Wednesday, September 14, 2022

108 - The Lost Soccer Project

 I will be sharing a video at the bottom of this post, from 1998. This story begins four years earlier, though in 1994. I know, I have young readers. Some of you are 18 years old, and were not even alive in the 1990's. It's okay. This is my story and I am owning it. We'll find a way to deal with each other's different ages sometime later.

I made my first low budget feature film in the 1990's - shot in '97, it is listed as a 1999 film (Long Strange Trip, or The Writer, The Naked Girl, blah blah blah) because of the extra year it took to get it out in front of audiences. It's on Amazon. I keep being amazed that it still finds viewers (do they understand that the low budget means we had to shoot with an old 16mm camera that sometimes ate film, meaning we lost whole takes to a faulty film magazine?)

I was working on another project in the 90's though - actually I had a few other came-and-went projects. This one was a documentary. It was going to start as a book, inspired by George Plimpton's "Paper Lion."

Plimpton spent an NFL preseason training camp with the Detroit Lions, and wrote about it. It's a fascinating book. I wanted to replicate the concept with soccer.

But let's back up a little bit.

The USA hosted the 1994 world Cup. I loved everything about it. As an amateur socccer player myself, I couldn't get enough. Even better, the new league - MLS, or Major League Soccer - had announced a kick-off date in the Spring of 1995. Living in L.A. at the time, I was intrigued by the announcement of open tryouts for the league in L.A. that December. I started working out seriously. I wanted to be in my best shape. I knew I would not make it to an official professional roster, but I felt confident that I could go far enough to have something interesting to write about.

I was sure my George Plimpton moment was about to happen.

Then, about a month before the tryouts were to happen, MLS cancelled everything. The tryouts were called off. the league's debut was postponed by a full year, to Spring of 1996. It knocked the air out of my sails.

That next summer - 1995 - I moved back to my home town of Seattle.

As 1995 ended I felt a sense ot missed opportunity. I knew open tryouts were happening back in L.A. and I had no way of participating. The itch...ITCHED!

This is why, in March of 1996, when I saw a little notice in the local Seattle newspaper, that local lower-division team, Seattle Sounders, was having open tryouts that Saturday, I jumped at the chance. I didn't even know what to expect from it. It wasn't MLS, but as defending champions of what was then "The A-League," and still a month before MLS would kick-off, The Sounders were technically the top team in the country.

I wrote about this day as a Sounder here. I'm realize now that I'm repeating myself a little, so I'm moving on the video.

Two years after the Sounders tryout, the itch was still itching. My friend Smitty shot this little video of me during the 1998 World Cup.

By the way, one of the winners of that World Cup, French defender Frank Leboeuf, ended up on a field opposite me nearly a decade later. Then 40 years old, he was in L.A. studying acting, while playing recreationally for a team called Hollywood United. He shut me down pretty convincingly. Seemed to know every move I was going to make before I made it. Being shut down by a World Cup winner is one of my proudest moments in soccer.

As I sit here, nursing a slightly sprained ankle from playing recently, I realize it's time to shut up. No more nostalgia. The lost soccer project is relegated to that bin of history where so many lost creative projects go. 

Or is it?

Enjoy the video:

Peter Wick

September 14, 2022

Thursday, July 14, 2022

107 - The New Science Review (from 1992)

 NOTE: I have boxes and boxes of old stuff sittting around here. Every once in a while I rediscover the urge to dig through some old stuff and see if there is anything that does not make me want to vomit, and then disown my younger self. Occasionally I read something I wrote back in the day, and kind of like it. This is dated, for sure. Some of you readers - if I read my analytics properly - were not even born in 1992. You never had the chance to see TV commercials featuring claymation raisins singing, "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." For what it's worth, this little thing I knocked off sometime in my 20s, feels like something I still want to claim ownership of. You know where I am if you disagree.-PW

The New Science Review

After strong urging by my closest friends (others might refer to it as 'severe taunting') I finally admitted, recently, my scientific incompetence. The circumstances leading up their urging need not be spelled out in detail. In short, they involve a certain amount of nitro glycerin and a now-defunct sewage system I absent-mindedly flushed it down.

The urging was strong, though, so I swallowed my pride (choking on it at first, but finally washing it down with a banana smoothie) and purchased the current issues of several science-related magazines.

I was stunned, not by the wealth of knowledge contained in these magazines, but by the journalistic desperation which these rags pass off as science.

To offer an idea of what I found, I have complied a Table of Contents loosely similar to them all:

1. Inside Every Fat Man - pg. 9

Two M.I.T. researchers finally disprove the old saying, "Inside every fat man is a thin one trying to get out." their eveidence shows that inside only 60% of fat men is a thin one trying to get out. Inside 30% of fat men is an equally fat man just trying to sit still, and inside one fat man in ten is a small marmot trying to butter toast.

2. Consequences of The Greenhouse Effect - pg. 27

A new report reveals startling ramifications of The Greenhouse Effect. Of urgent interest is the newly discovered "Woodshed Effect." Has the world been overpopulated by men wearing hunting jackets and John Deere golf caps? How will this affect you and I?

3. The Whole Mind - pg.35

New Age scientists reveal secrets of the brain's hidden power, focusing on a corner of the right lobe which, if used properly, can alter physical reality. Also discussed is a small spot in the left lobe which is more limited in its potential, but which still, when applied properly, can turn a tennis shoe into Richard Gere's laundry instructions.

4. The Essence of Matter - Pg. 47

Theoretical Physicist, Max Englespegle, takes several everyday objects, breaks them down into their most basic elements and, taking advantage of their vulnerable state, attacks them viciously with kitchen knives. The Editors intervene and pull him off, rushing the elements to the lab where those that survive are held for questioning.

5. A Third Form of Atomic Power - pg. 51

After decades debating the safety of 'Fision' - the controversial process of splitting atoms - and current research into 'Fusion' - the cleaner process of bonding atoms together - scientists have discovered yet another form of atomic powere. It is called 'Lesion.' This is the simple process of setting two atoms near each other until one of them strikes up a conversation. Admittedly it has failed to produce substantial amounts of energy, but on at least two occasions it has resulted in the creation of atom families with tiny atom babies.

6. Space Travel and The Future - pg. 71

An insightful discussion of both space travel AND the future. Includes special pull-out map showing where space is, and when the future is likely to arrive.

7. The Worth of Scientific Accomplishments - pg. 83

Our staff interviews three dozen distinguished scientists about the degree of satisfaction they get from their work. Results indicate that while science is generally rewarding, it does match the thrill of seeing raisins come to life and sing Marvin Gaye songs.

8. Science scores its biggest success yet - pg. 86

Modern science may still be baffled by cancer. It is still stumped by the Aids Virus. But science has, at long last, triumphed over static cling. We look back at the heroes of this battle, and recall some of the forgotten victims, such as Harold Rassmussen, a scientist in the 1950s who died while trying to pull two socks apart in the shower.

9. Final Word - pg. 93

Our Editor takes a humorous look at single cell structures, poking sarcastic barbs at their inability to breakdance or play the game of Twister.

Peter Wick

July 14, 2022 (or sometime in the early 90s)

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

106 - George Washington visits Donald Trump

It was a bright magically sunny day out on the Mar-a-lago golf course. Donald Trump was driving the cart from the tee out to the muddy swamp where he had hit his ball. Senator Lindsey Graham had also hit his ball in this direction, a little less distastrously, though, landing it nicely on the fairway. So, of course Trump claimed Senator Graham's ball as his own and stopped the cart.

Something strange was happening though. The bright sun was turning bizarre colors. There were purples, blues, oranges swirling around Donald Trump. Suddenly he was by himself and Senator Graham was nowhere to be seen.

Trump shrugged and settled in behind Graham's ball. He practiced his swing a couple times, and prepared to hit.

Something stopped him.

"Hello Donald."

The voice came from some nearby trees. Trump looked up, puzzled, as George Washington stepped out from behind a tree and tipped his tri-cornered hat.

"Is it you? George Washington?" Trump stammered.

"Yes," Washington answered.

"Wow! what an honor!" Trump was smiling broadly. Washington was not smiling. "You know," Trump continued, "most people don't know, you were a Republican. People don't know that."

"No," Washington corrected, "I was not a Republican. That was Lincoln. I was against any and all political parties. there were no Republicans when I was in office.

Trump blinked angrily. "Maybe you need to go back and check," he said. "It's just a fact that you were a Republican."

"I warned the other guys, you know, Jefferson, Madison, that whole crowd, against the whole idea of political parties. I knew nothing good would ever come from them."

"Actually..." the corners of Trump's mouth were twitching. "Actually, You're wrong," Trump said. "You were totally a Republican."

A stony silence passed between the two men. Eventually Washington cleared his throat and said, "You lost the 2020 election."

A rumble passed through Trump's body the way a ball of digestive gas rumbles through...well, through Trump's body.

"Hey, didn't you own slaves?" Trump shouted.

"I emancipated them all," Washington said defensively.

"Slave-ownin' George," Trump cackled. "You better not try to run again. When I put a label on someone it tends to stick. Just ask Lyin' Ted Cruz."

Washington cleared his throat again and straightened up. "You lost the election fair and square, and if you want to have any political legacy, you have to admit this and tell the truth."

"I always tell the truth," Trump said dismissively. "That's why my new social network is called Truth Social."

"Have you heard that little story about me?" Washington asked calmly. "It's about an apple tree. The punch line is, I cannot tell a lie."

"Oh, ha! you're lyin' about it now. Everyone lies. I know you made up that story. Maybe I'll switch to 'Lyin' George Washington.' Has a nice ring to it" Trump brought his attention back to the Lindsey Graham's golf ball, and tried a couple practice swings.

"That's Senator Graham's ball," Washington said, matter-of-factly.

"Graham's ball? What are you, blind? His ball is over there in the mud. Everyone saw him hit it there. What a loser!"

George Washington looked down solemnly. He shook his head. Slowly he turned back toward the tree he had stepped from behind. He walked toward it. He turned back to take one last look at Trump, just as Trump sliced the ball sideways into a lake. Trump laughed and returned to the cart, driving it straight toward the green, where he grabbed a ball from his bag and tossed it near the cup.

Washington disappeared behind the trees.

Donald Trump was never seen again. He didn't mind, He lived forever in a magical purple blue orange golf wonderland. He was happy.

And so was the rest of the world.

Peter Wick
June 14, 2022

Sunday, May 15, 2022

105. Final Sneak Peek - How To confuse A.I. - "I Don't Own a Dog!"

As I post this, my new book, my satirical SciFi, How To Confuse A.I. has become available for pre-order. It will be officially published and released to the public on Tuesday May 31, 2022. This excerpt comes about 20 pages in, as Adam Douglas settles into a calm evening at home with his simulated partner, Trilda. She is a part of the Simu-network, which -  oh, screw it. At this point you have to read the whole book to get it. On with the sneak peek, which, yes, drops you right into the middle of a scene...

The the glass balcony door opened, and a small whisper-silent Antarctica drone entered, carrying a package that it placed on the middle of the table.

Adam held his fork in his mouth, motionless, looking at the drone.

"Enjoy!" the drone said in a light perky voice, before flying back out the balcony door. The door quietly slid closed on its own.

Adam slowly removed the fork from his mouth. He chewed suspiciously.

"What's this?" Adam asked.

"Let's open it and see," Trilda said, clasping her hands together in anticipation.

"I didn't order anything."

"Open it."

Adam set his ffork down on his plate, still chewing his last bite of pasta.

He reached for the box and pulled it toward him. It was a very familiar box, the Antarctica logo on the side, the smiles around the edges.

He looked at the address. It was definitely addressed to him, Adam Douglas.

Adam was suspicious. Why would a delivery come when he had not ordered anything?

"Open it," Trilda chirped happily.

Adam reluctantly reached for a table knife and began to cut the tape.

He lifted the flap of the box and recognized some sort of clothing item.

He cut the tape down the side and opened the other flap.

As he pulled the green clothing item out of the box, he twisted his face sideways. It appeared to be a dog sweater.

He looked back inside the box and saw four small white dog booties, shaped perfectly for a small puppy's feet.

"What the-" Adam shook his head in confusion. "This is obviously a msitake."

He looked at Trilda, who was smiling an odd happy smile.

Adam raised his hands in confusion. "I mean, did you order this?"

"No," she said calmly. "It's probably based on your interestes."

"My interests..." Adam looked at her sideways. "I...we...there's no dog. We don't have a dog."

Trilda just smiled back.

Adam held the sweater in one hand and scooped up two of the booties in the other. He was perplexed, and Trilda wasn't helping.

He dropped the booties and the sweater back into the box with a shake off his head and sat sideways in the chair.

He lifted his eyes to his left and brought up the Antarctica hologram. He scrolled through the list of contact info and tapped a line on the hologram.

Jarvis appeared immediately.

"Hi, I'm Jarvis," Jarvis said  pleasantly. "Thanks for contacting Antarctia. It will be my pleasure to help you today."

Adam turned once again and lifted the sweater from the box.

"This - this dog sweater was just delivered to me," he said, agitation creepiing into his voice. "I didn't order it."

"Cute!" Jarvis gushed.

Adam looked at Jarvis blankly. "I didn't order it," he repeated.

Jarvis smiled warmly. "Thanks for letting us know of your concern," he said. "We at Antarctica are obsessed with our customers' satisfaction. No, seriously, we're obsessed with it. It's the only thing we ever think about." He paused, then said, "If you will kindly give me a moment to look up your case."

Jarvis looked off beyond Adam. He was silent for a moment. He nodded happily and looked back at Adam.

"Good news!" Jarvis exclaimed. "It was seventy-five percent off!"

That's all. The book awaits...


May 15. 2022

Thursday, April 14, 2022

104 - Messiah Complex, Anyone?

The world moves quickly, and the state of things as I write this might be very different from the state of things when you read this.

As I write, Elon Musk has submitted a mutli-billion dollar bid to buy Twitter and take it private. The outcome has not been settled yet.

I want to try to sort through some very nuanced issues here, in a serious manner, which is sometimes hard for me. I am usually more likely to make jokes of things (including jokes about Musk - mashed up with a few other billionaire tech CEO's - in my upocoming book, "How To Confuse A.I.").

Elon Musk purports to be crusading on behalf of "Free speech," a concept that I very much support. Having (among other things) a little bit of a journalism background, it hits me deeply when, for example, China cracks down of freedom of the press in Hong Kong. the freedom to speak freely is something I take very seriously.

The problem with Twitter (and by extension Facebook, although I have not been on Facebook since 2014) is that "freedom of speech," becomes a wild west of propoganda (sometimes very sophisticated propoganda, expertly done by devious parties), with insufficient checks and balances, on a platform too easily used to spread dis-proven conspiracies, and outright falsehoods.

So, I ask Mr. Musk, do you support 'Bad Actors' freedom to speak expertly designed falsehoods, manipulated specifically to damage our public discourse?

I'll give you my answer. In the public square; meaning literally outside on a street corner, where The Constitution guarantees free expression, yes, I support anyone's freedom to spout nonsense of any kind unhindered. Literally outside on the street corner. That is where constitutionally-protected free speech has no limits.

On a social network, though - a corporation such as Twitter - I support, want, demand, that the company police and check that 'speech' on their platform is not being used to manipulate, to decieve, or to tear apart. A private newspaper demands the freedom to print and publish whatever it deems print-worthy, according to its own standards. Yet, that same newspaper has the freedom to say no to someone from outside the paper demanding that they print their outside/confrontational/false article or editorial. It is not a clamp-down on "freedom of speech," for this private newspaper to reject a submitted piece of writing. The writer of the alternate piece of writing has absolute and total freedom to go outside on the street corner and shout any and all desenting views he wants. That, and that only is "Freedom of speech." Any private company has the freedom, even the responsibility, to police and safeguard their platform from incendiary flasehoods.

Twitter was getting better at these safeguards, especially when they recently banned a few conspiracy-spreading loonies. My worry about Elon Musk running Twitter is that he will be inclined to let the loonies, the liars, the conspiracy theorists, and the propogandists new license to attack. Elon Musk says his attempt to take over Twitter is about "the future of civilization."

Messiah complex, anyone?

Peter Wick
April 14, 2022

Monday, March 14, 2022

103 - Who is Tyrell Elon Zuzerzos?

 With my book How To Confuse A.I. coming in May, I feel a need to set the table regarding who and what exactly I am parodying, or satrizing, and anticipate any need to protect myself from wealthy men with lawyers.

The book has a short introduction, where I spell out a long list of comedy and science fiction works (books and movies) that I reference in the story (dystopian future as a comedy anyone?).

I might not have included every reference, though, Maybe with this post, I am rewriting my introduction a little bit.

For example, I did not spell out exactly which country I have borrowed a few of the more disturbing high tech surveillance practices from. It's a big country. One of the biggest. Lots and lots of people, all of them living under constant government surveillance. The country's name rhymes with Bina.

I'm actually not too worried about that country getting mad at me. I would love nothing more than to have my book banned in some huge country, simply because I made fun of them a little bit. That would be awesome!

I'm more concerned about a few rich Americans, who...sort of...well, let's say, I satirize them a little bit too.

But first, no, let's bring up the First Amendment, and talk about a lot of other satire that has been protected by courts over the years. Why? Because - I'm just being honest - I actually am a little scared of rich guys with lawyers, and I want to preemtively stop them from suing me.

We don't have to look any further than Saturday Night Live, especially the entire four years of Alec Baldwin satirizing our previous bumbling, egomaniacal, President. If Trump COULD have stopped SNL and Baldwin from making fun of him, he definitely would have. The fact that Trump was powerless to stop them is a testament to the power of the First Amendment, as tested in many many courts over the years.

I looked this up. I'm at reading about this topic. I'm quoting: "Satire may be more readily deserving of Frist Amendment protection because it can be viewed as a form of commentary." The write-up goes on to list and discuss several cases where plaintiffs tried to sue someone for making fun of them. Courts have overwhelmingly sided with the defendants (the comedians).

So... who is this guy, Tyrell Elon Zuzerzos? He's nobody, of course. He's a fictional character. In my homage to previous works I have of course borrowed the name Tyrell from Blade Runner. Eldon Tyrell runs the Tyrell Corporation. He is the maker of the 'Replicants,' the simulated humans. I just took his last name and made it my character's first name. 'Elon'? I don't know. Just a good-sounding collection of letters. Zuzerzos? Hm, starts with 'Z," ends with 'Zos.' Who knows? What do you think? I think it's all made up and isn't based on anyone. (If you saw my facial expression right now, you would see how SINCERE I am.)

Maybe you can help me. If you can think of any high powered tech CEO's out there, who run multi-billion dollar corporations, who believe that they are doing something AMAZING for humanity, who maybe, just maybe have too much of a Messianic view of themselves, let me know. I would LOVE to know if there is anyone like this in the world. If you can point me in their direction, maybe I still have time to include them in my, uh...First-Amendment-protected satire.

Peter Wick

March 14, 2022

Monday, February 14, 2022

102 - Pickles and Chocolate - My Secret Days With The Gazpacho Police

It's true! Margorie Taylor Greene was right! Nancy Pelosi has been running a secret police force called the Gazpacho Police. How do I know? Because I worked for them. I resigned recently, blaming hardship, emotional trauma, and psychological stress. Telling my story here, hopefully, will be part of my road to recovery.

It all started when Pelosi received word that several Republicans - yes, all of them Trump allies - were making unacceptable food combinations. They were putting ketchup on pasta, we were told, and peanut butter on hamburgers; shocking stuff!

Pelosi didn't waste any time. She had the entire force set up in a couple days. I was designated as an undercover agent. My job was to shadow Margorie Taylor Greene when she went out to eat, track her food combos and report back. I was never to be seen in person. It was a tough assignment, but I took it on because I love my country.

The next day I was hiding incognito under a table at a diner around the corner from the capitol. It was a tight squeeze, MTG's feet, three other pairs of feet (someone was wearing socks that hadn't been washed in days), and me. What I overheard scared me - cheetos and broccoli....COMBINED!

When I reported back to Pelosi, she exhaled with that decision-makers command that she has, and strode off in the direction of Chuck Schumer's office. Later that afternoon we were given even more serious instructions; serious food combo breaches like this were to be texted to her, live in the moment, and the uniformed officers would report to the scene as soon as possible.

It was early the next day. MTG was ordering breakfast at a favorite morning spot of the congressional crowd. I was hiding inside the garbage can by the door. I listened intently, worried that I would not hear exactly what she was ordering. At first it seemed simple enough; a bowl of cereal and some orange juice.

She took her order to her table and sat down. Everything seemed innocuous...until...I could not believe what I was seeing. She opened her orange juice and, right there in front of everyone, as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world, she poured her orange juice right into her cereal...CEREAL AND ORANGE JUICE!

I reached instantly for my phone, fumbling it into someone's left over tray of ketchup. I wiped it off and typed out the text to Nanci Pelosi; "Orange juice in her cereal," I texted, "Completely without any sense of shame!"

The reply was instant. Pelosi had uniformed officers already stationed nearby. They were on the scene in a matter of minutes.

The arrest was swift. The cereal was beyond hope.

So, she was right to call us the Gazpacho Police. It's what we are. It's what we do.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm looking for some Ranch Dressing to dip these chocolate chip cookies into.

Peter Wick
February 14, 2022