williamallenpepper

Here's a blog because NOBODY else has one!

Archive for the month “August, 2013”

WRITERS GOTTA WRITE. I GOTTA LISTEN

I like to write.

No, I really like to write. I like building a world in my head and seeing if I can move it to paper and have it look as cool s it did rattling around my brain. Sometimes it does. Often it doesn’t and that’s actually more fun, because it means I can keep on building that world to make it better.

But the thing I like to do when I’m not writing (or reading) is listen to other writers talk about what they are writing and reading. One of my favorites is Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig on Twitter. Do, please, go follow him.) Chuck writes urban fantasy – always profane, often violent, sometimes really violent, and occasionally humorous – but filled with some of the richest, grittiest, emotional writing ever. Check out his Miriam Black books Blackbirds and Mockingbird for starts. As a palate cleanser look for his Dinocalypse books coming soon which are much cleaner, but oh so much fun.

Urban fantasy is a genre, frankly, I only got interested in because Wendig is so damn captivating with his tweets and even more so with his blog at terribleminds where he dishes out really, really good (and dare I say it, sometimes inspirational) writing advise. He also curses a lot and can spin the hell out of a whacked-out metaphor. So there’s that.

One of my favorite shows right now is the Sundance Channel show “The Writer’s Room” where the host sits down with the creator, some of the writers, and a star from a popular TV show and they just talk about what goes into breaking stories and turning ideas into TV. So far they’ve done “Breaking Bad”, “Dexter”, “Parks and Recreation” and “The New Girl”.

I subscribe to a number of podcasts: The Nerdist, The Nerdist Writers Panel, Book Riot, and others. I like the ones centered on writers the best. Others, like Thrilling Adventure Hour, or even the NPR show Fresh Air have lots of great stuff I enjoy, but I’ll still zero in on the writers. My iPod scrolling is like, “Yeah, yeah, interview with the doctor who cured cancer. Oh, another episode about how the US just got sold to China which is turning it into condos. Boring. Blah blah…ooh, Neil Gaiman!”

Side note: I’ll listen to Neil Gaiman talk about anything anytime. His voice is awesome. He could describe the workings of the large intestine and make it sound magical.

The special features are my favorite parts of DVDS. I love this stuff.

I love it because (1) listening to people who are passionate about what they do is just fun. Even if I’ve never seen that show or movie or play they’re involved with, I love hearing them talk about it; (2) it’s also infectious. It makes you passionate about what you do.

As much as I’m enjoying the final eight episodes of “Breaking Bad”, I’m enjoying the “after-show” called “Talking Bad” where Chris Hardwick interviews the creator and stars of the show about what just happened on the episode that night just as much.

So, yeah.

I may have a problem.

SUMMER’S CIRCLING THE DRAIN

As I write this, it is mid-August. The kids are back to school. More and more days run together where the air conditioning is unnecessary. It’s incrementally taking longer for daybreak to, uh, break.

Fall isn’t here, but it’s coming.

Autumn leaves. A chill in the air. Chili and clam chowder, pumpkin pie, Octoberfest beers, warm bread.

Not all together, of course.

Oh, what the hell. All together.

All those things will be here soon. Not yet. Not today (unless you’re reading this in the fall). Soon.

The older I get, the faster the seasons change, but I also sense those changes more too. They don’t so much run together anymore; each one has it’s own taste. I haven’t reached the age where I feel the oncoming rain in my bones or anything. I can’t predict the first snow, but I’m less and less surprised when it comes.

I take summer for granted most of the season. It’s hot and oppressively humid much of the time; the humidity amplifying every foul odor. But as, fall creeps forward, I dread the end of warm summer days, regret my failure to go to the beach, chase fireflies or finally buy that Speedo I’ve always wanted.

Photos on demand.

Happy Almost Autumn, everyone!

MONEY TALKS AND THE FOOTBALL’S FUMBLED

So, here’s my understanding of what happened:

A couple well-respected reporters at ESPN said, “Hey, let’s do some stories about the rampant problem of untreated, undiagnosed and more or less outright ignored problem of concussions among NFL players.

“Great,” said ESPN. “You should write a book too.”

“YEAH,” the reporters shouted in unison.

“And we’ll even pay for it!”

“YAY,” the writers shouted, delightedly.

“And, you know what?” said venerable PBS news program “Frontline”, “You do your reporting and we’ll film you and do a documentary about this serious problem that’s crippling athletes and duping fans.”

There was much enthusiastic weeing of pants over at ESPN. “ZOMG! THIS IS GONNA BE AMAZING!”

Over at Pulitzer, they start prepping the cannon to fire Pulitzers at everyone involved.

But then…

ESPN’s old buddy the NFL drops by for sodas. ESPN and the NFL go way back. ESPN gets ratings and therefore advertisers because of NFL games. The NFL gets viewers, and therefore fans and revenue through ESPN. ESPN and NFL love each other. LOVE, dammit.

Still, NFL is a little down today.

“What’s wrong, NFL?” asks ESPN over a plate of snickerdoodles.

“Well, you see,” NFL says, “since you asked, we’re a little upset.”

“Why, NFL?” ESPN sets aside the cookie plate, takes NFL’s hand, all concerned. “Tell us, old chum.”

“We’re a little upset about the concussion project.”

“Isn’t it gonna be great?” ESPN says. “Real journalism about a serious health issue. A real chance to have a public discussion about the role of sports in our society.”

“Yeah…” ESPN traces the pattern on the fine china cookie plate, licking cookie crumbs off it’s index finger before answering. “But, see, the documentary makes the NFL look kind of, well…craven, callous and like we don’t give a shit about our players or the fans who give us all that money. A thing like that…well, it could really hurt a good friendship.”

ESPN can’t believe it’s ears. “But…but…but, we are friends, still…right?”

“Sure. Sure we are,” NFL says. “And you know, real friends help each other.”

NFL left that meeting with a pocketful of snickerdoodles.

Next thing you know, ESPN has suddenly realized AFTER A YEAR, that it doesn’t like the level of editorial control it has over the Frontline video and so it pulls its funding. The documentary will happen, of course, airing in October, but without ESPN’s stamp of approval on it.

And…scene…

Welcome to Modern Commercial Journalism 101.

PRO SPORTS REALLY HATES YOU

Steroids.

Lying about steroids.

Rampant concussions and crippling injuries

Murderers. Druggies. Dudes who get hundreds of millions of dollars.

To play a game.

The average cost for a family of four to go to a professional baseball game, eat snacks and get a program, is about $340. For a football game, it’s $450.

That’s one game.

All of this and much, much more can be found in professional sports.

But maybe, in your minds, there’s still a chance that the powers-that-be in professional don’t just totally hate your guts, your ancestors’ guts and the guts of every living thing that might conceivably ever have a genetic connection to you including the half-human, half-sea-horse, psychic living pasta makers into which our entire race will eventually evolve.

(We will so. I totally watch the Discovery Channel. I know stuff.)

So maybe, you hold out hope. Well, consider this friends.

This year, the National Football League has instituted a new policy they’re calling “All Clear.” Apparently, for security reasons, which as far as I can tell means “we want to make sure you only buy your eight dollar hot dogs at our concessions”, you can no longer bring bags and seat cushions into the stadium with you unless they are “clear.” If your purse or whatever isn’t see through, it isn’t coming in.

Yep.

Now, now, stop throwing stuff. To be fair, the NFL does want to help you out. If you don’t have a clear bag, they will happily sell you one. With a team logo on it.

So, yeah, it’s not really a “clear” bag, is it?

Meanwhile, over at professional baseball, where we’re pretty sure there’s still a Yankee game started in 1972 still going on, they’ve hit upon a way to make the typical game last even longer.

Expanded use of the instant replay.

Because, I guess, they needed a way to slow down the frenetic action of a baseball game to a pace slower than, I dunno, continental drift.

I’m falling asleep just writing about baseball and instant replay.

I get that the flow of big money isn’t unique to professional sports. I get that desire to overlook bad behavior because of (1) that big money and (2) we’re entertained isn’t unique to professional sports either. Hello, Hollywood.

BUT, among the purveyors of sport, there seems to be a special kind of contempt for the people who support the teams. I don’t need to take out a loan to see a movie. I don’t need a clear bag to watch my favorite show. Athletics and competition and sportsmanship have so much to offer for the betterment of people. But I have trouble looking past all the crap in professional sports to see it. That may be flaw in my character.

But I’m pretty sure it’s not me with the flaw.

MOM, HIS UNIVERSE IS TOUCHING MY UNIVERSE!

So, Discover Magazine ran this article that says, basically, all that mysterious stuff floating around the universe that we can detect scientifically, but can’t actually see, so called “dark matter”, might actually be evidence of another universe; a universe that our own universe might be sitting on top of right now, forcing it to say “uncle”.

And now scientists think they might have a way to sort of light up this dark matter so that we can see what it is. How are they going to do this? Well, all this technical stuff that isn’t as fun as thinking about little space aliens flailing their tentacles saying, “Hey, get off! Come on, guys. You’re squishing me!”

No offense, space-people.

The scientists are feeling pretty confident they will find a way to look inside dark matter. They don’t know exactly what they’ll find.

But I do.

Get ready, Discovery Channel. You’ll be wanting to do a whole special about my amazing predictions. I’m all set for my TV debut. I’ve already got my make-up on.

So here’s what’s out there:

1. Evil doppelgangers Everyone knows that parallel universes are always populated by people who look exactly like us, only a lot more pissed off about everything.

2. And they have goatees.

Duh.

3. My original Star Wars Millenium Falcon. It disappeared when I was a kid. I looked everywhere. Except a parallel universe.

I feel so stupid for not having thought of that.

Buckle up for light speed, Chewie.

4. Entire planets that have never heard of cauliflower.

(This one might be more of a hope than a scientific analysis. I really don’t like cauliflower. Don’t tell my kids.)

5. Large-breasted, Amazonian dinosaurs parallel-parking rocket cars outside the diner where all the food comes in pellet-form.

6. Rose Tyler.

(That one’s for you, Doctor Who fans.)

7. Affordable health care.

8. Cats and dogs working together in cooperative alliances to enslave their human cattle.

9. Sticks of butter, car hoods and kids’ sandboxes with the imprints of myriad butts from our universe. You know, from all the parallel universe squishing.

10. An entire planet with nothing but keychains, old socks, combs, eyeglasses and the purity lost by the peoples of our own universe.

I’ll be waiting by the phone for Stockholm to call about when I can pick up my Noble Prize.

RUNNING OF THE BULL*!@&

My four-year-old recently discovered my volume 1 box set of classic Looney Tunes cartoons. A particular favorite at the moment is the one where Bugs Bunny, failing to take that left turn at Albuquerque, comes up out of his rabbit hole in the middle of a bullfight. Bugs proceeds to vanquish the bull in a variety of comically violent scenarios. My kid eats it up.

When I was a kid, the “Garfield” comic strip. (Remember Garfield? Fat, cranky, lasagna loving, Monday-hating cat who, in the seventies and eighties was on every damn item of merchandise everywhere including, but not limited to, tampons and cruise missles? Yeah, that one. Yeah, that strip is still running. No, seriously.)

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh, right. So, Garfield ran a strip where Garfield comments that someday he’s going to run with the bulls in Pamplona. Then the last panel is the punchline: “Then I’ll write a book called “The Stupidest Thing I’ve Ever Done’.”

I bring this up because I don’t get bullfighting. I also don’t get the whole running of the bulls thing in Pamplona, Spain every year. What is the point of this…sport? Game? I dunno…weird, bizarre animal torture fetish with souvenir keychains?

And the reason I bring that up is IT”S COMING TO AMERICA!

*Trumpets blare. Children wail. American society decays just that much more*

The same people who brought you the great bull run in Pamplona are bringing the…well, whatever we’re calling this thing…to Richmond, VA on August 24 and Georgia in October.

But surely, no reasonable person will go for this right? It’s cruel. And dangerous. And reckless.

Ummm…

So, it seems 5,000 people have already signed up in Virginia.

About as many are expected in Georgia.

Five. THOUSAND.

In a country where Congress shuts down the government every other day because they don’t agree on what to order for lunch, where entire cable networks rise up to espouse one point of view, where no one agrees on ANYTHING, five-thousand knuckleheads have agreed that running like maniacs through the streets while a bull tries to gore you is something we should all get behind.

The thing hasn’t even happened yet and events are already planned for Texas, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, California and Pennsylvania.

I don’t even…

I need a drink.

THERE ARE WINNERS AND LOSERS AND THE REALLY IMPATIENT

It’s no secret we all have too much going on. Too many hours at work. Too much TV. Too much time spent on lessons, phone apps and whatever else. At the same time, our attention spans have shrunk so…

What were we talking about?

Hey, look. Cookies!

But, it seems to me, there are a few things that deserved to be appreciated in their own time, however long that time is. A good movie. A good book. Cookie dough ice cream. That tingly feeling you get when you stick your finger in an electrical outlet.

And board games.

Remember those? Games you can play as a group and don’t have to plug into anything? Board games are making a comeback of sorts thanks in no small part to Wil Wheaton’s Internet show Tabletop. But it seems to some they are still relics of a bygone, more quaint age: an era when people sat on their porch drinking lemonade for hours; thought nothing of spending time chatting over the backyard fence, savoring the newspaper front to back and drinking excessively while chain smoking and driving without seatbelts.

Okay, maybe not that last one.

I love a good, two-hour game of Monopoly. Always have. Spend all night playing Risk? You bet, dude.

According to the folks at toymaker Hasbro, though, folks are just TOO busy to sit still together as a family and play a game that takes longer that a commercial break between episodes of “Honey Boo Boo”. To that end, they have released a version of Monopoly that takes no longer than thirty minutes to play. It’s one of their new “snack toys” meant to complete with the attention-strapped kids in an age of Facebook and iPad apps.

Read for yourself here.

The most telling quote in the article? “Jonathan Berkowitz, vice president of marketing at Hasbro, said: ‘Parents and children tell us they want a quick in-and-out, frictionless gaming experience’.” Um, “frictionless”? So, families are tired of having to work at a game? Spending all that time together getting them down? Putting in the time to achieve the goal is just too much bother, apparently.

Lame-ass Monopoly (Not an official title – but c’mon, the properties are named after McDonalds and X-Box instead of the traditional street names. Please. ) joins “Scrabble Flash” where you can play a whole game in two minutes, thirty seconds.

I’m as busy as a lot of people, busier than others. But some things are just sacred.

Give me Park Place. Not Coca-Cola way.

LYING THROUGH YOUR TEETH JUST GOT REAL

Scientists at National Taiwan University, with apparently nothing better to do, have invented a small sensor that fits inside a tooth cavity and sends a constant stream of data to your doctor about what you’re eating or drinking based on the movements of your mouth and tongue.

My favorite part of the article I read about this (this one) is this: “Safety is still a big concern, though. The prototype needed to be attached to a tether so participants don’t swallow the device, and so the electronics remain intact when wet.” So, perhaps a little more time on the drawing board would have been in order before those scientists marched into people’s pieholes.

So, is it worth it? What exactly is your doctor going to learn about you that she couldn’t get from, you know, just asking? You’d be happy to tell her, right, what with all those hours of free time you have sitting around the waiting room for your appointment?

Here’s what a typical day with the tooth sensor probably looks like:

6:00 a.m. Awaken, stretch, yawn and gag uncontrollably because when you were sitting up in bed, your tooth tether got tangled in the headboard.

6:00 a.m. – The sensor is overcome by morning breath. “What died in here?” is transmitted in electronic pulse morse code. It takes ten minutes to reboot the sensor.

6:15 a.m. Brushing your teeth. Uppers – bzzzt! Lowers – bzzt! Small circles, back and forth – bzzt bzzt BZZT! SONOFABITCH!

7:00 a.m. – Breakfast. You take a bite. The info is relayed to your doctor’s office you sends a message back. “FOUR doughnuts? Really, Lardbutt.”

8:00 a.m. – OHMIGOD, WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST PUT IN YOUR MOUTH?!??!?!

10:00 a.m. – Compliment your boss on her great new outfit. Your doctor knows you’re lying. Your boss doesn’t.

12:00 pm.- Lunch. Your doctor knows about the chilli burger with extra cheese. Also, chewing a stick of Juicy Fruit isn’t fooling her. She knows about the beer too.

2:09 p.m. – SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE HELL DID YOU PUT IN YOUR MOUTH!?!?!?!?!

3:17 p.m. – You’re not smoking, are you?

3:23 p.m. – The screech of the third floor restroom fire alarm confirms that, yes, you were smoking. Also, the frequency of the sound emitted resonates with your tooth sensor causing you to shiver and pee yourself uncontrollably for several minutes.

4:38 p.m. – The tooth sensor likes chocolate truffles. SOOOOOOO much. You drool uncontrollably. And electrocute yourself.

7:19 p.m. – Dinner. The tooth sensor thinks you need more paprika in the sauce. The tooth sensor is an idiot.

11:29 p.m. – Grinding your teeth in your sleep causes electrical arcing so bright, the neighbors call the cops to complain. You go to jail where you trade your tooth sensor for a pack of smokes. As you do in jail.

All in the name of science.

NEITHER RAIN NOR SLEET NOR…BURP…

The United States Postal Service is broke.

What’s that you ask? Postal Whatsit?

Oh, is that the thing where you write stuff BY HAND, shove it in the envelope, lick it (ewww) and buy,ugh, stamps and pay civil servants – who everyone knows are greedy bastards even lower than teachers – to mail them for you?

Yes, the US mail has been around for generations, delivering our letters, bills and packages all over the world. But with the advent of the fax, then competing private delivery services like FedEx, and email, the postal service’s share of the delivery market has eroded. Fifteen billion dollars in losses last year. And prospects for a bright future aren’t good. I doubt even another round of dead celebrity stamps can save them.

But, don’t worry. The postal service has a plan…

Bake sale!

No, that’s not it.

Mandatory weekly plasma donations from all employees. An extra fifteen minute break each week for every additional bodily fluid the employee puts up.

No…

Oh, right. I know what it was: the US postal service is getting into the moonshine business.

Uncle Jesse is the new Postmaster General. Boss Hogg, secretary of commerce.

Kidding! (Those dang Duke boys put me up to it.)

Seriously, though,the postal service is considering raising cash – an estimated $50 million per year – by lifting a longtime ban on shipping alcohol.

We think this is a fabulous idea. Raise some money. Plus, this will give letter carriers something to drink while they bust into your mail to look at your porn. “Your box of Wild Turkey seems to have broken, Mrs. Johnson. good thing you bought the insurance…burp.

Great as this idea is, we here at the blog think it doesn’t go far enough. $50 million barely puts a dent in a $15 billion debt. They need to think bigger. Here are some ideas:

1. The Heisenberg Principle: the US Postal Service could take a cue from Walter White on the AMC show “Breaking Bad”. When he needed to raise a lot of cash, he didn’t screw around with second day air Merlots and overnighting hard cider. Walt knew the real money is in hard core drugs. Now Walter “Heisenberg” White is a meth kingpin. And, call me a patriot with his heart and flag on his sleeve, but,dammit, OUR GOVERNMENT CAN BE A KINGPIN TOO.

2. The Daily-MALE Strip-o-gram. The pith helmet. The knee-length, blue shorts with the stripe up the side. Oh, yeah. Come on, ladies, you know you want some of this.

3. Sure it’s exciting when the mail carrier brings a package to your door. But think how much more exciting – and lucrative – it would be if they could offer just a little bit more. Maybe you don’t tip your mailperson for that package (okay, you definitely don’t), but I bet you would if they could offer you something even more cool than your latest shipment of Paperclips From Around the World.

For example, for a fee, the carrier could offer to pretend to be the candy-gram/landshark from the old “Saturday Night Live” bit.

Bring back lickable postage stamps. That taste like chocolate truffles. Mint ones. Oh, yeah…

Want to reenact a favorite movie? The postman will ring twice if you want. For a little more…even THREE times. The US Postal Service: Emphasis on SERVICE. For a fee.

For an extra five bucks, your letter carrier will shout “Speedy Delivery” in a Mr. McFeely voice while doing a fan dance with “Reader’s Digests” for fans.

They need money, folks. And need ain’t pretty.

Save the Post Office. Mail a letter.

WHAT RICH PEOPLE DO WITH THEIR COUCH CUSHION MONEY

When I was a kid, I found a twenty dollar bill in the park. It seemed like a fortune. Not sure what I did with it. Probably bought some books.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, found $250 million in the cushions of his couch and bought a newspaper.

Make that a newspaper publisher.

Those that follow the business and publishing worlds were caught pretty much off guard this week this week when it was announced that Bezos had bought The Washington Post, the whole damn company.

Not Amazon.

Bezos himself.

$250 million.

Out of his own pocket.

Yep.

The collective analysis seems to be: What the hell for?

The Post, like every other paper, is struggling. Bezos does know a thing or two about turning a profit out of a failing company. Amazon failed for years when it was first founded. Now it’s a global behemoth. A little Bezos-magic, if there is such a thing, might be a good shot in the arm for the foundering publishing industry.

But…

A lot of people dislike Amazon. Oh, let’s not be coy, a lot of people really, actively, viscerally, with drool and spittle flying, HATE Amazon.

Even a lot of Amazon devotees hate Amazon. But, dammit, if they don’t offer good deals.

Amazaon a bully to other retailers by low-balling them with low prices, is often accused of declaring war on the publishing industry, and treating authors who have books to sell dubiously.

Still, all the reports make it very clear that the purchaser of the Post is NOT Amazon. It’s Bezos himself, who will be operating it as a privately held company, keeping, apparently, the existing management structure in place.

Does that fact make this more palatable to Amazon haters and/or Post lovers? I don’t know. It’s tempting to think Bezos will turn the venerable Washington Post into some sort of low-rent tabloid, turning a quick buck at the expense of quality journalism.

But we don’t know that. What we know is that the Post will continue to go on. That’s more than can be said for a lot of print papers these days. If we love that the Post gets to live, we gotta give Bezos a chance. The other choice is, what? Root for the Post to go down after eighty years just to stick it to Bezos?

I didn’t think so.

Go, Jeff, go.

We’re all counting on you.

Post Navigation