Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday Warriors

Batten down the hatches, ladies and gentlemen… it’s Black Friday.
That’s right, Black Friday, that time of year that comes earlier and earlier each year to the point that it’s started cutting into Thanksgiving Day. By 2050, scientists fear that the next year’s Black Friday’s Deals will actually start on the preceding year until eventually, it causes a time vortex that destroys us all.

For those of you who don’t know (and I know that just about everyone who is reading this knows what Black Friday is, but I have a joke, damnit, and I’m going to make it) Black Friday is the day that used to fall the day After Thanksgiving where everyone who hasn’t heard of the internet runs to overcrowded malls to trample people for half priced televisions under the guise of giving gifts, but instead thinks it looks really nice in front of their couch so they’re just going to go ahead and keep it right there.
I can’t think of a better way to kick off the time of year when we celebrate the birth of the world’s most famous pacifist who preached a lifestyle of poverty than to physically threaten our fellow man over the last half priced Playstation, can you?

Quick history lesson: Black Friday got its name not because Thogor the Black Knight, famed destroyer of worlds began his shopping on this day, and murdered seven people to get the last Tickle Me Elmo, (Kids, ask your parents) but rather it’s because it’s the time of year that it’s believed many retailers go into the “black” in some ways assuming that the rest of the year they’re in the red, which is a horrible, horrible way to run a business. My explanation for the name is better.

Here’s another nugget of wisdom for everyone: it’s not the biggest shopping day of the year, rather it’s December 24th, around that time that you’ve realized that it’s December 24th, and oh my Cage you didn’t pick up those last few things on your list that you really, really, really needed to pick up. 

I actually participated in a Black Friday Event, once. this was back in the good old days, when the stores opened at Midnight on Black Friday, thus technically getting around the whole “it’s open on Thanksgiving” and appeasing the crowd that routinely complains about forcing people to work on Thanksgiving and I guess magically believe that all the trash following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the concessions sold at the Football Games are done by magical fairies that do not celebrate Thanksgiving, but rather another, more magical holiday that we all give them the day off. 

Yes, simply for the experience, I “lined” up outside a local Target to buy… well, nothing, really. I had the next day off and I just felt like going out. And I use the word “line” in quotes” because to be honest with you at that point it was less a line so much as a mass gathering of people that threatened to erupt into mild shopping at any moment. And by the time they let us in, it was really just chaos as pretty much any person could just walk up. I think someone did. I don’t remember.

I was woefully unprepared. The person in front of me had a Target catalogue with all the sale items circled and post-it notes on most items color coded to whom they would be purchased for. I don’t think I organize my notebooks that well. In fact, I’ll just say it, I don’t organize my notebooks that well. I still keep bookmarks with loose receipts I get, probably from a movie somewhere.

Now, I should point out that I did have some experience with Black Friday. I used to work right above a Target. This Target was unique in that it probably did more business on weekdays, when people were at work and bored (or dodging out on a fire drill like some people who will remain nameless, Sharon) than it did on weekends when it was largely inaccessible in that it was in a place in Northern Virginia, and just about everything is inaccessible in Northern Virginia on the weekends. I think our motto is “come because we’re really close to Washington, DC, stay because you can’t leave.” 

This particular Target was pretty cool, because after the throngs of people would raid it and get the deals, my co-workers and I, that were totally working on the day after Thanksgiving instead of coming to the office and just goofing off, would head down at an approved break time (totally, I swear) and pick over what was left. I actually got some good deals, and I didn’t have to beat an old lady as I grabbed that cool pair of Superman Socks that I would never wear.

Back to this midnight Target event, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this. I’ve been in crowds. I’ve stood in line to get Billie Piper’s Autograph, and that involved talking to a guy dressed as the Joker for 2 hours. I’ve been shoved up against a door as a roof collapsed from ice. (I should have probably led with the last one. I made my notes, I’m sticking too it.) but I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people running for, let’s be honest, stupid stuff, before in my life.

Hey, I love my gadgets. I’m not returning my PS4 or my big TV anytime soon. But I’m also not going to run, Mad Max style, towards it, leaving as much carnage as possible in my wake.

For the most part, it was calm, just with a lot of people. I know there are stories about people who hurt other shoppers because that’s totally what Jesus would want this time of year. I realize that it could be worse, and my experience was kind of lame. I mean, I did find some cool games on like, mega sale, so I did pick those up (the lines weren’t bad, either. People got us in and out.)

I don’t know that I really had a point when I started writing this. Part of it is, well, the fact that you should probably just order whatever online. That way you get to drink hot chocolate in front of a fire and watch some movies instead of fighting with parking spaces and then having to walk all the way to a store. Who needs it. Plus, if you time it right, by the time you’d be crashing carts with someone, Ben-Hurr style, you could be getting your second helping of Turkey without anyone knowing. (That’s the strategy. Get your seconds after everyone is in their food coma.)

Happy Holiday Season, everyone!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving from Bad Shakespeare

Today is Thanksgiving. Despite the fact that a lot of meals have been pushed up to get to the malls faster to celebrate the spirit of gettin’ (which I’m not against, especially if someone wants to get me a replica of Captain Mal’s coat from Thinkgeek… just sayin’) and the fact that if you turn on the news right now it seems like you have your choice of dying horribly from disease, violence, or the weather, there really is a lot ot be thankful for.

In our own lives, we tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the worst of things. I know I have. I’ve spend plenty of time worrying about things that in the long run, don’t ultimately matter. Which is why i find Thanksgiving to be so important, because, as the name implies, it’s the one day that we should sit down to our meal and really think about what it means to be thankful for things. I don’t just mean to say thanks, but to actually think about what we have to be grateful for. 

In that vein, I’m presenting to you Bad Shakespeare’s official things to be thankful for. Don’t worry. this isn’t all touchy-feely-hooray stuff. I’ve got some humor in here.

I’m grateful to have a family that tolerates me. Oh, I could say “love.” But “tolerate” is so much more than “love.” You can love someone and never really want to see them again. You can love someone because you HAVE to because you’re related by blood, marriage, or the secret knowledge of where they body is buried. But i have a family that tolerates me. I have a family that, when I said “hey, I don’t want to be a teacher anymore” they all said, “duh, now go get your English Degree or your out of the will.” (just kidding. I’ve been out of the will for a long time.) I have a family that when I said, “hey, I’m going to get a Doctor Who Tattoo over my arm” they rolled their eyes and figured at least it wasn’t something obscene or even worse like Star Trek: Voyager. 

I’m grateful that I live in this unprecedented time of geekdom. When I was a little Bad Shakespeare, we had to tolerate merely mediocre versions of our favorite movies and TV Shows. An X-Men movie was the fevered dream of a madman, and they were rotating directors in a Superman movie like a Kardashian Husband. Don’t get us started on Steel. The less said about that, the better. But in this day and age, the geek is celebrated. We have movies, books, TV Shows… science fiction and fantasy is everywhere. I don’t have to hide my encyclopedic knowledge of what all the Kryptonites do, nor do I have to tell everyone that Christopher Eccelson was my first Doctor, I can be honest and say I watched it back when it was really weird. Cyborg pirates controlling planets weird. 20 foot scarf weird. 

I’m grateful that I have friends, good friends, that not only put up with my schemes, but remind me of who I am. I can study all the Shakespeare, Chopin, and Steinbeck I want, but I’m lucky I’ve got a friend who reminds me that I can still enjoy two men fake-beating up on each other to fake-win a belt. Sometimes they do it in a steel cage, and even if the winner is pre-determined, it’s still exciting. I’m lucky I have a friend who, when I say, “I wonder who I can go see a 9 hour Hobbit movie marathon with?” she stands up and says, “Nine hours? Pfft. Where’s the other 15 hours?” I’m lucky that I have friends across the country, but the second I need help they’re the first people to say, “what do I need to do?” 

I’m grateful that I live in a time when science has evolved to the point that can order a book anywhere, anytime, and read it, all on a magic device that looked magic when Picard was holding one. I’m as cool as Picard. Booya. Science has also allowed me to put three birds inside each other and cook them into a delicious meal. 

I’m grateful my hair is as exciting as it is. 

I’m grateful that I got out of a program I really didn't enjoy. And not because it’s not a good profession, but because it wasn’t for me. If i were in that program, I wouldn’t be driving you all crazy by reminding you every week that I’m going to London to study for a month. Did I let you know that I’m going to London to study? That’s right. London: Home of the Benedict Cumberbatch.

I’m grateful that I’ve found a movie theater with leather reclining seats. 

        I’m grateful for you. Yes, no matter how many of you read this, it’s more than one, which means it’s not just me double checking how the blog appears on the page. So, thank you for reading my insane ramblings. You're the best. You know who you are. 

Oh, and one more, I’m lastly really grateful for our future robot overlords. You know, when they finally read this. 

Thanks, y’all. Happy Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's the Great Turducken, Bad Shakespeare!

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, except me, preparing a dish I’ve always wanted to do, and that is a Turducken!

First, some quick background. Let’s start with the fact that the previous sentence didn’t rhyme, and I think we can all agree that my written prayers to our Patron Saints of the Movie Seasons, Tom Hanks, Nicolas Cage, and Joss Whedon, all prove that I’m so-so when it comes to the whole poetry thing. I’ll stick to funny wordplay here and leave the rhyming to the professionals like Taylor Swift. and whoever writes for Ariana Grande.

Secondly, Thanksgiving is my second favorite Holiday behind Nicolas Cage’s Birthday, but just before Christmas. It used to be Christmas, mostly because I enjoyed the run-up to Christmas so much what with everyone pretending to be nice to each other for 25 days, but the “War on Christmas” and the people who freak out if you say “Happy Holidays” pretty much ruined that for me. Just be nice to everyone, people. If they say “Happy Holidays” they’re being nice, they’re not attacking your way of life. 

Also, we need to celebrate Nicolas Cage’s Birthday this year. It’s January, but we’ll get a tree and all exchange insane movie roles that morning, and then we’ll have a big feast where everything is set on fire. This is after we steal the ceremonial Declaration of Independence, mind you.

In any event, I don’t talk about it much on this blog, but I like to cook. I’m actually part of an award-winning BBQ Team, the Crazy Rednecks. I should probably write those up sometime soon, my experiences in the world of BBQ Competitions, but that’s not what I’m talking about today, today I’m talking about Turducken.

For those of you who don’t know, Turducken is a magical creation where someone decided to stuff a duck inside of a chicken inside of a turkey, then allowed all the magical flavors to meld together during the cooking process. It’s actually quite a beautiful sight. I’m not really sure when it was invented, and I’m too lazy to look, but I’m going to pretend it was invented by Benjamin Franklin because, let’s face it, if it’s food related he probably invented. The man loved to eat, drink, and get stoned. The idea of cramming 3 birds together and cooking them all at once probably came from him after he’d gotten stoned while drinking and probably wanted a way to eat all birds at once. 

But I’ve never made one before. The first trip the the butcher to get it prepared was a bit nerve wracking. I’ve been to the butcher before, but this was the first time I put in an order this special. You see, just cramming the birds together doesn’t really do much in terms of flavor, they have to be deboned, , then usually they’re layered with different types of stuffing. I was all prepared with my stuffing recipes and my full explanation of what it was when I approached the butchers. I had even done research on the best one around, and settled on the one that was really close to my house because I hate driving. 

As I walked in, it was a magical meat paradise. I don’t know why I hadn’t gone in before, but there were nice, dry aged steaks, more sausages than you could imagine, and meat as far as the eye could see. There were even home-made rubs and BBQ Sauce, all lined up nicely. There was also a giant sign that said, “pre-order your Turducken today” which meant a lot of my planning had gone out the window in terms of what I was going to say and in terms of stuffing. Fortunately, my stuffing recipes aren’t really that good, so it was probably for the best that this place was willing to assemble all of the birds for me, like a giant poultry-frankenstein. 

Yay, for less work!

To prepare it, I’ll be cooking it in my smoker, because with the threat of snow coming nothing really sounds better to me than standing outside in the cold, cooking. That’s not as sarcastic as it sounds, there’s nothing better than getting the fire going, then sitting outside as the meat cooks to a nice temperature, all cuddled up in a blanket. Unless the other guys on my team ask, then I’m not “cuddled” anywhere so much as allowing the cold to bounce harmlessly off my more than masculine form. 

I also enjoy the act of cooking, believe it or not. I enjoy taking something and creating something new. Back at the start of the year, when I was doubting my degree, my time in High School, my life as a swim coach, and by extension most of my existence, I could always fall back on cooking. I still remember the day I decided to quit, the first thing I did was make these steak and lobster sandwiches for my friends who were attending a movie marathon, then I promptly snuck them in, and they feasted. I didn’t. But being able to create something they still talk about today, when I was at my lowest, it really meant a lot to me.

         I’m excited to get started with this Frankenfowl feast. I’m looking forward to putting it on the smoker, and creating something that people will love. I'm looking forward to just trying something new and exciting. It could turn out great. It could suck. That's the great thing about cooking something you've never done before: the adventure of trying something new.

I’m also making pulled pork, because I’ve made pulled pork before and let’s just say I’m also very skilled at making sure I’ve got a back up, and of course if it doesn't turn out we'll never mention this to anyone ever again. I'm adventurous, not crazy.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Are We Too Cynical When it Comes To Comic Book Movies?

Recently, both Marvel and DC Comics released their films for the next couple of years. It includes things like more Avengers, Batman going up against Superman, multiple versions of the Flash, and let’s not even get started on the movie spanning war that involves a bunch of gems and a magic glove. You’re going to have to trust me on this, it’s a pretty awesome series that no one every realistically thought would be made into a movie, much less into a movie featuring the same actors that have been playing the same movie roles for a couple fo movies now. 

This is tied in with a resurgence in Doctor Who, brand new Star Trek movies (and the possibility that a new Star Trek series is about to come out… I know, we get one of these rumors every few years, but this one feels more real), a bunch of new Star Wars movies featuring the original cast, not, “let’s set it in the past so we don’t have to use the same actors”… I mean, it’s really never been a better time to be a nerd. One of the biggest movies expected to open this year is an adaption of the Hobbit the way JRR Tolkien wanted it to be, as a real prequel to the Lord of the Rings as opposed to a cutesy one-off. The most popular books for teenagers are science fiction, Green Arrow has his own TV Show, and you can talk about phaser guns and space travel without the danger of getting a swirly. 

It’s never really been a better time to be a nerd. 

So, then… why are we so miserable?

Seriously, if you told 15 year old me that I could walk around with my Doctor Who tattoo while I waited for Thor and Captain America to duke it out on screen one week then watch the Flash while I wait for Batman and Superman to be in a movie together, I probably would have re-believed in Santa while imagining the Easter Bunny was throwing a surprise party for me on my birthday, and they were all bringing me presents. 

instead, we get petty complaints about useless stuff. Are we getting too cynical when it comes to movies like this? Are we getting too cynical in what we consider “good.”

First up, let’s talk about casting. The closest we came to the sound of heads exploding was casting in Batman. You know which one I’m talking about. The actor that everyone knows is going to mess up the role. He’s going to make it miserable, something terrible. How in the world could he have ever been cast? He’s going to mess it up, did you see the early pictures of Heath Ledger as the Joker? Yeah. That guy. Not Ben Affleck, who everyone is certain is going to one day mess up the character that was once played with dignity and respect by the great tortured actor Michael Keaton Adam West Val Kilmer George Clooney. 

Yes, I know this isn’t new, we’ve been mocking the idea of a certain actor taking over a role since the dawn of time, since that one bald English dude took over some role called “Captain Picard.” Sometimes you get a good surprise, like when Heath Ledger defined the Joker. 

My point is, that most of the debate seems to center around a movie that has had zero footage shown of it up until this point. 

Then is the dreaded… Superhero Fatigue. You see, over the course of 5 years, they’re releasing roughly a billion superhero movies. SURELY WE WILL ALL BE TIRED OF THEM BY THE END OF THE FIRST YEAR!! A quick look at Google and IMDB (I know, more research than I usually do) shows that roughly 8,000 movies were released in 2013. I’m not including 2014, so the year is not set. Yes, those aren’t all your oooooh… go see it now, titles, some may be one offs or special events, but that doesn’t change the fact that 8,000 movies recently came to theaters. 

The year that will have the most superhero movies released is 2016, with a whopping 7. So, using math, 0.0001% of movies released will be a Superhero movie. So… that’s a lot, maybe?

Again, my point is, in a perfect world where no actors get hurt, no movie times get changed, and everything comes out, you could go see 20 movies one year, and not even half of them would involve a dude in tights trying to save the world. Or destroy it, depending on what you’re watching.

Then there’s the whole Hobbit thing that I’ve tackled in the past, about how Peter Jackson was never adapting the Hobbit book, which is one little book and definitely not 3 long movies featuring cool cinematography and as many dwarf escape scenes in barrels as you could possibly want, along with sub-plots about hot female elves. Naturally it has it’s haters, but I’m surprised at the vitriol coming out about a movie that’s mostly just supposed to be… fun.

We live in an amazing time. Those static pictures… they’re moving now. The images in our head… they’re real now. That boy wizard went mainstream. A mind-bending-time-travel drama was so popular everyone tried to copy it. With cool special effects. I don’t think we realize how close we were to seeing Robert Downey Jr in a cardboard box painted red and having some filmmakers call it a day. (I caught Steel while I was working out this morning. Not Shaquille O’Neal’s finest work.)

What I’m saying is somewhere down the line, we lost our enthusiasm. That’s what made me want to be a nerd in the first place. We got cynical about “our” properties going “mainstream.” I say that’s awesome, let more people enjoy it. Let people know why we gathered for so long with our comic books, or our dreams of a brighter future, or even just the cool pew-pew laser battle stuff that made life so much worth living. Let’s be excited… Superman and Batman are about to throw down on film, and then I get to go watch Iron Man and Captain America duke it out, too, played by real actors. I’m going to watch the Hobbit… on the big screen, as part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy! Let’s all get excited again! Let’s bring back what it meant to be a kid, enjoying this stuff for the first time.

Or we can all go back to just being angry on the internet, and laughing at scenes from Big Bang Theory where a woman going into a comic book store is reason for everyone to stop and stare. 

Come on, everyone. Let’s drop the cynicism. Let’s go out and enjoy your comic books again! Let’s enjoy our movies again!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

So, I finally watched Snowpiercer...

Pictured: a man living off bugs for 17 years in a revolt that's supposed to be taking place in a tiny space. 

This past summer, I watched 42 movies. I even ranked them, sorta, talking about which ones I loved, like Let’s Be Cops or 22 Jump Street, or which ones should be burned, ashes buried, and all memory deleted lest aliens one day see them and judge us on them. Tammy. Transformers 4, because I refuse to call it Trans4mers. Heh. I guess that is kind of clever.

Throughout this movie odyssey in the summer, one movie kept coming up. “Hey, I’m glad you enjoyed Fault in Our Stars… have you seen Snowpiercer?” “OMG SNOWPIERCER FTW!” “Hey…. hey…. hey… Snowpiercer…” Even critics were like “Here we go, the BEST movie crafted is now Snowpiercer! Why aren’t you watching it?” Everywhere I turned recommended this movie to me, and told me I should be watching it. I was kind of excited. 

I didn’t actively avoid the movie. It has a lot of elements I really like. Sci-fi stuff. Post-apocalyptic societies. Trains. Captain America, somehow playing a dude who has been starving for 17 years but is somehow gorgeous. John Hurt doing his best Gandalf/Dumbledor/insert name of wise old character here. It was supposedly this awesome class/environmental/religious allegory with some beautifully shot sequences. 

But I didn’t get around to seeing it. To be honest with you, it was only playing at one theater that wasn’t my usual theater, and on in-demand and the whole criteria for me going to see the movie was that it be on the big screen, small screen was cheating just for my purposes. As much as I wanted to see it, I didn’t.

And after finally having had seen it, I’m kind of glad I didn’t, only because my post that had the movies I disliked already had 6 entries, and I would feel bad not being able to include one of those because this was on it. In other words, let Zoidberg tell you how you should feel about this movie.

I hated it. I couldn’t hate it any more. It wasn’t a genre-savvy satire of class structure and religion gone wrong. It was a two hour mess that made no sense, beat the viewer over the head for two hours with half-formed metaphors, and made no damn sense. 

Unfortunately, this puts me in the minority, one that gleefully points out that I enjoyed Damon Wayans, Jr and that other guy from New Girl (Jake Johnson) pretend to be cops in a series of wacky misadventures as if that matters. let me make it a bit clearer for you: Let’s Be Cops was clearly never going to be the best movie of the year. It wasn’t the funniest movie of the year. I don’t really think it was the funniest movie in the theaters that day. Damon Wayans, Jr, as much as I love him, will never be clutching an Oscar for his role as the lovable sidekick in that movie. But it was pretty well put together, and delivered on every promise that the trailer or reviews made. I had fun, and even if I can point out the many flaws, I still enjoyed the movie.

Snowpiercer wasn’t really marketed as “just an action movie” or “just a science fiction movie” or “just a movie about trains.” It was marketed about a mind-bending science fiction movie, then the hype furthered as it was the PERFECT ALLEGORY ABOUT CLASS! THE PERFECT ALLEGORY ABOUT RELIGION! THE PERFECT ALLEGORY ABOUT CORRUPT GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS.

For those of you who haven’t wasted your two hours, it is about a train called Snowpiercer that travels the globe following a catastrophic weather event to counteract global warming that has frozen the Earth. The train has set up a class system that is supposed to be complex but isn’t really: the poor live crammed in the caboose while the rich live in luxury (?) in the front of the train. The passengers in the tail room have decided to revolt, much like some other people revolt a few years ago, and seize the perpetual motion engine that runs the train. 

Spoiler warning: And it turns out that the whole revolt was a plot between John Hurt’s character, Gilliam, (who had some hand in building the train - don’t worry, they won’t explain what) and Ed Harris’ Wilford to thin out the population and thus resources, even though no resources are really being used to keep the tail section alive other than some bugs, and they don’t really provide anything other than kids to keep parts of the train running, although this is a new development. Also they may want Chris Evans’ Curtis character to run the train, but that may have been a ruse or something, and talking to him about it was out of the question for some reason. Did I cover everything? Oh, yes, and there’s a chance that the outside world is livable again. Our only shot about that was a Polar Bear, and there’s a good chance that the new bags of not readily available meat emerging from the broken train at the end were about to become food. 

Let’s start with the plot, which is this revolt that runs from the tail engine to “thin the herd.” The front engine people, who emerge as comic characters - thus negating the entire sense of despair and seriousness the first 10 minutes spend setting up - have such control over the characters in the tail end that they are able to burst in and shove a man’s arm out of an open window long enough for it to break off, because they find the wrong pair of shoes in his room. Again, after setting up this terrible environment, this entire moment is played off as a comedic scene. But they have this control… for what? If the plan is to thin out the herd, why go through every death in the movie when they could just slaughter the tail engine and throw them out the nearest window? Oh, wait… they do that, just after they’ve fought and managed to kill a pregnant woman, among hundreds of faceless thugs, in a moment that doesn’t really understand the way claustrophobic scenes are shot. the battle scenes in Braveheart are more claustrophobic than this.

Then there’s the ALLEGORY… THE TAIL END IS THE POOR PEOPLE, and THE RICH PEOPLE ARE UP FRONT and Willford IS GOD. Don’t worry. Not only will they not spend any time with this, but they’ll also not show you too many other rich people, except for a strange rave scene, and the kids of the rich people who are busy learning things. You’ll spend time with some of the officials, but again, they’re all zany, over the top, clowns. I get that some people did this intentionally, but this completely undercuts everything that was said. 

But with the poor people vs. the rich… that only works if we spend time with the rich people. But we don’t see any of them. We don’t how they live, except they get eggs on New Years… time isn’t really celebrated, as kids are in school AS THE NEW YEAR HITS. They have sushi once a year, in a scene that describes the concept of the movie for anyone who may have missed it when it gets repeated at the end. And a strange rave scene that’s comes back more as a zombie movie than anything else. But we dont’ see any living quarters, or anything else. There’s a kitchen that implies they have lots of food, but no cattle car or anything like that. 

There’s also zero world building in this. Yes, I know, some will argue, but see the point above bout the kids being in school with New Years It’s enough to make everyone stop what they’re doing any pay attention. It’s enough for people to get eggs. People are able to see and recognize their favorite spots, that they see once a year, but this is frustratingly vague. One character comments that he’s seen a spot slowly melting, despite the fact that he was locked in a closet for a good portion of the journey.

This is also a frustrating moment, because in the school we get a harrowing tale about the previous revolt -  the pregnant teacher who treats Wilford like a God points out that seven people tried to leave, and shows us their frozen, visible bodies from the train. Then two minutes later one of the nameless bad guys, having just revealed that all of the guns do in, fact, have bullets (there was a question as to whether all the bullets were used in the last revolt…. don’t worry, they weren’t) Then proceeds to try to shoot the government sanctioned revolt leader (Curtis) through the windows of the train.

The outside is dangerous! Let’s destroy the windows! Especially because we WANT to kill everyone in the revolt already. Never mind that we can just shoot the people we don’t need and dump their bodies out in the cold with no consequence, let’s have cool ninja type fight scenes. 

I could go on. The tone shifts wildly. We don’t get enough time with the allegories to get a real clear message. The ending is just so moronic (everyone dies. Except two people. Also, Curtis loses his arm, because it turns out he wanted to eat a baby, but Gilliam cut off HIS arm to feed Curtis. That baby was his best friend, who ended up dying several scenes earlier.) The movie itself almost plays out like a parody of thought-provoking science fiction dramas. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more had I treated it like that, instead of the great movie it was supposed to be. 

Again, this puts me in the minority, who will point out (and already have) pointed out that I liked other movies, so I guess it disqualifies (?) me from having an opinion on this movie that runs contrary of the pack. But, and I won’t even do the fake “I’m sorry”… I did not enjoy this movie. It was not a good movie. It wasn’t even a good stupid movie, like about half the movies I spend time rewatching. It was a punishing experience, made worse by the fact that it was supposedly this great movie that I was “supposed” to like. 

Monday, November 10, 2014


I am a horrible, horrible liar.

Well, not a liar, so much as a cheater. For you see, I really wanted to participate in this year’s Nanowrimo event. I like it. It gets me thinking differently, it gets me writing, and at the end of it I have a pretty decent 50,000 words that with editing, can probably amount to something that people would read. And some people might enjoy.

Yes, I know there are those that dislike Nanowrimo, either because they feel they are serous writers and people trying to do it for fun somehow takes away from their craft, or because they’re just haters in general. But its fun. Not everyone is going to write the next War and Peace or Karate Kid Three Novelization, but hey, it’s fun. I like doing it.

However, I also, as you loyal blog readers know (and some of you disloyal ones, exploring the archives) am firmly entrenched in Graduate School. English Graduate School. In the next month I have to analyze and present two movies, one not even in English, I have to write a five page paper about another movie, all while researching slavery and this one guy who’s writing devolved into angry rants against it, not to mention preparing for next semester and that whole England trip.

So it’s been busy, and I knew it would be busy.

I also know I am a crafty individual, so I started writing a few sections of Nanowrimo a bit early. Not a whole lot, just enough to get me started. It was a vast story about a ghost narrating a supernatural mystery in a high school. It was also some of the worst writing I’ve ever done in my entire life, and I include the customer service sections of this blog as part of that. I mean terrible. First season of Star Trek: The Next Generation terrible. (or later seasons of Star Trek: Voyager terrible. I mean, seriously, we’re going to end on future Janeway, and the whole Chakotay/Seven thing that appeared out of nowhere….)

Ok, I’m back on topic now.

Anyway, I realized around October 31st that this was pretty terrible, and I got the Student Council idea, and YA High, and, well… I thought maybe i could find time to crank out 1600 words a day about an evil plot to rule the world through high school students.

Didn’t work out very well. I couldn’t find the time to do it after about three days. I was already behind, and things weren’t working for me, because every time I sat down I’d get lost in a sea of trying to figure out what the hell I was going to write next.

So, I decided to end this year’s little trip down Nanowrimo way in favor of concentrating on my studies, and well, a few other things. One of my goals this year was to get published in something. And while I have a few rejection letters to show I tried (or rejection emails I guess… people don’t really use paper nowadays. It’s great for trees, but terrible for the upcoming human/tree war.) I haven’t done that yet. There’s so much for me to do, I can’t focus on it right now.

i’m a little sad I don’t have that push this year, and I do like seeing what happens when I just decide to go for it and say, “Sure… let me just write and see what happens”. But on the other hand, I’ve got a lot going on, and it’s not like I’m not writing every day. Sure, there’s no Nicolas Cage trying to take over the world, but there’s still some cool stuff involving a planet trying to destroy our planet in one of the most depressing movies ever.

So, I’m going to keep blogging, I’m going to keep talking about the upcoming robot/tree/human war, and I’m going to keep stretching my writing muscles here. There will just be as much of a time crunch to get it all done.

Continue to enjoy everyone!

For those who did care, it turns out the Student Council secretly ran the world, and some of the kids were going to team up with George Washington’s ghost to stop the evil school. I know, awesome, right?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

YA High: Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Lex had only been waylaid by his brief experience with the new kid Quint by only a few minutes. The person had to be Quint, only two people were starting school today and it didn’t look like Tina, his younger sister. Lex’s job as Master of Elections was to know who everyone was, so it didn’t take much to realize that this was probably Quint, and, for the time being, somewhat unimportant. 

This  delay still gave him plenty of time to get to Ms. Masters classroom so they could discuss whatever issue had just come up. 

Normally, Alex tended to ignore the notes that Ms. Masters would send until the end of the day, but she had a very strict system: blue meant that it was a low level change that needed to be taken care of. Yellow meant that the action was immediate, but could wait until the end of the day. Mauve… and she used that word “mauve” not “purple”… meant that there was an emergency, and he was to drop everything and rush to her classroom immediately. 

The note just said “now” and it was on mauve paper.

Lex had been Master of Elections since the beginning of the year. He had gotten plenty of blue notes, and a few yellow ones, but he hadn’t seen any mauve ones until today. In fact, he was fairly convinced they were a myth, passed down from one MOE to another as a scare tactic. “Watch out for the mauve ones,” said graduating senior Allyson Turner before she vanished into whatever mysterious ether that she disappeared into. 

He stopped just short of her classroom and caught a glimpse of himself in one of the longer windows that flanked her classroom. He was disheveled, tie out of place, shirt undone, and blonde hair sticking up all over the place. His glasses were smudged. He took a moment to correct these flaws before opening the door and stepping inside.

“Please, Mr. Smith. Sit down,” she said in a calm tone. Her voice was very proper, like what he’d imagine someone trying to describe what a British Accent should sound like to an American.

Lex sat down in one of the padded chairs that each classroom at Yancy Adams High was equipped with. He noticed it wasn’t his usual chair, or at least, it was in the usual position, but was not the same one that he normally sat in. The one he normally sat in had a stray black mark from where a sharpie had gone off a poster from the previous MOE, ruining the table. He kind of liked the randomness of it. He finally noticed the desk a few feet away in another location. He thought of getting up and sitting at it, but he figured it as probably some kind of test.

There were always tests at Yancy Adams High.

Lex waited. And after a few minutes of nothing but the sound of a ticking clock - again, it was as if Ms. Masters had them come in to fix the clock to make it louder - and the sound of her loudly flipping papers… he waited. He was very much on her time, and he knew it because no matter what happened, he was very much on her time. They both knew it.

Lex continued to wait, mauve note in his hand. 

There were nicer classrooms at YA High, and he always wondered why she chose this one. It faced the sun during most of the autumn months, so there would be blinding light behind her during the day. Despite most of the school being updated constantly, this was the oldest room, and it always seemed to cold except in those rare instances when it was unfortunately too hot, and it never made sense which one it was, too cold or too hot.

Not that any of it mattered, because the only people who ever met in this classroom were the Student Council. 

She finally broke the silence. “Jennifer is out.”

Ms. Masters never referred to anyone by their preferred name, rather, she always used what she referred to as their “Proper name.” Lex, despite the fact that he was called Lex for all 16 years of his life, was “Alexander.” Jennifer, despite the fact that she hated the name Jennifer since she shared it with mother that walked out on her family when she was a baby, wanted to be called “Madison” for her middle name, but Ms. Masters constantly corrected her, telling her if she wanted her to change it, then she should visit a court. 

Once, a student was so bold as to actually take her up on this offer, was expelled before he was ever referred to as “Big Poppa.” 

“Mad— Jennifer is out? Why?” Lex looked down at his notebook. Madison/Jennifer was running for Student Council President, and was largely favored to win.

“I’ve come across information that has disqualified her. I’m not sure you need a reason other than that,” she said, finally looking up at him. If she didn’t look so young, he would have sworn she was the original model for Medusa with those eyes. She didn’t look “at” people so much as she pierced them with her gaze. Right in half. 

“What information?” Lex continued, knowing that it was pretty fruitless. She wasn’t going to tell, but his options were to ask and try to continue down the road, or have her ask him why he wasn’t asking, and that went even worse.

“You don’t need to know the particulars. Let’s just say there was some collusion with our opposing basketball team’s star player following last week’s game.” 

For Ms. Masters, “collusion” could have meant everything from a full on make out session to simply saying hello at the wrong time.

“I don’t get how this disqualifies her from the office. Literally everyone in the school is getting ready to vote for her.”

“Find someone else.”

“I don’t know if that’s going to be possible—“ Lex caught his words as they were coming out. There were many things he could have said, and those particular words in that particular order was probably the worst thing he could have said, ever.

Ms. Masters stood up to full height. She was a tall woman… she was even taller while wearing her high heels. He got the impression that she was not trying to look sexy so much as she was trying to intimidate people with the click each time she took a step. She walked forward around her desk, exaggerating each click as if it were punctuating a word she was not saying. 

“Mr. Smith…” she said… “Alexander… you are the youngest Master of Elections this school has had in it’s 200 year history.”

“Y-yes ma’am,” he said, gulping hard.

“I didn’t want to allow it, but the administration was pushing forward for you to be the Master of Elections.” 

Lex knew this to be a lie. Principal Sky pretended to run the school, but it was as Ms. Master’s whim.  He was not going to let her onto this fact.

“Well then, Mr. Smith,” she continued, “ I don’t want to hear you ever say that again. You are going to find someone to take Jennifer’s place. It will be someone the school wishes to elect. Do I make myself clear?” 

He nodded. 

“Your job as Master of Elections is simple,” she said, leaning on her desk, “you are to run the elections. Smoothly. If there is a candidate I do not approve of, someone that will not benefit the Student Council, then they are not to be even be in the running. Jennifer is out of the running. Is that understood?”

Lex once again managed to work up a nod. He had never been yelled at by someone so calm before in his entire life.

“Go. Back to class. It’s useless but at least you can feel like you’re learning something.”

Sunday, November 2, 2014

YA High - Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Yancy Adams High. It had stood in that location for over 300 years, since it was a farmhouse. It was used to educate the children of the third colony in Virginia with it’s one teacher, Zelda Adams, who was fiftieth in line for the royal throne before she decided to travel to the new world, primarily to educate children to be good citizens of England, just before the American Revolution, or as she would refer to it, “that kerfuffle out in Boston.” 

She failed.

In fact, many of her students personally rose up against England several months before the first shots were fired in Lexington, but this did not make the papers as most of their exploits ended up in the most epic pub crawl Fairfax Heights had ever seen. This was not as impressive as many people thought, as Fairfax Heights only had the two pubs, so it just involved a lot of shuffling back and forth and two huge, unpaid bar tabs in the name of liberty, and in the name of Benjamin Franklin who still owes a debt to these pubs to this day, and has been ordered arrested on sight should he ever venture into the tiny suburb of DC known as Fairfax Heights.

The barn belonged to Yancy Adams, the lesser known fourth cousin of John Adams, and it bore his name when Zelda Adams took it over. She had proposed that they change the name to “Zelda Adams’ School” but everyone forgot when the kerfuffle started, and they forgot even more when the town itself declared its independence from England and she was pretty much run out of town. Since then, as the town grew slightly, then managed to pull back and surround itself with trees and farmland to pretend it wasn’t only two miles from some of the busiest interstates in the world, Yancy Adams High became known throughout the county, then eventually, the state, as one of the finest schools imaginable. It was through Logan Pierce, class of 1915, and first investor in what would become the horseless carriage (it was an actual carriage run by people who couldn’t pay their debts… thus, no horses) that he was able to buy a plot of land just outside of incorporated Fairfax Heights, then build a public school on it, and change Yancy Adams High into the best private school that the country had to offer.

Quint went over this information as his dad pulled up to the school. 

“Do I really have to know all this?” he said, turning the pamphlet over. There was more, but he really didn’t have the time to read it.

“Hell if I know,” his dad was extremely eloquent. And annoyed he had to give his son a ride to school. And pretty sure that unsupervised, his daughter was going to miss the bus, too, “just play nice with the other kids.”

“Or take the biggest kid in the yard down,” Quint muttered under his breath.

“That’s original, compare school to prison,” his dad handed him his backpack and lunch from the back of the car,” play nice.”

Quint never had a problem “playing nice.” he got along with people plenty, especially those when he was about to move. He didn’t need to be told, but he supposed it was his father’s way of wishing him well. They weren’t a hugging family. This was even more evident by the fact that his father’s car had already vanished when he turned around to say goodbye.

Of course Quint had taken a tour of Yancy Adams High a few weeks ago in a big orientation group. Well, biggish, or he had been told it was big but it consisted of four other students who were transferring mid-year and managed to make it on an assigned day that they were all told to come in over winter break. Two were freshmen who had such a psychic conniption with their parents that they didn’t have to say a word, they just thought it and their parents asked it.

“What are you going to do about bullying?”
“What if a teacher wants to give my child an F?”

“Will you be praying? Billy needs to say his prayers first thing.”

It was beautiful in a horrifying way. The other girl was in his grade but only caught her first name, Zoe, because he was cool and not into stalking her even though she had the most beautiful curly blonde hair he’d ever seen in is entire life. Maybe she’d be in one of his classes? He shook his head, again, he was playing it cool, and he wasn’t going to go drooling over some chick he met his first day. There would be plenty of time for that later.

Stepping into the school again, it didn’t SEEM like a fancy prep school except for the large amount of uniforms. And the strange wrist-thingys that everyone was wearing. The weird thing, besides the fact that they were all wearing them, was the fact that they were different colors. Some were black like his. A few were wearing red, some were green, and very few were white. Not like, “I’ve been sitting on the wrist of a high schooler and they’re probably a little dingy,” but white as in gleaming. He was pretty sure Angels strove to get their robes this white. But he only saw a few of those, one on a big jock looking guy and another on a tall skinny girl with glasses so thick he wondered if she could see the moon.

The smell was pretty much the same from any High School in America. The same chemically/food smell that hit up the cafeteria permeated the halls, which were painted a dull green and instead of cheesy lettering or books, they held the pictures of former headmasters and the current Student Council. Both Jock and Moon Glasses were on there, but he really didn’t understand their titles. Jock was head of Collections, and Moon Glasses was special Whip in Charge of Elections, which as far as Quint knew was something that only existed in Congress. There were other weird names, too, but the hallway was busy with activity, and he was missing it.

The floors were hardwood, and had Quint known anything about construction or fancy building he would know that it was actually very expensive wood from a tree that was extinct in it’s natural habitat but was grown specially in a forest in South America for use in the fancier places like this. Once in 1983 during the great food riots, a piece was accidentally broken by Alfred Knowles when he stepped on a plank that actually had been rotting for three years. The price to get it replaced bankrupted his family and caused them to lose a their third home in Boca Raton. 

Quint, however, was just surprised that it was that stupid laminate he saw everywhere.

Even the the trash cans were high-end, placed in out of the way areas as if to remind people that they didn’t actually produce waste. 

The first chime rang, and the chatter in the halls slowly died down as people went to their home rooms. The chime sounded less like an annoying bell and more like a guy, walking through the hall, lightly tapping a wind chime. It hardly sounded loud enough to tell a bunch of teenagers what was going on, but still, as if directed by an unseen force, all members of the student body filed obediently to their classroom. It was then that he noticed that the chime was being sounded by a balding short man in a suit, followed by a very large man in a much larger suit. He wore sunglasses and had an earpiece in. Not that he was inclined to bother either man, the earpiece had an air about it that said, “If you mess with me, you’re going to taste your own socks for dinner.”

Quint, having memorized his room, headed to Zebra 19. That was the room number. An animal followed by a number. 

He just rounded the corner when he smashed into another student, sending papers and books all over the hall. 

“Sorry!” Quint said, not entirely sure that it was his fault.

“No problem,” the kid said, starting to gather his supplies, “I was headed in the wrong direction. Just trying to get out of here.”

Cutting class? The idea intrigued Quint briefly, “Where are you going?”

“There’s a Student Council Meeting.”

Quint didn’t remember seeing him on the board with Jock and Moon glasses. He decided to mention this, and the boy laughed.

; “You new here?”

Quint nodded his head.

“We’re in the middle of elections. I’m the Master of Elections, so I have to be on call, and there was a dispute between to candidates, I just got the news on my pager.”

“Pager?” Quint wondered if he stepped into a time vortex or something.

The boy must have noticed the look on his face, “No. You didn’t step into a time vortex or something. A strict rule was made, when cellphones first came out, that they wouldn’t be allowed in classes. Pagers are allowed. thus, if there’s an emergency, I use a pager.”

Quint wondered what type of school held it’s elections after winter break and used pagers, but at this point it was too late. The kid was already gone, vanishing around a corner with his questions. 

Slowly, he turned around and started to head to class when he heard the chime again. This time, he was confronted with the smaller man and the larger earpieced man. 

“Quittin’ School are we?” the smaller man asked in a thick Cockney Accent, “I think we need to take ’em to the Principal, wot you think Mr Jones?” 

The larger man that Quint assumed was Mr Jones replied, “I think you’re spot on, Mr. Jones.”

“You’re both Mr. Jones?” Quint said, not wanting to meet the Principal on his first day.

“Oh, we got ourselves a wise one,” The smaller Jones said.

“I think we do, Mr. Jones,” the bigger Jones replied.

Why are you both talking like you’re in a bad Neil Gaiman novel? Quint thought better of saying. But the silence was too much. The larger Jones slapped a meaty hand down on Quint’s not so meaty shoulder. He thought that he’d try to explain that he was new, and about the Election Kid, but he was pretty sure that wasn’t going to go over very well. 

Without further explanation, Quint was on his way to the Principal’s office. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

YA High - Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Quint opened his eyes, then closed them again quickly. Then he opened them again, this time, prepared for the screaming of the alarm on his phone.

It wasn’t a literal scream, although for 99 cents he could have purchased the app that would have turned all the sounds on his phone into a scream, but this early in the morning pretty much any sound pretty much was a scream. A loud, ear-piercing scream. There was also a bright light that went along with it, but at this point he was going to deal with only one problem at a time, and the sound was by far the biggest problem. He solved the light problem by putting a blanket over his head.

Using his amazing powers of early morning dexterity, Quint reached over and simultaneously hit the off button while also knocking the phone off his nightstand, where it hung by the cord, swinging in mid air like a hanged man. It was probably a metaphor for something, but remembering that this was how he broke his last three phones, and each one was getting regressively older in technology, he slowly reached his hand out and placed it back on top of the nightstand, ready to ignore it and go back to sleep. It was the first day for something, but in his sleep-soaked mind he could really remember what.

That’s when he heard a literal scream.

Again, not part of the 99 cent app he could have purchased. And not a blood-curdling scream so much as it was a more mischievous scream.

“GETUPGETUPGETUPGETUPGETUPGETUP!” this scream was accompanied by jumping on his bed. Quint moved the blanket off his face long enough to see his little sister, Tina fully dressed in her school uniform, leaping with glee and carefully avoiding his legs.

“It’s too early.”

“You just say that because you were up to late. Get up, you’re going to be late for your first day.”

“I don’t wanna.” Which was partly true. Quint didn’t really have a problem with school, but he had been up late configuring his room perfectly. He didn’t have a problem moving in time for his Junior year, although he’d miss his friends in Vermont, he was glad that his mother had gotten a job so close to Washington, D.C. But that didn’t change the fact that he was still sleeping, and wasn’t in a rush to join the school halfway through the year.

“Come on! You’ll be late!”

“You’re 8. Aren’t you too old for this?”

“You’re never too old to annoy your brother.”


Quint tried to roll over just as Tina was leaping up, and she ended up landing right on his shin, falling off the bed and onto  pile of clothes that he hadn’t put away yet. Then the tense moment started… was she going to cry, thus ensuring that his day would start out not only sleep deprived but also with a real possibility of missing breakfast while he tried to calm her down and being stuck not picking out the perfect first day outfit (why didn’t he do it last night? Why did he have to find the perfect place for all his books) or would she laugh it off and get him to go downstairs?

Fortunately, the little sister gods were shining down on him as she laughed, pushed the pile around and just said, “You’re going to be late!”

Downstairs it was.

As it was today, Quint realized he had successfully dodged two bullets, so the day was off to at least a decent start, even if he was going to have probably play some lame icebreakers teachers usually liked to play with the new kid who joined the class halfway through the year. He was used to being the new kid, but with starting on the first day, he can just blend in. But at this point in the year, unofficial lunch table assignments were set, classes were full of their personalities, and romantic connections established. He resigned himself to the idea that starting in the middle of the year meant you were going to be a 17th wheel in everything.

At least third wheels could be functional 17th wheels were just unnecessary.

Quint slowly extracted himself from his bed, placed his glasses on his face, and went downstairs where his father was wrapping up a big breakfast of bacon and eggs. He knew that there was also some kind of victory because they had real bacon instead of the turkey stuff which wasn’t really bacon so much a some kind of punishment for an infraction he didn’t know he caused.

“Ready for your first day, Thomas?” came a strong voice from the kitchen.

His father was the only person who called “Thomas.” Everyone, including his mother called him “Quint.” When she was pregnant with him, she got big, bigger than anyone could think for such a petite woman. Everyone joked that she must be having Quintuplets. There was rumor that he had a twin brother (and Tina often joked that he was the evil one) but it just turned out he was an exceptionally fat baby. His mother wanted to give him the official name “Quint” but settled for using that as his middle name, and naming him after his father, Thomas. This technically name him Quint, Jr, or as his best friend Ben used to call him, Quint Deux. To this day, he’s the only one who calls him QD.

“Almost. Just gotta put on my shoes,” Which was Quint-speak for “I need to get fully dressed.”

“Well, you should hurry. I want you to take the bus to get used to it, because I’m not driving you,” his father replied, which was a lie, because his father loves driving because it gets him out of the house.

“I didn’t know that the bus went to this fancy prep school you’re sending me to,” Quint replied.

“It does.” was the final answer.

Quint was initially skeptical about attending a prep school. The schools in Fairfax County were supposed to be the best in the country. Then yet another school shooting occurred, his father got a little freaked out, and decided that the two of them were going to start at this prep school that apparently got all sorts of great reviews. Apparently it was like if Jesus and Zeus got together and built a school on the edge of the Nation’s Capital.

“And you’re going to miss that bus if you don’t take a shower and get ready now,” his father said, putting his food in front of him. It smelled wonderful.

Quint managed to shove as much of it as he could in his mouth before managing to run upstairs, shower, and slip on his school-mandated uniform.

He wasn’t sure what to expect from the uniform itself. He’d seen pictures of it, but there was something a bit off about it. It was a plain blue button up shirt with a sweater-vest that could be worn over it on really cold days (despite the fact that it was a really could day, he had made a vow to himself that he was not going to show up to the first day of any school under any circumstances, wearing a sweater vest. He just couldn’t do it) and khaki pants. They were allowed to wear any shoes they wanted as long as they were black (after all, they needed to express some individuality).

What set this off was the arm band. It was a plain, black, metallic arm band that snapped snuggly around his - and they were adamant about this - right wrist. At first glance it seemed almost like a watch if anyone his age still wore a watch, but there wasn’t a face. It was just plain black. And kind of cold.

When he first got it, he tried to look to see if there was any kind of electronics in it. Like it was some kind of high-tech tracking device to make sure he didn’t skip school. Of course, he only skipped school exactly one day, and that was to attend the first screening of the new X-Men movie that came out, and even then he was quickly caught by his sister and grounded up until this most current school year. But there was nothing to indicate it was some kind of high tech tracker or anything like that. It was then that he was certain that it was some kind of thing to make kids think that it was, in fact, a high tech tracker, when in reality, it was just a metal band. But they’d behave more if they thought it was something more sinister.

Quint was snapped out of his thought by the sound of a bus driving away. He grabbed his bag that at this point, was mostly for show since he didn’t have any books yet, and bolted down the stairs, managing to trip over a spare box and face planting right into another box that contained something hard.

“So… you going to need a ride to school” His father said, standing over him, slowly rubbing a sponge over the pan he just used to cook bacon.

“Yes, sir.”