Sunday, December 17, 2006

Oooooh, 5K

Also, it appears that my funky little counter has recently clicked over the 5,000 hits mark. which isn't terribly remarkable, but still a decent number. So thanks to all of you who visit here often enough to gradually push that number up, and also to those of you who hardly visit here at all -- your efforts should not be ignored either.

And a special thank you to who, according to my referral logs, was the lucky number 5,000. I'd like to tell you there's a prize, but it'd probably just be some leftover cheese. And trust me, by now, you wouldn't want to eat that stuff.

You may or may not be person of the year

Okay, so, Time Magazine decided to name "YOU" the person of the year. Yeah, you. And you too. Also, you. And you over there. Yeah, you, put that drink down and pay attention, I'm talking to you.

Anyway, yeah. You. Person of the year. It has something to do with the whole Web 2.0 thing, and user driven content, and blah blah blah, but really it's just a great big pile horseshit from a magazine that really should have done better. I guess they had a Christmas party to get to, or something, and sometimes when that deadline's looming over you, you just send whatever random, last-minute crap happens to run through your head.

Nice work, Time Magazine.

Expect a full discussion of the horseshittiness of this topic in next week's column (including, of course, absolutely no use of the word horse, shit, horseshit, or horseshittiness -- which probably isn't even a word, now that I think about it). Until then, here's an entertaining little coincidence that could only happen thanks to the lack of communication between editorial and advertising departments.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

So, yeah, I wrote something

Maybe it’s not entirely obvious. I had sort of thought that by now it would be, but maybe I haven’t spelled it out for you. So here it is. All spelled out.

I don’t have a lot of good things in my life.

I haven’t for years. And for a long time I stopped caring, stopped noticing. Good things are only good things in relation to other not-so-good things. We judge the good in contrast to the bad, and the bad in contrast to the good. And when you go long enough without any good things coming along, you sort of forget that you haven’t seen any good things in awhile. When you spend all your time stuck in ugliness and negativity, you forget what it feels like to be happy, what it feels like to be optimistic, what it feels like to believe, if only for a second, that tomorrow isn’t going to just be another total bag of shit.

And in a way, it’s good that you forget all that. Because it’s the only way that a life like mine could ever be bearable. If I had to spend all of my time thinking about how much I’d lost, how much pain I’d been through, if I found myself constantly reminded how much happier, how much more fulfilled, how many more reasons to be alive the people around me had, I’d probably go insane.

Maybe I have.

Maybe I have and I don’t know it. Maybe I have and I’ll never know it.

Something must have kept me going, in spite of everything else. Something must have kept me going, even as I wanted to throw in the towel, give up on the world, spit in the face of God. Something must have kept me going.

I can’t think of what that something could have been.

At least, until now I couldn’t.

Now I can tell myself, I kept going for this moment. Now I can tell myself, I kept going for Summer, because if I hadn’t kept going, then I never would have met her, never would have had her slip into my life, never would have felt the warmth in my heart that I had thought would never come again. Now I can tell myself that the reason I kept myself alive was because, on some level, I knew that eventually I’d be glad to be alive again. That I knew that something was going to happen, something inspiring, something beautiful, something that would fill me with light and joy.

But seriously, fuck off, I didn’t know a thing.

Love makes you dizzy. Love makes you giddy. Love makes you lose your judgment and your common sense. I was watching as all these things slipped through my fingers, and all the while, love made sure I didn’t care.

Fine, I thought. I’ll be dizzy and giddy and stupid. I’ll be all of those things, and I’ll be glad to be, just give me something real. Give me something I can care about. Give me something worth staying awake for, worth staying alive for.

Because it’s been so goddamn long since I had anything that made either of those things worthwhile. It’s been so goddamn long since I had anything good in my life.

And I know it’s a risk – a massive goddamn risk – to put so much importance on one person. To give the keys to my salvation to Summer. I know that sometimes giving yourself a reason to hope can be the worst thing the world. Because as long as you stay at the bottom, you can’t get any lower. You surround yourself in what you know, and what you know is awful and ugly and meaningless, but at least you know it. You’re never going to be surprised by it. But sometimes, when you see the light that hope can give you, I don’t think it’s possible to do anything except follow it. Even knowing better, you follow it, looking for a way out of the darkness, looking for a way into something, anything else. Looking for a way to find meaning again. Looking for a way to feel alive again. Looking for a way to justify the fact that you’re still walking on this earth, still breathing in the air, still taking up space.

Sometimes you can’t help it, even if you know better.

Hope will come at the strangest times. And when it does, it doesn’t matter how low you are. You’ll grab it. You’ll hang on to it. You’ll cling to it like your life depends on it. Because, you know, sometimes it does.

So, yeah, I dropped about a page on the novel tonight. Not significant in any way, shape, or form, but there it is, up above, printed for all to see.

90% of it is...well, I'm not gonna say shit, because I haven't really gone back and looked at it, so maybe it's not. It sure feels a lot like a rambling, misdirected sort of thing, though.

Having said that, I like the last paragraph. And that's...uh, yeah, pretty much it.

Here's hoping I can get off my ass over the Christmas holidays and actually get a bit of writing done. It's killing me to watch this book drift out of my hands.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dick Flicks

I've been trying to come up with a name for "Chick Flicks for Guys" after watching Sideways again last night, and deciding that, essentially, that's exactly what it is. I'm also trying to think of other films that fall into the same category, and while I'm pretty sure there aren't many, I know there must be a few. I'm just not coming up with any names at the moment.

I'd seen the film once before, and totally missed that angle on it. On a first viewing, I was simply drawn in to the story of two friends on a road trip through California wine country, as one prepares for his upcoming marriage, and the other prepares for the possible publication of his book. It was only on a second viewing that I saw through all the surface stuff -- the road trip, the wedding, the wine -- and realized that, at it's heart, it's a story really just a mushy love story. Which isn't really so bad. It's just that it's easy to miss the first time, what with all the drinking and testosterone.

It's also phenomenally well written, and according to the IMDB, the first film to win screenplay awards from all five major critic groups, the Golden Globes, the WGA, and ultimately the Academy Awards.

This exchange, in which the character of Miles essentially describes himself while describing why he favours a particular type of wine, is one of my favourites:

Maya: You know, can I ask you a personal question, Miles?
Miles Raymond: Sure.
Maya: Why are you so in to Pinot?
Miles Raymond: [laughs softly]
Maya: I mean, it's like a thing with you.
Miles Raymond: [continues laughing softly]
Miles Raymond: Uh, I don't know, I don't know. Um, it's a hard grape to grow, as you know. Right? It's uh, it's thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It's, you know, it's not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it's neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and... ancient on the planet.

I'm not 100% sold on the term "Dick Flick." I mean, it's got the right sort of play on words, rhyming with "chick" and all, but it also seems a little bit on the crude side. Any suggestions?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Maybe I'll just have a glass of water...

Ever wondered what sort of roller coaster ride your body goes through when you drink a coke? Question answered.

It's enough to make you give up on soda completely. Thankfully I've switched addictions, and fill my fridge with Snapple. And beer, you know, occasionally.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Twice the average!

I also read today, at one of the New York Times' blogs, that according to Google, so many people have started up their own personal blogs that, on average, each blog is only read by one person.

That's right, one person.

Thanks to the somewhat regular comments left here by two -- count 'em two! -- different people, I can safely assume that this blog is read regularly by at least twice what the average blog is. That makes me happy.

Thank you Elise, than you Sheryl-Lynn. I couldn't have done it without you.

Fun with jargon

Someone pointed out a perceived misspelling in this blog post, in which I announced the "spot the literary reference" contest. Of which there are still no entries, by the way. Hint, hint. The column in question, if it wasn't entirely clear, as the one that appeared a few weeks ago on O.J.s aborted book publishing deal.

Anyway, the perceived misspelling -- the word "lede" -- was, in fact, not a misspelling. In newspaper jargon, the start of a story -- the lead -- is referred to as the "lede" in order to avoid confusion with "lead," as in the metal used during the hot-type production oh so many moons ago. Although "lead" isn't used so much in newspaper jargon, "leading" still remains, describing the size of the space between lines of type.

After the misspelling was pointed out to me, I realized two things. The first was that, really, I'd only used the word "lede" in order to look like a smarmy smart-ass who was yanking out industry specific lingo. The second thing I realized is that you only look like smarmy smart-ass if people know what the heck you're talking about.

So, for those of you not intimately familiar with newspaper lingo, here's a list of definitions commonly used in newsrooms across North America, made available courtesy of the Freep -- better known as the Detroit Free Press.

Read. Learn. Then you too can look like a smarmy smart-ass for using industry specific lingo from an industry you're not even in.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Nicky: Schadenfreude, huh? What's that, some kinda Nazi word?

Gary: Yeah. It's german for happiness at the misfortune of others.

Nicky: Happiness at the misfortune of others...that *is* German!

The above exchange comes courtesy of broadway's "Avenue Q," which is not only a play I'd actually quite like to direct one day, once the amateur rights become available, but also provides a nice, concise definition of the word.



I had the opportunity tonight to experience a pleasant glow of Schadenfreude. And I don't really want to gloat about it, because that'd just be mean, but when you do get the chance to experience pure schadenfreude, it can bring a bout smile quite unlike any other.

Oh, and of course, when the other person's misfortune (and / or suffering) is karmicly appropriate...yeah, it's even better.

For heaven's sake, just walk!

According to a recent study, biking can make women's genitals less sensitive.

Now I'm in full support of anyone -- of any gender -- who wants to get a little bit more exercise in their daily routine. I'm also in full support of attempting to cut down on automobile emissions by using a variety of alternative transportation methods.

But women, please, leave the bikes at home. Just, you know, go for a walk. Or car-pool. Or ride the bus or something.

Biking: It's just not worth it.

Spot the literary reference!

A subtle (or not-so-subtle, depending on your reading habits) literary reference was hidden in the lede of my column this week. Be the first to spot it, cite it, and explain it in the comments attached to this blog post, and you could win a spectacular prize!*

*Prize spectacularity is based solely on the opinion of the contest-holder, and not the opinion of the contest winner. No guarantee is offered as to your own feelings upon receipt of the "spectacular prize." Results may vary. Void where prohibited by law. Contest not valid outside of British Columbia, Canada.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

...and geekier still

You are .pdf  No matter where you go you look the same.  You are an acrobat.  Nothing is more important to you than the printed word.
Which File Extension are You?

Damn, this is exactly the sort of thing that most respectable bloggers would frown on, or look down their nose upon, or douse me in gasoline and light me on fire for. But it just meshed too nicely with this evening's earlier proclamation of geekness to avoid. And besides, how cool is it to be a PDF? I mean, seriously, who wouldn't want to be one? It's way cooler than being a JPG or BAT file. And COM files? So 1990s. Granted, MP3s, I suppose, would be cooler, but PDFs have to definitely be in the top ten. Top five even. Totally.

Geekier and geekier

Yes, in the ongoing attempt to see if I can become an even bigger geek, I have linked my Xbox Live gamertag profile to my blog. It's that little box there, that says Lewzr. Because that's what I am. A great big loser. But, a great big loser who can now show off the five most recent games he's played. Huzzah!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Holy crap, I've been Dugg. Dugged. Digged? I dunno, something like that

I was digging through my site stats tonight, just because it's occasionally fun to see how people have got to my quiet little corner of the Internet, and discovered a few interesting things.

First, the number of people getting to my site while searching for "skanky sluts" appears to be at an all-time low. Which is sort of sad. We are, perhaps, witnessing the passing of era.

Second, someone actually put one of my blog entries up at Which is totally bizarre and amazing, because it was just a weird, random story. And also because I think digg is just about one of the coolest sites around right now. The story only got 4 diggs, which means, I think, that it storta sucked, but whatever. Check out the digg-page for my rant about the loss of McDonald's Hot Mustard here. Which, yes, is a link to a page about me. And yes, that's sorta self-indulgent. Deal with it.

I also discovered that my brief post about LibraryThing ended up quoted and used at LibrarThing's "buzz page". Which, okay, I know they're probably trolling the net and quoting any nice thing people say about them, but it still made me feel almost legitimate. Which is a nice feeling.

The vast majority of visitors, though (the ones that don't come directly to the site by just typing the address in) come from Google searches for "caughtinthe blogspot". Which means, at least most of the time, people are actively seeking the blog out. Well, at least one or two are. Which is more than none.

On stains, mysteries, and love-cancer.

The stupid stain, and the stupid story idea, won't leave me alone. So the turmoil of thoughts is getting dumped out here.

Specifically in regards to the potential mystery of the story, as well as the big "reveal" that must come at the end of a mystery.

To me, there are probably four basic ways a story like this could turn out. First, there's the, "Oh my god, he murdered someone and doesn't remember it, or is blocking the memory, or some such thing, and who could have seen that coming, because he seemed like such a nice guy, when really he's a horrible killer."

Second, there's the, "Oh my god, he accidentally murdered someone through a series of complicated events, and in his terror at the accidental death, decided to ditch the body somewhere, and has since blocked the memory, or maybe the whole thing happened in a blackout, or something like that."

Third, there's the, "Someone was murdered there, but it wasn't him who was responsible, but instead a friend or coworker or random passerby who happened to somehow get into his home, and all the while that the narrator is feeling this sense of dread and guilt about what he might have done, he is, in fact, innocent of any crimes he might have suspected himself of having committed."

Lastly, there's the anticlimax of, "Oh, nobody died, it's just chocolate milk, and he's wigging out for no particular reason."

None of which really appeal to me. They're all too...well, overdone. Of coruse, that's probably because the whole "character forgets something important and gradually discovers that he is to blame for some horrible crime" story is sort of overdone.

Twist endings that exist simply for the sake of the twist don't do anything for me and, at least for the moment, any of those twist ending options seem like they'd be just that. Although that might simply be because I have no other solid ideas for the story, except for the "where did the stain come from" mystery. Which clearly isn't enough.

Though my mind *has* been drifting around, and tugging at other thoughts and ideas in the last few days. And one of them might be able to apply the necessary sort of depth that this mostly shallow story idea requires (and if this particular story should turn out to *not* be the home for this new idea, I have yet another place I think I might be able to find a spot for it).

There's a line in the film "Magnolia" -- a favourite of mine -- which never fails to stick in my head thanks, in a large degree, to just how simple it is. There are easily a half-dozen different stories that play out over the course of this movie, and each character has his own opporunity to dip into into both self-destruction and, ultimately, salvation. But it's this line, delivered by William H Macy's character when he's at his absolute lowest, that has always stood out to me:

"I really do have love to give. I just don't know where to put it."

The great thing about the line is that it sort of demands on instant empthy with the character. Who can't relate to an idea that simple? Who can't relate to someone that alone? Who has never found themselves with a capacity for love, with a need for love, and yet no recipient available.

And so I've been thinking...what happens to that love? What happens to love that just gets bottled up, and held inside, and eventually, perhaps, ignored and repressed and forgotten?

And because this is my mind asking the question, what I'm really wondering is this:

Does love go stale? Does love ferment? Does love, ignored for long enough, turn into something else entirely? Something not healthy? Something cancerous? Something dangerous?

It seems to me that this notion, combined with the stain, combined with a (perhaps) violent mystery, *could* gradually grow into something that would justify words on the page. It's all sort of a mush in my head right now, and I'm not entirely sure how well one idea will mesh with the other. But when two ideas ending up bubbling around in my brain at the same time, they do quite often end up blending together nicely, if left alone in the saucepan for long enough.

And, as I said, should it *not* find that this story is an appropriate home, the love-cancer idea could, I think, very easily find a home in "The Small Town Pornographer's Blues" should I ever attempt to revisit that particular novel. Which would probably need an injection of something new, anyway, if I was ever going to consider revisiting it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Why I need to stop being such a lazy ass and write a whole lot more often.

Even though I currently have a novel that is somewhere around the halfway point -- a novel, I should ad, that was going screamingly well before a limited amount of free time tore me away from it temporarily -- and even though I started tentative, very early-on sort of work on an incredibly absurd comedic play about a guy who gets stabbed in the stomach (because there's nothing funnier than that), I just can't stop new ideas from popping into my head. And they don't just pop into my head and say, "Hi, I just thought I'd stop by and see if you had any free time, but clearly you don't, so I'll disappear for a bit until you have time to work on me."

Instead, they appear with a sort of desperate insistence, demanding that I throw away any and everything else that I actually *should* be working on, and dedicate my every free moment to this new project. Because, according to that project, it's the most important thing in the world right now.

Even my creative ideas are pompous and full of themselves.

And so in my idle time today, I'm stewing on a rough idea for a short story that, at the moment, doesn't involve much more than a stain on the character's carpet. A stain which he vaguely recognizes, but can't remember its source.

A stain which looks eerily like blood.

But then, maybe it's just chocolate milk.

I have that very stain on my own carpet (wouldn't you just know that this wasn't a random idea) and, while cleaning my house last night for this evening's Fromage Homage (A Lactose Overdose!), I couldn't take my eyes off it for some reason. It's the same stain that's been there for, probably, years, the same stain I see every time I vacuum the living room (which, admittedly, maybe isn't as often as I should). But suddenly it occurs to me that I don't have the foggiest idea where the stain is from. Even though I know I've seen it before. Even though I know I should have some sort of memory of the cause.

Which is weird.

That sort of vaguely unsettling feeling is what, more than anything else, I want to try to convey in this story. At the moment, I have no clue what the actual cause of the fictional stain is, though just in tossing the idea around in my head it's seeming to me like trying to come up with a twist ending that either A) Hasn't been done before; B) People won't see coming; and C) Won't be annoyingly anticlimactic, isn't an easy thing to do.

In other news, yes, the blog is slowly getting coated in a fine layer of dust. Something will be done about that soon, more than likely. Among the planned updates are a bringing up to date of the Stick Figure Drama archives, as well as posting smattering of photographs from past social occasions to my even more dust-covered Flickr page. Also, I might start blogging on a slightly more regular basis, but no promises.

It seems that, more than anything else, it's the creative process that compells me to post here. Either to rant about troubles on a book, rave about a particularly good bit of writing, or just complain about the new and obnoxious ideas that arrive into my head, unwelcome, from out of the blue, and demand my total attention.

So if I can just start writing again, in places other than here, that should inspire an increased amount of writing in this location. And that can only be good, right?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On beating horses into a lumpy paste

I was halfway through this week's column before I realized I was drifting into a dead horse territory. And not just any dead horse, either. We're talking about a dead horse that I've beaten, over the years, into a lumpy, unrecognizeable paste.

Of course, by then, it was too late to turn back.

The idea started out well enough -- wanting to write about the absurdity of Britney Spears' divorce actually making significant headlines on the same day that the American midterm elections were taking place. But after a few paragraphs, I realized that the ultimate moral was the same moral I've said so many times that even *I'm* getting bored of it. And that is:

Media, stop feeding us crap and calling it news; and

Audience, stop demanding crap from your news agencies.

I salvaged the column about the only way I could, by acknowledging my awareness of the beaten, broken, dead horse. Even so, it's weeks like this, when I cover the same ground I've covered so bloody many times, that I wonder why I still bother writing this stupid thing every single week. Clearly I don't have a whole lot of anything interesting to say.

Given that my alternate column idea -- writing about Microsoft's announcement that they'll be delivering television and movie content over their Xbox Live service, directly competing with Apple's announced but unreleased iTV service -- was dumped because it felt like I would be, you guessed it, beating a dead horse, makes this feeling even worse.

I need to get out more often, or visit different web sites, a book or a newspaper or something. I need to expand my brain. I need to expand my horizons. I need to either get some damn variety in my column, or just retire the stupid thing and be done with it.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Blast from the past

Here's an entry from, oh, about a year and a half ago. Because I'm really trying to clear the dust out of this place, and because this is, I think, one of the better pieces of writing to show up on the blog. And because it's an example of a wonderful moment when something that was just supposed to be little more than a quick, dialogue-driven exchange, turned into something surprisingly profound. Enjoy.

"I should go," she said, looking at her watch.

Outside the sky was alight with an agry sunset. The clouds were on fire, bright vibrant, but only minutes from disappearing in the night sky.

"You won't," I said. "You're having too much fun."

"I have to work in the morning," she said, but the smile she hinted at told me that I was right.

"I do too."

"And you're not leaving?"

"I'm having too much fun," I said. "You're having too much fun. We're both having too much fun. We're having too much fun together. Why go someplace less fun to do something less fun?"

"I'm gonna regret it in the morning. So will you, I'm sure."

"I'm sure I will," I said, lifting my glass in a toast. "Regret when the time comes, but never before." I drank it quick -- a touch more than a mouthful -- and caught the waitress' eye. She smiled and nodded.

"Shouldn't we have learned our lesson by now? Why do we do this to ourselves? I'll be a mess tomorrow."

"And will it matter the next day that you were a mess the day before? Will it really make any difference three days, four days, a week later, if you're a little hung over tomorrow?"

"I'll be more than just a little hung over..."

"A month from now, will it matter if you're more than just a little hung over tomorrow? No. It won't. Whatever we do now, it doesn't really matter six hours from now. Sex hours from now will be six hours from now, and there will be dozens, hundreds of other things that will define that moment in time. It won't be this moment right here."

"So why bother with this if it's not going to matter six hours from now?"

"Because," I said, as the waitress set our drinks in front of us, "for right now, this is the most important thing in the world."

She takes her drink casually, without a thought. "That sounds awfully nice, but if you strip away all the pretty words all you're really saying is that you're here because you have nothing better to do."

"Why is that a bad thing? Shouldn't we always be doing the best thing that we could think of doing? Why should you feel lessened because I have nothing better to do, because spending time with you is the best thing I could possibly think of doing."

A hint of a smile showed again, but it only toyed at the corner of her lips. "Yes, you're right, that's nice. But how much of it is really that? And how much is it just not wanting to be alone?"

I thought about that. I wanted to tell her that it was all about who we spent time with, and not just spending time with whoever was handy. But I couldn't because I wasn't completely sure that was the truth.

"I don't mind being alone," I said. "Most times people are a hindrance. They're dumb and they're boring and they laugh at bad jokes, not because they're funny, but because they hear the sound of their laughter and are reminded that they're alive. Most times I'm better off without people. So most of the time I'm at home, in a house, with walls a and surfaces and structures, and there's no warmth, there's no blood surging through any of it. I can laugh at as many jokes as I want to, but not even the sound of my own laughter can really remind me that I'm alive. At times like that, it's not that I think I'd be better off dead. It's that I think it wouldn't make any difference if I was."

My words settled over the table, and we sat in silence for a few minutes, each of us nursing our drinks to give ourselves something to do in that midly awkward moment.

And then I said, "It's not so much that I mind being alone. It's just that I wish it wasn't so goddamn lonely."

"I'll drink to that," she said, and we did.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dusting off the cobwebs

I wish I could tell you that there was some breaking point in my faith. That there was some moment that opened my eyes, filled me with a sudden realization, convinced the believer to abandon his belief. I’m sure it’d be a lot more dramatic if there was.

I’ve certainly got enough moments to choose from.

The moment that Darren McAndrews and Stan Darrow lost their balance and fell off their precipice, the moment they released the full extent of their murderous rage on our Algebra classroom, the moment that bullets by the hundred began to tear apart chalkboards and textbooks and desks and flesh with equal ferocity, that moment could have been one of them.

But I’ll tell you this much in retrospect: God wasn’t anywhere to be found in that room. Not in the form of a divine being of pure love, intervening into man-made madness in an attempt to save his humble servants from pain and death. Not in any attempt to offer sympathy or compassion to the survivors and the dying alike, even as the events of the classroom remained out of his control. Not even as a perverted, giggling imp, sent into hysterics by the suffering of his creations.

No, there was nothing divine in that room on that October day. Just us simple, lowly, pathetic human beings – some of us terrified, some of us clinging to life as blood spilled out of holes in us that were never meant to be there, some of us creating those very holes with machines designed to make them.

We were alone in that room, and as we struggled for cover, behind toppled desks, under long tables, beneath a cluster of hard plastic chairs, we knew we were alone. We knew that whether we lived or died had nothing to do with any power in heaven., and almost as little to do with how well we hid ourselves. It was squarely in the hands of McAndrews and Darrow. The ones with the guns. They had the power to grant life and the power to condemn us to death. They had already taught us that lesson. Now it was final exam time.

Amongst the chaos, fetal behind my own desk, desperate to curl into a tighter and tighter ball, I remember thinking that I couldn’t stand to go through this alone. Clinging to life by a thread, only one stray bullet away from eternity, I felt the need to be near another human being more strongly than I’ve ever felt before. I didn’t take the time to wonder why then, and looking back on it since, I’m still not sure I know for sure. It wasn’t entirely terror, it wasn’t entirely that I was seeking comfort. If anything, it was that, in seeing the harsh truth of my own mortality, I needed a reminder that I actually existed, I needed to be seen through another set of eyes, I needed my life to be acknowledged by someone other than those who were seeking to take it away from me.

Visited the novel a few nights back, and struggled through about three pages worth. I need to visit a bit more often, because I am kind of drifting out of it a bit, I think, and I know it'll take about three or four more times sitting down with it before it really starts to flow again. This last night just felt like work.

Which is frustrating, because it was going so well when I started, so smoothly, so naturally, like it was the perfect book for a perfect time in my life, when any and everything I had to say was there, on the edge of my brain, waiting for the chance to be put down on paper.

Having to struggle with it now...yeah, frustrating.

That above-quoted bit is the better of what I did that night (taking place during one of the flash-backs to the high-school shooting back story, if some context is needed) but even while it's got some good bits in it, it does seem, as a whole, a bit rough. Not quite up to par with the other segments I've quoted here in the past.

Still, the blog's been pretty empty as of late, and I've been feeling like I've been needing to update with something. I have an entry that's sort of burbling in my head, looking for some sort of form. And I should finish my rundown of controversial movies at some point, I guess. But until either of those turn up, here's something to at lesat fill the space and dust a few of the cobwebs off.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Beginning at the end

So I just wrote the last scene of a new play. Which isn't to say that it's finished. Rather I simply wrote the last scene first, because it was important to me that I remember where I'm going with the story (what little story it can be said to have).

The play is called "Guts" almost entirely because of this line, from the final scene:

It’s a choice that takes guts. Which, ironically, is exactly where he was stabbed.

Which, hey, probably doesn't explain a whole lot out of context, but I don't feel like quoting the whole sort monologue, so that's all you're gonna get for now.

Having the title of a project this early is almost unheard of for me. It titles are usually the last thing I do, and often don't even show themselves until the second draft. But when the title -- and the corresponding line that justifies the title -- hit me with a one-two punch last night, I knew I had no choice but to use them. They were just too fantastic.

No, the novel's not abandoned, not yet at any rate. But it will likely remain on vacation for the next two weeks, until my commitment to Rocky Horror is finished, and I have freed up a bit more time. In the meantime, this play will give me a place to goof off for short creative periods, being composed of a bunch of a scenes likely no longer than three to five pages (I wrote about 3/4 of the first scene today too, with a pretty good idea of what's going on in scene two).

Longer excerpts to come, perhaps, at some point in the future. Or perhaps not. Depends on my mood, and the quality of the day's output.

EDIT: The "I just wrote" part isn't quite so accurate anymore, as this entry refused to post when I first wrote it. It's since been a few days.

Friday, October 20, 2006

New Toys

I haven't had much time to muck about with it, but I came across a nifty new (well, it's not *that* new, but it's new to me) site called LibraryThing. It's sort of a book collecting / cataloguing site, combined with a social network site like MySpace, as it allows you to find other users of the site with similar tastes in books.

Though there are other cataloguing programs available (and I've mucked with some in the past) there's something sort of cool about being able to maintain your collection online at a consistent web address. Makes it easier when someone says, "Hey, you got any good books?" You can just answer, "Here, check out my collection."

Which you can, in fact, do here.

It's a work in progress -- most of what's up there is just from memory, and even then mostly my more recent acquisitions. Still, it gives  a good feel for what the site can do.

Monday, October 16, 2006

It's not dead!

Well surprise, surprise, I actually dusted off the novel tonight, and spent some quality time with it. Which is nice, because I was beginning to think that it was going to die the painful, unfortunate death that so many of my unfinished projects have suffered.

Which is not say that it's necessarily free from suffering that death. But I have managed to buy it some time.

I fought and struggled with it for what felt like hours, sure that I had managed a frighteningly significant output. In the end, though, it was only three pgaes. Nothing to sneeze at, I guess, but hardly frighteningly significant.

On the bright side, finding my way into the narrator's voice after these many weeks spent idling, was surprisingly easy to do. And he's a blast to write, because he alternates between rambling, run-on sentences and short, abrupt, sentence fragments.

This book is going to be an editor's worst nightmare.

And I love that.

I'm feeling a bit like some of my more concrete plans and intentions for the book have started to slip awa in the time that I haven't been working on it, and that' I'll be sort of winging it again from here on in, but I'm still hoping that some of it will gradually come back to me. I know, pretty much, the remainder of this chapter, but it's pretty shaky after that...

Wait, it's coming back to me.

Wow, that was pretty cool, actually. While writing about where the book was going from here, I started to actually *think* about where the book was going from here. And, upon thinking about it, remembered where the book was going from here.

Who'd have thought that thinking would prove that beneficial?

I'm surely as shocked as you are.

In any case, three pages after weeks of a dry spell still seems pretty insignificant. While it's nice to know that, at the very least, the book isn't irrepairably broken, it'll still be awhile before I'm back in the flow of it again. But the ideas are still buzzing, and assuming I can find the time for it, I'm quite looking forward to finding that flow.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Criticizing the Controversy (Part Two)

A quick aside before we get into the next phase of this list. Obviously I've decided to split these up instead of posting them all as one great big, cumbersome analysis (and after seeing how long part one ended up being, I'm glad I made that choice), but I've decided to make one small modification to the way I'm splitting them.

Instead of the original plan -- with posts of 10, 10 and then 5, I'm going more closely follow Entertainment Weekly's breakdown, and go 10, 10, 4 and then 1, because I'm going to want to talk about the number one spot for a few reasons, but most importantly, why the number one pick shouldn't be, and why my alternative choice is so much better.

It's also worth noting that, obviously, I'm not adding any films to this list. That's not because EW's list should be taken as the final word on film controversy, but only because it's the list it'self that I'm criticizing, not attempting to make one of my own.

With those few details out of the way, let's press on to part two.

THE PLOT Riefenstahl's notorious documentary of the 1934 Nazi rally at Nuremberg elevates propaganda to seductive Wagnerian grandeur. THE CONTROVERSY While intellectuals still ponder the ethics of admiring so malevolent a masterpiece, others have had more visceral reactions. In the early '40s, director George Stevens was so disturbed by the film that he joined the Army the next day. Protests greeted Riefenstahl (who never shook her Nazi-tainted past) at a 1974 Telluride Film Festival tribute, and the Anti-Defamation League decried a 1975 screening in Atlanta as ''morally insensitive.''
THE COMMENTARY While I certainly won't debate that a documentary on a Nazi rally would -- and yes, probably should -- be controversial, I would argue that it's likely an important documentation of a piece of history that maybe we, as human beings, aren't terribly proud of, but which should be remembered at all costs. For that reason alone, this is a film that should be preserved (though it's worth noting that I say that about this film, sight unseen)

14. THE WARRIORS (1979)
THE PLOT Members of a street gang battle their way through a New York City populated by rival gangs (''Warriors, come out to plaaay!'').
THE CONTROVERSY Hill's lurid nightmare of urban warfare was widely condemned for glorifying violence. Reports of criminal incidents where the film was shown — including the stabbing of a teenager in Massachusetts — fueled the outrage, forcing Paramount to temporarily pull its print and TV advertising for the film.
THE COMMENTARY Haven't seen this one either, though I do have vague memories of seeing promotional images from it. I was likely too young to have spotted ads in newspapers when it was originally released, so it was likely on video box-covers in later years. None of which has anything to do with the supposed controversy of the film. Just interesting trivia. So let me say this: Movies don't make people criminals. They just give people with criminal tendencies specific ideas they maybe wouldn't have otherwise had.

13. THE DA VINCI CODE (2006)
THE PLOT A professor (Tom Hanks) unearths a 2,000-year-old conspiracy to cover up the marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
THE CONTROVERSY It didn't end up drawing mass pickets or boycotts, but there was much debate while the film was being made. Westminster Abbey wouldn't allow Howard to shoot inside its halls, and some 200 protesters mobbed the set in Lincolnshire, England (although Howard says most were merely ''trying to get autographs'').
THE COMMENTARY Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Wait, seriously? Okay, it's a crappy movie, a crappy adaptation of a bestselling book, whose author ripped the whole idea off from a book originally published, I think, in the 70s. The only real controversy here is how sad the book-buying public is to have shot this thing up the best-seller lists.

12. THE DEER HUNTER (1978)
THE PLOT The Vietnam War shatters the lives of three Pennsylvania steel-mill workers.
THE CONTROVERSY By the time it won the Best Picture Oscar, Deer Hunter had ignited major debate over its shocking POW-camp scenes, in which American soldiers are forced to play Russian roulette. War historians argued there was no record of such atrocities, and others called the Vietcong depiction racist. Cimino called the criticisms ''beside the point.''
THE COMMENTARY The Cimino quote that EW uses gives the director the appearance of being dismissive of the criticisms, while managing to avoid the point of the quote -- that he was not attempting to make a factual film about the Vietnam war. To me, the Russian roulette sequences could be seen as a metaphor for the terror, the randomness, and ultimately the senselessness of war in general. It's probably also worth noting that I think this a fantastic film.

11. THE MESSAGE (1977)
THE PLOT Anthony Quinn plays Mohammed's uncle in an epic telling of Islam's origins.
THE CONTROVERSY The movie rankled Muslims and sparked riots, and that was just during production. Post-release, in March 1977, Hanafi terrorists took more than 100 people hostage in Washington, D.C. — killing a reporter and shooting the city's future mayor Marion Barry in the two-day siege — demanding in part that The Message be banned. (It wasn't.) In a cruelly ironic coda, the Syrian-born Akkad died amid al-Qaeda's coordinated hotel bombings last fall in Amman, Jordan.
THE COMMENTARY This is an interesting choice, is it goes against expectations by including non-American controversy, and for that I'll tip my hat to EW. If your film inspires a hostage-taking, there's pretty much no arguing that there was some controversy surrounding it.

10. BABY DOLL (1956)
THE PLOT A Mississippi cotton-gin owner (Eli Wallach) humiliates a competitor (Karl Malden) by attempting to seduce the man's still-virgin wife (Carroll Baker).
THE CONTROVERSY Written by Tennessee Williams, the film struck Catholic leaders as lewd. (A similar flap greeted 1943's The Outlaw over Jane Russell's bust.) New York's Cardinal Spellman forbade the faithful to see it ''under pain of sin.'' Some theaters pulled it, but it eventually earned four Oscar nominations.
THE COMMENTARY You know, if nothing else, this makes an interesting list of films I may not have heard before that might be worth checking out. Cardinal Something-or-other tells his good Catholics to avoid it, even though they all know they can check the film out and then go to confession the next day. Controversy level? Lukewarm at best.

THE PLOT A disaffected American (Marlon Brando) travels to Paris, where he throws himself into an affair with a young Frenchwoman (Maria Schneider).
THE CONTROVERSY Critics and audiences were sharply divided over this X-rated erotic psychodrama. The film's stark (as in naked) depiction of loveless, animalistic carnality horrified some — and landed its director and stars in an Italian court on obscenity charges.
THE COMMENTARY Of course this would make the list, though likely on because it was Marlon Brando in the role (if it had been a random B-list actor, or a native Italian, it would have likely been long forgotten by now). Having not seen it, I'm unsure if the fact that people are still talking about it is a testament to the strength of the film, or just that people like complaining.

THE PLOT Homicidal lovers (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) cut a blood-soaked swath through America.
THE CONTROVERSY Though intended as a satire on the media, the film actually inspired several copycat killers to seek their own 15 minutes of fame, some even using imagery and dialogue from the film. Over 12 murders in the U.S. and abroad have been linked to Killers. One victim's family tried to sue Stone and Warner Bros.
THE COMMENTARY Another film I'll defend, though not to quite the same degree as The Deer Hunter. While I am a fan (and the Director's Cut sits proudly on my DVD shelf), I do think the satirical elements may have been hidden a little too well underneath the carnage. You really do have to spend a fair amount of time with the film, peeling away at its layers, to get at the core. I still think it's a core worth getting to, but the process could have been made a little easier.

THE PLOT Griffith's epic follows the travails of two families during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
THE CONTROVERSY The film's depiction of African Americans as childlike, conniving, or rabid sex fiends, and the Ku Klux Klan as heroic saviors, sparked nationwide protests by the nascent NAACP. (It also became a KKK recruiting tool.) Censorship debates and protests have dogged the film in subsequent rereleases and when it was added to the National Film Registry in 1993.
THE COMMENTARY It does seem a little odd that this film didn't crack the top 5, given both its historical significance, as well as its well-publiciized racism. Another one I haven't seen, though I'd quite like to, only because of its significance as a part of film history.

THE PLOT Jesus (Willem Dafoe) pursues his calling but, in a Satan-induced hallucination, dreams of a normal life that includes sex with Mary Magdalene.
THE CONTROVERSY Religious fundamentalists picketed and threatened boycotts weeks before its release. One group offered to buy the $6.5 million film from Universal to destroy it; some theaters, and later Blockbuster, refused to carry it. Oh, and the French rioted.
THE COMMENTARY Another one that should have at least cracked the top 10. And then some. This film should have topped the list, and I'll tell you why. But not right now.


And that brings Part Two of Criticizing the Controversy to a close. Two more installments still to come, including the exciting discussion of what's wrong with the number one spot. Look for it within the next few days.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Criticizing the controversy (Part One)

A few months ago, Entertainment Weekly published a list of the 25 most controversial films of all time -- and interesting list, to be sure, but with some odd choices that got the gears in my head rolling. And when I saw their number one choice (when it seemed completely clear to me what the number one choice SHOULD have been) I knew had to comment on it.

But I just didn't get around to it.

But because I haven't done any significan writing in the last week or so, I am feeling a burning urge to write SOMETHING, and so I pick this idea out of the discarded-idea-bin, and dust it off, and see if I can breathe some life into it. Because the wheels are still rolling, and there's still a desire for commentary.

I've decided to quote EW's article, instead of actually just linking to it (which, in the interest of fair use, I'll do here anyway) because it's just easier than expecting everyone to keep two documents open at once, right? Right.

25. ALADDIN (1992)
THE PLOT You know: the genie-in-the-lamp tale.
THE CONTROVERSY The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee balked at a lyric describing the film's Arabian setting as a land ''where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face.'' Result? The studio dubbed out the lyric for subsequent releases.
THE COMMENTARY Seems likely that they were desperate for something to fill out the 25th slot by including this one, though I suppose the fact that it came from Disney just amp up the controversy factor just a touch. How could the home of Mickey Mouse and Cinderella be the source of such a racial insensitive comment!? Perish the thought!

24. CALIGULA (1980)
THE PLOT This lavishly decadent film depicts the orgy-filled life and death of ancient Rome's most notorious — and clearly psychotic — emperor (Malcolm McDowell).
THE CONTROVERSY Described as a ''moral holocaust'' by Variety, the film was first given a very limited theatrical release for fear of prosecution on obscenity grounds.
THE COMMENTARY What is pretty much the first (and one of very few) big-budget, mainstreamish attempts at pornography, yeah, this was pretty much a given on this list. I've never seen it, but a part of me has been curious, if only to watch what I'm sure, even at the time it was being filmed, was a sort of cinematic train wreck. Because, seriously, there's no way this could have gone well.

23. KIDS (1995)
THE PLOT A group of teens (played by, among others, Rosario Dawson and Chloë Sevigny) prowl the streets of NYC in search of sex, booze, drugs, and other high-risk kicks.
THE CONTROVERSY Clark's disturbing vision of promiscuous, borderline-sociopathic teens was heralded by some as a much-needed wake-up call about the nation's youth. Others saw prurient exploitation. As a buffer against the furor, Miramax created a new entity, Excalibur Films, to release the pic.
THE COMMENTARY "Others saw prurient exploitation." Um, which others are we talking about? Mormons? Neo-nazis? It's important to know, before we decide whether we're going to give their opinion any credence. And really, in the post-Britney-Spears world of the oversexualized teen, it seems to me that maybe this sort of "Wake-Up Call" is more than just necessary. The idea that, as a culture, we're actually breeding pedophiles is sort of disconcerting.

THE PLOT Racial tensions in a Brooklyn neighborhood escalate from amusing to tragic during the course of a single scorching summer day.
THE CONTROVERSY While the film was seen by some as a masterpiece (and earned Lee a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nom), others blasted the director as irresponsible, predicting that the film's shocking climax — in which Mookie (Lee) hurls a trashcan through a storefront window, inciting a riot — would evoke similar reactions from urban moviegoers. Thankfully, the film proved to be more of a catalyst for heated debate than a flashpoint for actual violence.
THE COMMENTARY It was controversial because what people feared might happen, didn't? I think that alone should drop this one a few notches. Maybe place it just above Aladdin.

THE PLOT Faye Dunaway is Bonnie, a bored Texas girl looking for danger. Warren Beatty is Clyde, a pistol-packing ex-con. They fall in love and kick off an infamous Depression-era crime spree.
THE CONTROVERSY Two years before Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, Penn's bloody, slo-mo bullet-riddled finale, where the young lovers bite the dust, sparked an outcry — even tough-guy actor James Garner, no stranger to shoot-outs, called it ''amoral.''
THE COMMENTARY This, I must confess, I haven't seen, in spite of knowing that I should, if only because of it's place in film history, for being a violent, bloody, and, yes, ultimately controversial film.

THE PLOT This nauseatingly graphic Italian prototype for The Blair Witch Project follows four documentarians filming cannibal tribes in the Amazon. They become lunch.
THE CONTROVERSY After its 1980 Milan premiere, the film's print was confiscated by the city's magistrate. Later, Deodato faced life in prison when Italian authorities believed the stars of his film were really killed. The actors finally appeared on TV to prove otherwise.
THE COMMENTARY Now THAT is a controversy. The print being confiscated? The filmmaker in prison? Holy crap, why hasn't an American film company used that sort of thing is a viral marketing campaign? It's brilliant?

THE PLOT A trigger-happy detective (Michael Douglas) falls for a bisexual author (Sharon Stone) who's suspected of murdering her male lover with an ice pick.
THE CONTROVERSY Gay-rights activists objected to the portrayal of man-hating lesbians before a frame of film was shot and protested through the film's opening. Then there was the film's eye-popping sex, including Sharon Stone's notorious leg-crossing, which contributed to Basic's initial NC-17 rating.
THE COMMENTARY I love people who criticize something before they've seen it, going simply on speculation and rumour. Because we all know how accurate that sort of information is. Which isn't to say that Basic Instinct is a film that should be defended as some sort of great crusader in the fight for film freedom, or whatever. It's just a crappy murder-mystery. With, you know, a Sharon Stone crotch-shot.

18. I AM CURIOUS (YELLOW) (1969)
THE PLOT Freewheeling Lena experiences the swinging '60s: protesting Vietnam, questioning the class system, and exploring carnal desires.
THE CONTROVERSY Before the 1967 Swedish film could open in the U.S., it was seized by customs officials concerned that scenes containing full frontal nudity and simulated sex acts were pornographic. The courts initially deemed the movie obscene, but the verdict was overturned.
THE COMMENTARY "The courts initially" blah blah blah. Unless there are actual, you know, paying, movie-going, people involved, it's not much of a controversy, if you ask me. The government getting their panties in a knot does not a controversy make.

17. FREAKS (1932)
THE PLOT For his still-creepy circus noir about a midget who's conned by a greedy temptress, Browning used real sideshow performers.
THE CONTROVERSY Audiences fled preview screenings in droves. (One patron claimed the film caused her to miscarry.) Even with a castration scene cut, the National Association of Women found the film ''offensive'' and urged boycotts. It was banned in Atlanta and pulled from distribution; it was forbidden in the U.K. until the early '60s.
THE COMMENTARY This is one that I've wanted to see for *years* and still have yet to. As a controversial film, could you ask for any more than someone claiming that they MISCARRIED because of your movie? No, I don't think so.

16. UNITED 93 (2006)
THE PLOT An ultra-vérité re-creation of the tragic heroism surrounding — and inside — the only hijacked 9/11 flight not to reach its intended target.
THE CONTROVERSY Greengrass' virtually-there experience may have been a little too close for comfort for some moviegoers. Even the trailer's suggestion of the movie's content prompted audiences to shout Too soon! One New York City theater pulled the footage from its preview reel after many viewers (one left sobbing) complained.
THE COMMENTARY This I haven't seen. And while I am slightly tempted because of it's inclusion on this list, I'm pretty sure the film is just going to be a big rah-rah masturbation session about how awesome America is that really doesn't manage to see 9/11 in any large or significant or, really, accurate sense. So no thanks.

And that's episode one of criticizing the controversy. I'm kind of getting into this, and would love to keep going, but it's late, and I have to go to bed, so I won't. More to come soon, though. Or not. Hard to tell.

I am so freaking tired.

I haven't touched the novel in a little over a week. I'm desperate to get back to it, but I'm having a tough time seeing any free time for it in the near future. Thankfully it doesn't FEEL like I'm losing ground on it, which is good.

There's been a long planned blog post (a commentary on a somewhat recent Entertainment Weekly article on the 25 most controversial films of all time) that I think I'm going to start work on tonight. I haven't decided yet whether I'm gonna write it all up and do a massive single post, or split it into three (10, 10 and 5), but I'm currently leaning towards the split. Except if I do that, there's no guarantee I'll actually finish it. Which is always a risk. Moreso when I'm as drowned in extracurrics as I am right now.

If I *do* go with a split, the first post should probably appear a bit after this one. So for those of you obsessively visiting this blog (ha!) just be patient. There might be something new (and maybe even interesting) shortly.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Oh, I think I feel a rant coming on...

So I'm going to try to not let it out of my system here. Because that'd be flushing a perfectly good column down the tubes.

But I *am* feeling a solid, angry, teeth-grinding kind of rant coming over me. And it's aimed at a 50-ish British children's novelist named Geraldine McCaughrean. Here's a quick bit of bio courtesy of Wikipedia.

Geraldine McCaughrean (pronounced "Mc-cork-ran")¹ is a British children's novelist. She was born on June 6, 1951 in North London, and took an education degree, then worked in magazine publishing for ten years before becoming a full-time writer. She now lives in Berkshire with her husband John and daughter Ailsa.

She has written more than 130 books, and won numerous prizes.

Okay, first:

If you've written more than 130 books, and you're not 75 years old, you're not trying hard enough. That they're children's books isn't any fucking excuse for writing them fast. Put your head in the adult world for awhile. Tackle some difficult topics. I don't think that everything you output needs to be a contender for the Pulitzer Prize, but anything more than two books a year is a serious indicator that you really don't give a damn.

And second: If you really don't give a damn, then you should not be comissioned to write a sequel to a classic story like Peter Pan.

And third: If you are commissioned to write a sequel to Peter Pan, and you do give a damn, you should turn that job the fuck down, immediately, without a second's hesitation. Because it's a story that is not only beloved by generations upon generations of people, it is a story that is likely beloved by its creator. And that creator is likely spinning in his grave right now, because it meant something to him, it was a story he cared about, and to you, well hell, it wasn't much more than a paycheque, was it? I mean, who cares about history? Who cares about respect? Who cares about letting someone's work stand alone as their work?

But then, if you're pumping out more than two books a year, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the paycheque is all you care about, should I?

And yeah, damn it, a good chunk of this rant is probably going to end up in the column too. Because it came out on the blog better than I thought it would.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hey, lets stop shooting each other, okay?

From an Associated Press Article, listing a history of U.S. school shootings:

• Oct. 2, 2006: A gunman took about a dozen girls hostage, killing at least three of them, at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, police said. The shooter was among the dead, and a number of people were injured.

• Sept. 29, 2006: 15-year-old Eric Hainstock brought two guns to a school in rural Cazenovia, Wis., and fatally shot the principal, a day after the principal gave him a disciplinary warning for having tobacco on school grounds, police said.

• Sept. 27, 2006: Duane Morrison, 53, took six girls hostage at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo. Morrison, sexually assaulting them and using them as human shields for hours before fatally shooting one girl and killing himself.

• Aug. 24, 2006: Christopher Williams, 27, went to an elementary school in Essex, Vermont, looking for his ex-girlfriend, a teacher. He couldn't find her and fatally shot one teacher and wounded another, police said. Williams also killed his ex-girlfriend's mother, according to authorities. He shot himself twice in the head after the rampage and was arrested.

The article, focusing on the U.S., doesn't include the recent Montreal school shooting, so if we include that in the last, that's five in North America since August.

And I'm thinking, holy crap, do I feel morbid right now.

Only the August shooting had taken place when I started working on this new novel, which uses high school violence as a fairly prominant sub-plot, and I don't even recall hearing about that one until just now. High school violence just worked for the story, and it was a topic that had been in the back of my mind for the last few years anyway, a topic I was eager to spend some time on.

But now -- what the heck is wrong with 2006 that, suddenly, this is the year that everyone wants to blow each other to pieces at school? Are these all copycat crimes, or have we as a culture reached some sort of terrible boiling point?

And, really, how weird is it that this topic shows up in my head, and ends up poured out into a novel, during a year when high school violence suddenly leaps out of control.

What sort of bizarre collective unconscious have I stumbled upon?

And do I want to be a part of that collective any longer than absolutely necessary?

EDIT: After some additional thought, I'm reminded that a bit less than a year after my attempt at writing a novel called "The Small Town Pornographer's Blues" (which was to be about the struggles of an entrepreneur attempting to break into the porn film business in a small town) someone in this area started advertising in the classifieds, looking for both actors and cameramen to work on adult films locally.

I'm not trying to imply that I'm psychic or anything. Nonetheless...creepier and creepier.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Speaking of McDonald's...

Another random childhood memoy just came to me.

I have this vague recollection of my folks having a book which was, essentially, a combination McDonald's History, as well as a McDonald's travel guide (specifically, the locations of every McDonalds in Canada and, I think, the United States). I remember trying to read it again and again and again, because I figured this book must somehow be as wonderful as the restaurant, but I simply couldn't push my way through the dry prose detailing the rise of the franchise.

Coinciding with this memory is the realization that my parents, when planning our vacation itinerary, must've made every effort possible to ensure that there would be sufficient McDonald's stops along the way, to keep us kids satisfied (and coated in a glistening sheen of grease).

I'd be totally creeped by a similar sort of marketing move if I encountered it today, but as a memory, it still manages a warm place in my heart.

RIP, hot mustard

I don't believe I spend any more or less than time than average thinking about food on any given day (though I've met people who do), so it seems strange to me that some of my fondest childhood memories are memories in which food play a central role.

For example:

I remember one morning, as a child, after spending the night at a friend's place, going for breakfast at a local diner with the friend and his dad. Now, his dad was a bit more willing to indulge the psychotic whims of children than my own folks had been, and so, on this particular morning, he allowed me to fulfill one of my greatest childhood wishes -- having a cheeseburger for breakfast.

Cheeseburgers, for whatever reason, had reached an almost mythical status in my young head, and were the greatest treat that could be bestowed upon you for a meal. I had spent months, perhaps even years trying to convince my parents to let me eat a cheeseburger when we were out for breakfast, but they refused, time and time again.

So of course, I was expecting absolute bliss from dining on a cheeseburger at 10:00 a.m. Instead, I just got sort of nautious.

Another memory:

Our family didn't eat at McDonald's with any sort of regularity, and so when we did go, it was something to celebrate. You wanted to make an event out of it. Not long after the initial launch of McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, they became my meal of choice when visiting McDonald's. And of course, as my meal of choice, there was the Holy Grail of Chicken McNuggets.

The 20-piece meal.

Much like the breakfast cheeseburger, all my requests for a 20-piece meal were refuesed by my parents for what felt like years (though it was probably only a handful of months -- childhood memory is funny that way) before they finally got tired of hearing my complaints and relented.

And what should have been a glorious moment of joy became, much like the breakfast cheeseburger incident, a moment of overconsumption and nausea.

The moral of the story: When parents say, "No," it isn't always because they're mean. Sometimes it's because they don't want you to throw up all over yourself, and them, and the nice people at the table next to you. Which isn't to say that I did, but I could have. You never know with food related things.

Which brings me, in a very offhand way, to the real point of this post.

McDonald's Hot Mustard sauce, for their Chicken McNuggets, is, apparently, no more.

According to the woman who took my order yesterday, McDonald's took a survey and discovered that more people preferred the Honey  Mustard to the Hot Mustard, so the Hot Mustard was removed as an option.

And to those people who took that survey, and who inspired McDonald's to remove the Hot Mustard sauce from their menu, I want to say simply this: I hate you all.

Hot Mustard is all I've ever had on my McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, all I've ever wanted to have on my Chicken McNuggets. Now, in my adulthood, it has less to do with the taste -- though I still enjoyed that the last time I was lucky enough to have the hot mustard sauce -- and more to do with nostalgia. With reconnecting with the simpler times of your childhood.

And you people, you stupid Honey Mustard people, have destroyed all that.

Today we mourn the passing of Hot Mustard from the McDonald's menu, and while we hold no grudges against this newer, less nostalgic "Honey Mustard" -- for it is innocent of any food related crime, and is simply the unlikely replacement for a fondly remembered product -- we acknowledge that McDonald's will never be the same. And that I will likely never eat their Chicken McNuggets again.

Goodbye, dear, Hot Mustard. You will be missed.

Monday, September 25, 2006

From the 'No Duh," department.

Courtesy of this week's horoscope at AstrologyOnline:

You can make money if you are careful not to let it trickle through your fingers.

And...this is a surprise, how, exactly?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Feast or Famine

Well, the high-school shooting backstory of the current novel, which I once thought would be contained in a single chapter and has since exploded into three, may now not be quite long enough.

Stupid books and going and evolving even while you're working on it.

I had a flash of inspiration tonight about the book, about approaching the story almost as having dual narratives -- the current, insomnia-based storyline, and the backstory, school-shooting storyline.

And the idea really onle stumbled out of a notion that I've known about from the get go, that each of these two narratives are ending with something very, very similar happening.

No, I'm not going to say what that similar thing is.

And no, I don't care if you're the type who flips to the end of the book before you even start reading the beginning.

And if you are that type, shame on you.

The point is this: For the last two chapters -- which were two chapters longer than I was expecting the back-story to play out over -- I've been sort of speeding up the back-story narrative, hoping I could get out of it before it took up too much time or space.

Now, suddenly, I wish I hadn't. I wish I'd taken a bit more time with it, because if I could line up those two different narrative events, it would, pardon my french, absofuckinglutely rock.

So now, having spent two chapters trying to speed up all the high school violence stuff, now I'm going to slow it down.

Take my time.

Let it breathe.

I still might end up having to a do lot of restructuring work on the rewrite -- inflating some of the earlier stuff so the whole narrative is a bit more balanced.

Or maybe everything will come out just perfectly, exactly as it should be.

Maybe pigs will fly too.

Another 2,000 words down tonight. Current word count: 35,860.

I rock.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Well, it wasn't quite 6,000 words...

...but I did get somewhere between 4,500 and 5,000 words into the novel yesterday (I'm not 100% sure of the word count, as I wasn't following it religiously -- I had the feeling going into it that the word count would be light, so I didn't want to really know just how light. Boy, was I surprised!)

AND almost 4,000 of those words came spilling out in one sitting that just kind of spiralled out of control.

Clearly I've had some pent up narrative waiting to get vomited out on the page.

On top of everything else, an anecdote I heard at work today -- about a street in Kelowna that, apparently, has no service of any kind, be it electrical, gas, cable, or anything else, because it's essentially a have for crackhouses and drug dealers -- is bouncing around in my head as an idea for later in the novel.

My first thought was that the idea of a street where no one goes, that the government pretends doesn't exist, might make an interesting location for another story. But then, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like this could be better used in this novel. Not only a location forgotten and ignored by the government and by the utilities companies, but a location forgotten by God himself. I've been looking for a spot where the final "showdown" between Jeremy and the cult leader would take place, and I was already thinking of a location like this -- someplace derelict and worn down -- but this idea of a forgotten, ignored neighbourhood takes the original idea one step further.

It does feel a little bit too close to the notion of "Undertown" that I had in the "Stealing Time" novel from a few years back, but I don't think there's much of a chance of that novel ever getting finished, and if it's just going to sit around and collect dust anyway, I might as well rip something off from it.

I still need to give it a bit more thought, particularly in the area of where I'm intending to introduce the idea of this location. My first thought was that I needed to introduce it towards the beginning of teh novel, to have it in people's minds already for the climax, but I've begun to think that there might be a good point in the next chapter or two for that introduction -- might not be at the beginning, but it's early enough from the climax that it'll still get the job done.

As always -- and as is always surprising -- the further into the book I get, the more everything starts to coalesce. All the varying, disconnected ideas begin to pull together into a single, unifying thread.

God, I love it when that happens.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I'm not sure what drew me to it, but I watched Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love tonight, for what is probably only the second time. And the first time since I bought the DVD a few years back.

My first experience watching the film -- which I was desperate to see, after being blown away by Anderson's "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia" -- was in the form of a 700 MB AVI file I downloaded from the internet, the video of which appeared to have been shot on a handicam by someone in a theatre. The quality of the image was far from fantastic, but it least the camera seemed to be on a tripod, so it didn't wobble a lot.

I recall kind of enjoying the film at the time, but not being terribly affected by it. My review probably would have been summed up with a "Meh."

Which is probably why it's taken me so long to revisit it. I'm glad I did, though.

Punch-Drunk Love is a sweet, strange, and surprisingly moving love story. It's funny, though sometimes darkly so, it's strange, with moments of absurd randomness that might take some time to wrap your head around, and -- most importantly -- it's ultimately redemptive, as Barry Egan, a quiet, lonely, angry man finds a way out of his own personal darkness after falling in love with Lena Leonard.

Barry says this at the climax of the film: "I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine."

And it's a wonderfully powerful, beautiful moment.

Granted, it's a moment that comes in the middle of a mattress store in Utah while he's staring down the owner/operator of a phone sex business that's been trying (somewhat successfully) to extort money from him.

Still, powerful and beautiful. Even if a little absurd.

I think I needed something light and redemptive and loving after last night's unexpected outburst. Not sure entirely where it came from, but it went on a lot longer, and a lot further then I was expecting when I first sat down to write. I actually had a moment this morning, upon waking, when I thought, "Oh crap, what did I write last night?"

Thankfully I wasn't too embarassed when I checked it out this morning.

Maybe I just had a lot of religious agression pent up from the fact that I haven't done any significant work on the novel in the last few days, and haven't had an outlet for the sort of the stuff I've been conjuring up for the book. Or maybe I just hit the wrong tangent at the wrong time.

I"m taking the next two days off work after a gruelling two weeks putting out more publications than I can count, and I'm looking forward to doing a whole lot of nothing, occasionally broken up with some work on the novel. I still need to get through the second half of the manifesto so I can get the second act sort of rolling along. I'm not sure why I've been avoiding it. I've felt like writing, which is, in part, why I dumped so much in the blog last night, I think. I just haven't done any of it.

But whatever I've been doing, it's been unsatisfying, because in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, get off your ass. Get over to the book. Get WRITING.

So enough of this avoidance.

I want 6,000 down in the next two days -- that's only three bursts of 2K. Should be a breeze.

Of course, now that I've said that, I'm sure I've jinked myself.

Alphablogging (Part One)

So, a few people asked me what my thoughts were after watching the first of the Alpha videos.

And my answer to them all was the same.

"Preaching to the converted."

Which surprised me, a little, because the setup  I had heard for the Alpha video was that they were hosted by an agnostic who'd found God, who set out to disprove the existence of the divine, and instead ended up embracing it. And that, I thought, was something I could get my head arounde. That was an argument I'd love to hear.

And maybe that's still where we're going. There's still 9 weeks, 9 videos, to work our way through. Perhaps that still on the horizon.

But, from a purely marketing perspective, bad start.

It's like the way we're told to write essays when we're in high school.

Tell us what you're going to tell us. Then tell us. Then tell us what you told us.

As an introductory video, its job should have been to tell us what we were going to be told for the next nine weeks. If it was going to ask serious questions, then those questions should have come up. If it was going to tackle difficult issues, then those issues should have come up. But for the most part, they didn't.

Instead, the video host made some jokes, got some laughs, and said the sort of things that are only really going to ring true to people who are already on his side.

I suppose maybe I'm being a little unfair.

Complicated questions were asked. But over-simplistic answers were given. Which doesn't bode well for the rest of the program.

If we were going to be dabbling in complicated answers, I'd hope that there would be a hint of that in the first video. Instead, what we got were answers that, well, preached to the converted.

Or, I suppose, to the almost converted.

To those that were looking for easy answers.

When the man on the video (I don't know his name, and while a variety of names came up on my Google searches for Alpha Courses, I'm not sure who's who, and I'd hate to misrepresent anyone) talked about the emptiness we feel inside, or the desire to find something more in life, I started to think, "Hey, maybe i could acutally get into this."

Because I think we all feel that.

We're all familiar with that emptiness, that certainty that there must be something more to life than just what we know.

But the answer to that emptiness, it seems, is Jesus. And, more specifically, a personal relationship with God, though Jesus.

That's the only thing that can fill that void. The only thing that can make us complete.


And this isn't something new.

This is something that's been niggling at the back of my head for years.

Something that's bugged me for years.

We're all created with this void. Because this void arises out of a desire for a relationship with the God that created us. And the only way to fill it is with a personal relationship, with him, thorugh Jesus.

So then...


Isn't it a little bit perverse?

Isn't it a little perverse to create something that is lacking something, then demand that it seek you out for what it lacks, and then act as if you're loving and merciful for giving it what it lacks? For being willing to fill the absence that you created?

How is that merciful?

How is that loving?

Dear God, let this emptiness, this void, be worth more than just an excuse to seek you out. Do not let me think that you made me, and then tortured me, all so that I would feel compelled to find you.

If that's what it's all about, if all you want is to be loved, if all you want is to be worshipped, then just make us loving, just make us worshipful. Get rid of the whole joke that is free will.

If all you want is love and worship, then why did you put in me the desire for so much more?


Already, my opinions are coloured by what I read tonight, about the Alpha Program. Already I'm reminded that, too often, churches are like politicians, where after awhile, they stop caring about their congregation, and focus only on their sustainability. Their ability to pay the bills. Their job.

The alpha program has been ridiculously successfuly. I've only seen one video, and I think I already know why.

Because it preaches to the converted.

And, more importantly, it preaches to those who want to be converted.

Those who are desperate for an answer.

Those who want to fill the void in the hearts, at any cost. Those who are willing to cling to any truth. Those who are willing to find any meaning they can.

It preaches to the converted, and to those who are desperate for conversion.

This is the sort of rant that would likely have someone accusing me of not approaching the program with an open mind. But if they did make such an accusation, I don't think they could be any more wrong.

I do have an open mind.

I'm open to anything.

But I have conditions. I have logical conditions, scientific conditions, and yes, even spiritual conditions.

As the narrator in my current novel has said, on more than one occasion, yes, I want to believe.

But I'm still waiting for you to give me something worth beliving in.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Alphablogging (Prologue)

I've been fighting against the desire to do this for most of the day, until I finally had to throw in the towel and accept that, if I have to fight this long against a desire, then the desire must be there for a reason, and so maybe I should just succumb to it.

I was invited this weekend to attend the "Alpha Course" which is a sort-of introduction to Christianity program. The invitation came at, sort of, the perfect time for it, while I'm working on a book where issues of faith and spirituality play a very, very large role, which led me to actually consider going to something that I, normally, would have just dismissed and avoided. Because, I figured, at the very least, maybe it could give me a bit more to chew on, thematically, for this book.

And, admitedly, beyond that, there was also the fact that, yes, like a lot of people, I'm searching for some grander truth, some greater meaning behind our existences here on this planet. A lot of that search, I think, is going to end up finding itself into this current book -- a lot of it already has -- and already I'm feeling like part of the point of this book is for it function as a sounding board for all the question about life I have, as well as a sounding board for a handful of the answers.

Bottom line is this: Questions of faith have been in my head a lot lately, and when the invitation came to attend something that might lead to me ask further question, or look at those questions from a different perspective, I found myself actually inclined to attend.

Which I did, last night.

The Alpha Program, in a nutshell, is a ten-week course, where one night a week the participants gather, eat a meal, watch a video on Christianity, and then discuss the questions, issues, and answers that arose from that video. All in the interest of getting closer to the heart of, for lack of a better workd, the truth.

And it wasn't really until today that I even thought about blogging my own response to it.


I'm going to have to get used to sharing my opinion, if I'm going to actually continue on with this thing. Even if maybe that opinion isn't shared by any one else, even if maybe that opinion isn't welcome. Because if I'm going to go there and just sit in a corner, and keep those questions to myself, then I'm not doing anyone any good by being there.

So, in the interest of opening myself up, in the interest of improving  my ability to share what I'm *really* thinking, and *really* feeling, I'm going to blog my reactions to the Alpha Program. I won't be blogging immediately afterwards -- it might take a day or two or three before I sit down and get out my thoughts, but that's likely because I need to chew on the ideas that came up on that particular night before commenting on them.

And, wow, there's only been one night so far, but I already feel like I've been chewing for weeks.

I already feel like I have so much to comment on.

Part of this desire to comment, I'm sure, is coming as a direct result of doing a little online research on the Alpha Program. And the fact that some of the information available is good, and some of it, well, isn't. And even though reading up on the program is maybe a bit like flipping to end of a book even before you've begun it, I just can't help myself. I'm not very good at opening myself up, blindly, to outside influences. I like to know what I'm getting myself into.

And, in spite of the fact that I kind of feel like I know where things are going, and how we're going to get there, I'm going to try not to let that colour my perspective of anything. I'm going to try to take each moment of the Alpha Program (assuming I see it through to the end) as its own, individual moment, coloured only by what has come before, and not coloured by what I'm anticipating.

As much as I can.

I'm only human.

But this entry has gone on long enough, and I still have to comment on the opening "Alpha" evening. So what's say you join me over in the next post?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

700 words. Meh.

Half the manifesto is complete.

Well, maybe only a third. I dunno. This book seems to have a tendency to spiral out of my control whenever it seems fit. This seems like an area where it might.

Bottom line, only 700 words tonight before I threw in the towel. Which isn't bad, actually, because after getting home at 9:00 p.m., and making my lengthy school-violence-rant on the blog, I really didn't think I'd have much left in me.

But I had a little.


So I went and spent it.

And it didn't feel too bad. It didn't feel too far off from where it was when I was improv-writing it behind the wheel of the car driving into town a few days ago.

Which is nice.

Most of the time, I never feel like I can get close to that moment of initial inspiration. Most of the time, whenever I have to revisit something I already thought out, plotted out, scripted out, it comes out feeling weaker, watered down.

This...not so much.

That feels good.

But now it's 11:15, and I'm burn out, and I have so much more to say, but I don't have the energy for it, so I hope it stays right on the surface. I hope I can find it quickly tomorrow night, I hope I can slide easily right back into the moment agian. And I think, if I can get at it tomorrow, I might be able to.

In other book related news, I've been thinking about a new title for it for the last couple of hours, one I stumbled upon completely accidently, even though it should have been a no-brainer because I already started writing a short story with the same title a number of years ago, a short story with no hope of ever going anywhere.

It's also a no-brainer because it follows the same naming scheme I used for the last novel -- "Waiting for a Miracle" -- which borrowed (or, if you'd prefer, stole) it's title from a piece of modern music.

The title I'm now considering for the current book?

"Absence of Faith."

Which isn't exactly stolen from the title of a song, but rather from a line in a song -- in this case, "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails.

It's a nice phrase, one that's been stuck in my head pretty much since I first heard it. And it sums up a lot of the themes of the book quite nicely. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to homage the source material, like I did for "Waiting for a Miracle," by quoting it, as I'm already leaning towards two book-opening quotes that aren't "Closer."

One of the quotes is from a Nine Inch Nails song, so I suppose that could be an acknowledgement, but...

Just a thought. And those handful of you who visit this blog, feel free to toss in your comments on the title (even though, of course, you don't know a heck of a lot about the book at this point). It's far from written in stone at this point, and I'd gladly welcome any other perspective at the moment.

I may not officially slap a title on this thing until after I type the words "THE END" but there's no reason not to start planning right now.

And then comes the finger-pointing...

And so violence has once again erupted in a school, this time in a Montreal college, and already, just a day after the fact, fingers are already pointing. Blame is being placed. Goates are being scaped.

The media is, of course, all over it, quoting postings that the shooter -- now identified as Kimveer Gill -- made to a blog located at Of course, the blog is apparently no longer available at the site, and what information we're getting is, of course, filtered. Filtered by a media eager to point fingers, lay blame, scape goats.

I understand why these web pages disappear so quickly after an incident like this. It's like an albatross around the neck of a web site. It's publicity of the worst kind. Who wants their web site to be associated with a violent shooting spree? That can't be good for business.

But at the same time, there's important historic documentation to be gleaned from these sites, documentation beyond what the police require in their investigations, beyond what the media requires to tell their skewed, tabloidized version of events. It's the communication of a real person, who felt something, and communicated those feelings, whether those feelings were pain or rage or sadness or emptiness. And while we've seen, and some of us have suffered, as a result of what those feelings were, now very few of us will ever have the chance to actually see them, because Kimveer Gill is dead now, denying us the chance to ever ask, "Why?"

I'd probably let this event slide except for one thing: School violence is very much at the front of my mind right now, because it plays a relatively important part of the new book I'm working on. It's something I've had complicated feelings about ever since what happened at Columbine in 1999. And, while I certainly don't think I'll be able to get every single thought or feeling I have on the topic out onto paper in the writing of this novel, I'll certainlly be hitting a lot of it.

So it's in my head.

And then this happens.

So it's in my head some more.

And it's driving me nuts, because we've been missing the point for years. Every time this happens, we sit on the brink of something revalatory, we're on the edge of understanding something that's broken in our culture, but we throw it away. Because, while we're asking the right question -- which is "Why?" -- we don't really care about the answer.

We don't really want to know the truth.

We don't really want to know about what's broken in us.

Not just in people like Kimveer Gill or Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold -- because, of course, there is something undeniably broken in people like that -- but also in the rest of us, those of us who helped shape those people, who helped break those people.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, all we want is to sleep better.

We want simple answers to complicated questions.

When we ask, "Why?" we want someone to tell us:

It was because of violent video games; or

It was because of industrial music; or

It was because of violent images on film.

Already the media -- the last place we should be turning for answers, the last place we should be turning for truth -- is handing us the easy answers on a silver platter.

Gill enjoyed playing the video game "Postal." He enjoyed playing the video game "Super Columbine Massacre." His favourite movie was "Natural Born Killers."

These are easy answers, that bring us no closer to the truth, because no one really gives a damn about it. The media wants nothing more than a soundbite, because the truth will likely take awhile to get to, and they know this story will be old news within a week. As for the rest of us, we just want to be comforted. We just want to be told there's nothing to worry. We just want something simple we can point our finger at so we can sleep better at night, knowing that we did our jobs. Knowing that we've made the world a better place by laying blame on something, anything.

Whatever was convenient.

Whatever was available.

- - -

On this topic, and something I stumbled upon while doing a quick batch of research, Slate has a really fantastic look at Columbine, five years after the fact. Much of the stuff they cover was news to me, and shows that, at least in some circles, the media actually gives a damn about trying to get to the facts, and not just the soundbites that'll get the ratings. Check it out.


I've started a new blog over at blogger beta. Don't imagine I'll be doing a whole lot over there, but anyone interested in checking out my mucking about with the new blogger features can visit

Yeah, I'm as surprised as you are that the address is still available.

EDIT: It might help if I got the address right.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Another taste

It’s like I said, I want to believe in something. It’s just that there’s nothing out there to believe in. Nothing that pulls all the madness together and wraps it up in a nice little package, with an attractive little red bow. Nothing that tells me how God can love a healthy child born in to a middle-class suburban family, a child born with cancer, and a child born into a war-ravaged country, all equally. How can a God allows the routine slaughter of innocents claim to love his creations with all his heart?

When a parent tries that game, he goes to jail.

When a father explains that the reason he killed his son is because he loved him, he goes to the electric chair, or he goes for psychiatric evaluation.

God is a mass murderer.

God is a psychopath.

But no one can hold him to it, because even if he exists, you can’t track him down. You can’t drag him into court or drop him onto a sofa in a psychiatrist’s office.

If God exists, and if he’s nuts, well, he’s still in charge of it all.

There’s a madman at the wheel.

When you come to that conclusion, as it’s the only conclusion you can really come to, I assure you that it’s a whole lot easier, and a whole lot safer, to just believe in nothing at all.

Which is to say, simply stop believing.

God goes into the closet, along with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming, and Happily-Ever-Afters.

But when you grow up with faith – and not just faith in God, but faith in all that stuff – every time you lose a little bit of it, you get left a little emptier inside. It leaves a hollow little hole in your heart, or in your soul, where dust and cobwebs collect.

And as the years go on, you keep losing more and more. And the hole just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

There is no Santa Claus, the hole gets bigger.

There is no Easter Bunny, the hole gets bigger.

There are no good guys or bad guys, just different ideologies, the hole gets bigger.

God doesn’t love you any more or any less than anything else in the world, including children with cancer, and flattened cats on the side of the road, and dead 14-year olds in high school cafeterias, and the AIDS virus, and hepatitis, and algae, and sub-atomic particles.

The hole gets bigger.

Pretty soon, you start to feel like all that’s left inside is that hole, and you wonder if anything will ever start to fill the hole back in again, or if your life is just going to be spent listing piece after piece of yourself.

I’m smart enough to know that I’m not old enough to be sure. But I’ll tell you this: It’s not looking good.

It’s not hard to imagine some future version of myself, aged and bitter, and sad and lonely, with my insides so hollowed out that I can’t feel anything at all anymore. There’s no joy or sadness, no love or hatred, just blank indifference to any and everything around me.

Dead on the inside, just waiting for the outside to catch up.

Just waiting for the body to figure out what the heart already knows.

That there’s nothing.


Nothing worth believing in, nothing worth fighting for, nothing worth dying for, nothing worth living for.

That we were the ones in charge, that we were the ones behind the wheel, that we were the ones given an empty canvas, and what we painted onto it was brutal and red and violent and angry and perverse. That we are the masters of our own destinies, and as those masters, we have damned ourselves to hell.

And that hell is this: Life in the 21st century.

So yeah, it’s fair to say that I wished I could believe in something. Take my word for it, believing in nothing at all is no goddamn fun.

The blog's been kind of vacant lately, so I thought I'd make up for it with another chunk of the novel, taken this time from the portion that I wrote tonight.

Still working on it, technically, in the background, while writing this blog post, but I don't think I've got much of it left in me for tonight.

Current word count: 27,712.

300 more words to break the 28,000 mark and maintain my nightly average of 2,000 words.

I should be able to do that.

NIce surprise -- I thought I was further away than that.

I'm trying to get past the second-act jitters. The feeling that, having put out about 1/3 of the novel's total, it's only a matter of time until things turn sour. It's been going too well, too smoothly, too effectively. It can't keep going like this.

These feelings persist in spite of the fact that I have a pretty good idea of how it's ending (with one of two climaxes in mind -- one being more of an anti-climax, in some ways) as well as a pretty good idea of what's going to happen between then and there.

If I can get through this chapter, I'll be fine.

This chapter had so much stuff in it, so much important stuff -- the pressing on of the love-story angle, the revelation of the cult-leader, and -- the part I'm most concerned about now -- the cult leader's first chance at sharing his manifesto.

His well-oiled spiritual fantasies.

I'm not going to get to that tonight, thank God. I won't let myself. Because I need a clear head for it, and I need to start my evening's writing binge with it. I need to be on the ball, firing on all cylinders, and right now I'm not.

I wrote a good chunk of the manifesto in the car the other day. I wish I'd had a recorder with me, as some of it was pretty good, and I know with my luck it'll never be that good again. Or, if it is, it'll somehow not actually feel that good. It'll feel like a bad photocopy of the original idea, and I'll always kick myself for not capturing the first, pure moment of the idea's creation.

C'est la vie, I guess.

Sayla vee.

Back to work now. 300 words to go for tonight, if I can get out 300 words before it's manifesto time.