williamallenpepper

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Archive for the month “May, 2014”

AND THE HAIRY SHALL LEAD US

In the 1960 film adaptation of H.G. Wells’s story “The Time Machine”, the action is bracketed on both ends by scenes in H.G. Wells’ Victorian drawing room. It’s a gathering of men and women (okay, just men, except Mrs. Watchett, the housekeeper), all with thick beards and/or mustaches, except for Rod Taylor’s H.G. Wells character. They pontificate about art and history and science, including a lovely lesson about the four dimensions – height, width, breadth and time. In the course of  these discussions it becomes clear that no one, except maybe Wells, knows what the hell he’s talking about.

Look around you today. We’re living in Victorian Times all over again. Twitter and Tumblrs and whatever else have replaced the drawing room and the discussion, gratefully, is more (if not completely) gender balanced. But we all have an opinion, or two or fifty, about everything. Everyone literally carries around a supercomputer in their pockets in the form of cell phones. We have access to more knowledge in less time than ever before and the ability to immediately post for all the world the level to which we abuse that gift.

A quick review of whatever social media you choose will show that an awful lot of us say a ton of things about a wide-range of topics we know very little about. Just because there’s a lot of good information out there, doesn’t mean we do all that great at processing it.

Another similarity to that Victorian drawing room? Whisky. We still love our alcohol. Specialty Scotches and home beer brewing are bigger than ever.

And then there’s the facial hair. Look around these days, there are a lot of really hairy monkeys around. Everyone is growing a beard now. Your best friend. Your dog. Hell, my four-year-old has a hell of a five o’clock shadow. I’m even growing a crappy beard, the only saving grace of which is that I’m aware it’s crappy. Deciding to grow a beard is like deciding to go shirtless. Most of the time, the person who is the least desirable one to do so is the one who does. Again, we, as a collective culture, know lots of stuff. We just don’t use that information very well.

For the record, those dudes in H.G. Wells’ drawing room all had kickass facial hair. Except for Rod Taylor, who, evidently, shaved his off and glued it to his chest. (Feast your eyes, ladies.) They also wore tailored suits and would put up with no shenanigans. Had he been around, “grumpy cat” wouldn’t have caused a single one of these badasses to crack a smile.

So what have we learned?

Those guys back in the Victorian era didn’t know anymore than we did; maybe even knew less. But they didn’t take crap from anybody.

Today, with entire social media sites dedicated to whining about this and that, we are clearly a society of wussy, bearded wannabes.

I was gonna say something else, but that pretty well sums it up.

 

 

SEEKING THE SUPEREST SUPERHERO

I’ve been reading comics lately.

When I was really young, I was a “Superfriends” fan. I liked the Hulk on TV. The old Batman series. The Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Caped adventures were definitely in my wheelhouse.

But I was never really into comic books. When Batman and Spiderman cartoons proliferated on TV, I sampled, but didn’t get attached to any. Eventually, the superhero thing died out, replaced, I suppose, by Doctor Who ( *ding* obligatory DW reference) and other things.

I briefly got into the habit of reading Action Comics and the other Superman titles fifteen years or so ago around the whole “death of a Superman” thing. But it didn’t stick.

Over the last twenty years or so, a gathering snowball of superhero movies has gathered steam rolling down the movie hillside. (Yes, I know that a steam- gathering snowball would just turn to slush. That’s not the point.) I’ve enjoyed most of them, but still wasn’t really inspired to pick up a comic book.

Recently, though, I’ve been listening to the Nerdist Writer’s Panel podcasts. Ben Acker is the moderator, as well as co-creator of The Thrilling a Adventure Hour (which is also a podcast you should listen to). He is a comic book writer as well, and frequently has panelists on the podcast who write comics for DC or Marvel or others. Listening to them talk about the craft of creating comics for that medium is fascinating. These writers’ enthusiasm for the medium and the characters that inhabit these universes inspired me to start picking up a title or two on Comixology.

I’m enjoying the “X-Files season 10” series very much. It’s overseen by Chris Carter himself and, more than any other X-Files adaptation in print, really embodies the look and tone of the show.

I’m also dabbling with X-Men, Avengers, Captain America and others. I’m still finding my way through huge, decades-old universes, but it’s fun.

Now that my boy is 4 he is into Superman and Spider-man big time. We watch a lot of Superfriends and Ninja Turtles and Spider-Man, at least the ones geared to the youngest viewers. But there aren’t many. Can anyone suggest good superhero material, print or video, for a soon-to-very kindergartner? My daughter is almost nine and would like to be included in the boy’s games, but there aren’t many female heroes to be had. I’m exploring Captain Marvel and Ms. Marcel, but she might still be a little young. Any suggestions for her?

Look! Up in the sky! It’s another completed blog post!

I’M SORRY – MOTHER’S DAY EDITION

Mother’s Day has come.

While waiting for Mom to post your bail clean your room chew your food for you relax her weary self as you do something nice for her as payback for all she’s done for you, it’s also a good time to express to her all the ways you’ve been a horrendous offspring. To whit:

I’m sorry about sending you that particular card for Mother’s Day. In my defense, “Mother F’n Cards.com” could have had cards relevant to the holiday. And admit it, you laughed.

I’m sorry my mother punched your mother right in the nose. If it helps make you feel better, I didn’t know what color the blood was either.

I’m sorry for my Mother’s Day gift. I thought that bottle would make a nice vase. I kept the scotch for myself. So sue me.

I’m sorry for what I did in the family photo. In my defense, the photo was my brother’s idea and he’s an idiot. Should have known better.

I’m sorry Mother’s Day brunch didn’t go well. How was I supposed to know you were allergic to eggs? Okay, so, yeah, I’ve known you the whole forty years of my life…

I’m sorry I didn’t call on Mother’s Day. I couldn’t get good phone reception. Whatever you’re insulating your basement with, it wreaks havoc with cell reception. By the way, I need more Pop-Tarts down here.

I’m sorry Mother’s Day comes but once a year. Especially since visitations at the prison are allowed EVERY WEEK.

I’m sorry for my other Mother’s Day gift. But, hey, you and Dad have something in common. He hated that tie too, when I gave it to him for Father’s Day last year.

I’m sorry the kids didn’t call on Mother’s Day. In hindsight, I suppose I should have given them our number.

I’m sorry I was so hard to raise. On the other hand, Dr. Parks says your therapy is coming along nicely.

I’m sorry for giving you a box of candy for Mother’s Day. I agree. The orange crèmes are neither orangey nor creamy enough for any sane person. What the hell was I thinking?

I’m sorry my sister couldn’t be at your party. Restraining orders can be so…restrictive.

I’m sorry for writing you that song. While it’s true that flatulence is hilarious,  a Mother’s Day song is not necessarily the best showcase.

I’m sorry I don’t have an ending for this piece about being sorry on Mother’s Day. On the other hand, Dr. Parks says my therapy is coming along nicely.

THE PLAY’S THE THING…THANKS TO THE CREW

My latest play “Calling Home” debuted this past weekend (as a full production; it previously lived as a staged reading) as part of the New Ground Theatre annual playwrights festival. If you missed it, shame on you. All will be forgiven, though, if you go to one of next weekend’s shows. And bring a friend. Or seven.

I am by far not a veteran of the theatre. I’ve acted a little and had now several things I’ve written produced for the stage, but the whole thing is still a fairly young medium for me work in.

The giddy thrill of hearing words I wrote spoken by actors on a stage and going out to entertain a roomful of strangers looking to be moved or amused or (ideally) both hasn’t completely left and I hope it never will. But, I have gained enough experience to tamper the giddy ( not to be confused with gilding the Lilly. No, I’m not sure what it means either.).

This time, during production, I found myself watching more of the behind the scenes stuff. The words on the page are hugely important, of course. But they make up only one part of an enormous machine, a juggernaut of entertainment. There are the actors, of course. And the director.

But there are lots of other people too. There’s the producer/theatre who picked your show to begin with. There’s the crew that builds and paints the sets. There’s the crew that changes out the set between scenes. The lighting and sound people. The wardrobe people. The person who made the poster.

We all know this, of course. But it’s easy to forget. We shouldn’t, but we do. Remember that, writers. What the audience sees isn’t just your words, but the culmination of a lot of people’s work. You’re just a part of a bigger whole.

There’s good theatre in that lesson.

Not a bad lesson for life either.

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