As you may have noticed, I have joined the Amazon.com Associates Program. It's really kind of cool and is really cheap advertising for Amazon. Basically, how it works is that if you use any link on my website to visit Amazon.com, I will receive a 5-15% commission on any purchases you make during that visit.
There are a couple conditions attached. I cannot use the link to buy stuff. If I do, I can get kicked out of the program. Nobody should use the link to purchase stuff for me. This could also get me kicked out. Also, I do not receive a commission on anything purchased from zShops or the Auction site.
The percentage commission I receive depends on the type of link you use to visit Amazon from my site. Use the basic link on my main page, and I will receive a 5% commission on any purchases you make. If you use a link to a specific item, the percentage commission goes up. If the specific link is to an item that has a discount such as a best-seller discount, then the percentage commission goes up even more. This is Amazon's sneaky way to get me to push certain stuff.
There is also a commission cap of ten dollars per item so don't bother going out there and getting anything like a computer or an expensive camera thinking that I will just be raking in the bucks because I won't. Purchase an expensive stereo or I can't even guess what else, and I will still only get ten bucks.
It's really kind of cool. I mean it does have that horrible downside of being cheap advertising, but it is also a neat way for people to support my website. If you want to support my website. No, seriously, if you like what I do and want to support me in doing it, the Associates Program is a great way to help. Now, I don't want you to just run out and buy stuff.
If you were thinking about buying something and if you were already thinking about buying it from Amazon.com, then please consider using one of my Amazon links to make the purchase.
I must admit I have known about the Associates Program for a long time and have only gotten around to signing-up now because I have very mixed feelings about the whole thing. I mean, on the one hand, it is a great way for people to support my work. On the other hand, it is advertising. That kind of creeps me out. Advertising. Makes me want to go take a shower and try to get clean. Dirty, stinky, filthy advertising. I mean I don't like advertising on websites, and I really hate banner ads. I hate them with a passion. I made a private vow once that my website would never have banner ads, and I really want to keep it. You know what I hate worse than banner ads? Pop-up ads. Hated, evil, awful pop-up ads. You know what is worse than pop-up ads? Pop-behind ads. Then there is the grand-puppy of all evil website based advertising. You must know what I am talking about. That's right. Multimedia ads that seize control of your computer to play songs and dance little animations across your screen. I reach for my TV brick when I see one of those. Okay, I don't have a TV brick. I haven't seen one in years. But, damn, I stop visiting websites that have those multimedia ads.
Okay, now that I have got that out of my system. The Amazon.com Associates Program is almost cool. The advertising is only as intrusive as I let it get, and I can only hope that people will take the opportunity to support my work. I know it is almost a sell-out. I define selling-out as allowing others to compromise my work to suit their own nefarious schemes in exchange for money. But, damn, I still have to pay rent and maintaining a website costs money.
So, please show your support. If you like what I do and if you were planning on buying something and if you were thinking about getting it from Amazon.com, then please consider using one of my Amazon links to do your shopping.
Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention yesterday that I do not receive a commission on special-order stuff purchased through Amazon.com.
I've also started working on a favorite stuff page with links back to Amazon, but I'm quickly discovering that my favorite stuff is out-of-print. That sucks! It makes it really hard to point out two of my all-time favorite books–Stepping from the Shadows by Patricia A. McKillip and Steel Beach by John Varley. These are two books that really affected me and got under my skin, but I can't encourage people to get them because they are out-of-print. Damnit!
One of the things they try to tell you about in creative writing class is that you have got to make your characters three-dimensional. Don't let lousy, two-dimensional, cardboard cutout jokers populate your work. There were chapters in the textbook devoted to the subject. There were long discussions in class on the subtleties of 2D versus 3D. And, I had only one problem with it. It's all crap. All of it.
Yes, there were chapters devoted to the topic. Yes, there were long discussions on character. You want to know why there were long discussions? Because nobody had a damn clue what they were talking about. It was the first thing I noticed in the textbook. Sure, it could talk a good line about how important it was to have three-dimensional characters populate your work, but it couldn't define them. It sported out meaningless examples. Don't just use a mailman. Give him a name. Is he married? Does he have hobbies? How close is he to going postal? Hey, who said it had to be a mailman! Give her a name. Is she married? Does she rifle through your mail before handing it over?
I've got two problems with the mailman example. How many details does it take to magically transform a cardboard cutout stereotype into a well-rounded, fleshed-out, messiah of three-dimensionality? And, why should I cram all that crap into the story? I mean if you try to include every single last little detail then we've got Kevin Costner's The Postman all over again. Damn, if that wasn't a boring movie.
So, thanks to the creative writing textbook, we've got a description of three-dimensionality without a definition. This lead to some very interesting discussions in class. It also lead to the worst definition of 2D versus 3D that I have ever heard in my entire life. When Superman was first invented, he was invulnerable. Flat. Two-dimensional. When they invented Kryptonite, he suddenly had a weakness. He was vulnerable, and magically, he was three-dimensional. Worst definition I have ever heard.
So, I reached a staggering conclusion. The textbook was wrong. The class was wrong. Every critique of every story that has talked about two or three-dimensional characters was wrong. There is no such thing as 2D. There is no such thing as 3D either. It's just a conspiracy of cartographers. Sorry, pointless joke. It's a line from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
There is no magic moment when somebody transforms from being two-dimensional to three-dimensions. There are only characters with degrees of definition. Some characters are given more details. Some are given less. Some get more screen-time, and their idiosyncrasies are trotted out so that everybody can see just how clever and witty the author is. Some are, well, less than cardboard.
That's it. End of discussion. Stop trying to wow the audience with stuffy examples and pointless descriptions of how this is 2D and this is the magic 3D.
Reminds me of the whole is it art? debate. My college roommates loved to get me worked-up on this subject. If they tried hard enough, they could practically get me foaming at the mouth. All I've got to say is that if you call it art then it is art.
Which is a really longwinded way of bring us to one of the most maligned and lest understood characters in The Magic Flute. Poor Balthazar. He never had a chance.
When I first envisioned the character, he was just supposed to be this random loony that our heroes ran into on their way to find some dragons. He was this narrow-minded, borderline psychopathic, villain, breeding monsters to turn on other monsters. Not very meaningful. Not very deep. He represented the final destination of blind faith. You know the type. Kill anyone too stupid to see the truth, kind of thing. So, our heroes run into this loony, kick his ass, and proceed merrily on their way.
So, The Magic Flute rolls around, and I realize that our heroes have to cross wits with the unbalanced mage again. Well, I figure he can't be as crazed as he looked in the first story, but I decide not to get into it. His appearance in The Magic Flute will be totally influenced by how our heroes perceive him, and believe me, they do not have a very high opinion of the guy.
But, as The Magic Flute developed, I began to realize just how much was going on beneath the happy little surface our heroes were blindly riding around on. Balthazar wasn't nuts. He wasn't arrogant. He was angry. He was watching the world fall apart, and there was nothing he could do about it. Nobody would listen to him. Balthazar had been doing everything in his power to prevent the destruction of the world, and these yahoos had stopped him. So, yeah, he was pissed, and he wasn't going to help. It was too late. Oh, sorry, you should have listened to me in the first place. None of this would have happened if only you had paid attention to what I had to say. Instead you beat me up and told me that I had been a very naughty boy. Well, reap what you sow, you bunch of ugly fuckers!
So, that is what Balthazar is going through in The Magic Flute; even though, you never really get to see it because the whole book is filtered through Tahrl and Armada.
Which lead to some interesting developments while working on the prequel. How should he come across? Should he just be the mentally unbalanced psychopath that had always lived in the story or should he be the more noble/tragic figure that he really was? Remember, in The Magic Flute, we have the bitter and disillusioned mage. In The Etymology of Fire, we've got him pre-armageddon. This is the guy who is desperately trying to save the world. He's not crazy with how he has to go about saving the world but damn if he won't do it if it means saving some lives.
So, there he is. Getting ready to save the world. Hoping he isn't too late. When up walk our heroes. For all he knows, they have been sent by the enemy to stop him. And, just between you and me? In a manner of speaking, they have. See, it's like I said. There is a lot going on beneath the surface of The Etymology of Fire and The Magic Flute. But, enough with the patting myself on the back and showing-off just how clever and witty I am.
So, the question was if I could get this all into his performance? Could I present this noble/tragic character without tipping my hand? Without revealing anything that our heroes don't learn until The Magic Flute? He still has to look like a psychopath, but he's not. And, nobody can know. Not our heroes. Not even the audience. He's got to look like a crazy person. Exciting. Well, I've been writing Balthazar's big chapter, and I think I've pulled it off.
I've just finished writing this bit where Tahrl is standing on a ledge barely wide enough for his feet in the dark, and I think it is a great symbol for his mental state at that point in the story. I mean I didn't plan it that way. My symbolism flows out of the story and not the other way around. I mean I'm sitting there writing at some godforsaken hour past midnight. I've got Tahrl standing on this ledge, and I suddenly think, hey, cool! This is a great metaphor for his emotional state. Pity that nobody will ever know.
Okay, I'm done talking grand about myself.
I've been doing a lot of transcription at work over the past two weeks. Very exhausting stuff. All kinds of medical jargon and terminology. Left me kind of brain dead. I swear they make these words up as they go along. So not a lot happened on the writing front at home. I think I got a couple paragraphs done really late one night. Must have finished up about one o'clock in the morning. So tired while writing that I could barely focus on what I was doing. The only real reason I even bothered was because I had been feeling frustrated at my lack of progress.
Then I went back a day or so later and looked over what I had done. Damn, if it wasn't lousy writing. Oh, well, what are you going to do? So I redid it. That must have been last Thursday night. The same brief moment in time was covered, but I changed most of the wording. I kept finding myself flipping back to the first version of the passage, reading it over, and then writing the next sentence.
Don't know if the writing is going to go any better for the rest of the month. Things are still entertainingly complicated at work. They are going to rip out our entire floor and remodel it. Which means that everybody has got to go. I finally found out where they were going to stash me like a week and a half ago. It may have been two weeks. Doesn't matter. There's going to be more stuff shoved into a smaller room. Tight fit. Joy on wheels.
Anyway, the move has started. The moving guys were here last Friday, and they started moving these really big pieces of equipment. I mean big. They had to take the doors off of the hinges in-order to get these things out. More of the same is going to happen next week. Should be interesting.
I don't know when I'm actually going to have to move myself. The end of this coming week or the one after that. I don't know for sure. All I know is that they are going to start tearing out the walls sometime around the first of November so I think that I had better be gone by then.
Oh, well. We shall see if I can get any writing done.
And, the writing should be interesting. If only I'm not too exhausted. No, really, the writing should be interesting. The big wizards' duel is in progress, and I've been thinking about exactly how it should go. I'm leaning toward making at as absolutely surreal as possible. Go for more freaky horror than Dungeons & Dragons spell-casting kind of thing. This approach makes sense since the whole scene is being witnessed by our poor boy Tahrl rather than being narrated by our plucky sorceress Armada.
So, I finished-up the encounter with the Magician Balthazar in The Etymology of Fire. It's really kind of funny. Last week, I complained in this here journal about my lack of progress and then immediately turned around and finished the part with the magician. After two or three weeks of just limping along, suddenly the rest got done. There were a couple of spooky parts too where I simply did not know what was going to happen next. The encounter with Balthazar took a very unexpected turn, and I'm really still wondering how it is going to affect the rest of the book. I mean it looks like Alexander and Armada can be really vicious and bloodthirsty when they want to be. Really, it's kind of disturbing what they do to Balthazar.
I also kind-of cheated with how I handled the whole wizard's duel thing. I didn't mean to. It just sort-of worked out that way. See, I had wanted to make the fight different. I didn't want to just see an exchange of spells, so to speak. He tries this. She counters with that. He counters with this other thing. That's really kind of how it went in the old version. They wound-up hitting a glowing rock back at each other. I didn't want to do that. Nor did I really want to do the they stood their mumbling at each other while surrounded by sparkling lights kind of thing.
So, I ran the whole fight from Tahrl's perspective and kept in mind that he really wouldn't be able to comprehend what was going on. I thought it might add a good element of the surreal and nightmarish to the whole proceedings. Well, I sort-of backed myself into a corner. The fight was happening at night, and Armada started doing this interesting stuff with lightning, which is when I realized that Tahrl wouldn't be able to see. Too dark. Too bright. Too dark. Too bright. Ooh, look at the pretty colors.
So, I'm not sure how the whole thing came out. I think it falls too close to the they stand there looking like they are doing nothing because they are doing things so arcane that nobody can actually see it side of things. I don't know. I think it's kind of a cop-out. Can't describe it in the narrative so just hide it. Oh, well, it's still kind of interesting.
Then they have this demented little conversation with the poor magician. This is where I really started to loose control of the proceedings. I didn't know what was going to happen. There were parts where I just sat there and stared at the wall because I simply had no clue what to write next. I really felt backed into a corner because of the plot. I still think this is what is giving me the most trouble with this prequel to The Magic Flute. I just don't do well when events to follow are set in stone. Makes me feel caged. Oh, well, I got through it. I'm not entirely happy with the conversation, but I think it works.
Now, I am wrestling with the notion of gutting most of what had been chapter five and simply sticking it on the end of chapter three. I mean sticking it on the end of what had been chapter four, which is now chapter three because I dropped the original chapter three off the edge of the universe. Of course, I don't know why I want to mutilate chapter five so much. It had always been one of the longest in the whole entire book.
The problem with chapter five was that most of it was travel log, and I hate travel log. I'm not interested in trying to describe scenery as they walk by. I find it boring. Which leaves chapter five with two dialog scenes and one really big fight scene. I've decided that one of the dialog scenes serves no useful purpose what-so-ever so it is gone. Poof. Just like all of the original chapter three.
I want to keep the second dialog scene because I think it will mark a turning point in the relationship between Tahrl and Armada. So far their situation has gone from mysterious to adversarial, but at some point, it needs to turn into friendship. I think the dialog scene I am keeping from the original chapter five will set the seeds for them to start to like each other. I don't know. I'm guessing. I still need to rewrite most of it. Actually, all of it, but hey, who's counting?
And, I've been meaning for the longest time now to write some follow-up comments about my Evil Yoda Theory. I'm not trying to bash Yoda or even just talk trash about Star Wars or the Jedi Knights or anything like that. All I have done is watch The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, and I've got the strangest feeling that Yoda is not as nice as he wants everybody to believe.
I'm not trying to say mean things just to be mean or anything like that, and I don't think George Lucas is trying to be totally subversive with these movies making everyone love something that is secretly evil. I've heard interviews with George Lucas where he has talked about Jedi Knights and how wonderful they are supposed to be. I think they were described as warrior/philosophers who wanted nothing so much as to do good and to help people. They are above petty jealousies and greed. They have no interest in politics or controlling other people. They just want to help. This is the ideal of the Jedi.
Now, here is the thing, I don't think we are dealing with the ideal of the Jedi in the Star Wars movies. I mean the ideal exists and everybody is striving for it, but we never actually see it. The movies are concerned with the decline of the Jedi and the rise and fall of an empire. We see a time of opulence leading to decay. We never see the pinnacle or golden age.
The biggest complaint I heard people make about The Phantom Menace is this whole thing with microscopic organisms being the source of the force. People said this just sucked all the mystery and wonder out of the Jedi. To which, I answer that this was the point. Judging people on the number of microscopic organisms they contain just goes to show how decadent the Jedi have become. It just goes to show that the Jedi have already become fat and lazy, so-to-speak. Only people with too much time on their hands come-up with stuff like reducing mystical cosmic awe to science. Same with only taking little kids. Same with everything leading to the dark side.
These are decadent Jedi long past their prime, and I think that was the intention of the movie. We are dealing with the decline and fall. There is a correlation between decadence and the decline and fall. Yes, the Jedi were once good. Yes, Yoda may have even been a nice guy once upon a time. But, we are not dealing with the ideal of the Jedi. We never see them in their prime.
We are dealing with Jedi obsessed with making sure that only little kids get to join. We are dealing with Jedi who appear to judge everything based on the number of microscopic organisms they contain. We are dealing with Jedi who are terrified of rocking-the-boat or sneezing because those are sure signs that you are on a one-way trip to the dark side.
And, before I forget, somebody has posted a three-sentence review of The Magic Flute on Amazon.com. Okay, it was a friend of my brother but that doesn't mean it isn't still cool.
Oh, yeah, I've also updated the movie listing on my Amazon Associates page. I was going to do a list of cool monster movies in honor of Halloween. I thought of a couple different things and then decided that I was going to include Plan 9 from Outer Space on the list. Now, that is one seriously funny/lousy movie, which got me thinking. Despite how bad Plan 9 from Outer Space is, it is not the worst movie I have ever seen. No, seriously. It is easy to make fun of that movie because it is so bad. But, there was basically no hope that Plan 9 from Outer Space could have ever been a good movie.
Ed Wood may have been incompetent, but he also had no money. He couldn't have made a good picture if he tried, and I think he was really trying. His heart and soul went into his movies, and it shows. No, seriously, I think that guy was sincere and loved what he was doing. So, I'm not going to put Plan 9 from Outer Space on a list of the absolutely worst movies ever made. That would be too easy. It's like pointing out that people who go on Jerry Springer tend to have below average intelligence or that military intelligence is an oxymoron.
Which got me to thinking about the worst movies I have ever seen. Now, I'm talking about the really bad movies. The ones that make me cringe or howl just to think about them. Movies that were supposed to be good. Movies with big budgets and people who supposedly knew what they were doing making them.
So, I thought of a couple flicks, and I finally settled upon four. The main requirements were that I have actually seen these turkeys and that they are all available on DVD. And, I didn't want to point out just bad films. I can think of a lot of stinky films that I didn't like or thought were just plain boring, but I wanted to single out films of exceptional grotesqueness with big budgets and lots of intentions to rake in the bucks.
I got four. If I think of any others, I may add them to the list.