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30 August 2002
Earlier this week, I finished reading The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker. It's the first work of his I've read, not counting The Thief of Always, which is a children's book, and therefore it doesn't exactly count toward being able to say, "Yes, I've read Barker" (though Thief is an absolutely lovely, if creepy, tale which I highly recommend to everyone.) Now, I realise I have likely broken some tenet of being a horror writer by not having read him sooner, but hey, that's the way it is. I was lax in my reading for some time, and, thanks to my sweet and beloved wife, have now put myself back on the devouring of books track I once trod in my youth.

Having little idea of where to start (I knew only of his movies, namely the Hellraiser series and Lord of Illusions, which I actually consider a damn good movie), I settled on The Great and Secret Show because it looked interesting and a likely place to start. I was right. Not only was it the perfect introduction to both Barker's style and his worldview, but it also contained the character I'd most wanted to read about--one Harry M. D'Amour, who was the main character of Lord of Illusions (and skillfully played by Scott Bakula, of "Quantum Leap" fame.) Granted, D'Amour is barely in this book (it's the first part of a very long story, and from the ending, I assume he'll figure largely in the next book, Everville.

Should any of you be interested in it, stop reading this now, as I'm about to discuss and relate the basic story. For the rest, okay, here goes.

GASS, as we'll refer to it from now on to avoid repeatedly typing the title, is a heck of a ride. It begins in Omaha, the "crossroads" of America, at the Dead Letter Office of the Postal system, where all unclaimed, non-returnable mail ends up. Our anti-hero, Randolph Jaffe, discovers many secrets hidden in those letters, most important among them being the existence of the Art. What the Art really is is never exactly defined, but it appears to be the ability to warp the reality we all know and love, to rip away the veil of that reality to show the nifty workings beneath--something of a way to shatter the illusions of the world we live in. And what lies under those illusions is a sort of heaven, a dream sea called Quiddity. From there we have forced evolution, armies of people's fears and dreams clashing, rips in reality, strange creatures called Iad Uroboros who want to rule our world, and the destruction of a small town in California--always a good thing. Pretty intense stuff.

It's a long and involved story, and would take far too long to properly explain (as I discovered this weekend in an attempt to mention one small part to a friend--sorry, Chris!--too much of the story can only work in the context of the rest of the story, which is enormous in both length and scope). Let me simply say that GASS is beautifully crafted, exciting, and thought-provoking. But I did have one serious problem with it. I'm not sure where this book fits into the Barker canon--I really need to look that up--but I have to wonder if it's an earlier work. There are times when his language is just far too crude and harsh. In writing, I've found certain characters will curse, and sometimes use the basest language imaginable, whether you want them to or not--sometimes it's just in their nature, and it ends up ringing true on the page, even if you're not a fan of that sort of language. It can work, and it can work quite well. But there are many spots in GASS where it seems Barker uses his harsh language unnecessarily. He didn't have to get overly poetic, but sometimes it really jars to read. As I said, I'm not sure if it's because it was an earlier work, or if that's just his style. I hope the former. It doesn't hurt his writing too much, but it is a fault that's hard to ignore.

Not that I'm against such language--I just think there's a right way to use it. It seems many writers don't pay as much attention to their language, and consider alternatives, as they should. It's disappointing.

But beyond that, I must say that Barker's a heck of a read. Well worth the time and effort. For the Brits, I prefer Neil Gaiman, but I certainly think there's some room on our future bookshelves for some more Clive Barker.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:54 PM
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23 August 2002
In light of my post yesterday, I must also post this comment from Andrew Stuttaford on The Corner:

"PASSIVE COMMUTING [Andrew Stuttaford]
A new report from University College, London has found that, in the course of a twenty minute commute, travelers on the London Underground breathe in as much pollution as if they had smoked a cigarette.

Mayor Bloomberg is expected to call for the Tube to be made illegal shortly.

Posted 8:37 AM |
Jelly Pinched Wolf   8:41 AM
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22 August 2002
So, the new mayor of NY, Michael Bloomberg, is attempting to effect a citywide ban on smoking. No more smoking in restaurants or bars or the workplace. NY is going the way of Califruitia. You thought New Yorkers were abrasive and irritable before? Wait until they can't get their nicotine fix as easily.

Now, I am no great fan of smoking. I have no real desire to defend the activity. But what I do think deserves defense is the right of smokers to suck that cloud down into their lungs. It's been said before: smoking may not be the brightest thing in the world to choose, but smokers are anything but stupid. They know the risks involved. They know the stench that clings to their clothes and teeth is not pleasant. But they're willing to take the risk anyway. Sure, it's likely the addiction that makes them willing to risk it, but the fact of the matter is, they have the right to do so if they please. And before you start throwing the "second-hand smoke" argument at me, most smokers I've known are not inconsiderate bastards. They will go out of their way to minimise the amount of stinking cloud that hits their non-smoking neighbors.

To be honest, I can't imagine a bar without people smoking. It's as necessary to the environment as the drinking. And as always, if the smoke bothers you, you can leave. Yes, it is within your power! Some disgruntled non-smokers claim they should not be the ones to have to leave, that it's *their* rights that are being infringed upon. It's a tricky part of the argument. After all, it's not as though smoking is technically protected in the Constitution. Of course, if you want to get *really* technical about it, neither does our Constitution protect you from having smoke blown in your face by some smelly drunken moron. The law of the land isn't quite that specific, folks. It's supposed to be up to us to act like rational adults and respect each other in courtesy. It's really not that hard to compromise and treat each properly in this situation. But then, smokers are stubborn and non-smokers are often like vegans (matched only in scariness by members of PETA--though, since often the membership of these two groups overlap, it explains an awful lot), irrationally vehement, claiming that smokers are evil. They're not evil, just addicted. Onions, on the other hand, now those are evil.

I would love to see less smokers out there, I really would. For their own sake, not mine. My father quit several years ago, and to my knowledge has remained faithful to that. It makes me smile to think on it, to know that his lungs are being given the chance to work the way they were meant to, to know he does not have to plaster the cilia in those lungs back down just to get a decent breath of air. But this ban in the City by this moron of a mayor (as a rule, I'm thinking billionaires should not be allowed into political office--maybe someday I'll be able to support this claim, but for now, I'll just say it and stand by it) is not the way to go about it. Neither are those horrible anti-smoking commercials. The people making those ought to have their kneecaps blown off. And then, I'm thinking a bit of lemon juice, tabasco sauce, maybe just a wee bit of vinegar--right over the blown-off kneecaps. Yeah. While we're at it, let's force them to watch their own propagandistic tripe on repeat while listening to something truly horrific, like, say Britney Spears. That'll larn 'em!

Ahem. Yes. So, as I was saying.

The moral here, I think, is if California puts something into law, it's a good indicator that it's a really bad idea to follow their lead. After all, just look at what their college system has done to the SATs. But that's another issue, for another day.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:23 PM
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21 August 2002
I discovered today that the soundtrack to the Buffy Musical, "Once More, With Feeling" will be officially released on September 24 to coincide with the season premier. Much happiness does this cause me. And it's even got extra tracks!

On a slightly more downbeat note, Buffy has again been horribly snubbed in nominations for the Emmys. I cannot say I'm at all surprised by this, but especially given the quality of the musical, I guess I had harboured some hope that the uncultured morons who vote on this thing might actually be able to see the talent involved in the production. True, Buffy didn't have the best season ever this year, but the musical alone makes up for that--in writing, direction, acting, everything. But no, the show gets a couple of makeup and hairstyling nominations. It did get one for musical direction, which is certainly something, but that shouldn't be the only "real" nod allowed it. Joss Whedon's producing one of the only shows on network television with some real humour, intelligence, and depth, so of course he'd be snubbed again. It's the same reason terrific shows like "Strange Luck" and "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr." and "Lone Gunmen" get cancelled. They're just too good for the glass teat.

Joss has a new show starting this fall on Fox, called Firefly. Fox, in their infinite brilliance, has put it on Friday nights, the death knell for any show. It's where Brisco died. It's where Strange Luck died. It's where Gunmen died. It's where they moved Dark Angel to so that it could creep off into the wastelands of tv afterlife. All Fox shows. Hmmm, you'd think they'd note the bloody pattern! Well, let us hope Firefly can succeed. May the geeks of the world unite to support it!
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:35 PM
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20 August 2002
May I have your attention, please!

Kathy happened to realise that since she wrote the contest rules below, there might be some pronoun issues in my posting. Me being lazy, and her wording being lovely, it never occurred to me that it might sound odd should I make an identical post. And though I am prone to speaking in the third person, this was not intended for the rules, and has now been altered.

Silly us.

You may now go about your business.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   2:50 PM
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Synonyms & Sugar and the Jelly-Pinched Wolf present their first ever joint venture: the Official Name Scott's Novel Contest!

Novel Synopsis:
The small, idyllic, secluded town of Holden, on the coast of New Hampshire, has been besieged by several brutal murders. Each is worse than the last, yet all victims have been decapitated. With few clues besides a strange symbol carved into the beach sand and an organic compound of bafflingly indeterminate makeup found in the blood of one victim, Sheriff Andrew MacGregor, together with his deputies and the unorthodox new county coroner, Justin Theodore Reynard, must find and stop the killer. But are these murders the work of a natural being? As the truth is unravelled, a war is brewing in Holden, and the residents of this town may discover more about their own natures than they ever dreamed. Though Holden is in many ways its own little universe, the fate of the whole world may rest on its shoulders, and in the very blood of its people.

Official Contest Rules:
No purchase necessary! Purchase does not improve odds of winning! Few will enter-even fewer will win! To enter, simply email either Kathy or I with your title ideas, be they wacky or serious, silly or somber, light and fluffy or dark and depressing; make sure you include "Name Scott's Novel" or something in the email subject line. All will be read! In two weeks' time the contest results will be posted at both blog sites!

Grand Prize Winners will receive a picture of one of the main characters, drawn by the adorable Kathy, plus mention on the widely-read Synonyms & Sugar and me very own Blog With the Really Long Name. And if I really, really love your title more than any other title I've ever heard in the whole wide world, you may be immortalized in print (at the very least, you'll get a mention in the acknowledgements)! Woo!

There's no guarantee that I will actually use any of these titles for the novel, although I may. Mostly we just want to have fun. Even if I don't use anyone's suggestion, it's still a grand ol' time, right? Right! So let the games begin!
Jelly Pinched Wolf   9:56 AM
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19 August 2002
For those who have not yet checked out the blog of my wife (link's over there on the left, at Synonyms and Sugar), please do so. She's had a brilliant and fun idea to run a contest among our couple of readers, whereby you can submit a title for my novel. She's got the background on it all, so I'm not going to go into detail here. We'll both be posting the contest particulars and so forth tomorrow, so make sure to check back in either blog then.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:06 PM
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16 August 2002
Whoa! Look at me, I'm a posting madman today! This has gotta be a record number of posts for the Jelly-Pinched Wolf! Woo hoo!
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:26 PM
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As my lovely wife would say, "Omoshiroii, ne." Very interesting.

Wanting to be certain I was not high or deluded, I checked my usage of "aplomb" in the previous post via In a weird twist of coincidence, "aplomb" happens to be their word of the day.

So bizarre.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:25 PM
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I meant to blog about this weeks ago and was just so busy that it escaped my mind.

On the third of August, a bunch of us got the chance to hear James Earl Jones speak at the opening ceremony of the new library at North Lake College here in Irving, TX. What an experience. Beyond the amazing voice, the guy just seems cool. He spoke about the importance of a good education, and especially the wonders of reading, then read a scene from Othello, which he has performed on stage numerous times. Finally he fielded questions, which proved to be the best part of the whole thing. Jones managed to answer all the inane questions simply by not exactly answering them. For instance, some moron would stand up and babble on, not quite ever getting to the point. Jones would then take the seed of their question and answer in a way that was actually more relevant and interesting than had he answered their lame question directly. He still basically answered them, but it was with aplomb, style, and a complete lack of the pseudo-intellectualism half the questioners were shooting for. So nice.

One of the best moments was when one guy approached the stage and asked his question. Since he made no sense at all, he was forced to rephrase his question, and still he asked in a vague, convoluted manner. Jones, catching the gist, said something to the effect, "You seem to have something in particular in mind, sir." To which the guy responded, "Well, what I'm getting at is: Are you a Christian?" Jones cleverly responded, "That is between me and God." As the man turned and stalked back to his chair amongst the applause, I saw that he wore a white t-shirt with giant red letters spelling "Jesus." When will people learn that religion should be a personal, private thing? I could go on at length about this, as it is something that routinely frumps my gourd, but I shan't as that's not what this post is about.

The best moment, however, was getting to hear the voice of Darth Vader say, "I just came from the bathroom...." Bloody priceless!
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:11 PM
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So, last night I finished Chapter 30 of the novel. That leaves just three chapters and an epilogue. After all this time, the end is finally in sight. It's so bizarre. And the great thing is that the story holds as much interest for me now as it ever did--maybe even more now that things are coming to a head and the great climactic end is approaching.

At my current pace, I should actually finish this thing by sometime this fall. After more years than I care to count, the first novel will soon be done. True, then begins the long ordeal of finding a good agent and getting the thing published, but once it's done, I have no doubt everything will snowball from there.

Of course, this does mean I'm actually going to have to come up with a title soon. Argh!
Jelly Pinched Wolf   3:49 PM
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15 August 2002
Let us today discuss an evil plague on our people--AOL.

Now, I don't mean the corporation, exactly. There are many reasons to fear the mammoth monster that is AOL/Time Warner. But in the end, it's pretty much all about making the bucks in this wonderful free market economy of ours, and that's fine. The evil lies in their internet service. And I'm not even talking about the lousy programming behind their software. That's pretty darned evil, to be sure, but not nearly so much as their continued attempts to turn us all into idiots, morons, and slavish buffoons.

A bit extreme? Perhaps. But let's face it, any program that caters to the lowest common denominator in our human brains (the desire for ease and simplicity, which more often than not feeds our natural laziness) should be looked upon with much skepticism. And yet, if their claims to membership are to be believed, many of us are not thinking much at all about our internet service (personally, I believe their numbers are likely bloated by those making use of the free hours disks that have proliferated like mad over the last several years--people who would not otherwise be using AOL's lame service). We point, we click, we enter a keyword, we surf. No thinking necessary. Not that I'm saying logging onto the internet should be akin to solving a physics problem or discovering the meaning of life or figuring out just what the hell Michael Jackson really is ('cause I refuse to believe at this point that Wacko Jacko is human), but really, this is just another instance of we humans giving ourselves over to the desire to do as little as possible. I myself can be a lazy person--I understand this desire--but I never wish to be so lazy that I don't even have to use my brain. And nor should any of us. Our intelligence is what makes us what we are (I realise a case could be made for the soul as the separating factor, but we're not in a religious discussion at the moment, we're in a "people are stupid" discussion, so please, leave your religion at the door), so how can people so easily give it up for the ease of internet access?

But this is only one part of AOL's insidiousness. The other, I have already mentioned once: keyword. Personally, I have a problem with this being one word, but that may just me being a langauge snob. It's in the dictionary as either "keyword" or "key word," so I'll let it lie. (Admittedly, I am using an online dictionary, so it's always possible that the site is biased, but for lack of a real, bound dictionary at the moment, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.)

A definition:
1.A word that serves as a key to a code or cipher.
2.A significant or descriptive word.
3.A word used as a reference point for finding other words or information.

Note the use of the singular: "word."

So, I'm looking at my "Two Towers" wallpaper (which is very cool, by the way), and down in the corner, by the AOL logo, it says: "Keyword: Lord of the Rings." Now, maybe it's just me, but Lord of the Rings is not one word. It is, in fact, several words. A phrase, even, one might say. It could be my memory of the English language is fuzzy, but last I checked, singles words did not often contain spaces. Nor do words generally contain multiple capitalisations. Even if it was a typo, and it should have been "lordoftherings," English does not tend toward the polysyllabic in this way as, say, German. Spaces, multiple capitalisations, common bloody sense--so many clues! Not "Keyword: Lord." Not "Keyword: Ring." Not even "Keywords: Ignorant bastardisation of the English language with which we infect as many people as possible."

A small quibble, perhaps, but as my wife would say, "Precision of language, people!" We are becoming more and more ignorant and lazy every day, and things like AOL's "Keyword" are not helping. Our language should be growing, adapting, becoming more and more beautiful and complex and intriguing with every usage, not simplifying into a few stock phrases that everyone can get by with. Weird and frustrating as English can at times be, it is not something we should let rot and fester. We should not be lazy about this one thing. To be sure, there are other things to not be lazy about, like defending our rights. But really, what's the point of free speech if none of us can write or speak in more than a few grunts and those precious "keywords?"
Jelly Pinched Wolf   2:35 PM
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09 August 2002
Today, at the expense of much work, I finally managed to catch up to the current strip of Sluggy Freelance. Thank goodness! I can work again! Well, er, I can at least find other things to do to fill the massive void in my day that has just opened up. I can even perhaps blog again! Wouldn't that be nice? I'm sure some of you out there have given up on me by now.

So, I saw M. Night Shymalan's 'Signs' over the weekend. Very good movie--enjoyed it immensely. Nice to see a solid, old-school style suspense movie of the sort that would make Hitchcock happy. I've read a few reviews since then, and they're all fairly even-handed and complimentary. But what I want to know is why every one of them seems to consider 'Unbreakable' his "unsuccessful" follow-up to 'Sixth Sense?'

Now, don't get me wrong, I loved Sixth Sense. It's one of the few movies I have not been able to figure out until the very end. ('The Usual Suspects,' movie to end all movies, is, of course, the crowning achievement in this particular field.) But Unbreakable was anything but unsuccessful as a film, and the ending was not, as many critics seem to be suggesting, weak. Must one be a fan of comic books to enjoy the sheer brilliance of this movie? Perhaps. I hope not, as I think everyone ought to love Unbreakable. But then, maybe I only get it because I know the way the worlds of comic books function. Had I the time and presence of mind, I would likely babble on in great detail about the wonderfulness of this movie. Alas, the work I've been neglecting is calling....
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:21 PM
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02 August 2002
Beautiful line from Orson Scott Card's 'Seventh Son.'

"...a duel is just two murderers who agree to take turns trying to kill each other."
Jelly Pinched Wolf   1:55 PM
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