Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What Message Do We Send When We Try to Ban Books?

One of the first books I had to read in teacher training school was the young adult novel Speak, buy Laurie Halse Anderson. I really wondered why.
                “But Bad Shakespeare,” those of you who don’t know my name are saying, “Shouldn’t you be expected to read Young Adult Novels when you are going to teach English?”
                Yes, I should, but this wasn’t for an English Class. This was basically teaching 101 (but was a Graduate level course, so it was probably a higher number.) but the instructor, a professor who was the only thing that really kept me going in that first semester of Graduate School (that’s another post) insisted that we read this book, because it was that important. It was about a young girl who is raped and has to deal with the aftermath. He wanted to remind us that not every teaching story was going to be Dead Poet’s Society or something like that. We were going to have to deal with dark issues, and if we weren’t ready for it, well, we weren’t ready to be teachers. I agreed with that, and because it’s a young adult novel, I agree that students should read the book.
                Of course it’s been banned all over the place. Naturally, rather than letting students think for themselves, we have to pull a potentially dangerous book out of the schools rather than letting them read it… blah, blah, blah. At this point regular readers are wondering when I’ll step off my soap box about censorship, and why I’m rehashing something I’ll probably discuss again during Banned Book Weeks. But someone said something that really enrages me when it comes to this particular book.
                Richard Swier, an “activist” from Florida, has sent out a press release calling Speak “child pornography.”
                Let that sink in for just a moment. A book about a rape (which has happened before the story starts) and about a girl that has to deal with bullying, the aftermath of the rape (up to including slut shaming), a broken family… is being called pornography because a guy doesn’t like what is has to say.
                Perhaps he should have looked up the word “irony” before he said something “stupid.”
                He also helpfully read the book very closely and underlined all the naughty words for us, which, pardon my French, but is gosh darn helpful for me when I want to find out where the swear words are. I’m sorry for the sarcasm, but this is my least favorite practice when it comes to books, movies, plays, anything. If you have the time to look up the “dirty words” or the words you don’t agree with, you really need something better to do with your time. Please find something better to do with your time. Do you know how many cat sweaters you can knit in the time it took you to count the naughty words in a book that you think his pornography to begin with?
                Mr. Swier’s article (which I won’t link to; I’m not giving him page hits Google it if you want to read it that badly. Kinda made me sick) also includes all of the other “bad things” that students do in the book. (like stealing hall passes. I know. I clutched my pearls to when I read that there was a possibility that students might find out about stealing hall passes this way.) He also clearly doesn’t understand that a lot of what he points out, like the fact that the main character wants to kill herself, is not being presented in a wonderful light; its being presented as a reaction to not wanting to deal with people much like Mr. Swier, that would rather bury the rape victim under the rug as opposed to helping them. He also equates sexy dancing to group sex. Maybe you should read this, it’s really starts to get a little unhinged towards the end.
                The article also includes a picture of the middle school teacher who was teaching this book. Which I’m not sure why we need to include it, but hey, stirring up the masses never really made sense. By the way the number of parents complaining about this book was in the high 1’s, with one parent asking that this book be reconsidered.
                I’m not going to pretend that this is an easy book, or that everyone can handle it. But guys like Swier… he’s speaking for a lot of people here when he has no vested interest in getting this book out of the schools. They voted on it, decided to keep it, and I’m sure that teacher can deal with the student that finds it difficult. I think it’s an important book. It tackles a rough subject – rape – and deals with it in a mature fashion. And like I keep saying, sticking your fingers in your ears and screaming “lalalalalala” isn’t going to pretend that something doesn’t exist. But have a violent reaction like this to a book… a fictional retelling that was made into a not good movie starring Twilight’s Kristen Stewart… how will you react when something bad does happen? Will you stick your fingers in your ears and take the lalalala approach? Or do you want to create a world where you’ll be able to help because you can open a dialogue? Uncomfortable subjects are just that… uncomfortable. We don’t want to talk about it. People like Laurie Halse Anderson took that subject and put it down so we can read it. Absorb it. Discuss it. And that’s important. And it’s important that it’s happening with a teacher, one that cares enough to try to let her kids know that we can discuss things like this so if God forbid something like this does happen, you don’t have to deal with it alone. Bravo, Jewell DeMarco. Bravo.
                Richard Swier, Activist, is very welcome to whatever opinion he wants. But the fact remains that maybe treating a book that’s about a survivor of rape like it’s pornography is not the best message in the world to young girls who’ve been raped. Just sayin’.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Congratulations! You're Now My Nemesis

Dear Captain Victorious,

Thank you for your recent interest in the position of Nemesis for Dr. Armageddonus. I am pleased to announce, thanks to some particularly  industrious henchmen and a laser-clawed bear, that the position has been opened.

Attached you will find the standard “Superhero vs. Supervillain” Contract that I ask everyone to sign. It’s a mere formality, but as I spend much of my time working on death rays, mutated animals, giant robots, and CBS Sitcoms, it is important that we work together to ensure that we will have the best Nemesising experience possible.

Keep in mind that Nemesis hours are 8 a.m.- 7 p.m Monday through Wednesday and 12:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. No real weekend work is required as I have to give those days off to the Henchmen. They had a really good team negotiator this year, even after vaporizing the first one and sending the second one into the past to experience the horrors of being burned at the stake for eternity, the third one was still able to negotiate weekends off with a duck for a head. Henchmen these days.

You will not be expected to work on any Federal Holidays including the ones that were destroyed by reckless Time Travelers, like “World Peace Day”, “Free Puppy and Kitten Day” and of course “Pauly Shore Day”, which honored the world’s greatest humanitarian before.... well you know. I go on.

You’ll want to review the generous benefits package, which includes a generous life insurance policy in the event that you befall one of the terrors that removed your predecessors: Time travel that negates your existence, dropping in boiling acid, the rabid Tom Cruise pit, the aforementioned Laser-Bear death, and one of my henchmen stepping on your cape while the other pushes you down the stairs. Not Invincible-Man’s greatest moment.

We do offer a family plan, so please feel free to include the names of your loved ones on the attached document as well, including all secret identities. Of course, Invincible-Man was the only one stupid enough to fall for that.

Also, there’s a standard clause in here about getting to choose the actor who will play you should the movie rights to our soon to be epic battles get turned into a movie. Remember, I’ve already kidnapped Hugh Jackman and Jack Black, so they may wish to play themselves.

Oh, on that note, you’ll probably want to come rescue Hugh Jackman and Jack Black before I unleash my latest plan: The Greatest Movie Ever, which will lull the masses into a false sense of security. Jack Black plays quite the unconventional Barista, and Hugh Jackman... well, you’ll just have to see it.

Unfortunately, there’s a clause in here that you have to listen to my monologues before you stop me.

Once we receive the signed contract, it will go to the Legal Department of Doom, then off to Evil Human Resources, and you can start stopping my nefariousness in about three business days.

Good luck.



Dr. Armageddonus.

P.S. - Enclosed is the invitation to the Doom Society’s Annual Summer Picnic. Please indicate if you are coming, and if you’ll be bringing a sidekick. Thanks!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Four Hundred Dollars is a Steal...

Good news! Are you having problems getting your kids to play with other kids? For a mere $400… that’s 400 hundred clams, folks… you can hire a “Playdate Consultant.”
                This isn’t one of Bad Shakespeare’s fake lists where I’m making up stuff. It doesn’t escalate to “Sharknado Preparedness Consultant.” (Note to self: “Sharknado Preparedness Consultant” is going to be an awesome name for my indie band.) No, there was legitimately a story in the New York Times this weekend that highlighted the growing trend of “Playdate Consultants” helping kids make friends and navigate the high-stress world of making friends when you’re five years old. After all, is Johnny going to be a high-priced lawyer that will help you with your startup right out of college? Or is he going to be a slacker mooching off you and your girlfriend in 20 years? Getting the right friends early is important.
                It can be rough.
                The story did highlight the reason why there’s a rise in this made-up unnecessary profession (am I making my feelings on this too clear? I don’t want to offend any of you Playdate Consultants out there.) is the overscheduling of kids. Making sure they can learn the violin while speaking Mandarin (the language, not the Iron Man villain) right after your Yoga class but before you have your tutor to ensure you get into only the fanciest of schools to set you on the Ivy League young! I’m still waiting for the consultant that comes out and says that being born in the wrong hospital can eventually keep you out of the Ivy League.
                I’m sorry, it’s just… Playdate Consultant? Really?
                As Chicago Public Schools is starting to shut down its schools and Detroit is one oil-soaked rag away from burning itself down to collect the insurance money, we have people throwing money at other people for no other reason than to teach their kids how to play because God-forbid they spend one minute of their childhoods NOT attempting to get into the finest school, the name of which they cannot pronounce. (Although it’s super-cute when kids want to go to Hawawd. Awwwww…) Apparently some people took the lessons of those classic 80 slobs vs snobs movies wrong: The crusty old dean was the bad guy.
                Look, I get wanting to give your kids all the opportunity in the world. I get that. I understand wanting to make sure they have access to all the best things. I can even understand wanting to spend what you can to help out your kids. But if you’re overscheduling them to the point that they don’t know how to play properly – what kids are built for – then you’re doing it wrong. “It” being balance of life.
                I know you may not listen to me. I didn’t go to an Ivy League School, my oldest friend is someone I met in 6th grade, and I’m not exactly the poster boy of “success.” But I’m happy. I wasn’t overscheduled to the point that I wasn’t able to spend some time at home, just playing with Legos. I wasn’t so stressed out at 5 because my violin lessons went on too long that when someone handed me a toy robot I wasn’t sure what to do with it. (Pretend I could use it to crush Darth Vader. Duh.)
                You know what I’ll even make it easier for you: Here’s your playdate consulting for the day:
1.       Hand your kid a toy. Let him play
2.       If your kid is having a good time, let him or her keep playing. The Violin at four years old can wait a few minutes.
3.       There is no step three. Your kid is going to turn out fine.
There is plenty of time to not be able to do what you want. It’s called Adulthood. It’s full of responsibility and it sucks. A lot most of the time. (We do get later bed times and our Legos are WAY cooler.) But don’t overschedule your kids to the point that you need to hire someone to teach them what to do to interact with other kids.
However, if you need my services as Pacific Rim Monster Preparedness Consultant, just shoot me an email.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

All About Controversy!

Like many other people, one of my first forays into science fiction was the extremely classic Ender’s Game. For those who haven’t read it, you probably should. It’s about a young boy who is trained to help stop an insect-alien invasion of Earth. (Which is different than Starship Troopers, trust me, but when Earth really meets a race of insects that’s peaceful, they’re going to take one look at our literature and we’re going to be pretty screwed.)

Of course, if you’ve been following anything about this movie, you know that the writer, Orson Scott Card is... well, let’s just say passionate in his defense of a political view that’s opposite of a lot of people’s including mine. Basically Card believes that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married. (That’s the nice way of putting it. He believes a lot of things I’m not going to post here.) While personally, I don’t care what anyone does because I’m too busy leading my own life to really focus too much on what someone else who means no harm is doing.

But of course, that has launched the giant debate: should we ignore all of Card’s work because of this belief?

The thing is, I don’t think we should be ignoring his work because of this. I think we need to keep an artist’s work separate from their beliefs.*

Ender’s Game is good science fiction. I read it well before I knew anything about Orson Scott Card. (I read it in the days when Google was not widely available or yet invented, so you couldn’t plunk down the name of someone and learn everything about them in mere seconds.) So, I’ve read the information. I checked the book out of the library (so I guess I screwed him out of the commission... take that, I guess?) and even though I find Orson Scott Card the man a reprehensible, I find the writer very good.

Last year the CEO of Chick-Fil-A said some similar things, and the outrage was huge on both sides. “How dare he say that!” one side said. “He has ever right!” the other said. “Hey, I own a restaurant and I want as many people as possible to shop there so I’m going to keep my mouth shut about things like this!” no one thought of saying. But people attempted to organize a mass boycott of Chick-Fil-A while another group attempted to organize a mass buy of greasy chicken nuggets, just like it says to do in the Bible. (Right after gluttony is a sin, I guess?) But I remember one comment that came down then, and I apologize to the comedian that said it (Google has failed me!) but they said something along the lines of “I drove around for four hours looking for a place that supported my political views for lunch.” 

It’s a movie. It’s a book. It’s not two hours of Orson Scott Card screaming about his political views on gay marriage. Like I said, it exposes some deep anti-Insect Alien propaganda, but he’s hardly the first. (I however, welcome our alien overlords, whether they be insect, lizard, cat, or some other crazy thing. Please don’t be alien robot, though. That crosses the line.) Also, I read the book, what do I do now, get one of those Men in Black flashy brainy thingies to erase my memory? Because I tried after going to see the Last Airbender, and those things are expensive.

Again, I’m not saying that I respect anything this man says. I think what he said was horrible. But he’s one of a billion and a half people that has worked on this movie. Do I boycott Harrison Ford, Han Solo himself who actually spoke out saying that People like Orson Scott Card have lost? Do I boycott Assistant Gaffer Frank Cunningham who just wanted to make a movie? Do I boycott my teenage dream of seeing this movie put up on the screen, albeit starring Chris O’Donnell who was the greatest actor of my generation apparently?

The Orson Scott Card situation is an extreme example, of course. It’s an example of someone that got in front of a camera and said his beliefs (which I can respect, even if I think he has his head up his ass) and they happen to be terrible beliefs. For other examples of extreme “should we boycott” also see Polanski, Roman, who’s The Scottish Play, which again I saw before I knew who he was and had access to his crimes,  (damnit, Google, why weren’t you invented sooner?) was one of the defining moments in my understanding and loving Shakespeare. I can’t imagine a world where I haven’t seen his Macbeth... it came along at the right time, at the right moment for me to hit on Shakespeare. I didn’t know who he was, or what he’d done. What he did was terrible. What he created changed the course of my life.

We have to separate the art from the artist. Do you really want to dig deep into your book/art/movie collection to see what everyone has said and done and boycott them for it? If you dig deep enough, you’re going to find a reason to boycott everything. Ender’s Game is not Orson Scott Card’s anti-gay screed. It’s a violent science fiction book. That looks like a great movie.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Remember: Cownado Really Started it All.

Whelp, I finally did it... I’m a little late to the party, but I finally immersed myself in the awesomeness that is Syfy’s original movie Sharknado. Not to be confused with Sharktopus, or Giant Shark vs. 80’s Star Desperately Clinging to Fame, this is a different type of Shark-based disaster movie that features literally thousands of sharks attacking a beach and aging but good look leads that somehow feel that they’re responsible for stopping the attack despite the fact that none of them are scientists or work for emergency services. (Most of the “we’ll help people” scenes involve them running back towards the danger and telling people to run to the safe spot they just were at.) Yes, it’s a movie that defies Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest in the most awesome way possible because sharks. And tornados. All done through some of the worst CGI since Sharknado

That’s not to say it’s not an awesome disaster movie. I mean, this ups the ante considerably. The closest thing we got to a Sharknado before this movie was the Cownado featured in Twister, and who wants to watch that anymore? (Also, that featured just one cow, and was only mildly threatening.) But there are thousands of places that Syfy can go following this disaster movie. Fortunately, Bad Shakespeare is here to help. So for your Monday morning I present to you... Bad Shakespeare’s suggestions for future Syfy disaster movies.

-Ratning Storm: This could be their Period Disaster Drama. Benjamin Franklin re-creates his famous experiment by tying a key to a kite during a lightning storm, but wait... rats are on the kite! Can George Washington team up with the British to save the day?

-Squirrelmaggedon: Following a freak acorn shortage, these furry-tailed monsters take to the road, causing people to swerve dangerously into oncoming traffic, causing a tanker of toxic waste to spill. Once it gets on them, they mutate into hideous, giant squirrels who attack Chicago leaving a trail of acorny death in their wake.

-Partly Dolphin with a Chance of Doom: Solar powered suits that allow dolphins to walk on land. What could possibly go wrong?

-Sheep Wave: When the sun intensifies, the wooly end up suffering the most. How will these once calm and peace loving animals react when they realize that their most valuable asset... their precious, precious wool, will now be their downfall?

-Whalezzard: How can America survive when the Ocean’s Largest mammals get swept up in a giant Blizzard? 

-Catnado: A local shelter becomes overrun with cats. Unfortunately, a twister comes by and sucks them all up, unleashing them on an unsuspecting small town in Idaho. Will the local bar owner who could have solved everything by evacuating save you from getting hit in the face by a cat who’s probably still asleep? Can they prevent it from colliding with the Tuna Factory mere miles away?

-Bearnami: It’s just a tidal wave of bears. Those that don’t drown are pretty threatening I guess. The ones that do I guess could sink a few ships.

-Tara Reid’s Acting School: Because nothing says disaster like when Tara Reid tries to act, which is one of the greatest lessons that Sharknado could have taught us.

      You're welcome, Syfy.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Be Excellent To Each Other

                Let’s take a few minutes to talk about Facebook.
                Way back in the 2000’s it was a dark, desolate time. When people wanted to talk to each other, they had to “call” each other on phones. Texting was not readily used, and required mashing numbers on a phone until eventually, you got the letter you wanted. Social Media Networks consisted of people hanging out with each other, in person. It was dark.
                Then, some guy no one remembers invented Friendster. I’m not sure if this is how it’s spelled, or if it’s even the first social media network, but it was at least the first one that I was widely aware of. Following Friendster it was Myspace which, in addition to letting you all be friends with Tom, letting everyone know which song you wanted to play for five seconds at top volume before it was turned down, it also let you know who the top eight people you loved more than anyone else in the world were. It was a glorious, glorious age.
                But not wanting to stop at that, eventually a guy named Mark Zuckerberg (known as that rich D-Bag to the people he may or may not have stolen Facebook from) created Facebook. It was a social media network unlike any other. A shining city where all those people in High School you moved 5000 miles to be away from can find you, and your grandmother can totally see those pictures of you hitting up the beer bong.
                Actually, joking aside, I don’t have a problem with Facebook. It actually is something that the internet should be good at – keeping people in touch – and boils it down to it’s purest, hey look at what I had for dinner last night, form. I like the people I knew in High School, some of them. I’m sad we lost touch. Now, rather than losing touch, I can still say “hi.” We aren’t close, we won’t be the godparents of each other’s kids, but I get to stay in touch with some people from a time in my life that may have been awkward, but at least I didn’t have to spend most of my hard earned money on fixing woodrot.
                I digress.
                The real problem with Facebook, and what I’d like to talk about today, has to do with last Saturday Night. Something controversial happened last Saturday night. While normally I love controversy and would like to pick apart the arguments of people, I just couldn’t. Because a lot of the stuff I saw was all over Facebook, and it’s the people I’m supposed to like. Some of them were saying pretty horrifying things, I have to say.
                There are two problems wrapped up in this, actually. One is a minor one: We disagree all the time. Hey, you liked Spider-Man 3… no sweat, I’m sorry your taste in movies suck. We disagree on music… I don’t know what a Mackelmore is,  but I know that Hot 99.5 playing “Thrift Shop” for the 700th time that hour while the fake sounding morning DJ (I have to do a Bad Shakespeare Post on my hatred for The Kane Show…). But for some reason, I find that you voted for the dishonest politician that was opposite of the dishonest politician that I voted for, and we’re mortal enemies, all the smiling photos of us celebrating in the sun be damned.
                The other problem wrapped up in this is that magical word you know I love: Research. I commented earlier that this was not going to be a post about what happened on Saturday, because I didn’t do enough research into it. I didn’t care to. The whole situation made me sick, I formed my own opinions before looking into it, and while I have them, I’m not going to foist my opinions on you when I know they’re based mostly on emotions. But it seems like everyone finds that one random wonderful picture from a TV show that someone helpfully put white text on the bottom and suddenly… YOU’RE AN EXPERT! It’s not even your words, or your funny (unless you invented them… then kudos, especially whoever did the Futurama Not sure if… one. That’s my favorite.) But some of them get mean spirited, and it’s not what friends are supposed to do. That’s not what civilized society was meant to do.
                Now I’m obviously not calling for an end of debate. Debate’s good. Rational debate and argument is a good thing. It’s what our country was founded on. (Originally Ben Franklin wanted to call it “Americaland” and every Tuesday was topless. Damn Jefferson talked him out of it.) But reposting a mean-spirited meme because you can’t be bothered to go out and do your own research, particularly on a website designed for everyone to stay in touch isn’t exciting or fascinating. It’s lazy. And mean.
                We’ve gotten to a sad point where rational research isn’t done anymore. We’ve gotten to the point where it’s easier to regurgitate a made up fact because thinking about something is hard. We’ve gotten to the point that because one person we don’t like does something, then suddenly that something is not ok.  This isn’t the way people are supposed to act. This is the way that third graders act. Yeah, Facebook, Myspace, and whatever comes next (MyBookStergramwer. Designed by me and four other people I’m going to screw out of a billion dollars. Aaron Sorkin, you may use this blog to make your movie.) are GREAT to help us reconnect, but what compels you to share so much of your life that you NEED to post some ill researched picture of a kitten pointing a gun with statistics on it that would make some statistics using guy laugh? (I really searched for a famous mathematician.) Would you walk into a party with your friends, shout Archduke Ferdinand was a tool who deserved it (too soon?) and kill the party?
                There’s a story my mother likes to tell about my Grandfather. He was with a group of friends and somehow, they got to talking about Politics. They were shouting at each other, yelling, calling each other names. I think someone bit another person. Finally my grandfather stood up, held up a hand and looked around. He said, “That’s nice. Enough about politics. Let’s start talking about religion.” Everyone sort of laughed, shook hands, and that was that.
                I’m not saying avoid the debate. I’m not saying don’t express your opinions. I’m saying that maybe, just maybe before you post something, ask yourself it 1) it’s something you’d say to everyone or 2) did you research it, (ACTUALLY RESEARCH) or are you parroting something that reinforces what you want to believe.
               It's like those two great ones once said... "Be Excellent to each other..."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ryan Reynolds is Why I Love Comic Con

It’s Comic-Con Time! It’s that magical time of year when everyone gets together, dresses in cool costume and gets treats. Well, treats in the form of commercials for upcoming movies, TV Shows, and other cool stuff. (But they’re awesome commercials.)

Comic-Con was started in 1970 when... you know what? The history stuff is why God invented Wikipedia. You can feel free to look up how it slowly started as a comic book convention and it slowly exploded to the large pop-culture event it is today. (Hmmm.. I guess that is kind of the history. You’re welcome, Wikipedia God.)

What is it about this one weekend that makes grown men and women dress in costumes and gather to worship what basically amounts to advertisements for things that will cost even more and basically abandoned it’s founding principles years ago? Because it’s awesome. It’s an awesome time.

Obviously someone like me follows Comic-Con pretty closely. I would love to go one year. I even plan it out, think of the costume I’m going to wear (Green Lantern. Ryan Reynolds movie version.) While I may throw off the silly comment like the previous paragraph, I really do enjoy the fact that men and women dress up in silly costumes. I like the fact that they show off movies that are coming up (and they’re overly analyzed.) And despite the fact that there’s always some complaint that “Comic-Con isn’t about comics anymore” it is still about comics, most of the news (because again, I don’t have tickets to go) focuses on the cool movies, but it’s about comics. Lighten up, complainers!

Mostly, I like what Comic-Con represents. It’s my nice yearly reminder that imagination exists even with grown adults that normally wouldn’t put on a Harley Quinn costume and run around a convention hall to catch the glimpiest glimpse of a superhero movie that may be coming out in a year if the release date isn’t pushed back because it’s a superhero that you’ve wanted to see on the big screen for years. It just seems like it would be an incredible experience.

At hearts, we’re all kids. Let’s face it, we all have things that we get excited about. We all have little moments of glee. (Like last week, when I was sitting on the edge of my seat during Pacific Rim with a smile so big you’d think I was winning a lottery.) Comic-Con sort of takes that and breaks down all the pretense that we don’t want to dress up in costumes and play with all the things that made us happy as kids.

It’s all imagination. It’s pretend. It’s make-believe.

So over the next four days, we’ll be seeing plenty of pictures of lawyers, bankers, “responsible adults” dressed up in brightly colored costumes. We’ll be hearing about that one superhero/zombie/action movie that we want to see and scouring every last bit of news about it. We’ll be looking at comic books and action figures and wishing we could get our hands on them. For the next four days, we all get unabashedly be kids again. 

       And I love it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Writer's Block...

       Sometimes, it’s extremely easy to write these blog posts. I’ll sit down at the computer and the words flow so easily you’d think I’d know what I was doing. A lot of the time, it’s difficult. I can sit at the blank page, the scariest thing in the world, and nothing comes out. It’s not that I have anything to say, it’s just that I can’t think of anything to say about the myriad of things going on around me.

Writer’s Block is a horrible, horrible thing. It eats at you. The worst part about Writer’s Block is that it’s like quicksand. The more you struggle the more it sucks you it. You try to make that connection, write the cool thing, the more it sucks you in, enveloping you like so many... I don’t know, I have Writer’s Block. 

The absolute worst part about this is the fact that I have Adam Sandler’s smiling face looking at me from a cappier sequel to a crappy movie. And I can’t write one 500 word blog post.

I hate having Writer’s Block. But I also know that fighting it is only going to make it worse. The only thing to do is relax, calm down, and just let the words come back to me on their own.

We’ll be back on Wednesday. Happy National Cow Day, everyone. Go hug cheeseburger.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Monsters vs Robots! Monsters vs Robots!

So... after months of watching trailers, scouring the internet for news, and shouting Idris Elba’s line “Tonight we are canceling the apocalypse” at ever opportunity, I finally was able to catch an early showing of Pacific Rim. The movie my childhood was made of!

For those who don’t follow this blog or movies that look exceedingly awesome, Pacific Rim is about giant monsters (named kaiju) that come from an interdimensional rift in the middle of the ocean, so naturally mankind responds by building giant robots called Jaegers, attacking them, and then turning the pilots into celebrities and the giant monsters (I’m not going to keep calling them kaiju) into jokes. The movie follows a washed out once great Jaeger pilot who’s brother was killed during one of these giant monster attacks, and his blah, blah, blah... you don’t really care much about the plot at this point.

Let’s face it, the movie isn’t great. It’s mostly a hodgepodge of action movie cliches (will the hotshot pilot and the has-been learn to work together to stop the monsters? Will the young woman finally be given a shot? Is that seemingly dead monster going to jump back to life and kill that guy?) that take up time in between watching giant monsters wail on giant robots.

But that’s not what you want to watch. If you walk into this movie hoping to see excellent acting or a “plot” then turn around and head into another movie. The only real reason to watch this movie is to watch giant monsters (designed by Guillermo Del Toro. That’s just more of the awesome) wail on giant robots. The action sequences are fantastic, they’re well shot and they avoid the most recent problem from other CGI heavy action movies where after about two minutes of fighting you can’t understand who’s fighting who. It also helps that the monsters are so different from the robots. 

And because it’s Del Toro, the world is fully realized. He skips past all that boring “origin” stuff, and just thrusts us right into the action, but at no point do you feel you’re missing something or something is under-explained. It really adds to the overall feel of the movie, even if some of the characters are underdeveloped beyond the action movie cliche they fill. 

But you know what? At the end of the day, it’s giant monsters wailing on giant robots. That is why you’re going to see it. It excels in monsters vs robots in every single way.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An Original Movie...

There’s this really cool new thing that people do when a new movie is announced or a trailer comes out or something. They rush to their Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, MySpace, text, or emerge from their dens, mole-like to announce that the movie they just heard about is just a remake of something or a sequel, then bemoan the total lack of original ideas emerging from Hollywood. It’s a totally original argument, and don’t worry, you’re the first person to have made that observation, and no one has ever made it before.

I’m going to get the most obvious thing out of the way, mostly that the biggest movies of the summer thus far have been sequels, remakes, or in one case a sequel to a remake, while the original movies are buried in arthouses because everyone except the snobbiest of art snobs refuses to see them. Seriously, you’ve got a million people in line to see Fast and the Furious 15: Just the Rock Running from Explosions in Slow Motion, but we’re going to bemoan how everyone is sick of sequels and remakes. Yeah, right.

It’s too bad that remakes have existed since the dawn of time. (There’s a strong theory that I just made up that says the Earth in fact, is just a remake of an earlier Earth that didn’t include any Kardashians. God just put them here to shake things up for a bit. I’m not one to doubt the Almighty, but that was a bad call.) But humans have been remaking things since the first actor broke free from the Greek Chorus, realized he needed something to turn into popular entertainment, and some 40 year old guy in the audience (that’s like, 70 in today’s age) who just said, “meh. The cave paintings were better.”

I like to keep repeating this phrase: Shakespeare stole almost everything he ever wrote. Hamlet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, the unmentionable Scottish Play (which was actually stolen from history to suck up to the new boss, failed miserably), Romeo and Juliet... it’s likely that the only original Shakespeare Play that came just from the Bard’s memory was The Tempest, and that was all about how the world didn’t really need him.

Let’s even look at the latest from Johnny Depp, The Lone Ranger which is currently sinking like a stone tied to a bunch of heavier stones at the box office as I write this. “It’s a remake!” You screech as you hold up your cross and slink towards the light of an indie film that’s a coming of age story that’s been told a billion times but the twist this time is that the young protagonist has a complicated relationship with his mother instead of his father. “They should have left the old TV Show alone!” I’m just curious if you mean that old TV show that was taken from the radio show.

That sound. That sound of your jaw hitting your desk. That’s the sound of me, dropping the mic. I’d walk away if I didn’t have more to say.

Let’s not go back to Shakespeare, but let’s bring the time machine forward to the golden age of Hollywood when scandal meant an actress showed a little too much ankle at her latest film release, and the internet was called “newspapers.” (We’re so much more enlightened. Who was wearing a thong this week? Let me just google and check.) Early film and television (called “Glowing Soul Boxes” back then) needed content, where did they turn? They turned to books, plays, and anywhere else they can get the content needed to turn your eyes to the glowing rectangle in front of you. And what you knew to that point was that Tennessee Williams was getting some buzz in this whole play thing, let’s see how it translated to radio waves. Hey, kids parked themselves in front of the radio to imagine a world of cowboys and indians, how are they going to react when they can see the gunfire RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEIR EYES. It was a brave new world.

Look, I’m not saying the dearth of sequels and remakes isn’t sad-making. Unless that sequel is Serenity 2. There are literally millions of good ideas out there that are getting buried by yet another sequel or remake of the reboot. Like a story about a group of space-cowboys who fly around fighting the establishment. Just sayin’. But the problem is that people continue to complain about a problem that:

  1. isn’t really a “problem” per se... if you like the movie, and you want to spend more time with them, then go see the movie again. Apparently a lot of people are doing that.
  2. has existed since before the dawn of the medium. We’re constantly remaking or sequeling something so we can try to find a new interpretation. (which is why people complained about Man of Steel being too “dark” despite the fact that Superman believed the best in everyone. It was a reinterpretation.)
  3. could easily be solved by going to see original movies, TV shows, etc, but people are too frightened by new things to check out these original things. Why roll the dice on a truly quirky movie like John Dies at the End when you can roll yourself up in a warm comfortable blanket of Generic Action Movie #76.

This debate will continue to rage as long as they’re making movies. It will rage while they’re beaming the stories directly to our brains starring any actor we want. (I’m looking forward to the all Nic Cage version of Much Ado About Nothing.) But if you’re going to continue to complain about remakes or sequels, then go seek out something unique. It’s out there if you can look. I personally don’t mind, I’m looking forward to Die Hard 90: Just Bruce Willis Yelling Catchphrases. Because I know that the reboot and sequel is a rich part of our cultural history.

And Joss, seriously, call me when you want to start up on Serenity 2.

Monday, July 8, 2013

200 Posts Down...

Welcome, to Bad Shakespeare’s 200th post! I hope today you make sure to put your celebratory Bad Shakespeare mustaches on today, and explain to everyone that asks that your favorite blog on education, writing, books, and pop culture has made it to it’s 200th post, despite the odds being overwhelmingly not in my favor. You can tell them I said it’s ok. I have a lot of influence on people looking up Breaking Bad Spoilers.

Yes, I’m aware that they’re not all epic-length, and about 15 of them were written on one day about various movie marathons. But I feel they make up for all of the extra days that I didn’t post. MATH!

So, I racked my brain: What do I want my 200th post to be about. Then it kind of hit me, there’s a ton of little ideas that I had for blog posts that I didn’t actually get to write about. Some of it because I didn’t really have an opinion, and it was just senseless rambling. (I know. This is the stuff I DON’T consider senseless rambling.) Some of it because it wasn’t really long enough to be a post, but not short enough to be a Facebook status update (I did post all of that your MySpace walls. You should go check.) Some of it because I thought it was kind of controversial. Some of it because I didn’t really have enough research, or time to research. And some of it because I’d start to post it then I’d get distracted by... SQUIRREL! 

With our luck 200th post, I thought I’d pull the curtain back a little bit and mention those posts I was going to do, but didn’t for one of the above reasons, or other reasons I didn’t really feel like listing because of reasons. Important reasons that I’m afraid you may not understand. Mostly because I don’t understand them. So here are some of the DVD Extras, so to speak the deleted Bad Shakespeare posts that didn’t quite make it to the big screen, and landed on the cutting room floor.

-I do BBQ Competitions, believe it of not. They’re an awesome time, so epically awesome that it will blow your mind and taste buds away. I was going to write up my teams most recent trip to a tiny town in Virginia, so tiny that we didn’t even have cell service. Unfortunately, Mother Nature likes to play games, and we got rained out.

-I was going to write up a review of the epically epic Star Trek (No colon) Into Darkness, and mention that it you should go see it. Make sure you saw it in IMAX 3-D so you could stare lovingly into Benedict Cumberbatch’s eyes and pretend that with each line he was threatening to exterminate you personally. But I already posted a review for a movie like, four weeks after it came out, and I didn’t want the blog to become “Hey, look at this movie you could have seen if you just got on the ball.” Plus, I figured that those of you who were going to see it probably did long before my blog came out, and already imagined Benedict Cumberbatch personally threatening you with each line. Didn’t think I could add much to the conversation.

-There was a whole knight/dragon blog post that was hilarious at the time I wrote it, but then was a stark reminder that writing and allergy medication rarely mixes.

-I was going to write an ongoing, serial novel to go with National Novel Writing Moth, and I was going to write a serial novel that was going to run during the summer when Education News is sort of light, but at the end of the day, I just couldn’t get a good novel started. Plus, November was when things started to go downhill for me, so the writing of the comedy novel I was working on was going really bad. Also, part of things going bad involved my computer crapping out and me losing said novel to the ages. Everyone thinks of backing up their work when they’re sitting in front of a computer, blue screen of death staring back at them, sobbing uncontrollably. (You’re sobbing. Not the computer. The blue screen of death is the epitome of the mocking tone.)

-Oh, the controversy. There were a few controversial topics I strongly considered dipping my big toe into. I was going to start the First Church of Algebra which would have targeted those kids who can now legally refuse any assignment based on their religious beliefs. (Donations got you a card saying that we didn’t believe in “man’s math, only math of the divine”.) That was brilliant. There’s the whole Orson Scott Card/Superman debate that went on... can we separate horrible things that someone has said vs. their art, particularly with a movie coming out? (That one got dark. I’m glad I stopped that one when I did.) Let’s not forget the whole “Free Kate” controversy (The 17 year old girl who was dating a 15 year old girl, and when she turned 18 her girlfriend’s parents had her arrested.) I wrote that post about nine times, and deleted it each time. I wasn’t comfortable jumping into that one.

Look, I’m very aware of my blog and the fact that my reach isn’t as far as I want it to be. I know that my blog’s not going to be entered into the nation debate over prayer in schools, Orson Scott Card, or Free Kate. But I also don’t want to enter a debate knowing only half the story, or relying on gut reactions. I like Tommy Lee Jones’ line in Men in Black. This was back when Will Smith was a rapper/actor instead of just an actor like he is today. But it’s along the lines of “A person is rational, people are dumb, panicky creatures and you know it.” I didn’t want to wade into all of that debate and have to suddenly defend arguments from “people” and half formed opinions.

But if any student who does want to join my Church of Algebra, donations are 50 bucks and it gets you a card that will get you out of doing any math assignments based on our religion. You’re welcome.

So that’s sort of the behind the scenes of thoughts and ideas that go into the building of the Bad Shakespeare world. We’ve got a lot of exciting stuff coming up: We’ve got the end of Breaking Bad and that analysis. We’ve got the eventual end of Summer Movie Season and the random speculation of Prestige Season and what we’ll be watching for the Oscar Movie Showcase. We have the robot invasion to look forward to. (Spoilers on the end of the human race.) And then that whole student teaching thing I’ve got to get to, and you can bet the blog on that one is going to be hi-Larious. 

So join us, will you, for the next 200!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Star Trek: The Final Frontier. And the Final Movie in the Marathon

Space. Some have called it “The Final Frontier.” Fortunately, there’s a lot of it to explore, get lost in, and aliens to attack and cause cool space battles so we can be all like, pew-pew! Boom! Beam me up, Scotty! Vooosh!

This blog’s love affair with Star Trek is long, longer than the recently discussed love affair with Simon Pegg. Which is why watching 2009’s Star Trek was perfect way to end today. You all know the story, five year mission, Kirk, prequel, reboot, Spock, you have to wait until the sequel to see Benedict Cumberbatch, blah, blah, blah. Simon Pegg only makes a really brief appearance in this movie as Scotty, the miracle working Engineer who keeps the ship running with a little bit of duct tape and some hope. But it’s enough, he makes an impression that was large enough to give him a much bigger role in the sequel. (Which seems to be standard with most Simon Pegg roles.)

And of course there’s the whole debate about remakes or reboots and how it means that Hollywood is out of ideas, but of course if that were the case everything’s been out of ideas for about 400 years now. But more on that, later.

Sadly, this bring us to the end of our little trip down Simon Pegg lane, and an end to a Very Simon Pegg July Fourth Movie Marathon. So what did we learn today? We learned that while it may not be practical to dive through the air whilst firing two guns, but it’s fun. We learned that aliens are already on Earth, and they invented Agent Mulder. We learned that maybe the pub isn’t the best place to go when the zombies attack. We learned that sometimes changing the room numbers so the bad guys meet in the wrong place can be just as exciting as hanging off a very tall building. And we learned that if you accidentally beam Admiral Archer’s prized Beagle into oblivion, then you should expect to be marooned on an ice moon until Captain Kirk and a future version of Spock comes and beams you onto the Enterprise.

I like Simon Pegg. I liked him before this movie marathon, I like him even more now. Let’s face it, he’s a nerd who gets to live the dream. He’s fought zombies, sat on the bridge of the Enterprise, hung out with aliens... he’s even done some light romantic comedy and worked with the Dude in movies that we didn’t watch today because we decided to limit it to only 12 hours. And it’s a good way to get us in Simon Pegg/Nick Frost time before his new move, At World’s End, opens at the end of the month. I don’t count that as a shameless plug, but really what I’ll be doing in a few weeks. I’m not paid by the studio... not just yet. Oh, the cars they’ll fly that day...

I certainly hope you enjoyed this marathon down Simon Pegg lane. I know I did, but right now  I’m seeing Nick Frost, like, everywhere. It’s probably time to go watch something else.  Thank you for reading and spending this time with us! Join us next July Fourth as I find something equally as ridiculous to blog about.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Star Trek Bad Shakespeare Approved Meal: Klingon Gagh. Fresh.

Tom Cruise Fails. Repeatedly. But It's Ok, Simon Pegg Saves Him.

Dun duh duh duh duh dun dun dun dun duh duh nananaaaaa nananaaa nanananaaa.. NA NA!

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (named so you don’t have to see Mission Impossible 4, and therefor know it’s the fourth part and thus realize that Tom Cruise is old) is a movie built on failure. For most of the movie, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise’s) IMF Team, is mostly an annoyance to the bad guys. Through careful planning, they manage to facilitate the exchange of diamonds for Russian Launch Codes, be in the wrong place at the wrong time to convince people that the IMF force were the bad guys to begin with, and then the whole thing of course ends with them letting the missile launch. It’s really just at the last minute that they finally save the day.

Side note: I’d like them to remake these movies with Samuel L. Jackson. Then they could call it the BMF force. Look, I’ve been watching movies all day. I’m a little punchy.

Of course, none of this is our boy Simon’s fault. No, I place the blame on Tom Cruise. Mostly because I can. And he’s the leader. And a good leader takes responsibility when he’s out climbing the world’s tallest building for no real reason other than to show off the cool spy gloves that should be in a James Bond movie. But you wouldn’t get Daniel Craig climbing the world’s tallest building just because it was there.

It is nice to see Simon not just relegated to the roll of comic relief, though, even with this movie starring Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise’s love interest, the guy who’s going to replace Tom Cruise eventually, and Simon Pegg. I mean, most of the comedy comes from him, but he plays a pivotal roll on the team. He gets to enter Nicolas Angel mode and really kick some Russian Terrorist Butt. (fortunately, this movie returns the Russians to the role of the bad guys. FINALLY.)

Bad Shakespeare Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol Approved Snack: Spaghetti Tacos. Because they’re Tom Cruise Crazy.

Our Final Movie for the Thanks Mum, A Very Simon Pegg July 4th Movie Marathon: We take a little trek through the stars in our least Simon Peggiest movie of the day.

Shaun Manages to Shamble is Way into Your Heart

Zombies are in right now. There’s zombie TV shows, all types of zombie movies, including a zombie romance, zombie books... it kind of makes me wonder what type of movie Shaun of the Dead would have been had it come out today as opposed in the ye olde days of 2004 (back before iphones and facebook, back when we were forced to talk to each other in person like animals) when the whole Zombie craze was just newly bitten and had not yet shambled its way into America’s heart the way it has today.

I’ve always enjoyed Shaun of the Dead, not just for the spot on way it manages to skewer zombie movies while crafting a genuinely scary one. Not even because it’s probably the way I’d react during a zombie invasion. Probably because it’s one of the best depictions of what it’s like to be aimless, trying to figure out what you want to do with your life. 

Let’s talk about the two best scenes from the movie.  I know they’ve been discussed and discussed, but come on... this is my blog, I get to talk about it. The first one, of course, is the scene where Shaun walks through is day, unaware that all hell has broken loose and zombies are now everywhere. It’s a hilarious take on somehow we just don’t take the time to see what is going on to pay attention to what is going on around us. Yes. It’s pretty obvious. But Simon Pegg plays it off well, probably a little better than anyone should have. Love it.

The other one, and this is one of my favorite scenes of any movie, ever. It’s in the middle of the movie when Shaun and his group encounters his friend and her group. Yeah, it’s an easily telegraphed joke... but it’s one that people don’t think about. In World War Z, one of the things Max Brooks (I can’t emphasize enough.. Mel Brooks’ son) points out is the “Last Man on Earth” Syndrome, where a group of people assumed they were the only survivors of the zombie invasion. I loved seeing this played out by encountering another group randomly like that. (Plus the fact that the show up again at the end...)

Overall, Simon Pegg’s true Simon Pegg-ness is on display in this movie as an aimless dude just trying to figure it all out, and the last thing he needs is this pesky Zombie attack going on.

Shaun of the Dead Bad Shakespeare approved meal: Pub Burger with Fries... after a pint we’ll just wait for this whole spot of business to blow over.

Up Next: Simon Pegg trades in Nick Frost for Tom Cruise, to save the world, and take part in a mission that might not be quite possible.

Who's Adam Shadowchild?

Aliens, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Nerd References Galore! Paul is not an official part of the “Three Flavours” Trilogy (that wraps up this month with At World’s End. There’s a a 90% chance I’ll be in line to watch that. I don’t know. I’m watching a lot of Simon Pegg today. For you. The reader. You’re welcome.) but it’s an enjoyable look at what would happen if aliens made it to Earth, smoked a punch of pot, and then hung out with science fiction fans in a road trip across the midwest. Which is plausible, right? Aliens are going to come down, sound like Seth Rogen, and just hang out with the nerds. I hope.

Think E.T. by way of Pineapple Express. (Which is lazy, since Seth Rogen is in both. But I’m writing a lot of these today. I’m going to be lazy.)

I enjoyed this movie, which was written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost without the aid of Edgar Wright. I haven’t seen it as much as I have his other works, and there’s just something that’s missing something. Maybe it is that Edgar Wrightness that Hot Fuzz had.  The jerk needs to just get started with his Ant-Man movie. Who knows? But it’s an enjoyable movie, and it’s rewatchable for the millions of different references to other sci-fi movies. I will ALWAYS laugh when Jason Bateman shoots his radio and says, “It was a boring conversation, anyway”. (I’m not telling you where that’s from. you should know.)

Great movie. Laugh out loud great, and again, you have the idea that the writers re-watched a ton of science fiction movies to get the little moments right.There’s a lot to love about Paul. As usual, Simon Pegg is hilarious, and of course he’s entrenched with Nick Frost in a pairing that just feels right. They obviously enjoy hanging out, and I’m sure even home movies of the two of them watching football (or soccer) are probably just as amusing. Sometimes it gets to the point that you want Seth Rogen to go away so you can just watch the two of them hang out for a little bit. Not that I have anything against Seth Rogen. I don’t want him to sic James Franco on me. I feel the two of them could take me.

But Nick Frost and Simon Pegg: I’d like to grab a beer with them. Or a pint down at the local pub. That last part’s funnier if you say it in a British Accent. Also if Aliens are attacking, like in that new movie they have coming out.

I have to say, re-watching movies for this marathon is fun, but it’s a lot different than the AMC Oscar Movie Showcase, largely featuring movies I hadn’t seen. Also there’s the sense of control that’s different, as 1) I get to go at my own pace and 2) I got to pick the movies, which means that, for instance, I won’t be forced to sit through a movie that features an old French Woman dying for two hours. Although, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in a parody of Oscar Baiting movies. Someone get me Edgar Wright!

Paul Bad Shakespeare approved snack: Reese’s Pieces. Duh.

Next up: Lunch.
Then the one that started my love affair with Simon Pegg as he saves England, or at least his girlfriend, mother, and best friend, as they head down to a local pub to ride out the zombie apocalypse.