Friday, May 31, 2013

Deep Space Nine Fridays: Jake Sisko

Welcome to the first real week that we will be discussing Deep Space Nine and ask that eternal question, “Is it literature?” My answer is yes, but then this is my blog and I can say what I want. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull holds up on multiple viewings. There. See? I’m going to have to back it up, of course. So, I ask again, “is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine literature?”

    Nope, I’m still going to have to answer yes.

    This week we’re going to start out with a character that had the potential to sink the entire franchise from the get-go: Jake Sisko. A young boy that was the Commander’s kid had the ability to sink the show... we should all feel sad for the smart boy with the dead mother, tragically killed in a Borg attack lead by Captain Picard. He had the ability to Wesley Crusher the first couple of seasons.

    Yes, I know that Wil Wheaton is the bomb now, but I think his newfound coolness tends to make people forget just how horrible the character was. Go back and watch an early episode of Next Generation. Watch it. You can’t escape it.

    But I come not to bury Wesley Crusher, but to praise what they ended up doing with Jake Sisko. When they started the show, it was obvious they wanted him to be a way for the viewer to connect with Commander Sisko and see him as a different kind of lead character. We weren’t just seeing a man with baggage... he was a man with baggage and a son. The writers could have easily just slapped him into Starfleet and had him follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead they teamed him up with a Ferengi and decided to make him a writer, letting viewers take a look at the non-Federation people. (SOMEONE has to clean the space-bathrooms. It’s not all green skinned alien sex.)

    I wanted to start out talking about Jake Sisko because one of my favorite DS9 episodes featured him. “Nor Battle The Strong...” was an episode that was featured during the Klingon/Federation War. In it, Jake follows a group of young soldiers headed to do battle with Klingons on a distant planet, along with Doctor Bashir. (We’ll get to him in a few Friday Posts.) In this time he finds a soldier who shoots himself in the foot to get out of battle, he abandons the Doctor at the first sign of trouble, and then he manages to trap himself by firing blindly at a bunch of attackers.

    This was an important episode (and a contender for Star Trek Week) because it shows us not just the other side of the Federation and space-battles, but it shows us another side of war. Too often we get either the side of war that’s all glory and honor, or the other side that’s nothing but blood and guts. Here we get a unique middle ground... a story of war that’s told from a complete outsider’s perspective, one that tries to tell a more personal story. Jake is initially horrified by a guy who would wound himself to avoid battle, until the first time he finds himself faced with the same choice.

    It’s a strong statement. Yeah, it’s told under the guise of phaser battles and Klingons... but it’s still an interesting way to get across something that could easily be dismissed if told “traditionally”. While Star Trek is sometimes about these heavy sci-fi concepts, one could argue that it’s best when it focuses on the human element. DS9 was like this because it had the backdrop of war, so it was allowed to focus on the human element of the show often times.

    Jake allowed the viewer into a new way of seeing the world that Star Trek was trying to create by showing us someone who wasn’t a warrior, captain, or engineer. He was just a regular guy, caught up in life-changing events. He was also a big part of an episode I need to discuss on it’s own, “The Visitor” which we’ll get to while we discuss Deep Space Nine this summer. But his “everyman” status allowed him a unique glimpse into photon torpedos or warp cores. I think people tend to forget that as they critique the show, and his character gets moved to the sidelines. It’s a nice reminder that for every Hamlet, there’s a gravedigger who is going about his job, just sort of watching the events.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stand Up Against Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Bullying.

                Recently, I saw a preview for the upcoming Summer Movie, Pacific Rim. For those of you who don’t know, Pacific Rim is a dramatic movie how man uses technology to help overcome the deep distrust of nature and of each other. Also, it features giant robots wailing on giant monsters. Did you see the preview, where the one robot picks up a bus, then he starts swinging it at the giant monster, and then it’s all like WHAM! BOOM! SMASH! And then he fires off a rocket fist and smashes his giant arm into the head of the monster, and he all like falls. Yeah. That’s pretty awesome.
                My point is that Pacific Rim looks like an awesome summer movie, and I’m going in to enjoy it because I have an affinity for giant robots, giant monsters, and the movie’s star Idris Elba. (Who also co-starred in the soon to be cinematic classic: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengance.) But that didn’t stop some scientists from publishing their “groundbreaking” article that talked about the physics of giant robots, and how these particular giant robots just wouldn’t work.
                I’d like to point out again that this is a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters who are emerging from another dimension. The second the word “giant” appears anywhere, unless preceded by “Andre The” then I really don’t want to hear your scientific rants. I understand it’s not real. That’s part of the reason I’m going to see a movie. Because to my knowledge, we don’t really have giant robots that fight giant monsters, unless you count the car-sized robots that I’m sure Charlie Sheen and Nicolas Cage have built and use to fight on their secret island off the cost of Alaska.
                Next you’ll be telling me that Amy Pohler doesn’t really work at the City Council in Pawnee, or that Ke$ha is a real thing.
                I’m bringing this up because this is part of a disturbing trend where a cool movie will come out, and then some mean scientists will work as hard as they can in proving that the physics just don’t add up. Or something doesn’t add up, and that really couldn’t happen. A “big” news story (big in nerd-land) came out that professional smart guy Neil DeGrasse Tyson (I did enjoy his video game, “Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” when I was growing up) declared that Star Trek was more believable than Star Wars.
                I’m not sure if he used it by the metric that the Star Trek point eared guys aren’t green and they don’t speak conspicuously like Fozzie Bear, or some other strange thing, but I guess we’ll never know the logic of one of the smartest men on the planet. There’s also no word on whether he thinks the doctors on Grey’s Anatomy are any better than the ones on ER, but I like to think that the ones on ER didn’t all sleep with each other. Again, I’m not sure.
                It’s called “suspension of disbelief.” Yes, I know that there’s no rocketship from a dying planet that contains a small child that will go off to fight crime. I know that if a rich guy could build a suit of armor like that he’d most likely use it to play polo in space with his rich friends (rich guys still play polo, right?) I know that Vin Diesel doesn’t actually command an army of street racing jewel thieves. And I know that Jason Statham doesn’t… Jason… no, I’m pretty sure that Jason Statham is real.
                Movies, books, TV Shows exist to help us escape from our giant robot-less, John McClane-less, Lightsaber-less, Green-skinned women-less lives. We use it as a way to say, “hey… let’s go explore the depths of our imagination.” We do it because we’ve never seen a guy fly before, and it would be pretty neat to see it. We’ve been imagining these things back before CGI existed, when it just had to be done on green screen. Or better yet back when we just had to read about it and use our own brains to figure out what it would look like when the son of Zeus decided he’d had enough and was going to lay the smack down on some Greeks. (Has anyone re-done Hercules with the Rock yet? You should get on that, Hollywood.)
                Look, scientists are awesome. They gave us all the things in life that we need to survive, like Penicillin, roads, refrigeration, Netflix, and eventually, Scarlett Johansson. I respect what scientists do. Up until they spend money to tell me that the giant robots fighting giant monsters couldn’t happen. I know that it won’t really happen. I just want to imagine that for two hours that if it did, it would look like what’s up on the screen. Rather than wasting time on disproving science in a movie, we focus on curing disease or figuring out how to make a Butterfinger so it won’t break before you eat it?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thanks, Teachers!

    Normally I reserve this space for entertainment stuff. Breaking Bad (if I add the word “spoilers” to that I get a ton of hits for the week), Summer Movie Season, and coming next week, information on Deep Space Nine, the Deep Space Nine-iest of the Star Trek series. But today I wanted to talk about something else that I think is even more important.

    By now we’ve all heard about the devastating tornados that cut through Oklahoma earlier this week. Fortunately we’re getting some good stories out of it, and one of the best things has been the stories about the brave teachers that helped save the lives of those students. It’s a reminder that the best teachers aren’t just there to read some facts and hope that some students remember them. It’s a reminder that teachers are supposed to be there for students. Granted, you always hope and pray that it’s not during L. Frank Baum story, but the best teachers are there for students, at any time.

    I’m extremely happy to see that so many teachers are being recognized for acting quickly and getting to those kids to safety. Thank you, all of you.

    Not a long post today... I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to those teachers who were dedicated to getting those kids to safety. Remember as we head towards Memorial Day Weekend, do something to remember the tornado survivors, and remember they need help. Consider donating to the Red Cross or looking up the charity of your choice that can help them out.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I'll Probably Never Really Grow Out of Wanting To Be A Superhero

                I was all set today to do some of my usual advice for graduating college seniors, the first of which being that the real world sucks, and you should probably just stay in college. But then I came across this story from about a school banning “Wrestling, Super Hero Play, and Monster Games”… you know, all those things that made pre-school (and some sections of High School) worth living. And here’s a good lesson for graduating seniors: if you’re passionate about something and you see wrong-doing, then do something to fix it.
                Why the hell would we want to ban children from expressing creativity, passion, and sense of adventure. Let them be superheroes before they're too old to know better.
                Let’s get the academic stuff out of the way first. Let’s not forget that all of the earliest stories are about Superheroes. That’s the first place the mind has gone. The earliest recorded stories are of fantastic men and women doing fantastic things usually against fantastic odds and fantastic creatures. One could even call it “fantastic.” Perhaps four fantastic individuals can form a team one day.
                Moving on.
One of the first heroes, Hercules, was a dude who was half god and had to perform miraculous feats while battling a goddess. (And his evil mother. That also leads to mother-tropes in fantasy and early fiction, but that’s another post. Let’s focus out outrage on this Superhero thing for now.) One of the earliest and boringest things they make you read in school is Beowulf, a dude who fights an evil monster and dragon, a feat that no other hero could perform. It’s almost like it’s “superheroic.” And that’s one of the earliest recorded stories, ever. But I’ve discussed the early origins of Superheroes to death, and why you should love them and bring a Superman comic into class for your next book report.
I get, logically why some school administrators want to ban “Super Hero Play.” (Note how I spell it. I spell it the right way.) I get that ultimately, they want to stop 5 year olds from rough housing, which is sort of like asking the rain not to be wet, or Ben Affleck to stop Ben Afflecking. Kids are going to be kids, and they’re going to rough house. So, why are we stopping them from throwing on a towel, saying, “I’m Superman” and rushing to save the day?
Superheroes are an ingrained part of our culture. Of all cultures. Why can’t we use them to teach kids what Superhero play is all about? (I can’t keep spelling it their way, guys. Sorry.) Why can’t we use superheroes to teach responsible lessons? Superman protects the innocent because he can. He’s stronger than everyone else. Batman, despite the fact that can knock a man down with the wave of two fingers, resorts to violence as a last method. He dresses as a giant bat to scare people into submission. Spider-man is a kid trying to find his way. Green Lantern is an intergalactic space cop with a magic ring that can make anything he wants. (See. Now you know why the movie failed.) The list goes on and on.
Or why not use these lessons to start to get to stories about heroes from the past. Superman is a gateway to the Greek Myths and ancient gods that expected it’s heroes to be larger than life. Batman is a ripoff of countless heroes that came before him, not the least of which being the Scarlet Pimpernel. What about the superheroic team-up of Athos, Porthos, Aremis, and D’Artangan?
I remember when I was little, I created my own superhero. He was invincible. I remember making my mother carry around a cape and a mask that she made for me so I could become him at any time. And while I knew about Superman, Batman, and Spiderman, this was a superhero of my own creation. And that made it all the more special to me. I still remember that hero until this day. (If you’re nice to me, one day I’ll share his name.) And while I like to think I grew out of it, the Green Lantern Ring (or some variation) I wear every day is my little reminder that superheroes are always going to be a part of me. And sometimes, no matter how old I get, it’s just fun to pretend you are one.
I’d hate to think that there’s some kid out there who gets to be denied pretending he’s a superhero because someone is afraid he’ll get hurt. There’s plenty of time to get hurt out there, and putting on a fake cape really is the least of your concerns.
Just remember to teach them that no matter what they’re wearing, they can’t really fly.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Answer is A). Standardized Tests Suck


                                      Shakespeare cat hates Dixon Ticonderoga Pencils

                The name of the cat in Macbeth is Greymalkin.
                I do have a point with that first statement, and we’re going to get back to it in a little bit, but last week while I was talking Star Trek and phasers and pew-pew! Warp speed, Mr. Sulu! I know that some kids were sitting down to take the Standards of Learning Tests. (Known as SOL’s.)
                I want to make this perfectly clear: I hate standardized tests. I don’t feel they contribute much to society except the amazing ability to take one day of a kid’s life and say, “take this test” and hope for the best that the kid remembered enough facts to fill in an oval with a number 2 pencil correctly. I’ve never seen a number 1 or number 3 pencil, so I’m not sure why we stuck with number 2. God help you if you use a mechanical pencil, pen, or crayon. You will use a Dixon Ticonderoga Number 2 Pencil, and you will love it.
                Of course, in memorizing these facts long enough to make sure that kids can fill in an “A” properly, there’s very little focus on whether or not anyone is understanding the answer properly. That brings me back to my first statement up top. The name of the cat in Macbeth is Greymalkin.  So, um… where does he show up and why is he important?
                Greymalkin has one mention: when the witches are casting one of their spells, or doing whatever it is they witches in that play do. Did they set Macbeth on a path with newly stoked ambitions where he believed him invincible enough to plot the death of a king, and later his closest friend? (Oh, spoilers for Macbeth. ) Or did they accurately predict the future, one that would not be altered had they not encountered the future king wandering around the forest? Or was it all a dream, and the lost ending featured Macbeth waking up and finding Patrick Duffy in the shower. (Oh, spoilers for Dallas, too, I guess. Shakespeare and JR. You’re getting it all today folks!) And where does Greymalkin fit into all of this?
                The official answer, of course, is that he’s a familiar, which puts the witches in league with the devil. Also, if you read carefully and do that research thingy, you may find that possibly many of the witch scenes weren’t written by William Shakespeare. In fact, there’s an entire scene that clearly wasn’t written by him, and added later. (I’m going to let you find that one on your own. RESEARCH!) But again, where does all of this fall into the grand spectrum of my point, that has been lost amidst the jokes about Macbeth and the not easy target of mentioning that Patrick Duffy once placed Aquaman?
                Quick, which play featured a cat named Greymalkin?
A.      Macbeth
B.      A Doll’s House
C.      The Importance of Being Ernest
D.      The Book of Mormon
You hopefully picked A and filled it out on your answer sheet, filling in the oval completely. Yay! You have done the bare minimum to pass the test! You can’t tell me the significance of the floating dagger in Macbeth, the rise of feminism in A Doll’s House, the Importance of Being Ernest’s satire of the rich, or why the Book of Mormon is an important musical. (It’s like brand new, but the soundtrack is awesome. You should see it. And take me.) But you can name a cat that showed up in one line of a play. That’s cursed. And the cat doesn’t really do anything. He doesn’t slay the title character. (I really have to stop saying it’s name.) He doesn’t even really represent anything, other than the tidbit of knowledge of what real witches talked like back then. It’s like someone studied Nicolas Cage for a few years then wrote True Blood because they assumed that all vampires talk and acted like that. (I just imagine his house is very much like that show.) That’s my point. Knowing one random fact proves nothing. Being able to bubble in a letter proves nothing. There’s no mention of the understanding behind the fact. This is true of any subject. Boiling things down to one stressful day doesn’t help. It only seeks to apply a black and white answer to an increasingly gray world. (A Greymalkin world? No? Anyone? Is this thing on?)
Of course, if you’re unsure of what to pick, I’d go with “C”.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Where's Your Deep Space Nine Post?

   All this week I have been writing about the various episodes of Star Trek series and their relationship to stories. There were quite a few covered, I recommend you go back and read them. But there was a glaring series left out: Deep Space Nine.

    Some of you have asked me why this series was left out. It’s simple. It’s my favorite. It’s my favorite for a lot of reasons. I sat down to pick and episode to write about, and I couldn’t. Which one should I write about? “Far Beyond the Stars?” “Nor Battle To the Strong”? “Wrongs Darker than Death or Night”? The list kept growing. While it was easy to pick out an episode of Next Generation or Enterprise and play with that, I kept getting stuck. I couldn’t pick just one and leave it there. I needed to write more. The original draft for Wednesday’s Post (The original Deep Space Nine post) was four pages long. FOUR PAGES. I get to a page and a half on a good day of writing Bad Shakespeare.

    Last year when I started this blog, I asked the question as to whether we want to count movies and TV shows as literature. I answered that with an in depth look into the world of Breaking Bad, and those tended to be the most popular posts. (That and the Life of Pi review during the Oscar Movie Marathon. What’s up with that, people?) I think partly because people enjoy Breaking Bad, and I think partly because people were looking for spoilers. I hope they stuck around for some of the other posts.

    So, I’m going to do that again with Deep Space Nine. Which I’ll start referring to as DS9, because Deep Space Nine will increase my word count, it’s a lot to type. I want to look at a series that was doing serialized drama and large casts back when it wasn’t cool. It was a series that took risks, told stories that other series, much less Star Trek series, wouldn’t tell. Let me put it this way, one of the main characters is a terrorist. I have a feeling that might not play so well today.

    For those of you who are unfamiliar, Deep Space Nine is about a space station that orbits Bajor, a planet first introduced in The Next Generation. It follows the crew as they help Bajor become part of the Federation, and as they do battle against a dangerous enemy from the Gamma Quadrant. (The earliest literature featured monsters and gods eating their kids. This isn’t so weird, people.) I plan on exploring characters, themes, and various episodes for the duration of the summer.

    This post is going to be short because this is an introduction, but stay tuned for Deep Space Nine Fridays on Bad Shakespeare.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"These Are The Voyages..." and How Stories Impact Us


              Here we go. Day four of Bad Shakespeare’s ode to Star Trek, which is slightly better than Data’s Ode to Spot. While both have great literary merit, I think it’s best if we explore the non-feline version of odes.
                We’ve explored stories that that don’t end as neatly as we expect with “City on the Edge of Forever.” Picard learned how to play the flute (and how stories need to be passed down) in “Inner Light.” And Voyager’s Doctor was a “Living Witness” to how stories can get twisted around. But, what can we do with those stories?
Star Trek: Enterprise – “These Are The Voyages…”
Archer, Picard, Kirk: "Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange, new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before."
                The last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise was met with a lot of negative reviews. A lot of people weren’t happy that Riker and Troi from The Next Generation “stealing the spotlight” so to speak, of a crew that they’d grown to love over the years. Some even argued that Enterprise had found it’s voice, and this took it away. Me, personally, I enjoyed it. I thought it was kind of the perfect ending for a prequel series that didn’t really need to be prequeled.
                Star Trek was a brave new vision of the future. We really didn’t need to see Dr. Sam Beckett and his backwards adventures of pre-Kirk, moving slower and finding all the alien races we’ve already grown to love. Or tolerate, in some cases. But towards the end of the series, it really made it work. I hated seeing it go when it was just getting good.
                But that’s part of the point of the last episode: it’s the prequel to everything we’ve seen before. Meaning, in the history of the show, Riker when to Starfleet Academy and learned all about the adventures of Captain Archer, Trip Tucker, T’Pol… all those people who came before him. (presumably. Maybe he just failed history?) He learned their stories. So when he’s given a difficult choice, given within the framework of the Next Generation Episode, “Pegasus” it would make sense that he’d go back to those stories to draw strength and find inspiration.
                “These Are the Voyages…” (I really shouldn’t be writing this so short after my Voyager post, I really want to keep typing “These Are the Voyagers” which would have been a cool name for an episode. Why didn’t they get on that?) features Riker having to make a bold choice: rat out the Admiral that had him do something highly illegal, or be honest. He goes back to the stories of Archer and the founding of the Federation and watches it in Holograph form. At one point, he watches the sacrifice that Trip Tucker would ultimately make, and was able to ask him about it. It’s actually a fitting sendoff for the show.
                But it also concerns itself with the idea of stories, and how we can draw inspiration from them. As we know, Riker would eventually ask that he be put under arrest, along with the Admiral, for his actions. Now, the original episode didn’t feature anything Star Trek: Enterprise. At this point people were more concerned with creating Voyager, so it does require suspension of disbelief that he would have time to go and do all of this during the original “Pegasus.” However, once you believe that we have starships that visit alien planets with green skinned women, well… you have to start accepting other things. Riker had to focus on his belief in stories (or history… I’m going with stories. I’ll be honest with you, when I started this I’d hoped to focus on literature, but ended up focusing on stories. Literature is tomorrow.) to find what he wanted to do.
                “City on the Edge of Forever”, “Inner Light,” “Living Witness”, and “These are the Voyages…” all showcase an aspect of stories that are important. Whether it’s the idea of a twist ending, or how we pass on  stories, or how those stories can get changed, or finally, how stories change us, they all focus deeply on what it means to have a story, or be a storyteller. Star Trek is a series that understands that. It uses the idea of stories to its advantage. Deep Space Nine even has an episode called “The Storyteller” and focuses on the importance of that role. It’s not just green skinned alien girls and phasers. It’s real people, affected not only by the stories they’re creating, but also by the stories that have come before them. Not bad for a series that started out being cancelled after two seasons, revived, then cancelled again.
                Tomorrow: We discuss Deep Space Nine… the Star Trek series ahead of its time, and one of the more literary things to grace our television. You’ll note, I’m not going to be discussing one episode. I’ve been looking forward to discussing Deep Space Nine for a while now, and considered following Breaking Bad Shakespeare Fridays with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Fridays. I still might.
                Some point in the future: this isn’t a movie blog, but what the hell, a review of both Star Trek Into Darkness and The Great Gatsby are on their way for you. The last one isn’t Star Trek related.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Computer: Activate the Emergency Medical Story Generator

Those of you who have been following for the week, you know the drill. I’m writing about an episode of each of the Star Trek series in order, with one glaring exception that you’ll note today. Rather than covering Deep Space Nine, I’m jumping right to Voyager. There’s a reason for that, and we’ll get to it on Friday. But each of the episodes we discuss have some significant literary element I want to discuss.

    To recap, on Monday we explored the “City on the Edge of Forever” from the original Star Trek, and the fact that it doesn’t have a standard, “good guys win” ending. Then, we kept our Wesley Crusher jokes to a minimum as we discussed “Inner Light” a fantastic hour of television that explored the importance of stories, even if it involves being zapped with a beam of light. Originally I was going to discuss the underrated Voyager episode, “Prototype” but then I realized there was one even better that explored the themes I wanted to discuss. How important are stories?

    Star Trek: Voyager - “Living Witness.”

    The Doctor: “What's going to happen to me now? Will you put me on display? The holographic Rip van Winkle?"

    Star Trek: Voyager was one of the more... let’s say “problematic” Star Trek series. Not exactly beloved by fans, it had it’s share of problems. While I never felt it was horrible, I could see where some of those problems came from. But overall I enjoyed it, one episode in particular that sticks with me even today.

    We’re all concerned with our legacies. What will the world think of us once we’re gone? What kind of impact will we have made. Star Trek: Voyager asked that question once. Voyager was about a starship that was cut off from Starfleet and hurled 75,000 light years away from home in their first episode. (Sort of like Lost in Space, but with more Klingons and less robots flailing their arms uselessly.) One of the more interesting characters is that of the Doctor. When Voyager was thrown that far away, most of the important senior officers who names weren’t in the credits were killed. When the doctor was tragically killed by an exploding somethingorother, and for some reason a ship of 300 people only had one doctor on board, the logical solution was to build a holographic one.

    I like Star Trek. A lot. But I’ll be the first to admit that some solutions don’t make sense. It’s science fiction. As the song says, “repeat to yourself it’s just a show, you should really just relax.”

    “Living Witness” asks the question, “what impact did Voyager have while it was flying through space, trying to get home?” 700 years in the future, the Doctor (or his backup program... it’s all very fuzzy on what exactly happens) is activated in a museum and told about Voyager’s path of destruction through their world. Of course, we, the viewer know that something is up; Voyager is a peaceful ship, if prone to stumble upon things. Never once did they send a Borg attack army against people, at least not on-screen. Apparently they got involved in a dispute between two alien worlds, and through the years they got a reputation as destroyers. The Doctor does everything he can to change their minds; eventually the museum is destroyed because the Doctor attempted to tell the truth; people wanted to stick to their stories of martyrs and claim themselves as the “good guy.”

    I chose this episode over “Prototype” specifically because it has the element of what a story is, but with deeper consequences. (and a lot less killer robots. Except the Doctor. In fake-flashback.) It shows how much we hold onto our stories, and how beloved they can become. In the end, the Doctor... an artifact of Voyager, an actual witness to what occurred.... is able to set the record straight. And when he didn’t say what people wanted to believe, they rioted. When he went against the stories these people believed, they couldn’t accept it.

    The episode ends on a note of hope, showing that eventually the warring alien races put aside their differences and worked together as the Doctor tried to rejoin his friends back home. (or his backup program did. Like I said. Fuzzy.)

    Tomorrow we look at Enterprise’s ending and the importance of those stories we tell with “And These are the Voyages...”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Next Generation and the Power of Stories (and the Horror of Crusher)

This week, as we count down to Star Trek Into Darkness (an English Teacher’s punctuation nightmare), Bad Shakespeare is taking a look at some his favorite episodes of Star Trek, and how they helped influence his love of literature. Yesterday we visited the Original Series with “City on the Edge of Forever.” Today we look at The Next Generation and Captain Picard’s “Inner Light.”

Picard: “Seize the time, Meribor. Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”

    Mention “Inner Light” to any true fan of Star Trek, and it will launch the nerdiest debate ever on whether this episode was the best of Next Generation, or if “Best of Both Worlds” was the best. The answer is simple: “Inner Light” isn’t handicapped by the presence of Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton can pretend he’s embraced now... never forget Wesley Crusher. Those who forget Wesley are doomed to repeat him.)

    “Inner Light” is a fantastic hour of television. It’s actually a pretty simple scenario: Picard is zapped by a magic space beam and lives out his life on another planet. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that simple. In the end, it turns out that the magic space beam is actually the memories of another planet, designed to help preserve the memories of an ancient race.

    Star Trek
is usually at it’s best when it’s telling a story that is helped by science fiction, but is understandable to just about anyone, and “Inner Light” is evidence of that. When Picard is zapped, he’s transported to another world, and he ends up living out an entire life, experiencing a culture, learning what it’s like to live on that world. The stories of this world (it turns out that the world died shortly after the probe containing the magic space beam was sent out) needed to be told, they needed to live on. Picard absorbed the knowledge of this world by living in it first hand. (All while his friends ran around, afraid that he was dying. Maybe the people who live on the world had a strange sense of humor?)

    Stories. Stories are important, especially the stories that make us who we are. I always liked the fact that “Inner Light” understood the importance of stories.  At the end of the day, stories will continue long after we’re gone.

    Tomorrow, we visit Star Trek: Voyager’s very strange, very twisty, “Prototype.” (Deep Space Nine is on Friday.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bad Shakespeare Presents: Star Trek Week


 As you all know by now, I’m excited by this year’s crop of Summer Movies that are making it a prosperous Summer Movie Season. Now that the world has been saved by evil fire breathing terrorists in Iron Man 3 and we got to see The Great Gatsby as I’m sure F. Scott Fitzgerald originally intended, it’s time we start focusing on one of three movies Bad Shakespeare is going to closely celebrate this summer: Star Trek Into Darkness. (The other two will be Much Ado About Nothing, and of course Man of Steel.) I want to take this week to discuss Star Trek and it's Shakespearean Influence, but in a way that didn't involve Hamlet being translated to Klingon.

    I’m a huge fan of Star Trek. I remember watching all of the original series in reruns when I was growing up (this was back before you could just pop a series in a DVD player, or stream it Netflix, or download it directly into your brain. That last one is for future generations that have this blog beamed directly into their heads.) And it’s a great show. It was ahead of it’s time, even going so far as to feature one of the first interracial kisses on television. It also helped introduce the world to William Shatner, who talk-sang his way through albums back before things could be fixed with auto-tune.

    This week, in honor of Star Trek Into Darkness coming to theaters, I’m going to pick one episode from each of the five series, and write about them. Yes, even Voyager. I’m going mostly in order with the exception of one series, and you’ll see why when you read it. Now, onto Bad Shakespeare’s Star Trek Week.

Star Trek: “City on the Edge of Forever”

Dr. McCoy: You deliberately stopped me, Jim. I could have saved her. Do you know what you just did?

Spock: He knows, Doctor. He knows.
    For the original Series, I was wondering which episode I’d write about. There of course was “Space Seed” which may have been appropriate since it features Khan and Benedict Cumberbatch most certainly isn’t playing Khan in the upcoming Star Trek movie (WINK). But I decided to write about one of the classics, “City on the Edge of Forever.”

    For those of you who don’t remember, “City on the Edge of Forever” focuses on a time traveling McCoy who goes crazy, time travels, then stops the death of Edith Keeler, thus changing the timeline so the Nazis won World War 2. Spock and Kirk realize that the only way to save the timeline is to allow her to die. It’s a deep, tragic moment, where Spock and Kirk have to ignore their heroic instincts and allow this woman to die because everything would be all wonky if they allowed her to live. (Time travel! Yay!)

    I can remember watching this one when I was little, and this was the first instance I remember of when the “good guys” didn’t just win. No loophole. No, “hey, let’s bring Edith to the future with us!” No way out, other than Spock and Kirk holding McCoy back long enough for a woman to get hit by a truck. Boom. Episode over. The good guys “win” by allowing someone to die. It was brutal to see someone killed like that. I still remember the gut punch that was that episode of television.

    This is one of the more tragic episodes of television. It also takes a huge risk. By not acting, our heroes restore a timeline (I know... this week there’s going to be lots of references to timelines, spaceships, and tribbles. It’s Star Trek Week. When in doubt, just yell something that sounds technical.) and save the day. I’d have to say that this episode introduced me to the idea of a tragic ending, much of what I’d learn to love later in Shakespeare. Not all endings had to be happy in the traditional sense in order to be best for everyone. Sometimes, someone has to die in order to make things right. Sometimes someone dies to make a point.

    Tomorrow, we are going to head on over to The Next Generation to check out Captain Picard’s “Inner Light.”

Friday, May 10, 2013

F. Scott vs. Baz... Fight!

“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
The reviews are in for The newest adaptation of the Great Gatsby… and I have no idea what they say. I write most of these Bad Shakespeare posts like a week in advance. I had intended to see it at a midnight show so I can write about it. We’ll see if that happens. Future Michael, to the multiplex!
                I did want to write about the Great Gatsby today, mostly because… well, it’s coming out today, and it’s not just coming out in movie theaters but as one of the Big Summer Blockbusters ™ that make up Summer Movie Season. Some people are timid about a big screen, high-budget, high-profile, 3-D adventure that is directed by Baz Luhrmann, also known as that guy who let Obi-Wan Kenobi and Nicole Kidman star in a musical, and thought it a good idea for Jim Broadbent to cover Madonna.
                Real quick side note, Ewan MacGregor took the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi. He’s going to have to live with me referring to him as that from now on.
                Anyway, immediately it seemed that news of The Great Gatsby becoming the giant, over the top spectacle that resembled… well, one of Jay Gatsby’s parties… was either horror as people clutched their metaphorical pearls (or non metaphorical. I have no idea what you were reading when you read the news) and wonder in stunned horror… HORROR that someone would take F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great American Novel and turn it into a wild spectacle. The other reaction was, “wow I kind of want to see that” from everyone else. (There was also a third reaction which was, “score, now I don’t have to read the book.” Kids, no matter how much I’m about to defend this, the book is always better.)
                Let’s tackle the second reaction first, because I enjoy being confusing. I think it’s great. I’m looking forward to seeing this movie, and I hope that future Michael goes through with the plan to see the movie, and to send me lottery numbers back through time. (he hasn’t yet.) What Baz Lurhmann has done, and was able to do in Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge is taken stories that people wouldn’t normally read, pull out what makes them great, and then puts them on with lavish spectacle and reckless abandon. He has this knack for finding what makes a story great, and even though it’s something hundreds of years old, manages to say, “hey… you like this stuff. Why aren’t you watching more of it?”
                The first reaction I talked about is probably one of the more annoying I’ve come across in my time concentrating more on books. I do think some books are sacred. But they’re sacred to me. They’re sacred in a way that I want people to read them. Put a copy of The Great Gatsby in front of someone, they may not read it. Put it on the big screen with Tobey MacGuire, give it a splashy soundtrack, shoot it in 3-D, then it becomes a completely different animal. It becomes a gateway. Kids will see this. They’ll enjoy it. They’ll wonder more and more about it. It can become the perfect gateway to talking about the book. It gives kids something to visualize while they’re reading it. And it’s a reminder that even though it’s a “boring school book” that was written by some guy about the 1920’s, it’s relatable.
                I’ve always liked The Great Gatsby. I always thought the themes were way more relatable than some teachers like to point out. This is a book about a bunch of people putting on large, opulent parties, parading their wealth around, driving flashy cars, and not really caring about consequences. (until that gunshot at the end. Oh.. spoilers)
                My point is, this isn’t a fight. F. Scott Fitzgerald is not currently planning a bout against Baz Lurhmann. It’s about someone working within the system to find what we should be teaching kids, which is that great literature is consumed any way you can consume it, and just because it’s a classic doesn’t mean it can’t be awesome.
                I sincerely hope future Michael takes the chance to go see this as soon as possible!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Day Part Deux: Just Deux It.

                Bad Shakespearean Note: Yesterday was Teacher Appreciation Day. I wrote a blog post that I will admit wasn’t very good. Believe it or not, I do set deadlines for myself, and I ended up writing something I wasn’t proud of and I put it up there because I was out of time and I wanted to post something. Often, that’s my downfall, the need to post that magical something as if I was writing a major newspaper and the world stops spinning because I don’t have anything in there. But it wasn’t good, and I’m not proud of it. So… do over! I could just delete it… It wasn’t posted on Facebook or anything like that, but I want to keep it up there for now as a reminder of what happens when I’m not really paying attention. However, today is my tribute to Teacher Appreciation Day.
                Happy Teacher Appreciation Day, everyone! It’s that magic time of year when the sun is supposed to appear (but is still hiding for some reason… will the GROUNDHOG EVER BE RIGHT?), when the pools start to fill up, and when students really start to focus on the fact summer grows ever closer, and they’ll be that much close to doing whatever it is they want for three whole months. So it’s kind of funny that they put Teacher Appreciation Day in May, rather than I don’t know in September when Teachers need to be reminded the most that, hey, we appreciate you. Especially going into the school year.
                But, I don’t make the laws (yet) so until then, we have Teacher Appreciation Day in May! Go grab your free burrito! Or whatever other service is offering free food to teachers today. Yay! Remember, we like you, so please, if you get into trouble there’s no reason to become a murderous drug overlord. Unless it can make compelling television. Then I can write about it.
                Last year I focused my post on teachers that influenced me. Those are still around, and they still influence me, but I think it’s important that we focus on WHY it’s important to appreciate teachers.  I just read a “hilarious” joke card that thanks teachers who have a rough life because they work until three, nine months out of the year. I guess that “hilarious” joke left out the fact that teachers often work much later grading, making lessons plans, dealing with angry parents, tutoring, assisting in whichever after school activities they help with, and then packing it all in a bag to take home over the weekend if they need to. And those whole three months off seem a lot shorter when you’re called in for professional development and to keep your license current. Hey, Mr. CEO Man… when did you have to go back to school to keep your CEO license current so you can CEO more? Or do you just yell at your assistant to get you coffee? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
                Now I know not everyone feels that way, but since I started this blog, I have concentrated more on what going into teaching is going to mean, not just in the sense that I’ll be molding young minds. No, also in what the place of a teacher is in society. And you see, the sad thing is, it’s not good. I see so much disrespect, so much vilifying, (people were furious over the “rich” teachers protesting in Chicago, but the NHL seasons’ been largely unaffected by the lockout), so much… anger towards teachers. I recently had to unfriend someone on Facebook because they had a nice lengthy post about how teachers were all really running indoctrination centers and brainwashing kids. Yes, that’s the extreme. But really? To Teachers? Who just want to… you know… teach?
                I think it’s important that we remember why teachers are there. Teachers are there to inspire kids to be more than they can. Teachers do so much more than “work until three nine months out of the year.” Good teachers are the reason you’re doing what you’re doing. Good teachers are the reason you can read this. Good teachers are the reason I started writing this. What’s the point of bashing them or putting them down? Great teachers inspire. Great teachers help contribute to the person that you want to be. Let’s remember that today. Let’s also remember it tomorrow. And the next day.
                So, let’s all take this opportunity to say thank you to that teacher in our life that made a difference. Let’s take an opportunity to stand up to someone on the street who’s telling you that teaches are lazy or make too much, and remind them that teachers are important to everyone. Take this opportunity to remember that new episodes of Breaking Bad start this summer. Wait… wait… no, nevermind I did want to say that.
                And to those teachers who have helped me out so much… thank you. All of you.

Henchmen Without Homes

                It’s troubling.
                Too often when a superhero, rogue NYC Cop, or British Superspy finally stops an evil agency, the evil scientist is taken into custody, but what happens to the Henchmen?
                Hello, I’m Bad Shakespeare, and I’m here to talk to you today about something close to my heart. Every year millions of henchmen are left unemployed because they happen to be judo-chopped, gassed, or otherwise fooled by someone sneaking into a secret lair in poorly made disguise. Once their Evil Scientist or Alien/Mutant Overlord is taken into custody, what are they to do?
                I’m here today to endorse a very special charity: Henchmen without Homes. We here at Henchmen without Homes work hard to re-employ Henchmen that no longer have a place to go thanks to the meddling of a do-gooder who has stopped the most recent death ray or plot to steal all the gold in the world an put it on the moon.
                Once these plots are foiled, where is a well-skilled purveyor of the hunching arts to go? How are they skilled to enter the workforce? How do they fill out a resume, making sure to include the fact that they are skilled at hand to hand combat, proper mutant shark care, and are able to type 60 words a minute, all while wearing a mask? These are things that aren’t taken into consideration when Sally Sunshinewoman or Capt. Awesome comes to break up a non-mainstream plot. (That is occasionally called, “an evil plot.”)
                Take for instance Barry. Barry was known as Henchman 57, working for a particularly spirited individual known as Dr. Phantom. It was Dr. Phantom’s dream to build a palace on the moon, but was thwarted by a NYC Cop that accidentally got taken into orbit on a shuttle. Once the Moon Palace was destroyed, Barry drifted. We were able to work with Barry, and use those special skills of Moon-Rock Harvesting to motivate others to work hard, eventually landing him a job motivating youngsters in inner city schools.
                Or take the case of Sally. Sally henched for several years under the Fem-natrix. She had a series of plans, but one of them involved holding the world’s supply of water hostage. After her plans were thwarted by Capt. Sunshine, Sally was able to come to Henchmen without Homes, and get her degree in Marine Biology.
                Lastly, take the case of Henry. Henry was just an ordinary Human Resources Manager when Dr. Armageddonus decided to use his brain switcher ray to put Henry’s brain into the body of a cat. Thanks to Henchmen without Homes, Henry was able to overcome his disability of being a cat, and is now a Human Resources Director for one of the largest local banks in Wisconsin. His fur creates a natural defense against the cold.
                We’re asking you to take these cases into consideration, and the next time you feel as those you’d like to donate money, please… remember the masked workers. For every evil man in a cape with fists of iron, there are the brave men and women in masks helping make sure that everything runs smoothly.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Day, Today and Every Day!

    It is Teacher Appreciation Day! Hooray! The day that we celebrate everything that teachers do for us, and if you’re lucky, get an extra burrito at Chipotles!

    What has a teacher done for you recently? Well, pretty much everything, actually. The fact that I’m writing this is thanks to a teacher, and the fact that you’re reading it is thanks to a teacher, too. Or because you follow me on Facebook. Catch Shakespeare Fever. Teachers also put up with a lot, let’s face it. Not just from the students anymore, but from pretty much anyone with a megaphone and a belief that schools are indoctrination centers and teachers are all brainwashers.

    Sorry, I’ve wanted to get to that last bit ever since I saw it going around some ex-friends on Facebook. That was just obscenely harsh, and if it’s something you believe, you should probably go, now. I don’t mean from this post. I mean from wherever you are, and apologize.

    Moving on.

    The closer I get to being a real, live, teaching teacher, the more I realize that teaching is a very unique profession. Also, that “teaching” as a profession is very different than “instructing”. I know what you’re thinking, “this is going to be a long post.” Probably not. We’ll see. Just bare with me for a moment.

    “Instructing” is a unique challenge. We instruct all the time... probably in your job now at some point you’ve had to instruct on something to do. Instruction is easy, you get up there and you recite some facts, and hopefully they stick, like a handful of aspirin that’s tossed casually at someone’s mouth. “Teaching” as a profession requires so much more. It requires the ability to not just instruct someone in the basic facts or how to do something, you have to make them WANT to learn.

    Wanting to learn and being able to learn are just as different, and making someone want to learn is a very unique ability. It involves presenting the material in a way that doesn’t suck, and isn’t boring. Let’s take my love for example, Shakespeare. I love Shakespeare, but I’ll be the first to tell you that under the right light, it’s boring as hell. A bunch of old guys talking about old things and not even speaking English? What’s up with that? How are we supposed to relate?

    I was lucky. When I was learning about this Shakespeare guy, it was taught to me in a way I could relate to. Hamlet wasn’t a boring story about a guy trying to kill his father. It was one part ghost story, one part revenge story, and some deception thrown in there. King Lear isn’t just an old guy dividing up his land, it’s a tale of a father’s love gone horribly, horribly wrong. These are all relevant even today. I fell in love with Othello because Patrick Stewart did a version of it that turned everything on it’s head.

    Good teachers find the angle that will turn a student onto any subject, whether it’s the ghost story angle, the type of math, a section of history, or the Patrick Stewart factor. Let’s not forget the measure of Patrick Stewart in something... that can be the difference between it being awesome, or it just being a mere Wesley Crusher.

    Yeah. I know Wil Wheaton is cool now. Never. Forget. Wesley. Crusher. People.

    Never forget.

    So, let’s raise a glass of whatever to those teachers we appreciate today, May 7th, as part of Teacher Appreciation Day. Then let’s take some time to remember that teachers have to work harder and more creatively than most of us, and raise another glass to them tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.

    You get the idea.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Summer Movie Season Begins Mini-Post! (Because I Was Wrong. Horribly Horribly Wrong.)

In honor of the start of Summer Movie Season, I was going to post my grand unified theory of exactly who Benedict Cumberbatch is going to be in the new Star Trek movie. I had research. I had taken a look at back episodes and back interviews. I scoured different stories on the internet and I was prepared to post my big theory:

Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Captain Robert April, the first Captain of the USS Enterprise. Captain April was responsible for de-aging the crew an episode, he has a grudge against the crew, he was voiced by James "Scotty" Doohan... (that had nothing to do with anything, I was just bragging about my research skills.)

Once again coming up with a victory dance before the actual victory has come back to haunt me.

Then in doing my research I actually found out who he's playing, and I was wrong. I won't spoil it here but...

grumble, grumble, grumble.

So, I guess I won't be posting my theory because I was wrong. The movie looks interesting.

But enough depressing! It's the start of Summer Movie Season! It kicks off with Iron Man 3, starting today! It's the first of the summer movies to come out, and it promises to so awesome. I'm sure I could do some research on Iron Man and the deep history of rich guys donning costumes and becoming the superhero (Scarlet Pimpernel, Zorro, Hamlet...) or a deep look into the history of theater and what it means but, you know what? It's the Summer Movie Season. I just want to see Robert Downey, Jr as Tony Stark, and a CGI Iron Man fight as many bad guys as he possibly can.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's the First of May!

I have a problem, but it’s a good problem to have.
                I’ve done this blog for over a year now. (You all remember Anniversaganza!) Which means some of the milestones I celebrated over the first year are now a bit moot, such as Shakespeare’s birthday, which I lumped in with Superman’s this year, and now we’re coming back upon May! Last year I discussed Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Lords of Misrule and how wonderful it would be to be referred to as the Lord of Misrule.
                All of that being said, I still feel we need to celebrate the momentous day that is the First of May. It’s a magical time when we’re still technically in Spring, but Summer is so close that we can practically smell the chlorine on our skin, taste the melted ice cream on our skin, and start complaining about the heat instead of the cold. Of course, if you’re a Jonathan Coulton Fan, you know that the first of May is important for other things, thanks to his wonderful song, “The First of May.” I’ll leave you to Google that one for yourself. However as much as I hate the acronym NSFW, this song is very NSFW. Seriously, if my parents are reading this, don’t Google that song.
                But how can we celebrate the birth of a new summer? I mean, after all, we’ve all been trapped indoorsish during another mild winter. And many of us are still suffering from an allergy season that not only won’t die, but almost seems like the trees are literally trying to kill us, much like a bad M. Night Shyamalan. (Notable for giving Zooey Deschanel her least quirky role to date.)
                But I’m not here to make fun of M. Night Shyamalan for an entire post again. (This time, anyway.) I want to present you with some Bad Shakespeare tips to squeeze the most out of summer. After all, it only comes once a year, and lasts way too long.
                -When you’re baking in the 101 plus degree weather, it’s important to remember that only a few months ago you were scrambling to get as many eggs and milk as possible before the global catastrophe of an inch of snow. Those were the good old days. I’m saying if you have any eggs left, see how long it takes to cook on the sidewalk.
                -This year is the year the cicadas are going to re-descend on Washington DC. It’s not every year we get one of the genuine plagues of Egypt on us. Just to be safe, you may want to make sure you’re not doing anything to annoy Moses.
                -Last year I did discuss the Lords of Misrule. Start a band called “Lords of Misrule”. Break up at the end of summer when one of you gets a girlfriend that wants to change everything you do. Boom. Movie of the week.
                -Stay inside, mole-like so your eyes don’t adjust to the brighter light. Re-emerge again when it’s cold, and there’s far less chance of bear attacks.
                -The days are getting longer, which means it’s light out for a long time. Find that house that you know some parents are making their kids go to bed before it’s dark out, then sit outside, eating ice cream, riding bikes, and talking loudly about how your summer is going. You’re an adult. You can do whatever you want, and bed-times are meaningless.
                -Have a summer romance. Get John Travolta to sing about it with his friends.
                -Take advice from Jonathan Coulton’s song , “First of May.” Also, while you’re at it, go and buy his version of “Baby Got Back” which is not only hilarious, but was stolen in a very special episode of Glee about cyberbullying. All proceeds of that song now go to charity.
                -Remember that it’s SUMMER MOVIE SEASON. You should have said your Our Whedons already, and prepared yourself for the moviephonic experience. I hope you’re reading this on your phone or table as you’re in line already to see Iron Man 3. (Opens Nationwide Friday. You’re welcome for that last bit of advertising, Marvel. You couldn’t have done it without me.)
                Happy May First, everyone!