July 30th, 2010

Blow My Mind

A sign of the craziness of the past week or so

Wow, it felt decadent to sleep in ONE FULL HOUR.

Current plan is to take today off. This is partly related to my team at work spending SEVERAL EXTRA HOURS at work last night; I left at 10 and three of my co-workers were still at it, though they were hoping to leave soon-ish themselves. Work can reach me if I am needed, but here, now, is time to myself. More recovery time. And I was still recovering from San Diego come last Wednesday, so yeah, I'll take this, especially after overtime.

I'm still alive, in other words. You? (Though if you're not alive, getting a reply from you would leave me FLABBERGASTED.)

San Diego: The Wrong Voice (Meeting Peter David)

So last Saturday at San Diego Comic Con I finally met Peter David, Writer of Stuff in person!

You know how people meet someone they've only seen in films or on TV and the cliché reaction is to say "I thought you'd be taller"? I had to keep reminding myself that, for most of the nearly 20 years I've read Peter David, I imagined his voice wrong.

I figured he had a deep voice. I'd read his But I Digress... columns imagining he was speaking in a deep voice. I knew he has a big voice, a doesn't-need-megaphones voice, a singing voice even (he's done community theater near where he lives on Long Island), and I -- maybe because I'm someone with a deep voice -- figured his was deep, too. I'd probably describe Peter David's voice wrong, so I'll keep it simple. It's higher than I expected. I first found that out back in 2007 when I saw a video clip of him talking about his work on the Dark Tower comic series he, Robin Furth and Stephen King are writing. Then I saw his clip in the Harlan Ellison documentary Dreams With Sharp Teeth and had that reinforced. Now I know it's that way in real life. I'll try to recalibrate how I hear his voice!

I'm used to deep voices, I decided. I've grown up around a lot of deep-voiced people. I notice voices. Heck, I'm often attracted to voices. Alicia has a good voice. Another deep one, actually. Or deep by female standards. My paying-attention-to-voices made me notice how many high-voiced people tend to show up, for instance, in Joss Whedon casts. Firefly had more voice variety -- finally we get the deep voices of Ron Glass and Adam Baldwin -- but maybe Whedon likes the higher voices. Hmm: what's his wife's voice like?

But I digress. Wow, who'd've thought I'd do that while writing about Peter David?

Anyway. I had a happy in-person meeting with a guy I've read since 1991. I saw him while he was signing at the Boom! Studios booth, signing the comic Amory Wars which he's working on with artist Claudio Sanchez. I didn't get anything signed -- I hadn't brought anything for signing, and I tend not to ask for signatures (though FRANK DARABONT AND DREW STRUZAN? SPECIAL CASE), plus hey, maybe that'll give him a rest from signing, which if you do it long enough is murder on your wrist. I'm providing a public service! That's what I tell myself Anyway! We talked about the con and how I won my trip to it, and I avoided just geeking out and talking talking talking to the dude, and by the end of our brief visit we were doing goofy variations on the Vulcan salute. I shared my brother T.J.'s version "Live long...and BE BLIND!" [fake stab), though I added that T.J. got me into Peter David so I can thank my brother for that. Peter also asked if I could do the Vulcan salute with both hands, and I did so but as I did so, I asked "I'm not Jewish, am I allowed?" (The Vulcan salute is based on a temple gesture that happens when the congregation was supposed to have its eyes closed, but young Leonard Nimoy sometimes sneaked a look, and never forgot that gesture.)

By the way, Peter's a conscientious parent. I was hovering near the booth to get photos when a woman with a child handed him a little bendable Gumby doll, and he got concerned and said not to have that around kids because of the wires and the dangerous swallow-ability of the thing and how he'd hate for that to happen to anyone's kids. He's a father of four daughters, all neat people, so he knows what he's talking about.

(I should've mentioned to Peter that one of my favorite people, my Grandpa Bob, was also the father of four daughters.)

Thank you for your time, your work, and your being a good person, Peter David.
Blow My Mind

"Life is a movie, write your own ending" would've taken on SUCH A DIFFERENT MEANING had I liked this

Twelve years on, I'm still not convinced.

I just finished re-reading a book I first read in 1998, pop culture analyst Neil Gabler's Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality. Gabler felt that throughout the United States's history, we'd been trying to take Shakespeare's thought "All the world's a stage: And all the men and women merely players" to an extreme by basically treating life as a piece of entertainment. Make life more dramatic, more sensational, more like a movie, or a TV show (sitcom? Drama? Porn? Whatever you want!), or an ad.

It's a throw-possible-examples-at-you book -- See? This is someone trying to act like he's in a movie! And her, too! And him! And this group! -- and something then and now rubbed/rubs me the wrong way about how it's written. I think some of the ideas have merit; I don't think he really sells his ideas, though. I have trouble seeing the shape of his arguments, so then as now I just got frustrated with the book. Eventually this time I was trying to read it as fast as possible so I could get back to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Stephen King's Rose Madder, the other books I'm working on.

Even one section that struck me as compelling back in 1998, a section titled "Celebrity With a Thousand Faces," seems less compelling now. Gabler's argument there is that the lives of celebrities are more and more reported in terms that seem borrowed from the monomyth that Joseph Campbell distilled for Western audiences. It's all a Hero's Journey, Gabler wrote, where the hero or heroine (in this case, the celebrity) experiences the bizarre world of Hollywood -- often humbled by having a flop, only to regain credibility with a new success -- and conveys life lessons that we, as consumers of their work, can draw on and learn stuff from, as long as we're reading celebrity profiles and watching Extra. Now...I don't see that. My response to the idea is Are people really learning life lessons from how much of an allegedly abusive asshat Mel Gibson has been to his ex-girlfriend?

Life the Movie may (may, may) have influenced my thinking: reviewing Scream 3 back in 2000, I wrote "I’ve always liked that Scream is, in part, about the limits of using films as a way of understanding life (the characters’ frame of reference comes almost entirely from movies). If you’ve seen it all at the movies, the Scream films say to me, you haven’t really seen it all." At some level, I'm simpatico with the concept that many of us treat life like performance art, like a film. (C'mon, I like Andy Kaufman.) But I resisted it throughout Gabler's book-long argument. Partly because it felt like a harangue. It felt like he was saying "There is only one possible explanation for all of this, and that is my theory."

I've read better books by Gabler, specifically An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, which has been used as a textbook, and his biography Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. And maybe I'm enough of an entertainment business observer to appreciate his book about gossip columnist Walter Winchell. Maybe. But there's other stuff to read. Stuff that, I hope, makes me think more.