Teaser 190: A Proposal and Eight Crazy Kids In Munich, AVAP
John considered the current audio recordings I offered through my publishing web site or linked from the House were not professional enough. The recordings should be studio grade and the voices should be actors, those trained in proper delivery. “I'm an actor,” I argued, “granted, one with no training and minimal professional quality, but an actor nevertheless.”
“Are you going to argue about studio grade?”
“You have some deep-seated animosity against Peggy the Bird?”
“I have a large number of actors who will read roles from your books, Gregory, for an equal share in the profits. Beat that!”
“How do you bamboozle people like that, John? Have you no shame?”
“When you get to the point where you feel like you can walk away from Africa with a clear conscience, like you did in show business, as you call it, get back in here, Gregory. I know you have ideas which compel you to do other things, but you're a talented guy who can do many things at once. You have it in you. All willing to do this want to do it, for more than any other reason, to convince you to stay in this business while you're doing other things. They're willing to work with you under those conditions so accept it.”
“What do you propose, John?”
“I want you sitting down for this next part. Are you sitting down?”
I sat down. “I am now.”
“Good, because we're going to re-write all your novels.”
“Figured I would feint on that one?”
“Are you light-headed yet?”
“I'm listening attentively, John. I have an idea where you're going.”
“We re-write all your novels into audio plays. We never change the points of your story. We remain true to the king, and we keep the narrative when appropriate in remaining true to the king, but we re-write them to present it more as an audio play.”
“A little like Orson Welles with War of the Worlds.”
“Exactly! You have no objection?”
“You said you wouldn't change the points of my stories. You'd remain true to the king. Why would I object? I've considered doing it myself but haven't taken the time. You have writers willing to do this?”
“For an equal share with everyone else, no more, no less.”
“Was this your idea, John? Don't you have important duties which occupy your time?”
“Believe it or not, Gregory, it wasn't my idea. It was Gary's idea.”
“Gary came in my office one day and said he had been thinking about conversations we all had when you first came to the office. When you asked about IT, security and we both looked at you with great concern? Remember?”
“Yeah, and I said we'd talk about it later and we did. Why was Gary thinking about it?”
“Gary said he had been thinking about it, that you said you had a theory about piracy, so when it came time to put together the movie edits, compile the whole thing, we used your idea to thwart your piracy theory, and Gary has never forgotten the fact The True Cross showed up as a pirate version much later than what typically happens with studio movies, like the movies from Robert. Gary said he kept thinking about it, it kept banging around in his head, that it was another of your ideas for improving this business for which you get so little credit, that people in this business should do things for you for once, and Gary thought, what we could all do was clean up your book recordings. And he knew, as we all do, those recordings lack behind in sales of everything else you produce. Gary thinks it's because they're not professional enough, but to make it so would be cost-prohibitive, unless everyone involved in these new productions do it strictly on the back end and only for nominal and equal compensation. We've been talking to a lot of folks in the business since then, Gregory, and a whole lot of them have agreed to do it for that reason. To pay you back.”
My piracy theory was based on an idea I had dreamed up knowing how movies are typically compiled once the editing is complete. Usually, they're compiled through computer clustering, with each slave computer responsible for content rendering of its small section of the complete movie, and the master collects each slave's section in sequence as it compiles the whole. It sounds complicated but it's not. It's an application of software programming necessary for clustering, since this is the only appeal of computer clusters, doling out sections of processor intensive activity to many computers doing it simultaneously with a master collecting the results. It's actually quite a simple idea for effective, efficient computing.
The compilation activity is typically provided by what is so quaintly labeled “rendering farms” in the business. They are also typically operated as separate entities, but Robert produced his own rendering, and for some strange reason, his pirated movies lagged about four to six weeks before appearing in the digital pirate universe and often as copies of recordings off of a screen, clearly inferior copies. I had always considered: why is that? Why do the movies Robert releases seem to deter piracy? I concluded it was the “rendering farms.” Their failure was, in order to keep costs down once the compilation routine was complete, they never wiped both the master and all the slave computers. If they wiped any, it was only the master.
Why is it so important to wipe all of them? When I was discussing this at a later date with John and Gary, I asked them to discreetly ask around whether several of the various “rendering farms” did a complete wipe, partial, meaning only the master, or none at all. When John and Gary told me a few days later that none do a complete wipe and some do only the partial, I told them, there's your door to piracy. That failure. When they asked why, I said you only have to look at the weakest link. Think like a pirate, like a criminal. A criminal wants to do the least work to provide the greatest reward. A criminal is going to look at an operation like “rendering farms,” and think it's only another computer organization. Computer organizations all have operators. Call them what you will, these people operate the computers in the organization because computers still need humans to oversee the activity. If you're the criminal, you pay the operator overseeing the compilation process to secure a copy of the compiling program and run it again when everybody has walked away from the “rendering farm” with their new movie. Nothing's been wiped except the master but the master is simply collecting through the software program. You run the same program. Now you have a copy of the exact same movie with which the producers just walked out the door. Simple. The exact same copy. They asked how I would correct this deficiency. Write the contract with the “rendering farm” to wipe all the computers and I'll stand there in the room until it's done, which is exactly what we did.
The True Cross suffered its first pirated version as a recording of a theater presentation from a video recorder, like Robert, four weeks after our release, after the movie had already broken even. There may not have been many who knew what I did for distribution. There were even fewer, a lot fewer, who knew what I did concerning our final step in production with the “rendering farm.” What everybody did know was how the digital pirate universe reacted to our release. A lot of people who are still in the business had no clue. We didn't tell anyone and the “rendering farm” was under contract to say nothing either, or we would file a lawsuit and put them out of business. The owner knew it. He saw the result with his own eyes.
John was right about the audio versions lacking in sales with everything else. They were weak, very weak, compared to all my other offerings, including the copies of my performances. Even the weakest of the individual performances—since we bundled a West Coast, an East Coast, a complete version but also offered each one separately—which was Dallas, by the way, outsold by a whopping margin all of my audio book version sales combined. Yes, it was on my “to-do” list to try to correct this deficiency. I hadn't gotten around to it. Since I was doing quite well in the net worth category I never considered it something to rush. I had accomplished quite a bit in a short period of time and those sales were the big reason the House was so happy with me, even though the initial negotiations were strained. All my work carries the House brand, even though all of the digital productions never come from the House as something they produce. I piggyback on the House because they have a deeper reach into product marketing, as I granted them when we were negotiating, but they were reluctant to accept the very small cut I offered for their piggybacking opportunity. I merely dangled my growing sales in the print on demand services from the digital universe as incentive. 'You get the standard cut from your expertise as a print merchant, you begrudgingly take a smaller, much smaller, cut from your piggybacking, which you don't even operate anyway. Win-win. Take it or leave it.' When I said it, I did do an Omar imitation. I was assimilating, in the author world. I also kept control of all tangible digital production, meaning the production of disk copies, because it was all linked through their source to my company, which was a small band of eight crazy kids in Munich who ran the disk copiers and shipped the copies anywhere in the world. Eight crazy kids and a skinny, old, American runt, and we all shared equally in the profits. I didn't even have to oversee anything. We conducted an internet conference call monthly, which was the big computer at the Munich office and my computer, we chatted about the past month, they insulted me, I insulted them, they promised to plant explosives and detonate the entire office and the surrounding block if I didn't accede immediately to their demands, I promised I would look forward to said detonation, and we closed the meeting some ten minutes later, every month, just like that. I loved them.
“So far, John, what I've heard I like and I'm grateful. I'm assuming you haven't started with this re-writing, yet. Is this a valid assumption?”
“The re-writing has started, Gregory. Why do you ask?”
“The way I view this, John, is they're different interpretations, for which I have no objection. In fact I'm looking forward to it, since you brought it up. I'm always curious how other people think and therefor interpret my work, but you know as I do, Nancy's constant criticism is I'm too sexually graphic, too crude, too vulgar and tasteless, right?”
“I've heard you complain about her complaining frequently. And?”
“Do two versions of fIdGits, one without the graphic sex at all and one with. And if you and the writers think the graphic one should be jettisoned, do it. As long as it's in the print version, I don't have any objection to a radical change for the audio. In fact, I've been considering changing it anyway, in some manner, so teenagers, even younger, can be impacted, because I think there's a lot in the series they will never hear from the media and most of their chicken-shit parents, the ones who scream, 'don't tell Johnny that! He's too sensitive!' Oh, shut the fuck up, you cowards! Why don't you do us all a favor and ride off with Prince vaginal secretion Charming and never stop riding?”
When John stopped guffawing, he said, “I'll talk to the writers today and pass it on. I don't think any will object. Hell, Gregory, you sprinkle these gems all throughout the series and they're ageless, at times, profound. Your digression on war profiteers is essentially dead-on.”
“When you tell them from me, add they can do a complete censorship and skip it all. Have them use their imagination and make it obvious they're censoring. Make it funny. Make it completely contrary to Non's spirit, like 'Just this once.' Every time it's 'just this once.' Or: You can imagine we were about to engage in sexual intercourse, but, oh, no! I had more elementary thoughts in command and I instantly pursued hide and seek, persuaded by what I sought and I knew where it was hidden, and once it was revealed, capture the flag, which I succeeded in capturing since her allies had all abandoned her, but before she left to pursue her other worldly endeavors, demanded the return of her flag. 'No,' I advised her. 'You surrendered. Suck it up or stick it out to the bitter end.' I still have the flag. It's mine. I captured it fair and square. It's a little bloodied and wrinkled. Who isn't at my age?”
Again, John was in stitches. “Well, I don't know if they'll be able to censor it that way, but I'll pass it on. Be creative. Use your imagination. Gregory gives you carte blanche.”
- Just Desserts, Segment Twenty-Three “A Magnet’s Attraction” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
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