Friday, August 31, 2012

Breaking Bad Shakespeare Friday: Skyler White

    Last week, we looked at Saul Goodman and the comic fool aspect of Breaking Bad and how that pushes the show into the realm of “True Shakespearean Masterpiece.” This week, we’re going to look at a character that seems more problematic: Skyler White, Walter’s wife.

    If you type in “Skyler White” into Google, you will see a series of prompts. One of the prompts is “Skyler White Hate.” There are forums, essays and other things dedicated to how much they hate this woman, who is initially ignorant of Walter’s crimes. (I use ignorant here to indicate that she didn’t know. Not that I think she’s stupid.) At first, this was one of the reasons that I mentioned that yes, I was having a problem with the show: I hated her. But Breaking Bad is truly like a fine Shakespearean play: If you try judging the show on it’s first act, then you may not be around to see the final act where you can appreciate the hints dropped in the first act.
    Skyler’s “job” in the first season is a prop, let’s face it. Her pregnancy, her existence is so we as the audience can get behind a guy doing something pretty terrible. I mean, Meth has never been portrayed as “glamourous” or “harmless” in any media. So, Skyler is pretty much around to show us, “hey, Walt is just trying to provide for his family the best way he knows how.” Shakespeare loved to do this to us. Hey, Macbeth is just acting on some knowledge of some witches. Hey, Lear is dying, so he has a pass for acting a little goofy. Hamlet’s father died, he’s just trying to get through his grief. Iago just thinks that he deserves Othello’s spot. Those are things introduced in Act 1.

    However, as things continue, we get to see what Skyler is like. I was annoyed that she seemed to take Walt’s diagnosis so personally. She wanted him to go into (expensive) treatment. Which he ignored as long as possible, then gave in. But what I wasn’t seeing was the hints as to why Walt would dive so quickly into the drug world. Skyler is controlling. Not in the “stereotypical bitchy TV wife” way. (Excuse the language, but if we’re talking meth and this show, well, sometimes there’s no way around it.) No, she’s subtle. When she figures out that Walt isn’t telling her everything, she is passive aggressive to the max. (There’s no other way to state that.) Then she starts cheating on him, pretty much while Walt knows everything. (She makes sure he knows.) Then she figures out he’s dealing drugs. She kicks him out, asks for a divorce, which prompts him to try to quit, and get in line, despite the fact that at this point he’s a local drug legend. When he eventually goes right back to it, she uses her super book-keeping skills to help launder the money... on her terms. Stealing him away from Saul Goodman’s ideas. She comes up with the script that allows him to announce to his family that they have all of this money. She decides that they’re going to buy the car wash where Walt worked and was treated badly.

    The car wash. To me the car wash is where we finally meet Skyler White as a character. As mentioned she buys it to “launder money”. But it’s a symbol. It’s a symbol of a time when Walt couldn’t afford anything. It’s where Walt first collapses before his diagnosis. It’s where we see Walt being treated horribly. And now she owns it, (Well, they own it but she’s the one in charge of it.) and acquired it through devious means.

    I could go on, but I think you get my point. I know eventually she is doing this because she says she’s “afraid” of Walt, but she’s not. She’s always been in control. She’s probably one of the most complex characters in the entire series because she is, and there’s no other way to avoid saying it any longer... but she’s this show’s Lady Macbeth. She’s behind the scenes. Her hands are only a little dirty. But she laid every seed possible for Walt to start being who he is in the series today.

    “I’m going to protect this family from the man who’s trying to protect this family.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I'm Enthusiastically Inexperienced

    The one thing I haven’t discussed that much in the wonderful world of class-taking in lively art of Theatre and the ever so useful topic of Folklore is why I’m taking these two classes. You see... I’m mostly done with my teaching degree. Next up on my magical mystery tour of college I have to do...

    The Internship.

    Now, there are very few programs of study for a Masters Degree (I’m getting an M.ED for anyone who’s interested in the technical terms. If you aren’t, then don’t read this sentence) that force you to quit your job, don’t work, and take this unpaid internship while you take an additional class for a few months. Now, yes, there are other options, like getting a provisional license, which is about as easy as teaching your cat to fetch and Career switcher, which won’t work too well for someone in my situation who wants to go from Government to teaching English, well... that’s not the kind of move the State licensure board is looking for. (And they don’t normally take “enthusiasm” as a substitute for “experience.). So I’m left with...

    The Internship.

    It’s kind of a scary thing. First of all to take that leap of faith to quit a steady job -- something I’ve had since I graduated from college all those years ago -- and to dive into a field that 1) Not a lot of people support and 2) with budget cuts promises that it’s not really a growth industry. But I’ve covered that.  It’s just while I talk about getting out of my comfort zone... this is OUTSIDE outside my comfort zone.

    I know I’ve done stuff in the past, but this is an established teacher giving me the reigns. It’s kind of intimidating. I’m sure I’ll do well, but this isn’t like going from one job to another. This is like going from being a contractor on the Death Star to Ewok village, only the Ewoks aren’t always so cute and cuddly. (Deadly Ewoks will be the name of my indie band.)

    Ideally, this is only about four months off. I mean, I still have to let you all know how I’m going to do on the Praxis 2. That little experience is coming up in September and merits a little blogging as I prepare for that as well. But as I get ready to gear up for this semester, which I am looking forward to, don’t get me wrong. One thing is sitting at the top of my mind, something that I need to start really considering.

    The Internship.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Of Teaching Theatre and Yankees Fans.

    Back when I was beautiful, I wanted to do a lot more with the theatre. I’ve mentioned it before, but for newcomers I spell it “theatre” because that’s the way my old Theatre Teacher, RL Mirabal (That’s Mr. Mirabal to you) would spell it, so. But in college I took directing, acting and playwriting courses, mostly because I hoped to be a playwright one day. Then there’s that old joke.

Q. What’s the difference between a pizza and a playwright?

A. A pizza can feed a family of four.

    So I did the responsible thing and got a job in data entry, and sort of gave up on my dream of being a writer/beautiful until of course I started this blog and writing, more, now I have lofty goals of writing something magnificent enough to be published and so I can meet all of my writing heroes.
    But that brings us back to the idea of theatre. Why am I discussing theatre (on a Bad Shakespeare blog) today of all days, on the first day of Fall classes? Well, I’ll tell you why, you curious folk. (and I guess the folk that aren’t too curious.) I’m discussing it because I am taking a class on the teaching of Theatre that starts tonight! (Just like Mr. Mirabal, except I’m not a Yankees fan.)

    Now, as it turns out I’m not qualified to get a certificate in teaching theatre. While I’ve taken a lot of the classes required in undergraduate, way back in the days of “dial up” (kids, ask your parents) but I neglected my technical theatre skills. I mean, I learned some while in High School, back even BEFORE there was “dial up” (it was a dark, ignorant time when we had to walk to libraries to Google information) but I really don’t retain a whole lot of it. It you put me in front of a board today I could eventually run it ok (with hilarious results) but alas, I just don’t have them.

    “So why do it?” my you are all an inquisitive bunch today. I’m doing it because I enjoyed my time taking theatre, and because I denied it to myself for too long. I took the responsible path out, and now I feel as though a big part of me is now gone. And while I’m still going to be responsible, I’m going to take time to enjoy myself. At the end of the day, my degree will still say “Michael B. Hock, English Teacher.” (Now THAT’s the title of a crime novel.)

    I mentioned a few posts back about how I went to go see Children in the Mist, a Horror Opera. I enjoyed it. And it reminded me of how much I missed seeing a production on the stage. The fact that a friend of mine wrote it... I miss that experience, too. I’ve written a play. I’ve seen it performed. There’s no experience like it.

    This doesn’t mean I love English any less. No, I’m still Englishing. But what it means is that I’m going to do something for myself, and re-immerse myself in the theatre world.  Because I enjoy it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Breaking Bad Shakespeare Friday: You Better Call Saul

    I am going to start the second part of this series with an obvious disclaimer: spoilers for a television show that has been on since 2008. I will be covering the first four seasons, since those are readily available on Netflix. I won’t delve too much into the fifth season for right now... maybe in the future. While I’m spoiling things, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde... same person. Sorry if I just blew your mind.

    You better call Saul. With those words we get introduced to Saul Goodman (played by Bob Odenkirk), the flashy criminal lawyer with flashier suits and even flashier office who manages to help Walter White further his not so flashy criminal activities.

    Whenever someone discusses a television show, movie, character or fast food franchise that they consider to be “Shakespearean” they tend to focus on certain aspects that everyone covers. The tragic hero, motifs, young Italians deciding to kill themselves... what tends to be overlooked is the fact that William Shakespeare loved his fools that were smarter than everyone else.

    From Feste to King Lear’s Fool to (some may consider) Hal Falstaff, Shakespeare littered his plays with people who were labeled “fool” that were really smarter than the rest of the characters. Some of this may have been to subvert expectations, some may have been to have someone the audience can work with. (Of course he may have done this because his company had a resident fool and he was eager to give him meatier parts.) I talked last time about many of the Shakespearean similarities, but in my opinion, the one that puts it over the top is the character of Saul Goodman.

    Saul is the stereotype of the sleazy late night lawyer with the aforementioned flashy smile, the cheesy commercials, and it seems as if he is constantly chasing an ambulance. I have not really laughed out loud too many times while watching Breaking Bad (It’s kind of a dark show, if you couldn’t tell) but if I have, it’s because of something Saul has said.

    However, Saul Goodman is easily the smartest character in the entire show (In terms of criminals. The smartest character is the one not doing the illegal activities). He is constantly using his legal expertise to not just get his clients out of trouble, but to get them actively ahead. After Walter first meets up with him, Saul is able to track him down in the school where he works (without the benefit of Walter's real name, mind you), and then starts setting up meetings so Walter can get ahead in his Meth-Cooking activities. (For a finders fee.  I never thought I’d be comparing Shakespeare so much with Meth. I always thought it would be a show based on Cocaine.) He also helps to set up money laundering, and when there’s the little incident with the car that Walt manages to blow up, well, he gets that swept under the rug, too.

    Wise fools are interesting characters. I mention before that they are the characters the audience empathize with to a certain extent. They are, because we know that Walt shouldn’t keep getting involved deeper with Gus Fring’s operation. (That sentence will make more sense soon.) We know that Walt is walking down a dangerous path, and we may choose to yell it at the screen. (Like when we yell at the Jersey Shore cast when they continue to do Jersey Shore things.)But the wise fools... they have everyone in the world of the show fooled. They are goofy. We laugh at them. Feste, from Twelfth Night, is abused by the characters, but he’s the only one who possibly knows Viola’s secret (I say "possibly" but, but no. Feste knew her secret. It's in the text if you read close enough.). Saul Goodman is the same way. He’s the one telling Walt to be careful. He’s the one who tells people “this is a bad idea” when we are thinking it. But he's the one ignored by everyone because they're the criminals, and he's just the silly lawyer.

    We laugh with the fool. And Bob Odenkirk is a funny guy. He plays the character well, and we laugh at him. But at the end of the day, when this show ends in a bloodbath (and it probably will), it’s Saul that is going to head on back to work, probably even wiser and funnier than before.

    Trouble? You better call Saul.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Quickly, Someone Call a Folklorist!

               As you may be able to tell from reading this blog, the commercials on the radio or television, or just looking out the window at the bright yellow school bus starting to roam around neighborhoods, looking for children’s summer dreams to crush, we are firmly within the grip of back to school days.

                This is true of everyone, including your good buddy here at Bad Shakespeare. That’s right… as of Monday, I will be returning to the classroom to take two very special classes. I call them very special because I don’t have to take them. I’m just learning for the sake of learning at this point. But this year I will be taking an introduction to teaching Theatre class, and a class in Folklore. As you can tell that I am expecting to be given ALL OF THE MONEY once I finish these two classes and emerge into the world.

                I joke but this goes back to a point I’ve made time and time again: classes for the sake of learning. The Theatre class might be useful in my future as a teacher (Whereupon I can throw my arms up Jon Lovitz-style and scream “ACTING!” at the top of my lungs. If they don’t teach us how to do this properly in the class, then my tuition is wasted.) However outside an episode of Supernatural or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there’s not much need for a folklorist in modern society. (But if any werewolves want to attack around this area so I can come to the police’s aid, I’d appreciate it.)

                So why am I taking it? Because I like Folklore. I’d like to know more about Folklore. I’d like to enjoy my time in class, read some cool folklore stories, and I’d like to explore what makes folklore folklore. (I’m also going to try to stop using the world “Folklore”. It’s starting to look strange.) I want to enjoy my time. I’ve had several years of education courses, not all of which were my first choice to take but required by “the man.” So now I have a rare opportunity. I’m a Grad Student who’s done with most of his classes, can’t take one of them just yet, someone else is paying and I have the time. So why not?

                But that’s just me. I know a lot of students are going to get their heads filled with (and I’m paraphrasing) “omygodyouhavetotakeacoursenowthatwillsecureyourwholefuture!” Yes, I understand that when it comes time for the job market, “folklore” isn’t going to be as enticing than “economics” or “just about anything else.”

                At the end of the day, beyond the perfect future that you think you’re planning for yourself (and will inevitably change based on the whims of whoever is pulling the strings) you have to take a few minutes to enjoy yourself. Relax. Take a stupid class that won’t count for something. Why? Because learning should be enjoyable. Remind yourself what learning is supposed to be about: discovering more about something that fascinates you.

                But you know, if a werewolf were to hang around here for a bit, I'd be pretty useful.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Your Bad Shakespeare Back to School Guide!

    Well, boys and girls, we’ve returned to that time of year. That time of year when the traffic in the DC area gets “worse” (somehow), where you have to go get your own damn coffee instead of assigning it to an unsuspecting intern, and where all the coeds are taken safely off the streets and put back together in one ecosystem to thrive in their natural habitat. Yes, that’s right it’s once again time for back to college time for everyone.

    Back to college time can be an interesting and strange time for everyone. It can be especially frightening for those students making the transition from the comfort of High School into the big bright beautiful world of college. Your good buddy Bad Shakespeare is here to help! Here is Bad Shakespeare’s advice to your first few weeks at college.

1. Freshman gentlemen, those really pretty girls are called “juniors.” They generally won’t give you the time of day.

2. For most of you, this is your first extended time away from your parents. Many of you will find this a time to “cut loose” or “party till your head comes off.” Others will see this as an opportunity buckle down, prove that you can be on your own. Fair warning now, you’ll probably end up rooming together.

3. This is a great time to set up a new identity for yourself, separate from your old High School self. “Ninja” or “Pirate” are always popular. Don’t discount the seldom used “Leprechaun” or “Natalie Portman from Black Swan.”

4. You’re going to have to buy books for your classes. Good luck with that.

5. It’s important to take down the biggest, strongest professor in the yard on your first day. That’s how you earn respect.

6. That one episode of that show you want to watch on Netflix is going to turn into a marathon the day that big paper is due, by the way. There’s no way around that. I wish there was another way.

7. You’ve heard of the freshman 15. Every year thousands of writers are paid to write at least a million articles on how you’re supposed to avoid this. They have to write at least a million based on an ancient deal with the god Bacchus, otherwise he’ll destroy Detroit. Don’t worry about it that much.

8. You know how you were the funny guy in all your high school classes? You aren't.

Enjoy your first semester at college, everyone!

Friday, August 17, 2012

To Cook Crystal Meth, or to Not Cook Crystal Meth... That is the Question

    I recently started watching this show Breaking Bad

                Sorry, that sentence should read, “I recently started understanding a show called Breaking Bad.”

                I fully understand that I am late to the Breaking Bad party… it’s been on for a couple of years and it’s been raved about since oh, 10 minutes after the first commercial break. For those of you who don’t know, Breaking Bad is about a guy named Walter White (played by the guy who was the father on Malcolm in the Middle) who is a chemistry teacher with terminal lung cancer who starts producing Crystal Meth in order to provide for his family (which would have made for an interesting sub-plot on Malcolm in the Middle. ) I tried to get into the show, I really did. But I just couldn’t get past the first few episodes. I didn’t like it. I found his wife unbearable, his kid was too “perfect TV version of a kid” the wife’s sister was just annoying, and I found the team up of Walter and his assistant and former student Jesse unlikable.

                But then I continued on the advice of a friend and most of the internet, and I realized what I was doing wrong. I was trying to empathize with Walter. I wasn’t supposed to. Walter is a tragic hero defined by his flaws. Walter White is a Shakespearean tragic hero in the vein of Othello, the Scottish guy (It’s bad luck to say “Macbeth"), King Lear, or Hamlet. After realizing that, and realizing that I was not watching a sympathetic man just trying to help his family, I’m watching the destruction of a man who thinks he is helping his family.

                Breaking Bad is the perfect example of a point I’ve tried to make time and time again that we can’t push aside new literature for the sake of old. And Breaking Bad is literature. Had Crystal Meth and High School Chemistry existed in Shakespeare’s time, we would have heard about The Tragedy of Walter White, Teacher from Venice, and kids would have hated reading about it. This television show is full of all those lessons your English teacher (and soon hopefully, me!) have tried to tell you about why Shakespeare was so great: flawed heroes, scheming, guilt, symbolism, death, redemption… there is even a Shakespearean fool in it! The character of Saul Goodman is a flashy, late night attorney, that is a genius when it comes to the law, genius when it comes to illegal activities and yet brings humor to a television show that featured a man crashing two airlines into each other.

                I could go on, and I probably will at some point. This post is meant to be an appetizer in a television show that really can only be described as “Shakespearean”. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend trying to watch it. It is currently in its last season, but that’s no reason why you can’t check it out. God invented DVD’s and streaming television for a reason. (He did invent that, right?) And I realize this is coming across as an advertisement for AMC and this show, but let’s be honest that my only real sponsor is Carl’s Jr.

                But I really haven’t been excited for a television show in a long time. I plan on exploring more about this show over the next few weeks, and more on why I think that it’s Shakespearean. So, stay tuned, everyone!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I Enjoy Parties, But I Never Can Pick the Right One

               I was all set to do a full length feature post on a new law in Missouri where students can now refuse any assignments that conflict with their religion. Oh, the fun I was going to have, suggesting that I was going to head to Missouri and start a new religion that rejects your barbaric notions of “Algebra” and baptisms into said religion would cost oh, let’s say, $100. Then I realized that this would have been my third post on something political in the space of a month. (I’m not counting the Rush Limbaugh thing. That was me making fun of someone who said something stupid, his politics had nothing to do with it.)

                The sad thing is, I really don’t intend for this to become a political blog. It’s my blog on my journey to be a teacher, as well as some of my comedy. But the thing is, I will forever comment on anything I see going on in education that disturbs me, because that’s why I’m going into education… to make a difference. Not just on the kids, but because I’m tired of seeing how the education system is run lately. And I carefully consider my options: I can sit on the outside and complain, or I can get in there, make some enemies and do something about it. But that introduces the sad thing into this blog… politics has gotten too intertwined with education.

                All due respect to Mitt Romney and Barack Obama our two leading candidates to run this country, they have not spent any time in the classroom beyond their school years, and any parent-teacher conferences that I'm sure are pretty horrifying for teachers. (I don't care who you are, once the men in the sunglasses and suits show up, it's time to be a little nervous.)Hey, there’s no shame in that. That’s like, 90% of everyone, right? I’m not calling them out on that. I’m calling out them, and any other politician that claims to know the first thing about teaching. Hey, I know very little about defense spending, taxes, or setting up Congressional Toga Party Wednesdays, so I stay out of those areas. (Do only the committee chairmen get to wear the laurels? Does everyone don a white toga, or is there one sad senator that has to use the Star Wars bedsheets? It's very complicated.)

                But education has to be separated from politics. Politicians don't know about how children need to be educated. They can only pander to a vocal group of people that are serving their own agenda, whatever that may be.  The idea should be this: We train the next generation as best we can, because they are the ones taking care of us. I want the doctor that replaces my heart after the Robot-Human war to be fully trained (and 100% human. I just don’t trust them after they rose up and took over Canada.) and be versed in all things medical. We want the next generation to know MORE than us. And none of that involves politicians or politics. Politics shouldn't create a barrier to that because someone "disagrees" with something being taught. (Yes, I know some  of you are saying "but teachers make political statements all the time!". But if your argument is “but teachers do it, so why can’t politicians do it back to them?” then I direct you back to second grade, when your parents or a teacher should have taught you that was not a valid argument.)

                One of the most painful moments in my recent history was watching the ongoing saga of the Unions in Wisconsin. Again, I don’t know enough to know what all of the issues are with that. It was explained to me, but I just don’t know… my brain doesn’t work like that (No one would explain it to me in Star Wars terms). But I got to watch as teachers got called lazy, uneducated, people who just wanted to brainwash students and take lavish three month vacations during the summer (you know how all teachers take their teacher money and head to their third homes on the coast after a year of telling students all about "history" or "science")… all by politicians who were trying to demonize the teachers union. That was harsh for me, particularly as some family members chose to take the side of those calling teachers evil, useless, or just in general a waste of a profession. Usually by writing it down, not noting the irony in that. It made me feel exceptionally unimportant. It still does. It's one of the harder things I've had to get over when I decided to become a teacher. But mostly, it made me angry. 

I don’t care about politics. I care about William Shakespeare. I care about Neil Gaiman. I care Dave Barry. I care about Jane Austen. I care about passing my love for literature onto the next generation, and hopefully letting them think for themselves. I don’t want to be mired in the politics of teaching that Banquo may or may not have been a ghost (because ghosts aren't real!) or being demonized because I taught a book that some politician hasn’t picked up in sixty years had a bad experience with and decided that no one else should learn it. (Yes, Congressman from New York… we know you got a C plus on that paper about Brave New World. I don’t think that’s grounds for having all the copies destroyed.) The fact is, that I should be able to do a million posts about all the education stories around the country and never once mention "Democrat" or "Republican" or "Green Party." (Just kidding. No one talks about the Green Party.)

                So, back to my original point: Politicians need to stay out of education. No, we don’t need a law in Missouri saying kids can refuse assignments based on religious grounds. (I suspect that anyone refusing to do a project on evolution may not be barred from playing sports on Sunday, as mentioned in their religion.) Let’s not rewrite history books in Texas because you disapprove of Thomas Jefferson’s writings and teachings. Let’s not demonize teachers by misrepresenting them. Let's not pull funding from failing schools and hurt them further.   Let’s not demonize students for wanting to go into higher education and learn something.

                This turned a lot more soapboxy than I intended. I will not apologize for that. This isn’t as funny as some of my other posts. I will go back to comedy soon, and yes, some of it will go back to blasting stupid things said by stupid politicians trying to score political points with people who disagree with something their kids are learning. But it will be education based, because that's what I understand. That's what I am learning.  I want what's best for students.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Stars as a Bike Messenger who... TO THE MULTIPLEX!

     There is a movie coming out that I am certain will blow all of your minds. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Seen in Inception, Dark Knight Rises, and other movies not directed by Christopher Nolan.) plays a bike messenger that picks up the wrong envelope, and is chased around New York City. Every trailer I have seen demonstrates that this movie has the potential to be my pick for the movie that I am looking forward to more than any other this summer, because it is going to be bad.

    As loyal readers of this blog may have guessed (or non loyal ones. Or people that have casually seen me on the street) I love movies. I can’t get enough of them. I just love the smell of the popcorn, I love the previews, I love the uncomfortable seats. I just love the entire experience of going to the movies. I especially enjoy summer, when it seems like they release roughly two million movies into the theaters. (Three-fourths of those being remakes, sequels or remakes of sequels.)

    But at the end of the summer, there’s a very special week that I look forward to more than anything. It’s the last big weekend of the summer. Not Labor Day. Generally studios save their decent movies for big holidays or the start of the summer. (Or at least try. We all remember Speed Racer.) But the end of August is when movie studios generally release movies that are... let’s say less good.  Every once in a while they end up some surprise sleeper that’s decent, but for the most of the time, we won’t mince words, they suck. But they suck in an awesome way.

    Let’s look at Premium Rush, the movie I mentioned. This movie was clearly filmed several years ago, way before JGL (As they call him in the movie biz... look at me all going Hollywood here! Just like the real Shakespeare) was as famous as he was now. He hadn't been in any of his Nolan movies, and was known for doing Third Rock from the Sun and a few arty flicks. And it’s clearly been held off. Which means it is going to be just awesome. I simply can't wait for this.

    I love movies like this. You need to just shut off your brain and accept it for what it is. I can’t really describe how much I look forward to it or how it makes me feel. I enjoy the other movies, yes. Look at what I wrote for The Avengers back when it came out. But I walked into that one with impossibly high expectations that they easily met. But let’s face it... a movie starring someone that has been getting a lot of buzz over the past few years that is being dumped in August... that’s not The Avengers expectations. That’s barely the first Hulk movie expectations. (The arty one that got us into the mind of a giant green wrecking ball. Hulk Smash. That's what Hulk does.)

    So why am I looking forward to it if I have such low expectations? Because art is all around us. And sometimes the art of a “bad” summer movie is something that is underappreciated. This movie is going to spectacular. It is going to be enjoyable. And sometimes in our quest to find good movies or find art we forget that everything in some level is art.

    No one is going to be clutching an Oscar for Premium Rush. But I also know that I will go into it, and I will shut off my brain and I will enjoy it. So on the most basic level, it will have done its job. And that itself is art.

Friday, August 10, 2012

It Might Be Dangerous Out There. Take This.

                So, I recently entered a humor writing contest. It’s a contest held by the hilarious newspaper “The Washington Post” and they asked everyone who wants to enter to write a story from their life. I’m proud to say that I got my act together, and I submitted my final draft yesterday. When I hit the submit button there was applause and angels came down from the sky and oh the dances we danced to a lively trumpet tune.

                Ok, it wasn’t exactly like that (it was more of a jaunty piano jig.) But I consider this a big deal because I’ve been working hard to get myself out there more. Obviously I‘m doing so with this blog, and my loyal readers have been extremely helpful in doing so. I mean, I talk a lot about teaching, but obviously I enjoy writing if I take the time to post on this blog as much as I do. But it’s scary getting yourself out there. It’s very scary to think that your writing is going to be read by some, dismissed by know-it-alls (because we know there isn’t anyone like that out on the internet), and loved by a few people who just enjoy what you write on a whatever you call it-ly basis.

                This is the first real contest I’ve entered since I left college, so this is a big step in the evolution of Michael from mild mannered getting byer to guy who actually is doing what he wants with his life. This blog has been a nice step in the right direction of getting the creative juices going, and writing is inspiring writing is inspiring writing is inspiring writing, just like the royals keep producing royals.

                But WHY is it so difficult to get stuff out there? And I don’t mean winning or being published. I mean, hell, in this day and age getting published is easy. You want to be published there are literally a thousand programs that will allow you to make a book. I could even release a CD where I sing all the greatest hits that Britney Spears ever had. (I’m saving that for phase 2 of my world domination plan.) No, I’m talking about putting yourself out there to be judged and picked over. Why are we willing to keep this stuff inside for so long?

                I consider myself amusing. I know other people find me amusing, too, but most of them that comment are friends. And I greatly appreciate it. I also know that I have some people who read this who aren’t friends. And I appreciate that, too. But that doesn’t make putting myself out there any less difficult, you know? But therein lies the rub, Horatio… you have to put yourself out there in order for people to read you, and for the amusingness to not just be the voices in your head laughing at the jokes YOU think are funny.

                The fact that I have a blog allows me to work things out in the public square a little more than I normally would. Some of this is a pep talk to ensure myself that even if I don’t win (I may not be up to The Washington Post’s usual level of humor. And they must know humor right? They’re still running “Peanuts” reruns instead of giving the space over to a newer, less funny cartoonist.) I still made the right choice by taking the risk and putting myself out there. Deep down, I know I have. That’s the only way to move forward, to take risks and be uncomfortable for a little bit. (Also, I understand the irony of writing all these fears down, then showing it to whoever stumbles on Bad Shakespeare: The Blog.)

                I guess that’s just part of my journey from mild mannered guy who occupies a desk to Michael Hock: The person I want to be. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Shakespeare's Classified Ads

Shakespearean Classified Ads. To respond, please compose a sonnet and fire an arrow towards the big castle on the hill.

WANTED: Players to catch the conscience of the King. I am an a prince and I’m currently looking for players to put on a production of self-written play. Must be willing to put up with a little bit of madness. Also, there is a chance that the play will be so powerful that it will result in spontaneous confession from all guilty parties who may be in attendance. This includes but is not limited to: The King, the Queen, and maybe that palace guard who I believe has been taking lunches out of the snack room when no one has been looking.

WANTED: Newly appointed King seeks paranormal investigator to help rid castle of ghosts and floating daggers. Newly appointed Queen is possibly possessed. We just don’t know yet. Please respond before the trees start moving and/or King is appointed by one who is not of woman born.

WANTED: King of the Fairies seeks rare flower to help undo a love spell gone awry. At first it was kind of funny, but now it’s just leading to confusion and his wife falling in love with a half man/half donkey. It really has been an interesting day. If anyone has any information regarding this unique flower, please respond as soon as possible.

ADVERTISEMENT: Cases of mistaken identity? Land disputes? Knaves plotting against the king? Graves need digging while discussing important politics? Are you an ass? Call the fools of the Shakespearean Fools Agency. Acting Foolish since ye olde days.

ADVERTISEMENT: No credit? Bad Credit? Good Credit? Too young? Too old? Need cash fast but don’t have a kingdom or a horse to lend against? Call Shylock’s Lending. Where a bad deal won’t actually cost you a pound of flesh.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Welcome to the League of Evil Wizards 2012 Convention!


                Thank you for your interest this year’s League of Evil Wizards (LOEWs) convention. This is just a brief guide to some of the exciting programs and events that we have scheduled for this year. Pre-registration is not required for the convention, but it is recommended. Magically erasing the name of your rivals and placing your name on the guest list is required. Please note that turning anyone into any type of rodent, amphibian, or other animal will result in high praise, but immediate removal from the Convention.

                -Friday at 8:30 we will be discussing the ongoing lawsuit between Loews Home Improvement Stores and the name of our organizations. Our lawyers tell us that banishment to another dimension is simply not possible, so we will have to work things out reasonably.

                -Friday at Midnight the Convention Conjurors’ will be putting on a show out in the stone circle in the forest. This event is 21 and over, so no adolescent genius wizards.

                -Saturday Morning at 8:00 be up early for our wizarding breakfast and a special talk from Galinda the Good Witch on how to assemble a new animal from several existing animals. You may know her from Oz, where her work for the Wicked Witch of the West (rest her soul) was well known by many.

                -Saturday at 10 we have a special presentation of Time Travel and You: Don’t go back in time to destroy your enemies because they’ll just follow you and trap you there. This is a recorded presentation, so please show up on time.

                -Noon sees us with Potions 101. Included in this will be a special lunch, followed by a special afternoon hunt in which we try to capture whichever wizard drank the secret potion and will be currently rampaging in the nearby town as a troll.

                -Three O’clock will be the presentation: Caring for Your Dragon: The Advantages and Disadvantages of an All-Virgin Diet.

                -Dinner will be free time, so get to know your fellow wizards, or duel them to the death if you feel necessary. There will also be a special bus that will take you directly into town so you can witness the aftermath of troll attacks, or steal some souvenirs from the kids.

                -After dinner we will either an extra special presentation of How to Kill Your Nemesis in The Most Creative Way Possible or Don’t Kidnap Your Nemesis on Thursday then wait until Saturday Night to Kill Him. It could go either way.

                The cost for this year’s LOEWs Convention is either three gold pouches, the blood of a Leprechaun, or a Dragon’s Egg. To register, please place payment in a circle of fire, sprinkle with some fairy dust, and say the enchantment on the enclosed card.

                We look forward to seeing you this year.

                Pathar the Malevolent
                Director, LOEWs Convention ‘12

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Instead of Asking "What If" I ask "Why If"

               Once again, disclaimer: I do not know squat about politics, other than the news says that the one guy is running against the other guy, and although there are other guys running no one pays attention to them. I’m a guy who comments on things he sees. Last time it was a well-known Republican and a comic book. Today it’s musings brought about a well-known Democrat and education. I give my opinion. Don’t like’em… there are still plenty of evil robot jokes. You’ll like those, unless you’re an evil robot, in which case I await to serve you my liege. So, here we go…

                A couple of weeks ago President Barack Obama unveiled his “STEM Master Teacher Corps” which sounds like a really bad movie starring Tommy Lee Jones as a retired Drill Sergeant who becomes a teacher to turn kid’s lives around. But in the end, they end up touching his heart just as much as they touch his. (I like Tommy Lee Jones, I just don’t think this is a good career move. Call me and we’ll discuss.)

                Moving on.

                “The STEM Master Teacher Corps” is an elite group of teachers (I’m being serious, this is in the official description) that would work to boost U.S. student’s worldwide performance in Engineering, Math, Science, and Technology. The plan calls for the hiring of more teachers, especially in Math and Science.  (For those who can’t tell “STEM” stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.)

                This is where a lot of you are going, “yay? I guess? What’s your point? Aren't you always going on about teaching... Isn’t this a good thing?”

                Well, yes, the idea of anyone deciding that teaching is important is a good thing. But pay close attention to the title of this blog, and then pay attention to the emphasis on who he was going to hire. I’ll let it come to for a minute… and there it is. More Math and Science. This blog is called “Bad Shakespeare.” I’m studying to enter the cutthroat world of English teaching. That begs a BIG Bad Shakespearean Question: “Why then, are you studying English? What’s the importance of the arts if even as the President has decided that we are going focus on getting kids some education, we will be starting with science, math, and notably not English or the Arts?

                See, I had mentioned way back at the start of this blog that someone made a sarcastic comment regarding the fact that I was studying to be an English Teacher. Yeah, that wasn’t the first or last one, but while some are focused on the “teacher” part, others are focused on the “English” part. Some people feel that teaching English isn’t important beyond the simple reading and writing aspect of it. As soon as you get done with that part, it’s important to focus on the “real world” stuff, which doesn’t include the arts or Shakespeare.

                But that robs kids of something fundamentally important. Teaching the English isn’t just about showing them how to spell a word or correctly map a sentence, most of which can be done with a computer. It’s this good now, I can’t wait to see how well it’s done when my kids are in school. (Where they’ll all be monitored by robots, anyway.)Teaching English is about teaching something inside of us. It’s learning that each one of these words has its own little personality, and it’s up to you to figure how they should fit together. It’s taking a look at the bigger issues, like who we are as people, and boiling them down into bite sized chunks called “books” or “plays” or in some rare cases, “movies.” (For example Die Hard. That’s right, we’re all John McClane facing down our own Hans Gruber.)

                Humanity has always sought to create worlds bigger than just the stars and the moon or designing the next “wheel.” It’s seeing a beautiful sky and being so moved to tears that you want to write a book or paint a picture, not just being able to break it down to a chemical reaction and saying “that’s why it’s orange.” And none of this is saying these things aren’t important. They’re very important. But why do they have to be mutually exclusive?

                None of this is meant to knock down scientists who are very good at what they do, and are artists in their own way. I mean, I’m sure it was some kind of scientist who invented a way for us to get the McRib so quickly, so I guess they’re not all bad. It’s just that when it comes down to emphasizing a subject, English tends to get lost in the mix. History sometimes, too, but I’m not studying to be a History teacher history is boring that can go away. (I’m kidding. History isn’t boring, but it’s not as thrown away as easily as English and a study of the arts.) But once you leave out things like English and the Arts, you start to leave out critical thinking. You leave out that age old question that humans have been asking since the dawn of time "Why?"

                English helps us look at the world in a unique way. It’s also a uniquely human thing. All animals focus on science, math, or technology… whether it’s elephants figuring out a herd, or a lion thinking of a better way to take down an elephant… but have you ever heard lion poetry (which admittedly would be kind of cool)? Or an elephant try to figure how why he’s here? So, focusing solely on the “important subjects” can take away that uniqueness that makes us human. Then what are you left with? You’re left with robots that can add and subtract, but can do little to tell you the point of it.