realized a game in which a white guy slaughters African natives might be controversial.

Besides concerns of racism, the story of RE5 is a bit campy and the dialogue is horrendous. This wouldn’t be so bad if the game didn’t take itself so seriously. RE4 was just as silly, but it had a sense of humor. Like Doctor Who or Metal Gear Solid, it was extremely kitschy, but also very self-aware. It had one or two absurd villains, some outrageous set pieces, and the ubiquitous merchant.

RE5 lacks those gleams of humor. Where RE4 allows itself to be funny and succeeds, RE5 tries to be grim and fails.

Mechanically, RE5 is not without faults. Chris’s computer-controlled partner, Sheva, can be useful or frustrating depending on the situation. As neat as it was to have a partner, I missed going it alone. Nearly every boss battle revolves around some gameplay gimmick, some unique trick to damage the boss, which is irritating. As much as I appreciate creative gimmicks, I would have liked a few bosses of the traditional, “shoot-them-till-they’re-dead” variety.

There are also so many quick time events. Oh… dear reader… there are so many. In moderation, quick time events can add tension to a game. In RE5, they are a frequent and unpardonable nuisance.

Last of all… Resident Evil 5 isn’t scary.

It’s a fine action game, but it ain’t survival horror. As a third-person shooter, it’s fun. As an entry in Capcom’s respected horror series, it completely misses its mark. The quick time events were pretty much the only things I feared or dreaded in RE5.

Should you play Resident Evil 5? My answer would be: play Resident Evil 4. If you like RE4, and can tolerate quick time events and cultural insensitivity, you’ll probably enjoy RE5. Otherwise, you may want to keep your distance.

Video Game Gospel Music

I’m no stranger to offbeat versions of the Lord’s Prayer, and I’ve heard plenty of a cappella video game music, but… whoa. I mean, whoa.

“Baba Yetu” is the theme of Civilization IV, a game I’ve never played in a series that has never interested me. I first heard this song when my older brother, who is definitely not a gamer, had me listen to it a few years ago.

The song is the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili, and it’s beautiful. This arrangement by Peter Hollens and Malukah, a couple of YouTube musicians, is fantastic. “Baba Yetu” made history a few years ago by being the first song written for a video game to win a Grammy.

I’ve heard enough 8-bit chiptunes and earsplitting dubstep in video games. What they need is more lovely gospel music!

296. A Superhero Debate

I hardly ever quarrel with people, but I once had a heated argument about the religious significance of superhero stories.

We can all agree that some superheroes have higher moral standards that others. Take Batman. Gotham City’s famous vigilante never takes a life. Sure, he shatters bones and causes millions in property damage, but he draws the line at killing people.

Batman will defend you against an army.

Batman will fight for your freedom and safety.

By contrast, consider Deadpool. Marvel’s maverick hitman will kill anyone for the right price, or if he’s bored, or because it’s Tuesday. He’s also a shameless pervert and enjoys blowing up stuff. He may save the day occasionally, but there’s no escaping the fact he’s a scoundrel.

Deadpool will kill you for a chimichanga.

Deadpool will kill you for a chimichanga.

Questions like these are easily answered. Batman is morally superior to Deadpool.

Within the superhero genre, there are many such questions of morality. Some superheroes are nobler than others. Some do what is right; others settle for doing what is “necessary.” Some are unrepentant jerks. We could argue about the morality of specific superheroes, but we face a much bigger question.

What about superheroes in general? What about the entire superhero genre, in which people find great power and accept great responsibility? (Thanks, Uncle Ben.) There’s surely no harm in silly stories of people who fight crime by shooting lasers from their eyes or turning into enormous green rage monsters, is there?

That was my thought, anyway. My opponent, whom I’ll call Socrates, disagreed.

He posited the idea that superhero stories represent humanity’s rebellion against God. Superheroes are faux messiahs: subconscious attempts of sinful human beings to shun divine redemption by redeeming themselves. Who needs Jesus Christ when we’ve got Batman? Superheroes are triumphs of secular humanism. The convoluted cosmologies of their universes leave no room for God.

Having rejected God, said Socrates, humankind created gods.

I disagreed.

I think there’s definitely something messianic in superhero stories, but I don’t believe they’re a rejection of the Messiah. Quite the contrary. Superhero stories are an acknowledgement that we need to be rescued. We need redemption. We need a messiah. Superheroes become, to echo the author of Hebrews, “copies of heavenly things” and “a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.” Batman becomes a symbol of Jesus Christ, not a replacement for him.

In superheroes, I said, humankind has not created idols to be worshiped, but icons pointing to worship of someone greater.

Socrates and I argued for some time, debating intensely and getting nowhere. In the end, a third person stepped in and mildly ended our quarrel by telling us to go to bed. It was for the best, I think. I hardly ever get into debates, but when I do I have a hard time letting them go.

The religious significance of superheroes provides an interesting question, really, and one worth answering.

What’s your take on superheroes? Are they good, bad, or just silly? Let us know in the comments!

295. In Defense of the Fist Bump

In my twenty-odd years, I’ve done some traveling and been immersed in many different cultures. It’s been fascinating to observe different customs for greetings, goodbyes, and displays of respect or affection.

In Ecuador, where I grew up, it’s common for men and women to greet each other with hugs or kisses on the cheek. Uruguay, where my parents work, can be a little more effusive: men often greet other men with cheek kisses. The US, where I currently reside, generally frowns upon such intimate displays of affection; waves and handshakes are the norm. In South Korea, where I spent a month teaching, slight bows are used to demonstrate respect or gratitude.

Yes, I’ve seen all kinds of greetings. Which is the best? My all-time favorite greeting, by far, is the gentleman’s gesture known as the fist bump.

The fist bump is quick, friendly, informal, and surprisingly healthy. Handshakes spread germs like nobody’s business. Besides, palms perspire and that’s gross. There’s also the discomfort that comes from knowing neither how hard to grip a hand nor for how long to hold it.

Hugs, especially with strangers or distant acquaintances, aren’t much better. Am I the only person who finds it awkward to press my body up against someone whom I don’t know well? It was also uncomfortable in Ecuador and Uruguay when people swooped in to kiss me.

I… actually have no criticisms for slight bows. I bow to people occasionally. It’s a pity bowing hasn’t caught on in the West.

Fist bumps are definitely my favorite greeting, though. They represent a kind of warm, casual friendliness while never getting too up close and personal. Fist bumps are quick, easy, and sanitary. As I work in a group home for gentlemen with disabilities—an environment in which no one washes his hands without being asked—fist bumps are an especially welcome alternative to handshakes.

If you ever happen to run into me, dear reader, feel free to give me a fist bump.

The Darker Side of Toy Story

Meet Creepy Woody

Who would make a toy like this? This is a genuine, honest-to-goodness toy. Who on God’s green earth thought giving a classic Pixar character that perverted expression was a good idea? This is one Woody I’m really, really thankful won’t ever come to life when I’m not looking.

As much as I like the Toy Story movies, I’m glad toys don’t have secret lives of their own. We just assume toys would be well-behaved, but what guarantee is there of that? What’s to say some of them wouldn’t be misanthropic jerks?

Creepy Woody #1

Creepy Woody #2

Creepy Woody #3

I rest my case.

294. The God Who Hides

I’ve been rereading Exodus lately. It’s really boring.

Sure, the book of Exodus has its exciting bits. The book’s first half tells the story of Moses, and how God worked through him to rescue Israel from its slavery in Egypt. It’s an engaging story: the Lord strikes Egypt with all kinds of interesting disasters, and Moses’s standoff with Pharaoh gets pretty heated.

Moses and the Israelites end up in the desert next to a mountain called Sinai, and that’s where things grind to a halt. God, who appears to the Israelites as a cloud, retreats to the mountaintop. After laying out a bunch of societal regulations for Israel, God commands Moses to climb Sinai in order to receive… more rules and instructions.

I won’t go into more details because, honestly, they’re rather tedious. Besides those details, however, something stands out to me from the second half of Exodus.

God keeps his distance.

At Sinai, God gives the Israelites very specific instructions to avoid the mountain. Only Moses is permitted to climb to its summit, and even then he isn’t allowed to see God’s full glory.

Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (33:21-23)

From all Israel, God’s chosen nation, only one man gets a brief, incomplete glimpse of God. It’s pretty much the closest anyone comes to seeing the Lord in the Old Testament. Sure, God makes a few appearances here and there, but he mostly seems to run things from behind the scenes. Only a few priests are allowed anywhere near God’s presence in his places of worship. Just a handful of leaders and prophets ever glimpse him.

I have often wondered why God seems so distant—especially in our own skeptical, pluralist, postmodern age. The silence of God troubles me greatly, and faith sometimes seems foolish. Is it fair for God to demand obedience and fealty without providing irrefutable evidence of his existence?

I don’t know. Is it okay to admit that? I really don’t know.

Maybe God keeps his distance because we can’t handle the full measure of his power and holiness. That view certainly finds support in the Old Testament. (It’s also supported by the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark in which God’s glory fries a bunch of Nazis, but Indiana Jones movies might not be the best resource for theological speculation.) It’s possible that God hides because faith, “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” is a virtue he values highly. If God were obvious, faith would not be possible.

It’s worth pointing out that after seeming largely absent in the Old Testament, God showed up in the New Testament in the person of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus didn’t keep his distance. Heck, he spent much of his time with the sort of people no one else would go near. Christ touched lepers and chatted with floozies. He was as close and immediate as God had previously seemed distant and unapproachable.

I’m comforted by some of Christ’s final words as he hung dying on a cross. He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

These few words reveal something I find almost unbelievable: even Jesus Christ was troubled by the seeming distance and silence of God. I don’t get it. I don’t understand why God seems so far away. Apparently—at that moment—neither did his Son.

Some of my questions may never be answered, but I’m far from the only person asking, and that gives me hope.

293. Adam Turns into the Hulk and Rants about Internet Ads

Caution: This blog post contains furious ranting. Sensitive readers, and readers averse to things being smashed, are advised not to continue.

Life is full of necessary evils: taxes, dentists, and spinach, to name just a few. Of all these necessities, none are more evil than advertisements. Billboards are an eyesore and television commercials a nuisance, but Internet ads are the worst.

Yes, I understand the necessity of advertisements. Websites, blogs, and email services don’t pay for themselves. I appreciate these services, and I’m thankful to use them for free, but some of the ads they throw at me are abominably bad.

These adverts are misleading, intrusive, insulting, offensive, or simply so stupid as to be painful. They make me angry, and it ain’t pretty when I’m angry. Internet ads are such a blasted bother!

They’re terrible… make me sick… I really don’t feel well… stupid ads… I… I…

BLOG SMASH!

FREAKING ADS. SMASH! SMASH THEM ALL!

HULK HATE ADS. HULK HATE THEM ALL!

WELL, HULK THINK SOME ADS OKAY. SOME ADS CLEVER OR FUNNY. THESE ADS NOT BAD. HULK APPRECIATE TIME, EFFORT, AND CREATIVITY PUT INTO THEM.

(HULK NOW USE OXFORD COMMA. YOU NOTICE? HULK THANKS ALL WHO CHIMED IN ON GRAMMAR DEBATE!)

A FEW ADVERTS OKAY, BUT MANY INSULT HULK, LIKE SHADY ADS PROMISING HIGHER TESTOSTERONE, LARGER PENIS, EASY WEIGHT LOSS, OR BIGGER ABS. (HULK ALREADY HAVE BIG MUSCLES. NO NEED BIGGER ABS!) SUCH ADS ARE BLATANTLY FALSE ADVERTISING AND SHOULD BE SMASHED.

ON SUBJECT OF DISHONEST ADVERTISING, HULK HATE ADS DISGUISED AS COMPUTER UPDATES. SNEAKY ADS SAY THINGS LIKE “Click here to update Windows!” OR “Important updates are ready for download!” BUT ARE OBVIOUS FAKES. WHERE THEY LEAD? VIRUSES? PORN? HULK NOT WANT TO KNOW.

SOME ADS INTRUSIVE. WHEN HULK GO TO EMAIL OR NEWS SITE, AD SOMETIMES EXPAND TO TAKE UP WHOLE SCREEN. HULK MUST STOP, SEARCH FOR TINY “Close” ICON, AND SHUT WRETCHED AD.

ADVERTISEMENTS DESERVE SPACE ON INTERNET. HULK CONCEDE THAT. BUT ADS NOT WELCOME TO TAKE OVER HULK’S COMPUTER SCREEN. IT’S INAPPROPRIATE AS SALESPEOPLE BARGING INTO HULK’S HOME.

AND SOME ADS HAVE “Tweet” OR “Post to Facebook” OPTIONS. WHY WOULD HULK INFLICT ADS ON OTHER PEOPLE? HULK DISGUSTED BY COMPANIES WITH AUDACITY TO ASK HULK TO PROMOTE THEIR PRODUCTS FOR FREE. HULK NOT PAID TO ANNOY PEOPLE WITH ADS.

ADS DON’T HAVE TO INTRUDE TO GET MESSAGE ACROSS.

AND THAT MESSAGE CAN BE AWFUL. FOR EXAMPLE, FACEBOOK GIVE HULK ADS FOR SHADY “Adult game—18+ Years only!” BROWSER GAMES, ADS PLASTERED IN PICTURES OF BIG-BREASTED GIRLS IN DEGRADING POSES AND SILLY LINGERIE.

WHY DO INTERNET ADS ASSUME HULK IS VOYEUR OR PERVERT? WHY DO ADS DISRESPECT WOMEN AND ASSAIL HULK WITH SOFT PORN?

INDIGNANT HULK IS INDIGNANT.

LOOK, HULK KNOW ADS NECESSARY. HULK UNDERSTAND, BUT CAN’T INTERNET HAVE QUALITY CONTROL? CAN’T REPUTABLE WEBSITES RESPECT THEMSELVES AND VISITORS ENOUGH TO RESTRICT SLEAZY, DISHONEST, INTRUSIVE, MISLEADING, OR POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS ADVERTISING?

DOES MONEY MEAN MORE TO INTERNET THAN SAFETY AND DIGNITY OF HUMAN BEINGS?

HULK PLEAD WITH INTERNET. PLEASE. PLEASE BE RESPONSIBLE IN MONITORING, APPROVING, AND DISPLAYING ADVERTISEMENTS.

HULK OUT!

I… ugh, I have a headache, and my room is a mess. Did I just have another Hulk episode, or are my typewriter monkeys to blame? You know, I’m going to blame my monkeys for this one. Freaking primates.

Heavy Metal Disney Music

I feel like I’ve posted a lot of Disney music lately, and all of it has been “Let It Go.” While it’s certainly a great song, “Let It Go” is hardly Disney’s best. Walt Disney Animation Studios has produced dozens of films, and some of them have really rocking soundtracks. Alan Menken, a longtime Disney composer, has won, like, eight Academy Awards.

Yes, Disney has some great music, and it’s time for TMTF to move the spotlight from “Let It Go” to the one Disney song I think we can all agree is the very best.

I speak, of course, of “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan.

All right, maybe this song isn’t Disney’s absolute best, but it’s certainly my favorite. I loved it when I saw the movie as a kid, and I love it fifteen years later. I wasn’t planning on showcasing more Disney music on TMTF any time soon, but dang if this isn’t the most epic cover of a Disney song I’ve ever heard.

292. Why I Failed as an Author

A number of days ago, I noticed a map on my bedroom wall.

Rovenia

I have several maps in my room besides this one: a map of the world, a map of Middle-earth, and a map of Skyrim that was a gift from someone at work. This one, a map of Rovenia, was lurking above my window. I’d nearly forgotten it was there.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of a place called Rovenia? Of course you haven’t, because I made it up.

Rovenia was the setting for a novel titled The Trials of Lance Eliot, the first book of a planned trilogy. I published it about two years ago—a little less than a year after buying typewriter monkeys (what a mistake!) and starting this blog.

Fifteen months later, I pronounced Lance Eliot dead. My short, stressed career as an author was ended.

I may pick up The Eliot Papers sometime. Lance Eliot’s story is certainly one I want to finish. At the moment, however, I don’t think it’s terribly likely. I’m busy enough with work and blogging and all the responsibilities that come from being a grownup.

My map of Rovenia set me thinking about why I failed as an author. I came up with a few reasons, which I toss out today as friendly warnings to all the aspiring authors out there. Don’t make my mistakes. Learn from them, and rise to success!

I didn’t do my research

When I took my first few, tentative steps into the publishing industry, I had absolutely no idea of what I was doing. My ideas of what it meant to publish a book and be an author were hopelessly naïve. A little research would have saved me a lot of time, effort, and discouragement.

I didn’t use my real name

When I began working on The Eliot Papers, I had the romantic notion of using a pen name. It was part of an elaborate frame story for the novels, in which Lance Eliot’s “memoirs” were “discovered” by an “editor,” who published them in the guise of fiction. It wasn’t a terrible idea—Lemony Snicket did pretty much the same thing—but it had one fatal flaw. Without a major publisher to market my book for me, I had to use my real name to promote it. Using both a real identity and an assumed one during the book’s release was a headache, and probably confused people.

I didn’t promote my book effectively

Oh, how I tried to promote The Trials of Lance Eliot. It had its own blog. I had an author page on Facebook and account on Goodreads. Readers submitted reviews, which I shared. It wasn’t enough. Looking back, I realize I should have done more: book blog tours, giveaways, submitting the book to more reviewers, and perhaps even setting up readings in the local library.

I didn’t set realistic goals

As I worked on the manuscripts for The Eliot Papers, I expected way too much of myself. I set impossible deadlines and tried to juggle my book, this blog, a full-time job, and a handful of other projects. There was no way I could do it all.

I didn’t work far enough ahead

When I published The Trials of Lance Eliot, I had written a few chapters of its sequel. Those chapters are pretty much all I have written. After the first book came out, I was far too busy promoting it and writing this blog to work on a sequel. I should have finished, or at least nearly finished, my manuscripts for the entire trilogy before publishing the first part. It would have allowed me to market the book without diverting some of my time and energy to its sequels.

I didn’t plan time for writing

It was a mistake to think I could make steady progress on a book and a blog. This blog has deadlines. My book didn’t. Guess which one was neglected! I also dabbled in a few other personal projects, none of which succeeded. Those could have waited—the book should have taken priority.

I did buy typewriter monkeys

I blame my monkeys for all of my failures. All of them.

Do I regret trying to be an author? No. What I regret is doing it so badly. All the same, the years I put into writing and publishing The Eliot Papers gave me much invaluable experience as a writer and editor. It also taught me lessons about managing my time, setting reasonable goals, and enjoying creativity for its own sake.

If any of my dear readers are writing books or hoping to become authors, keep going! Don’t give up!

Just don’t make my mistakes… and don’t ever buy typewriter monkeys.