1 May, 2003

And so it begins again. It doesn't matter if I am ready. It doesn't even matter that I haven't finished the story line or that I really only have two comics converted from pencil & paper into the computer. We are go for launch of episode two of String Finger Theatre. It has been almost a year since the last comic of episode one was posted, and we pick-up the action almost exactly where we left off. In fact, if you haven't read all of episode one, then there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that you are going to be able to follow episode two. It really amazes me how through-composed the story is. I mean most of the fifty comics I have already written for episode two take place on the same afternoon as episode one. These guys are having one seriously busy day.

Anyway, I have decided that Friday and Monday's comics aren't really part of episode two. They are more of a two-up transitional little sequence where they riff without a plot. Episode two proper won't kick-in until next Wednesday's comic, which I still have to ink into the computer so-to-speak.

So, we're kicking-off here without any fanfare, notice or warning, which seems to be how I like doing things. Heaven forbid, I might actually do something like give people advance notice so that they might choose to tune-in. I mean I seem to be determined to do everything possible to ensure that nobody knows what I am up to. No wonder nobody checks-out my website. I am my own worst enemy. Must be some kind of fear of success thing. No, actually, it is fear of learning that I suck. You know that old saying? It is better to keep your trap shut and leave people wondering if you are an idiot than to open your stupid mouth and remove any doubt. The same kind of principal is in play here. If too many people notice me, then it'll remove any doubt as to my inglorious stupidity and lousy storytelling skills.

Well, I'm going to do what little I can. Over the weekend, I'm going to whip-up a new sponsorship graphic for Kevin & Kell, and I'm going to see if I can convince Bill Holbrook to replace my old Stormsdream graphic and URL with String Finger Theatre specific stuff. We shall see. We shall see. I tried creating a String Finger Theatre graphic the other night, but I didn't like it. It was also getting way too late, and I probably wasn't thinking clearly enough to make a worthwhile image.

So, after much bitching and moaning and avoiding the issue like it was suffering from SARS or something, I have finished chapter four of The Etymology of Fire. That took forever. It really pissed me off, too, and I think I know what the problem was. The chapter degenerated into these long descriptive passages. Well, there is a lot of walking and hiking and whatnot going on, and I absolutely hate writing that kind of stuff. It drives me nuts. I can't deal with travelogue. Day one, they walked. Day two, they did some more walking. Day three, they had old moldy dry tree bark for breakfast. It just gets under my skin.

But, I managed it somehow. It came as quite a shock to me when I realized that I was so close to the end of the chapter. In fact, that is how I think I managed to write it. I realized how close I was to the end, and I wouldn't have to write any more long annoying descriptive passages of how they were wondering over hill and across dell. Oh, my bloody hell, how I hate that stuff!

Anyway, chapter five should be really exciting. There's going to be racing and chasing and confrontations and people dying. I'm not certain how that is all going to go. We're going to start with galloping horses, and then a whole mess of shouted arguments as Tahrl tries desperately to convince people not to use him for archery practice. We're talking the good kind of shouting matches here. There won't be any of that Buffy/Dawson's Creek everybody is just too pathetic for their own good crap. Oh, my god, has anybody been watching Buffy? It just sucks. I mean why don't the bad guys just kill her? Why doesn't that dude with the priest's collar just wander over to her house and just burn it down while everybody is trapped inside? And, what is with the good guys? Oh, we're just so pathetic. We're not going to do anything because if we did we might actually win or something and that would just be horrible. We've got to whine and bitch and moan just like that guy who does that pathetic Stormsdream website. He just won't shut-up. The whole thing reminds me of that scene from that Austin Powers movie where Dr. Evil turns to his son and says Scott, you just don't get it. Actually, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire reminded me of that line from the Austin Powers movie. I have a gun in my room. I'll go get it, and we'll shoot him together. It'll be a father and son thing. Damn, if Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire wasn't a lousy book. Why didn't they just nab him? They could have done it at any time. Just grab the brat! Scott, you just don't get it, is all I can say.

Okay, enough about lousy books and television shows. Now, check out my lousy comic.

14 May, 2003

Well, I finally beat chapter four of The Etymology of Fire into submission. It went down hard, kicking and screaming all the way. It ripped at my throat and pulled at my hair. It roared until my ears bled. My eyes burned. My fingers raw from grappling with the wild verse. Damn, if it didn't go down without a fight. The chapter started life wicked. It made fun of me. It fought tooth and nail. The cast and crew did evil and horrible things. The travelogue at the end makes me cringe, but it is done. I hope I never have to look at it again, which is a rather silly thing to say. I'm going to have to look at it again. I'm going to have to wade back in, hacking and slashing, and I will have to make it conform. I'll have to murder all my little babies and beautiful darlings. The words and phrases will be brutalized and viscously murdered with much malice aforethought. I still have to take crap and turn it into—not art—something presentable. This will require the delicate and strategic application of a meat tenderizer and a chain saw.

It is done, and much to my surprise, I have even begun work on chapter five. I'm really not sure how many more chapters there are. I think there may be a chapter six, but it may be a mere slip of a thing. More of an epilogue than a full-blown chapter. I like epilogue. I like good and long denouncements and resolutions. The denouncement in The Return of the King carries on for something like three chapters. I forget how many, but that is how I like it. I can't stand books that wrap everything up really quick at the end. Drives me nuts. Andre Norton was one of the worst. She could spend more than one hundred pages building up to a crisis and then resolve it on the last page. Sometimes, she would resolve it in the last paragraph. I would sit there, starring at the page and thinking that this couldn't be it. There had to be more. You couldn't leave everything just flopping around like that. Really drove me nuts.

Anyway, chapter five of The Etymology of Fire has the most interesting title—The Passing of Strangers. I don't know where I found that up my ass, but it's pretty good if I must say so myself. And, I can't help myself. It is certainly the most enigmatic title I have dredged out of my subconscious. It's right up there with Fire at the Dawn of Night on the what-the-fuck scale. It's just ripe with subtle meanings and symbolism and I can't even guess what else. There are so many strange little ways I could try to define the title. What it means. How it fits. And, it does fit in that what the hell is this crap/it doesn't make any sense way that it has.

The Passing of Strangers would make a good book or movie title; although, I've got no plans for such a thing. I hope I haven't pinched the title from somewhere. I mean I've never done that before. I can't think of any work that shares a name with my novel The Magic Flute. Anyway, this got me thinking about the title of The Etymology of Fire and how this is also the title of the first chapter, which I don't like. So, I was trying to decide what to do about it. I really like The Etymology of Fire as a book title so I don't want to give that up, which means I need to change the name of chapter one. I mean I don't have to change anything, but I like this kind of stuff to be unique.

So, I was kicking around a couple new titles for chapter one, and I was thinking something like The Fire that Burns or Conversations out of the Wilderness. Although I do kind of like it, that second title is just right out. It is too close to Echoes out of the Wilderness from The Magic Flute. I suppose it would add a little demented symmetry to hang the two books together, but I don't like it. The Fire that Burns is a better option. It was my first choice for the title of chapter five, but it didn't make sense there. See, in The Magic Flute, everybody keeps talking about how you have to be careful when you take a dragon's advice because the words a dragon speaks are a fire that burns. Huh? Huh? Cleaver author. Deserves a bone. So, it's a great choice for the title of chapter five of The Etymology of Fire except for the fact that nobody has mentioned the whole beware a dragon's voice thing in this book. I can't reference something somebody said as a chapter title if nobody actually makes the reference in the book. That would be stupid. People would just be looking at the page wondering what the hell the deal with the chapter's title was.

So, I can't use it for chapter five. Having said all that, it would still work as the title of chapter one for the same basic reason why The Etymology of Fire is a great title for the chapter. So, chapter one may get a new title, and I am leaning toward The Fire that Burns. I haven't decided.

Hey, I know this is a total non sequitur, but you want to know what the difference is between a violin and a cello? The cello burns longer.

Yeah, I bet you're just dying to know where that came from. See, I was looking back over this here journal entry, and I started thinking that my comment about the meat tenderizer and chain saw was too subtle. So, I started thinking about the proper usage of a blunt instrument such as a tuba. How do you use a tuba to reason with somebody? Well, you just bash them upside the head with it. Better yet, drop it on his ass. A tuba is just plain huge. Good for convincing people that your way of thinking is right. Anyway, I couldn't figure out how to fit this into a cleaver sentence about reasoning with an unreasonable chapter, which got me thinking about the wild poetry from The Faire Folk of Gideon, which reminded me of the old banjo/accordion/violin/viola/violoncello joke, and I just had to share.

19 May, 2003

I can't believe I spent two whole journal entries talking about chapter four of The Etymology of Fire. Include this one and the total goes up to three. There is a very simple reason I went on at such lengths about finishing chapter four, and that is because I forgot I had already talked about it. For that matter, the point of the May 14th journal was never to go on at length about finishing the chapter. I wanted to share my amusing and pointless story about the title of chapter five and how this was leading me down the path toward changing the title of chapter one. I didn't actually intend to say all that muckity-muck about chapter four. In fact, this is way too much rehash of the subject right here so I'm going to stop now.

I haven't seen The Matrix Reloaded. Yeah, I know, I'm going to see it. I just don't know when. But, I was thinking about the whole idea of using people as a theoretically limitless power source. Oh, wait, let me get a couple of things out of the way. There are a couple basic questions about the whole concept of The Matrix that I'm going to gloss over here. I'm going to file them under the category of because it's what the damn writers wanted.

So, right off the bat, would the generation and upkeep of something as complicated as the matrix require more energy than could be produced by the people it was—fighting for a good word here—enslaving? I mean that you've got your supercomputer, you've got your network connections, you've got tons and tons of cable. All of this requires power. Then, the people require a certain amount of maintenance and upkeep. How many liquefied dead people does it take to sustain one living person? I'm not going to dwell on this, but you see the point? All power generators burn a certain amount of the energy that they generate. So, at what point does the demand exceed the supply? Who cares? It's a movie. Right, moving on.

Why is it so hard to manipulate the matrix? This actually begs the questions of how is it possible to manipulate the matrix? They are essentially inside of a giant MMRPG—I think that is how you spell it—like Everquest, Asheron's Call, or Ultima Online. Well, how do you manipulate one of those? Say you log onto Everquest, and you decide you want to fly over the landscape. Well, how? Does the dude in the leather coat just say something like "free your mind" and off you go? Oh, yeah, that works all the time. So, what you really need is a cheat code. They have to exist. The agents must use cheat codes to do all that crap that they can do. So, when what's-his-name leaps tall buildings in a single bound, he is really just applying a cheat code.

This leads to my question. Why can't just anybody learn the cheat codes? They can learn karate and drunken boxing and how to pilot a helicopter in nothing flat. Why can't they just learn the cheat codes? Okay, you say it isn't a cheat code. You say it is because their minds refuse to accept the fact that they can do crazy walk-on-walls shit? Well, that doesn't explain why they can turn into dirty super fighters in nothing flat. Just feed them full of false memories or whatever of being able to fly. It's a movie. Who cares? Right, moving on.

Why are they restricted in how they can get in and out of the matrix? Just unplug, right? Don't feed me any crap about how the mind can't handle the sudden shift. If that were true, even using the telephone to escape would kill them. It's only a movie. Lighten-up. Right, got all that out of the way.

Wow, that carried on for longer than I expected. I just wanted to get all of that nonsense out of the way. I think there are even a couple more I'm just plain skipping, but you get the idea.

So, this leads me to the stuff I have been thinking about. Namely, under what conditions is it okay to use people as a power source like in the movie? No, seriously. I was watching The Second Renaissance, Part One, the other night, and I got to thinking. The people made the machines to make their lives easier. The people lived lives of luxury and decadence while the machines took care of them. It was the next best thing to paradise. Well, isn't that kind-of sort-of what the machines did when they plugged the people into the matrix? The people were totally looked after. They were in no danger. I didn't see any homeless people on the streets of the matrix. I didn't see any sick people. Sure, people had jobs and had to do stuff and whatnot, but I've noticed that people need to have a sense of purpose in their lives. Hell, maybe the matrix is like an ant farm on the machine's shelf, and they like to watch us do stuff and scurry around. Maybe, the matrix is just like The Truman Show. I know Agent Smith said the utopian matrix was a disaster because the people kept rejecting the program and kept trying to wake-up, but how much of that was a requirement of the movie? In other words, how much did the machines try to give us a utopian matrix? Did they try it only on people who remembered the real world? That would explain why they kept rejecting it. They had phantom memories of a different life. Which means that if you experimented enough with future "crops," you might get to the point where the people accepted the utopian matrix.

So, is it okay to use people as a power source like that? Simple answer. Hell, no!

Keeping slaves—even in utopia— is just plain wrong. But, when could you do it? Could you ask for volunteers? We'll give you utopia. Just surrender your flesh. I think this could work up to a point. I mean just look at all the people who escape into books and movies and television and massively multiplayer role-playing games. I think you would find lots of people. I also think there would reach a point where people would want to get out. This is where the problems start.

So, could you give them the illusion of stepping out of utopia? Could you let them wander around the real world in a sort of avatar like a remote submarine in an alien world? They're still plugged-in. All of their sensations are coming through the jack in the back of their heads, but they are actually experiencing and interacting with the real world. Would people accept this? I think they would have a lot of trouble. The example that came to my mind was adopted kids needing to find their real parents. They think they can accept it. They think they can deal, and then suddenly, they just need to know. They need to get out. Then, I remembered that some people in wheelchairs can't just get up, and they have to deal with it.

So, I think it's a mixed bag. You could get volunteers, but some of them would eventually want out. The only question is if enough of them would make the sacrifice to stay to make the project work.

So, this leaves one more question. Could you start people out as involuntary participants and then give them the option to leave? I figure it as something like finding out you are adopted. You then have the option of searching for your birth parents, but nobody is going to help you. So, you've got a kid, and you spring the news on them that their perfect world is really part of a big machine. They're life is computer generated, and they now have the option of sticking around or interacting with the real world to a greater-or-lesser extent. You can't be unplugged, but you can go out there and explore. Okay, this one is just too creepy for me. I think I would have to go with the volunteer idea from two paragraphs above.

How can I even contemplate any of this? Well, I thought of a submarine or a spaceship. Say you were given the chance to pilot a great big whopper of an exploration vessel through space with the only caveat being that you would be both the pilot and the engine. Would you do it?

But, enough of my ramblings. I mean I haven't even seen the movie. I don't know how much of this kind of crap they address, and I'm sure that a whole bunch of people much smarter than me have already written a lot of articles and papers on the subject. I'm not trying for anything deep or meaningful here. I'm not even going for accurate. I'm just wool-grazing. Leave me alone.

copyright © 2003 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved
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