williamallenpepper

Here's a blog because NOBODY else has one!

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

OVERTHINKING FOR THE SAKE OF OVERTHINKING

There’s this guy, Adam Bertocci, with a website devoted to the classic sci-fi comedy Ghostbusters. The site is called “Overthinking Ghostbusters“. Go check it out. I’ll see you back here in an hour or two.

You thought I was kidding didn’t you? There is a LOT of commentary and analysis on the site. Hope you weren’t following that link at work. If so, you’re probably fired now for wasting time. Of course, that means you more time to finish reading this post! And others! All the posts! All day! Read! Read! Read!

Anyway.

Bertocci, a self-described pop culture fan. He declares he “became a Ghostbusters fan at the age of seven, and I’ve never looked back.”

His site makes a case for Ghostbusters having a place among the greatest achievements in cinema. Bertocci analyzes the presence of religion, gender, horror, politics and “the hero’s journey” in the film.

I wanted to write a gently mocking post about wasting good space on the Internet, about a misspent youth soaking up movies and video games rather than trees and other humans.

But then I thought, so what? I really like the movie Ghostbusters too. For that matter, I even like Ghostbusters II too..er II also. Whatever. They’re fun and hold up on re-viewing twenty, thirty years later as affectionate reminders of the eighties without all the embarrassment of the eighties.

So what if this guy puts out a website devoted to his favorite movie, filled with trivia and minutiae and, arguably pointless analysis? Is he any different from the face-painted football fanatic, the anglophile with the royal wedding on tape or the comic book collector who saves his pennies for the pilgrimage to Comicon every year?

Or any different from the anonymous blogger thrusting his unrequested missives on the world?

*Ahem*

So, when you’re done gulping great fistfuls of the Internet truffles this blog provides, go back and call on a Ghostbuster.

There are worse ways to spend your time.

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HOMEMADE

Homemade.

It’s a nice sounding word.

Home.

Comfort, security, familiarity.

Made.

Um…past tense of make.

That’s nice too.

I’ve been making a fair amount of stuff at home that, in the past, I would have bought. I’ve chronicled several of my home-brewing adventures in this space (well, brewing from a kit).

But I’ve also made a fair amount of ice cream lately, including an excellent batch of black coffee ice cream with espresso hot fudge sauce that I made from a recipe I got here.

We expanded our backyard garden this year too. We put in one of those dirt boxes last year, but between the drought and not really knowing what we were doing, we didn’t yield much of a harvest. This year, we expanded to two dirt boxes. We’ve got corn and peas and lettuce and tomatoes and broccoli and, uh, pizza rolls and sweat socks. Anyway, lots of stuff.

It’s fun, all this home-making stuff. Cheaper than store-bought. Healthier too. And in an age when so many things like car repair or computer trouble-shooting require specialized skills you just don’t possess, it’s nice to be able to still do some things for myself.

So what’s next? Butter churning? Squirrel taxidermy? With funny hats? Homemade, of course.

The possibilities are endless.

LITTLE WAYS TO MAKE THE DAY JOB BEARABLE

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I have a secret.

Several really, but one in particular is relevant here.

Making sweet blog missives week in and week out is intellectually satisfying, but doesn’t really pay very much. So…

I have a day job. At night, I sit around in my underwear; one hand on the keyboard, the other on a bottle of gin, cranking out Internet goodness. But by day, I sit around in a tie in an office doing GROWN UP THINGS.

It’s an old story: the writer who supports his artsy habit working for THE MAN.

The Day Job: Purgatory for Creatives.

Well, that might be overstating it. But for someone who wants to be their own boss, do their own thing, make a living creating things, working a day job can be a toil. Fortunately, there are little ways to tow the company line while still maintaining that quirky whatever that makes you YOU.

I’m not talking about gold-bricking. That’s a thing, right? “Gold-bricking”? A thing that fits in this context? Anyway, the little defiances against the drudge of the work-a-day world that I’m talking about aren’t about goofing off. No looking at porn when you should be compiling a spreadsheet. No two hour lunch hours. Nothing that detracts from what you’re getting paid to do.

I’m talking about little acts that let you do your job while still making it just a smidge more entertaining for yourself. Here are some that I like:

Up at the top of this page is a picture of a mini TARDIS. I picked it up at Barnes & Noble and it is parked now on my desk at my day job. When the mid-afternoon slump hits or the fevered paper-shuffling that is most mornings is particularly stressful, the TARDIS whisks me away to anywhere else in time and space (“All of time and space; everywhere and anywhere; every star that ever was. Where do you want to start?”) that I would want to go. I take a little mental trip (insert your own joke here), then I’m back. Work goes on.

Once in a great while on a work day, for the hell of it, I don’t shave. It’s a little thing. My beard is pretty light (shut up – it doesn’t make me any less of a man, I tell you), so it’s unlikely anyone notices. Or cares. But I do it anyway. For me.

Twitter. Some people take smoke breaks. I take Twitter breaks. This is a tricky one. Twitter. Facebook. They suck you in and can be total productivity killers. I’m not talking about a long session. A few seconds here and there; enough time just to get a sense of what’s going on out there, then back to work.

Look out the window. The key here is my office doesn’t actually have any windows. I actually have to walk around the maze of cubicles to find an exterior wall with a window to the outside world. Its a way to remind myself there’s still a world going on outside with sun and rain and snow and life bustling along – probably doing something more fun than me. But still.

I carry a briefcase TO WORK. It has pens and paper. And books. Books I actually want to read, not books I have to read. Most of this stuff stays untouched all day, of course. I just like having it nearby. Having books nearby is to writers like frilly underthings are to cross-dressers.

No judging.

Hey! Reading this post might have been your subversive act of defiance against your employer. I’m like a revolutionary.

Sexy, ain’t I?

Before you put down your preferred blog reading device, let me know what ways you’re taking down the economy from within your workplace.

THE LONE RANGER STARRING…JOHNNY DEPP???

So, the big Fourth of July blockbuster this year is another resurrection of an old TV show. Know what it is (no fair cheating by remember what the title of this post was)

Wonder Woman? (That’s way overdue.)

Nope.

Archie and Jughead?

Nuh-uh.

The Flash? Daredevil? Hawkman? Aquaman?

No. No. No. No. And WHY THE HELL NOT? (Though Aquaman was always the weakest link on my favorite cartoon as a kid, The Superfriends.)

It is THE LONE RANGER

*crickets chirping*

You know The Lone Ranger. Lawman of the Old West. Wears a mask. (No, I don’t know why either). Rides a horse named Silver. Hi ho, Silver! Fights rustlers and train robbers and what not. The movie is sure to be filled with majestic landscapes, train robberies on horseback, intense gunfights and pwerful steeds riding for justice.

And it stars JOHNNY DEPP. *swoon*

He’ll make an awesome Lone Ranger! He’s tall and handsome and …

Wait..What?

Johnny isn’t playing The Lone Ranger? But he’s getting top billing on the ads. Who the hell is he then?

Tonto?

The Lone Ranger’s Native American sidekick?

But Johnny’s a white dude…

No one seems to care, though. They’re all OHMIGOD! JOHNNY DEPP IS IN A MOVIE! TALKING! AND MOVING! TALKING AND MOVING TOGETHER! *Drool uncontrollably* *collapse to the floor in a puddle of filth*

Do you even know who’s playing THE LONE RANGER?

Armie Hammer.

(Stop giggling)

I’m sure Armie Hammer is a fine actor. They gave him the title role in this summer blockbuster. But from the advertising, you’d barely even know he was in the damn film. It’s all about Johnny Depp. I don’t even know what the plot of the movie is. The commercials are just Johnny doing quirky Johnny-things with a dead bird on his head.

I don’t really think Johnny Depp or even the producers of the film intend to slap Native Americans in the face by putting a white guy in the Tonto role. I’ve read stuff with Johnny Depp saying his portrayal of some weird paintings this guy did of a white guy portrayed as a Native American. Depp says he wants, in his own way, to play this part to combat stereotypes. Johnny Depp is just weird enough for that to be believable.

I just think it’s interesting how the promotion of this movie has gone; a movie called The Lone Ranger with almost no acknowledgement of the title character.

I suspect the movie might actually be pretty good. Of course, I thought the last big July 4th Western blockbuster – Wild, Wild West – was pretty good too.

What say you, movie fans?

CALZONES AND PIZZA DRONES

And dinner went down in a hail of pepperoni-fire.

Recently, pizza-giant Domino’s has been field-testing the “DomiCopter” in the United Kingdom. the “DomiCopter” is, literally, an unmanned Domino’s helicopter that delivers pizza to your door.

First, the Romans, then, uh, the Huns, then World Wars I and II. Haven’t the Brits suffered enough?

Pizzas falling from the sky. I’m pretty sure I had a dream like that once…per day. Large, airborne machinery. Piping hot pizza and NO NEED TO TIP ANYBODY OR EXPERIENCE ANY HUMAN INTERACTION whilst my food gets cold.

If only I lived in the UK.

Here’s how I think it might go:

You: Yeah, hi, Dominos, I’d like to order a medium pepperoni with extra cheese.

Dominos: Fine. That’ll be $16.95. The DomiCopter will be there in thirty minutes or less.

You: Domicopter?

Dominos: Yeah. In half an hour, a heavily-armed and armoured, aerial pizza-assault vehicle will bring your pie, tasty and piping-hot.

You: Well, I don’t know, it’s kinda late. The noise could wake the kids…

Dominos: Do you want your pizza or not?

You: Um, okay.

(Thirty minutes later…)

Your Kid: Dad, the windows are rattling.

Your Dog: BARKBARKBARKBARKBARK!

You: Squee! Pizza-time

Your Kid: Dad, the DomiCopter took out the Hendersons’ F-150.

*Knock Knock *

You: Who is it?

DomiCopter (cold, metallic tones): Domino’s. Eat. Pizza. Now.

You: Thanks!

DomiCopter (steel door sliding back from a small panel from which razor-sharp pincers emerge): That pizza isn’t free, sir.

After you manage to fork over the cash with trembling fingers, DomiCopter has one more request:

DomiCopter: Can your toaster come out and play?

HANDS-ON BOOKSTORE SAVING

So I read this piece from a link on Twitter recently. For those of you who can’t tear yourself away from the fine edu-info-excellento-entertainment this blog offers, here’s a summary:

Bill “Mr. B” Wiley, owner and proprietor of Mr. B’s Bookery in Kingston, Washington, was having health issues and was going to have to close the shop. In walks writer Danya Simkus who offers to help.

Next thing you know, she’s a coowner with her fiancee and Wiley’s son.

On one hand, this is an example of someone stepping up to save a dying institution – the local, independent bookstore. On the other hand, it’s an example of the ultimate author’s fantasy. Well, other than sitting around all day in your underwear making up stories. The OTHER fantasy is owning a bookstore.

And Danya Simkus did it.

I like both aspects of the story. Somehow the institutions we treasure most manage to go on even in the midst of dire predictions of their extinction. Indie bookstores, hell, even print books, are supposed to be dead. Here’s an example of why that isn’t gonna happen without a fight.

Also, how cool is it to spend ALL DAY talking about BOOKS, thumbing through them, touching them, drooling on them, whispering sweet nothings into…

What was I saying?

Oh, right. Yay, Mr. B’s!

I’M SORRY – FATHER’S DAY EDITION

Shhh! Stop making so much noise, you kids! You’ll wake up your father…Well, he’s still in bed because today’s Father’s Day and he gets to sleep in. Yeah, I know, that’s pretty funny. Go ahead and fight with your brother over who gets the “good” chair SO LOUDLY that Dad can’t even pretend it didn’t wake him up.

Poor Dads. We’re a put-upon species. We get to run the hot grill in the steamy summer months and clean the stinky litter box year round. And for what? Well, getting to eat and not having smelly felines, but other than that…not much.

But do we complain? Hell no! We let it fester and work out our aggressions in other ways. After all, that’s what basketball leagues for middle-aged dudes are for.

One good way to release stress is to purge ourselves of our guilt. To whit:

I’m sorry the burgers I grilled last week were burned. On the upside, you totally had no clue one of them was that baseball that stupid kid two doors down keeps hitting into our yard.

I’m sorry that the color “Cheeto-dust” is not acceptable for business attire.

I’m sorry Gene Wilder hasn’t made a movie in a long time. (Has nothing really to do with being a dad, just bummed about it.)

I’m sorry that the things I like to do on Father’s Day – take a nap, eat something off the grill, drink to excess, eat pie, take another nap – are pretty much just the same things I like to do other days.

I’m sorry I felt compelled to prove the old schoolyard threat, “My Dad can beat up your dad.” Twice. In my dad’s defense, your dad is a pretty big wuss.

I’m sorry this year’s Father’s Day gathering was rained out…by Grampa peeing off the second-floor balcony.

I’m sorry Pop-Tarts are not considered their own food group with a more prominent place on the Food Pyramid.

I’m sorry the USDA replaced the Food Pyramid with that other chart-thingy they use now.

I also sorry the pre-Internet days are gone, back when Slim Goodbody and Schoolhouse Rock were all the “educational programming” kids needed.

I’m sorry your father was such a crushing disappointment. But that’s no reason to not answer the door. I know you’re in there!

I’m sorry garbage still has to be taken out on Father’s Day and, apparently, NO ONE ELSE is going to do it.

I’m sorry Father’s Day brunch didn’t go the way you hoped. On the upside, I did get that Hooters’ waitress’s phone number.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE

So, I’m driving down the street recently. Ridin’ along in my automobile, as it were. A lovely late spring day. Not a cloud in the sky. A good day to be out recreating, gallivanting, flitting about in the meadow.

Or a good day to do what one young woman was doing: jogging down the sidewalk, prepared for warm weather in shorts and a tank top. She was maybe in her twenties, fit, full of life.

So was the college-age dude on the bicycle in the bike lane. Even though he was headed the same direction as me, his head was craned around so far behind him to get a look at the jogger’s…technique, it’s remarkable the torque didn’t spin his bike into a tornado. All the while, the grin on his face was SOOOOO wide, gnats were bouncing off his molars.

In old movies and commercials, construction workers wolf-whistle at women walking by construction sites. Guys eyes bug out like cartoon characters when the wind blows a skirt up. I had never actually seen anything like this in real life until that day on Jersey Ridge Road.

I don’t necessarily think my man on the bike was some sort of sexist pig throwback to an earlier age full of reprehensible treatment of other people that gets whitewashed by the passing years as the nostalgic, “innocent” good old days. He may have been exactly that, but he may also have just been a good-natured young man appreciating an attractive woman. He wasn’t cat-calling, he wasn’t creating a nuisance, he wasn’t making obscene gestures. He was caught up by a pretty girl, smiling a little aggressively perhaps, but there was no malice in the smile; it was pure joy. He wasn’t really harming anyone – unless he plowed into a mailman down the road because he wasn’t watching where he was going.

You could argue he was objectifying this woman. But again, to be fair to him, he didn’t do anything but look. We all do it. Men. Women. Everyone. No harm in looking. No shame.

(Um…if my wife asks, I kept my eyes on the road the whole time.)

WHERE QBERT WENT TO DIE

NPR recently reported about a game development company called Fuel Industries which has gotten permission from the city council in Alamogordo, NM to excavate the “Atari Dump”. In 1983, saddled with truckloads of unsold Atari game cartridges – Remember the “E.T.” game? No. That’s why they needed a dump. – the company literally solved the problem by burying them in the desert, along with a bunch of broken game consoles. Easy-peasy! Problem solved! Let’s get a beer.

Now Fuel Industries wants to make a documentary about all that. Why? Well…well because THEY BURIED A BUNCH OF VIDEO GAMES IN THE DESERT. WITH PERMISSION. THEN POURED CEMENT ON IT. Does there really need to be more reason than that?

This explains so much. Dubious business practices certainly. Disregard for the environment most definitely. But it also explains how, on a clear summer night when the wind is blowing in the right direction, even hundreds of miles away from New Mexico, I hear the voices. well, not voices exactly. The bleeps and boops and boings of all those great, old video games.

Listen carefully and you’ll hear the Tarzen-esque call of Pitfall Harry leaping on a vine over a pit of maggots. Q*Bert climbing stacks of old tomato soup cans. E.T. phoning home on a Reese’s Pieces wrapper. Pac-Man gobbling pellets of…god knows what.

They’re all out there, whispers in the night; quarters plinking in the slots of midnight. Or something. So the next time you’re immersed in the stunning realism of Call of Duty or the gripping power of Battlefield, just remember that somewhere in the New Mexico desert Donkey Kong and Mario are still battling…over rotten banana peels and dead goldfish.

Remember…

SIDEKICKS AND COMPANIONS

Remember Jar Jar Binks?

*Pause for the throwing of rotten tomatoes*

I know…I KNOW. He was an awful character in a mediocre? sucky? awesome? movie. (Don’t really care where you come down on Star Wars: Episode One. That’s a post for another time.) At best, Jar Jar was an annoying waste of CGI. At worst, he was a thinly veiled racist stereotype.

But Jar Jar was also a good example of a recurrent problem in film/TV/books, particularly sci-fi: cookie-cutter sidekicks and companions. The heroes in these things – your Luke Skywalker, Captain Kirk, Mal Reynolds or The Doctor – have their issues too. You could probably count on one set of hands of feet the number of prominent sci-fi heroes who weren’t men and probably on one hand the number who weren’t white guys. But, they tend to be at least reasonably well thought out, straight-forward characters.

Companions and sidekicks often don’t flesh out as well. Doctor Who has long been pilloried for the companions to The Doctor being primarily hot, young women. I can only think of maybe six or eight male companions in the entire fifty years since the show debuted. The new series that started in 2005 has done a (somewhat) better job making the companion more than somebody who stands there looking pretty and screaming at monsters, but still, they’re mostly hot, young women, many of which are openly or subtly in love with The Doctor. It would be nice if the show included more male companions and more woman who are as clever and kick-ass as The Doctor.

The original Star Trek series broke ground with Uhura, a black woman in a prominent role on the Starship Enterprise, and the show had a pretty diverse cast. But the Star Trek franchise has taken some hits over the years at the otherwise limited role of women. The new movie Star Trek Into Darkness (which I haven’t got to see yet) has taken some flack for an apparently gratuitous scene of a woman in her underwear.

The only prominent woman – only woman at all? – in Star Wars is Princess Leia. The original film series anyway. Then, in the second batch of films (Which is really the first batch? Still confuses me.) We get Princess Armadillo or whatever her name was. That’s it.

I don’t know why all this is. Obviously, it’s not only white men who write sci-fi. But with maybe the exception of Margaret Atwood, you really only hear about the men. And, just as obviously, not all those white guys are racist or biased against women. They’re just not writing, or not good at writing, diverse characters. Or so much work goes into the hero that the other characters get short-shrift. Sidekicks and companions, then, turn into stereotypes.

I feel bad for them.

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