Friday, March 15, 2013

Beware the Ides of March. And Clowns.

Hey boys and girls, it's that time again, apparently. I personally didn't get the memo, but evidentially it is time once again for all of us to post our political conspiracy theories without a shred of research and care about the public forum in which we're doing it. At first, I was all like, "why can't people just do some research before they post their craziness?" and "why are people posting something so insane here?" but then I realized that I was thinking too hard.

It’s important to think about conspiracy theories as today are the Ides of March. For those of you who aren’t hip to Shakespeare, the Ides of March were the day that Julius Caesar was told to watch out for because people were plotting against him. This particular conspiracy theory turned out to be true, because he was stabbed many, many times, and Brutus, the honorable man was betrayed after betraying his friend.

So today, in honor of the Ides of March, I have the best conspiracy theories that haven't yet hit the internet. Feel free to take any of them, as I have not done a shred of research. After all, if conspiracies worked for Brutus, Julius Caesar, and Mark Anthony, they’re good enough for everyone!

        -Those CAPTCHA tests aren't there to ensure you are a human; they're there to find out who is a robot. Once they've proven that you are a machine, you'll be shown into the secret underground fight club where they make humans fight and bet on them. And the CAPTCHA tests are really more to ensure you can bet. Humans aren't allowed to handle robot money. It's a little racist, but ultimately the robots have the power, so there's not much we can do about it.

        -Secret Government Laboratories (tm) are currently working on cloning technology. If you've ever handled a penny, there's a clone of you right now being trained to step into your life should a second you be killed by the work being done by a Second Rival Secret Government Laboratory (tm) which is working on creating human/animal hybrids. If you've ever handled a nickel, then there's currently an animal/human hybrid of you running around.

        -Solyent Green is people! It's people! It's... wait, what? Never mind.

        -Back in 1973, God did return to Earth. He briefly looked around, shrugged His Heavenly Shoulders and said, "good enough" and headed back to heaven. This was recorded by a group of plucky teenagers on a Super 8 camera, but was taken by the Government and locked it away in the secret underground bunker that also contains the first evidence of time travel, the real dinosaur bones, and the first draft of Justin Bieber.

        -The MLB was first started as part of a secret program of missile defense. The original plan was to simply hit any nuclear weapons back to their country of origin using wooden bats. This was later replaced with the plan to simply dunk them back using NBA players, but the standing around on a field in the middle of August remains.

-There is no Lincoln Memorial.

-Google was invented by robots to figure out what we have questions about to help them in their domination of Earth. The first thing they’re going to strike down are Brad and Angelina. I know this is the second robot-related event I put on here, but those robots... you have to watch out for them.

-While we’re on the subject, I’m not too trustful of clowns, either. I don’t know enough to say something obnoxious about them, but you know... I’m keeping my eye on them. All of them. Your biggest fear should be a big-shoed, red-nosed, green-haired angel of death.

I hope everyone enjoys the Ides of March with their own, spectacular conspiracy theory, and not by being tricked into stabbing their friends 23 times.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Don't Panic

“And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.”
                                                                                                -Douglas Adams

Bad blogger! Bad!
                Not in the sense that this blog is called Bad Shakespeare, but bad in the sense that while I was struggling over my writer’s block, I completely missed a very important date… March 11th, which is the birthday of writing icon… nay, writing genius… nay, writing god… nay we’ll go back to icon… Douglas Adams. Writer of one of my influences, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
                Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Hitchhiker’s Guide, or its original radio play, or any of its sequels, or any of its movies (One version of which starring both Watson himself, Martin Freeman and Professor Snape/Has Gruber himself, Mr. Alan Rickman as the voice of a depressed robot) well, I won’t be recapping it for you here. It’s something that defies explanation, and but it involves towels, the destruction of the Earth, the meaning of life, and forms not filled out properly.
                Why do I consider this one of my great influences? Well, that’s a very handsome question. There are two very good reasons why I consider this so influential on me.
                The first reason is the writing style. Some might call it “absurdist.” Some might call it “random.” I call it “so random and insane that point to a page and you will find something that will make you both laugh and think at the same time.” It’s a long name.
                But the fact that he writes in his unique Adamsian style isn’t interesting. Anyone can write insanely. It’s the fact that he does so with conviction. He does so in a way that you can understand everything that’s going on in the page, and that is some talent. At any moment the President of the Galaxy may remove his head, or the Earth may explode because it’s blocking an interstellar highway. But Adams writes it so that even the non-science fiction fan will nod his head and say, “Yeah… yeah, that’s what’s going on.” It just makes incredible sense, and it’s a rare talent.
                The other reason is his very, very, very iconic response to the meaning of Life, the Universe and everything… “42.” For those of you who don’t know, this is the answer for the meaning of life. I’ve said it enough times. So, part of the book becomes not a quest for the ultimate answer of life, but an answer for the question we’re supposed to be asking.
                The thing is, we all try to rush for the answer. We try to rush for that moment that makes us all smile and be able to say, “Ah. I’ve got it now.” We want all answers, and we’ve created a million different things to give that to us. Google, Bing (Naw, I’m kidding, no one should use Bing), libraries, books, blogs, pills… all to help give us that answer. That one thing that will bring it all together, settle our lives, and help us achieve inner peace. The problem , and I really feel that Douglas Adams was the first to really put it this way: Is that we’re asking the wrong question.
                The whole conceit of 42 being the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is that it’s nonsense. It’s a number. But the characters can’t accept that this is given as the response, and now need to think of the ultimate question. What question should we be asking ourselves that will give us the answer of 42? We spend so much time trying to find answers, we forget what the question is. And we all do it.
                But that’s just silly meditation from a book that includes the President of the Galaxy kidnapping himself.
                So, I raise a towel and a fish to one of my icons and idols, Douglas Adams. Though you are no longer with us, we celebrate you, on this belated birthday!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Eight Stages of DC Metro Rage

The 8 Stages of Riding DC Metro when there is a Delay

1. Denial. You may hear about the delay on your way in. You think to yourself, it's going to be fixed, why worry?" Or, "it can't be that bad... These are professionals." Then you see the platform, and realize non of it is true.

2. Jamming onto a full train. Sure. There are currently 90 other people getting into the same door as you. The train can't physically hold another cockroach much less person. But you've been waiting over 45 minutes. You will get on this train.

3. Godot. Then, as you breathe in the sweet smell of what you've identified as Old Spice, knowing that the fragrance isn't as whimsical as the commercials suggest, you start your wait. You realize hope may never come. But you wait.

4. Emailing. Then, of course you contact your office since critical operations such as phone answering or getting yelled at for providing the wrong coffee cannot continue without you. You've pulled out your e-device and begun clicking away, understanding that your message is critical, and the corporate machine will turn once it has been viewed.

5. Anger. At this point you want the train to go, so you wave your newspaper or book and whisper under your breath. It fails to make the train move.

6. Sick Day counting. Do you have enough to leave the train and just go home? You were going to save them for March Madness. But you do only need more if your team makes it past the first round, and they do suck this year.

7. The vow to never take Metro again. But then you weigh how much parking and gas will cost.

8. Finally acceptance. It will leave momentarily, which means sometime between now and when the Canadian Geese become Earth's dominate species. But you wait. Because you're too lazy to get up, and your book is so good.

Benedict Cumberbatch is an Awesome Name

Sometimes, I have a lot to say on certain topics. Sometimes I don’t. Today, I don’t have a lot to say, so here are just a few random things that I started writing, but I couldn’t translate into longer posts. Just being random.

-When scientists work out on things, do they bother watching movies to see the worst case scenario? Is someone working on cloning a dinosaur watching Godzilla and saying, “wow. So THAT could happen.”

-The next person who writes a news story about how ipods and constant phone use are making us lose our hearing should also include a special time machine that takes us all back to 1980 when the Walkman was going to do the same thing.

-By this I mean classic Godzilla movies, not the 1998 version. That’s just an example of what can go horribly wrong when you try to cast Matthew Broderick in an action role. He’s Ferris Bueller, damnit. We want to see you lip sync in a parade in Chicago. 

-The new Star Trek movie looks good, but seriously, tell us who Benedict Cumberbatch is playing. Khan? John Harrison? Gary Mitchell? Moriarty? (That’s a twist.) Character names aren’t spoilers. Plus, I really want to know. 

-Is there a more British name than Benedict Cumberbatch? Like, ever?

-Studying to be a teacher is pretty hard. The hoops I’m having to jump through to become a teacher are insane. Think re-learning everything you learned in high school, thought you’d never need, and then having to do all the things you need to be a student, like shots. But anything important involves hard work.

-How great does the new Much Ado About Nothing look? I cannot wait to review this one.

-However, if someone wanted to sponsor me, like an old-school Patron of the Arts. I’d be totally down with that. For your investment, I’d come over and give you one random literature fact a day.

-On the subject of spoilers: People avoiding them have gotten out of hand. Yes, that’s a movie trailer. Yes, it is to give you the plot of a movie. That’s not a spoiler. It’s what the movie is about. If I hear you whine about it, I’m going to ruin the giant twist that Clark Kent and Superman is the same person.

-Zombie movies are fun, but we need to stop the brainwashing of young kids into believing that fast moving zombies are acceptable.

-I’m going to start ending more statements with, “as the prophecy commands.”

-I believe that robots are stealing our luggage. They want you to think that TSA agents are doing it, but in truth they’re trying to learn what we take with us when we travel, and thus how to defeat us when we flee the cities when they attack.

-Fun fact: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was originally a twist ending. I guess you’ve all been spoiled your whole lives. Also, that one is free, but it’s that quality if you sponsor me.

Friday, March 8, 2013

King of the Penguins is a Lofty Goal, but I can do it

Today, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends and enemies... is my birthday.  A day I share with such stalwarts as actor, Buffy marryer and WWE Smackdown writer, Freddie Prinze, Jr; and of course Mr. Dawson Leery himself James Van Der Beek, who is forever known as Dawson. He's Dawson, damnit. Joey should have ended up with him.

Hooray! Feel free to throw around as much confetti as you’d like, and right now you’re allowed at least one piece of cake or ice cream, but you have to save room for your dinner later. Keep in mind instead of presents, I’d like you to donate to the Human Fund, which as we all know was the fictional charity on Seinfeld

Rest assured, everyone, I know the rules of Birthday wishing. I know I can't wish for more wishes, so I will immediately wish for a million genies, then for a million dollars, then Emma Stone, and maybe world peace. If there's time. There may not be time. It depends if I can work Jennifer Lawrence in there, too. It's ok, I'm sure Emma, Jennifer, and I can learn to live together. That's wish number seven.

Birthdays are always interesting. On the one hand, it’s nice that everyone legally has to be nice to you for a day or be arrested personally by the President and the Incredible Hulk (at least that’s the way it works in my brain. It’s possible I’m making that part up.) On the other, it’s a day of reflection, in between cake, clowns, and Hulk attacks. It’s a day to look at where you were last year, and exactly what has changed.

Last year, I was working at George Mason University, taking a class in Young Adult literature, and my cat was dying. (Yes, my cat, Clark, passed away on my birthday. The bar is low... this year can only be better. That’s not a challenge, universe.) But I wasn’t really going anywhere. I was getting more and more comfortable in my space, and while I didn’t really want things to be shaken up the way they were, things got shaken up. Honestly, if you told me that I’d be here, now, I’d probably called you a dirty liar and made questionable references about your parentage.

But hey... life is strange, isn’t it? Life is funny that way. Not “funny ha-ha” more “funny I’m going to lob a spitwad in your direction.”

But this about celebration! I’m 34 today! That means on one scant year, I’ll be eligible to run for President. My slogan: “Why not Michael?” No, I’m much too smart to run for President. Besides, I’m a big believer of Groucho, “I don’t want to be part of any club that would have me as a member.” By this time next year I’ll be an English Teacher. And hopefully published author. Possible king of the Penguins, but we’ll have to see about that one... the vetting process is strict.

By the way, that’s a statement of fact. I will be a teacher. And a published writer. I’m making that declaration now.

This also marks a milestone in and of itself. In one month, I’ll be celebrating another birthday... the one year mark for Bad Shakespeare. I have some fun stuff planned as the bad bard turns one, particularly a chance to wear the latest in Bad Shakespeare fashion!

Also in honor of my birthday, I’m keeping this short and sweet. I hope you all have a great day. In all seriousness, in honor of my birthday, I want you all to get your favorite pastry. I don’t care if you’re on a diet, if you gave it up for lent, or if there’s some other random reason in the universe... it’s my birthday. I’ve had a bad year. And I want you all to celebrate with me. So grab a pastry... in honor of me, Lovable Michael.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Half-Book Report: The Twelve by Justin Cronin

As many of you who follow Bad Shakespeare on Facebook know, I recently started The Twelve by Justin Cronin. This was his second novel in his Passage Trilogy. The first novel was pretty good. And those of you who follow Bad Shakespeare on Facebook also know I recently could no longer stand reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin. This disappointed me, and led me to ask myself, “At what point do we abandon books because we just can’t stand them.”

As someone who writes, (some might call it a writer. I don’t know why I put it out there like that. Maybe because I’m trying to increase my word count. Either way, I’m leaving it, and this explanation.) I’m sympathetic to someone who is writing. I know there are some Bad Shakespeare posts that are better than others, where some are wonderful instead of just great. That’s just a fact of writing. But there are just some points that I can no longer stand reading a novel that abandons everything that I came to enjoy from the first novel.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it’s the tale of a post-apocalyptic world that’s been taken over by Vampire-beast like things, lead by 12 death row inmates (and one professor) that have been injected with an experimental virus that makes them super strong, psychic, and bloodthirsty. (I can’t think of anything better to put into death row inmates. Can you?) Also wrapped up in the story is Amy, a young orphan abandoned by both her parents, raised in an orphanage for a few pages, and then taken to have the same experimental virus injected into her. Only rather than turning her into a bloodthirsty vampire beast thingy, it makes her basically immortal, psychic, and a little crazy. 

That’s the bare bones. The first book was a little jarring because it starts with literally Amy’s conception, then jumps ahead six years, then jumps ahead about 100 years after the Vampire-Beasts (called “Virals”) have taken over, eventually Amy hooks up with some survivors, they figure out how to kill a bunch of them, and then there’s much rejoicing. The second book picks up where this left off, five years later, where nothing... nothing... nothing has happened, then jumps back 100 years so we can learn how two of the main villains in this book come to be, and learn about the conception of the ancestor of one of the characters. (In a very classic, not exploitative “but I don’t want to die a virgin” scene.) Don’t get attached to these characters, because only three of them survive, and one develops magic powers. 

I really tried. I tried to enjoy this book because I wanted to find out what happened. Any good sequel is going to pick up where the action left off, or give you an impression that something has happened in between the last book and this one. But basically they spent five years running around, the most interesting character Amy has been relegated to the kitchen, one character was kidnapped (which, while this was the cliffhanger doesn’t get addressed until halfway through the book) and everyone just sort of does... stuff. Then it’s like a grand narrator has told them, “hey guys... we’re going to start writing a book now, so do interesting things.” Pretty much everything set up from the first book was reset to zero. 

So at what point do we just abandon books that aren’t doing it for us? This is a difficult case, because it’s a sequel, one that I was looking forward to since I closed (or turned off... yay, Kindle!) the last book. I wanted to see what was going to happen. I didn’t have high hopes, the first book was essentially The Stand by way of Salem’s Lot. But to just take the characters you know, scatter them, have no forward motion, and then flash us back to characters, only some of whom have basic relevance to the plot now... it would be like George Lucas starting Star Wars with telling us all about Obi-Wan Kenobi’s parents and a side story about Darth Vader’s mother without them ever meeting. (And he was on thin ice to begin with those prequels already.) But unless characters are going to be relevant to the plot, maybe we don’t spend 100 pages with them.

I am of the firm belief that even bad literature can be beneficial at times. Even if it’s to remind us what the really good literature can be. But sometimes stories get so bogged down, so tedious to read we can’t continue. I’m really disappointed that this book wasn’t better. I really am. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about the third book. I’m torn because I want to know how this is all going to end, and maybe I’ll enjoy this book more when the third one is out, and I can say, “Oh, yeah, that’s why that happened.” But right now we’re looking at magic, unexplained powers (oh, I’m sorry, explained with, “she’s a woman, that’s why she has them”) three miscarriages, 100 pages of flashback, a flashback within a flashback, the regular story, another flashback, the sidelining for 200 pages of the most interesting character in the first book (she can do what the others can’t... let’s put her in a convent for five years!). It’s just all so baffling. And frustrating, because there’s an interesting book in here.

I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The 16th Century Adam Sandler....

Fun Shakespeare fact O’ the day, everyone!

Recently, The Onion got in some backlash for calling 9 year old Oscar Nominee Quvenzhane Wallis the “C-Word.” (Rhymes with “runt”. And although I’m using “C-Word” everyone knows what I mean but saying C-Word or c*nt is socially acceptable even though you know what I mean. That’s another post.) I’m not here to debate the merits of whether a joke is over the line, or whether anyone should take The Onion seriously, or whether 9 year old Oscar nominees are off limits for jokes, or whether Jennifer Lawrence should just give me one chance to prove my love for her... that’s been debated way too much. I do have some fun Shakespeare information for you, because that’s what I do. It’s about that taboo word!

There’s been plenty of research as to why that one word is so bad. Ye Olde Medicale Journales used to use that word as a matter of fact term for female genitalia (Isn’t this great for your Monday? My point is coming up.) but somewhere along the line, someone decided that it was going to be a taboo word like the f-word or my favorite swear word, “bookcase” (it just hasn’t caught on yet. It will.) and by the time William Shakespeare was writing, it was, in fact, on the list of bad words that we’re not allowed to say in polite company, only when someone really deserves it, and isn’t a 9 year old who’s biggest crime was starring in a mediocre movie.

When William Shakespeare was writing Twelfth Night, the hilarious masterpiece where a woman disguises herself as a man and helps a Duke fall in love with her with serious homoerotic connotations (other fun fact: back in his day, all the parts were played by men. So this was a man playing a woman, pretending to be a man. Shakespeare was a funny dude) he managed to slip in a joke using that word. Malvolio (WHO SHALL BE REVENGED! that’s for you, Michelle) is reading a note that reads:

By my life, this is my lady’s hand: these be her very
C’s, her U’s, and her T’s; thus she makes her great P’s (II.v)

Did you get that? C... U... and T... (This is unaltered text, kids.) Then of course ends with “great P’s” thus making a potty joke from one of the greatest writers that ever lived. Some days I wonder if he was that great, or if the 16th Century Adam Sandler just played the biggest and best joke in the world on us.

Of course, that’s not the only instance of Shakespeare slipping the word into his text. What your English teacher won’t tell you is that perhaps one of the greatest works since Oog first put smaller rock to bigger rock, Hamlet, contains a very similar joke. 

Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Ophelia: No, my lord
Hamlet: I mean, my head upon your lap?
Ophelia: Ay, my lord.
Hamlet: Do you think I meant country matters? (III.ii.)

For the record, this is also the same act that contains the famous “To be or not to be speech.” It’s like if Downtown Abbey was on right after WWE Smackdown. (Both great shows in their own right, but some days I prefer the title changes on Downtown Abbey. John Bates from the top rope! I must be getting older.)

These are just the jokes having to do with that particular offensive word that no one should ever call anyone, ever, and was in the news so I’m going to write about it. Shakespeare is littered with dirty jokes, puns, and overall humor that if the People Who Censor ever caught on, well, William Shakespeare wouldn’t be allowed to be read by anyone. Ever.

I can’t think of a better reason to pick up one of his plays today, can you?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Book Report: Insane City by Dave Barry

I’ve looked up many reviews for Dave Barry’s latest novel, Insane City. Not one yet has said, “Dave Barry’s Insane City is insane!” I’m kind of disappointed by that. I mean, it’s hack writing, and I wouldn’t say it, but it does describe the book perfectly. It’s pretty insane. One day I wish to write something like this, that seems like it’s headed for disaster until everything is wrapped up thanks to characters that have been moved along the chess board and end up in the right location.
                I won’t pretend for a moment that it’s has the most original plot on in the world. Seth just wants to get married to his shrewish bridezilla of a fiancée, his groomsmen just want to throw him a bachelor party to end all bachelor parties, so naturally along the way he’s going to meet someone else who treats him nicely, get drunk, and lose the ring. So, basically it’s like the Hangover but if it was written by way of… well, Dave Barry.
                It has been said that there are a limited amount of plots in the world. What makes this one different from all the others is the fact that this one also includes an overweight stripper and her boyfriend/manager; their Escalade; pot brownies; a guy named Duane and his giant python (not a euphemism); a super exclusive group of billionaires; Haitian refugees; an orangutan named Trevor; and the whole thing ends with a shootout on a pirate ship.   
                Let’s see Bradley Cooper top that!
                I enjoyed this book, and I read it way too quickly. It was fast paced, and there are at number of times five different things happening so pay close attention. Like many books, the setup takes a little bit to get used to, and the back and forth between Seth’s debauched bachelor party (which is actually kind of tame) and Haitian refugees slowly making their way to America is a little tough to take. Barry proves he’s got a decent writing style that manages to really manages to get inside people’s heads, so when he’s writing about a mother praying that they don’t drown, it can be a little tough to take. Fortunately, he does not let this drag on, so while there is the underlying current that they will be deported, it just adds to the hilarity when Seth tries to be a good guy and keeps them from going.
                There were parts, like I said, that were a little more predictable that do detract from the overall novel. Yes, Seth’s fiancée Tina is a shrew. Pretty much every one you’ve seen or read in any other romantic comedy that has you saying, “he shouldn’t be with her!” so you’re pretty much aware about fifteen pages in that he’s going to wind up with someone else. She’s the typical rich girl who runs to daddy the second that something goes wrong, even if she’s smuggling pot through an airport.
                Her father, while sort of the typical, “whatever my baby wants” at the start, actually evolves into a hilarious character in his own right. He wishes to join an elusive “Group of Six” which most billionaires want to join, and his character slowly goes from  being the stereotypical “what my baby wants” to a guy that wants to join a group that he’s not sure exists. These scenes are easily the best part of the book, and probably could have been a novel in their own right, simply for the absurdity of it all.
                And that may be what is sort of frustrating about this book. There’s so much happening one wonders that maybe a better book would have been written if he had trimmed out about half the characters, given the more time, and put them in another book. Then he could have really given time to some of the better parts, like Tina’s father and the billionaire he’s trying to impress. He could have devoted more time to the fact that Tina is mad at Seth for harboring illegal immigrants, and she’s done way more to save them because she’s signed petitions! There’s such a fantastic book on the fringes of an already great book… it’s just frustrating!
                None of what I just said should take away from the fact that this is Dave Barry’s writing style right down to the insane characters and the fact that it’s set in Miami. Basically I’m saying that this book is Dave Barry, and if you like Dave Barry, you’ll love this book. If you hate Dave Barry, well, then I would recommend trying out something new, that’s not Dave Barry. But this is up there with his other adult fiction works, Tricky Business and Big Trouble.
                I’m certainly looking forward to the next one.