Monday, March 31, 2014

Welcome to Bad Shakespeare 450!

Welcome, ladies and/or gentlemen, to a very special time of year. The birds are chirping. It’s been almost a week since we’ve gotten snow. And we are getting ready to celebrate the birth of one of the world’s most famous writers, William Shakespeare. Given that his works have been translated into Klingon, i almost said the Universe’s most famous writer, but we all know that’s really the Monster of Unspeakable Terror from the Planet of Pain in the Horror Galaxy. Rather, he makes me say that, because, well, I’m terrified of him, as implied by the name.

So, why am I making a big hairy deal out of the fact that we are going to celebrate the birth of William Shakespeare this month? Because he’s 450 years old, baby! And that’s something worth celebrating, even if we’re not 100% entirely sure of his actual birth date. 

Bad Shakespeare is going to celebrate 450 years of the bard all month long with 30 all new posts celebrating him. 31 if you count this one, and you’re one of those sticklers for “numbers.” 

We’ll be talking about Shakespeare’s life, analysis of plays, his birthday, whether or not he was real (he was) and whether or not he managed to write all of those plays (that’s less clear.) We’ll also take a look at how his influences are felt even today, including with our Sons of Anarchy Friday we’re we’ll be exploring the incredibly violent, foul-mouthed, nudity prone FX show that was based after the incredibly violent, foul-mouthed, nudity prone play Hamlet

Some posts may be long, in-depth looks at the bard’s works. Some may be just short little facts, like the fact that he was married to Anne Hathway. But I plan on trying to look at some of the more unconventional interpretations  or lesser known plays that made up Shakespeare’s life and works, such as the supposed prequel he wrote to Don Quixote, or his later known works. 

So, I hope you can join me all month long as we celebrate the birth of the bard!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

It's a Great Plan. I'm Excited to Be Part of It.

“I’d rather be happy than right any day.” 

-Douglas Adams

I’ve told many different versions of this story, depending on the listener. For you, gentle readers, and in some cases those that have heard a different version of this story, I’m going to give you this version. Which one is correct? The one that you prefer, I guess. What I’m writing here is as accurate as I’m choosing to be.

I don’t remember the date, but I remember that it was sunny out, one of those few days in late February that lulled the Washington, DC Area into believing that we were going to have an early spring before being sucker punched with a few more feet of snow. (The kids call it the  DC Area “ the DMV” for DC, Maryland, and Virginia, forgetting that the real DMV is a miserable place that no one wants to visit, which I guess is true of the DMV in late August.) I was using the daily half an hour afforded to me to race between my teaching internship and work when I was stopped at one of the many scenic stoplights that “The DMV”  has for people to wait at. As I looked over to my left, carefully calculating out how long it was been since I was last late to work and thus if I could stop for that sub at Wawa or if I could wait until dinner, when he entered my field of view.

This gentleman was not a man I had seen before. Given the number of people that are crammed into the DMV, it’s no surprise it’s someone I haven’t seen in the past; it’s actually more surprising to find someone you have seen before. The gray in the beard hinted at his age, but I wasn’t 100% certain. I couldn’t see his hair or eyes, as they were covered in a motorcycle helmet. Which made sense, since he was currently sitting atop of one, tattooed arms on both of the handles, one briefly moving up to his bearded face to remove the cigar that was clenched in between his teeth. He puffed out a cottony gray cloud of smoke. The motorcycle made a loud rumble to announce that that he had arrived. He placed the cigar back into his mouth, saw that I was looking at him. It must have been a look that demonstrated the awe I felt in that moment, because he let out a little nod, then took off into the daylight, ready to go wherever it was he felt like going at this moment. If you pardon the expression, this was a gentleman that clearly did not give one single fuck. 

I did not get a Wawa sub. 

Carefully checking the time to ensure that I was not going to be late (as if I had some control of the traffic which on a Wednesday afternoon went between “light” and “oh my God press the gas pedal why don’t you press the gas pedal why are we stopped?”) I mentally made a plan for the next day in my head. Continue to listen to a book on iTunes the class was “reading”... check. Make sure everyone was ready to work on the upcoming seminar... check. Think about an introduction to Julius Caesar... check. Get ready to write 7 page paper on school demographics... check. Get ready to write another paper on learning for my internship... check. Get motorcycle, cigar, and grow beard... 

My mind kept drifting back to this gentleman. I don’t know why, and it wasn’t until later that I even realized that had been thinking of him so much. And then I realized why it was. That man was happy. That man was enjoying himself in a way that I don’t think most of us know how. He could have had a terrible, crappy, miserable life, but at that moment, he was happy.

Then I started thinking about me. I was now doing what I had fought, studied and sacrificed for. I have spent a while chronicling my adventures on this website in my effort to become a high school teacher. I talked about my successes in class. I’ve talked about my desperation at not passing the Praxis 2. I talked about my excitement at finally, finally getting to be an intern. I even reminded everyone that I was somewhat realistic, knowing that I wouldn’t reach every kid. I started my internship...

... And I was miserable.

Now, let me pause in this self-journey to let everyone know that I had no problem with my mentor teacher, the administration, the classes, the students, the professor in charge of the class I had to take, or the school. In fact, I will still point out to this day that  I was extremely lucky in getting my Mentor Teacher - he clearly cared about teaching, the students, and making sure I had a great experience. I was lucky in the school. For privacy purposes I’ll leave out the names, but I clearly had a great school in a great area with some great students. The administration took an interest in my, ensuring that I got the opportunity to do what I wanted. The professor in the class I had to take ensured that everything was comfortable. 

Basically, I want to make sure it’s 100% something to do with me. Not anything to do with anybody. We good? Any other questions? No? I’ll continue.

...And I was miserable. I really had to think about why. The thing was, it was stressful. I mean, I was interning what amounted to a full day of “work”, then I’d go work as a Swim Coach which is time consuming, but not extremely taxing in terms of having a lot to do. The thing is, it’s still nothing I haven’t done before. I’ve worked full time while having classes or things to do in the evening. I’ve had full day presentations, sometimes in front of generals and audiences not as forgiving as high school students. Which, despite a lot of what you might hear, are pretty forgiving. I mean, to an extent, but that’s just human nature.

The thing is, you can only be so miserable for so long before realizing that this isn’t the path you’re meant to be on, no matter how hard you fought to convince yourself to be on it.

Now, after seeing Motorcycle Cigar Guy, I started to think long and hard about why I was miserable, and why I worked so hard to be on a path that ultimately made me miserable. Then I realized I had tried to get off the path a couple of times before. I even found an old email I had written after a class that went well, asking about transferring out of the Education Program onto something else.  The phrase I kept using was, “this just wasn’t for me.”

“It wasn’t for me” is probably the second most confusing phrase you can use in the English Language right behind “I didn’t enjoy Joss Whedon’s Firefly.” With that one, it’s just a simple matter of trying to understand why someone didn’t enjoy the best motley crew of space outlaws the world has ever seen. But with “it wasn’t for me” it raises all sorts of questions people that I don’t have the answer to. What does that phrase even mean? I used it and I’m still not entirely sure. I just knew that teaching Secondary Education “wasn’t for me.” 

For me, the phrase, “wasn’t for me” simply meant that while I believe Teaching to be a noble profession and I having nothing but respect for teachers... in fact some of my very good friends are high school teachers... I wasn’t enjoying teaching the way I thought I was. The thing was, after doing it, after standing in front of a classroom, I just knew that this was something that was no longer for me. It was something that I didn’t want to do, and I knew I hadn’t want to do for a very long time. It was something that I thought I wanted to do, and when I wanted out I listed to everyone’s encouragement. Well needed encouragement. Encouragement that I needed, encouragement that I at the time I wanted... but encouragement in the wrong direction.

Again, I want to thank everyone who gave me encouragement. I certainly needed it. Without it, I probably would have left this path sooner and probably would have been found wondering if this was my path, because it was something I was always curious about.

Which is why, after motorcycle guy and several long discussions that I should have had oh, let’s say a year and a half ago, I made the decision to leave my internship, leave the education program, and head off onto another path.

Whew. That’s a lot of buildup to what this post is even about. Almost a full post and a half. 

To outsiders, this looked like a spur of the moment, wow-you’re-overwhelmed, hey-what-are-you doing? decision. But it wasn’t. I have this problem, and I’m fully aware of it. No matter what I’m doing, I throw myself into it almost too fully. Bad job? No problem, let’s see what I can do to make things better. Bad relationship? Hey, nothing’s perfect, I need to make sure I commit myself to this. Bad TV Show? I need to find out what’s going to happen next week on an all new Revolution! It’s my deal and I’m aware of it. And when I got involved with the Education Program, despite the fact that after the first class was done, I started to identify myself as a teacher and nothing else, and that made it very difficult to find out what I wanted.

The truth is, I know what I want to do. I want to be a writer. I want to study literature, because I really enjoy it. I enjoy reading something that someone has written - anyone be it a centuries old novel about a guy that fights windmills, or a modern, futuristic, post-dystopian young adult novel novel about a girl that fights space windmills.  (I shall call it, Donna Quixote, make it a trilogy, and get Jennifer Lawrence to star. I’ll make a billion dollars.) And it’s taken me a long time to admit this, mostly because being a writer isn’t as noble a profession as teaching, and wanting to study dusty old works doesn’t really sound like a viable career choice when so many around you have found themselves at this point, have fancy homes, 2.5 kids, great jobs. It was hard enough going back and doing an internship then, but having to mention that you want to spend the time reading books, then writing great things about them.

The big question I’ve had to ask myself is why don’t I continue with the internship, get a job teaching then run off and do then teach while I get another degree to study? Because it’s not what I want to do, and I’m tired of waiting to do what I want to do. I want to walk into next semester and study English. I don’t want to delay anymore.

And this whole thing has been a positive experience. If I can study hard and figure out a Praxis test for something I only marginally want, how much harder am I going to work for something I really want? I had a good time with my fellow classmates, and I still learned something, even if it was just about myself. Plus, if It allowed me to start this blog, which will continue even if the focus is off teaching for a little bit.

So, what’s next? A lot of studying. Applying to graduate school again, this time for the English Program, where I’ll study all the great works, and past and present. A ton of reading. But that’s the plan. And it’s a great plan. And it’s the one that I want to do. I’m reinvigorated. 

It’s been a long journey. Not one that I intended to take. I strayed off my path for a little bit. But I saw a quote that I absolutely love, from an old TV Show called My Name is Earl. “That’s the great thing about having a path. Even if you stray off of it, it’s waiting for you when you get back.” I know that I strayed for a little bit. I had some good experiences. But it’s time to get back to what Michael B. Hock was meant to do. Study great works of literature while writing about them while being so awesome that it’s hard to stare directly at me without sunglasses.

Time to put on bike helmet, light up the cigar, and hop on that motorcycle, and get my life back on track. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Casting Doubt

Kids, ask your parents. Or Google. Trust me, this picture is hilarious.

Recently, they announced the new cast for the third reboot of the Fantastic Four movie, hitting movie screens sometime between the sequel to the reboot for the new Superman movie franchise, and the original version of the Avengers that hasn’t yet been rebooted but features a rebooted Hulk. I shouldn’t say “they announced” so much as I probably should have said “they confirmed rumors that were leaked months ago” which is more accurate, probably by people who, if not authorized to leak such information, were probably rebooted themselves into new jobs.

Naturally, since it was announced, everyone on the internet was completely happy with the casting, there was no controversy, and everyone is eagerly awaiting the next big screen adventure of Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, and the Storm siblings, Johnny and Sue. The internet community came together to give the movie a big thumbs up and let them know that they were on the side of the actors, who all proved themselves. 

Naw. I’m kidding. This is the internet. 

I’ll skip most of the casting made up controversies that were extremely minor during this time, and mostly due to lack of research, and cut right to the big one, the casting of Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch. Because he’s a different skin color than the guy in the comics. Of course, the guy in the comics can also shoot fire out of his hands, hangs out with a guy who can climb on walls, and died recently. (But got better, so it’s ok.) Also, he was once played by Captain America, fully confusing people that can’t tell the difference.

My one and only problem with Michael B. Jordan is that he didn’t think to take a stage name. Michael Keaton’s real name: Michael J. Douglas. He took the last name “Keaton” as a stage name because there already was a Michael Douglas in Hollywood. I wish that Michael B. Jordan had respected this, and changed his last name, too, as to not confuse him with underwear selling legend Michael (No B.) Jordan. End of problems with him.

Michael B. Jordan is actually a really good actor, having been in the Wire, Fruitvale Station, and Chronicle. I liked him in the parts of Chronicle I’ve seen, and I really don’t have a problem with casting him. He’s young, he’s charismatic, he’s pretty much what I might envision the Human Torch as being, had the Human Torch been first written today and not back in 1961, back when Michael B. Jordan wouldn’t have been allowed in certain restaurants, much less in space to be hit with Cosmic Rays. He’s young, he fits the part in most ways, but I would have been a little happier if they had gotten an actor that could also control fire by yelling “Flame on.” But hey... nobody’s perfect, right?

Naturally there are complaints because he doesn’t fit the traditional (re: white) model of the Human Torch. I can understand these complaints a little bit more because the Human Torch comes from a more visual based medium of comics, where he’s drawn and pretty much storyboarded out for the audience. Keep in mind I said I can understand it, doesn’t mean I agree that much. At the end of the day, the Fantastic Four are a fictional group of people that don’t really exist in the real world, so as long as an actor can pull off “FLAME ON!” with a straight face or “It’s Clobbering Time!” without breaking character, that’s really the pre-requisite for being able to play a character.

Thanks to the internet, there have been a lot of made up controversies over casting lately. We talked about Ben Affleck doing his best to not Ben Affleck-up the new Superman movie with is Batman impersonation. There was the brief dust up over people who couldn’t read, being mad about the skin color of Rue in the first Hunger Games movie, forgetting of course that despite the fact that she reminded Katniss of her blonde-haired, blue eyed sister, the character was in fact, black in the book. Back when Glee was first starting to Glee, people were mad that a REAL disabled actor wasn’t cast for the role of the one guy who’s in the wheel chair. And of course trans* people are mad that Jared Leto won his Oscar, and they didn’t cast a real trans* actor in the role.

I’m torn, because there are two points I’d like to make here. First being, all of those people were mad a few years ago back when they cast a certain actor in the role of a villain. Everyone was angry... how could they? How could they cast this actor in this iconic role, how badly will Heath Ledger screw up the next Batman movie in the role of the Joker. We all saw how that turned out.

The second being that people tend to forget that these are actors, playing parts. When you watch the next episode of Supernatural, I’d like to remind you that Mischa Collins, despite being an angel for his charity work, is not actually a fallen angel who has defied heaven. Sandra Bullock is definitely not an astronaut. (Thank God.) Jennifer Lawrence isn’t a shapeshifting, manically depressed dancer, who occasionally fights teenagers in a reality show. They’re actors. Michael B. Jordan’s one job is to look good long enough for the CGI Team to cover him in flames, then he can sip a nice cup of tea while yelling out his action lines. If he pulls that off, it will be a rousing success. Provided they don’t just put another rubber suit on a guy for the Thing. That looked bad.

I understand being protective of fictional characters, I really do. I understand having a certain look in your head for characters, and having that ruined. I understand it even more that this character is already drawn, and thus has a certain look that people already have in their heads. But the Human Torch isn’t real. Which actor would really be good for this role if you took look out of it? Basically, someone who’s a bit of a smartass, is able to look heroic, and is pretty charismatic. I think people tend to forget that Sue and Reed are the scientist, Ben is the working class guy meant to heave stuff around, and Johnny is the cocky pilot, who in the comics butts heads with Spider-man constantly and was so unimportant to the team he’s been replaced by a floating, talking robot, and, well... Spider-man. 

I’m just saying once again, let’s wait and see. I know this post hasn’t talked much about the fact that he’s supposed to be Sue Storm’s brother. I hope they don’t even acknowledge that he’s black and she’s white. It would blow everyone’s mind. The problem is, I really don’t see any of this as that big a deal. As I said, the comic was written in 1961. Of course the guy going into space would have been white. It’s 2014. It’s time to move on from this, and just see how the actor is going to do in the role. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

It's Monday, Time to Over-Analyze Another Young Adult Novel Movie.

On Friday, I posted my review of Divergent, a book that came out a mere three years ago and I finally got around to reading. Truth is, I finished it up about a month ago, but didn’t post anything about it because I knew the movie was coming out, and I figured “hey, why not post it the same day?” because as much as I enjoy writing Bad Shakespeare, I’m doing this with the end goal of eventually getting my stuff published, and to do that I need readers, and to do that I need to be somewhat topical. I probably won’t delay that much on Insurgent, the second Divergent novel, but I do plan on posting my review of whatever book Noah was based on the same day that movie comes out, if I can figure out which book it was based on. (Anyone have any ideas?)

The curtain is pulled back on good old Bad Shakespeare! Gaze! Gaze into the mind of my writing process.

That’s pretty typical, wait until something comes out or is popular, then do an opinion piece, blog, interpretive dance, or art show based on what just happened. and since Divergent is meant to make roughly eleven billion dollars through movies, merchandise, and at home Divergent testing kits to ensure you fall in line and aren’t yourself Divergent, it’s important to post as much as you can about it.

Of course, with great popularity comes great criticism. Some people see something that’s popular and simply do not understand why it is popular or why they should enjoy it, and after careful consideration figure they don’t like it and want to tell why. Others just see people having fun and want to rain on that parade as much as possible. 

The worst “analysis” I’ve seen has been the dumping on of Young Adult Novels. I’ve spoken in the past about how much I enjoy Young Adult Novels, mostly because lately they appeal the sci-fi geek in me that would have gotten beaten up for reading these types of novels when I was growing up. You live in an age of wonder, current science fiction fans, or even fans that can dress up as wizards freely.

I guess I don’t understand WHY we need to knock Young Adult Novels, particularly when they do what we need people to do, which is read. These aren’t just paint by number, easy to read books that I think some of these anti-YA people seem to think they are... they’re still complex novels with pretty good characters (except Simon from Mortal Instruments. No amount of Vampiring can make me like him.) I don’t understand the need to make fun of, insult, or talk down to them.

Of course, I talked about this before, I’ve been called out for reading YA novels in public, less so since I started reading them on my Kindle or these new fangled fancy e-reading machines that are all the rage these days. I don’t do it to hide my love of YA, rather, because it’s simply easier to carry around, and it takes up less space on ye olde book shelf. Seriously, I’m running out of space for books in my house, and unless I start covering them up and pretending they’re furniture, I’m in a lot of trouble. 

It’s just whenever one of the YA books turned movies comes out, we get yet another analysis on the “state of the YA novel.” And it usually goes like this:

  • Why are adults reading these books/watching these movies?
  • Why are these all following the same plots, why can’t they all be different?
  • Why are they all handsome people?
  • Will it franchise?

Forgetting, of course, that they’re a genre of novel, and anyone can read them and enjoy them... they’re good. They also forget that when something becomes popular,  a lot of people do it. How many Wizard of Oz adaptations are in the pipeline right now? Seven? Didn’t we just get like, two TV shows that follow the adventures of fairytale creatures? Or the whole 30 Rock/Studio 60 Debate? (For those who don’t remember, Studio 60 was the behind the scenes look at a sketch comedy show that was supposed to beat out that other funny one, and only lasted one season.) Simply put, EVERYWHERE you see things that are similar, which why studios are literally scraping the bottom of the barrel of anything that remotely resembles a comic book to make a movie. Coming up next: Squirrel Girl, the movie!

While I don’t know if they are making a movie, there really was a Squirrel Girl who had the ability to talk to and control Squirrels, and dated Wolverine. No. I’m not making this up.

As for the last two... please. Stop including these in YA novel think pieces as real questions. They replaced the actress who originally voiced the computer in Her with Scarlett Johansson the first chance they got. THE VOICE. And franchises? Which Shrek are we up to? How many Fast and Furious movies are we on right now? And that was based after which novel? Yeah. That’s my point.

My point is: you should read and enjoy Young Adult Novels, if that’s your thing. And you should see the movies, if that’s your thing. But when you start over-analyzing it, or telling people they shouldn’t... chill out. Relax.

Now go go work on my screenplay for an adaption of Squirrel Girl. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Book Report: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Let’s take a moment to talk about choices and what’s “best for us” shall we? Throughout life, we are constantly making choices. Some of them are small. Should I wear a red shirt or a blue shirt today? That’s a choice that won’t affect you much unless you’re an extra on Star Trek. Some of them are big. Do I go to school to study medicine or clowning? That one can affect the course of your life, after all one is a respected career full of late nights, studying, and learning various ethical ways to conduct yourself, and the other is medicine. 

Choices seem to be at the heart of Divergent, a series of novels by Veronica Roth. Yes, I know I’m late to the Divergent game and we’re all the way up to book three, but keep in mind these are books, can be picked up at any time, and I did what a lot of people do: wait until they announce a movie then read it before that comes out so I can nitpick the differences. The movie comes out today, mind you, starring hot female protagonist and chiseled reminder that I need to hit the gym later today. 

For those of you who don’t know or like me wanted to wait until the movie comes out, Divergent is set in dystopian Chicago that is divided up into five factions: Abnegation, for selfless people who seem to have no sense of humor; Amity, for the peaceful people; Candor, those jerks who are always telling the truth; Dauntless, for the brave/stupid/thrill seekers (also the protectors); and Erudite, the smart people who design just about everything that everyone uses. 

Sixteen year olds are given a test to determine which one of the factions they should be put in to. Our hero, Beatrice (who goes by Tris, which is actually kind of cool) Prior finds out that she’s Divergent, meaning that she could fit into one of three factions. This is also a big no-no, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear at the start but become increasingly clear later on. But it’s bad, and we know this because the few people that know she’s Divergent work to help her hide her Divergent-ness, (Divergence?) and Tris is constantly telling us that it’s bad.

Eventually, she decides to join the jocks... er, Dauntless group and become brave. The book switches gears and focuses mostly on her training, her interaction with her friends, and her increasing attraction to “Four”, the chiseled male love interest that comes standard in these books, but actually has an interesting back story. (Because “bravery” is important with everyone at Dauntless, they note the number of fears using a serum. Four is nicknamed “Four” because he’s officially only afraid of four things, the lowest ever. His fears are an interesting part of the book, I have to say.)

Tris goes through her training hiding her Divergent-ness, but of course people begin to suspect something, and eventually she uncovers a conspiracy that goes to the heart of all of Chicago.

I may be glib when giving my recap of the book, but I really did enjoy this book. I have to admit, the style in which it’s written takes a little getting used to. Rather than exploring a lot of concepts of an interesting world... just how cut off is Chicago? Do they still have Deep Dish Pizza? Whatever happen to the Cubs? Why is there a Choosing Day? Veronica Roth just sort of jumps right into the story, right to Tris taking her tests and realizing that something was off. But this works to the advantage of the story ultimately, rather than spending a lot of time with exposition, it’s sprinkled into the plot delicately, like toppings on a deep dish pizza.

Look, Veronica Roth, if you set a book in dystopian Chicago, you have to tell us what happened to it’s best export.

Once you can get past the point that you’ll actually have to work for information rather than having it handed to you like a delicious slice of deep dish pizza, it becomes an interesting read, one that really builds on a world that seems established. You may not understand Choosing Day or why being Divergent is so bad at first, but eventually all the pieces fall into place. 

What I really enjoyed about the book is the message of choice. Not just the big Choosing Day where Tris chooses the faction we’re going to care about and a few others that don’t matter because our protagonist won’t go there. Tris is faced with a choice early on, and one of the things that is underplayed is the fact that it’s a choice that not many people have to make. “Hey, you have an aptitude for honesty... you’re going to Candor!” is pretty much the end all/be all of it. Tris is not only told that basically she has a defect, according to her culture, but she also has to make a decision based on it, or end up as an outcast, “Factionless.” Veronica Roth also did a smart job of displaying just what being factionless meant in the early chapters, so you can really feel the weight of what Tris is going through.

In addition, Tris ends up choosing Dauntless, which isn’t the easiest faction to work within. It requires bravery, a hard training schedule, and some serious competition. There’s a chance she could be cut from Dauntless, so even when making a choice here, she takes one that’s less safe, one that could cause her to face one of her fears. (and ends up facing it anyway... hello, hunky Four.) And when I say competition... this is a violent book. Not quite Hunger Games level of violence as they’re not actively hunting each other, but there are a few characters who seem like they wish they were in the Hunger Games

It’s dystopian, it’s teenagers... there are going to be comparisons to Hunger Games. It’s just what happens. I was going to make a Sorting Hat joke from Harry Potter earlier, but I couldn’t get it to work. 

But I liked the message of not always choosing what’s comfortable, and sticking with the choice. Once Tris is in Dauntless, she works to be the best she can, never taking the easy way out. And as she gets deeper into discovering the Dystopian Government mandated conspiracy to take down the system, she doesn’t back down despite the fact that she’s Divergent, an outlier, and could easily be removed from the system with little or no complaints from the society that just accepts that they should all pick a faction based on one test and leave it there. It’s an interesting concept.

I really enjoyed this book. I’m already well into the second, and I’m ready to hit up the third as soon as I can. See. There’s an advantage to getting into a book series late. Not like Mortal Instruments where I have to wait until May for the last book. It’s sooooooo long. 

I would recommend you pick it up and give it a read. Just make sure you don’t give up on the first few chapters, just get into the fact that you won’t be spoon fed everything right away, and you’ll have to figure some of it out. It’s like a nice deep dish pizza, you have to really get deep into it to get the good stuff.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Perfectly "Normal"

       Oh, North Carolina. Let’s talk, shall we? Especially about Bunscombe County Schools.

As some of you may or may not know, one of the bigger stories circulating has been about a 9 year old who was asked not to carry around his My Little Pony lunchbox because of the schools fears about bullying. Bullies who are so tough, mind you, that they managed to scare teachers and school administrators into telling a 9 year old that he can’t carry a My Little Pony lunchbox, or apparently the bullies will beat them all up, take their lunch moneys, or post hurtful things about them on twitter as kids do now.

Personally, I think it’s a lunch box. Also, My Little Pony fandom has grown to the point that there is a large amount of adult male My Little Pony fans that they call themselves “Bronies” and they have meetings and stuff. Google “Brony” and see what you get. If the kid wants to carry around a lunch box; let him. If people want to bully him about it, then maybe school administrators should do something about the bullies, and not the kid carrying around a lunchbox. Almost like it’s their job to protect kids or something.

There are two bigger issues at play here that genuinely concern me. First is the idea that there are things that are acceptable to “like” and things that are unacceptable to like, because one day you will get made fun of for it.

That sentence was confusing, but I rewrote it a few times and that was the best I can think of. 

Basically, by telling this 9 year old not to use a lunchbox with a cartoon character on it, the school is attempting to dictate what he should enjoy. Keep in mind, we’re not talking about bringing in a lunchbox with something that can be construed as  age inappropriate. It’s a lunchbox with a cartoon character on it. (Just the “wrong” cartoon character, according to the school.) He’s not bringing in a lunchbox with a bunch of naked ladies on it, or the Breaking Bad realistic lunch kit with working “My First Meth Lab”. It’s a lunch box. With a cartoon pony on it. 

I want everyone to think about something they like, a lot. In my case, it’s Doctor Who. I’m a huge fan of the Doctor. I have been for close to 30 years now; I’d say my fandom is pretty much set. I liked it back before it was cool. Now I want you to imagine there’s a group of people that want to make fun of you for liking that favorite thing you like. In my case, again, back before it was cool so I don’t have to imagine what it was like to be told that what I like “wasn’t cool.” In fact, I hid the fact that I was a fan of the Doctor for a long time because it wasn’t cool. It wasn’t fun. Not in the least. But you’re not allowed to openly talk about what you enjoy, why? Because someone will make fun of you for it.

But in this case, it goes a little bit deeper, because now we don’t just have the bullies bullying the kid, but now the SCHOOL is bullying the kid because they’re telling him, “hey.. hide what you like. We’re going to side with the people telling you to kill yourself on this.” 

The second concern goes right up with what I just talked about, and that is: The school is siding with the bullies on this one. The 9 year old who likes the cartoon pony (do you get the point that this kid is 9, and therefor is a kid, and maybe liking a pony isn’t so far off?) is the one in the wrong here. Those poor bullies... they can’t help themselves, can they? I mean, once this 9 year old stops carrying around a lunch box with a cartoon pony on it, THEN all the problems will be solved! No one will be bullied, ever again! They won’t find something else to pick on anyone for, right? No one will ever like something ever again that will open themselves up for bullying. 

Just as long as kids continue to like what is “normal.” Ah, normal. That loosely defined word that means what the larger group wants it to mean. And, quick spoiler, occasionally someone will decide you are not normal for whatever arbitrary reason. Maybe you have a bad haircut. Then the school can tell you to go get another one. Maybe you have an odd placed mole. The school should tell you to get it removed. Maybe your dad is a police officer and had to arrest one of those bullies for something. then the school can tell your dad to get another job. Maybe you did really well on a test and you’re being bullied for being “too smart.” Then the school can tell you to get lower grades because then you won’t get bullied. Maybe one day you brought in a Harry Potter book and the kids decided that reading is worth bullying you over. Then the school can tell you not to read. 

See? Perfectly Normal. 

The school failed this kid, and sadly this is part of a larger trend. You see, it’s easier to punish the kid carrying the lunchbox into school because it’s one kid, and with his spirit already broken, they didn’t think anyone would go to the media and they’d become a laughingstock around the country. Actually, I just re-researched this point. Bunscombe County Schools isn't a laughingstock around the country you're a laughingstock around the world. Punishing those making fun of them would be hard, I guess. But you're not helping your students. You're telling everyone one of those bullies that they were right.

But it’s not just an issue of one kid carrying around a lunchbox. It’s part of a larger, disturbing trend where it’s easier to punish the person who is “different”. Not “normal” that ever so vague word we use to describe who people think we should be vs. what we actually want to do. But we punish the different because we don’t want to punish the normal. This happens all the time.

Lunchbox or not, this kid is being bullied. There’s ZERO reason to not punish the bullies. It doesn’t matter if he’s carrying around a lunchbox, or they just decided he was different because he has a funny name. It’s up to the school to create an environment where kids can learn. Some of that may mean pulling disruptive kids aside... and those are the kids telling this 9 year old to go kill himself... and punishing them. Not focusing on just the kid carrying around a lunchbox.

Make no mistake: Bunscombe County Schools failed its students. All of them. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lousy Smarch Weather...

It’s no secret that this winter has been somewhere between “The magical land of Narnia” and “Oh my Nicolas Cage, please make it stop, please, please, make it stop” as you beat the nearest snowcone machine. Even now, on March 17th, the greenest day next to American Idiot, outside my window pure, white snow is gently blanketing the landscape, children are sitting home, sleeping in with a hot cup of warm cocoa, and people are using their futuristic technology to work from home.

I’m going to take this reminder to say hi to all the kids reading this, and asking them how they’re going to spend their first day off of Summer, July 4th.

But it has been a particularly harsh winter, made even harsher by the fact that our weather has more personalities than... well, Nicolas Cage roles. It gives us the hope that things are warming up. The warm kiss of Spring approaches us for a scant few hours, tricking the robins of spring to coming back, ready to feast upon the worms that the rain showers will bring. Then, Mother Nature laughs maniacally as it freezes those robins with a wintery blast as if coming from Mr. Freeze’s ice gun, leaving them frozen in place. In this particular case, I’m mixing metaphors, but you can see what I did there.

Personally, I blame the long winter on the popularity of that “Let it Go” song from Frozen. Everyone’s singing it, empowering Elsa, and she’s just making the snow continue. Let’s get to the heartfelt sister part and bring back summer. Or at least make the clueless, wisecracking snowman. 

In the spirit of the wintery blast that is currently blasting us today, in the middle of March, I’m going to present Bad Shakespeare’s tips for dealing with a never ending winter. I do this with the hopes that, of course that this is the last time we have to deal with this white devil ice that keeps being thrown from the sky from a God who’s obviously mad that we cancelled Firefly. Bring it back, people. God is watching.

- During one of the times when the snow is melting rapidly, go buy a sand box. Put it in your room and crank up the heat. Then get someone to slather on way too much sunscreen, get your kids to complain, and then go sit in your car for a few hours on the highway. Boom. Instant summer.

- We embrace the winter with a second Christmas on March 25th. This is particularly beneficial for those of us who have been too lazy to take down our Christmas trees thus far this year.

- What did they do in Narnia? Are we really going to have to kidnap some kids and sacrifice a lion with Liam Neeson’s voice to end this? Because I’m at that point.

- Find the weather changing super villain, and for the love of God just give him what he wants.

- Just think about a few months from now, when we’ll all be complaining about the extreme heat and humidity. Plus, the near constant rain. Yeah. I’m going to miss all of this around then.

- We further embrace it by becoming Eskimos. I call dibs on the big igloo. I can’t wait to get a hold of some delicious penguin eggs. That’s what Eskimos eat, right? Penguin eggs? That’s more research than I’m willing to do with this post.

- Three words: Giant. Magnifying. Glass. Aim it at the sun. Boom. No more snow. 

In the mean time, I hope you all enjoy the 70 degree weather that will melt all of this snow, just in time for the next wintery blast to blast us back into another ice age. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Why We Write

I couldn't find a good picture, so here's Moe attacking Neil Gaiman

Recently, a website that I frequent had an intriguing headline. “The Bleak State of American Fiction” the headline on the A.V. Club boldly declared, as part of their “For your Consideration” series. For those who don’t want to read the website, the “For Your Consideration” pieces are basically essays that talk about some idea in pop culture that the writer wishes to discuss, like the trajectory of Kevin Spacey’s career. No. Really.

Naturally, I was intrigued by this headline, despite being burned in the past with some of these “For Your Consideration” pieces. While the A.V. Club has been an enjoyable website in the past, sometimes the pieces can lean a little bit towards... let’s just say the “hipster.” Basically if you’ve heard of it, it’s going to suck, according to them. If you haven’t, then it’s going to rock. And if you haven’t heard of it, but are starting to, then they’re going to sell out and you’re totally going to hate it again.

Oh, and they really hate Family Guy creator/singer/director/Oscar Hoster Seth MacFarlane. Like... a lot. I’m all for reviews, but at times they just seem mean.

The article about the “Bleak State of American Fiction” turned out to be little more than a stealth review of MFA vs. NYC, a collection of essays about how being a writer sucks. (That’s what I took away from it.) The book (and in a way, the writer of this essay) ask the question “writers write. But what do they do for money?” And then basically the writer sums up the book as saying there are only a few avenues to really get published these days, they all suck, and anyone looking to get into writing should probably pick out which cramped little hovel they want to live in as they’re fed peanuts to churn out what they want.

It’s a bleak stealth review of a bleak collection of essays. 

Also, quick side note: I’m not sure why they didn’t just review the book, but it may have cut into the two books they’re lucky to review a week as well as their allotted weekly MacFarlane-bashing.

The thing is, the essay ignores the fact that it’s never been easier to get published than today. Advances in digital media allow blah, blah, blah. I started writing that sentence and I realized just how much it’s been said. You can publish anything you want on Kindle, even fan fiction. Even steamy, erotic fan fiction based on a young adult book known for how chaste and anti-sex it is then it gets picked up by a major publisher and turned into a series of three books, then a movie. Even this blog wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago, but here I am, publishing on the web. It’s quite the glamorous setup I have here. And I’m grateful for all my readers, although I’m not exactly at Stephen King levels of readers just yet (maybe the early years) but my fan base is growing and I’m going to continue to post until it’s no longer feasible, or at least until my Supernatural/Gilmore Girls mashup fan fiction gets picked up by a major distributer. 

Fingers crossed!

Writers write because we have stories to tell. Writers write because we can’t imagine a world where we’re not putting words on paper, even if they don’t make sense, or we’re just trying to justify how a movie with a talking snowman somehow secretly tells kids how to worship the devil. (Leave. Frozen. Alone. Crazy. People. That’s another post. One I already wrote, but I feel like I need to re-write, because people are still crazy.)

Truth is, I’d write this blog even if I had just one reader, because in my soul I’m a writer, and that’s what I do. I’m going to continue to write out stories, even if they don’t get published, because that’s what I want to do: write my stuff. And I’ll continue to make fun of Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey because one is a book series about an abusive relationship, and the other is the porn version of that abusive relationship for people that don’t want to feel like they’re reading porn.

I dislike essays like the one I read on the A.V. Club. It’s the anti-writing essay, which is ironic since that essay is in fact, being written by a paid writer for a pretty well known website (As seen on the Simpsons.) But it seems to push people away from the simple act of trying to become a writer. I may never get paid for a word I write. But does that take away my need to write? Does that take away from the words I’m writing right now? Does that take away from my almost pathological need to post at least three pieces of writing a week?

I may never be famous for my writing. (I still think I will be. I’m on this side of the dirt, there’s still time.) But I’m going to keep doing. And I would encourage people to ignore the essays, written by paid writers, and continue to write. Hell, write even if it’s bad, because why not? You enjoy it. And you never know, one day you may end up hitting that deal if the right person reads your stuff. Also, you may not, but it allows you to work on that Supernatural/Gilmore Girls mashup fan fiction to your hearts content.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Amazon Princesses Are Too Far Fetched. Get Me A Talking Raccoon

A few weeks ago, we were treated to a preview for the next next Marvel Universe Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy. (That’s not a typo. The Next Marvel Universe Movie is going to be Captain America: The Winter Soldier.) As readers of Bad Shakespeare know, I’m a sucker for a good superhero movie. I’ve been looking forward to the Captain America movie for a while, and I’ve certainly been looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy, despite the fact that my knowledge of the comic book is limited to knowing that there’s a genetically engineered raccoon on the crew that can talk and fire a gun along with his plant bodyguard. 

I really typed that. A movie is coming out, aimed at mostly adults, that features the guy from Parks and Recreation teaming up with Uhura, Former WWE Champion Bautista, a talking raccoon voiced by Academy Award nominee Bradley Cooper, and a giant, talking plant who is the muscle of the operation. 

While this looks like a fantastic movie, I wanted to take a moment to point out that this movie is coming out well before a Wonder Woman movie. A talking raccoon. Saving the galaxy. From aliens. This alone points out the big problem with bringing my favorite superheroes, the DC Comics ones, to the big screen.

I’m a huge DC fan. It doesn’t really come from any preference other than that’s what I was exposed to first: Growing up with Superfriends and the classic black and white Superman TV series, reruns of Batman with Adam West, and Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter... this eventually led to me reading the comic books, starting with Superman and moving on to the Flash, and other DC comics heroes. I didn’t have a problem with the X-Men or Avengers, they just didn’t catch my interest the same way.

The problem is that DC Comics had a huge hit with the latest Batman series by introducing a grim and gritty “serious, Oscar nominated” “film” and they forgot somewhere along the way that it’s a story about a rich millionaire in a bat suit. Even the latest Superman movie, which I enjoyed, tried to be serious “film” rather than being a fun story about a guy who can fly. (The other one that tried to be fun Green Lantern, was woefully misunderstood. It was fun. It was enjoyable. Everyone needs to lighten up. He’s a space cop with a magic ring that allows him to make whatever he wants. How did you think it was going to end up?)

DC Comics has been trying to get a Wonder Woman movie off the ground since... a very, very, very long time. I keep pushing for the idea of having a WW movie simply because she’s one of the “big 3” of DC Comics. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are considered the three most popular characters in DC comics. And it’s true, show a Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman symbol to anyone... including people who don’t speak English... and they’ll understand what it is.

So... why are we getting a talking raccoon before we get a movie about one of the most iconic characters of all time?

The truly sad thing is that there was a Wonder Woman movie written... by Joss Whedon... several years ago, and it was rejected. Sadly, this failure forced Joss Whedon to start working on a little indie film that would become The Avengers. I don’t think many people saw it. I’m hoping that one day he’ll get back on his feet. (That’s sarcasm. He’s one of the people responsible for a talking raccoon to beat Wonder Woman to the movie screen. This is what’s called irony, boys and girls.)

So why write about this? Because I care about movies. I care about the comic books that I enjoy reading. I get a thrill from seeing Batman swing across the night sky and knock out the Joker. I love seeing Superman fly. And I’d like, in my lifetime, to see Wonder Woman on the big screen. Yes, I know she was cast in the movie that’s rapidly becoming Superman vs. Batman vs. Wonder Woman vs. Who Else Can We Get On Screen in a misguided attempt to replicate what Marvel did with the Avengers. But she’s playing a bit part in a movie that’s already going to be overstuffed, and probably take itself way too seriously. 

The thing is that there can be a mix of fun vs. seriousness... take a look at Arrow, one of the best shows on television right now that you’re probably not watching. You should go watch it. Now. I can wait. Back? Great, isn’t it? Some of the early goings are a little too serious, but it started to joke around, thats when it started to become fun.

Comic book movies should be fun. We shouldn’t have to wade through so much seriousness to make a fun movie about what should be superheroes... things we’ve been obsessed with since we first invented Beowulf or Hercules... doing superheroic things. I mean... even the latest Iron Man movie, one of the most fun movies to come out in years, decided that they needed to give their main character PTSD in order to make it more realistic, rather than saying “Wow, I just threw a nuclear bomb at a group of aliens!” and dealing with that feeling.

So get it together, DC Comics. Get us some fun movies, including a fun Wonder Woman movie. Sometimes we don’t need everything to make sense. Sometimes, we need a wisecracking raccoon and his tree alien pal. Then, of course, an Amazonian Princess brought to the world of man to fight alongside an alien from a dying planet and a rich boy with daddy issues can’t be too far behind.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Bruce Willis wouldn't put up with this

The last movie was a the true story of how Tom Hanks wanted to win an Oscar again so he starred in two biopics this year, this one being the true story of a Captain Phillips. Because we are tired, here are the scores.

Kim gives it a 4 out if five because of hunky seals.

Marissa and Jerome and I give it 3 because it's drawn out. 

Great show... Now time for bed.

Thanks for tuning in everyone! See you next year!!


The consensus is that Nebraska is the best black and white movie of the year! Also, the four of us all fell asleep at some point. It was a road trip movie about people coming to terms with things. Shot in black and white. Probably not the best one to schedule for the 5 o'clock hour, AMC. Just sayin we could have used some Wolf of Wall Street fueled shenanigans. 

Next up: One of Tom Hanks' "please give me an Oscar" gambits worked! Now he can win and make the Burbs 2.

The Incredible Disappearing Matthew Mcconaughey

Two more left...just finished Dallas Buyers Club, the story of a man dying of AIDS back when prejudice and fear ruled, before the days of readily available drugs, starring the laid back surfer dude who is scary thin, and The reigning Batman's wife. I've been assured it's good as I've started the long process of not being able to stay awake! From what I saw it was though provoking and important.

Jerome gave it a solid 4.

Queen Kim really has to think about it... Loved it more than Her which is the reigning hated movie.

And Marissa ran to brush her teeth.

We've got two more left. The next is the Academy's tolken black and white movie about things. And Nebraska, apparently.

That Was Unnecessary

Gravity was essentially 90 minutes of the universe or God trying to kill Sandra Bullock combined with loud jump scares and "great look at what we can do CGI and 3D". Just completely unnecessary. All of it. It's about half an hour of content dragged out. 

Also: the point of the movie is that they keep getting tugged or pushed in any direction, then she could have just pulled George Clooney toward her at the start. None of it made sense.

Look! We can make the camera swoop around!

Jerome and Marissa give it a two. Kim gives it three "z"'s as this was her nap.

Nextly: more fun with Dallas Buyers club.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Science Ovens!!

We just finished the 70-iest of the movies thus far: American Hustle! Wooo! A movie that spent so much money on big names and hair care they couldn't afford bras for Amy Adams. 

The general consensus from J Dawg, Cookie Queen Kim, and the Marissa is a resounding meh, giving it a 3 out of five. Meh. Also, Batman got fat.

But here we go. Up next: Space Batman!!!

Sell me this pen

We just finished the drug and sex fueled latest attempt by Leonardo Dicaprio to get halfway to Nicolas Cage's Oscar total, The Wolf of Wall Street!! Did we mention there was some drugs? And sex? And swearing? 

Jonah Hill and Leonardo Dicaprio were acting and swearing powerhouses, as if they had been doing it for years, telling the story of Jordan Belfort, a guy who did a lot of complicated Wall Street stuff then went to prison for it. I didn't get it all amongst the nudity and swearing. 

Marissa thinks it's a good movie, but not Oscar worthy.

Jerome gives it a resounding "meh" but enjoyed the scenes on a boat. They were on a boat. Take a good hard look at their mother effing boat. 

Queen Kim loved the bright colors and the movie's sorta anti drug message. They all got punished, but it looked like they were having fun for a little bit.

It's all the car crashing, yacht sinking, and helicopter fun shoved into a movie that has the ultimate message: don't trust the Swiss.

Next up: hair fun with American Hustle!!