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Archive for the month “November, 2013”

I’M SORRY – THANKSGIVING 2013

Anyone can be thankful on Thanksgiving. Well, unless you’re a turkey. And not one with a death wish. (Though, really, what’s a turkey got to look forward to? The new season of The Newsroom?) But being thankful on a day of thanks is a little on the nose, isn’t it? Kind of like being independent on Independence Day or saintly on St. Patrick’s Day or oozy on Open Sores Day.

Here at the Blog Center for Self Pity, we prefer to take a different approach to Thanksgiving. Instead of being thankful, we’re full of regrets. And loving it!

So without further adieu and so that I can get back to my holiday drinking, we present this year’s Thanksgiving “I’m sorrys”. Happy holiday!

I’m sorry turkey tastes a lot like chicken. It makes my standard “tastes like chicken” joke kind of lame.

I’m sorry Thanksgiving doesn’t traditionally feature egg rolls. Because YUM!

I’m sorry about the centerpiece I put on the table. On the other hand, it wouldn’t hurt you to be a little more open-minded about lizards.

I’m sorry I served the questionable stuffing. I thought it would be okay. I will not, however, pay your hospital bill. It’s not my fault you don’t have insurance. Really, if you think about it, Obama gave you food poisoning. Not me.

I’m sorry I messed with the Thanksgiving schedule. I thought daybreak “Thanksgiving dinner on a croissant” would be fun. I also probably shouldn’t have broken into your house so early in the day, but those rolls aren’t going to make themselves. Also, next time: boneless turkey bits.

I’m sorry about the argument at the dinner table. Family is family. Also sorry your cousin is an idiot.

I’m sorry the first Thanksgiving didn’t take place in a pizza pub.

I’m sorry my Miles Standish action figure idea never took off.

I’m sorry “It’s Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown” does not get twenty-four hour play on some station like “A Christmas Story” does at Christmas. That scene with Snoopy setting up the table in the yard just kills me.

I’m sorry about the candied sweet potatoes. You know, ’cause sweet potatoes are icky.

I’m sorry when it was my turn at dinner to say what I’m thankful for I said “twerking”. It’s not like I got up and did it, did I? Not like Granny. (That scamp.)

I’m sorry you missed your flight out. Holiday travel can be so stressful. But how did I know the car would break down? Aunt Linda’s turkey gravy smelled a LOT like E-85 fuel, didn’t it?

I’m sorry “passing around the pumpkin pie and brass knuckles” has never caught on as a holiday tradition.

I’m sorry my attempt to celebrate America’s English roots by merging favorite desserts didn’t go so well. I really though pumpkin blood pudding pie would be good.

I’m sorry about that football bet. I don’t want to be unfeeling so…take an extra week to get your stuff out of your house before you sign over the deed.

I’m sorry Grandpa didn’t put on his glasses before making that pie recipe. Fido will be missed.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

THE NERD GETS A THIRD DIMENSION

“What are you gonna do? Assemble a cabinet at them?”

– The War Doctor in “Day of the Doctor” grousing about Doctors 10 and 11 brandishing their sonic screwdrivers like guns.

“Alons-y!”

– Me, at the 3D screening of “Day of the Doctor” last night.

(I think 10 might have said that once or twice too.)

WARNING! WARNING! CLOISTER BELL! SPOILER BELL! There be a goodly number of spoilers in the following crop of fresh words. If you haven’t seen “Day of Doctor” yet, bookmark this and come back. We’ll wait. We’ll just watch some DW or eat some cheesecake or something.

*Puts away dirty dishes, wipes faces, belches unabashedly”

Welcome back!

I got to see “Day of the Doctor” last night. Again. This time, in 3D on the big screen. I’m still smiling.

Did “Day of the Doctor” need to be in 3D? Of course not. It’s a little bit like the war doctor complaining that 10 and 11 wave their sonics around like guns instead of the simple tools they are. So often, 3D movies create a movie around the 3D with scenes that are clearly there just to show off the 3D. Although “Day of the Doctor” didn’t need the 3D, they make great use of it. A lot of the time, you forget it’s even there. There’s a few times it jumps out: tree branches seem to poke you when the doctors walk through a forest. The TARDIS console in 3D is fun. And then there’s Queen Elizabeth’s cleavage. (I’m sorry, but it’s true.) Most of the time, though, the 3D enhances the experience without getting in the way.

The audience I was with at the theater was clearly into it, clapping and laughing appreciatively. The geekiness, though, was somewhat more subdued than I might have thought. Maybe because this was a weeknight show, the weekend anniversary already past. I saw a few dudes in tweed jackets and bowties. Half a dozen fezes. There was one woman with blue hair and a TARDIS dress.  I did see one person in a STUNNING Doctor 10 costume. If she wasn’t a woman, I would have thought she was Ten. I don’t know how she made it or where she got it, but it was perfect.

That’s another thing. Say what you want about sci-fi being a boys’ club. But it seemed like the audience at the show I was at was mostly college aged twenty-somethings and mostly women, or at least fifty-fifty.

My favorite part of seeing the movie in the theater was the fact that I’d already seen the show on TV. I was able to just enjoy the geeky thrill of a TARDIS on a movie screen for the first time. Plus, there were a surprising number of people in the audience who clearly hadn’t seen “Day of the Doctor” yet. That was awesome. Whenever some cool little surprise came up – Capaldi’s cameo, Tom Baker’s scene – there would be this murmur and a gasp among the segment who didn’t know what was coming.

But I knew. It was my Time Lord moment.

By the way, how cool was that Tom Baker scene? Yeah, he’s gotten old, but, man, he’s still the Doctor. And that was the conceit of the scene, wasn’t it? It was beautifully written and performed. Clearly just a whimsical throw-away scene for the fans. But the door, that door of possibility, is wedged open just enough to let some future writer come up with a legit storyline (canon or fan fiction. Hell, it’s probably fan-fic already.) where, somehow, an older version of Doctor 4 lives on as curator of that museum.

No, Eccleston didn’t appear in the movie. Would have been great and there were enough surprises as the film went along that I started to think it possible he could show up. Moffat outright lied about past doctors being involved. When we got McGann in “Night of the Doctor” it seemed like all bets were off.

But it’s one thing for McGann, who has been actively involved with Who since the movie with public appearances and Big Finish plays to claim he isn’t involved with the 50th, then – SURPRISE! – show up. It’s quite another for Eccleston who is on record as only ever being committed to one series of Who, not particularly enjoying it, and actively avoiding anything related to it ever since. Who really thought he would do it? Really? Having the War Doctor start to regenerate into someone who could be 9th doctor and using old footage of 9 was enough for me.

By the way, one critique, if I may. The sudden regenration of the war doctor felt rushed, like it was only there because fans wanted to see it. The war doctor survives decades of war, then spontaneously regenerates when the war is over? That to me adds credence to the idea that he’s not a true incarnation of the Doctor, just a creature existing only in context of the war. I will never refer to him as the real 9th Doctor. I like the character and will happily watch more of him if offered, but he will always be, at most, The Doctor with an * by his name.

Hey, there’s an idea. A humble suggestion, I offer  to the BBC (I’ll let you know where to send the check.) How about a new spinoff TV series or, even a series of films centered on these offshoots? You could explore this “alternate fourth doctor” if that’s what Baker’s appearance was. More of the War Doctor would be great. The public clearly craves more McGann as Eight. Comic books do alternate universe stories all the time. Why not Doctor Who?

It’s late. I need to go to bed with my Doctor Who shirt, sonic screwdriver and my 3D glasses.

May your spouse be as tolerant as me.

Geronimo!

DOCTOR WHO GETS ITS MOJO BACK

So.

What’d you do this weekend?

Oh, that’s nice.

Me? Not much. I just….

WATCHED THE BEST TWO BIGGEST @!&$&)@?&?! SCI-FI EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF SCI-FI.

NO. SCREW THAT. THE BEST EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF…HISTORY.

I may be overstating things. But not by much.

On Friday night, I watched “An Adventure in Space in Time”, a docudrama about the creation of Doctor Who. Somewhat to my surprise, the movie also dealt just as much with the relationship with the show that original first Doctor, actor William Hartnell, had. When Doctor Who came along, Hartnell, in his fifties, was tired of playing heavies on TV and was a chain-smoking, hard drinking, somewhat depressed grump.

Doing this “children’s” show, though, made him supremely happy. Unfortunately, failing health left him so tired and unable to even get his lines out correctly, he had to leave the show. David Bradley’s portrayal of Hartnell is moving and the film is a fun look behind the scenes at the people responsible for what we’ve enjoyed on TV all these decades.

This weekend, I also, of course, watched “Day of the Doctor,” the fiftieth anniversary special simulcast to TVs around the world and in 3-D in some movie theaters. I was supremely pleased with the episode except for one nagging string left dangling that I really want to talk about, but can’t because spoilers,sweetie (Thank you, River.)

But, On the 25th, even more theaters around the US will run the 3D movie again. And I’ll be at one! By Tuesday, I’ll have more to say about that experience and since most anyone who cares about spoilers will have seen the show in a theater or on TV by then, maybe I’ll talk more about the excellent story, compelling character work, and thrilling little Easter eggs sprinkled throughout.

For now, suffice to say I loved this story. I frankly was pretty lukewarm on most of seasons 7A and 7B. I didn’t think Amy and Rory’s final episodes were all that great. (Though I did recently re watch “Angels Take Manhattan” and was surprised how much I liked it.) and, honestly, Clara has never quite clicked with me.

But then came THE NAME OF THE DOCTOR, which left me stunned. If you haven’t seen “Day of the Doctor” yet, you’ll be happy to know it’s as good. Maybe better.

Even bad Who is good. Good Who is fun. Great Who is transcendent.

Geeks rejoice. Doctor Who is back.

THE DAY OF “THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR” PREDICTION

PRORAMMING NOTE: The next few posts, starting with this one, will be Doctor Who-heavy. The 50th anniversary of the airing of the first episode of the British science fantasy series on November 23, 1963 is THIS SATURDAY. There are many other Who things this weekend too. In addition to its TV airing, the special episode, titled “Day of the Doctor”, is playing simultaneously IN THEATERS, IN 3-D, AROUND THE WORLD on Saturday. There’ll be another showing in even more theaters again on Monday.

Friday sees the airing of a TV drama “Adventures in a Space and Time” about the behind of scenes of creating the show. Sunday night is a special devoted to looking back to the tenure of the current, eleventh, Doctor. Throughout the weekend, BBC America will be airing many, many other episodes of the show.

So, yeah, it’s a big nerdy weekend.

There will be lots of bloggeral and Twitter chatter by me and others, Sunday morning quarterbacking the special (perhaps one of the few intersections of geeks and sports). For weeks, nerds discriminating scif-fi fans have been making predictions about what exactly we’ll see on Saturday. Well, I’m as discriminating sexy nerdy as anyone, so here’s mine. If you don’t watch the show you won’t understand or care. If you do, don’t worry, no spoilers here, just fan-spewing.

SO here we go… In the promos for the upcoming special, The Doctor says the day is coming that “I’ve been running from all my life, which we’re lead to believe is the day the Doctor commits genocide against the Daleks and the Time Lords to end the Time War. But, if the time war erupts during the eighth doctor’s incarnation, as seems to be the case from past events, including “Night of the Doctor”, how could he have been running all his life?

In that mini episode, “Night of the Doctor”, Doctor 8 transforms into “the war doctor”. Note that I said “transforms”, not “regenerate”. The distinction is key. The Doctor dies. They make that clear. By drinking a potion of his choosing, he is brought back to life, but becomes the John Hurt war doctor. Much has been made of whether this means Hurt is the true ninth doctor, bumping everyone else down the line and making Matt Smith the 12th Doctor, not Eleven.

I don’t think that’s it at all.

Eight didn’t regenerate. It was a reanimation, not a regeneration. Eight transforms into a creature that exists only for purposes of doing what the moral Doctor can’t do: become a warrior who will do the unthinkable. Once the deed is done, the war is ended, and the “war doctor’s” purpose is at an end. He won’t regenerate into nine. He can’t. In a sense, he does exist and in another sense, he doesn’t. Instead, he will transform into….

…wait for it…

THE FIRST DOCTOR.

How if it possible for a future version of the Doctor to be the one that turns into the very first incarnation of that same Doctor? Well, if you have to ask that, you clearly haven’t been watching the show. If we’ve learned anything, we’ve learned that time is “wibbly-wobbly” right? Weirder paradoxes than this have existed and it ties up the loose ends. The Hurt “war doctor” exists only for the Time War. Then he gives way to the first doctor and the numbering of Doctors 1-11 remains intact. Likely the first doctor has only a vague sense of where he comes from. All he probably knows is there’s something very dark in his past; probably why the first doctor is so damn grumpy.

From a fanboy perspective, this will be a good excuse to include the first doctor in the 50th anniversary somehow. After the way Moffat and the BBC kept Paul McGann’s return a surprise, I’m open to the possibility that ANYTHING can happen this weekend.

I haven’t been this excited about a TV show since the finale of “Lost”.

Which I liked, by the way. I don’t care what you say.

But that’s a topic for another blog. I’m busy watching Doctor Who.

THAT NEW CAR SMELL

The family bought a new car recently; a nice, practical, family car. No candy-apple red, mid-life crisis-mobile for me. I’m a nerd, so my mid-life crisis tends to manifest as Doctor Who toys and Legos of all variety.

The joy of getting the key to your new car is second only to getting the keys to your new house and wandering through its seemingly endless spaces not yet cluttered with your shit. In both instances, the pride of ownership surges forth, drowning, for the moment, the Smaug-esque ferocity of new debt. (told you I was a nerd.)

As with all new cars, mine had what you want in the new car experience: plastic covering the floor mats. That new car smell – a distinctive, if nonspecific, scent. The experience even offered up a bonus “this is so awesome” moment when I discovered that the pointy part of the key folds into the fob and opens again with the push of a button. Johnny Switchblade – Action Adventure Key Master.

When you pick up the house keys or car keys, all at once your old residence or vehicle is just that: some old, vaguely familiar relic of your past. You’ve moved on. The castle is yours. The highway is your personal driveway. So, go ahead, put on your speedo and flip flops and plant your lawn chair smack dab in the middle of that driveway. It’s all yours. You’re the ACTION ADVENTURE KEY MASTER now.

Breathe in the new car smell of life. Ahhhh!

NERD FAIL

I’ve been trying to read Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos for a couple years now.

I was excited to read – and finished – Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time AND The Universe in a Nutshell.

I like this stuff. Learning how the universe works is important. It’s interesting. These books are a window in that ivory tower where academics live, only venturing out to deliver pronouncements about the latest “guns v. butter” graph showing the economy is tanking or a new study about the correlation between penis size and the melting polar ice caps.

Thing is, after reading these things cover to cover – well, except The Fabric of the Cosmos. Sorry, Dr. Greene – I’m not sure I could explain a single damn thing in the books.

As I read them, I nod along. “Yes,” I think, “this makes sense.” Then, I close the cover, finish my sandwich (I have a job and young kids, so most of my pleasure reading is wedged between ordering lunch and consuming it) and think about what I just read.

I can almost see – hell, I actually can see – the words drifting from my brain, draining the concepts along with them kicking and screaming. I get it while I read it, but it’s gone once I’m done reading.

But I keep trying.

The Blue Box White Paper is a paper by Dr. Ben Tippett and Dr. David Tsang, two physicists and Doctor Who fans. The paper attempts to explain, using characters from the show Doctor Who, the theoretical concepts that explain how time travel could or could not be possible. *SPOILERS* the answer is that, it is theoretically possible, but it would require interaction between a hell of a lot of energy and a specialized type of matter that might be out there somewhere, but we haven’t discovered yet.

I loved reading this thing. I nodded along, totally on-board with everything. But…to write the paragraph right about this one, short as it is, I totally had to pull the paper up in my browser to remind myself exactly what I read…yesterday.

I’m gonna go ahead and blame the educational system rather than my poor attention span or lack of expertise in this area. Everyone else does.

Go read that paper, though. It’s good. Then come back here and tell me exactly what it said.

IF I HAD A DOLLAR, I’D RENT ME A CHICKEN

Alert readers of this blog – greetings to the four of you – will remember that I brought you the vital consumer news that you could rent a goat to trim your lawn. Well, now, not to be outdone, people are breakin’ out the poultry.

Phil and Jean Thompkins of Pennsylvania have started “Rent the Chicken”, a company that will give you egg-laying hens, coops, food and water dish for the summer. Their’s is one of several companies throughout Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan and Maryland. It’s $3.5 billion industry.

And that ain’t chicken feed.

HA! That’s humor worthy of a …well, worthy of a free blog.

Anyway, for some people, buying organic or even buying local isn’t enough. They want to grow their own food, and not just potatoes and corn. Why not harvest your own eggs? If I could find someone to rent me a pizza bush or a French silk pie tree, I’d never set foot in a grocery store again.

Or how about renting out sheep for wool? Or alpacas? Or cute little polyester guppies?

We could bring back St. Bernards with casks of whiskey on the collars. Maybe expand the offerings to include a nice merlot. And some cookies.

I like cookies.

Yes, I eat them with my wine. No judging.

Sometimes ice cream too.

And if I had a rented egg-laying hen, I might enjoy a nice Shiraz with my omelette.

Anyway, how great would it be if the means of production for all these things – like, say, a vat of grapes and a barefoot person to stomp them for me so I could make wine – could be delivered to my home?

Sure, my nightly beverage will taste like toe jam (oh, like you don’t know what that tastes like), but I MADE IT MYSELF. No more liquor store! One more way to avoid icky human interaction.

And, really, isn’t that what it’s all about?*

*No. No, it’s not.**

**But we can dream.

OK ZOMBIES AND FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS

Remember the Donner party?

In 1846, a wagon train was mired in the snows of Sierra Nevada. Thirty-six of the eighty-one people died of disease, trauma, exposure. Some of the survivors ate some of the dead. The loss of pioneers in the western US wasn’t, frankly, all that noteworthy. It happened a lot. This particular event, though, has become legendary as an appalling footnote, putting on display the depths of depravity to which humans can sink under dire circumstances.

How much differently would history look on the Donners if they’d had a popular comic book and cable show?

Today, zombies and recreational flesh eaters rule. The Walking Dead in comics and TV. Hannibal in books, movies, and now TV. World War Z.

A Harvard professor and physician named Steven Schlozman wrote a novel called “The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks From the Apocalypse” laying out a medically viable, though totally fictional, zombie scenario.

I’ve seen the movie Hannibal. I’ve never watched The Walking Dead. I may or may not read Schlozman’s book. Zombie stories just don’t grab me as much as they do some people. Maybe it’s the ick factor – mmmm… brains… – or maybe it’s the fact that zombies have no real motivation other than survival. They’re not an invading alien army bent on destroying humanity. There’s no more thought involved than a spider has before it takes out a fly.

The killer creatures in my entertainment don’t have to be remorseful or even conflicted, but they have to have some sort of thought process going on. Maybe I’m just too old for relentless, mindless destruction.

And that may be the saddest part of this story.

A NUGGET OF FICTION-ISH GOODNESS

“You’re beautiful,” Bluff Mesa said,raising a glass of Pinot to his beloved.

Hazel eyes shining, Veronica Chesterton flushed with finally requited love. “Oh, Bluff, how long I’ve waited.”

Bluff savored the grape. His piercing gaze – hazel eye quotient rivaling Veronica’s – caressed the far shore. “I await the moment we can be together again, my love.”

Confusion pummeled Veronica’s hazelness. “But I’m right here.”

Bluff couldn’t speak, eyes shining with tears.

Her eyes tracked his. Dual power of the hazels nearly swamped the forty-foot yacht across the bay.

Then Veronica understood.

Bluff sailed his craft alone forever more.

ICELANDERS SCOFF AT THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH

A growing body of experts on global affairs is coming to the conclusion that America’s status as a superpower, the last remaining superpower in the world (which is a little like being the last of the Time Lords…okay, it’s not, but I’m contractually obligated to get a Doctor Who reference into every blog post) is slipping.

I’ve been skeptical. We buy more stuff than anyone else in the world. Eat more cheeseburgers.  Tweet more politicians’ crotches than any other country.

Of course, Americans can be a tad arrogant to. It would be good for us to remember now and then the old saying: Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.

A good sentiment. A worthy thing to remember. No one of us is better than anyone else.

Unless, of course, you live in Iceland, where they hear about us walking around in other people’s shoes and scoff at American wussies.

Because there, in Iceland, they walk around in other people’s skin.

Shoes are optional.

Here’s how it works…

You know, if you’ve got some free time on a Saturday.

At the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft. They have the only pair of intact necropants (as far as they know) in the world.

What are necropants?

Glad you asked.*

(*Not glad you asked. Still having nightmares. May God help me. And you. But mostly me.)

necropants

So, your best friend dies and his body is buried. You go out and dig him up (as one does), flay the corpse in one solid piece from the waist down and then wear your dear loved one’s lower body like a pair of Dockers. Place a coin in the scrotum and something something good fortune something. I stopped listening after stick a coin in the scrotum.

Apparently this was a big thing in the seventeenth century, back when they knew how to party. In fairness, this was long before the outlet mall was invented. They did what they needed to do and they were definitely not sissies.

Hear that, America, Iceland was kicking our ass centuries ago.

Then putting our defeated ass on top of its own ass.

Thanks, Obama.

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