4 August, 2002

Chapter two of The Etymology of Fire is definitely still in the shit draft stage. I haven't gotten any writing done on it in about two weeks so I was looking back over what I have got. It is spartan. Mostly dialogue. Very little description. Very little poetry. The Gideon side of my writing style is definitely showing through at the moment. There are even some snatches of dialogue that are borderline incomprehensible. Do people really talk like that? They do. On occasion. Say things that make no sense. Problem is that people in books don't talk like that.

I don't want to go back. I don't want to touch it up. I want to forge ahead. Keep going. Don't look back. It's the shit draft, remember? The whole point of the shit draft is to be done. It is to be shit. It is to be gone back over and fancied up. Of course, I don't like going back and fancying things up but oh well.

I think the depressing day job has something to do with it. I haven't had that much energy in the evenings these days so I haven't had a lot by way of creative juices to give to The Etymology of Fire. I have been forging ahead by writing random passages that can be stitched together later.

I was looking back over the most recent stuff and thinking that it needs more verbiage. It's just so spartan. I want some poetry. I want to pause between an exchange of dialogue or two and get back into Tahrl's head a little. I want to describe some of the images that are passing through his head as he sits on this little wooden bridge and dangles his feet above the water. I want to describe him thinking about blood on an axe and describe him wondering how he should feel about it. At the moment, all I've got is the dialogue. I want to press ahead. I don't want to go back and write about the stuff racing through his head. Not right now, anyway. Look forward as much as possible.

Which reminds me, the scene without a beginning has a beginning. Not much of a beginning. I figured out how to fit some of the random bits together. I'm not crazy about it, but I think it works. I'll look back at it later and figure out if it needs any changes.

One of the things I have to try and remember is that this is supposed to be a light and airy book. It's not supposed to be deep by design. It's supposed to be fun. If you can read anything into the text; well, that is all for the good. However, the main goal is to have fun. I'm trying to remember that as I work.

15 August, 2002

Well, it only took about ten months but chapter two of The Etymology of Fire is finally finished. The shit draft is done anyway. I can't believe it took so damn long. Oh, well, I'm not going to bitch and moan any more about that here.

I'm glad it is done, and it is not so shity as I thought a couple of weeks ago. The chapter holds together pretty well. The transitions don't suck as much as I thought they did. I must have just been in a bad mood when I was reading back over it that one time.

It's an interesting chapter and maybe a little exposition heavy, but I can live with that. A lot of ground was covered. I learned some things I didn't know before. Armada just beats the living daylights out of Tahrl at one point, but he gets over it. She is really just one vicious lady

There is some nice stuff between Tahrl and Ede. It kind of adds a little extra something when taken with the scene in the second chapter of The Magic Flute. Of course, you would have had to have read The Magic Flute to know what I'm talking about. Go ahead. Read it. The first three chapters are free.

What was the biggest surprise? That the chapter is so long. That is actually the biggest surprise. The prequel to The Magic Flute may not turn out to be as short as I thought it would. I've decided to end chapter two at the end of chapter two. Chapter three still doesn't exist anymore. Chapter four is going to be chapter three. There was a time when I was thinking about putting chapter four in chapter two, but I see now that it won't work. Chapter four and chapter five may merge. It depends on how much time they spend hanging out with Balthazar. It could go fast. It could go long. We shall see.

Of course, I'm still hoping that the writing will start to go faster. Everything up to this point has been a total tear down and rewrite from the previous version. Same thing is going to happen with Balthazar. The whole episode is going to run completely different.

After that things are going to settle down a bit. The encounter with the troglodytes holds up pretty well, and I'm not expecting to make any big changes. Same with the dragons. Moonlight is still going to sail out of the sky and give her little speech, which you already have a sense of if you have bought and read The Magic Flute. Not that you have read The Magic Flute but that is just your problem, I guess.

So chapter four (now three) will be wholly new. Chapter five (now four maybe even part of three) will be trimmed but most of what happens will not change. Chapter six will be almost but not quite identical to the old version. Of course, I'm still not planning on rereading the old version so all the words will be new which is why it won't quite be identical. Yeah, like you really wanted to know that.

Chapter seven will be surprisingly different from the old version, and there may or may not be a chapter eight. I'm not sure what is going to happen to chapter nine that still seems too far away to tell.

Anyway, I'm really hoping the next part of the book will go swimmingly. It won't but I can always dream, right?

18 August, 2002

Contrary to what some people I know think, I am not going to start a movie review column. I've only been to see four movies at the theatre all year—The Fellowship of the Ring, Spiderman, Star Wars 2 and Signs. Besides movie tickets are too expensive these days. I paid six bucks to see Signs at the matinee. Six bucks! That's outrageous for a matinee price.

Anyway, Signs was okay. I mean it started out really cool and interesting, and contrary to what I had been told, it isn't slow. Well, the first part of the movie isn't slow. It isn't fast but it sure isn't slow. Signs doesn't start to crawl until the aliens show-up. I don't get that. Just when things should start to happen, they don't. The aliens show-up and don't do anything. They just hover. It doesn't make any sense and turns an interesting movie into a boring and stupid one.

I mean here is a real quick summation of Signs. Aliens show-up, scare a few people and then leave. I mean, what?

Okay, I'll revise that summation a bit. We know they kill a dog, and we are told that millions of people are dead. But, we can't be sure of that. We can't be sure of anything with this movie. The movie makes no sense as an alien invasion. It seems more like a monster movie. In fact, the movie starts to make a lot of sense if you think of it as a monster movie. Just forget about aliens. The only reason we have to believe that they are aliens is the little boy says they are.

So, I've had a day to think about this, and I've come up with three theories as to what the hell was going on in Signs.

Theory number one:

I'm serious. We are dealing with a bunch of seriously stupid aliens here. They use crop circles as an organizational tool. They give us lots of time to ready our defenses. They refuse to use their advanced weapons or technology when they attack. They can't figure out how doors work, and worst of all, they think humans are a bunch of pussies.

Let's start with the crop circles. How stupid is that? I mean, what if the pathetic humans do something as devious as (oh, I don't know) alter the crop circles? It could throw your entire attack formation out of whack. And, hundreds of crop circles appearing all at once tends to get noticed by the indigenous population. We start to wonder if something is up so when your attack fleet does finally show-up, the last thing you want to do is just hover there for another day or two. I mean, damn guys, how stupid can you get? Just hover there so the humans have time to mobilize their military units and move them into position. For future reference when planning an invasion, please remember these simply words: ELEMENT OF SURPRISE!

Then there is the fact that the aliens were afraid to use their advanced weapons or technology in the attack because they were afraid we would respond with nuclear weapons. How stupid is that? I mean I'm not going to name names here or anything, but I can think of a couple countries that after seeing all the blinking lights in the sky would develop a nuke first and ask questions later policy. They don't say so, but by the time the movie is over, I'm pretty sure that Asia and major portions of Europe could glow in the dark if you know what I mean.

Worst of all, the aliens were so stupid they didn't even think that we would fight back. They don't use any weapons. Not even a pointy stick. They rely on itsy-bitsy claws and poison gas that is so weak that holding your breath for ten seconds means you are going to be okay. Don't talk to my about the boy's asthma or else I will be forced to point out that nobody else in the room dropped dead. But I digress. The aliens attack. We fight back. The aliens panic and run home to mommy. I mean, damn, didn't they investigate us before planning the invasion?

Oh, yeah, and one last little piece of advice to all would-be world conquering aliens. If water is poisonous to your species, please think twice before attacking a planet with such large oceans. I mean, damn, what were you thinking?

Theory number two:

The movie actually starts to make sense if you forget about aliens and think about monsters that feed on fear. The only reason we have to believe that they are aliens is the little boy who keeps insisting on aliens. The little girl knows better. She calls them monsters, and they don't want us. They just want our fear like that other movie Monsters, Inc.

Think about it. The monsters start by making all these crop circles. This gets everybody good and tense. They then proceed to harangue random people like standing around outside the little girl's window, terrorizing the veterinarian, and allowing themselves to be photographed Bigfoot style by a bunch of kids. Flashing lights in the sky is also a really good way to get lots of people scared.

The monsters don't actually kill anyone. Yes, we are told that millions of people are dead, but how do we know that the monsters did it? In an attack, I would expect billions of fatalities. The millions dead could be collateral damage as we try to defend ourselves from things that are just hopping up and down going BOO! Even Mel Gibson noticed that the monsters weren't really trying to get in. They were just banging on the door. I mean we are talking about things that can jump more than a hundred feet from the roof of a house into a cornfield in one bound. Okay, it landed on the swing first, but you expect me to believe that bags of dog food were going to slow these suckers down? I don't think so. And, why didn't they slit the kid's throat when they had the chance? Huh? Answer me that?

No, not when they gas him. In the basement. Why didn't the monster slit the kid's throat when it had him by the throat in the basement? Because Mel Gibson saved him? Bullshit! Any attempt to separate the hand from the boy's neck would result in claws being raked across the boy's throat. Blood everywhere. So, why did the creature spare the boy? Because it wasn't trying to kill him, it was taking his fear to power the city of Monstropolis or whatever it was called.

See, the movie makes sense as a monster movie. Even the part about water being so acidic as to eat them alive just like from The Day of the Triphods. It makes sense.

Theory number three:

This is my favorite theory. It also hangs together the best when considering all aspects of the flick. The aliens are really angels sent to punish the sinners and spare the just as made clear by the fact that the little girl and Mel Gibson's brother are never hurt. This theory is even mentioned in the movie. Oh, you say that it was an alien invasion and that it was God who saved the family? All those little coincidences convince Mel Gibson that somebody loves him and that he should take-up the cloth again?

Well, let us start cataloguing those coincidences. I'm not going for an exhaustive list here just some of the more important ones. (1) The little boy has asthma. (2) The little girl has a strange water-drinking fetish. (3) The wife went for a walk. (4) The veterinarian fell asleep behind the wheel, which is something that had never happened before or since. He even said that if he had been feeling drowsy he would not have been driving, which means the falling asleep thing was a total fluke. (5) The wife's dying words were to remind Mel Gibson that his brother used to be a minor league ball player with a really strong arm. (6) The wife's death caused the brother to move in. (7) The veterinarian tells Mel Gibson that the aliens don't like water.

So, all these coincidences convince Mel Gibson that God was really watching out for him and that he should have faith again. Focus on that and you'll miss something. God killed the wife so that the brother would move in. The wife even says that it was meant to be. The gruesomely murdered wife is the key without which none of the happy coincidences could have happened to convince Mel that God was looking out for him.

This leads me to think the whole thing was planned. All of it. Asthma. Water. Dead wife. Brother. The death of millions if not billions of people to convince Mel Gibson that his son was actually in danger. All of it was done not to restore his faith in God but to test it Job style.

See? It makes a perverse kind of sense. The question that amused God was can you shake a man's faith by killing one person and then restore it by killing millions more? If you've seen the movie, then you know the answer.

This is my favorite theory.

Anyway, don't bother with Signs. It is ultimately a stupid movie.

25 August, 2002

I just finished reading this really cool book called Sabriel by Garth Nix. It blends fantasy with some modern day elements. There is a wall and on one side is the fantasy side while the other is the modern day side. The soldiers who guard the wall wear modern uniforms under chain mail and have rifles with bayonets that get used more often than the rifles. There is a scene late in the book where the soldiers are getting ready for the monsters to attack, and they are setting-up machine guns with archers to back them up because they all know that the modern stuff just might not work against the evil critters. Oh, yeah, and there used to be a gate in the wall, but it got blown-up one day by mortar fire. Nobody has bothered trying to repair it since then.

I also thought it was cool that all the monsters in the book are dead things that are trying to crawl back into life. It is as if the more you struggle against death and the more you fight to live then the more monstrous you will be when you finally make it. Of course, the monsters also have to feed on life so that they don't fall back into death.

Anyway, this is all background stuff. The things that make for a cool place for things to happen. The book follows this young woman named Sabriel (Wow! What a coincidence! Just like the title of the book!) who is trying to rescue her father from death. It turns out her father is this great necromancer who spends all his time trying to make sure that the dead stay that way. One day a servant of the dead gives Sabriel her father's sword and bells, which are the preferred weapons for fighting the dead, so she sets-off into the land on the magic side of the wall to learn what happened.

Oh, yeah, one more cute thing about the book. There is this talking cat named Mogget who spends most of the first chapter he is in trying to convince Sabriel to remove his collar. Now, I forget exactly what the writing on the cat's collar says, but it is something like for the love of humanity, do not remove this collar! I thought that was a nice touch.

Oh, and I also liked the magic servants that are described as thinking they know better than everybody else including the people who created them. It makes for a really funny bit where they give Sabriel a bath. I think that happens in the same chapter where the talking cat is introduced.

The book was a gift. I didn't know anything about it. I think I waited two years before finally getting around to reading it, and I found it to be pretty cool. The ending is a little abrupt but that doesn't spoil anything. The book isn't terribly deep either but who needs that all the time. I would rather write a ripping yarn than something deep and meaningful any day of the week. Writing is supposed to be fun, damnit!

Anyway, I like works that blend genres. I don't think of myself as preferring sci-fi or fantasy. I prefer things that could best be described as other. Things that just don't quite fit into natural categories. This is why The Magic Flute has one distinctly sci-fi inspired element that has had all the actual sci-fi leached out of it. Can you guess what that is?

For the same reason, I wouldn't call The Faire Folk of Gideon a modern day fantasy or fantasy in a modern setting or anything of the kind. I would just call it strange. Of course, book two is going to introduce some science fiction elements to the mix, which just goes to show that I prefer my genres in a blender.

Heh, don't you like how I turned this rave about somebody else's book into a push for my own stuff?

30 August, 2002

Star Wars—Episode 2—Attack of the Clones is coming out on video in about a month, right? Well, hearing that reminded me that I had sent an email around to some friends telling them what I thought of the movie the morning after I saw it. It was that email review that first got one of my friends to start teasing me to do a review column on my website. I thought it might be fun to post that old review of the movie on my website after Attack of the Clowns (I mean) Clones comes out on video. Anyway, I didn't keep a copy of that email, and I don't think anyone who received that email bothered to keep a copy. I only asked one person, but I figured that was more than enough. It turns out the person I asked if he had kept a copy had never received it in the first place. Oops.

Well, I figured that shouldn't stop me from trying to remember how the review went and post it here. Of course, I'm not sure when Clowns (I mean) Clones comes out on video so I don't know when I should post the review. Well, this got me thinking about the movie and reminded me of some stuff I had been thinking about the whole series overall. So, I figured what I could do is go ahead do the paraphrased review and then wax philosophic about the series. Yeah, I can do that without wondering when the damn movie is going to show-up on video.

I suppose I really shouldn't bash the title of the flick. I mean the Attack of the Clones is no worse than The Empire Strikes Back (which is silly but sounds cool), Return of the Jedi (which makes no sense but sounds really cool) or A New Hope (which is so bad that nobody will admit it exists and doesn't sound cool at all). So, I don't understand what the problem is with Attack of the Clones. I like to confuse it with Attack of the Clowns just because it sounds funny and has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I didn't like the movie.

No, really, I thought Attack of the Clones was long and boring and stupid. Well, mostly boring and stupid. I mean Star Wars is stupid by definition, but there is nothing wrong with that. Some of my favorite movies are really irredeemably stupid. Example? Oh, I don't know. Army of Darkness. Better Off Dead. Showgirls. Yes, I thought Showgirls was so boring and stupid that it was actually a hilariously funny movie. Everybody should see Showgirls at least once in there lifetime. But, not twice. Once is more than enough.

But, I digress. Attack of the Clones was long and boring, and it got to the point where everybody in the audience would shout at the screen "No, not another Padme/Anakin scene!" anytime the two of them shared screen time for another two young people in lust sequence. The good news was that those of us who survived to the end of the movie were treated to the wildest and most outrageously funny lightsaber duel to ever appear in one of these movies. It was almost worth the price of admission except for all that long and boring stuff that preceded it.

Natalie Portman was also responsible for the funniest bit in the whole entire movie. Okay, they are flying along over the desert after the bad guy when these other ships fly up behind them and start shooting. Let's hear it for not putting a rear gun on that ship! Yeah! Anyway, there is an explosion and Padme falls out of the ship and flops around on the sand looking all hurt and stuff. Obi-Wan and Anakin get into this really heated exchange about how she could be hurt but they can't go back because they have to stop the bad guy. Anakin bites his lip, scowls or whatever, and finally agrees that they really have to stop the bad guy. For the greater good. It's what Padme would have wanted. All very noble and serious. So a couple of scenes later, we see this clone trooper run up to Padme who is still laying in the sand like she hasn't moved since she fell out of the ship and maybe she is hurt or dead or something. The clone trooper asks if she's hurt, and she answers that she's fine. Padme then pops right up off the sand like she doesn't have a care in the world, and the two of them exit stage right. This brought the house down. The whole entire audience went wild at this exchange, cheering and shouting and hollering all kinds of comments at the screen because it was just that damn funny. It was the best moment in the whole entire movie. Yoda whipping out his little lightsaber was anticlimactic when compared to that perfectly absurd Padme moment.

Speaking of Yoda, he is just the little green freak that I wanted to wax philosophic about. After watching five of these here Star Wars movies, I'm beginning to get the feeling that Yoda may not be such a nice boy. I mean I think he may be quite the opposite of good. I think he may be evil. Gasp! Shudder! Go to the back of the class, young man, and think about what you have done! No, I'm serious! Yoda is not nice. In fact, I think that Yoda was the undisputed ruler of the republic until that what's-his-name Senator/Archchancellor/Emperor Palpatine character showed-up. I have actually started to think that the whole Star Wars saga is a very subversive story about how Emperor Yoda lost his stranglehold on the galaxy in a vicious and bloody power struggle against Emperor Palpatine which eventually resulted in both of their deaths.

I am serious. Go watch The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones again and pay attention to Master Yoda and his Jedi Knights. The Jedi are keepers of the peace but only the peace they feel like keeping. I didn't actually come here to free slaves. They throw their weight around with wild abandon. These Federation types are cowards. The negotiations will be short. They will do anything to achieve their ends. What do you think you are? Some kind of Jedi, waving your arm around like that? Everybody bows to the Jedi. Nothing to see here. Jedi business. And, the Jedi bow to Master Yoda. Check out the way Mace Windu looks at Yoda before saying anything.

Master Yoda allows no dissent among his Jedi Knights as Obi-Wan keeps reminding Qui-Gon that he could be on the council if only he would stop speaking his mind and conform. Only little kids are accepted for training. And, who is their first teacher? Why, Yoda, of course. You've got to get them young. It is best to start molding their minds to your ideas from a very young age before they learn any different and can sass back.

Yoda prefers his Jedi Knights to be unimaginative and unable to make decisions for themselves. Why just look at Obi-Wan. He said that when he first met Yoda he was as reckless and irresponsible as Luke. Well, just look at him after experiencing Yoda's teachings. Obi-Wan became a conformist who couldn't act or think for himself, and he had absolutely no imagination. He begged Qui-Gon to conform. He couldn't even imagine that maybe the planet had only been removed from the records and was really still there. All the physical evidence pointed to it still being there. The archive still listed the moon as revolving around the planet. Even with all of that evidence, Obi-Wan still had to go ask Yoda only to have his master humiliate him in front of a bunch of kids.

Yoda also keeps his Jedi Knights in constant fear of the dark side. I swear everything leads to the dark side if you listen to Yoda. Anger leads to the dark side. Fear leads to the dark side. Desire leads to the dark side. Possessions lead to the dark side. Love leads to the dark side. Everything leads to the dark side except for what Yoda might happen to say is okay. You had better listen to Yoda or else the dark side is going to get you.

So, the Jedi don't want anything. They don't think anything. They don't have hopes or dreams. Why, hopes or ideas or dreams might lead to indepentent thought, which might lead to desire and that is your first class ticket to the dark side. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.

Anyway, I told you the saga was subversive. I can't wait for Star Wars 3 to find out how Emperor Palpatine wrestles final control of the galaxy away from the evil little green bastard.

copyright © 2002 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved
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