Wednesday, October 14, 2020

89. First sneak peek - Welcome to the Machine (with apologies to Pink Floyd)

 Note: This is the very first sneak peek of the next book, which will not be out for about a year. The title, "Welcome to the Machine" is actually the title of a Pink Floyd song, and may not actually be the book's real title. The book is set in the year 2075. This is a random scene from the middle of a chapter.


Adam was met by a strange man with a commanding presence.

"Adam Douglas?"

"Yes."

"I'm Thomas from Sparkle-fye."

"Sparkle-fye? The music hub?"

"Yes, Sparkle-fye. I'm here, Mr. Douglas because our records indicate that you owe us -" The man looked to his left and brought up a spread sheet. "You owe us exactly two million, three hundred thirty two thousand, six hundred and fifty four dollars...and fifty two cents."

Adam stared at the man as if he had been hit over the head by a solid metal object.

"Mr. Douglas?"

"Did you just say I owe Sparkle-fye two million dollars?"

"Yes, slightly more," Thomas said, matter of factly.

"How...how? How the hell do I owe two mil - "

"You have a habit, Mr. Douglas, of getting the song - " Thomas looked right and brought up another spread sheet - "One Lonely Night, by the artist, Cello Bongo, stuck in your head, is that not true?"

"I hate that song," Adam said. "It always gets stuck in my head."

"Exactly, Mr. Douglas."

"So...What..."

"Mr. Douglas, when you signed up as Sparkle-fye member, you signed our 'terms and conditions' did you not?"

"I mean, of course, you have to, but no one reads - "

"Section three, paragraph seven, 'The listener agrees to pay the sum of four dollars and ninety nine cents each time a song plays in their own head."

"What?"

"You've been playing the song 'One Lonely Night' repeatedly -"

"I don't play it," Adam objected. "It gets stuck in my head. I don't even like the song."

"Mr. Douglas," Thomas said calmly, "There is no reason to become agitated."

"I'm not - " Adam caught himself and swallowed his anger. "Are you telling me that I owe money every time a song gets stuck in my head?"

"It's in the contract."

"But...but..."

Thomas stood in front of Adam with a commanding expression. "Two million, three hundred thirty two thousand, six hundred fifty four dollars, and fifty two cents," he said. There was a moment's pause. then he continued. "We have payment plan options."

Peter Wick

October 14, 2020

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

88. I Was Yelled at by the Director of Forrest Gump

 After what has turned out to be a fun experience capturing a screenshot of my brief moment in the new film, "Bill and Ted Face the Music" (click here to see the shot on my website), I have found myself remembering with happy reminiscence, the year and a half in the 1990's when I spent as much time as I could hanging out, getting paid, and sometimes appearing on screen, as an Extra in countless movies and TV shows.

The best part of those days since then, has been the line I have thrown into any "Two truths and a lie" game, when I include the statement, "I have worked on one Oscar-winning film."

It's not a lie. It's one of the truths.

Robert Zemeckis, the Oscar winning director of the film, almost sent us all home before we even made it to the set. A group of us guys were hired to be the All-American football players who meet President Kennedy. He took a look at us as we got off the bus from the wardrobe department, and asked, "What's this? What the hell is this? Where are my football players?"

None of us were bulky the way football players are supposed to be.

"Send 'em back," he said disgustedly. "Get me some football players."

The guys I was with were instantly dejected. A few turned back toward the bus. I stood awkwardly, wondering what my angle would be, how I could stay. Robert Zemeckis himself bailed me out, though.

He looked at me and asked, "How tall are you?"

"Six feet, half inch over," I said.

"Okay, you can stay. We need a stand-in for JFK."

The scene is the one where Tom Hanks meets John F. Kennedy, along with the other All-Americans, and makes a big deal out of having to pee.

They used real footage of President Kennedy, removed a woman from the shot, put Tom Hanks in her place, and had an actor with a killer President Kennedy voice, say the lines that the President says in the film. In between takes, I was placed on the set to stand where Kennedy stood, while the crew set up lights and wondered around me taking light meter reading.

How do I know, you might ask, that they were using this particular shot of Kennedy and removing a woman from the shot, to be replaced by Tom Hanks?

Because...I snuck behind the set, where the special effects guys were working on the clip live in the moment while we were shooting.

It was easy to find my way back there. I wasn't being used during the actual shooting. I just had to listen for, "Cut," and make myself available to stand.

So, while everyone was shooting, I found the computer area, and became fascinated by the process I was watching. They blocked out the woman's presence, inserted Tim Hanks, and placed the actors lips over President Kennedy's, saying the line, "I think he said he has to pee."

I was standing there watching, transfixed, when I missed the word "Cut" out on the set. a moment later Robert Zemeckis came back to see how his special effects were going. I turned around as he came in. We made eye contact. He did a double take, then walked right up to me and said, "Aren't you...supposed to be....OUT THERE!? How did you even get back here? Get out of here!"

I was a little embarrassed, but as I walked back out to where the lighting guys waited for me, a realization landed on; I wasn't fired...AND....I was just yelled at by Robert Zemeckis. THAT'S SO COOL!

That was also the day I learned one other thing, something that I think remains true today; that Tom Hanks actually is the most normal, fun, and unpretentious actor in all of Hollywood.

But getting yelled at like that, that memory is gold for me. That's probably my favorite moment of getting in trouble in my whole life.

Peter Wick

September 15, 2020

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

87. Trump vs The Virus - A strategy session

Scene: A secret planning headquarters in the underground bunker beneath the White House.
Those present: President Donald Trump, Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, Radio host Rush Limbaugh, former game show host Chuck Woolery, Fox news host Sean Hannity.

Trump: Okay, everyone, let's get this meeting started. Question one: Can we nuke the virus?
Hannity: How would we nuke it, Mr. President?
Trump: Easy! Lure the virus into a room. Make up a story about sick people who want to get infected. Get the virus in there, then NUKE IT!
Hannity: Wouldn't that also blow up the whole house?
Fauci: The whole city!? Multiple states?
Trump: Fauci, you're not a nuclear expert. This is above your pay grade! Guys, you've got to think boldly!
Hannity: I just don't think we should be setting off nuclear weapons against a virus, Mr. President.
Fauci (to Hannity): Since when did YOU become the voice of reason?
Limbaugh: No one has any guts these days!
Trump: So true, Rush. So true. See guys, that's why I gave him the medal at the State of The Union.
Limbaugh: We need to be more like the Donner party. You've heard of the Donner Party?
Trump: Of course, that's where Jeffrey Epstein and I - 
Limbaugh: Different Donner party, Mr. President! Different party entirely.
Trump: There were two?
Limbaugh: The Donner Party, back in the old west days. They were trying to get to California by wagon train. They made the mistake of going during Winter. They got stuck in the mountains, no food, nothing!
Trump: Wow! No one's ever heard of this before, Rush. What happened?
Limbaugh: They ate each other. They turned to cannibalism.
Woolery: Didn't they all die?
Limbaugh: Half of them. Half survived! They adapted! they didn't complain. THEY ADAPTED!
Fauci: So, you're solution is for half of the country to die, while the other half eats them?
Limbaugh: Adapt! ADAPT! We're  AMERICANS!
Trump: That was great, Rush. You've got to start replacing Fauci as my number one voice on this.
Woolery: We're all overreacting, Mr. President. This whole virus thing is a media hoax. There is no virus. the media is in on the Deep State.
Fauci: What would anyone get out of making up a virus and hundreds of thousands of deaths?
Trump: Fauci, you're a smart guy, but you're way too into facts.
Fauci: I'm a scientist. Science is nothing without facts.
Trump: Exactly! Science is nothing without facts!
Fauci: You agree?
Trump: I DO! So....what is the solution?

-They all look at each other, confused and afraid to answer the question-

Trump: GET RID OF THE FACTS!
Limbaugh: Brilliant!
Trump: If science is nothing without facts, we get rid of facts. Then...SCIENCE IS NOTHING! WE WIN!
Woolery: You're an amazing man, Mr. President.
Trump: Okay, let's get on this. Fauci, I want you to force all testing of the virus to stop.
Fauci: Wha-aa-aat!?
Trump: No more testing. If there isn't any testing, there won't be any more disease! 
Fauci: It doesn't work that way. Imagine shutting down cancer screenings!
Trump: Great idea! Shut down all cancer screenings too. I just cured cancer! Hannity, go on the air and start touting Limbaugh's cannibalism cure! You're all great people! Well, not you Fauci. Thanks for coming. Let's go, gentlemen! We have an invisible enemy to defeat! Oh, and that reminds me, We have to mobilize the military also.
Fauci: The military, to do what, exactly?
Trump: Tanks, Fauci! Tanks! This virus is no match for the power of the Unites States military! Once it gets a good look at some of the state of the art tanks we have, it'll go running! Let's go, let's go, let's go! We're winning! let's go win this damn thing!
Peter Wick
July 14, 2020

Saturday, June 13, 2020

86. SuperStar Bio (hint: the joke is on me)

The internet is The Wild Wild West.

Only in the world of website startups, desperate for clicks and daily visitor stats, would I turn up on something called, "Superstar bio."

And yet it has happened. My SuperstarBio entry has some eye-opening information about me, including some facts that even I did not know. For starters, it lists my Net Worth as 2 million dollars. I laughed out loud when I first saw this. Pretty good joke, I thought. 

Then I went to my bank and showed them the website. "This says I'm worth 2 million dollars," I said. "This is a reputable, respectable website. So, you know, where's my 2 million dollars?"

The bankers looked at me sideways, as if I had lost my mind.

I learned many more surprising and unknown facts about myself, facts that were confirmed by another reputable and respectable website, Star9. I discovered that I am only 5-feet 9-inches tall. This came as a shock. The last time I measured myself - the last several times I measured myself - I came in at a half-inch over 6 feet. What happened, I asked myself. How did I lose 3 and a half inches? My only consolation was the weight I seemed to have lost in order to come in at their listed 160 pounds.

Between the two websites, I learned that my favorite food is 'vegetable rice.' I learned that my favorite destination is Los Angeles (not much of a destination since I actually LIVE in Los Angeles). My main 'qualification' is that I graduated from high school, and my hair color is 'light brown.'

The internet is an amazing place. At least they left my family and girlfriend history blank.

I want to set the record straight once and for all. I am going to create a list, here, of all the juicey details everyone wants to know about me. My hope is that this will clear up everyone's confusion once and for all.


PETER WICK STATISTICS


Education: Rumors only. Yes, there seems to have been some sort of education, but we are still trying to verify


Profession: Saying no to things that might make money


Known for: Appearing for two seconds - maybe less - in the upcoming, "Bill and Ted Face the Music."


Salary: Only slightly more than celery


Net Worth: You know what, let’s keep it at $2 million. That sounds way better than the truth


FAMILY AND RELATIVES


Father: "It's possible that we are all Frank Sinatra's children," -Ronan Farrow


Mother: Janet


Brothers: The one with the beard and the one with no hair of any kind


Sisters: The one with the giant dog and the one with two repaired joints from soccer injuries


Marital status: Dysfunctional


Wife/girlfriend: Why, did someone say something about me? Did they sound like they were going to court?


PETER WICK’S FAVORITES


Hobbies: Collecting things that should be thrown out


Favorite food: What can I have right now without going to the store?


Favorite destination: Away (just.... away...)


Favorite color: Blue (yes, they had this one right)

Body type: Bipedal humanoid (except when spotted crawling on all fours)

I can only hope that this new information satisfies my hungry fans.

Now if you would please let Mr. Wick through the door....excuse me..please, please make way...I'm sorry Mr. Wick is not signing autographs or taking selfies with his fans...if anyone has any ideas regarding a good, viral, career-ending scandal, Mr. Wick is taking suggestions.

Peter Wick
June 13, 2020

Thursday, May 14, 2020

85. The Fantasy World and What Used to be 'The Normal World'

A few months ago, before the world changed, I thought I had written a book contrasting 'the normal world' with a fantastical imaginary world, where drawings come to life and have their own consciousness. It never occurred to me at the time that 'the normal world' might be a little bit of a fantasy also.

It didn't feel odd to write a scene with four 12 and 13 year-old kids playing 2 on 2 soccer at their local park. Or a rich 60-year-old guy hosting a birthday party at his mansion, with lots of people in attendance.

People gathering, kids going to school. Normal stuff, right? Now it almost feels like the 'normal' world is as much a fantasy as the fantasy world.

But here we are. "Milo and Meg are Solid" (a title voted 'best title among the three options you gave me' by the only 12 year-old who voted) is a book about 13 year-old Milo and his 12 year-old sister Meg, living 'normal' lives in their medium sized town called August. Their normal lives are thrown upside down when they accidentally discover a strange portal between two trees at the park, that transports them into Icarus, a fantastical world where they become pencil drawings.

Then they begin meeting new friends in Icarus...

Where did this idea come from? I've already been asked this several times, and I'm struggling to answer. The idea of a portal to an imaginary world...well, that's Lewis Caroll's "Alice in Wonderland," or "Through the Looking Glass." It's C.S. Lewis's Narnia tales. It is Neil Gaiman. Name your fantasy author. I am happy to admit I am not reinventing the wheel with this aspect of the story.

As for the drawings having their own conscious lives? Sometimes an idea just lands on you. You can either run with it or toss it aside. This one I ran with. It seemed like an interesting question to me; What would happen if ('what if - ' the question that launched a thousand stories) characters from a simple artwork asked where they came from? What if they knew when they were being erased or redrawn? It sounded both fascinating and scary.

Is it for kids? Yes, slightly older kids. The characters are in middle school (remember when kids went to school?), but I think it's really for adults who are still partly kids. Milo and Meg roll their eyes at the boring old folks at the rich guy's birthday party. They're a little bit rebellious against their parents, but not too rebellious. They just know for a fact that their parents are dorks.

They struggle to adjust at first, when they become drawings once inside Icarus, but then they start making the transition effortlessly.

If I'm totally honest, I kept writing this story because I was having fun with it. I can only hope that the enjoyment translates to readers.

As always, I turn the idea over to you now. A book is the writer's, as long as he or she is writing it. Once readers begin reading it, it belongs to them.

It won't officially be out until a week and a half after I post this. Tuesday, May 26.

As I said before last month's post, thanks to all the readers out there who have made the Milo and Meg sneak peeks this blog's most popular posts over the past year.

What happens now? What makes a popular book during CoronaVirus times? Well, that's the complete unknown. I try not to have expectations. I know some readers will give it a look, though. thanks in advance. Enjoy!
Peter Wick
May 14, 2020

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

84. Final 'Milo and Meg' sneak peek

My new book, "Milo and Meg are Solid" will be published and available on May 26. I want to thank the many readers who have kept these sneak peeks among this blog's most-read posts over the past year. On May 15 I'll write up a little history of where the story originated. The book should also be available for pre-order around that time. -P.W.

From Chapter 6:
The next day after school Milo and Meg stopped on the hill where the two trees stood next to each other.

They paused for a moment, then Milo squeezed between the trees and was gone.

Meg followed.

As they adjusted to being back in Icarus, they realized something was different. It was quiet.

Where was the usual danger and panic?

A Gort flew overhead, but it seemed to be flying more peacefully than normal; none of the aggressive behavior that they had become used to.

"Ho! Ho! Milo and Meg!" It was Nanette's voice, shouting happily from the door of her hut across the field.

"Let's go," Milo said, and together they ran across the field.

As they came close to Nanette's hut they suddenly stopped running. Happy smiles spread across their faces.

"Wolf!" Meg shouted. "You're back!"

They all shared a few hugs.

Wolf was Nanette's son, grown up, like an older teenager, although sometimes he seemed younger, and occasionally he seemed a little bit older. It was hard to keep track, as his looks sometimes changed subtly, even as they looked at him.

"It was the strangest thing," Nanette said. "This mornin' I was just wakin' up and I heard him snoring like a lumberjack sawing wood. There he was!"

"Where were you?" Milo asked.

"Nowhere," said Wolf.

"He has no memory of being gone," Nanette said.

Milo and Meg looked at Wolf curiously.

"What's you last memory?" Meg asked.

"I just remember being here, talking to the two of you. Then you left, to go back to the solid world..." He paused for a minute. "Later that night, though, as I was falling asleep, I had a strange sensation."

Nanette came over from the stove. "Strange sensation," she said. "Wolfy, what was this here strange sensation yer speaking of?"

"I was going away."

Milo, Meg, and Nanette held their breath.

"You didn't mention none of this 'goin' away' bizness before," Nanette said, sounding slightly worried.

"My feet were going. Even the bed I was sleeping in was going. It was almost like I was falling asleep, except..."

"Exceptin' what, Wolfy?"

"...Except I wasn't going to sleep at all. I was wide awake. I was just disappearing...and then...then...I was...asleep, I guess. Then here I was this morning."

A long silence passed.

"Erased!" shouted Nanette. "You was erased! And then here you are redrawn!"

Peter Wick
April 15, 2020

Saturday, March 14, 2020

83. A Great Comedienne's Not So Great Son

I spent today at my mom's memorial service.

It was more a celebration of a life well-lived than a somber occasion.

I recently ran across an online archive of old college newspapers I wrote for many years ago, and discovered something I had forgotten writing. I cannot think of anything better to post in the wake of my mom's passing, then to simply re-print this old humor column I wrote back in college. I am putting it down here word for word as it appeared back then.

A Great Comedienne's Not So Great Son

My mother has a game she plays with her cat. In the middle of the night the cat, who sleeps on the bed with my mother, will walk up onto her face and begin a sort of dance to indicate that she needs to go outside for biological purposes.

My mother will then rise from her bed (without rising from her sleep) and will make her way blindly to the door, and then in the darkness wait to hear the patter of the cat's feet scuffling along the floor to the door.

A few nights ago, my mother related, she groped through the darkness and found the door, held it open and waited, but she heard no foot-patter from the cat.

Being a woman not so easily defeated, she decided to prompt the cat by going through the door first, signaling to the cat the action she was to take.

My mother opened the door wide, took three steps in, and found herself in a rack of my dad's clothes.

The incident impressed me. I did not realize my mother's talent, or the extent to which she taken it. My mother has proven to be one of the last living comedienne's who can successfully execute the oldest and most tested gag in all of comedy; walking into the closet.

I've tried it myself a few times, but it isn't as funny when I do it. Even though my mother has tutored me, I still perform the gag with an air suggesting that I actually want to go into the closet, and I usually seem much too happy once I'm inside.

I often have trouble performing traditional comic gags though, as one recent incident will surely indicate.

A couple weeks ago I decided to rehearse slipping. You know; the gag where a person engages in a headlong sprint, either to save a girl, stop a train, or in my case, to get a piece of paper and a pen. Then, just before the person arrives, he slips on a banana peel, or a sheet of ice, or in my case, a piece of wet plywood.

The buildup to the gag went well. I was in a movement class at the theater, wearing gym shorts and no socks or shoes. I learned that we needed a pen and paper, and so shot out the back door of the theater and sprinted toward the newspaper office just across the way. There is a plywood ramp up to the door of the office, and it was raining, and I was in bare feet, running at a care free pace. So far, so good.

As soon as my feet hit the plywood they flew into the air, and my body began flailing this way and that, giving me the appearance of a rag doll whose five year-old owner is trying to tear the stuffing out of him.

Then I landed and realized how I had misjudged the gag from the beginning. If I had come at the ramp from straight on, and flew into the air just as I had done, I could have landed and continued sliding the length of the walkway and ended up sitting on the gravel. I could have stood up, brushed off and said "Ha ha," and walked off as if I had planned the whole thing ahead of time.

Instead, I came at the ramp from a slight angle. Rather than sliding silently past the door and window, like an angel gliding by, I slid sideways, banged into the wall, the door, and the railing of the walkway, much like a 14-ton block of iron would if it were delivered to the newspaper door.

Not wanting to be shaken from my task, however, I quickly got up and popped in the door. I was met with turned heads, dazed eyes, and the gaped mouths of people who half expected to see a block of iron, and a bloody block of iron at that.

"Are you alright?" one person asked.

It hadn't occurred to me that I wouldn't be alright, so I said cheerfully, "Yes, I'm just here to get a pen and some paper." Then I grabbed the stuff and left in a flash.

Looking back, I can see that my reason for coming did not justify the worries of the people inside. It was a tough situation all around, however, for if I had told the truth, that I had just miserably failed a comic performance, they would have made a quick phone call and some men dressed in white would have been all too happy to take me away.

I can safely say that I have overcome the failure of that incident, and now I'm ready to try a new one. I want to try the gag in which you start up your car, but rather than pulling forward, you lurch backward into the car behind you. My mother did that one once and received a standing ovation.

I don't have a car, however, and I'm having a hard time convincing my friend to let me use his. I've told him that it would just take a minute, and that he would get a real kick out of it if he saw it, but for some reason he doesn't trust me.
-Peter Wick
March 14, 2020 (actually many years earlier)