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Wil Wheaton Tag

Twenty-five years ago, on August 8, 1986, Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me opened in limited release (opening in wide release on August 22).

In 1982, one of my favorite Stephen King books Different Seasons was published, consisting of four novellas that each correspond to a season of the year. I love this book so much because three out of the four tales do not have anything whatsoever to do with the supernatural — a bit of a departure for King. One of his strengths as a writer is his ability to create real flesh and blood people who populate his stories, no matter how crazy things get. This ability especially shines in Different Seasons, and anyone who doubts the writing talent of Stephen King should read at least one of the stories from this book.

Three of the four stories, the same three that do not rely on anything supernatural, have been made into films — the first being Stand By Me which was adapted from The Body. The second film to come from this source was The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Frank Darabont’s flawless adaptation of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Unfortunately my favorite of these stories, Apt Pupil, failed as a film (released in 1998), mainly due to the fact that director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Brandon Boyce changed the ending so significantly that they pretty much rendered the rest of the story pointless.

The screenplay for Stand By Me, by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon (who also wrote 1984’s Starman) is remarkably faithful to its source, right down to the moment where Gordie encounters the deer — one of my favorite little incidents from King’s story that I couldn’t believe made it into the movie. Future adapters of Stephen King material take note: it’s the small character moments like this that make me an admirer of the author’s work, and leaving such moments out of the movie — even though they might not advance the plot — is utterly stupid.

In college, I took a sociology course called “Media and Society.” The professor who taught it made a point of differentiating between the concept of fame and that of celebrity: the former, he argued, had existed from ancient times and resulted from the performance of admirable or heroic deeds, while the latter was a purely modern condition that anyone with a talent for getting attention could attain, whether their accomplishments were truly significant or purely superficial. To his assessment, I would add that while fame may weigh heavily on the shoulders of those it has chosen, celebrity eats its victims alive. The second half of the 20th century is, culturally speaking, largely defined by a timeline of celebrity deaths, most of which were a result of drug use or other self-destructive behavior: James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Hendrix, Janis, Jim Morrison, Sid Vicious, John Belushi, Kurt Cobain. The 21st shows no signs of reversing this trend, if the demises of Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, and Anna Nicole Smith are any indication.

In recent weeks, the Faded Celebrity Death March has kicked into high gear, giving further credence to my former prof’s theory: even people we no longer care about in life can revive their “careers,” as it were, by dying tragically. First there was the suicide of Andrew Koenig, a second-generation celeb (his father played Chekov on Star Trek) who was best known for playing a character called “Boner” (that would never make it past Standards and Practices today) on Growing Pains. Then came news of the untimely but all-too-predictable death of Corey Haim, half of the once-powerful “Corey and Corey” movie duo. Considering how public Haim’s struggles with drugs have been, and how obscure Koenig became following his departure from the Seaver universe, the amount of press coverage both events received is somewhat surprising.

wootstockWhy, you ask, would I be excited to attend an evening with Paul and Storm and Wil Wheaton? Because I am a geek, that’s why.

Paul and Storm, if you’re not familiar, are a singer-songwriter-guitar-playing comedy duo who compose and perform songs generally geek-related in some way. My first exposure to them was during their opening set before a Jonathan Coulton concert (who is by the way is also a brilliant singer-songwriter who writes humorous songs about things such as mad scientists, zombies, and writing computer code). Paul and Storm came out on stage that night and the first song they did is called “Opening Band” with its lyrics “We are the opening band … We are here to do five or six or seven songs, don’t go too long, and get the hell off the stage … We are the opening band … We’re probably not the band you came to see tonight … but it’s alright, ’cause soon we’ll go away!” Anyone sitting in the audience that night who wasn’t familiar with their work (such as myself) was instantly won over.

Fittingly, the first song of w00tstock was Paul and Storm’s “Opening Band” — which, by the way, is available for the video game Rock Band. Geek power, yo!