Saturday, July 15, 2017

57 - (Very) early preview - The Time Traveler's Guide to the 20th Century - July, 2017

NOTE: The book, "The Time Travler's Guide to the 20th Century" will be published in the Spring of 2018. This is a very early preview of a small section.


In the 1920's the United States banned the sale of alcohol, ensuring that thousands of people from coast to coast would become blinded and disabled by cheap, poorly made moonshine, sold in back alleys.

I suppose this means it is time to start the chapter on the 1920's.

THE ROARING 20's:

The 1920's was the decade when sex was invented.

Not that people didn't have sex before this. Obviously no one would have existed if humans hadn't been having sex with each other.

And (never start a paragraph with 'and' except this one) Signumd Freud had been writing about how everything is about sex since the 1890's.

But (never start a paragraph with 'but' except this one) the 1920's were the first time that 'modern life' allowed for the excess and indulgence that would finally make sex the hip new thing.

If you visit...DO NOT HAVE SEX!

Just don't.

The youth of the 1920's were called "The Lost Generation." It was the first time anyone had thought of naming a generation. Prior to the 1920's people just slaved away trying desparately to survive. By the 1920's, however, modern life had created so much leisure time that an entire generation had time to get lost.

Let's take a look at a few things time travelers might want to see.

The New York Stock Exchange:

Since computers did not yet exist, all stock trades had to be made by sweaty over-stressed brokers who lived on the floor of the Exchange, yelling, throwing slips of paper around and, at the end of the decade, throwing themselves out of a 15th floor window.

the 1920's was the heyday of overblown stock value.

The market was growing rapidly, and everyone wanted to get in on the action, often borrowing money to invest. When the bubble burst in 1929 billions of dollars were wiped out overnight.

But it sure was fun while it lasted.

Speakeasy's:

The law that made alcohol illegal in 1920 was really just a grand experiment to see if America's organized crime families could get their act together.

The experiment worked besutifully.

People who illegaly smuggled alcohol into the country were called 'bootleggers.' Others, who distilled their own alcohol in makeshift backwoods homemade distilleries were called 'blind' or in some cases, 'dead.' This is because some of the homemade experimental concoctions that desparate people drank were laced with methanol. And even better than that; some desparate people drank paint thinner.

Congratulations! The experiment got results!

More common, though, were the secret underground bars and taverns known as 'speakeasy's.' Every major city had several of them. This is where the smuggled alcohol - usually from that corrupt and overly drunk country, Canada - was served.

Al Capone was the country's most famous smuggler.


(End note: There will likely be another early preview or two of "The Time Traveler's Guide," between now and when the book is published in the Spring of 2018. Watch this space!)
-Peter Wick
-July 15, 2017


Thursday, June 15, 2017

56 - The Fable of the Wolf King

(with a nod to James Thurber)

Once upon a time there was a wolf who wanted to be King of the Wolves.

"It is a dangerous thing to be King of the Wolves," a wise old wolf told him. "If the other wolves don't like you, they are still wolves, and when they get angry they will eat you."

"I'll be fine," the wolf said. "I'll be so popular, no other wolf will dare dislike me, except for the weak, low-energy wolves, and they'll be afraid to do anything. Anyone threatens to eat me, I'll eat him first, and then all that pressure will be laid off."

So the wolf went around the countryside, campaigning to be King.

"Vote for me, and I'll fix all your problems," the wolf said. "Don't listen to the others. They don't know how to do anything. I alone can fix everything."

The rank and file wolves liked what they heard. "He's one of us," they said. "He gets us."

All these other wolves, though, did not realize that the wolf who wanted to be King owed money to the coyotes. The coyotes had whispered friendly things to the wolf who wanted to be King. The coyotes still wanted to attack and eat as many wolves as they could, but they had compromised the wolf who wanted to be King. So, the wolf went around advocating for better relations with the coyotes.This is exactly what the coyotes wanted.

Then one day, away from town, in a dark corner of the woods, several coyotes attacked and ate some of the wolves. The incident caused a big uproar.

"The coyotes have eaten some wolves!" everyone yelled.

They asked the wolf who wanted to be King what he thought.

"I don't know that it was coyotes," the wolf said.

"But several wolves saw the coyotes eating the other wolves," some responded.

"Can you say for sure that it was coyotes? It could be foxes. It could be cougars. Maybe it was some 400 pound bear sitting in his den."

No one understood why the wolf who wanted to be King would not admit that it was coyotes who had eaten the wolves."

"Coyotes are killers," a reporter said the wolf one day.

"There's a lot of killers," the wolf said. "Lots of killers. You think wolves are so innocent?"

Several months after the wolf had become King, some of the wolves began quietly complaining about him.

"He is in the pocket of the coyotes," some of the wolves whispered.

"And he doesn't know how to fix all the things he promised to fix, either," others whispered.

"I think it's time we eat him," one wolf said.

They began creating a secret plan to eat King Wolf, but the King heard about the secret plan and snuck up on the rebel wolves, and he ate them instead.

"THE KING EATS WOLVES!" a headline screamed out.

The incident created a big controversy, and eventually a Special Wolf Investigator was appointed to decide if the King Wolf had broken any laws by eating the rebel wolves.

After many months of investigating, the Special Wolf Investogator declared that, yes, the King Wolf was guilty. All the other wolves descended on the King Wolf and began eating him. They ate and ate, until the King Wolf was all eaten up.

Moral; You are what you eat....and you will be eaten by what you eat!

Peter Wick
June 15, 2017

Monday, May 15, 2017

#55 - Cartoons vs. Kittens vs. ULTRA CUTE KITTENS

Every so often the debate flares up; are we becoming dumber as a culture than we used to be?

I have offered my opinion a number of times in the past. My opinion has not changed. I say no, we are not getting dumber.

Those who believe we are getting dumber usually respond with countless examples, from the internet, of people doing dumb things, saying dumb things and, most importantly, recording dumb things and posting those dumb videos to social media.

I always respond the same way; were you around in the 1950’s?

This isn’t really a fair question, since I wasn’t around in the 1950’s either, but it makes my point for me; we are not getting any dumber than we always were. We aren’t getting any smarter either, that’s for sure.  The only thing that has changed is that our state of dumbness is more exposed and out in the open for all to see. Dumbness cannot hide in the modern age. Even if it tries, it will be exposed. Scientific methods of seeking out and analyzing humans true state of mind will not be denied.

I recently ran across the following on sciencedaily.com:

If you're creating a message to educate, inform, or persuade, don't underestimate the power of a well-executed cartoon. A new study suggests if you're trying to convince the public to change their stance on a topic such as wind energy, you may be more successful if you use a cartoon rather than a photograph.”

This is fantastic news. In order to persuade or convince anyone of anything, don’t use a photo. And for the love of god don’t WRITE something. Your best option is to use a cartoon.

My first thought after reading this is; maybe that explains why we are electing cartoon characters to public office. Of course we were always electing cartoon characters, with the exception of John F. Kennedy; he was a Michelangelo sketch, not a cartoon, but the popular image bears about as much resemblance to reality as a cartoon does (okay, fine, people, send me your angry JFK responses).

I think we can do the cartoon advice one better though. I am actually kind of excited about this. If you want to persuade or inform the public, don’t write. Don’t use a photo. Don’t even use a cartoon. Just use kittens.

Everywhere you go, take kittens with you. If you want to convince people that something is bad, show them a sad kitten. Something is good? A happy kitten.

What happens, you might ask, if someone else comes along and out-cutes your kitten? Let’s say you want to convince people that the destruction of the planet’s eco-systems is a bad thing, and you make your point by pantomiming the world (words are too intellectual and ‘elite,’ we only have the attention span for pantomime) and once your audience understands that you are referring to the world, you bring out a sad kitten. Your audience is instantly transformed. They are adamantly opposed to ecosystem destruction. The sad kitten is too much for them. But….

Someone else comes along with the most adorable kitten in the history of adorable kittens, and re-pantomimes the world. Then they pantomime destroying the ozone layer (How do they specify the ozone layer? You have to ask? You’re so behind the emoji zeitgeist!) Then they bring out ULTRA -CUTE KITTEN! No! The audience is convinced! Destruction of the Earth’s eco-systems equals ULTRA-CUTE KITTENS!

Unrealistic, you suggest? The populace is too sophisticated to fall for cute kittens?

Wait a minute….am I proving my original point or arguing against my original point? I’M CONFUSED! Were we always this gullible?

Yes! We were. You don’t believe it? Three words….Snake oil salesmen. That phrase exists because guys used to walk right up to strangers in the street and try to actually sell them….the latest mindless tech gadget…um….sorry, I mean….snake oil.
-Peter Wick
May 15, 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017

#54 - Whatever Doesn't Kill you.....Almost Kills You

The fact that my brothers and sisters and I (there are five of us) are all alive and thriving as mature adults (I use the word 'mature' loosely) is an absolute miracle.

If you had taken bets when we were, let's say between the ages of seven and fourteen, odds would have favored at least one of us dying in a hilarious - I mean tragic - accident.

Children - when they come in a PACK, like we did - have a job to do. Their job is to try to kill their siblings. Well, not kill. That's going too far. Their job is to flirt with death and dismemberment, stopping just short, right on that borderline, before the incident becomes tragic, just when it is at its funniest.

Our poor parents wanted order in the house. My dad, especially, wanted law and order. He wanted rules to be followed. He wanted calm, quiet, well-behaved children.

He was out-numbered.

One simple truth about The Natural Order Of Things that he overlooked was "The law of brothers."

When there are three or more boys in a house, "The law of brothers" will always overrule any actual laws laid down by parents.

I was the youngest (of the boys - my sister Keren is youngest overall), and I was always being tripped down the stairs, having my head shoved into walls, having my hand grabbed and made into a fist, and then forced into punching my own face, over and over, one or both of my brothers yelling, "Peter, quit hitting yourself. Stop punching your own face!" Then they would let go of my hand and run away laughing.

I almost got them back a few times, with the darts downstairs.

We had actual darts in our house. Darts are actual weapons. We had weapons in our house!

Okay, sure, there was a dart board, and the game in its intended form is an innocent way to pass the time in freindly competition.

BUT....I shouldn't have to point this out...THERE WERE DARTS IN OUR HOUSE....sharp, metal, pointed, flying weapons, in a house with five out-of-control children, three of them boys!

Throwing the darts at the dart board became boring pretty quickly. So....it was a short natural progression from that to - trust me, this makes sense - throwing darts at a family member. Any game of skill is twice as much fun with a moving target!

I could go on. I could talk about head trauma (I was always smashing my head into things), firecrackers, bringing frogs into the house, playing with fire, broken body parts, you know, all of childhood's greatest hits.

The point is, we survived it....barely.

Now put those scissors down! Hey, stop running with them! And get them away from your borther's EYEBALL!

Peter Wick
April 15, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

#53 - Shaquielle McKissic

There are moments in life that surprise you. Some moments surprise you in negative ways. Some surprise you in happy ways, make you smile, give you a favorite new thing, bring some unexpected fun into your life.

Recently I re-connected with a friend. I hope I can call Shaquielle a friend. We haven’t seen each other for several years, and we only spent one month hanging out together. After that I plead guilty to losing touch with him. It is because of Shaquielle, though, that I have a favorite new sports league to follow; the Turkish Basketball League. And I love it.

Let’s backtrack a little. Several years ago I made an independent film called “Rock Paper Scissors” (yeah, you can find the movie on Amazon, blah blah blah, I’m not here to promote the movie…okay, maybe a little….but no….but yes…but no).

In the film I play a high school basketball coach. I was also directing and producing the film, and I struggled with the casting of the star player of the high school basketball team, a character nicknamed “Easy.” I wanted someone who could act, but really I wanted a real basketball player. I put out a few notices around the Seattle area, and found myself communicating with a gentleman who wanted me to take a look at his nephew, Laron Daniels.

I liked Laron and asked him to be in the movie. He said yes, and we went on with pre-production. We scheduled our first shoot day to include an outdoor scene where “Easy” and I, as player and coach, play some one-on-one at an outdoor court, trash-talking just enough to bond a little.

A couple days before shooting was set to begin, Laron backed out. He was worried that the project – and the acting – wasn’t quite right for him.

Making a film is a perilous venture. Anything that can go wrong, probably will, and a few things that can’t possibly go wrong, probably will also. I made some phone calls, and the gentleman who first suggested Laron told me over the phone, “I think I got someone for you. It’s Laron’s friend Shaquielle.” This was one day before we were scheduled to shoot our first scene.

I could have shut down the first shoot-day, rescheduled, and methodically problem-solved my casting dilemma. OR….I could roll the dice, say yes to Shaquielle over the phone, and open myself – and my whole film – up to the randomness of the unknown.

I said yes. I met Shaquielle for the very first time the next day, when he showed up for the outdoor one-on-one scene. He didn’t even know what the story was about. I just told him, “Let’s just play. Be yourself. Oh, and let’s trash talk a little.”

It was a risky decision, but it worked out beautifully, and Shaquielle turned out to be a pretty good actor. He made the character his own, and seemed happy to oblige me, in a later scene, shot a few weeks later, when I told him, “Just go for it. Tell me I suck as a coach.” He nailed the scene. I still feel a little pain if I see that scene (it’s in the long trailer on youtube…..but I’m not here to promote the movie…but yes….but no….).

(A few pictures from the shoot)





Then I lost touch with Shaqiuelle.

It turns out he was going through a lot of personal turmoil over the next few years. I won’t go into detail – you can find all the background on him if you want; It’s out there. Eventually he landed at Arizona State University, where he played for 2 years, and then went undrafted in the 2015 NBA draft.

There is no shame in this. I’ve hung out just a little bit on the fringes of the professional sports world (in the past I’ve played in a soccer league with and against ex-professionals, and I’ve definitely played both soccer and basketball with WANNA-be professionals). It is a brutal world, with limited openings, behind-the-scenes politics, and very demanding standards. I remember talking with a graduating wide-receiver on the University of Washington Huskies football team, several years ago, and he opened my eyes to the brutal honesty Pro scouts use when they come into the locker room. If they don’t make eye contact with you, you know you aren’t going to be drafted. And the vast majority of college athletes – even at the top schools – experience this let-down.

Shaquielle is driven, though. He played in Italy (hey, Kobe Bryant and his dad know something about that league), South Korea, and now in Turkey. He has also played the last 2 summers of NBA Summer League.

I connected with him over Twitter recently. I didn’t know what to expect, whether he would respond, or even notice. I never really knew what role the film played in his life. It was probably just a passing novelty for him. He had bigger things to deal with. He responded, though, and I want to thank Shaquielle McKissic for bringing the Turkish Basketball League into my world. It’s not a weird thing at all to me. I follow soccer leagues in four different countries; England, Spain, Italy, and the United States (yes,  I am an unapologetic MLS fan – GO SOUNDERS!). Why not add Turkey to the basketball leagues I follow?

Really, though, my message to the NBA is, GIVE THIS GUY A ROSTER SPOT! Come on, what’s a guy got to do? Does this help? I’m pasting a link at the bottom of this post to a recent Turkish TV Top-ten-plays-of-the-week segment. Guess who’s number 1. Is there any doubt?


-Peter Wick

-March 15, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

52 - Sneek peek - The Slavador Deli - A story

NOTE: This is a sample of the story that appears as the closing piece of the book "Funny Sexy Nanobots."

“Hurry, Paul, you’ll be late for work.”

Paul stumbled groggily into the kitchen, bumping into the doorway, his eyes half closed.

“And where did you get these cigarettes?” Janey shouted, pulling a half-empty pack from his shirt pocket. Paul are you smoking again?” She looked intently at him. “Paul!”

“Huh? Mmgh, what’s wrong with me these days? I just can’t get going in the morning.”

“Paul! Why do you have cigarettes?”

“Huh?” Paul looked genuinely confused. “What? I have no idea. You know I don’t smoke."

“Then why do you have them?”

“Janey, I don’t know. I don’t know where they came from.”

Janey gave Paul a sideways, questioning look, and tossed the cigarettes in the garbage. “Something strange is going on,” she said.

Paul tried desperately to think, but his eyes closed again and he rested his head in his arms on the table.

“Here, I cooked you some eggs.”

Paul sat up with a start.

“Paul, maybe you should get some time off. We haven’t taken a vacation in a year and a half.”

Paul groaned and tried rub some life into his eyes. “This is a bad time,” he said. “If I want to be manager of the new deli they’re opening in April, I gotta kill myself for ‘em a little longer.”

Sometimes he couldn’t believe it. He had worked at the deli for, how long now? Thirteen years? Fifteen? Been an Assistant Manager for five, anyway.

“But you’re so tired these days,” Janey said, gently brushing his hair from his eyes. “And you’ll only have to work harder if you become manager of the new one.”

She reached out and opened the fridge, grabbing the carton of milk inside.

“No milk, please. Just coffee,” he said. She stood up and pulled a coffee mug from the cupboard.

“Here, take these eggs away, too,” he said. “I can’t eat them.”

She squinted at him, trying to make sense of his mood. She picked up the plate of eggs.

“No,” he said, “it ain’t working so much. I mean, I felt better last night than I do now. Really, I feel like I haven’t slept a wink. I feel like I’ve been out all night. That’s really how I feel.”

Paul was an unusual case; the most brilliant musician the University of Minnesota had seen in years, wildly talented, erratically brilliant, but most notably, personally volatile. All this was in the past, though, a decade and a half in the past. All that he still had from those times was Janey. Sweet Janey. She had stuck with him when everyone else, all his other friends, had left. They moved to New York or L.A. or, in one case, London. He began working at the deli just to make ends meet while moonlighting nearly every night on the piano at a local bar.

For all his diverse talent and promise, his music of choice had always been jazz, and not big fancy jazz-band jazz, which he had received such glowing reviews for while at the University, but musty old piano-in-the-corner-of-the-bar jazz. So that is what he did for two years, without incident. Everyone thought he had found himself. They thought he finally had what he wanted.

A few of his friends quietly shook their heads when the topic of his blown chance with the Minnesota Symphony came up.

That was a story all its own; after playing brilliantly with the symphony for over a year, receiving wonderful reviews, he actually blew up during a concert. He threw the jacket of his tux at the conductor and stormed off stage.

So much for his ‘career,’ everyone thought.

There were murmurings among his friends that he had deliberately sabotaged his career, that he planned the blow up.

Paul didn’t care what anyone thought. He had Janey and he had the piano in the corner of the bar.

For two years everything seemed fine. He worked at the deli, played piano, and made love to Janey.

Then, one night, Boom! He knocked the piano over, trashed the bar, and yelled until he lost his voice.

End note: This story appears in full as the closing piece of the book "Funny Sexy Nanobots."

-Peter Wick
February 15, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

#51 - Sneak Peek - The Truth About Snow White - By Sneezy

(Note: This is just part of the opening piece in the upcoming collection, "Funny, Sexy, Nanobots (and other improvements) - The Simple Displeasures Collection - Volume One" Coming in February, 2017.

I want to clear the air about one thing; I don’t sneeze all that much.

I admit I have a few allergies, pollen is not my friend, dust is annoying, but I live a normal life. I do now, anyway, now that I’ve moved on, now that Doc is put away.

Doc named us. You can tell, too. Look at the name he gave himself compared to the rest of us. Doc, as opposed to Bashful, or Dopey. I mean, come on! Dopey? You’d never know the ol’ D-man was a physicist. He’s a scientist, for crying out loud. Graduated from The University of Dwarford. Okay, he’s a little absent-minded. What scientist isn’t? So, one day he forgets his coat and Doc tags him with the name Dopey. Life just isn’t fair. For the record, my real name is Laurence. Dopey’s is Harold. Doc’s was Lucinda – now you know why he wanted to change our names.

As for Snow White, I know I’m going to hear from some haters for saying this, but she was totally f-- -ing crazy.

The first example came the very first moment we saw her. She was asleep in our bedroom. We had just come home from a hard day digging in the pit (please don’t get me started about that damn pit Doc was obsessed with), and it seemed a little strange that some rich chick was sleeping in our house. So we woke her up. She threw a fit. She acted like we had invaded her privacy. She stomped around yelling and then she went downstairs in a huff.

Then…she started cleaning.

She cleaned compulsively. She straightened everything up. I could no longer find my favorite books. Dopey couldn’t find a Physics paper he’d been writing. (He had been working to expound on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity; for years he had been trying to prove that not only are two objects relative to each other in space and time, but that they will also make a loud popping sound if you whack them together suddenly.) Doc put the pressure on, though, and Dopey and I settled for muttering under our breath.

If you only know the popularized fairy tale version of what happened, you would
probably expect Grumpy to be the most upset of all. Don’t believe it.

Sure, Doc named him Grumpy because he got a little upset now and then. Who doesn’t? Really, he was a softy. The Grump, as we called him, was a character, a round pudgy guy who tended to be goofy. When he did get upset he was so unsure of himself, he hardly had the will to yell at anyone.

Snow White stayed in our house that night. Doc told her she could. Personally, I questioned Doc’s motives, but kept it to myself.

That night she took over the bedroom and wouldn‘t let us in, not even to get our toothbrushes. Doc took the couch, and the rest of us had to curl up on the floor in sleeping bags. It was a miserable night. I tossed and turned, and when I finally did doze off I had a vivid dream that I was a dragon, and that I was delighted to breathe fire on Doc and Snow White. In the dream, I was still myself, while also being a dragon, though, and unsure how to handle my own fire-breath, I scorched the inside of my nose and mouth, and flew away screaming and in horrible pain.

Then Doc shook us all awake for another day digging in the pit. I still don’t know what he was trying to accomplish in that pit. There was nothing there. We were just digging, day after day, and the dust we stirred up was messing with my allergies.

Off we went every morning, mumbling that god-forsaken song, that annoying “Hi-ho" thing. If I ever hear that song again, I swear I’m going to hurt someone.

End note: You'll have to wait for the book to read the rest of this piece....
-Peter Wick
-January 14, 2017