Saturday, September 29, 2012

British Fonzie is Right!

    Last night 1800 avid readers and Dr. Who fans packed the Center for the Arts to watch Neil Gaiman receive the Mason Award as part o the “Fall for the Book.” It was a reminder that Neil Gaiman fans are weird. I should know. I’m one of them.

    That first line came across a bit news story-ish, sorry. Back when I was beautiful, I was actively involved in journalism before a very bad teacher managed to crush that love, more interested in fostering the popular students than you know, teaching someone something about journalism. So I’ll re-start.

    I saw Neil Gaiman speak and it was freaking awesome. The place was packed! I couldn’t have been more excited!! (You can tell I was excited as I used two of my daily allotted exclamation points for the day.)

    As mentioned, I love Neil. So do a lot of other people Neil. He’s a great writer, he’s a genuinely funny speaker, and he just lights up an audience. Beforehand, we were allowed to ask questions... I blanked and couldn’t think of one, but there were plenty of others. Neil came out, and laid out the plans for the evening for us: a reading from his new book (squeal!) then he’d answer questions... he had a large amount of Dr. Who questions (damn) then he’d read one more story to us, unpublished. It was going to be an excellent night.

    I mention the Dr. Who fans in the audience. I don’t have a problem with Dr. Who or it’s fans. I’m a fan of the good Dr. That being said, when we rose to give him a standing ovation, and you’re sitting in front of me in a “bow ties are cool” shirt and when you rise your pants fall halfway down your ass exposing your not-so great underwear but you won’t pull them up for fear you’ll miss out on your picture... please don’t. Just. It takes half a second, and he was posing, he’ll be there for a while. This is your Bad Shakespeare Public Service Announcement of the day.

    It started with his reading from his book that he sent off to the publisher earlier that day, “The Ocean at The End of the Lane.” It was brilliant. He joked that originally he wasn’t going to do it because we would have to wait a year to find out what happened. I don’t care. I was reminded about the power of reading aloud by another professor, and this encapsulated it. All due respect to the professor (Hi, Zenkov!) who did read in a wonderful way, there’s nothing quite like hearing your favorite writer read his own work. It was an experience unlike anything I’ve ever felt. When I read to myself, I hear my own voice, but for the first time, I was watching the action happening. No spoilers here, but I cannot wait for the book.

    Then came question time. There were the Dr. Who questions, which he took and answered (As well as he could... he related a funny story about being asked questions with a mouth full of food, and it being reported as fact), he talked about his writing gazebo, why he wouldn’t be signing books afterwards (there were 1800 people... that just wasn’t going to happen), his appearance on the Simpsons where was thrilled to be playing himself as a “Baddie”, and all the usual questions. Then he got asked the usual question that I couldn’t wait to hear the answer to.

    “What’s your advice to writers?”

    Now, I figured he’d be asked that. He’s a successful writer. The room was filled with avid readers, most of whom I’m sure thought of writing. So he gave us his advice, which I will forever remember.
“Sit down.”


    “If you you’re using a pencil, make sure it’s sharp, if you use a pen, fill it with ink, if you’re at a computer, turn it on. Write a word, then another, then send it to someone to publish it. When they reject it, send it somewhere else.


    Simple words, but let’s be honest with you, words that no one wants to hear. Being Neil Gaiman, he did throw out a funny story how there’s no magic postcard that you have to burn at midnight during a full moon with a black match then writers appear at your door to tell you the secrets. That’s Neil.

    I was a little sad he didn’t get a chance to sign anything in person, but he presigned plenty, and I did get a copy of my book then. Tenth Anniversary Edition of "American Gods", one of my favorite books.

    There’s always a little trepidation at seeing someone you admire so much speak. There really is. There’s the chance that they may let down this wonderful ideal you’ve built up in your head. We all go through that, and that’s evident when we build up some romance between two actors that falls apart, or some athlete that’s caught doing drugs. But I’m excited to say that seeing him live surpassed all my expectations. I got to hear a book that was unreleased, read by the original author. I got to hear that there isn’t a secret to writing, you just have to do it. I got to hear 1800 people cheer for a book. To me, that’s incredible. I got to hear 1800 people cheer for a writer like he was a rock star. I got to see 1800 people give a standing ovation to a guy who writes for a living.

    I don’t have a closing sentence, really. I could throw in a joke, “But remember to pull up your pants.” I could throw in something profound, “And that’s how I discovered my true path.” But I’m not going to. I’m going to leave it at that. That last statement, because I’m proud of what that means for the future.

    I got to see 1800 people give a standing ovation to a guy who writes for a living.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Of Heroes, Meth Kingpins and Banned Books

   Normally in this spot you would be seeing Breaking Bad Shakespeare Friday. I’m going to keep that up, not to worry, my friends, but I will be taking two weeks off. Why? Because tonight I’m doing something uber fun, and we need to discuss it. And because next week is Banned Books Week. Obviously, I’m going to be all over that.

    But tonight... tonight my friends, I’m going to see Neil Gaiman speak at George Mason University. I want you to take a moment to think about how important this is for me. Imagine your favorite writer. Now imagine you’re going to see him speak. That’s how important that is for me. (Wait, I guess that’s not to hard...)

    Neil Gaiman is the first writer that I felt was writing just to me. Obviously I know that he wasn’t, there are no hidden messages in it that tell me exactly how I am going to live my life. (this isn’t the Harry Potter series, folks) What I mean is that Neil Gaiman was the first writer to put out a book that made it seem as if someone was writing specifically to my tastes. I remember reading “American Gods” and being blown away at the scope of it all. This isn’t a book. It’s a giant experience that encompasses so many different concepts but tells a coherent story that everyone can enjoy. I can’t explain it any clearer than that, so I hope it makes sense.

    Do you remember the first time you heard your favorite song? Do you remember how you wanted to play it 90 times in a row to make sure you remembered every word, every note? That’s how I felt the first time I read “American Gods.” Then I devoured “Good Omens” the funniest book I have ever read in my entire life (About the end of the world). Let’s not get started on “Neverwhere”, “Stardust” (the book is better... the book is ALWAYS BETTER) and back issues of “Sandman”, because this post will be longer than the books themselves when I discuss how much they mean to me.

    That’s why I can’t wait to hear him speak. I’ve seen videos, read his interviews, etc... but his writing means something to me. I can always point to some part of his books and get something out of them. I can always find a quote that is relevant to something I am going through. He is one of the reasons I have started writing as much as I have lately... because this man is a hero of mine.

    So, tonight, I get to see my author in action. It’s going to be an epic experience. I honestly can’t wait to see what he has to say. Sadly, he will not be signing books, so I will not get to meet him, but to be in the same room as him, absorbing his words life is going to be an awesome experience. I look forward to sharing it with you.

    Our next exciting adventure, my friends, will be Banned Books Week. The fact that we have this week makes me sad.

    Breaking Bad Shakespeare will return in two weeks for our final three installments: Jesse Pinkman, Walter White, and where the show goes from here to achieve Maximum Shakespeareanness.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

This Post Gets a SparklyFace Unicorn!

    Obviously, I am taking classes to be a teacher.
    I mean, if I wasn’t, then I’m just a guy with opinions and a forum for them talking about something I knew little about and just had a passion for. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing, the only real qualification for having a blog is passion and the ability to write about it. But, I digress.

    Many of my teacher in training/now teaching friends do read this blog. Hi, teacher friends. I’m going to talk about something that really annoyed me during classes. I can assure you, none of you are involved in this, because I tended to avoid the people I’m talking about.

    Teaching is somewhat competitive, but I have noticed that it reaches a broader group than most other fields. Just looking at my classes will tell you that, it was difficult to really lump them into one “group.” Well, that’s a little bit of a lie, that statement is true of my general teaching classes, the English classes were mostly... well, we’ll say not male. (that means there were an average of 3 guys in each class.) That’s not important, to my story, though, and my annoyance. (I’m building to that. I’m allowed.)

    Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. The other thing about teaching is that there really is no one “right” way to do it. The kids learn the materials (you succeed!) or they don’t (you’ve failed.) There are a million different ways to teach kids, and your job as a teacher is to adapt to each of those different ways. The problem with this is that’s really difficult for anyone to stand up there and say, “yes. that is how you teach kids. You have reached 95% on the teaching simulator. Here is your diploma.” As a result of this fact, some of the best teaching teachers I’ve had are the ones that give us open ended assignments that make us get creative, think how we may handle a situation, and won’t require one specific way to do something.

    Sadly... there are those that can’t think in those terms. They’re what I like to call the “A Squad.” Because no matter how much we are supposed to think about what we are doing, or what we want to do, they want to get that A. They want to be told the EXACT SPECIFICATIONS for getting that A. And that’s annoying as finding a hair in your burrito. Sorry, I just ate a burrito as I’m writing this. There’s no hair, but I’m like, what if there was? I digress.

    There’s no one right way to teaching. What works one day will fail hilariously the next. (I say hilariously because you have to look back in laughter and what doesn’t work. Otherwise, the crushingness will crush you.) It requires adaption, and the best and brightest I’ve seen succeed are the ones who have gone on and found ways to adapt. They were the ones when we got these brilliant, wonderful assignments would get to work, not waste time raising their hands asking if presenting it one way or another would result in an A.

    Of course, that’s just a minor observation in the world o’teaching.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bill Murray is The Only Thing Keeping the Martians at Bay

On Friday, September 21st I drove from my home in Virginia to Florida on a trip to help my sister-in-law move back into her house following her evacuation from Hurricane Isaac. Around eight o’clock, after I’d been on the road for over twelve hours, I turned on the record function on my phone, and began talking. Here’s the edited version of what goes on in my head when alone with my thoughts.

    Today is Bill Murray’s birthday. I firmly believe that Bill Murray is probably the greatest thing that the people of this time period have to give to society. Smart phones will eventually go out of style (remember when the RAZR with it’s “color screen” and thinness was the height of technology?); HD and 3D movies are just the precursor to holographic near realistic entertainment; wifi is becoming the norm; and let’s not get started on how primitive cloud computing will look in a few years. (You might as well be downloading that song via carrier pigeon.)

    No, Bill Murray is probably the greatest thing this world has to offer right now. The amount of Murrayness in a film is really what determines how truly great it is. What’s holding up Ghostbusters 3? Bill Murray. In Zombieland, who’s house do the characters go to even when they can go literally anywhere? Billy Murray. Who did SNL call on when they were having the worse season ever? Bill Murray. Who do you get when you want a semi-serious actor to bring a nuanced performance? Bill Murray.  Who does Wes Anderson call when he has just finished writing a movie? Who can say that they performed with Harold Ramis, Gene Hackman AND RZA? Who is the only persons the Martians have already contacted and has successfully negotiated intergalatic? Bill Murray. (probably)

    My point is that while we are taking full advantage of our natural Bill Murray resource, I don’t know if we truly appreciate our natural Bill Murray resource right now. I fear this is one of those things where we’ll go back and say, “Hey, Groundhog Day is pretty awesome... I love Bill Murray” when AMC is running a marathon of it on February 2nd in 2224, after we’ve already been through seven Church of Bill Murray popes and his head, that has been kept alive in a jar to this point, has decided to retire. (The marathon is in celebration of his retirement. It’s one of the lesser films but leads into 100 nights/100 Oscar Award winning films.)

    And keep in mind that the above is just best case scenario. While I’m sure that science is working on keeping Bill Murray’s head alive in a jar to give us Ghostbusters 7: The Next Generation, I fear that no one is adequately working on the election process of a Pope for the Church of Bill Murray just yet. (It would probably involve burning copies of Garfield to announce that the last pope had died, then burning copies of Garfield 2 when he’s elected.)

    You see, Bill Murray has touched us all. An entire generation of actors is coming to prominence right now, but none of them have the Bill Murrayness that made Bill Murray Bill Murray. Maybe Jack Black? I mean, he’s sort of there, but on a scale of Garfield to Ghostbusters, I fear that he’s a What About Bob? at the best. AT BEST.

    So, I guess the bottom line is that we remind ourselves of what is important. That’s why I lobby that we move to make September 21st as National Bill Murray Day, and we all stop what we are doing, slip our favorite Bill Murray movie into the Blu-Ray, DVD, VHS, Streaming or technology not yet invented, and enjoy and laugh at the antics of America’s funniest human, and national treasure.

   It’s really not too much to ask.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Breaking Bad Shakespeare Friday: Los Pollos Hermanos

            We’ve explored characters and symbols. Now I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl as we get to the nitty gritty of our Breaking Bad Shakespeare exploration, and explore who I think are three of the most important characters on television: Gus Fring, Walter White, and Jesse Pinkman. (Arguably you could explore Mike and a few others, but these are my favorite.) This week we look at Chicken Restaurateur/Meth KINGpin/Business Man… Gus Fring. (Oh, no… he capitalized “king.” That means it’s probably important.) We will be covering some spoilers regarding Gus, so if you haven’t caught up, do so now. I’ll give you a minute to do so before continuing to the next paragraph.

                When we first meet Gus, we don’t know we’ve just met Walter’s future employer and leader of a Meth Empire/Revenge story. He’s just the humble owner of a Chicken franchise that looks somewhat delicious. (And will make you wonder what’s really in your chicken.) Gus keeps a low profile, even helping the police and running fundraisers for them… Gus is the ultimate example of hiding in plain sight. In fact, it’s the failure of others that end up getting him caught. (Also it’s a strong message that if you own a fried chicken joint, don’t hire a vegan to run your meth operations. Huge tipoff to police.)

                Gus does represent our king… one of many kings that are on this show. The other is Gray Matter, the company that Walt was originally part of, until he left. (For unclear reasons, as of season 4...) See, Gray Matter when big, and Walt ran out on it. That’s a huge missing puzzle piece for us, because it is that loss of at Gray Matter that drives Walt to take on Gus the way he has. In his mind, Gus is the top of the Meth Game. That’s what drives Gus to hire Walt… Walt’s Meth is best, Gus runs the best, so therefor, he needs Walt/Heisenberg to work in his operation. Walt sees all that Gus has, and realizes he doesn’t want money. He wants to be Gus. He sees how high he can go in the business, and not just have money, but respect too. Gus is respected. He has a loyal army who will die for him. When Walt betrays Gus, and won’t cook until he knows he’s safe, one of his foot soldiers starts to cook without his ok. Rather than kill Walt (who’s needed) Gus calmly kills the soldier who is doing the unauthorized cook. This is a powerful message.

                So, Gus is our King. He’s our Cladius. He’s the nice guy who’s not a nice guy, who represents everything that Walt wants to be. In fact, he’s our clear vision into Walt’s future, something Shakespeare loved to do with so many characters. Hamlet’s madness could be interpreted as struggle to not end up as ambitious as his Uncle, murdering his brother. Certainly one can also see the parallel in Macbeth, where the title character murders the king then is murdered as king. But I’ve been going to the Macbeth well too much in these reviews, I’m constantly looking for another good angle.

 Gus’s business partner (and possible lover, depending on a few interviews and how you interpret things) is murdered early in his career by an enforcer named Hector.  Hector is in a wheelchair and can’t speak, communicating only through a bell. Gus spends much of his time, and part of the series, ensuring that every member of Hector’s family is murdered. (Warning Hank of the creepy twins attack, then murdering the one twin when Hank fails to…) Now, I mentioned early on that Gus was very meticulous in his planning  and appearance. Never drove a flash car, didn’t wear fancy clothes, took extra precautions… etc.  The one place he didn’t take those precautions were when he went to Hector to gloat that his family was dying, and he was stuck in a chair. And it was during one of those gloat sessions that Walt was able to attach a bomb, and kill Gus, thus ensuring that he would be able to take over his Meth Empire.

This is a classic example of Shakespearean writing. The ONE THING that Gus couldn’t avoid in all his meticulousness was bragging to this ONE man. And that is his undoing. Really you don’t get much more Shakespearean than that. The best part is the fact that it is at the hands of Walt that he dies. The young(ish) upstart that is poised to take over his empire. Now the question is, Walt, who shares some of Gus’s flaws (only exaggerated; whereas Gus wished that Hector knew he was in charge, Walt wants everyone to know and fear Heisenberg.): What slipup will he make that will end his life, or end his reign?

I could write a book just on Gus Fring alone. But I urge you to watch this series, and pay close attention to him. He’s a deadly, complicated man, and the best glimpse we have into what’s going to happen to Walt at the close of this series.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Shadow Government Reminds You of the Importance of Voting, and Not Reanimating Mice for Your Secret Army, Ben Franklin.

          It’s September, which means that in a scant two months voters will go to the polls and elect a President to head up our government. Also included in this will be hundreds of Senators and Congressmen. Yes, everyone gets worked up once every four years (despite the fact that local elections happen every year) and everyone starts talking about exactly how this new Government will affect us all. What people aren’t talking about, however, is Shadow Government, and how the upcoming Shadow Elections. Which is, I guess, the point.

                Yes, around the same time as the elections, the Shadow Elections will take place with the Shadow Voters, electing a Shadow President along with a new Shadow Congress. Since no one really talks about the Shadow Government (except the band, “They Might Be Giants” who wrote a song about how the Shadow Government is never around when you really need them, an approved message from the Shadow Government.) But this is an exciting Shadow Election year, with every Shadow Seat up for grabs, including Shadow Dog Catcher.

                The Shadow Government in America has a very long and proud legacy, ever since John Hancock ran for Shadow President against Benjamin Franklin and lost by almost 20 Shadow Votes, and George Washington took over as official President because Franklin was too busy attempting to reanimate dead mice with electricity and having sex with as many women as he possibly could. (At the time, America was very anti-Undead Mouse Army. It was a different time.) The trend, of course, continues today as Shadow Candidate Brian Jones shows is plan that [REDACTED] is better than Gary Smith’s plan, thus ensuring that [REDACTED] ends its secret war with [REDACTED].  And as a proud Shadow Voter, I am certainly looking forward to the Shadow Debates and our secret Shadow Moderator [REDACTED] who is not as dead as everyone thinks.

                Of course, it’s not all fun and games, as there are plenty of Shadow Fringe Candidates running in the different parties. And let’s not forget all the Shadow Gaffes being reported by the Mainstream Shadow Media, which is clearly on the side of Brian Jones as he makes his bid for President. Although the Shadow Polls are showing that Gary Johnson’s numbers are going through the roof after he was able to negotiate a treaty between the Brain Slugs of Moxon 9 and Hollywood, thus ensuring that they would have fresh brainwaves to feast on as you watch the next Will Ferrell movie, and as a result, winning his full endorsement.

                This is in contrast to Brian Jones’s plan of lifting the ban on Time Travel, and destroying the Brain Slugs of Morlon 9 before they were able to influence the outcome of the 1993 Academy Awards, thus ensuring that Marisa Tomei does not win her Oscar, and setting America down the path that required further involvement of the Shadow Government. Marisa Tomei officially rejected this proposal before her memory was erased.

                So it is important for all Shadow voters to make their appearance on the undisclosed day of the undisclosed month at the undisclosed voting booths to make sure you vote, provided you aren’t one of the first 100 people and immediately drafted into the Shadow Government’s Secret Army to help fight the Gorilla Men that definitely weren’t created in a lab accident in the Shadow Government’s secret lab beneath the surface of the moon. Your Shadow Government depends on it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Eating a Deep Dish Pizza with Billy the Goat

Well, it was only really a matter of time before I had to discuss the giant elephant in Chicago. No, the Chicago Cubs haven’t broken the curse of Billy the Goat and won the World Series, thus prompting the Mayan Apocalypse. (Although Brittany Spears’s newfound popularity is a big sign.) This is a blog on my quest for teacherdom (and the Lost City of Gold, if there’s time) so I can’t ignore the fact that the third largest school district in the United States is currently on strike.

                There are many different sides to the strike, and it boils down to one side wants something, and the other side doesn’t want to give it up. Then more people get involved, pundits who think they know what is going on throw in their opinion, some cartoonists decide to draw all teachers as fat and lazy, then more people get angry, someone says that teachers make too much money, then we discuss what a teacher is worth, then government representatives hold out because they know parents will only be so supportive and somewhere in there the kids are just excited because summer gets to last a little bit longer. Does that run-on sentence about sum things up?

                First of all, I disagree with teacher strikes in general. Not because I feel they don’t deserve what they are asking for (better benefits and a better way of evaluating their performances – that last one is a post in and of itself) but teacher strikes hurt the wrong people. The only people being hurt are the parents, who, as I mentioned are on the side of the teachers for now, and the kids. Government doesn’t really get hurt by this. Close down some buildings for a bit? They can pour more money into making those deep dish pizzas or whatever it is the Chicago Government does. (I know they don’t. I just started talking about Chicago, and I want pizza. Someone get on that.)

                The second big issue is the fact that this is once again an opportunity to demonize teachers.  If you have the stomach for it, go ahead and look at some of the comments people are making regarding all of these “lazy teachers”. And it’s not just striking ones, all teachers get lumped into it, then we talk about salary and the rich lifestyles of teachers (after all, when they’re not teaching they are spending long hours in their summer homes just outside of Paris, eating deep dish pizza… focus, Michael, focus!). Striking teachers just further hurts the cause. If anything, something needs to be done to show how valuable teachers are, and that not getting the basic tools to do a job is only going to further hurt that.

                And yes, he said, reading all of your minds, I’m going to come at this in a very pro-teacher stance. I’m unabashedly biased when it comes to shouting the fact that teachers are unappreciated, and one just has to use their magic Google boxes to see how underappreciated they are. But once again, they’re being thrown under the bus (pun not intended… no, wait. This is probably the only acceptable time for a pun.) because they dare demand something that might improve how they do their job.

                Of course, teaching is easy, right? That’s why so many people go into it so readily, and why it’s so easy to get a teaching degree.

                Don’t demonize teachers. Disagree with them, but I’m tired of the crap coming out of the mouths of people because teachers are asking for something. They could go about it better, yes, but so could everyone.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Breaking Bad Shakespeare Friday: I'm So Blue

Saul, Hank, and Skyler are all important characters on the Meth-cooking, plot twisting, Franch-creating show that is Breaking Bad. And their use certainly enhances my argument that we’re not watching Breaking Bad so much as The Tragedy of Walter White, Chemistry Teacher of New Mexico. And I’ve not gotten, (to what I feel) are the big four of the series: Mike, the ultimate Henchman; Gus Fring, mild mannered Chicken Shack owner/Meth Kingpin; Jesse Pinkman, apprentice; and the man himself, Walter White the Science Guy. (You were thinking it, too. I just said it.)
    I plan on getting on each of those characters, but quite frankly, I need to take a bit of a break in discussing solely the characters, because I’m doing a disservice to what makes Breaking Bad Shakespearean in it’s execution. (No pun intended to the many, many people killed by Walter White.) So this week, I want to talk about something this show does well: Symbols.

    Symbols were ALWAYS a big part of what made Shakespeare who he was in his writing. From a bloody hankerchief to a dagger (that may or may not be before me) to characters themselves, Shakespeare loved him some symbols. Breaking Bad and it’s writers are no exceptions.

    The biggest, of course, comes during the season’s second season, the Pink Teddy Bear. I won’t go into too much detail on this one, simply because it’s been over analyzed to death. The Pink Teddy Bear showed first in the White’s pool, (technically in a music video for a fake band, I’m going to count the show because of it’s impact) then showed up in “flash forwards”. The episode names formed the titles “Seven Thirty Seven” “Down” “Over” “ABQ” giving us the foreshadowing to the season finale, when the event happened, indirectly caused by Walter. The bear came to represent Walt’s path of destruction. Later, when he finds the eye of the bear in the pool, he saves it, adopting it as a personal talisman. I believe the act of him picking up this one last piece of the bear (that’s taken away as evidence) as the final moment when we are to see “Walter White, Guy trying to help his family” to “Walter White: Bad Guy.” (Not that he was ever good, but this is a full on embracing of the role.)

    Then there’s the fly. The fly, a contaminant in the Meth Superlab where Walt clocks in as if he were going to work at a factory, is also a strong symbol. I think this one hasn’t been explored as much. While some people discuss that it’s his “guilt” I think it’s more than that. Thinking in science terms, Walt started the show with sort of a contaminant, his cancer. As he gets drawn deeper and deeper into the criminal underworld, he realizes that he’s becoming contaminated himself. While he wasn’t a saint, he did start the series working two jobs to protect his pregnant wife. He started the show as a decent guy, not a great guy. But the fly continues to appear, a visual representation of Walt’s descent into Heisenberg.

    Color. Color is another big symbol in the series. Each character has their own, “color scheme” that proceeds them (Green, orange, purple...) I won’t really go into who is wearing what, I want you to be watching this and seeing what you can see, but I want to talk about the Meth itself here. In the first episode, Walt does his best to cook the purest Meth he possibly can. (I’m capitalizing “Meth” because in this case, it’s almost a character.) And he succeeds. It’s the hit of the down, because Walt believes that if you do something, you do it right and you do it the best you can. (Indeed, Jesse has saved a paper from when he was in Walt’s class that said “Apply Yourself.” Another recurring theme.) He does this because Jesse had a signature where he put Chili Powder in the Meth, and Walt hated the idea. Do your best, you don’t need any sort of “help” from phony signatures.

    But later, when they’re cut off from their usual recipe, they steal a chemical that turns their Meth blue. (They use real science talk for this. I point out again, English. I can barely keep up on Star Trek.) From that point on, they do their best to ensure that the Meth remains blue- Heisenberg/Walt’s signature. This also a window into the world of Walt’s corruption. His once pure Meth is now a different color... blue... so people know that it’s Walt. It’s blue. A fairly innocuous color. It’s not bold like red, or regal, like purple. It lacks the foreboding of black, or the moral ambiguity of grey. It’s blue. But this one tiny visual change is kind of ignored when a lot of people discuss Breaking Bad. It comes at the end of the second season. It comes when Walt is still sick, when he’s still trying to figure things out for his family (despite the millions he’ll eventually earn, he originally sets out to earn only enough to keep his family safe when he dies) and he makes one tweak, out of necessity. Then despite unlimited resources, he keeps the tweak. So everyone knows it’s him.

    Because as we move into the home stretch of Breaking Bad Shakespeare Fridays, we need to start discussing Walter White's Tragic Flaw. (Which is apparent in all of Shakespeare's great tragedies.) In this case, it's Walter White's Pride. And that is what the blue represents.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

iPhone 100 Release Party!

   Hello and thank you for joining us for our live Applesoft iPhone 100 event. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 100 years since we first released the iPhone, and we are already on it’s 100th iteration. There has been a lot of history surrounding these phones. From the first form factor that seemed like a giant brick compared to the tiny device you inject into your blood stream once every two weeks. I know there has been some controversy with it as well, from dropped calls, to teleportation accidents and the brief moment when the iPhone 12s developed sentience and turned on most of their owners, but we believe that we have worked out the bugs, and we are pleased to announce our newest iPhone. Here are some of the new features that we have developed.

    -The ability to produce mini-flux capacitors, thus allowing full integration to GoogleTime. Unlike the ill fated iTime that resulted in major changes to the timestream, GoogleTime allows you to view the past, rather than change it. So feel free to look back on important moments of history, like the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the conclusion of the Cat/Human war and the signing of the I Kan Haz Treatiez.
    However, please note that all those still using iTime, President Kennedy has asked you stop going back in time to undo/redo his assassination. Thank you. A software patch is coming up to prevent you from doing this.

    -Thanks to advancements in the new iLife and our partnership with Twitmyfacestrgram, you will be able to share every moment of your life on the brand new social media site, Dave. Miniature cameras ands microphones will clamp onto the inside of your iballs and idrums, thus allowing you share every moment on Dave. Want to show the people on Cloud City how you live in Mega-New York? Did you successfully defend your hometown from another mutant uprising? Or are you just going on a nice cruise on lovely Lake Texas? Share them all on Dave, via Twitmyfacestragam.

    -iMovie has been upgraded as well! Would you like to watch the great American Classic movie American Pie? How about starring Kayne Kardashian-Shore? iMovie will directly beam any movie you’d like, directly into your brain starring whoever you want. Make sure you check out the new releases, like the fourth remake of the Harry Potter movies, or the Ultra-Special-Ultimate Edition of the Original Star Wars, now 100% CGI and with 20% less Wookies.

    -Facetime Carrier Pigeon. That’s right, we’ve upgraded Facetime to it’s natural conclusion. Once you activate Facetime, a carrier pigeon will be released to your location so you can write a note to a loved one. It’s the ultimate way to communicate in New Hipsterton, built on what was once known as Seattle.

    -iPhone Generator. We’ve developed a holographic device that will sit inside your hand and make it appear as if you are talking on any number of old iPhones! It’s another one of our iRetro advancements. Fool your friends to thinking you are actually “reading” a text message like back in the pre-brain download days. This can show any iPhone from the original to the iphone 85, the last time a physical phone was required. Oh, we did leave out the iPhone 50, since the incident.

    -One last thing, and this is a special feature for our friends currently enslaved in Canada, “Find My Robot Overlord.” That’s right, once this is activated, it will lead you right back to your robot overlord. No more taking a beating or a hot oil bath because you missed curfew or because you were “lost” and not trying to escape to the free territory of Idaho. Just one way Applesoft is helping embrace all cultures on Planet Earth.

    Of course, the iPhone 100 comes fully loaded with it’s usually standard features such as iAngrybirds, iUniversaltranslator, iWallet, iDentity, and iGod. Shipping on the brand new iPhone will begin shipping in two weeks. Once it has been confirmed to arrive at your city, the iPhone 99s will self-destruct. Side effects may include a headache, bleeding from the eyes, and a craving for cheese. Please consult a Doctor, if one is available in your town.

    Thank you. Now stay tuned for a concert from the most popular recording artist in the country this week, the Reconstituted DNA of Snookie and John Mayer.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Your Brief Fact O' The Day.

    So, nowadays every news of a movie or a review of a movie seems to begin on it’s status as a remake, sequel, a remake of a sequel, a sequel of a remake, or it’s lack of being a remake or a sequel. Then normally a bump is given if the movie falls into the latter category, because after all Hollywood is devoid of really good ideas, and can only fall back on old TV shows, old movies, or slaps together another sequel to a long dead franchise. (The only exception being Die Hard. The fact remains that Die Hard will exist as long as Bruce Willis exists. Remaking this movie will go against God’s ultimate plan for humanity, and making another one without Bruce Willis will bring His Almighty wrath down on us. Fact.)

    But did you know that Shakespeare only wrote one play from his own imagination? It’s true! The Tempest is believed to be the only play written without the aid of a previously written story or a historical figure, and is not a sequel to one of his works, or did not feature a spinoff for a character like John Falstaff.  (Although you can see The Tempest’s influences in the Die Hard series. But that's a post for another day.) In fact it is believed that the Tempest was his final play, and Prospero’s speech at the end reflects a man out of his time, much as Shakespeare was seeing the world change around him. (Even that contains some elements seen in many other Shakespearean works, like Russell Brand and Helen Mirren.)

    So, the next time someone complains that there’s nothing but a dearth of unoriginal ideas in Hollywood, blame William Shakespeare.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Breaking Bad Shakespeare Friday: Macduff is Hank!

   Giant note: I said I was not going to cover season five of Breaking Bad just yet as I work on my Shakespearean Analysis. However Sunday’s mid-season finale thrust itself into my analysis with one tiny moment. I’m going to have to discuss it, briefly. Season Five Spoilers ahead.   

    So we’ve covered the comic fool, the wife, and the overall feel of the series Breaking Bad that make it truly a Shakespearean piece. Now let’s talk about classic Shakespearean character: the Brother-In-Law.

    Ok, so maybe not the CLASSIC Shakespearean character. (The most famous being Hamlet’s Uncle, who ends up killing his brother and marrying his sister-in-law.) But in this case our “hero” (or the only truly good guy in the story) is Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank. What makes Hank interesting is that there is so much potential to make Hank a giant joke. Because Hank is a DEA agent. And Hank is constantly looking for Heisenberg, Walt’s meth drug lord legend/alter-ego. And Hank constantly asks Walt for assistance with some of the finer details in finding Heisenberg.

    But Hank isn’t an idiot. He’s a good guy. Buy “good guy” I mean that he actually cares for his family, and doesn’t suspect Walt for the simple reason that Walt is a good man. (To him.) There are several moments in the series where Hank could easily bust Walt: early theft of lab equipment, the initials W.W. found in the notebook of a man that Walt had murdered so he couldn’t steal his formula. (Note: This is where season five has thrown us a curve. While Hank ignored this fact initially, he found further evidence and put two and two together. This is our proof that Hank isn’t an idiot.)

    But what is it that pushes Hank from “character” to “Shakespearean influence on the show?” Because he’s driven to action. Most characters would play him off as a joke. As mentioned, that would be the easiest way to go with the character. Whoops, his brother-in-law is cooking meth! Right under this nose! Hilarity ensues. (The movie version would star Adam Sandler in both roles.) But they don’t. They make him a complex character that cares about his family. But Hank wants to keep people safe any way he can, especially his own family.

    Hank is also a symbol of how far Walt is willing to go. It’s clear that Walt, Jr, idolizes his DEA, action thriving Uncle. It’s also clear that Walt is jealous of that. At one point, Hank is attacked and nearly killed in a hit that was meant for Walt. (Yes, Walt didn’t order the attack, but he is indirectly responsible, particularly since Hank was put in the position to be attacked by Walt.) This drives him into action. Hank is our Macduff. Hank is not our focus, but he is our hero.

    So where do we go from here? A happy ending for our protagonist is for Walt to get away and live happily ever after. A happy ending for Hank, the “hero” role is for him to catch Walt and be validated that “Heisenberg” is off the streets. There are a million places to go. While we have a direction (and eight freakin’ months to find out what happens) but at this point literally anything is going to happen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

To the Wonder of the Tree of Life Fountain

   Recently those of us who obsessively follow movie news have been treated to the news that the new Terrence Malick movie To The Wonder has met with “divided” reviews. The “divided” is in quotes (you can reference that in this sentence) appears to be “critics” vs. “audience members.” Basically it boils down to the fact that the critics love it, and the audience... may not like it so much. (I personally think it should be settled with pistols at dawn.)

    I bring this up because it reminds me of an incident that happened back before I started this blog, which is something that I would have totally written about had it existed back then. Back in February, I went to go see the “AMC Oscar Showcase” which shows all of the movies that were nominated for an Oscar in one 24 hour glorious marathon. (I will be marathoning again this year, so look for that!) But one of the movies was Terrence Malick’s last movie Tree Of Life. I commented that I didn’t enjoy it. I was immediately told that I was “watching it wrong” (I should have watched it with my feet?) and that I didn’t “understand what he was trying to say.”

    Here’s the thing. I did understand what Malick was trying to do. I understood the story, I just didn’t like how he went about it. Long nature shots, a listing voice over, Sean Penn wandering around, and a story done in flashback that was supposed to represent a sort of coming of age, sort of compassion vs. cruelty that everyone goes through. Oh, and Jessica Chastain flying and rotating in the light. I just didn’t like it. I felt it was what happened when you got a film student, gave him Brad Pitt and a budget, and told him to cut loose. And when I tried to say I didn’t think it was a good movie, I was attacked. (Not literally, but you get what I’m saying.)

    Now these audience members are being attacked by more critics who claim they “don’t get it.” (ignoring the fact that movies are made for people seeing them.) But the whole thing goes with what I’m asking all along: What is art? Who says what is art and what is good. Here we have an audience that hates it, and a bunch of critics that love it. So, who is right?
   But, this little skirmish points out what I am saying all along: Who is it that determines that something is literary? That group of critics? The Audience? If I can find meaning in a book, but not in a "classic" then don't I determine what I can find?

    I don’t have an answer. What? Yes, I don’t currently have an answer.  That's the point. I can't determine what you will get out of something. These movies, and the work of Terrence Malick clearly prove that. There are a vocal group of people who don’t like it. There are a group of people who do.  Neither is wrong. Both have valid arguments. And just because someone gets something, or doesn't get something out of a movie doesn't invalidate your opinion of it. At this point I’m just sort of writing in circles. (Like a Terrence Malick film!)

    But for now, let's just forget the debate. I’m going to go watch the Fountain again. (Yes. I know he didn't work on that movie. I just liked it better.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Oh, My the Jedi Are Going To Feel This...

   Today is an unofficial holiday. That’s right millions of school kids return... to school! (Cue lightning and theremin music. Kids, ask a teacher what a theremin is!) After three months of relaxation, summer camps, staying up late, and summer blockbusters, it’s time for kids to return to school. (Unless, of course you were one of those schools that returned last week. Wow, then I should have written something then. Just imagine you’re reading this a week ago.)

    Yes, right now a million Jedi are screaming in agony at the collective sigh that is most schools returning to school. Most commuters are screaming in terror at the increased traffic as people aren’t on vacation and are now back on the road. Lifeguards leave their summer in the sun and pools become scary lots that you pretend not to notice. Pumpkin is added to every menu, beer, whatever. And once again you can go to the movies on a weeknight and it’s just a little emptier. (Also, the movies start either sucking or going into major prestige mode.) We are getting toward jean jacket weather. The holidays are just around the corner.

    I love autumn. I know we don’t really hit it up for another three weeks, and it’s going to remain ungodly hot for another month or two. But there’s something about this time of year. Something in the air for me. Something that just gets my blood pumping and gets my creative juices flowing. I love this time of year.

    I know I’m in the minority on this. Especially those kids who are currently looking at horror at their backpack right now, and are not looking forward to the homework they are about to have. But look at it in a new light. Think of it as an opportunity. Right now anything can happen. Right now there is an opportunity for a brand new school year ahead of you! Take advantage of it! We are going to head toward this new school year together! (I'll be watching from the sideline. Hopefully not for too long.)

    But seriously, stop putting pumpkin in everything this time of year.