Saturday, November 14, 2015

#40 - Funny, Sexy Nanobots - Nov. 2015

I was alarmed to read recently that scientists are planning to insert tiny nanobots into our brains in the not-too-distant future.

Ray Kurzweil, who has researched artificial intelligence for years, and now works at Google, has predicted that in about 20 years we will be able to insert tiny robots – ‘nanobots’ – into our brains, making us, in his words, “funnier…sexier…and better at expressing loving sentiment.”

I think it’s interesting that scientists these days are so concerned about being funny and sexy. Scientists have always been the classic examples of nerdy geniuses who are anything BUT funny and sexy. I wonder if this is the scientists’ ultimate revenge; years of being the victim of clever put-downs, the heart-ache of watching the dream-girl leave with the sexier stud, have led the scientific community to INVENT their way to being funny and sexy.

The way it works, if I understand Mr. Kurzweil’s explanation, is that tiny robots from DNA strands will swim around in the capillaries of our brains, allowing us to connect to the cloud. This will give us increased ‘logical intelligence’ and ‘emotional intelligence,’ and apparently, funnier comebacks, and more devastatingly sexy personas.

I wonder if this is just wishful thinking on Mr. Kurzweil’s part.

Connecting our brains to the cloud may certainly give us quicker access to knowledge (“The 1915 Treaty of London? Of course I know which countries were involved”) but will it really give us a funnier comeback when someone insults us?

Sure, you’ll have instant access to the entire database of other people’s clever comebacks. There’s the generic comeback listed on several websites; “Did you hear that? It’s the sound of no one caring” Or maybe you want to go more Groucho Marx; “I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.” Or maybe you want to tap into the more whimsical but biting style of Oscar Wilde; “Some people cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.”

Despite all of this database access, though, I wonder if tiny nanobots will give us the creativity to come up with our own brilliant, original funny line.

As for sexiness, well, this is an even wilder dream on Kurzweil’s part. At the risk of sounding sexist; the vast of majority of men have no clue what makes a man sexy. Do we really believe scientists can program robots for sexiness?

Hold on, something just occurred to me; Mr. Kurzweil doesn’t plan to insert these nanobots into his own brain at all. He plans to put them in OTHER people’s brains. Aha! Mr. Kurzweil you have been found out! You plan to get your revenge on that girl who broke your heart, by inserting pre-programmed nanobots into her brain that will make her fall desperately in love with you.

Why do I see images of a crazy, laughing madman, surrounded by devices and bubbling beakers, screaming manically into the night, in a dark castle at the top of a lonely hill? On the outside of the dark castle, stenciled in crazy-looking uneven lettering, is the simple word, “Kurzweil.”

Peter Wick
November 14, 2015

Thursday, October 15, 2015

#39 - How to survive a political campaign year

I don't really want to write about politics. Politics is a trap.

I DO, however, want to make fun of politicians as much as I possibly can, and in the process, help you, my dear reader, find some small sliver of sanity in what is shaping up to be a mostly insane upcoming year of politics.

First, let's identify what the problem is; I don't think it's a stretch to say that nearly all of us, on all sides of the political landscape, share one response....shaking our heads in disbelief at something we just heard a politician say.

We drop our jaws a little, twist our heads sideways, try to find the right balance between anger and laughter, and look at whoever else is nearby, to see if they are as bewildered as you are.

There is a uniquely preposterous tone of voice used by the candidate running for office. Politicians say things that no one in any other facet of life will say. The only way, I feel, to find balance and perspective is to imagine that the person saying the preposterous things, is someone - or something - else entirely.

A few examples (on opposite sides of the political divide);

Whenever Bernie Sanders speaks, imagine that is is KFC icon, Colonel Sanders.

When Donald Trump pontificates, imagine all the same words coming from the mouth of Donald Duck.

Hilary Clinton?....George Clinton (of Parliament Funkadelic).

Jeb Bush?.....Jed Clampit (from Beverly Hillbillies).

This is a start. This will at least allow you to fall asleep at night replaying a more entertaining version of the news than you otherwise would have.

Next, we need to add wrestling to political debates. There's just no alternative. These people need to stop talking, creating 'spin,' blabbering on and on without really saying anything....and...they need to.......fight!

You might expect Trump and Sanders to win that one, but something unexpected is bound to happen. One of the lesser candidates will emerge as an unexpected bad-ass. One of the bigger candidates will be exposed as a wimp.

Wrestling......add it to all future political debates......Do it America!

Finally, since Donald Trump has completed the crossover form 'reality' TV to political candidate, I think we need to go the other direction, and turn the primaries into one long episodes of "Survivor."

Instead of having primaries and caucuses, we should helicopter all of the candidates to a remote deserted island, and let them figure out how to survive on their own. They will have to create alliances and enemies, Each month they will have to vote one candidate off of the island. Whoever is left at the end becomes President.

Wait.......No, check that.....Let's just leave that person on the island and never go back.
-Peter Wick
October 15, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

#38 - Social Media has saved the WORLD!

They say the first step toward healing is admitting the truth. Well, world, let's admit it, we're a pretty dumb lot.

This isn't a new phenomenon. Dumbness has run rampant since the first Homo Erectus decided to stand upright, and his dad yelled at him to quit showing off. "Walk bent over, like a normal early ape creature, yu damn kid!"

In the ancient world prior to the advent of social media - you know, the 1990's - dumbness was alive and well. (Two words....boy bands). Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Google Plus....sorry, my mistake, we don't actually have Google Plus.

The great thing about this era of social media, is that we are living out Mark Zuckerberg's dream of a 'more connected world.' Being connected will save us....from....I don't know what. I was just reading about the person who was so excited about getting a new American Express credit card, that they posted a photo of the card in their Facebook status, not realizing the dangers of posting your new credit card number on the internet for everyone to see....and copy.

Then there was the guy who complained that his Science Teacher was so dumb, he thought the sun was a star. When  someone replied, "That's because it is," he argued forcefully that, "A sun's a sun. A star's a star. there's a difference. Duh."

Reading posts like these give some insight into our society. Don't get me wrong. We are not dumber than we used to be. Our dumbness is just more exposed for all to see.

For example, I was stunned to learn something about disgraced bicycle champion Lance Armstrong that I had not previously known. One thoughtful person posted, "We should all get off Lance Armstrong's back. Sure he did drugs, but he was still the first person to land on the moon." Fascinating! I did not know that!

The examples are too many and too mind boggling to list. ("Canadians are so stupid they think 'Titanic' was a real event, not jut a movie").

Mark Zuckerberg wants to save the third world, by floating wifi balloons around the world, so everyone can have access to Facebook.

Well, if Mark Zuckerberg believes it, it must be true, right?

I don't remember which of these are Facebook and which are Twiiter (Twitter, by the way, is far superior, because I love Twitter). It doesn't really matter. What matters is that someone took the time to ask publicly whether "The Hunger Games" is a true story....failing to account for the fact that it is set in the FUTURE.

There's the person who posted, in full wonderment, "Can you believe this Earth is now 2015 years old? Amazing!"

"Why did they invent other languages? What, like one wasn't enuogh?" This person would be facinated to learn that English is just about the LAST language to develop on the planet.

Or, the girl who asked why Chinese people don't have 'normal' names, like Kathy and Emily.

Or, they guy who was sure the world only has seven countries.


Forget it, we all get the point.

In closing I leave you with a modified age-old question to consider:

If a tree falls in the woods.....and no one is there to pose for a selfie in front of it.....did it actually fall? If no one posts it to Facebook, or at least Instagram, does it even matter? Or, if it's posted, but by someone with only 40 friends, and no one 'likes' it, did the tree even exist to begin with, or was it just too lame for existence?
-Peter Wick
September 15, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

#37 - Abducted!

The 15 minute walk up Rose Avenue from my apartment to the nearest over-priced grocery store (that would of course be Whole Foods) is a colorful and interesting walk. You are sure to be surprised by something along the way. If it's not the giant ballerina-with-a-clown-head on the wall of the CVS Pharmacy, maybe it will be the neighborhood medical pot store, or the stenciled sidewalk art - a sinister looking silhouette of a man pointing up at you with the words, "You love the man," stenciled next to him.

You might be surprised by the shear number of society's outcasts. There's a unique breed of homelessness in Venice, but that's another issue, to be dealt with at another time.

Taped or stapled to the streetlight poles and power poles are the usual posters; a band playing somewhere, a missing cat, a missing dog, a missing person...

It was along these lines that one particular flier taped to a pole caught my attention recently. At the top in bold letters was the word "Abducted!" Below the word was a picture of a bearded 20-something-looking gjuy.

I stepped closer to read the rest of the poster. It stated that this guy was abducted by aliens on a particluar day, at a particular time, in Topanga Canyon. Then it said, "If you have any means of alien contact, please call us," and then it listed the phone number....and that was it.

The poster raised a lot of questions  for me, more questions than it could ever hope to answer.

Did the people making the poster actually SEE their friend get abducted by aliens? Even if you are able to contact these aliens, what will you say to them? Can you negotiate an abductee's release from alien capture? If you can negotiate an abductee's release, how do you negotiate? Do you offer a trade?  Some other human to experiment on in exchange for the return of your friend? If you can negotiate a trade, who do you trade for? Do you look for a volunteer, or do you trade away someone against their will?

I nominate Kim Kardashian.

I plan to contact the President in the next few days and arrange a trade negotiation, in which we give the aliens Kim K in exchenge for the return of whatever-the-hell-his-name-is - let's call him "Topanga Dude."

It's a beautiful trade, the more I think about it. I want to be there when the alien ship comes down through the Canyon trees and touches down gently on the roadway. Then the hatch slides gracefully open. Topanga Dude steps awkwardly out of the space craft, sheilding his eyes from the bright light of the many car headlights. Kim K is then presented to the aliens. She wimpers a little as the government agent pulls her by the arm toward the craft. Several cars away Kanye shrugs and smiles as she is ushered into the craft and the hatch closes.

Moments later the craft - and Kim - are gone, never again to return to Earth.

One of Topanga Dude's friends asks him if he's okay.

"Sure, I guess," he says.

"What did they do to you?" a friend asks.

"Mostly they just made me scrub their toilets," he says. "Oh, and they did experiments on my brain."

"Cool," the friend says.

Then we all get in our cars and go home, never to hear about Kim Kardashian ever again....

...And there was peace on Earth from that day on....
-Peter Wick
July 15, 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

#36 - The Dude Abides

My sister Keren hasn't called me Peter for more than 15 years.

It was a subtle thing at first.

It didn't fully sink in for the first few years, that she had actually changed my name.

I mean, when someone comes up to you and casually says, "Dude, you forgot this thing," you take the thing and go on with your day.

I don't know if Keren saw "The Big Lebowski" when it was first released in 1998, or sometime later. You could proobably pinpoint the last time she called me Peter to the day before she saw the film.

As the name slowly settled on me it began to change my own view of myself.

To be fair, I may not fit ALL the classic traits of a classic Dude, but in a family of teachers and college professors, I am definitely, by comparison, the Dude of the family.

For example. I failed at choosing a "sensible" career. I have never cared about money (this has had both good and - those who know me will be quick to point out - bad consequences). I have dabbled in a sort of half-assed semi-Buddhist approach to life. I have always bought the cheapest, oldest cars I could find, and driven them until they just stop working, sometimes stranding myself in the middle of nowhere with a broken car. This trait caused my good friend Roberta Orlandi to compare me to her dear departed brother, who she described as always driving a 'broken car.'

I have even, recently, become what is called an ordained "Dude-ist Preist." (This isn't hard to do. You just go to a website, say you want to be ordained, and blammo, you're ordained.) I think I have even, a time or two in my life, said, "Fuck it, let's go bowling."

Keren and I were teammates on a recreational coed socccer team for several years, and there were many times when she saw me losing my cool with a referee (I am always right, Referees are always wrong). Keren would walk toward me and simply say, "Dude." Imagine John Goodman's "Walter" telling Jeff Bridges, "Dude, you're being very un-Dude right now," and I think you see where I am going with this.

When I moved into a new apartment near Venice Beach, California last year, a friend who was helping me move told me, "This is the final step of your Dude-ist journey."

"I don't know," I said. "This might just be the beginning."

So I credit my sister Keren for starting a series of events that has now led to..."It Is What It Is."

The character Zenny Zeller is a Dude.

I wasn't sure what to call him at first. I mean, he's a Dude, but I couldn't name him "Dude" out of respect for Jeff Bridges. There's only one "Dude;" Bridges' Jeffrey Lebowski. But there are many many Dudes in this world. It's not a name Bridges, or Joel or Ethan Coen own, but I have to respect "The Dude" and find another name for my character.

So I settled on Zenny, and I freely and openly admit that the character is influenced by Jeff Bridges' "Dude."

Putting out a new book makes me a little nervous. I am tempted to fret over whether readers will respond to it. I am tempted to worry whether the audience will get the same enjoyment from reading it that I got from writing it.

But when these worries creep into my mind, I remind myself to shrug it know....whatever happens happens.....It Is what It Is, man...The Dude abides.....

-Peter Wick
June 12, 2015 

"It Is What It Is" has now been published by Azzurri Publishing. Click the image below to link to the Amazon page:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

#35 - The Once and Future Sonics

I am a coffee drinker.

And a basketball fan.

And from Seattle.

These three facts combine, this time of year, to cause a churning inner turmoil.


If you have to ask, you obviously are unaware of the evil that lurks beneath the surface of the beautiful game of NBA basketball.

It has been seven years since Howard Schultz, owner and CEO of Starbucks Coffee (not evil), sold his then-ownership (evil) of the legendary basketball team Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma's Clay Bennet (very evil). The two men lied to the Seattle media about their intentions ("not") to move the team, all the while encouraged by then-NBA commissioner David Stern (most evil of all) to pack up the beloved team and ship them down to Oklahoma City to take on the new team name "Thunder."

During the years since, Seattle has had to go to court to make Oklahoma City return the 1979 Championship trophy. They have had to get another court injunction to keep the name "Sonics" in Seattle. And perhaps most galling of all, the greatest Sonic of all time, legendary point guard Gary Payton has had to turn down invitations from the evil impostors (OKC) to retire his jersey in a strange city where he never played. Payton (not fact a shining beacon of GOOD in this dark world) is to be commended for his loyalty to Seattle.

Perhaps a little perspective and background is in order.

The Chicago Bulls of the 1990's were evil. Yes, I am talking about Michael Jordan's 6-time winning Bulls.

By the way, the greatest player of all time has the initials MJ, but he is Magic Johnson, not Michael Jordan.

Anyway, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Detlef Shrempf, Nate Macmillsn, and many other shining beacons of GOOD in the world, coached by the brilliant Geroge Karl, faced the Chicago Bulls in the 1996 NBA finals. People laughed. Most of the world was certain the Bulls would run all over the Sonics. What you don't know is the evil coach Phil Jackson performed several evil, satanic rituals, even sacrificing a wild marmot to the Prince Of Darkness, securing a devastating back injury to Nate Macmillan, thus ensuring that the evil Bulls would win a series that the Sonics WOULD have won, had there not been so much Satanic intervention.

I could go on. I could give you proof (secret photos of Phil Jackson performing ritual sacrifices to Satan, etc.) but I am a forward-looking person.

I have come to terms with my dissapointment in Howard Schultz. For a while after the sale I boycotted Schults' other business, Starbucks, but being addicted to coffee, I broke down, and finally decided I'll buy coffee from the guy. I just won't ever let him own a basketball team again.

I live in L.A. now, where I have been joking with Lakers fans for a few years, "What would you do if I decalred myself a Cippers fan?" Lakers fans laughed.

Secretly, I already was a Clippers fan. Once Chris Paul joined the team, I recognized a Gary-Payton-like talent. When Doc Rivers became coach, I was hooked. When that old racist moron was forced to sell the team to Steve Ballmer (who, being a former Microsoft CEO, has that much needed Seattle connection) I made the commitment. The Clippers are winning and the Lakers are on vacation.

The one thing missing from my basketball life?

The Sonics.

They will rise again. I have faith.

After writing this, I suppose I'll have to answer a lot of questions about calling certain people evil. I will just state once again, these are facts. I can't reveal my sources, but it is well known that Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, Dasvid Stern, Clay Bennett, Howard Schultz, and whoever else I happen to dislike in the game of basketball, comprise a secret society where sacrifices are made, souls are bought and sold, and the forces of darkness are used to compromise all that is good and pure in basketball.

At least Gary Payton won his championship in Miami with Shaq and Dwayne Wade in 2006.

What's that you ask? Didn't Shaq play for the evil Phil Jackson during a 3-peat by the Lakers? Sure, but, you know, anyone who liked Gary Payton enough to want him as a teammate....can't be ALL evil, can he?

Hm? What's that? Hey, stop asking questions, and just accept what I say.
-Peter Wick
May 14, 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

#34 - Wisteria and the Key West Companion Episodes

I got a call a week or so ago from Tim O'Hara, about an article he was writing for the Key West Citizen. I first met Tim two years ago, when he drove myself and Robert Silk around Key West, discussing historic sites and colorful historic events. At the time I was in the process of writing "Companion Episode 2 - Cooking The Books."

The article that prompted his call related to the island of Wisteria, a short boat ride from Key West, and the still-lingering controversy surrounding Bernie Papy's shady attempts to purchase the island in the 1950's.

I enjoyed chatting with Tim, and we agreed that digging around in the life of Bernie Papy never fails to amaze, amuse, and confuse.

Tim, of course, has to report news, something I have utmost respect for. I openly embrace the fact that I get to fictionalize an already fascinating story.

The three Key West Companion Episodes (each just 50-ish pages long) were originally published by Greg Banks at Wheelman Press as kindle-only novellas. I always saw them as coming together as a full second book, and in a few weeks, they will finallly be published together in one volume.

Below is an excerpt from that second episode, relating to the 'purchase' that is still making news. The fact that these events are still relevant, still alive and lingering in today's news, just brings home for me how enjoyable it has been to write this series:

Papy opened the door to his hotel suite, still wearing his pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers.
“Come in, Frank,” he said.
Frank Lester entered and shook hands with Papy. Papy put his arm around Frank Lester’s shoulder and patted him on the back.
“How have you been?”
“Wonderful, wonderful,” Lester said, in that business-speak that hides the truth as deeply as possible.
“So good to see you again.”
“When you called I was delighted to hear from you.”
“How are the wife and kids?”
“Wonderful. Couldn’t be happier.”
“Great. That’s great. Oh, forgive my appearance,” Papy said.” Not exactly business attire.”
“No, no,” Lester said, sinking into a plush sofa. “It’s your castle, Papy. When in Rome, and all that.”
Papy set two glasses on the small table between them, and poured bourbon into each glass. He offered Lester the bourbon and said, “Thanks for coming.”
“Not at all, not at all. The pleasure’s mine.”
“Well,” Papy said, sinking into an arm chair opposite Lester. “Let’s get down to business, shall we.”
“Let’s,” said Lester. “What’s cooking?”
“Wisteria,” Papy said.
Frank Lester looked at him questioningly.
Wisteria Island sits across from Key West, a small island, reachable only by a short boat ride.
“Doesn’t the navy own Wisteria?” Lester asked. “Don’t they dump their garbage on it?”
Papy smiled. “I’ll take care of the property deed. The navy doesn’t necessarily own it.”
“How are you going to pull this off, Papy?”
“Don’t worry about that,” Papy said confidently. “Let’s skip ahead to your part of this.”
“What’s my part?” Lester was beginning to feel a bit concerned.
“The part where you make money hand over fist,” Papy said.
“What do you have up your sleeve?” asked Lester.
“I’m already having Davis draw up the papers. By a few weeks from now, I’ll own Wisteria Island. Just trust me on this. Then we clean up the navy’s garbage, and begin building a top class resort.”
Lester thought for a moment. “I do like the idea,” he said. “I suppose my only concern is – “
“Let me handle the details,” Papy interrupted. “If you like the idea of building the best damn resort, on a beautiful little island a five minute boat ride from Key West, running the whole operation in-house, making all that money without breaking a sweat, if that sounds good to you, then let’s just agree in principle and sign the papers in a few weeks.”
“You’re a hard man to resist, Papy.”
“Then don’t resist.” Papy smiled broadly.
Frank Lester smiled back. There was a note of uncertainty in his smile. He raised his glass toward Papy.
“To cooking the books!” Papy said.
“To cooking the books,” Lester echoed.

Note: be sure to check out "Key West Special Edition" now available for Kindle. The paperbacks of both books will be available very soon.

Peter Wick
April 15, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

#33 - Sneak peak - Key West prequel short story "The King of the Keys."

[Note: "Key West - Special Edition" will be published by Azzurri Publishing next month. The new edition combines Wick's 2013 novel with previously unpublished prequel short story "The King of the Keys." The following is a short sample of the prequel story.]

The sun rose over Key West that Thursday morning as if it
were any other morning. This would be like no other morning in
Key West, though.

Gaines and Bill Lee watched as the fresh copies of the
Gazette came off the printing press. Bill’s “Old Jonah” story led
the front page.

Toward the bottom, in the lower left hand corner, where you
might miss it if you didn’t know to look for it, was a small notice
about the ten thousand dollar bolita jackpot.

Gaines put his copy back down on the stack. Bill could tell he
was nervous, but didn’t say anything.

“Alright,” Gaines said, “let’s get these papers out there.”

Maybe Gaines hoped the story would blow over quietly.
Bolita, after all, was out in the open in Key West. It was on the
streets. It was woven into the fabric of the local culture.

It was also illegal, of course.

The locals who played it, and especially the locals who ran it,
were very aware that it was illegal. Perhaps they did do it openly,
but they did not appreciate it being reported on.

Gaines' hope of a quiet day was shattered almost instantly.
Word spread quicker than fire through a paper factory.

In Tallahassee, Papy dropped his entire schedule for the day,
drove south from the capital, and complained for hours that his
driver wasn’t getting him to Key West fast enough.

Everyone in Key West knew Papy was coming. There was a
silence, a coldness on the streets that afternoon, regardless of how
warm the sunny weather was.

Sitting in the Gazette office, Gaines and Bill could feel it.
The phone was unusually silent. The street outside lacked it’s
usual bustle. Gaines buried himself in work, but Bill sat and stared
out the window.

Finally he could take no more, grabbed his hat and was gone
before Gaines could protest.

Bill walked down Duval Street. He could sense people
avoiding his eyes. In a town the size of Key West, everyone knew
everyone, and people avoided making eye contact only when they
had good reason.

He approached the Boat Bar, pushed the door open, and
stepped inside cautiously.

He wasn’t sure why he had come to the Boat Bar. Maybe it
was the ultimate test. Here, he would learn the true impact of the
bolita announcement.

If people on the street avoided eye contact, the opposite was
true in the Boat Bar. The moment he walked in the bartender
looked at him with stunned silence. Then the bartender turned to
his left, to the two goons and their boss, Walter.

These three gave Bill icy, piercing stares, looks full of
disgust, anger and outrage.

Bill walked to the bar, defying the gauntlet of outraged
stares, and tried to sit calmly.

“What’ll it be?” asked the bartender.

“Whisky soda,” Bill said.

The bartender waited a moment before moving. He glanced
quickly toward Walter and, receiving no response from him,
nervously poured a Whiskey soda.

The ominous silence of the Boat Bar was pierced only by the
staccato business-like mutterings of a tired poker game in the




Bill had his answer. Never before had silence told him so
much. He was in trouble and he knew it, deep, deep trouble.

Since first posted, Key West Special Edition has been published. Here is the amazon link:

-Peter Wick
March 13, 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

#32 - Introducing Azzurri Publishing

When Greg Banks of Wheelman Press published my short novel, "Key West" in January, 2013, it was the beginning of one of the most enjoyable creative ventures of my life. I had never planned to write a novel. "Key West" was a screenplay. I was pitching it around L.A. when I fell in touch with a manager who was in partnership with Greg. "Turn it into a novel," the manager said. "We'll publish it." I hesitated for, well, maybe for three seconds. I knew it was something I wanted to do. I never actually met Greg. He was located in Georgia. Everything was arranged over email and phone.

Surprisingly, the book began selling (some) right away. I remember sending an email during the first month after Greg published it, asking, "Has anyone, besides ten of my friends, bought the book?" It had already sold about 50 copies. Later, when Greg began sending me payments in the hundreds of dollars I couldn't force the dumb smile off my face. When I visited my partner in the project, Robert Silk (It was his original magazine article that started the whole concept, and his research that has shaped the story throughout) in Florida, and saw the book on a shelf in an actual Key West book store, I felt proud/happy/humbled...and about seven other emotions all mixed together.

Coming from a seafaring family, I imagined the "Wheelman" of Wheelman Press related to a ship's wheel. It was not until a year later that I learned the truth. The "Wheelman" of Wheelman Press was a referrence to the wheelchair Greg had been using to get around since he was a child.

In the Spring of 2014 Greg sent an email stating the very sad fact that he had been in and out of the hospital, twice in recent months, with complications from pneumonia and a respiratory infection, that he could no longer work, and had to close his company. He would be sending an amended contract, he said, returning all rights to me, so I could find a new publisher or publish it myself. I looked at the words for a long time...publish it myself. Hmmm.

I emailed back asking Greg if he could get me all of his distribution contacts. I began to like the idea of publishing myself, but only if I could also get the book onto the shelves of bookstores the way he did. He forwarded a gold mine of business contacts and details, and even helped transfer his existing editions (by then "Key West" also included the three 'Companion Episodes' which Greg had published as kindle-only novellas) over to my new Azzurri Publishing accounts.

So, technically Azzurri Publishing has existed since last Summer, but those editions still have the Wheelman Press imprint.

Coming soon, though, will be several new titles and editions unique to my own new company, Azzurri Publishing. In early April, 2015 the original "Key West" novel will be published as a "Special Edition," which will include a prequel short story titled, "The King of the Keys." A month later, in early May, the three Companion Episodes (which I always intended to fit together as a single second novel) will be published under one cover for the first time.

Two months after that, in July, 2015, I will be publishing a short novel titled, "It Is What It Is." I want to think that "It Is..." will eventually be my own next film a couple years later, but it's way too early to say that, so I can't say that (did I actually say that? I can't say that).

There will be other books, not all by myself, coming after that. I plan to publish books by a few other people eventually.

Azzurri is not the first publishing company I have been a part of. Once upon a time, my friend Smitty published magazines and small books under the compnay name, Box Dog Press. The name Box Dog Press came from our completely crazy Junior Varsity Basketballl Coach in tenth grade. He once diagrammed a play - a full-court press, which he called the 'box-dog press' - with seven players on the court. The "Seven-man Box Dog Press," we called it. He never did figure out how to sneak the extra two players onto the court without the referee noticing.

So, since "Azzurri" is named after the Italian National soccer team (Gli Azzzurri), both of these publishing companies have had sports-related names. Box Dog went on to release music and videos ("Dog Tapes"). Azzurri will get back to film prduction in another year or two.

In the mean time, I just want to dedicate the official launch of the publishing company to Greg Banks and Wheelman Press. There are few things that happen in life that are 100% positive. The year-and-a-half that I spent working with and associated with Greg, will remain a period of time I will always think of fondly, and then sadly. If it weren't for Greg - the "Wheelman" - there would be no Azzurri Publishing.
-Peter Wick
February 16, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#31 - The Cosby Concept

As a very young child at the beginning of the 1970's, I remember life being more or less one big laugh after another.

This is selective memory, of course. there was a lot of heavy non-laughter in my young life, as there is for everyone. My most vivid memories, though, seem to highlight the crazy, the wild, the humorous, and the amusing.

I was one of five kids, in a household out of control. My parents seemed at a loss. It wasn't just us three brothers. My two sisters contributed to the craziness as well. We lived in a medium-sized house on Lake Sammamish, about 20 miles from Seattle. When my sister Keren and I decided to find out what lake water felt like during freezing December temperatures, my Mom wisely stayed quiet. Keren and I changed into swim suits, opened the front door and ran down to the beach. We knew we were doing something ridiculous. That was the whole point of it. Be ridiculous.

We also knew, vaguely, that what we were doing was stupid, but we wanted to learn just HOW stupid it was first hand. We didn't want to take some grown-up's word for it. We had to go down to the freezing water and get in. So we did. It was COLD. It was FREAKIN' COLD! We ran in as far as we could before instantly screaming and running back up to the house. My mom just seemed amused. she probably thought we had learned our lesson. We had, but the lesson had two parts to it; first, yes, we learned never to run into a lake in the middle of December. (I mean, it was freakin' COLD!) Second, though, we learned that on some deeper level, it was damn good fun to flaunt our ridiculousness for all the world to see. Who else in either my school class, or my sister's, could brag that they had gone swimming in the freezing lake in the middle of December? It was a cocky brag because we both knew it was untouchable in its credibility.

Into this laughter-filled childhood world, came a performer of unusual and brilliant charm. I don't remember which album entered the house first. There were several; "Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow...," "I Started Out as a Child," "Revenge," "Why is there Air?" I don't even remember the comedy bits anymore. My memory is like an impressionist painting of moments. Cosby's voice playing characters, telling stories from childhood, making me laugh with his creative, magical stories. We couldn't see the performance. We could only listen to Cosby's voice, but that was enough. It was eye-opening.

When "Fat Albert" came along it was a natural must-see for a while.

Life as a child is always in flux, though. Each year brings a whole world of new interests and new fascinations. I don't remember losing interest in "Fat Albert." I just know that it was on my radar for a while, and then it wasn't anymore.

I became a teenager and wanted edgier fare. My comedy needed some bite to it. Before "Bill Cosby,: Himself," came along in the early 80's, I had become a loyal fan of ground-breaking comics like George Carlin and Richard Pryor. I didn't expect much from "Himself." I remember watching it with my girlfriend, though, who did not have the same Cosby background that I had. To her, Cosby was just some guy. To me he was THAT guy, the guy from my childhood, the kids guy, the brilliantly funny kids guy.

"Bill Cosby: Himself" was a masterpiece. Unlikely as it seemed, my girlfriend and I were won over. We watched many episodes of "The Cosby Show" together, losing interest maybe three seasons in, as life provided - again - edgier fair.

Cosby was "Cosby." He wasn't just a performer, or a celebrity. He was a concept. Cosby epitomized 'safe' middle class classiness. Uncontroversial, rooted to daily life, and still creative and brilliant.

Life went on.

A year or two ago, I happened to catch Cosby, now in his 70's, on Jimmy Fallon (The Late Show, before Fallon took over the Tonight Show). It was a fascinating performance. Cosby for some reason ended up sitting on the floor, doing stand-up from a previously un-tried position. Then as his age began to take over, he began to improvise (it had to be improvised) about how, at this age, you should never get down on the see, because you might never be able to get back up. Fallon got down on the floor next to him and they conducted the most unusual, hilarious interview I'd seen on late night television.

I felt comforted afterwards. Maybe Cosby was not the number one influence in my life, but he was there. He was deep in my psyche, going back to childhood, and it felt comforting to know that he was still COSBY in old age.

When the avalanche of sexual allegations poured down on him, from more than a dozen women, recently, allegations of disturbing, secretive, predatory behavior, dating all the way back to the 1970's, I needed some time to process what was happening.

As a society we sometimes respond to celebrity scandals with ever-shifting double standards. Sometimes we are ready to drop a favorite celebrity instantly. Other times we forgive or we wait patiently, allowing for the presence of uncertainty to weigh on our judgment.

Michael Jackson's child abuse allegations are a case in point. I had little patience for Michael Jackson after that episode, Yet many fans held tightly to the lack of a legal conviction, and gave him continuing support, respect and love until his untimely death.

I lost faith in Bill Cosby fairly quickly, and surprisingly (surprisingly for me, anyway) easily. It was a sad moment. Cosby meant something to me. Yet, I had little trouble wrapping my head around the concept of that near-perfect middle-American ethos, hiding dark, disturbing, criminal secrets. It made sense in that it didn't seem at first to make any sense at all.

Perhaps the 'Cosby thing,' that too perfect image, was so powerful that behind the scenes, deep in his own heart, he believed he had carte-blanche in the world.

Cosby has not been proven guilty of anything....yet. In a criminal sense, he is innocent until proven guilty. One wants to be fair and give him the benefit of the doubt until something as conclusive as a court judgment either convicts or acquits him.

Even without that, though, the weight of the allegations, the number of women, the manner in which they came forward, collectively and individually, make it impossible to maintain faith in either Cosby as a person, or 'the Cosby concept' as a cultural ethos.

Chris Rock said "We lost Cosby this year," even though Cosby is still alive.

Chris Rock is right. We lost Cosby. The Cosby influence in our culture - and it was huge - is dead. Or it is dying. It is terminally ill.

It is a sad passing, because, as Cosby titled one of his early albums, I started out as a child.
-Peter Wick
January 14, 2015