Saturday, August 31, 2013

Holy hell, I haven't posted here in so long I couldn't remember my login.

Suffice to say that if you're still reading this blog, you have not come to, where the majority of my focus is now.

Sorry, but the writing life limits me. My next book, IN HER CORNER, will be out March 2014. Check out for more details!

I'll leave this blog open, but don't expect to see much in the way of updates.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Wussification of Darth Vader

It's official: Darth Vader is no longer cool. He's a burger.

I'm not sure how we've reduced the Lord of the Sith to a couple of meat patties between an entirely unappetizing pair of blackened buns. As the American Film Institute's number 3 villain behind Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates, you'd think he would have a little more cred. But his reputation as galactic bad-ass seems to have deteriorated over the past years ten years or so. What happened to the days when Imperial officers went to work every morning afraid they were going to be Force-choked? What happened to the Vader who was the symbol of the Reagan-era Cold War when "Star Wars" meant the possibility of Russians and Americans duking it out in space?

My guess is that the Imperial march from feared tyrant to fast food probably had more to do with the prequel movies than anything preceding it. Audiences everywhere cringed and moaned through three films watching Anakin Skywalker's painful anti-hero journey. I propose that the culmination in our first look at the newborn Anakin turned Vader in 2005 set the tone for his subsequent wussification in pop culture.

Because when you come off the table like a Frankenstein monster and scream "Noooooooo!" you're in for the mocking of a lifetime.

Or perhaps you'd prefer the Chinese translation-retranslation of subtitles version that spawned the infamous "Do not want" meme:

Of course, there have been plenty of parodies and jokes before the prequels (see Spaceballs, 1987). But much of that happened before we knew about the origins of Vader. There was still mystery surrounding his life, and we were left to speculate why he was the person he was, given only the barest glimpses of his humanity in crucial moments in the original trilogy.

Now we know Vader was a reckless immaculate conception slave kid with anger issues, a swollen ego, and a mommy complex. And Lucas, in all his great wisdom, has decided to reissue the original trilogy and add that extra "Noooooooooo!" to the end of Return of the Jedi so that we can bookend the story between two hugely unappetizing pieces of crap.

Not unlike that burger, actually.

For your perusal:

Spaceballs, 1987

Chad Vader, 2006

Darth Vader Dancing to "Can't Touch This", 2009

Robot Chicken Star Wars--Orientation Day on the Death Star, 2010

Volkswagen Commercial, 2011

Cello Wars (Star Wars Parody) by Steven Sharp Nelson (see 2:05), 2011

Darth Vader for President (Rick Perry Strong Parody), 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mad Men: Don Draper in the First Three Episodes of the First Season

I'm Don Draper! I'm dashing and handsome, with well tailored suits, ice-blue eyes that will stop your heart and freeze your soul, and a chin cleft you can strike a match on. Look at my lover! Isn't she hot? Check out my office! It's swank and we drink and smoke and sexually harass the womenfolk all the time. Not only that, but I've got a beautiful house in the suburbs, a beautiful wife and two kids. Weren't the fifties great?

(But deep down inside, I don't know who I am or what I want or why I'm here. You can tell because I start to talk more slowly when I go too deep into my dark thoughts, and my eyes go all shimmery.)

Check me out while I be all debonair for this sexy ice-queen lady and put her in a compromising position. She totally deserved to be put in her place for pulling that strong-woman bullshit at the meeting.

(Inside, I'm dying...grasping for what, I don't know.)

My wife is hot, and she's mine, and I know she'll never be displeased with me, which is why I get away with all kinds of shit.

(I want to die.)

Look, honey, a puppy!

(I'm drunk.)

I'm sure this show will get better, according to everyone around me. But if the Draper is going to be this self-centered throughout the series, I think I might have a hard time stomaching it.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

In Which I Speak Entirely in Star Wars to the Hubby

Me: I love you so much, honey. I'm so lucky to have you.
Him: It's not luck. You asked me out.
Me: "In my business, there's no such thing as luck."
Him: *smiles*
Me: "Nothing like a good blaster at your side, kid."
Him: *looks away*
Me: "That's no moon!"
Him: *turns over to sleep*
Me: "...Boring conversation anyhow."

Friday, August 05, 2011

I stopped because he wasn't moving...and because I had nothing better to do

Today I tried to help a man who was sleeping in the street.

This does not make me a hero. I am not writing about this to brag.

In fact, I am ashamed to admit that the only reason I took notice and stopped to do something about it was because I had time to do so. Nowhere to go, nothing pressing to take care of. I helped him because I had nothing better to do.

I had the afternoon off and was reveling in my free time. When I walked by the shirtless man prone on the sidewalk on Yonge Street south of Bloor, I thought it would be a good deed to bring him a bottle of water and some chocolate to help him through whatever he was trying to sleep off.

When I returned with provisions, he was still lying there in half-fetal position, taking up half the sidewalk. I wondered how long he'd been motionless in that busy corridor while everyone walked around him.

I bent down and tried to call him awake. He didn't move. I asked if he was all right. No response. I gave him a little poke and shook him. He was breathing, thank God. He didn't smell particularly off--no urine or vomit or even alcohol. But his clothes were ragged, and his bare torso was covered in scrapes, sores and bruises. On his back was a big indigo tattoo that said Mom. On his arm, Madison. Portraits of smiling faces circled his back, sides and chest. They were quite skillfully done.

"Crack," a man in a suit above me said. He was in his late-forties, a stout guy who looked like he'd seen a lot of the city, with nice but worn black dress shoes, thick-framed glasses and a yellow tie.

I stared up at him, confused by his comment. "He hasn't moved in a really long time. I stopped because I was concerned."

He was with two female companions, who waited for him up ahead. Frowning, he pulled out a cell phone and dialed 911. Some people slowed, stopped to watch a moment before walking on. I continued to try coaxing the man to wakefulness, but he didn't bat an eye. Dead to the world, but still breathing.

Yellow Tie was on hold. "It's probably drugs or booze," he said. "He's probably just sleeping it off."

I had decided that was probably the case, but I hadn't stopped because he was "just another drunk." The man was lying on the ground in the middle of Yonge Street and no one was stopping to check on him. No one. If it had been me lying on the ground like that, how long would it have taken people to stop and check on me? How many people would have assumed "drunk druggie" and moved on?

"How did you know it was crack?" I asked. I was looking for track marks or some outward evidence of substance abuse. I don't really know how crack works.

He opened his mouth, blinked, hesitated before saying, "I've dealt with a lot of Native peoples on reservations." But I think we both had the same thought then: we had no idea what had left this man senseless, sleeping on the bare concrete beneath the fetid, oily exhaust of the nearby faux Asian noodle house.

"He's drunk," a young man smilingly told us as he walked by. As if he were informing us that people in this city just lie on sidewalks wherever they please. As though he were being helpful and informative. As though he were telling us the bus wasn't running, but hey, that's public transit for you.

The man with the tattoos was still lying in the street.

"He's probably just sleeping it off." A young woman with a slice of gourmet pizza stopped next to us. "I know this guy. His friends are just around the corner."

"I stopped because he wasn't moving." This had become my mantra.

"Maybe I should call them over." She sighed. "Joe. Hey, Joe, buddy, wake up."

As Yellow Tie continue talking with 911 operators, I chatted with the young woman. I found out she worked at a drop-in refuge centre just around the corner. "Jane" was familiar with the man and his friends. Soon after, a fire truck arrived and three hard-faced firemen came out with first-aid supplies. They questioned Jane and Yellow Tie while they tried to shake Joe awake.

"Make sure to wash your hands really thoroughly," Yellow Tie told me sternly. "I mean it. You don't know what these guys have. Hep C, that kind of thing. Remember." He disappeared after that.

I watched the firemen as they got Joe to move a little. They kept pushing down on a spot on his jaw just below his ear, trying to get him to open his eyes. If he didn't wake up, or couldn't walk away on his own, they would have to take him to the hospital, and they did not seem keen on that. Neither did Jane, whose gourmet pizza slice was now sitting on the ground. I imagine the hospital was the last place Joe wanted to be...apart from the slammer. That possibility hung over all of us.

I started worrying that I'd cause Joe--and everyone else--more harm than good by stopping to see if he was alive. I didn't want him to go to jail--he was just sleeping off whatever was in his system. And the firefighters looked...well, like this was just another day. I worried there could be "real" emergencies elsewhere in the city these firefighters could be attending to. One man sleeping on the street wasn't an emergency. And Jane could have been enjoying her pizza in the park. I told her I felt bad.

"No, you did right." The assertion somehow fell flat. Of course I did right--but I didn't do what other people might have done. I didn't ignore him. If I had, we all would have been allowed to keep moving on with our lives. Joe could have kept sleeping. Maybe that was what would have been best.

Now I was worried he would wake up, but wouldn't be able to walk away.

"You know this guy?" one firefighter asked me.

"I stopped because he wasn't moving."

"I know him." Jane filled them in on his background. He hung out with some guys at the refuge centre and he'd had "a rough night." They asked if drugs or alcohol had been involved. She hesitated. "I don't know for sure. At all. But there was probably crack."

They all nodded, as if this was what they suspected. I still wasn't sure how they could tell.

Finally, Joe stirred and sat up. I was relieved. He didn't say anything--he was still pretty discombobulated--but he managed to bump fists with Jane and with me after I gave him his drinks and chocolate.

I left after that. I didn't want to be another gawker.

And I wanted to wash my hands.

Later, I tried calling Jane at the refuge, but it was closed in the evening. I wanted to know if Joe was all right, and if she had managed to eat her pizza. It couldn't have been very appetizing after all that. I might even had had one delivered to the place to make up for the one left on the sidewalk. Joe could have a slice, too.

And then I realized I sympathized more with the working girl whose lunch was ruined than the man lying on the ground.

I have passed hundreds of men and women sleeping in the street, and many of them in much worse states than Joe. Men lying in their own vomit in the dead of winter, who've defecated in their clothes, who reek of piss and booze and utter despair. And except for the occasional care package at Christmas handed to the cute old man begging outside the dollar store, I have always avoided these derelicts, crossed the street if I had to. Because I have things to do and places to be; because it's none of my business what people do with their lives; because it's stupid for a woman on her own to approach a homeless person she doesn't recognize as harmless.

And I know that despite how I feel when I realize someone needs help--magnanimous, righteous, compassionate--another part of me believes these men and women on the street deserve exactly what they get. That they're passed out in their own filth because they've chosen that life, that if they really wanted help, they'd get it, get a job, get off the street.

And I don't think it's a stretch to say that many of us think the same thing now and again.

Today, I stopped because I saw a man lying on the street and I had time to think about that and ask whether he should be there. He was Native, yes. He was shirtless, yes. But I had no idea why he was there. And I knew I was being racist by assuming it was drugs or alcohol that had him in such a stupor.

Maybe I stopped to prove I wasn't racist. Maybe I stopped because I wanted to feel like I'd done a good deed. I am probably selfish and self-centred enough to delude myself into thinking I was better than all those people who didn't stop.

But I'd like to think I stopped because sleeping like the dead in the middle of a busy sidewalk isn't normal, and--here's where I get on a hypocritical soapbox--we shouldn't accept it as normal.

What if he had been Asian? Black? White? Female? Clean? Fully clothed? In a business suit? Pregnant? Lying in his own vomit? Covered in blood? At what point would you have stopped to check and see if he/she was breathing and asked if he/she needed help?

Homelessness, addiction, abuse and racism is reality. So is selfishness and pride and indifference.

But it doesn't have to be business as usual.

*The names have all been changed to protect the people involved.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Frequently Asked Questions About My Book

Title: Her Son's Hero
Publisher: Harlequin Superromance (#1718)
Author: Vicki Essex
ISBN-13: 978-0-373-71718-7

1. So, it's a romance, right? 'Cuz I don't read romances.
Yeah, it's a romance. And you're a liar: you've read romances, you just don't think they are because other things happen in them. And I didn't say you actually had to READ my book, just BUY it.

2. So, what's it about?
Go check out the Books page on my author website. Though, do you really need to know? All you have to do it BUY MY BOOK.

3. How much is it?
Go check it out on the website. The price ranges around $5-$7. There is a large print, regular print and ebook version. They are all readily available through Amazon, Chapters, your local Walmart, drugstores, grocery stores...pretty much anywhere they sell Harlequin books, which is a LOT of places. BUT...

4. It's only on shelves for a MONTH????
The Harlequin business model means category romances only stay in stores until the next month's books come in. After that, you'll only find hard copies in used bookstores, libraries, and the occasional smaller store. The ebook will be available indefinitely on the Harlequin website. So BUY MY BOOK BEFORE THE END OF AUGUST. 'Cuz after that, you're SOL.

5. Well, what if I just pirate it?
Then you're a bastard, and I'm going to roll you for your latte money next time I see you walking down the street.

6. Is there sex in it?
Yes, there is one sex scene. But the book is mainly about the romantic conflict between the hero and heroine, and while the attraction smolders, you won't find any "throbbing members." At least, I'm pretty sure you won't. If you're a prude, you can easily skip the sex scene without missing much.

7. Will you sign my book?
I'd love to...but you'll do everyone a huge favor if you attend one of my signings. Check out my website for details.

8. Are you writing more?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

UFC 129 Roundup

I think my night can pretty much be summed up in one word:


UFC 129 was amazing. I wasn't sure what I'd get for $150 plus a little extra for the Fight Club membership that got us the tickets before sales were open to the public. I was even a little wary that I wouldn't know what was going on--I pretty much only watch when GSP is fighting, and even then, not really.

But live, the experience is COMPLETELY different. The energy of 55,000 people focusing on two guys in an Octagon just swamps you. The joules of energy put out by the speakers as bass-heavy music throbs through the stadium makes your gut vibrate. The enormous screens everywhere make sure you never miss a moment, and with binoculars, I actually got a great view of everything. On top of that, it's all you can focus on. No walking away to answer the phone, no heading to the computer to check Twitter (the Rogers Centre has no reception when the dome is closed, so just turn off your phone and save battery life, folks). You must watch. And you can't blink, because stuff happens so quick, you can barely believe your eyes.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First off, the walk to the Rogers Centre: I picked up a GSP-style headband, 2 for $10, coming out of Union Station. I don't know what the kanji says (it's got something different from what's on GSP's), but it was cheap enough that I was willing to get one to at least pretend to look like I was a serious fan. With my luck, it probably says "Sucker."

On the way along the Skywalk, dozens of sponsors and companies were handing out products. I did not know that Tapout was actually an energy drink. Buxom, scantily-clad ladies were giving out these insane tallboys in all flavors. The closer to the Dome you got, though, the more cans--open and unopened--we saw lying about. John and I cracked ours open. It was Peach Mango flavored: the manliest of the frooty flavors, apparently. We took a swig.

It tasted like fruit-flavored piss. And yet somehow, John finished it. I'm sure it was giving him a much needed (temporary) boost. (We pretty much walked all the way from our house to the Rogers Centre--about 4 hours worth of walking.)

We missed the first fight on the card, and our friends informed us it was a solid fight. I hadn't hurried much since I thought it might start a little late and would probably feature some boring fights. Boy, was I wrong. The card has almost entirely Canadian fighters up against Americans. It was obvious who the crowd was rooting for. And the fights were fantastic. They put on a good show. My favorite was Rory MacDonald vs Nate Diaz. At 21, Rory MacDonald looks like he's barely learned how to shave. He's lanky as hell, and I could see some serious acne and backne with my binoculars. It was a slow start, and the kid was cautious. It didn't help that Diaz kept taunting him, but that ended quick enough. In the third round, the kid picked him up and slammed him to the ground three times. That third time, everyone shot out of their seats, screaming. It was probably the moment I realized I was having a FREAKING AWESOME TIME. Canadians won all the matchups, except for Yves Jabouin, who lost to Pablo Garza, Sean Pierson, who lost against Jake Ellenberger, and Mark Bocek, who lost against Ben Henderson. But they were still good matches.

Neither John nor I consumed alcohol at this event. Mostly because tallboys--Budweiser or Keith's, no other choices--were $9.75 and $10.75 respectively. I opted for a bottle of Diet Coke--$4.75--and water--$4.50--when the thirst became too much to bear.

In between matches, I frequented the bathroom, which was blissfully lineup free for the ladies. Not so much for guys. (Suck it, males.) Speaking of women, the breakdown was about 1 girl for every 10 guys. Maybe it was better than that, but from where I sat, it was about that.

When Randy Couture came up to fight against Lyoto Machida, the whole audience stood up to applaud him. At 47, the guy has gray in his eyebrows. He had a really strong defense, and kept his guard up always. By the second round, though, Machida KO'd him with a stunning kick to the head. No one was upset. The two men were so gracious to each other. Machida even eschewed his translator during the post-fight Rogan interview so he could tell the world himself how much respect he had for Couture. What a terrific torch-passing match it was.

After that, it was the Hominick/Aldo fight. Aldo's a solid fighter, and really fast. He really had Hominick on the defensive. And then, Hominick got some kind of blow to the head. I couldn't exactly pinpoint when it happened, but it started off as a quarter sized white lump that just swelled and swelled in less than thirty seconds until it looked like a second head was forming. The crowd was screaming in horror. Look at these before and after shots:

They stopped the match so a physician could look at it and make sure it wasn't more serious.

The match went on. Aldo had dominated up to that fifth round, but I think he was afraid to hit that lump again, at which point Hominick managed several takedowns and got some good punches in. The win went to Aldo, though, but Mark got lots of applause. He really took his lumps.

Finally, the main event, GSP vs Jake Shields. It was nearly 11:30 pm by this point. Maybe I was getting tired, but after the excitement of the other matches, I wasn't as pumped as I thought I'd be to see GSP live. Or maybe I was just worried for him. In the end, I was a little disappointed by the fight: GSP kept it almost entirely stand-up. He probably could have finished him on the ground, but I wonder now, since his performance in UFC 111 against Dan Hardy, whether he's trying to give a better show and get more KOs in.

Well, it didn't happen this time. In fact, Shields bloodied GSP's face up pretty good. I'm used to seeing Georges entirely unscathed, so it was a little shocking when I heard later that he had to go to the hospital for his injuries. He sustained a hit to the left eye and apparently he can't see (he assured everyone on Twitter it's not a retina issue.) Kudos to Shields for a good match. He really has been the most dangerous opponent GSP has faced. I'm just a little sad GSP didn't finish him the way he wanted.

So the night should have ended there, but then some lout in our section got into a brawl without someone who messed him up really good. When they broke it up, he went at it with someone else. Security got there eventually and escorted the punk out. Dude was covered in blood and was trying to act all tough by tasting it and smiling for the crowd as they watched him walk away. Stupid ass idiot is going to regret that today when he realizes his ugly ass face is now even uglier.

We called it a night, though John and I hit Chinatown for a late-night meal at King's Noodle.
"Gawn Chow Gnaw Haw" (beef-fried soy sauce rice noodle) is the perfect hangover food even when you're not hungover.

Today, I am recovering and writing and basking in post-fun glow. It was expensive, it was rough, but I had a fantastic time. If the UFC comes back to Toronto, I may be up for another round. Fun times!