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Archive for the month “January, 2015”

FILM-BASED FACE-OFF: JAMES LEER VS. THE 12TH DOCTOR

So, there’s this movie my favorite movie is the best movie ever is Wonderboys. (I’ll whup any soul what says different.) This was the 2000 cinematic adaptation of Michael Chabon’s novel set at a small college over the course of a weekend in which the lives of pot-smoking professor Grady Tripp (played by Michael Douglas), still working on the follow-up to a hugely successful novel seven years later, and his very brilliant, but very odd, writing student James Leer (played by Tobey Maguire), are turned upside down.

I’ve watched this movie, um… *counts on fingers* *takes off shoes for additional counting space* Let’s see…

Seven billion times.

Okay, not really, but I do watch it at least once a year. It’s an annual event like Christmas. Or underwear rotation. I don’t get tired of it. The characters are still interesting. the dialogue sparkles. The plot sustains. And, bonus: After so many viewings, the things you loved at first are still there, but other things emerge from the background. There’s always something new to appreciate.

I recently had this year’s Wonderboys viewing. (My shorts are doing fine, too. Thanks.) And here’s the startling revelation that jumped out me.

James Leer is a timelord.

Like from Gallifrey. Doctor Who, anyone? The most obvious first indicator is how James dresses. Dark pants, long dark coat, white shirt buttoned up to the collar. To whit:

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Okay, now check out this guy:

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Eerie, isn’t it? Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor dresses a lot like James Leer. The prosecution rests.

Consider also, each man is never without a particular item which gives him his power. James has an ugly, green knapsack with books and videos and his precious, completed first novel manuscript; the thing that unlocks his future. The Doctor has his sonic screwdriver; the thing that unlocks doors. Unless they’re wood.

James is a brilliant writer. The Doctor is brilliant at everything else. I’ve never actually seen him write, though. It’d be weird if it turned out he was illiterate, wouldn’t it?

James knows all about what’s happened in the past, mostly as the past pertains to suicides of famous actors, but still…The Doctor, a time traveler, knows all about history too; and may have married Marilyn Monroe.

James has socialization issues. He’s arrogant, laughs at inappropriate times, thinks nothing of helping himself to a stranger’s bourbon and smoking a doobie in the person’s living room. The Doctor has trouble remembering faces from one minute to the next and is fond of telling people to “shut up, shut up, shut up, shut-ity up up up.”

So the question is: Is James Leer the Doctor, or some other time lord? He’s not really evil, so probably not the Master or the Rani. He could be some other time lord like the meddling monk or Professor Chronitis. Or he could be yet another surprise, formerly unknown, incarnation of the Doctor himself (we’ve had a lot of those the last couple years).

I think this is a pretty air-tight case. Go ahead. Prove me wrong. Just try.

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A WRITERLY POST

I don’t get very writerly on this blog. At least, I haven’t lately. Regular readers know that in addition to the blog, I write stories and books, most of which you probably haven’t seen (except maybe this one). I also write plays a few of you may have seen. If you have read one of my things other than this book, or gone to see one of my plays, many things.

But I don’t usually get writerly here. I write about Doctor Who. I write about my latest gripes. I write as my perpetually sorry alter ego airing his regrets from time to time. But I don’t usually do author-y type stuff here.

But I do always do writerly stuff elsewhere. I’m always working on a story or a book or a play. Not so much screenplays. I will when the idea comes along, but nothing cooking yet. I’ve got several things started, most of which are back-burner. I just finished a play and am re-focused on a book, though this week I’m taking a detour to write a quick short story, the idea for which popped into my head the other day.

This brings me to…the ideas.  A writer whose work I enjoy, Chuck Wendig, once wrote (I think) that writers are often asked how they get their ideas, to which most writers want to respond, “How do YOU make the ideas stop?” There is no end to things to write about. I have a desk full of little scribbled-on scraps of paper, which were formerly stuff in my pants pockets from some point during the day when inspiration pelted me between the shoulder blades with an ice ball of creativity.

Or something.

Point is, I think of a lot of writerly crap throughout the day. Story ideas. Character names. Bits of dialogue. Titles for things. Then I scribble them on pieces of paper so I don’t (usually) forget. Call me old school if you wish, but I can’t seem to will myself to use notepad apps for this sort of thing. I’m happy to use technology to create the thing that came from the idea, but there’s something about the pure intellectual spontaneity of a sudden inspiration that it seems more satisfying to scribble a note to myself than to tap-tap-tap on an iPad or something.  I have a lot of these little notes.

Chuck Wendig, by the way, in addition to writing awesome crime/urban fantasy books, dispenses very insightful, if profanity laced, writing advice at his blog on terribleminds.  He is always highly amusing on twitter @ChuckWendig. You should follow him.(And me if you want @carnivalofglee)

So little notes make my writing go. What makes your creativity tick?

NOT A DOCTOR WHO FAN? MAYBE SKIP THIS ONE

Yeah, so I think about the show Doctor Who a lot. And I mention it frequently in these posts. If you don’t know the show, this may not be the post for you. Maybe go watch some sports ball or knit something or, you know, read a book.

*Waits. Taps foot.*

Now that the squares are gone, time for me to talk a bit about Doctor Whoish bits that are making me happy right now. And then I’ll mention a wondering that isn’t really new, but have been on my mind lately.

So, Season 8 of new Who ended with the fabulous episode “Last Christmas” on Christmas Day. That makes me sad, but, trying to fill the months ahead before Season 9, I’ve come across a few little gems.

1. Doctor Puppet

Doctor Puppet is a fan-based creation of Alisa Stern. It’s a series of stop-motion animation short films featuring adventures of The Doctor in puppet form. I’d heard about this on podcasts and fan sites for a while, but only recently checked it out. It’s…delightful. The stories are pleasingly simple, short, and there’s pretty much no dialogue. It’s atmosphere above substance in the best way possible. And the attention to detail is impressive – particularly the console room. Go to YouTube sometime and check it out. While there, look at the “making of” videos. These creators do a hell of a lot of work, but are also clearly having a hell of a good time.

2. The End of Time – Bye, bye, Ten!

I just watched David Tennant’s swan song as the Doctor again recently. “The End of Time” gets a lot of grief from Whovians, but I will go on record here as saying I quite enjoy it. Also, I’m really excited that on this most recent viewing, I noticed something I hadn’t before. Get this: in the opening of episode 2, Rassilon is addressing the high council and someone tells him, “The Doctor still possesses the Moment and he intends to use it” to destroy the Daleks and everyone else. This was three years before “Day of the Doctor”. Before Moffat. Before the War Doctor. The seed for the Moment was already planted.

Yes, the story is overwrought. But so was the whole Russell T. Davies era. Yeah, John Simm chews the scenery. But this story called for a Master who wasn’t just insane (as he always was), but totally unhinged. People bitch about the absurd plot to turn all humans into the Master, but they forget this was a ludicrous plan hatched by a deranged mind.

Then there’s Ten. His scenes with Wilf are beautiful. Yeah, he gets teary a couple times and that puts people off. But Eleven got weepy a LOT and no one complains about that. And, okay, Ten does leap out of a spaceship and crash through a roof mostly unscathed, but, hey, this is Doctor Who. Just go with it.

And, of course, there’s regeneration… Up to this point, the various Doctors were pretty blasé about regeneration. It was a refreshing change to have one say, “this is crap.” And it worked for Ten. For all his altruism and good humor, he had a strong streak of ego too. But even after putting up a fuss, he, of course, sacrifices himself. I found “End of Time” a very fitting, very fun end to Ten’s era and RTD’s time as show runner.  Go watch and appreciate it for what it is.

3.  Lost episode recons.

Let me be straight with you. Those first seasons of classic Who are not my favorite (though I have a soft spot for “The Tenth Planet” and “The War Games” and “The Mind Robber”). Everyone holds up “The Aztecs” as the greatest story of that first Doctor era. I, however, find that story excruciatingly boring – with the exception of the scene where the Doctor and Barbara debate whether history can be changed. This is not to say I don’t enjoy classic, black and white Who. And I, just as much as anyone, hope for the return of those still missing episodes.

In the meantime, I’ve recently become a devotee of reconstructed stories. So far, I’ve watched Hartnell’s historical story “Marco Polo” as a recon and, much to my surprise, really enjoyed it. The audio from the televised episodes was there, along with still photos for illustration. In a few places, there were subtitles to explain things that were happening that you couldn’t see. I really liked it. A first doctor story! And a historical one at that!

I also just got done watching “The Power of the Daleks”, the second doctor’s first story, as a recon. Mostly, the episodes I watched were like “Marco Polo”. Audio with still images and subtitles. I did watch one reconstructed episode of the story where the mouths on the actors’ still images were animated so it looked like they were talking. That was too damn freaky.

I may seek out others. Probably will. It’s a nice little diversion while I wait for Season 9 next fall.

 

Okay, so here’ s a couple long-standing wonderings about Doctor Who:

A. We often see the TARDIS spinning through space or Earth’s atmosphere or whatever. So why does the ship have to dematerialize on take-off and rematerialize on landing? We already know it’s there.

B.  There was much well-deserved excitement when Paul McGann reprised his role as the eighth doctor ON SCREEN in “Night of the Doctor.” By all reports, he was thrilled to do it. So when it became clear Christopher Eccleston wasn’t coming back for “Day of the Doctor,” why didn’t Moffat just put McGann in instead of creating a whole new “lost” incarnation, John Hurt’s War Doctor? The War Doctor is a great creation – even if he does mess up the numbering – but seeing McGann in action, hangin’ with Ten and Eleven, would have been great.

Right. I think I’ve got all that Doctor Who-ey out of my system. For now…

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MUSCLE MEMORY

Every day, I feed the goldfish. I go to the tank. Take the little container of fish food out of the drawer on the left, open the little trap door on top of the tank and sprinkle a pinch of fish food. Twice a day. Like clockwork.

*Pauses*

Oh, crap. I’ll be right back.

*Goes and feeds fish, which he forgot to do earlier. Suffers derisive wall-eyed eye-roll from fish. Returns to blog.*

Here’s the thing, though, the fish food container hasn’t been in the drawer on the left for at least a couple of weeks. It’s too big. Instead, it sits on top of the table next to tank. In plain sight. Still, every feeding time, I open that damn drawer, immediately realize there’s no food there and enter a bottomless pit of self-loathing. But then, by the next feeding, I’ve already forgotten. The goldfish and I apparently share a three-second memory.

When I pack up at the end of a work day, the shutting down process is the same: turn off the computer, put the glasses and iPod in the case, then the thermos. Zip up the briefcase. Coat on. Light off. Go home. Same every time. If I change the order, stuff still gets done, but it feels weird. My morning routine is pretty mechanized too.

Am I boring?

Well, yes, but that’s not really the issue (today, anyway).

The issue is ruts.

Specifically, falling into them.

*Cue soft music and mood music – boom chakka chakka*

Wait. Sorry. Not that kind of rut. I meant falling into a rut, a routine way of doing things. We all do it. You might say, we as a society have gotten into a rut of getting into ruts. But that would be stupid and annoying.

Anyway, settling into a routine in life isn’t necessarily bad, of course. Routines make the unfamiliar familiar; make us more efficient. Getting my stuff packed up quickly in the morning gets me to work on time and gets me home quickly in the evening. Routine (usually) gets the fish fed.

But other times, relying on ruts can be dangerous. If you always drive the same stretch of road the same way every day on cruise control because you have every turn and bump memorized, you could overlook black ice or a kid on a bicycle, with disastrous results.

And sometimes, ruts can be outright bad for our health. Alcoholics drink because it’s comfortable and familiar and because their bodies think they need to – like how my hand goes to the drawer for the fish food that isn’t there. I have no science to support any of this, so don’t quote me in your next American Medical Association presentation.

Lack of sound foundation is a rut for this blog.

I take comfort in that.

and t and the fish, you see, have short term memories. Muscle memory. What a bastard.

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