Could one of these be the next Harry Potter?

Ten brilliant billion-dollar children's book and movie franchise ideas!

The Harry Potter book and movie series did wonders for the self-esteem of depressed unemployed car-dwelling single mothers writing children's books on napkins all over the world. Now that JK Rowling showed it can indeed be done, here are some ideas for what may prove to be the next hit children's fantasy franchise, with a little less of all that silly wizardry and a little more something pretty much almost exactly along those same lines actually.

Above: Hortense Cumberbatch is on the case!

1) Barry Cotter and the Thinker's Rock
Young orphaned magician Barry Cotter discovers a magic gateway to a magician's school called Pigzits where he befriends a young Penn and Teller as they learn magic from douchy magicians with mullets and capes, mastering tricks like pulling a rabbit out of a hat and sawing an assistant in two. They thwart an attempted comeback by the evil magician Lord Copperfield, who killed Barry's parents with boredom when Barry was one year old, and somehow magic-tricked Claudia Schiffer into marrying him, all with the help of another magician, Gob Bluth, whose own magic tricks -- or "illusions" as he calls them -- save the day at Pigzits thanks to his special "unseeability blanket", a.k.a. the Aztec Tomb. Any resemblance to the Harry Potter storyline is purely coincidental.

2) Hortense Cumberbatch and the Myopic Mugwump
Mike Leigh's unforgettable children's character from Secrets and Lies, Hortense Cumberbatch is back! This time the orphaned optometrist has to crack the case of a mysterious near-sighted tergiversating politician from 1884 who can't figure out which side of the political "spectrum" he's on until Cumberbatch saves the day, building him a pair of "perspectacles" with which to gain a more "long-range view" of his and his nation's political interests as he "sees" that Grover Cleveland is the best man for the job! Cumberbatch's success silences her "myopic" critics, who are perplex(iglass)ed! Also, she hates herself in the mirror.

3) Gregor Samsa and the Penal Colony
A hilarious melange of beloved children's author Franz Kafka's adorable Gregor Samsa from the Metamorphosis on the one hand, and his enchanting tale In The Penal Colony on the other! Gregor Samsa wakes up to find himself a giant insect in a penal colony where his family disown him and eventually torture him to death with a machine that carves Samsa's crime into his exoskeleton, which, being chitin, is hard to penetrate, so then his assistants -- who are the two bouncing balls from Blumfeld, An Elderly Bachelor -- bounce repeatedly on the giant needle so as to gradually nail it into Samsa's body as he's ripped to shreds while "I AM A DIRTY BUG" is carved over and over, even after he's virtually disintegrated! This educative book will also introduce children to fun new words like entomomorphicide, meaning "the killing of those in insect form", and will have very graphic illustrations to help focus on the story! There's also a moral dimension to this tale that asks "Is it a crime to be a giant bug?" to which the answer is: OBVIOUSLY.

4) JK Rowling and the Napkins of Starbucks
A napkins-to-riches tale of a depressed down-and-out single mother and English literature graduate who, during a train ride from Manchester to London, finds inspiration to write a novel about a wizardry school on napkins in cafes. While going cafe to cafe in search of napkins to write on, she finds the perfect napkin, durable, firm, smooth and unyielding, in her least favorite cafe: Starbucks. As Rowling reconciles her love for these napkins with her hatred for an evil billion-dollar corporate franchise that gets rich off virtual slave labor and overpriced beverages, she finds the winning formula that propels her to launch her own billion-dollar franchise based on what she has written on the napkins of Starbucks. There is a happy ending, of course, as Starbucks and Rowling make a deal to join forces to create a successful merchandising deal whereby Starbucks creates Harry Potter-themed coffee mugs and also makes magic brooms handily available in every Starbucks establishment in case anybody who works there magically decides they'd like to clean the fucking toilets once in a while.

5) Topsy Turvy and the Upside Down People
Young Topsy Turvy's family have just moved into a new home and she's feeling lonely, until, after climbing her bookshelf to catch a pretty little butterfly that flitted into her room, she touches the ceiling and discovers that there is a whole other invisible upside down world of creatures who share the same house, and for whom the ceiling is their floor and Topsy Turvy's floor is their ceiling! Topsy Turvy makes friends with them, but nobody believes that this upside down world exists, and they tell her it's a figment of her imagination, which it is, because it turns out Topsy Turvy is demented and the book ends with her being committed to a children's mental asylum. This story will inspire kids all over the world to climb bookshelves and touch the ceiling in a misguided attempt to recreate the magic of the book! It's a recipe for success, and also maybe a few lawsuits.

6) Kallamazoo Shitfly and Splosh the Magic Shitbucket 
An endearing scatalogical story about a child who falls into a bucket of shit when he's just 2 years old, where he remains for three days because his alcoholic valium-addicted mother is passed out on the kitchen floor, dying of cirrhosis. While in the shitbucket, he forms a heartwarming fecal bond with the flies buzzing around him as they lick the shit off his face with their tiny little fly tongues (illustrations a must!). The flies become his shitty lifelong companions and Kallamazoo Shitfly always carries a magic bucket of shit around with him (whom he affectionately names Splosh) as they solve shitty mysteries and get into shitty adventures. The shitbucket has predictably shitty special powers. It changes form, shape, smell and texture to suit the shitty situation at hand (eg: when things go to shit, it turns semi-solid and hits the nearest fan, or when Kallamazoo and friends are in a shitty part of the world, it transforms into diarrhea and is very hard to control). The main idea here is shit, a billion dollars worth of shit.

7) Skeeter Granolaeater and the Hacky Sack of Hemp
Hippie hero Skeeter Granolaeater meets a circle of hippies from whom he hears of the fabled hacky sack of hemp, a magical ball with many uses, but he gets stoned instead and just hangs out and eats granola bars and completely forgets about the magic ball of hemp as he plays hacky sack all day with a normal old hacky sack. The End.

8) Inky McBlotter and the Messy Essay (Messay?)
There's ink all over this, so it's not even legible, but the title's pretty self-explanatory anyway.

9) Lord of the Flies
A children's book where children kill each other on an island!

10) I'm too bored to figure out a tenth one. So, I don't know... Farty McFart Fart and the Fart of Farts?

Ugh, what a waste of time.


A Dialogue on Existence

- I have a feeling I may not exist.

- Are you kidding?

- No seriously, I feel like I'm not here. I feel like I'm not anywhere.

- Well if it's just a feeling then it will probably pass.

- Maybe, but when I think about it, what proof is there?

- Proof?

- Yeah, I mean I may just be in a dream believing I'm real but no more real than anything anyone dreams. I mean, what's the proof I exist at all?

- I don't know, why do you need proof?

- Well, I think I'd like to be sure of something as important as whether I exist or not, wouldn't you?

- I guess not, I've never needed it before. It just seems unnecessary.

- Oh, so you think it's unnecessary to know whether or not you exist?

- Mmm, yeah. I mean, think of it this way, is there any proof you don't exist?

- Hm, I guess I couldn't prove that either...

- Right, so lack of proof that you exist doesn't necessarily mean you don't exist. It just means that maybe it's something you can't logically prove either way, and perhaps existence is proven because, paradoxically, it's not subject to proof.

- Hold on, that doesn't sound right. So you're saying absence of proof may be the proof I'm looking for that I exist?

- Well, no, not the proof you're looking for, but it just may be the indication that your existence is unique, and not subject to the rules of logic and reason and truth and certainty, at least not in the way that you think. Perhaps the fact that you're always inescapably at the center of your whole experience of life, a center which you can never extricate yourself from so as to see yourself with objective certainty the way you may think you see all else, perhaps that is the greatest indicator that there is someone who experiences the world, and that that vantage point from which it is experienced can only be you and nothing else. In other words, there must be someone, a subject, for there to be any experience at all. A tree can stand in the place of a house, a dog can stand in the place of a cat, a mountain may be where once was a river, but you and only you can be where the world is experienced, where the world exists all around you, and of which you are an inextricable part. So like I said, the fact that you can't stand outside your experience or your being to verify objectively your existence is itself all the proof you need, though like I said, it's not exactly the factual and empirical kind of proof that you're looking for.

- Then what good is it? What good is it if the dearest and most precious thing on earth, my, our, existence, cannot be proven, cannot be demonstrated as empirical fact, cannot be known for sure?

- Why's that such a big deal? Even if you're just a figment of some strange God or devil's imagination, that doesn't mean your life doesn't have any meaning. I mean, you, we, live as if there were meaning, as if we and the things we live amongst, this world we inhabit, were all real, all meaningful, right? There seems to be logical and temporal consistency to our lives, certain set patterns, rules of cause and effect, interwoven events connected through what has been, things that everyone can agree exist outside of us because they are shaped by all of us... events, memories, language. We can agree that that's a road, this is a bridge, that's the Empire State Building, and this language we communicate through is English. Everything seems to point to a world inhabited by you and others.

- Yes but that could just mean that the dreaming demon has conjured a very elaborate and perfectly constructed dream world of consistency in which each and every one of us has the illusion that we exist, a world in which all those memories, that language, those things we see, the roads we drive on, the laws of causation and physics, all of it may only have been plotted and planned out in an elaborate way to give the semblance of an organic and intricate wholeness, that is really just a world constructed within a mind of which we are mere figments of imagination, simulacra...

- You seem to overestimate the powers of one mind. A mind creates all the illusion of all the languages, all the stars and phenomena of the universe, right down to the quantum level, all the memories and events and histories that form the foundation for our existence... a mind creates all that? What kind of being could do that?

- God, obviously. Or a Godlike demon who wants to trick us. Perhaps a malicious God who's toying with us?

- But if this Godlike being were trying to trick us by not offering the requisite logical proof that we exist, wouldn't it actually be tricking itself? If anything, the joke would be on the God, not you. If the God has set out to create the perfect illusion that you exist but then fails to offer the necessary logical foundation that can prove that existence, isn't the God imperfect? I mean, God would be imperfect either in the sense that it created an imperfect world without logical proof of existence, or it created an imperfect world without the ability to enable its creation -- you and I -- to be logically tricked into the certainty of the creation. So either way you look at it, such a God must be imperfect. Yet you cannot imagine an imperfect God, because God is by definition perfect, therefore such a God is not God. And if only a God can create the sort of imaginary world you and I inhabit as simulacra, then it seems nothing has created such a world, or ever could create such a world, so therefore, the world is actually there, albeit still imperfect, but that's fine now, because once God is out of the equation, perfection is no longer an issue. It is an imperfect world with no proof of our existence, because proof is reliant on a sense of perfection -- in this case, the perfection of understanding the logical foundations of our existence -- and so in an imperfect world, it's precisely the lack of proof itself that is what "proves" our admittedly imperfect existence.

- Ok, that holds if we assume this illusory existence was the work of a God, but what if it were a malicious demon? A malicious demon bent on tricking us that we exist, toying with us?

- Well then maybe you could fall back on the Cartesian cogito: I think, therefore I am.

- Well, that doesn't work either. Something thinks, yes, because we can't deny there is a thought of our existence, but who's to say that thought is my thought? Who's to say it's not I who thinks I'm thinking, but is actually a malicious demon making me think I'm thinking, when really both I and my thought are thoughts conjured in the head of the demon?

- Well then there's an equivalence of value by which you would be proven to exist. Here's how, it's simple: You accept the thought is there, whether it be yours or the demon's, correct?

- Yes.

- Well if the thought is true, regardless of there still being doubt as to the origins of that thought, then it follows that if you consider a thought of the malicious and duplicitous demon to be true, you must then assume any thought of the demon must have an equivalent chance of being true -- after all, the demon is tricky and trying constantly to fool you. Therefore, if the thought "one thinks therefore one is" is true in the duplicitous demon's mind which you inhabit, then it's just as likely that "I think, therefore I am" is also true, as this statement also is conjured in the same demon's mind. If there is an absolute equivalence of meaning, and if some thinking thing must exist because there's no doubt that the thought of existing exists, then it follows that there is as likely a chance that you exist as does the demon. So which of the two seems more likely then to exist? You, whom I see here before me, thinking and speaking, or some demon? I will pick you.

- Ok, but that still doesn't prove I exist, there's still doubt, right? It could, logically, still be the demon that thinks and exists. It's improbable, sure, but not impossible.

- Yeah, but it's also not impossible that you are a unicorn in human disguise. But do you doubt you are a human based on the slim possibility that you may be a unicorn in human disguise?

- I guess not, no, but it still doesn't satisfy me that I can't prove I exist. I think I think, therefore I think I must exist, but what if another thinks instead and tricks me into thinking it is I who thinks?

- Well then think of it this way: you will never prove your existence, nor should you try. You cannot stand outside of yourself and the world and say, from an objective standpoint, "There I am, I see me there, I must exist". But you can see yourself in the world, in existence, in and amongst the things that have meaning for you, entangled with all around you, with other thinking beings, entangled through experiences, communication and shared lives. So you can choose instead to revert it and say: I am, therefore I think. Without your existence, there would be no thought.

- I am, therefore I think. Not much proof to it, but I guess it'll do.

- It does do, and you don't know it. It does for all of us. It may not be subject to a process of rational, objective proof, but look around you, who actually doubts their existence?

- Well, me.

- Then think of it this way: what is the worst that can happen to you in life?

- I could die.

- Yes, death. If lack of proof of your existence bothers you so much, then just take comfort in the fact that death is also an illusion.

- But it's cold comfort to say death is an illusion to someone who suspects they never were alive in the first place.

- I guess so. But I wouldn't worry about it if I were you.

- Why not?

- Because you're just a figment of my imagination.


C'mon everyone, let's read something I wrote!

It's about time you showed me a little interest and took some time out of your day to read what I have to say about something or other

Time is limited. With the amount of material there is out there to read, not to mention all the films and TV series there are to watch, all the computer games there are to be played, along with all the work we have to do in between, it's no wonder very few of us have time to read what I write. So that's why I thought I'd take this opportunity to convince you to do so. In fact, why not start with this?

Hear me out here. If you've come this far, you're already on the right track. So why not continue? Do you like what you've read so far? You probably at least don't hate it, because you're still reading. So just trust your instincts and keep in mind what I have to offer. First off, the technical stuff is all there: punctuation, grammar, spelling... check, check, and check (notice my perfect use of commas). Next off, I offer content. In this case, I offer excellent motivational content on why you should be reading this. Also, I offer self-betterment, because there is no better way to be informed about why you should read me than by actually reading me. So all three or four or however many of those points there were, are all there, in favor of me. Why not keep giving me a go?

Still here? Good! You've already made it nearly halfway through my article. That's already a huge effort on your part, because you could've instead spent the last few minutes reading Twitter or Candace Bushnell or The Huffington Post or Shakespeare. But instead you picked me. And just think of what that means. First off, the fact that you're reading me is very good for how I feel about myself. Being read is a great motivational boost, and that will mean that I will be even keener to write more stuff, knowing that you and others like you are reading. So the more you read, the more I write, and the more you read what I write the more I write because you read what I write and the... Secondly, you reading what I write is a great way to find out about the qualities that make me interesting enough for you to read, because there's no better place to find my readable qualities than in what I write, and so the writing speaks for itself -- myself -- in a way... actually in both ways. Thirdly... never mind, let's stop at two. Two reasons seem sufficient to me there and it was getting a little confusing anyway.

Notice how I divide my writing up into paragraphs? That makes the article a little more digestible and a little less like just one big block of text. Notice how the paragraphs are more or less divided up into equal numbers of lines: paragraph one is five lines, paragraph two is 10 lines, paragraph three is 15 lines. Ok, that's not equal sized paragraphs but that is steady growth by five lines with each paragraph... But that would mean this paragraph should be 20 lines. I have to be honest, I'm intending to end this paragraph here because I don't know what more to say about paragraphs. This paragraph was seven lines. The pattern is screwed now, I guess. Maybe I shouldn't have written this or you shouldn't have read it. But if I told you not to read it, this whole article I've been writing would be pointless, so let's not let that happen. So read it, but just sort of gloss over this paragraph, if you like. (amendment: this paragraph ended up being 12 lines, but it's still not good if you're looking for a pattern)

To conclude, there is a lot to read, and I really want you to read me, and others to read me too. I write, so you can't say "You have nothing for me to read". So you can't use that excuse. There's this and other articles like this too. Secondly... assuming the thing I said just before this sentence was "Firstly"... secondly, I'm very interested in being read because it gives me recognition, which makes me feel better about myself, releasing endorphins that make me feel happy, and that's important. Also important is feeling self-important, and nothing says self-important more than a blogger looking to get read by as many people as possible. Thirdly... never mind, the third point can wait, just those two points should do. Fourthly... well, thirdly, actually, because I just thought of a third point now on the fourth point... thirdly, you should tell others to read me and exaggerate how amazing I am.

You've made it to the end! Congratulations to both you and me on you having read me!