10 January, 2004

There really isn't that much to say, but I wanted to put something down. I've gotten more done on String Finger Theatre than on The Etymology of Fire. This is something I'm not very happy about. I'm not very happy about it at all. I've only been working on The Etymology of Fire for three years. I really started working on it twenty-three years ago, but I'll get really depressed if I think about that too much. Worked on it for a couple years. Gave-up. Didn't have time. Started over. Completely rewriting it. Stalled out. School again. Never leaves time for anything. Started over. Rewriting as I went. Finally got to the end. Which was really depressing. I don't know what it is but finishing a story or piece of music leaves me really depressed. Oh, well.

So, my hope is to finally get the damn thing done sometime this year. It is a freaking rewrite. I've already been through this once. I was hoping it would be easy. After all, work on The Faire Folk of Gideon went really fast. I can't believe it has been three years since I started the rewrite of The Etymology of Fire.

Anyway, I finally got some work done on The Etymology of Fire this past week. I've deliberately been ignoring String Finger Theatre. I have figured out that I can really work on more than one project at a time. This is especially true what with working days at a crappy job and all of that. Usually, I find it easier to scribble out a comic or two of String Finger Theatre on any given night, but I really wanted to get somewhere with the other. I mean there was a point last year where I was able to get home from work, draw an episode or two of the comic, and then round about ten or eleven or midnight I would finally get going on the book.

Unfortunately, those days are long past. So, this past week has been ignoring the comic. This is also my plan for the comic week. I'm close to the end of The Etymology of Fire; I just know it. There can't be that much left. Strangely enough, it isn't even a lack of desire to work on it. There is simply a lack of energy by the time I can finally get to it. Very frustrating.

This has lead to an interesting scene being worked on last week. Tahrl and Alexander kind of look at each other and wonder what in the hell they have gotten themselves in to. It leads to one of those annoying moments where they muse over why they are doing something they know to be insanely stupid. Alexander points out that it has nothing to do with hope or the belief that they have any hope of succeeding. He says they are doing this because the alternative is doing nothing. It is better to stand-up for what you believe in and probably die ignobly than to wander off, and I was reading this as I wrote it and thinking what ridiculous tripe it was.

Well, not the standing-up for what you believe part. I just hate putting that kind of thing in a story. It sounds made-up. It reads like somebody trying to make their point at the end of an afternoon special or trashy action movie. It makes my skin itch. Strangely enough, I decided to leave it in. Maybe, it is just my mood. All of this wondering why in the hell I am putting myself through all of this hell kind of thing. Oh, well.

So, I made myself happy with the scene by having Alexander point out that sometimes people talk in speeches because that is how they think they are supposed to talk. They think they are saying something profound, and they remember how they read it in a book or something. They try to imitate how they believe it is supposed to go. So, the bit is still in.

Hell, one of these days, I'll actually be done. I'll put it aside for a while, and then I'll get to editing. Maybe, at that point, I'll rip out the whole exchange. We shall see.

12 January, 2004

Oh, man, what a night I have had. I tell you I've done computer support starting as far back as when I was the Teaching Assistant for the Electronic Music Studio at San Francisco State University. My first real post-college job was as Assistant Tech Support for the Pathology Department at the University of California, San Francisco. Now, I work in the Stomatology Department. They don't have an official computer person so a lot of the people in the department office and even in some of the labs come to me when they have computer problems. This is the only part of the job I like. When somebody wanders into my office and says they've got a problem as trivial as a paper jam, I jump. I want to get at that printer. I want to take it apart and find that paper jam. People apologize when they tell me they have a computer problem, and I assure them that it's not a problem. I tell them that helping people with their computers, which is not really part of my current job description, is the only part of my job that I like.

Hell, you remember those big viruses from last year? I did battle with Sobig-F. I waged war against the MS-Blaster. People in the department came to me in a panic. Their computers were freaking. Their computers were sick. They had the MS-Blaster. No problem. I figured out what to do, patching windows, downloading virus hunter programs, setting-up firewalls. I even started showing people the steps to follow so they could spread the word. As for Sobig-F, I figured out which lab computer was infected based solely on the volume of email I was receiving, and then I nuked that somebitch off that machine. Who's your daddy? Bamm! Well, sure, it is easy to track a virus based on the email sent if you know how, but guess what? I was the only person in the whole entire department who knew how to track those email back to their source. Bamm!

Not really my point. The reason I bring this up is because I am as cool as they come when I've get to futz with somebody's computer. They may be standing there, freaking out, but I am calm. I am cool. I put them at their easy. I know what I'm doing.

Of course, when it comes to my own computer, well. When my personal computer at home is acting strange, I am a freak. I'm not cool. I'm not calm. I panic with great gusto and enthusiasm. I mean, after all, we are talking about my computer.

So, here we are about a week ago, my computer crashed. Really strangely too. I had just finished turning it on. I had started Musicmatch, logged on to the internet, and had just started Internet Explorer. When suddenly the computer switched off! That's right. It switched itself off. So, I killed the power, waited, then turned it back on. The computer started to boot, stopped, and I mean everything went dark. All the lights were off. Then, the computer started again. It buzzed for a few seconds and then stopped as if it had been turned off. Then, it started to come back on. Then off. What the fuck? Then, it started up just fine.

Well, if it only happens once, you don't worry about it too much. So, of course, it happened again on Sunday. The computer crashed. Locked-up. Frozen solid. So, I killed the power, waited and then switched it back on. The same thing proceeded to happen. The power light flashed. The hard drive light blinked. The CD-ROM and CD-RW lights blinked and blinked and then went out. The computer went cold. Seconds passed. The computer started-up. Lights blinked. Lights went dark. Seconds ticked by like eternity. The computer started. I could hear fans and the hard drive buzzing. Lights blinked and then went dark. The computer started one final time, and this time it made it all the way to the desktop.

I got an error report, implying that the problem was being caused by a driver installed by my antivirus or firewall software. Well, I yanked that firewall and replaced it with Zone Alarm. If the problem recurred, I would yank the antivirus software, too. Switch from McAfee to Symantec.

Which brings us to tonight. The computer started just fine. I got as far as Musicmatch running and getting connected to the internet when the computer froze. I killed the power. I turned the computer back on, and the lights flashed. The computer made its traditional whirring sounds and then stopped. Silence. The computer started; lights blinked. Stopped. Nothing happened. The computer started, blinked, stopped. It sat there like a dead thing. Lights started blinking. Noises whirred. Then nothing. Then it started again. Then stopped. Then started. Then stopped. Then started. Then stopped. And, I realized that it wasn't going to get better.

I killed the power at the UPS. Waited. Flipped the switch on the UPS. Didn't even need to touch the computer's power button. It went straight into its routine. Lights flashed. Noises buzzed and whirred. Then nothing. Then again. Then nothing. Then again. Now, here is where the panic starts because it just won't do what it is supposed to do.

I grab my Dell User's Manual, and I hope the customer support number is located somewhere inside. If you can only reach it through their website, then I am screwed because my computer won't start. Of course, it's closing in on midnight so I don't even know if I'll get a hold of anybody. Great. Just great. I'll have to take time off work. Will they have to send a tech? How much of my hard drive am I going to loose? I had actually remembered to make a backup just the week before so I won't loose too much but that is hardly the point.

So, amazingly enough, somebody answers the Dell Customer Support number that I found in the back of my user's manual. Second thing he tells me to do is check the diagnostic lights on the back of the machine, which is when I realize I could just kick myself. Of course, the idiot lights. If this had been anybody else's computer, I would have remembered those lights. So, in those moments in which the computer is trying to boot and there is power flowing to the idiot lights, I rattle off yellow-yellow-green-green.

Okay, he tells me to switch it off, unplug and crack the case. So, I'm going to open the machine up, and I can't even remember which side has the removable panel. He suggests checking the manual. Oh, right, the manual will have diagrams and the like stuff. Damn, I would know this if it was somebody else's computer. So, the computer is unplugged, and he tells me to remove the memory. Fortunately, I can still recognize stuff like memory and even remember how to remove it.

Turns out the memory had come loose. These things happen. I mean computers get warm inside and connections become loose. It happens. There is lots of stuff like physics to explain why this happens.

So, I wipe-off the memory with a cloth just like he suggests and then reseat it. This is easy. Okay, plug the machine back in. Turn it back on. And, the computer boots like it doesn't have a care in the world. Oh, man, relief city. Okay, follow the steps that would lead to its crashing. Fire-up Musicmatch. Connect to the internet. Start the web browser. Everything okay?

Oh, yeah, oh, wow. Okay, turn it off. Computer restarts just fine. Okay, turn it off. Wait. Turn it back on. The computer starts right up.

Oh, wow, thank the nice gentleman on the other end of the phone. Laugh about how I had completely forgotten about the diagnostic lights. Say goodbye. Put the phone down. And, that is when I wonder if he was in India. And, I think how much fun it would have been to ask. How's the weather there today? No, really, it would have been fun to ask. Oh, well, I forgot.

25 January, 2004

Well, the plan was to ignore String Finger Theatre for a week or two and throw myself into The Etymology of Fire. This plan did not last. I realized something. I was pretty close to the end of episode three of String Finger Theatre, and if I could just get to the end, then I could ignore the comic for quite a bit longer than a week. I would have a good month or more before I would need to start worrying about episode four of the comic, and I could throw myself wholeheartedly into The Etymology of Fire. Such was the plan.

So, here it is. I have finished episode three of String Finger Theatre, which clocks-in at only fifty-two comics, making the shortest of the three episodes written so far. This was always the plan. I wanted episode three to be short and also quite different from episodes one or two. Well, I got that. Episode three is quite different. There are no monsters. There is no evil mad scientist, and even though his name does get mentioned, Zed does not put in an appearance.

This episode really scarred the hell out of me because it was so different from the first two, and I realized quite early in the drawing of it that my original plan was not going to work. There was even a point where I thought episode three was going to end after only about a dozen comics. So, I found myself scrambling and trying to figure out if I could salvage the situation. Actually, if you've been following the comic, you have now hit the crash point. The thief that Mike was supposed to arrest has turned out to be an undercover cop, and Lizzie McGuffin's part has changed rather abruptly. It is true that I had always intended her to be an international art smuggler, but I didn't think that fact was going to come to light until much latter in the proceedings.

See, after Mike arrested the thief, he was supposed to go visit Cat and Zed for reasons I'm not going to relate here since I've sort of managed to salvage the situation. Mike and Zed were then supposed to partner-up and complete the rest of the adventure. Well, since the thief has turned out to be an undercover cop and is in the process of arresting Lizzie McGuffin, and I didn't know what I was going to do.

This was scary stuff, and it was beginning to look like I wasn't going to get to do any of the things I had intended to do. Episode three was going to be really short, and Mike was the only one of our three heroes who was going to put in an appearance.

Well, I didn't like this, and I thought I had found a fix except I didn't know how I was going to make it work. I knew I had sort of patched things up, but I didn't know if it was going to hold. So, after Mike and McGuffin part company, the story is going to flail around for a bit. You'll understand when you read it. I mean it is still amusing, which is always what I'm shooting for with the comic. I don't aim for laugh out loud funny since that would have burned me out long ago, but I do try to keep things amusing.

So, the story is going to dither for a while but don't worry because it gets good again. Cat is going to show-up, which was always part of the original plan, and I thought I had found the patchwork that was going to allow me to get back to my original plan. Cat was supposed to have a walk-on part except something really interesting happened. Mike and Cat have great chemistry together. I know that this is a silly thing to say since they are only stick figures, and I don't mean that they are going to have a relationship or any shit like that. I mean they have got great rhythm.

I loved writing the comics with the two of them in them. They just play and bounce off each other like nobody's business. I loved it. It reminded me of the good old days of episode two, and I don't mean all the comics with the fudge. I know. The fudge jokes did drag.

Anyway, I did all of these comics with Cat and Mike, and I realized that Zed wasn't going to show up at all. He was nowhere to be seen, and I didn't care. I loved the Cat and Mike stuff. I wanted to kick myself for keeping those two separated for so long.

So, anyway, I found myself screeching around to the end of the storyline, and I found myself drawing Mike back in his office and explaining the whole situation. And, I realized something. It was going to work. The whole confusing and convoluted story was going to hold together. It takes Mike something like four comics to explain everything and put events in perspective, but he manages it.

And, I was writing all of this thinking holy crap! This is going to work! I can't believe it! Everything is going to fall into place! Well, you know how it goes. Go read the comics and then let me know if the storyline holds together.

Now, if only I could finish The Etymology of Fire. Argh!

copyright © 2004 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved
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