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Wolf in White Van

Wolf in White Van

Our Choices Define Us

Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014, $24.

Wolf in White Van is unlike anything I have ever read. John Darnielle plunges the reader into a maze of unsynchronized thoughts and chronologically displaced views. The narrator’s mind is a labyrinth into which he invites not only the reader but anyone willing to join in his mail-in role playing game. The cover does a masterful job of conveying the complexities of this novel to anyone lucky enough to happen upon it in a bookstore. Like the cover, the novel offers no way through the winding tunnels of the subconscious. Darnielle is also the lead singer of the musical group Mountain Goats, and his lyrical writing is displayed in flowing sentences that parallel the novel’s intricacies.

The entire novel focuses on the idea of choices and the effects the choices we make have on our lives. Sean Phillips, the main character and narrator of the novel, begins the journey in the middle of its entirety. There are two tragic accidents in which Sean is involved. One of these involves him directly, where the other indirectly implicates him. However, in both situations it is the choices that Sean makes that deliver the tragic outcomes.

After Sean’s self-destructive accident, he is forced to delve deeper into his own mind. Never knowing if he will ever be able to see or be a part of the world of his body, Sean begins to build an intricate and detailed world in his mind. He calls it the Trace Italian, and it becomes a role playing game that generates enough income for him to live on his own. Sean states, “It was later, lying supine and blind for days, faced with the choice of either inventing internal worlds or having no world at all to inhabit, when I started to fill in the details”. Even as a child, Sean imagined himself as a conquering ruler. “I ruled a smoking, wrecked kingdom with a hard and deadly hand. It was dark and gory. No one liked living there, not even its king.” These childhood thoughts seem more than the workings of a child’s imagination. Instead they make us wonder about Sean, and his motives later in the story.

As the game master of the Trace Italian, Sean sets the scene for the characters involved. In a post-apocalyptic United States, there is not much hope for those who plunge into the game. The players mail their moves to Sean and he dictates the outcome of their choices. Sean never killed off any of his players for making one poor choice, but instead coerced them into making better decisions on the next turn. Only after several terrible turns would Sean feel the need to kill off a character. This idea of one poor choice not dooming someone to death seems to have been inspired by Sean’s own accident. The players were searching for a haven located in Kansas, the Trace Italian. Oddly enough, Sean never actually created the place. It seemed as if he never intended anyone to make it to the Trace.

A young couple, mailing their journey to the Trace Italian from Florida, makes the choice to try to find the Trace in the real world. Their decision leads to terrible consequences, leaving one of them dead and the other in a precarious state. Sean is called in to court, to be held accountable for the effects his game had on the young people. Ultimately, Sean is not help responsible, but it does not stop his mind from wondering if perhaps he should have been. Sean talks about one of his players, “I pictured him acting out his dreams in real space, pantomiming his moves in a room somewhere before he wrote them down”. He proceeded to send the boy a scalpel through the mail in honor of one of the boys more courageous turns. Sean even drew comparisons between this particular player and the couple who ended up exactly what he imagined. Certainly, he did not feel that he was completely innocent.

The book deals with the decisions we make and the outcomes that come after, but Darnielle does a masterful job of taking these elements and tangling them in the mysteries of the mind. The structure of the novel is worked so masterfully that both of the horrific events, although taking place many years apart, become both the beginning and the end of the novel. Wolf in White Van is an interesting read for anyone familiar with the intricacies of role playing games. The novel is intelligent, yet very comical in a real way, at the same time.

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Posted by on April 9, 2015 in From the Desk of the Author

 

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SPARTAN RACE 10% OFF CODE

SOME EXCITING NEWS

Here is a 10% discount on any race.    SPARTANBLOGGER   If you use this code, please let me know in the comment section. Thanks

Spartan Race now has a podcast. This just went live recently, and should prove very motivational.

A new season pass option for Spartan Racers offers great deals and offers.

There is even a Spartan Cruise at this point, which sounds like a lot of fun. Here is a 50% off code for the cruise Cruise50

Spartan Race™ 

World’s Best Obstacle Race. Period.

Born in the scenic hills of Vermont, Spartan Race was created to bring the excitement of obstacle racing to spectators and athletes alike. That means you.

Spartan Race is a true adventure that anyone can do, and everyone should try. With course lengths of 3+miles (Sprint), 8+miles, (Super) and 12+miles (Beast) each course is filled with mud, water, and signature obstacles designed to help you discover your inner Spartan. Athletes of all fitness levels will enjoy participating in a Spartan Race and the feeling of accomplishment that comes at the finish line.

Spartan Race even has events for kids. We believe that fitness and adventure should involve the whole family. Come out and watch your kids run, jump, and climb like children were meant to do all in their own Spartan Kids race.

For those that want a more team based experience Spartan Race has the Hurricane Heat and for the truly adventurous theHurricane Heat 12 Hour. The Hurricane Heat takes you out of the individual role and has you work with a group of complete strangers to complete tasks designed to bring you together as a team. Those that have done the Hurricane Heat have often done multiple across the country, making friends for life along the way.

Not sure you are ready to run a Spartan Race? It’s ok we have everything you need to get you ready: Spartan SGX training, workouts-of-the-day, nutrition tips to help you eat better, and free workouts held in cities all over the country. Spartan Race is not only the worlds best obstacle race (period), but can be a complete lifestyle overhaul.

So even if you’ve tried a trail race, mud run, obstacle race, or adventure race it’s time to try a Spartan Race. Unlike other obstacle races we offer something for everyone. So sign-up, gear-up and find out why we say…

You’ll know at the finish line.

There is a new Digital Magazine called SPARTAN

I, myself, have enjoyed the challenges offered by the Spartan Race. It pushed me to my limits and seemed to calm my nerves. I had recently accepted a promotion, and things were tough at work; however, none of that factored in during the race. I was so focused on completing the task, that those things faded into the background (which is where they belong). Instead of concerning myself with my job, I took my wife’s hand and together we proudly conquered obstacle after obstacle. Together, with other every day warriors, we went the distance and earned the medals that were placed around our necks

Barbed wire crawl: a crawl through mud under barbed wire. Participants must stay low to the ground as to not get injured by the wire. Crawls range from 20-100+ yards in length. The wire crawl has appeared in every Spartan Race to date. Our length was about 40 yards, if I had to guess (which I do).This was not as challenging to me as it seemed to be to some of the other racers.

Over-Under-Through: a series of obstacles in which runners must first climb over a wall, then under a wall, then through a tire or square hole placed in a wall. This obstacle is often repeated three or more times in a row and appears in almost every Spartan Race.This was not really an obstacle at all. We handled it easily without losing much pace. I think it was put there simply to break the monotony of mud, and I was thankful for the respite.

Spear throw: from a distance of 10-20 yards, athletes must throw a wooden spear into a target. If the spear does not stick, a penalty of 30 burpees is assigned. The spear throw is present at every Spartan Race with the exception of state parks that do not allow weapons. Typically, the spear throw is near the end of the race. First of all, Burpees suck BAD, especially at the end of a taxing race. Make sure you sink the spear throw or you will burn yourself out on the big bad burpees. My manliness (don’t laugh) did not like the fact that my spear did not stick and my muscles followed suit. In my defense, it was more like throwing a floundering gig than an actual spear but still…

Wall climb: as the name suggests, runners must climb over a wooden wall. Walls range from 4-8 feet and are often in sequence. This obstacle may be repeated throughout the course. There again, not really much to write about. It is a wall and you have to climb over it.

Object carry: A signature obstacle, the object carry is often the most challenging. In a Spartan Sprint, this obstacle typically appears once. In a Super Spartan, twice; in a Beast, three times or more. The object to be carried may be a tire, rock-filled bucket, or sandbag. Both the bucket and sandbag weight between 30 and 70 pounds. Men must carry heavier objects than women. We had to carry a sandbag which weighed about 30 lbs and we also had to carry a concrete wad that weighed about 70 lbs. The sandbag was not really a challenge, even though we had to carry it much farther than the heavier weight. The heavy concrete mass was awkward to grab and this was compounded by the massive amounts of mud caked all over our hands. This slowed us down a bit, but we powered through it.

Herculean Hoist: athletes must hoist a cement block or heavy bucket off the ground using a pulley system. This obstacle is similar to the “lat-pull” exercise machine, but is more difficult because the rope is often muddy and slippery. This obstacle seemed to be a challenge for some of the other racers, but I was able to get it quickly and without exhausting too much energy. I guess working in an asphalt plant has its advantages.

Traversal Wall: the traversal wall is similar to a bouldering wall. This obstacle was ridiculously unfair. All of the footholds and handholds were covered in mud. I imagine the first racers had a nice clean path, but by the time we ran it was crazy slick. Needless to say, we had burpees to do. My stamina wept.

Slippery Wall: a wall built at an incline (roughly 45 degrees) that is covered in soap or grease. Runners may try to sprint up the wall or use a rope for assistance. We had the luxury of a rope, so this was not very challenging.

Rope Climb: A rope is hung over a body of water/mud with a bell installed at the very top. Participants must “ring the bell” before climbing down. My wife had the great idea of holding the bottom of rope still while I climbed and this helped me ascend quickly and ring the bell. I will say, though, that a muddy rope will still burn your hands.

Fire jump: participants leap over flames. This obstacle is typically at the beginning or end of a race. The fire jump has appeared in nearly every Spartan Race, though certain venues do not allow fire. We had fire, but it was not very intense. Not that I expected an inferno or anything, but it was easy to jump over. This was right toward the end of the race and the finish line was in sight, so that probably inspired me to greater heights.

Gladiator Arena: before the finish line, athletes must pass through the “gladiators” who try to knock down runners using their pugil sticks. These guys were tired of hitting little pieces of crap like me, so they barely even tried… until I tried to put a spin move on them (summoned my inner AP). Then the guy got mad, or his steroids got angry for my attempted dodge and he swung at the back of my head. Glancing blow.

We had a really good time, and I highly suggest that you give it a shot. We were proud to finish, and most importantly we decided that we wanted to start back up on our running.

Barbed

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in From the Desk of the Author

 

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Spartan Race Championship on NBC Dec 7th

Helping Hand

Hey Everybody

I wanted to remind everybody about the Spartan Race Championship on NBC.

It airs on December 7th.

Spartan Race is on a mission to get you active, healthy, excited about change, and return to our ancient roots where running through woods, getting dirty, and facing adversity was part of everyday life. Our events are all about challenging today’s perception of normal.

Our events challenge the familiar, today’s perception of normal living and getting you out of your comfort zone! At Spartan Race, we do this everyday and it shapes everything we do.

Having experienced many different racing events, we wanted to make adventure racing more accessible to everyone, but do not be fooled by the word ‘accessible’, as our events have a challenge for everyone’s needs.

Spartan Race now introduces a level for everyone beginning with the entry level Spartan Sprint, intermediate level Super Spartan, the advanced Spartan Beast, and the ‘99.9% need not apply’ extreme level Death Race.

Whatever your level, Spartan Race will test your strength, stamina, and sense of humor.

Here is a 15% discount to get you started

                                                             http://bit.ly/spartanwarrior

Keep your eyes open for more deals and free giveaway from The Kraken’s Wake

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in From the Desk of the Author

 

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This is Sparta

Spartan Race

My wife and I ran in the Spartan Race in MS on Saturday. We had a wonderful time crawling through the mud together. Running the race as a team was the right choice; we needed one another to get through certain obstacles. The Spartan Race was set up better than the Warrior Dash, in my opinion. The obstacles were harder, and utilized different skill sets such as a spear throw. I was surprised at how easily I handled the strength events. Working in my asphalt plant for so many years has made me strong, apparently.

I am ready for an obstacle run that doesn’t rely so heavily on the element of mud. I have been looking at this run, the alpha warrior http://www.alphawarrior.com/. The Alpha Warrior is next on my list.

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2013 in From the Desk of the Author

 

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Iron Man 3 (spoiler alert)

Iron-Man-3

****SPOILER ALERT****

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Iron Man 3, what can I say? It was a disappointment. Tony Stark is always clever and funny, but the whole plot seemed lame to me. The villains were ridiculous. It was like the writers ran out of any ideas for bad guys, so they mashed up human torch and wolverine. I hated Guy Pierce as the Mandarin. However, Ben Kingsley did a wonderful job as Trevor.

The little boy from Rose Hill, TN was great. Usually child actors struggle, especially in scenes with actors as good as Robert Downey Jr. However, this little boy did more than hold his own. The scene where he sends Stark into a nervous breakdown was hilarious. Then he just sticks his tongue out, ever so slightly. It was genius.

I was disappointed in the way they used Pepper Potts. She, like Elizabeth Swan from Pirates of the Caribbean, automatically know how to fight. I mean, she should have been helping the Avengers with moves like that. I hope Thor is better.

What did you people think of the movie?

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2013 in From the Desk of the Author

 

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Game of Thrones *Baratheon* (Spoilers are Coming)

*IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED GAME OF THRONES AND PLAN TO, THEN DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER*

Baratheon

Robert Baratheon – Fat and lazy. Completely unworthy of the crown he wears. His love for Lyanna Stark kept him from sharing love with his queen.

Stannis Baratheon – I wanted to like Stannis. However, the fire priestess, Melisandre, made him seem less admirable and more like a fool grasping for any answer. I do like Davos, the Onion Knight. He seems wise to me.

Renly Baratheon – During the first season I did not mind Renly at all. However, in the second season he irked me. I think it was his outfit. I was glad that his lover, Loras Tyrell, was an adept warrior. Renly’s wife, if you could call her that, bothered me a lot. I have little doubt that she would make an excellent queen for Joffrey.

Brienne of Tarth – I mention her here because she was initially part of Renly’s kingsguard. Brienne is cast perfectly in my opinion. I like her a lot. I know that fight between her and Jaime is coming, and I hope that she can win. However, I doubt it.

Joffrey Baratheon – Not really a Baratheon at all, so I will save him for the Lannister post. Same with his two siblings.

Ser Barristan Selmy – This is my favorite of what I consider minor characters. I hope that we have not seen the end of Barristan. If Ned Stark feared to face the man in battle, then I can only imagine that he is tough as nails. I love when he tells the 5 kingsguard that he could cut them down. I think he may have been telling the truth.

Grand Maester Pycelle – I do not like any of the members of the Royal Court. Too much backstabbing. I did like Tyrion’s plan of luring out the men who were not loyal to him.

Lord Peter Baelish – My wife and I went round and round about it Littlefinger was to be trusted. I lost. I thought it was too easy to have a man such as him be a “bad guy”. I thought the greater intrigue would have been if Baelish truly helped the Starks. I have grown to hate this character over time. Perhaps that was the intent.

Varys – I don’t trust Varys either. Out of the members of the Royal Court, he bothered me the least. I hope that there is no truth to his dealings with little boys. I appreciate that he is so very knowledgeable, but it gets old after a time. A “little bird” tells me he won’t last through season 3.

Sandor Clegane (The Hound) – I really like the Hound. He is brutal in battle and simple of mind. I loved when he abandoned the battle because of the fire. I thought that was a nice touch. I also hoped that Sansa would go with him, but she did not. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the Hound. Hopefully, he will kill his brother.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2013 in From the Desk of the Author

 

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Audubon Zoo

Zoo

Making innocent children cry every Monday!

So today my son turned 3 years old. We drove 1 1/2 hours to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. The whole ride over there he is naming all of the animals he wants to see; louder and louder the longer we are in the car. Finally we make it to the zoo; AND THEY ARE CLOSED ON MONDAYS. Are you kidding me? It never even crossed my mind that they might be closed on Monday.

We attempt to go to StoryLand in the city park. You guessed it, CLOSED ON MONDAYS. We let him play on the playground for a while. We had ate our nice little picnic lunch. However, his birthday plans were ruined. I know, I know; my fault for not checking. Anyway, we owe our son a trip to the zoo.

I will be posting some creation ideas for some creatures and monsters of Delphia later tonight, so check back. Unlike anything in New Orleans, my site is OPEN ON MONDAYS.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2013 in From the Desk of the Author

 

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