February 3, 2010

THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE: MY HOWARD ROARK MOMENT

As I came back from my lunch break to Sacred Heart, I really wanted to tell everybody about this book I had read, by a guy called Ayn Rand. At least I think it was a guy. Who names their kids Ayn? Poor Russian immigrants who can't afford a longer one? Nah. When Elliot and I will have children, I will call one of them Pepper and one of them Salt. Ah, yes, push it. Push it real good. Salt & Pepper. Just like I wish people would call me and Turk... wait, that wasn't what I was thinking about. Right. Focus, JD! The book. Ayn Rand. The Fountainhead. Having been abused a bit more than usual (he does it out of love, JD) as of late, I decided to took something of note from the book, the cliff notes to be exact, and stand up to Dr. Cox, just like Howard Roark! Oh, did I say this out loud?
Usually, the correct answer to anybody ever, and I mean during a dinner party, during a lunch break, during brunch, during a casual whizz at the urinal, during the less than casual whizz at night, when you wonder in your drunken stupor, if that brush over there is a bathroom or a woman you would like to hump, during breakfast, during tea time and during any and all related social gatherings... the correct answer to anybody bringing up Howard Roark and/or Ayn Rand should be phrased like this...
I suppose I could riff a list of things that I care as little about as Howard Roark. Lemme see, uhh... Low-carb diets. High carb diets. Michael Moore. People who hate Michael Moore. People who watch Michael Moore. People who don't watch Michael Moore, then go onto Fox News to talk about Michael Moore, even though they have never watched him. The Republican National Convention. The Democratic National Convention. Kabbalah and all Kabbalah-related products. Hi-def TV, Obama's dog, wireless hot spots, the iPhone, the iPad, everything and anything that ever starts with a little "i" and is followed by a gadget that you don't need but that you would hump, if you could. American cars. Japanese cars. The American car industry. Goldman & Sachs. Davos. Closed door meetings. 'The Real Desperate Housewives', the U.N., recycling, getting twittered, getting Facebooked, reconnecting to old "friends" that you didn't even like when you were supposed to be "friends". Friends, the TV show, and yes, I know it has been cancelled ages ago, but that doesn't mean I can't make of fun ot it even now, Demi Moore's bazongas. Lindsay Lohan's bisexuality, Nichole Kidman's botox regime. The Latin Grammys, the real Grammys. Jeff, that Wiggle who sleeps too darn much! Papa Smurf! The Yankees payroll, all the red states, all the blue states, every hybrid car, every talk show host! Everything on the planet, everything in the solar system, everything everything everything everything everything everything - eve - everything that exists - past, present and future, in all discovered and undiscovered dimensions. Oh! And Hugh Jackman. 
Thank you, Perry. Everybody? Perry Cox. Now, the reason why I bring it up, that name, is that there is a delightful irony about teaching somebody a lesson who would suck Ayn Rand's dick, if given half a chance. And doing so by using the very same methodology that – if used by the Randists (and Randists are usually finance people, or people who exploit and abuse either markets or slave labor, which in a way can roundabout be called "creative", I guess) – they would love. So let's ask who is this Howard Roark, and why should I care?

To those people who have never read that Old Testament of the Rand Bible (to be followed up by her New Testament, or Atlas Shrugged) or have never seen the wooden 1949 movie based on it, starring Gary Cooper in a remake role of his far superior character in Mr Deeds goes to Town, here are the relevant bits, taken from Wikipedia.
The Fountainhead's protagonist, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision. The book follows his battle to practice what the public sees as modern architecture, which he believes to be superior, despite an establishment centered on tradition-worship. How others in the novel relate to Roark demonstrates Rand's various archetypes of human character, all of which are variants between Roark, the author's ideal man of independent-mindedness and integrity, and what she described as the "second-handers." The complex relationships between Roark and the various kinds of individuals who assist or hinder his progress, or both, allow the novel to be at once a romantic drama and a philosophical work. By Rand's own admission, Roark is the embodiment of the human spirit and his struggle represents the triumph of individualism over collectivism.
Now, the fun thing about Howard Roark is that – when he finds out that his work has been raped and mutilated, he opts out. Rather than to continue to work as an architect, he goes to work in a stone quarry. And when he has it happen again, he blows up the very building he designed. And while I find Ayn Rand's writing generally to be incomprehensible, mundane and disgustingly shallow... there is a lesson here.

It's just not the lesson those people in Wall Street, at publishing companies and owning the sweat shops, who otherwise worship Ayn Rand, would understand. See, they actually delude themselves into thinking that they create something (you know, derivative schemes, fraud, hey, there's a whole host of things they do create, and it's mostly out of hot air! Put a ribbon on it, sell the empty box of hot air to some unsuspecting people, call that creation, will you?)

What is the lesson? Once you eliminate money from any given equation, the dominance of those who have nothing to offer but money... are lost. They have nothing to offer you, no angle to play, there is no hope to be strung along. Greed may now be legal, as Gordon Gekko says in the new trailer for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, but once you eliminate your own from your life (and poverty after a while will do that, your material needs and wishes shrink virtually to zero), they can no longer play their game.

Doesn't mean they won't try, though.

And this brings us to tonight's email. It was forwarded to me by the artist of Ten Beautiful Assassins. As I had promised (and apparently nobody could  read it, tsk tsk) last year, any contact by the retard publisher would have to come through a German Law firm. I blocked my email accounts to him, and I would never take a call. You want a turf war? Yeah, problem is the writer is in Germany, the books were written in Germany, they are copyright-protected under a variety of delightful German and European copyrights. See how that works, sweatshop owners? And you thought you could only use the good parts of globalisation, awwww. D'oh!

Anyway, let us read said email together, you know, do a little analysis, have some fun. Why? Because I feel like it, and as I said before, there's a moral, there is a lesson, and there will be a little quiz later. Let's see how a man tries to manipulate, grovel, all at the same time.
I know that you despise me, and surely think the worst of me. But I'm writing to you today because we now find ourselves in a situation where we have a movie deal on the table. It's a serious offer for Ten Beautiful Assassins from a major studio. The production company that would be attached is up for several Academy Awards this year.
It's a delightful beginning, isn't it? Remember, boys and girls, always use the first person plural when you begin to grovel to somebody you know has your balls in his hands, get that community spirit flowing, we are all in this together, even though you hate me.  But that is not the main point here. We will dissect this email like I taught you how to do things when dealing with a press release. And class, what is the question you need to ask?

What are they not telling you?

Yes, that's right. Look at that paragraph closely. What is not there? What should be there and isn't? Hm? Yes. Names. There's a major studio. There is a production company. Who? Where? When? Oh wait, here's something that you cannot know. This email was written way before the Academy Awards nominees were announced on February the 2nd. Even the forwarded email, without a time stamp attached, reached me a full three hours before the beginning of the announcement ceremony. So the only name that is thrown around is one that – at the time of writing – had no validity to the claim made. It's there to keep that Pavlovian reflex going, keep you panting, because Oh dear god, it's the Oscars! Me! Me! Me!

They have a first look deal with this particular studio, and the studio gives them a certain amount of discretionary funds to develop films each year. The offer is coming from the studio itself, but is being spearheaded by the production company. This particular production company does not option many works each year. They have an excellent track record for making most of the films they option, and therefore, there is a strong likelihood that Ten Beautiful Assassins would get made if they did indeed option it.
Now, look at him dance. This particular studio (no name, boys and girls, names have power, you never want to give them away) has a certain discretionary amount! The offer is coming from said unnamed studio! But is spearheaded by an unnamed particular production company. And kids, they don't option many things, which means, gosh, you should be grateful that unnamed people who never talked to you are giving you an offer!  And not only that, there is a good chance it will be made! By those unnamed people.

It's the business version of the following sentence, and one that I have heard, oh so many times. And it's this: "Listen, I think you're a genius, but you know, I understand that you are a genius, but the audience won't, and so... you cannot do this. We will change it into...".

See what I did there?  Most of us will never get past that I think you're a genius part of that sentence. We want to be loved. We want someone to tell us, god, you are brilliant. So you never get past what is really important, and that is that this person tells you that (a) your genius cannot be understood by the filthy, unwashed masses (which makes you feel good, in a roundabout way, and if it does, you should seek therapy), but (b) more importantly, the person who tells you this asserts his dominance over you in the second half. I understand, is the translation (because if you are a genius, so surely he must be as well), but I want you to do xyz, because actually, I am smarter than you are!

Now, these types of people would never say that out loud, no, the inference is enough, good boy, here you go, if you do what I tell you, your genius will be appreciated by the only one that matters. Me. Woof! Woof! Roll over! Play dead! Woof! Authors are in an inherent danger to fall for these lines, just like girls are in inherent danger to fall for the bad boy (because only he can really understand my pain. And thus, a new abusive relationship is born!)

Here's the offer they've made via my management company. I want to be completely frank with you about the terms of the offer so that you understand what's at stake:  $25,000 option/$250,000 purchase price. This means, based on the terms of the contract I sent you in May 2009 that you haven't yet signed, I would receive approximately $10,000 up front, you would receive approximately $10,000 up front, and Elmer would receive approximately $5,000 up front. When (if) the option gets exercised, then I will receive $100,000, you will receive $100,000 and Elmer will receive $50,000.
And see? Here you will get numbers. Lots of numbers. And if you are poor, you will not want to look past the numbers, you can see the cash, beautiful, glorious cash, with the chance of more cash! It's Cloudy With A Chance Of Cash. Minus Neil Patrick Harris as the cute monkey.

What you don't see? The fact that again you are given no names. His management company. Oh, yes, his management company is Circle Of Confusion (Hello, Mr. Engel! Hello, Mr. Alpert! Now, can you tell me how many Harvard law degree folks you got running around in your offices?). Come on, kids. Didn't you read the little blurb on the side of this blog? I was a NICAR and IRE, I analysed their methods, and finding out something as simple as this is a matter of less than a minute with cross-searches. I'm almost offended.

He sure has that evil part down very much. The genius part? Eh... see, there is something in this passage that in military terms can only be called a FUBAR. A pretty big FUBAR. The kind of FUBAR that will fuck you up legally. Did you see it? No? Well, class, we'll come back to that later. Think about it for a while.
 The problem, as I'm sure you're aware, is that the studio will not proceed with this deal without a clear chain of title. In fact, the reason why I labled this email as "urgent" is because we need your signed contract immediately, or the studio will drop their offer immediately.

And here the FUBAR becomes more pronounced, because see, he has to acknowledge to you that you never signed his illegally backdated Work-For-Hire contract in May 2009, two-and-a-half years after you had started on the book, thus leaving him without the legal mandate to even start a negotiation with anybody.

It's called admittance. Well, in every procedural show they call it confession, but you see, confession is a purely Catholic term, and it primarily is there to absolve your of your sins, because the New Testament God is a kind and forgiving God (unless you are Jewish or Muslim... or later, Lutheran, oh well, can't get them all). In the real world, there is no forgiveness. There may be jail time, depending on the crime you admitted, but not forgiveness

He knows you have him by the balls, and he knows he has no legal leg to stand on, neither in Germany nor in Europe. hell, not even in the United States (and we all know how much the courts up to the Supremes looove to suck corporate cock).

Because, lesson number one, kids. If you complete a creative work without a contract, now listen, kids, this is important, they are no longer allowed to label it work-for-hire. A WFH contract has to be signed before commencing work, or you as the author will have to transfer the copyrights later. Anything else is hogwash.

And when I started the books, I asked for a WFH contract that stipulates things like book length or page rate, you know, something. Never got one. And I was the sucker there. I admit it. I thought at first, happy happy joy joy, somebody is recognising my genius, happy happy!

Like I said, authors are delusional that way. I was no different.

Want to know why I didn't get one, and e.g. the artist of It Takes A Wizard, Sean Lam, did? Because the books grew. They tripled in size. And there would have had to have been a page rate, something, but I didn't have anything, so I was relegated to begging or – as I realised in what a shitty situation I was in – to abandoned what was then over a year's work.

But at that point, because he withheld a WFH contact, I had nothing. Not a legal leg to stand on. Nothing to force, nothing to demand. Welcome to indentured service!

Now, the other reason – and this is one that breaks your neck, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is that little known fact that under California law, where the publishing company resides, a freelancer with a WFH contract would have his health insurance be paid by the one giving out the WFH contract, even if said freelancer is living in another country. Didn't know it at the time, do know it now.

As to why this is morally important, look here. It's also legally important, but let's not dwell on that too much.

See, the thing about evil, greedy people is that – for the most part – they got the evil part down, but not so much the genius part. He could work me to the bone during those years, as I once posted on THE BEAT blog, it's called Management by Mohrrübe, but.... as publication neared, May 2009, he had to have me sign something that would give him all rights to story, concept and characters.

And you know something? I would have done it.

I was tired. I didn't sleep anymore. Since I hadn't seen a cent in a year, despite 16-18-hour days, sometimes more, which made this a full-time job (and those saying, but it couldn't have been... in pamphlet terms, we are talking scripts for 41 issues with 22 pages each in two-and-a-half years, and my scripts were damn complex, with a lot of research attached. The script for Ten Beautiful Assassins clocks in at over 400 pages)... but since I had no contract, no nothing, I was on social welfare (and so anybody who ever goes on a rant about welfare queens, some of us are the Corporate Communist Slave Pool, so be careful, kids, before raising your hand or pointing your finger when you see one of us cross the street), and worse than that, I was doing it for one of those types of people who saw this as normal, who – let me make this very clear, boys and girls – didn't want to pay his taxes, no, not even for the Iraq War (although he was very adamant about killing every Muslim, especially Iraqis, but more on that later), but had no problem with having another state's welfare system finance the work that he wanted to own.


Still, I would have done it.

But by this point I knew he was a liar, so I asked myself what the absolute minimums were that I could live with. I looked at the books, as far as they were done (at this point I had written the ending for Ten Beautiful Assassins, but the art was at least 80-100 pages away from being finished, and It Takes A Wizard has just skidded into the finishing box, or at least I thought so). I looked at them and thought, well, they are both maybe 60 percent of what they should have been, what they could have been. Are they bad books? No. Are they good? I don't think so. If I hadn't been constantly forced to compromise, if I had had a lot more control over pacing and content that I had, they could have been good books. But, as i thought, that would be grieving over spilt milk. I had already decided months prior I would never ever have anything to do with this publisher again, turned down the tentative offer to write a licensed book of Dune (I told him that there was no way in hell I would write another man's property, so everybody would get money from it but me).. so what was left?

(A)  I wanted to be clearly identified as the author, in big letters, yes, without the typical bullshit of "story by" and "art by", since I had not only written it, I had even done the pre-lettering on the actual art, I had done so much more than authors usually have to do in these situations. I had made that clear from the beginning.

(B) I wanted to see my dialogue, my story unblemished on the book shelves. And if people hated it, let it be on me. I would take full responsibility. It is a creator's responsibility to take the hits, if there are any. And I had told him that. Very firmly.

None of which would have cost the publisher anything, by the way.

This was, I decided, what I could live with. Damn the money. If I could get this, then let him merrily running around Hollywood and whore it out for all the cash he ever slobbered about.

But as I recall here, even the first one of my goals, that of being identified properly, was in serious danger. Already the publisher had gone behind my back more than once, he was good at playing people against each other, and what was more – coming from the publishing industry myself, I knew that he who controls the backend of production controls the production itself.

And so I devised a Shibboleth.

Now, in sociology, a Shibboleth could best be translated by the phrase ethical behaviour is what you do when you are sure you can get away with it.

But I prefer the phrase Shibboleth. Originally, it was a word that was designed to identify friend and foe, and it comes from Hebrew. For those who don't know the bible, let us quickly use Wikipedia again.

The term originates from the Hebrew word "shibbólet" (שִׁבֹּלֶת), which literally means the part of a plant containing grains, such as an ear of corn or a stalk of grain[3] or, in different contexts, "stream, torrent".[4][5] It derives from an account in the Hebrew Bible, in which pronunciation of this word was used to distinguish Ephraimites, whose dialect lacked a /ʃ/ sound (as in shoe), from Gileadites whose dialect did include such a sound.
Since then it has widened in its meaning and use, but in this instance I would use it in the only way a man without power to directly affect anything can use this. To identify whether the publisher would live up to his word and do those two things, everything else had become irrelevant to me at that point.

And so I would sign his contract, again, damn the rest, the moment I saw the actual books in my hand. Of course there were the ever-increasingly irritated emails that demanded to sign the contract I had been emailed right now, they need to be signed before the books hit the streets.

And class? Here is a lesson that is applicable in every walk of life. Whenever somebody becomes to insistent, so irritatingly annoying that you need to sign something, you need to sign something right now, or the opportunity will be gone forever...

...  that person is lying to you about something.

Honest people don't need to do that, for they have nothing to fear. We will revisit this in a moment. Bear with me, but for now...

Shibboleth. Remember that word, boys and girls, and don't forget it.

Now, coming from publishing myself, I knew that the books (or at least one of them, It Takes A Wizard) had to have been already printed, so I thought that compensation copies were already on their way. Only they weren't, because he knew, he knew that if I had seen what he had done, I would have pulled the plug on the whole thing. Without a doubt. In a second. But of course, he couldn't delay them anymore, because they had already been delayed, and Tor was apparently getting antsy.

Now in the old days, you were separated from the US book market not only by an ocean, you were separated by very different systems of distribution, and I would have had almost no chance to see the the book(s) without jumping through some serious hoops.

But here comes Amazon. Despite all of the silly things they are doing right now, you have to love them for providing people with the opportunity to buy an American book just as easily in Europe.

And so I bought my own book. It shipped to me 10 days later, I opened the package, started to read through it... and saw that significant portions of the text had been altered, raped, mutilated and dumbed down.


Shibboleth. Now you see why it had been so absolutely important for me to sign all rights over to the company. If I had done that, this here would be merely the angry rant of a fucked over author crying for fairness.

Good thing I didn't do, isnt't it?

And please remember, class. Fairness is the rallying cry of the powerless. It is nothing more than the more pointed begging phrased in a socially acceptable form. It is never more than that. But this isn't fair! Well, tough luck, kid, them's the breaks, and if you have ever been awarded an unfair grade in high school, because your teacher didn't like you and could not be stopped, you learn this the hard way very early on.

With all of that in mind, let us now return to the email, shall we?
Now, I'm pretty sure that your animosity towards me is so strong that you would just as soon kill the deal. However, as a result, know that you'd also be hurting Elmer, who is a complete innocent in this whole affair.
Now, what did we have so far? We had the promise of money, we had the promise of fame, and we had admittance. What was missing? We're missing something, aren't we?

Ah, yes. Guilt.

Now, guilt is a very important ingredient in any conversation of this kind, most often employed by those who in fact are the guilty party, but it is designed  in its passive aggressiveness to appeal to the very same basic instinct in you that the guilty party has never shown. It is – in this case – the acknowledgement that there is no way in hell you would be forgiving to them, so one must devise a different route.

In the Simpsons, such behaviour is delightfully satirised by the random shout-out of Reverend Lovejoy's wife: But what about the children? Isn't anybody thinking about the children?

In this particular instance, such a cry is doubly hypocritical, for I own an email by Elmer Damaso  from August 17, 2009, in which he was rather fearful of not getting paid at all, had in fact stopped working on Ten Beautiful Assassins, because his last two bills had not been paid, and the publisher wasn't returning any of his communications.

Where was that care and protection by the publisher back then, I ask?

Even though I hadn't been paid anything at all for over a year by that point, I emailed Elmer Damaso back to tell him that it's right to stop working on it. To him, that was just another gig. A paid gig, but I could not very well take that on my conscience. Not at the time.

But none of the artists involved ever showed the same kind of consideration to my situation, so the mere attempt of guilt-tripping me into thinking anybody was an innocent bystander is, well, actually, it's hilarious. When shit came to shoe level in my case, none of them made an attempt to stand up for me, they were in it for themselves, and that's fine.

Let me repeat that: that is fine.

But one shouldn't expect any kind of mercy on my side. If there is anything I have learned over the past three years is that nobody else will stand up for you, if it comes down to the wire.

In the meantime, I am quite sure of it, he will have paid Damaso. See, he needs to.  Damaso is a valuable asset again, and like I said very early on, most people and especially most artists have no back bone to speak of. Give them a little money and promise them more, and most people will be glad to serve. They will of course self-rationalise it. I had no choice. I need the gig. Well, I need to think of myself first.

Good for them.

I will now do the same.
Here's another issue which I want to call to your attention. It Takes A Wizard is currently attached to a rather prestigious production company that made a certain Disney movie that I know you're quite fond of. Although there is no studio offer yet, and no money has been exchanged or offered, I am quite confident that when they're ready to start taking out the impressive pitch they're currently developing, it will make quite a splash. If the 10BA deal moves forward with the studio and production company in question and is announced in Variety and other trades, that would make the resulting sale of It Takes A Wizard all the more likely.

And if one promise isn't enough, always promise more. By now the average reader of this email in the situation of the author has the mind reeling. If Ten Beautiful Assassins could net you 100,000 dollars, what could this bring? More money! Oh God! You could have your teeth fixed! You could pay off your debts. You could have a life again!

The reason why this is rolled out relatively late is that there is a good reason to believe that any of the other tools used so far in the email wouldn't work. Now, class, I ask you having read this far, and knowing what you do now... tell me, would it work on you?
Regardless of what you may think of me--and despite my own hurt feelings towards you--it's a testament to both your creative talent and to the appeal of my original concepts that we've managed to get the two manga projects that you and I collaborated on so much Hollywood interest, so quickly. Yes, this is the furthest any Seven Seas projects have gone so far. For that, regardless of everything else, I thank you.
This is probably one of my favourite passages. Please note the complexity of different approaches, and how they are trying to interact.

There is the You are a genius argument raising its ugly head once more, coming with the But you couldn't have done it without me, and there is another admittance again, and one that should not have been there. It's the fact that even in their raped, mutilated and pissed-on state, the stories I told were miles above anything else that they ever did. And now imagine being me. After everything you know now. Can you imagine it, boys and girls?

But obviously, the new element that is pulled out here, and it is one crooks often use, is the victim card. Your hurt my feelings! Crooks like doing that. It is also the most favourite defense brought forth by abusers. It really hurts my feelings that you stopped allowing me to rape you, beat to a bloody pulp and shit you around.


Kids... don't ever fall for that. They will be nice to you when it suits their purposes, when they have something to gain, when they need you, but rest assured that the next beating, the next rape will come, and it will be behind closed doors, where you can scream as much as you like, because nobody will come to your rescue, and when they are done with you, they will be wearing their pristine suits, they will be looking your neighbour in the eye and comment on how nice the weather is.

On the upside, there's clearly both opportunity and monetary reward for you, Elmer, me and possibly even Sean, if all goes well. And you're the one with the power now.

And again, this is the only language these types of people know how to use. Opportunity! Money! Trust me! There cannot possibly go anything wrong!

And again, the admittance.

You could choose to pull the plug on this, hurting me, hurting Elmer, hurting Sean, and hurting yourself in the process. Or you and I could rise above our personal ill feelings and try to recapture the spirit of excitement and collaboration we shared when we first started these projects.

Now we have guilt, victimisation and, here's the new element. Self-preservation. You could hurt yourself in the process! This is another argumentative strategy often used in these types of situation, class. Know it when you see it.  It is also often used in sales meetings, and marketing frauds have this down to perfection. This is an opportunity of a lifetime! If you don't buy in this sub-prime mortage derivative, you will see all of your neighbours get rich! But not you! Surely you don't want to feel left out? It's guaranteed! 30 percent, Mr. Hart! You can make money while you are sleeping., because money never sleeps!

Know this from somewhere?

It combines, for the most part, fear and greed, mixed with a little bit of jealousy. What if there is an opportunity? What if there is a chance that everybody else gets something? And you don't? Oh my god, give it to me now!

Scientific experiments have shown that people are very much in sync with this trifecta of argumentation. Greed. Fear. Jealousy. Will make you buy almost into anything, be it an iPad, a business opportunity that you don't do due dilligence on... or a into a political elite that  runs your country into the abyss.

Hell, Bush ran America perfectly like that for eight years.

The most important element in the trifecta, and this is why it is coming so late in the game, is the element of fear. You don't want to be left out, do you?

Grifters work that way. Because they don't have to back up their claims, then.

The choice is yours. There's very little time. If we let more than a couple days go by, the studio will back out. Make no mistake; I'm not trying to do a hard sell here. It really is now or never, because if we don't have the contracts I sent you in May '09 squared away immediately, my management company will drop the deal, rather than risk their reputations and relationships in trying to sell the rights for properties they don't have.
As in May 2009, remember that kids? I know this is a long post, and you're all tired and probably want to see some American Idol, but bear with me, I'm trying to teach you something. The contract has to be signed yesterday. Without any proof of any of the claims. See, an honest man would have given you something, a name, a phone number, an email address, but that is not the point of this paragraph.

The point of this paragraph is to elaborate and heighten that sense of fear to be left out. Classic grifter strategy is thus: set up the a vague, but glamorous opportunity, appeal to your mark's greed, stroke your mark's ego, then put the fear of god into him, start a ticking clock. In 90 out of 100 cases, fear and greed combined will make your mark follow your lead.

One of the best fictionalised ways of showing this in action is a quite quirky, little English TV show called Hustle. Watch it if you can. Learn their tools. Know your enemy. Know how your enemy thinks.

Did I mention he already failed my Shibboleth last year?

If you want me to call you on the phone to discuss this, I'm willing to do so. Or if you'd prefer chatting about it online, that's fine with me too. My only stipulation is that our conversations remain civil and polite. I've suffered too much grief over the last year and will not accept anything less than civil discourse.

There is not much to say about this.

Except for the fact that this the equivalent of an anal rapist asking for a second date.

Now, I will tell you a little story. After I had seen what this man had done last year, I devised my own transfer of copyright documents that I had delivered by courier service to him. Essentially, I demanded a few things (see, how that goes when you want to fuck somebody over but were then actually too stupid to do it?) in a full exchange of copyrights.

(A) I demanded a proper page rate payment for the work of the past two years . It wasn't all that much, let's just say it was on the lower range of a page rate for a writer.

(B)  Since he had screwed over my writing, I demanded that the original pieces of dialogue shall be re-instated from the potential second printing of the books going forward. Also, every potential foreign licensed edition would be based on the author's dialogue.

(C) Since I knew that this would be inevitably escalate, and since I wanted nothing to do with this man for the rest of my life (or his, whatever comes first. I'm not choosy), I gave all of my potential royalties of any and all print editions of the property to the artist involved. See, kids? Don't be greedy. It will make you look bad.

(D) In the case of the ancillaries (potentials as they were), well, I thought, here's the moment where this man needs to be punished. Not for what he did to me (bad enough as it was), but for his Randian, selfish and utterly racist world view. I had to endure many conversations, because evil people like to talk, I am not kidding, they do, that is not a cliché out of Bond movies, they love to talk. And in this case, since "he couldn't talk about any of this in the horrible liberal Hollywood circles", I got to see the real persona. I mean, hell, I was halfway around the world, and I would surely "understand his points".

So what were these points?

Greed is good. Selfishness is the height of human evolution. First there is me, then there is nobody (gosh, is the same man who just a couple of paragraphs above tried to guilt me into something Think about the artists! Why doesn't anybody ever think about the artists?) Didn't Ayn Rand teach us that? Well, i told you we would be coming back to her. And to the reason why this long lesson is entitled: My Howard Roark Moment.

Muslims are the scum of the Earth. They should be tortured. In fact, we should just nuke the entire Middle East. They are Islamo-Fascists, all of them! We have the moral right to do so! (here is the thing, class. Don't tell this to a German. Don't tell us about genocide. You have no idea what you are talking about. This, my country, is built upon the bones of millions whose only crime was to be different from us. Do I think that there are some parts of current Islamic culture that are revolting? Yes. But that is no reason, there is never any reason to generally blast an entire population or a belief system. Did I mention the publisher is Jewish? I didn't. Oooops. And please, at least look up the dictionary definition of what fascism actually means before spouting off such bullshit).  It made me sick, having to listen to this every other day, mixed in with Ayn Rand worship, because I have read Ayn Rand (what did I tell you about Know Your Enemy, class?)

And so, I invented the RTM for my copyright transfer document. If you are wondering what it stands for, it stands for Racist Motherfucker Tax. I didn't want the money from the ancillaries. But I sure as hell wouldn't let him keep the money. America has become a country in this first decade of the 21st century, where they reward bad behaviour. Politicians. Bankers. Celebrities. There are no consequences.

The system is rigged, so that there are no consequences.

I have a problem with that.

Good thing I'm not an American, eh?

In this case, I wanted to not reward bad behaviour and do something good at the same time. And so, all of my potential ancillary payments were to be given to none other than Human Rights Watch, so that those who he so clearly wanted to see dead and gone from the planet would be defended with the money of that man. I consider that still to be one of my finest hours as a human being.  I didn't want my name on it, I wanted his name on it.

Call it Kharmic Justice, and boy, she is a bitch.

And since I knew he would never do it, I stipulated that all rights to concept, characters and stories would revert immediately to me, if he didn't. Subject to an independent accounting review. Oh, and since Kharmic Justice is a bitch, I included that under no circumstances could he or his company deduct said payments as charity (because then, boys and girls, the US taxpayer would essentially come up for it, and I think there was enough fleecing of states in this little story already, don't you think?)

Of course he didn't accept that, and the deadline I had put into those documents passed a long time ago.

So here it is, boys and girls.

Here's your Shibboleth.

Here's your Howard Roark moment.

What would you do, knowing all you know now.

What.. would you do? Think about it. The answer is what will determine what kind of a person you are. if you still only see the money, correction, the potential of money hinging on the word of a man, where you have irrefutable proof that his word means nothing, if you go back to him, you deserve to be raped, you deserve every beating you are going to get in the future. 

Think about it, class, while you evacuate this building. Please proceed in an orderly fashion to the nearest exits. Don't step on any of the explosives. Thank you.

Good morning, Mr. DeAngelis.

From here on out, things are only going to get worse.

Welcome to hell.