Friday, October 31, 2014

Blog Hop and Shameless Plugs!

Hello Loyal Bad Shakespeare Readers. And, of course, non-loyal bad Shakespeare readers. Also hello to any of you Googling Breaking Bad and Shakespeare and winding up on this website. As many of you know, I strive to participate in Nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month, because I eventually want to be a writer and I enjoy challenging myself. So, yes, I’m working on it this year with YA High, a satire of Young Adult Novels, and it’s going to start tomorrow, nice and early because that’s when I like to get things done. 

By getting things done early, I mean, I’m going to be up early anyway, so I might as well spend the time writing. 

In any event, I wondered a lot what my last post was going to be before I start. I could write about Halloween and my favorite Halloween movies. (You should watch Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.) I could write a synopsis. I could write another thing about rah-rah Nanowrimo. Then my lovely and talented mother, Maria Hock, who can be found at her website, asked me to participate in the Blog Hop, which is where a bunch of art blogs discuss their process and then post it to their blog as a way to drive people to their website. And I was all like, “score, now I don’t have to find a bunch of movies to go along with Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.

So, now..

Shaun of the Dead. Shaun of the Dead would go along with Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.

Anyway, so here are my responses to the Blog Hop and my creative process.

1. What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on my Nanowrimo Novel, YA High, along with finishing up the edits to my previous novel, Mars Kaplan Saves The World, which was my previous project. I hope to the latter self-published towards the beginning of next year. 
YA High is a satire on the Young Adult Novels that are really big nowadays. Don’t get me wrong… I love them. I just got into the Maze Runner novels, and I think they’re great. But only someone who truly loves them and has studied them can write a successful comedy novel. I believe I’m that person.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I try to show how much I love what I’m working on, rather than just writing a satire that makes fun of all it’s conventions. In my previous novel, Mars Kaplan, I tried to play to the idea that the chosen one is chosen in these books, and thus wins. My protagonist, Quint, in YA High, really doesn’t want anything to do with the novel, despite the fact that it involves magic and corruption at the highest levels of the Student Council. Also the Student Council may rule the world. 

3. Why do I create what I do?

Because I have a billion characters in me, all fighting to see the light of day, and it would be a shame if they never came out. It sounds a bit glib, but I really enjoy what I do, and I really enjoy creating. I think it’s important. I don’t sit down and create, the characters come to me and tell me their stories. Secretly I hope I have some kind of psychic connection with people, and this is their way of getting it out. 

The World’s End. That would also fit in with Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and Shaun of the Dead.

4. How does my creating process work?

I prefer the Neil Gaiman method of putting a word down, then another one, and eventually you’ll have a sentence. Then you’ll have a paragraph. And so on. 

That’s about it for me from the Blog Hop. It’s recommended I like to at least one other blogs, since I’m an overachiever, I’m going to recommend you check out the very talented blogger and part-time Bad Shakespeare, The Island of Mistfit Toys, and you take some time to check out my very good friend who just started her Blog over at Anna Joie.

In the meantime, check out YA High, starting here tomorrow, and tell your friends. I want big numbers on this one!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wrestling with some Good Theatre

As many of you know, I rather enjoy theatre. To me, at times there’s nothing better than seeing what is going to end up on the stage, how something is going to be interpreted, how it’s going to look when thrown up there, what we as the audience is expected to see. So, naturally, I enjoyed my trip to go see Maryland Championship Wrestling’s Autumn Armageddon Show that I recently attended.

I should back up. Like many children, I grew up with WWE wrestling back when it was WWF and not about a bunch of pandas, and Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper were going at it. I stopped watching around the time I go into high school, but when I got into college, I started watching it again because one of my very good friends was considering going to wrestling school to learn how to be a professional wrestler because dreams come in all shapes and sizes. Some people want to be teachers. Some people want to be police officers. And some people want to put on tights and pretend fight for a shiny gold belt and the adoration of millions. No dreams are really stupid.

Unless your dream is to be Kanye West. Then your dream is stupid. Please find another one.

Sadly, my friend did not go on to wrestling school, (but is very happy and successful now) but we have fun nonetheless watching the pretend fighting of some very skilled people doing stage fighting, but because some other people take it too seriously it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. 

Back to the present, I’m not sure if any of you have been to a smaller wrestling show, but I highly recommend it. I don’t mean when the WWE takes time out of firing off fireworks and making you pay $60 to watch a bunch of matches that, let’s face it, probably end in John Cena doing something cool, but I mean a small little house show that can take place just about anywhere, including hotel ball rooms, or in the case, a gym just outside of Fredrick, Maryland. I really recommend checking something like this out, because it’s a blast and a half. 

Firstly, all of the wrestlers come out into the audience when they’re not wrestling, and you get a chance to talk to them, meet them, and get your picture taken with them. (For a nominal fee. Wrestlers have to eat, too.) So it’s a fun thing, especially for kids, because they get to meet the guy that was doing flips and we were booing literally minutes ago. 

Secondly… it’s kind of interesting to watch because these are developmental people still learning the craft of fake fighting. Yes. I am aware that Wrestling isn’t “real” in the sense that two people enter, and one man leaves with the belt as destined not so much by skill, but by what some writers thought would be more interesting. But like I mentioned before, it’s a play. Two guys are fighting for a reason given to them - maybe over a belt, maybe one of them dissed another, or maybe it’s because one doesn’t like the other one’s face. They’re all playing characters… some good, some bad. They’ve got props, they’ve got “rules” they need to follow, and some of them are improvising what’s going on just on the fly. 

Now, if this sounds suspiciously similar to theatre, that’s because it is. Yes, one is seen as a “lesser form” because… well, reasons. But the wrestlers getting up there have to tell a story, and often times they do it in crazy and unique ways. Just because Shakespeare uses a sonnet to declare his love while The Bruiser uses his finishing movie, the Bruise Bomb, does it make one “better?” They both have to get their point across in some way. I’m not really sure it does. Just watching people throw fake punches would get boring without some kind of story. 

Yes, there are those that take it too seriously. The event my friends and I attended did include at least one person being escorted out because he believed that the people in the ring were really fighting. Here’s the thing with that, though, even though it’s “fake” and the real better wrestler doesn’t always win, these guys still have to work out. Let’s just say the guy doing the taunting wouldn’t exactly be able to stand up to the 6 foot guy with muscles on his muscles. So maybe it was best the smaller security guards managed to throw him out before the bigger guys managed to get his hands on him.

Overall though, it’s just a fun time. The event we attended, sadly ended badly as Blackwallstreet managed to maintain their dominance by retaining all of their titles, setting up another exciting adventure later for the good guys to win them back from the bad guys. 

Like I said not the best stuff in the world, but even Shakespeare wrote a play where a bunch of guys are baked into a pie and fed to their mother, so even he understood the importance of a heel turn every once in a while. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

It's Going to Be Ok

Hey, you.

Yes, you. Who’s currently curled up in a ball with the full body hazmat suit, sitting in your closet slowly waiting for the world to end in either a fiery ball of melty goodness, freezing to death, or intelligent apes.

I’m talking to you.

I wanted to let you know… it’s going to be ok.

Yes, I know that the news seems bad right now. We’ve got diseases that people are so misinformed about they are avoiding restaurants. There are wars. Terrorists. Shootings. Action figures in Toy Stores aimed at adults that might make kids… I don’t know, try pork pie hats? And let’s not forget it’s election season, so if you’re watching any of the attack ads it seems like you have a choice between voting for a the guy who eats babies and the woman who sacrifices bunnies to her evil god. 

But I’m telling you, it’s going to be ok.

It’s easy to get sucked in by the terribleness of it all. After all, the large headline or breaking news isn’t: “Millionaire gives away fortune to fight disease.” It’s: “Panic over Ebola momentarily interrupted by mass shooting.” 

I know I’ve gotten sucked in by all of it, and It’s stressed me out a little bit.  I know it’s affected some of the posts here on Bad Shakespeare, and even some of my interactions with people in my life. Which is why I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone… it’s going to be ok.

I’m not saying there aren’t problems. What I’m saying is that maybe take a few minutes before you start stocking up on tattered leather jackets as you fear we keep moving more and more towards Mad Max Times. It’s not that bad. The Walking Dead is a TV Show, not a sign of future things to come. You probably won’t have to put down your best friend who’s been bitten by a zombie. You won’t have to fight past the massive hoards of people for that last, previous vial of water to help bring about the world. You probably won’t have to live through Waterworld. By that I mean the movie. Seriously, now THAT was a disaster. 

Yes, bad stuff happens. Fortunately, for all the stories where something bad happens, typically it’s followed up with something good. People pulling together to help each other out. It’s not always obvious, because the big story is all about how that thing that happened is going to kill us all, but trust me… there are people there who are willing to help you out.

And yes, there is outrage. Some of it is justified. Some of it can wait until later. Don’t get sucked in by getting angry at literally everything, including things you can’t control. Sometimes, it’s important to let it go, relax, and just focus on the good.

It’s really, really important to focus on the good. For instance…

They are currently working on a 3rd Bill and Ted Movie. That’s right, Keanu Reeves is once again going to return to the role of Ted Theodore Logan, the role he was born to play.

Benedict Cumberbatch is still a thing. 

There are hundreds of books you haven’t read yet. Pick one up. Today. 

Next week starts Nanowrimo, which means on this very blog you’ll be able to read YA High, a satire of Young Adult Novels, on this very website! 

There’s a group of people that dress as superheroes and go visit sick kids in hospitals. They do this with their spare time.

Speaking of sick kids, WWE Superstar John Cena just visited his 400th kid for Make a Wish. 400th. Even though he’s getting too much of a push that’s holding down some of the other talent, that’s amazing. 

The weather is getting colder, which means pumpkin spice stuff is about to go away, and we’re about to be inundated with peppermint stuff. Peppermint. Everyone’s breath will be so fresh.

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was cancelled, thus raising the bar. I mean, it’s a little late on this, but come on.. it’s a start. 

Bill Murray is still around. Bill. Freakin’. Murray. How can you be sad in a world that features Bill Murray, America’s Drunk Uncle?

Look, I know it can be bad. And I know it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be getting any better, but remember it’s the New’s job not really to bring you hard hitting coverage of what’s going on, but rather to sell ad space. Giant headlines that are basically devolving into “We’re all gonna die” sell better than “Hey, don’t sweat it.” And then their are bloggers, think piece writers, and whatever who’s job it is to make sense of these things, and they don’t always have the best “research” plans. Most of the time it goes back to using the caps lock and making you afraid enough to read their next exciting piece.

So, everyone… relax. Take a few minutes today to sit outside. Go grab some greasy piece of death that you enjoy eating, and eat it. Turn of the television, computer, whatever, and go read a book, play a video game, watch a movie that has nothing to do with the perceived terribleness outside. No matter how bad it gets, remember: we live in a world that has given us a SECOND sequel to Dumb and Dumber. Now, at that point, doesn’t that mean that pretty much anything can happen?

Life is short. Stop sweating it. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bad Shakespeare is going to London. You've Been Warned.

When I made the switch earlier this year from High School English Teacher in Training to English Master… getter… I’m going to need a bit more direction before I assign a title… I decided to take more advantage of the opportunities in front of me. Not that there weren’t plenty already, but I had to completely switch gears. I was on a pretty set track. Take classes A,B, and C, you get an “elective” so long as it’s this class, take an internship, and then here’s your Masters. Also, quit any full time job you have. 

Then I made the switch, and a whole new world of possibilities opened up in front of me. For one, I had a wide variety of classes, which is now why I’m studying Cinema in addition to 19th Century American Literature… and that’s just to start. I can take almost any class! And I have those popular electives, which are awesome. Which is also why, just for fun, one day I went to see what I could study abroad.

I’m very fortunate that my father was in the military, so going overseas wasn’t anything I thought about, it was just something I did. I was actually born in Germany, which explains my affinity for pretzels and good beer, and I actually was able to live in Korea for a few years which explains why I look so much like Kim-Jong Un. I was in the south, but I’d like to think that we connected on some level. Not because I’m a monster, but because I like wearing a uniform and being adored for no reason. 

So when I was looking at the information to study abroad, it was just to see if there were any programs that catered to me, a Graduate Student. I never really look advantage of the fact that I could have tried studying abroad when I was an undergraduate because, again, despite studying English, I was a “focused” individual that didn’t think too much outside the box. 

Then I found it. A program to study Theatre in London. London. Despite my overseas adventures and my love of traveling, Shakespeare, Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes (Before he was Cumberbatched), and giant clocks, I’ve never been to London. I always wanted to, mostly so I could see if I could find Hogwarts. So, just for fun, I decided to see if they’d cater to me, a Graduate Student that had a little bit of time saved up in his Vacation fund.

A few emails and an application later… I’m going to London. To Study Theatre. And I can’t wait.

It’s strange, really, that I never considered the possibility of what studying overseas would entail. I still really don’t, because right now I just sort of have a flyer and the class that it will cover (Yay, electives!) But to me, it’s about taking risks. No, not because I’m flying on an airplane during a time period when people have discovered a spider the size of a dog in the rainforest. (BURN IT. BURN IT WITH FIRE.) But because to be honest… it’s unlike me.

I talked about earlier this year making this big switch. I’ve referenced it a few times since then, but I haven’t really “talked” about it too much. I mean, it’s a big switch, but at the same time I said my piece and I don’t want to appear ungrateful for the time. But I have to reference the fact that I spent two years planning testing, and working hard to get a degree. Then I said, “naw… I’d rather do this.” Part of that was taking risks like going to London, because I’ve never been, and the bottom line is, I want to. I wan to go. I want to study Theatre under one of the best professors i had in Undergrad. It’s an interest of mine.

I’m excited to finally go to a country I’ve wanted to visit for a while now, and I only thought I’d visit in some quick trip. All in all, with some vacation time I have saved up, I’m going to end up spending about a month overall in London. I promise I’ll keep the Doctor Who jokes to a minimum while I’m there. I can’t make the same claim about James Bond jokes. Those are actually kind of funnier. 

My point to this whole story/inspirational quote/post/whatever it is I’m talking about, is that I spent a good two years of my life studying to go down the straight and narrow path that will contribute to society. Now I’m going to London for no other reason than I want to. It’s a big difference for me, and it’s a lot to process, but sometimes we have to do what we want to. Life is short, despite the fact that they’ve found new and exciting ways to extend our lifetimes, so long as it doesn’t involve downloading our brains into machines with ironic consequences. (Novel Idea: we can download our brains into machines with ironic consequences. Dibs.) But we have to take advantage of what we want to do, not what we think is expected of us. 

That’s a lot of words to pretty much brag that I’m looking forward to riding the lorry and eating crisps with the Queen. She’s pretty easy to get to talk to, right? I mean, there’s like a form I have to fill out or something. I can only assume. If not her, then Emma Watson. You've been warned!

I guess I’m just saying it’s an exciting time for me. And All I had to do was take a little bit of time to decide what it is that I really want. And for now, what I want is to go to England. And possibly visit the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Day the Clowns Revolted

There’s a lot of outrage lately. It seems like you can’t do just about anything without riling up the masses, getting someone angry. Some of it is justified, don’t get me wrong. Some of it, like the million and a half outraged thinkpieces about a song that discusses the female booty 22 years after Sir Mix-A Lot already put the issue to rest may be going to far. You kids are to young to remember, but there was a time when "Baby Got Back" was going to destroy society a million times more than Janet Jackson's nipple, Miley Cyrus Twerking, and "Blurred Lines" combined.  But basically if you do anything, you’re pretty much going to offend somebody and social media and blogs like this one help people yell loudly at the perceived injustice that’s currently befalling them. 

I’ve debated, in the past, covering more of the outrage and protests at things, but to be honest with you, it would make me tired, and all three posts a week would just focus on people getting angry at things, justified or not. We are living in a world where people are outraged at a movie featuring a robot trying to fall in love, and the wrong health advice is being given on a show about zombies. OUTRAGE!

However, every once in a while a story of outrage comes along that’s so wildly insane that I have no choice but to say something about it. Not because I’m outraged, but because it’s hilarious, and clearly an attempt to ride the wave of something else popular and grab attention.

So, naturally, when I saw the widely reported story that clowns are offended by the new season of American Horror Story and it’s killer clown, I had to act. 

For those of you not following the amusing story that’s being shared around social media and the internet, American Horror Story is taking the brave stance of putting the very first clown on television that is a killer. (Not including the movies: 100 Tears, Amusement, Clown, Clownhouse, Camp Blood, Camp Blood 2, The Clown House Murders, Clownstrophobia, Clownstrophobia 2,  The Devil’s Rejects, Drive Thru, The Dark Knight Returns, Batman, Fear of Clowns, Fear of Clowns 2, Fraternity Massacre at Hell Island, Frayed, Funnyman, House of 1000 Corpses, Gingerclown, It, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Killyjoy, Killjoy 2, Killjoy 3, Killjoy Goes to Hell, Mr. Jingles, Scary or Die, Secrets of the Clown, Stitches, Within the Woods, and this list wasn’t including the many moves made about real life killer clown, John Wayne Gacy.)

Now, I don’t watch American Horror Story. It’s not a commentary on the show, I actually do want to get into it, but I’m a graduate student that works mostly at night and I have to choose my TV Show watching carefully, and the adventures of a guy who dresses in green and shoots arrows at wrongdoers just about edges out everything else.  It looks like a fantastic show and I look forward to catching up on it when the robots have ensiled my mind and are forcing me to just watch Netflix as they use my body as a battery.

Please not the preceding was a joke and not intended to offend any robots, killer or otherwise. I love all our robots, even if some insane scientist that decided to replace your hands with buzz saws for some reason.

In any event, clowns are putting their giant feet down at this, the very first time except for the movies I’ve mentioned that show that clowns might be scary to some people. This is serious, people, as we must remember to bring dignity to a job that largely requires taking a pie to the face. I mean, this could be one giant comical black eye to the entire profession, as this is the very first time someone has tried to make clowns scary. It's quite a pie in the face to any clown that takes his or her clowning seriously. 

Jokes aside, being a clown isn’t easy. It does take some training, and not everyone can slap on some makeup, learn to juggle, and suddenly declare themselves a clown. My comments are to belittle clowns as performers: it’s not easy and takes a combination of tumbling, mime, juggling, and many other skills that I don’t believe a lot of people understand clowns have to possess.

That being said… this is the dumbest battle in the history of battles. Seriously, it makes the whole professes ion look like a joke. As I’ve noted, American Horror Story isn’t the first piece of entertainment with a scary clown. It’s not the first piece of entertainment on television this year to feature a scary clown. Scary clowns are part of our culture. Pennywise is probably one of the most iconic clowns in history, managing to horrify children of all ages. And don’t get me started on the Joker. Pages could be written on this guy. Pages have been written on this guy. You'd think clowns could take a joke. I mean, seriously, this isn't something that should throw them into a murderous rage.

Yes, I understand that yet another clown story is a pie in the face to the profession. (Yes, I know I used this twice. It made me laugh.) You don’t want something that’s going to give your job a red nose. And I can understand wanting to put your giant foot down, pile 2000 clowns into 4 cars, and go protest the station. But seriously… it’s American Horror Story. One year it was witches. One year, it was ghosts. (The sad truth is we don't know if they are planning on protesting. They "boo" everything. Don't worry this post and it's bad puns are almost over.)  Maybe aliens are next. I personally hope they get around to showing the true terror of kitchen appliances. This year it’s a Freak show, which is something else that hasn't been around for years, and if it was it probably wouldn’t be called a Freak Show. 

Maybe we need to take a few minutes to stop being offended every time someone does anything, and just enjoy that show. Or, you know, set a good example and not be a murderous clown, like the one in the show.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Please Stop Being Afraid of Stupid Stuff

“I like the cover," he said. "Don't Panic. It's the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody's said to me all day.”

-Arthur Dent, Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy

There’s this book I really like called Tricky Business by Dave Barry. It’s about these criminals on this boat and there’s a heist, and I’m not making this up, it’s hilarious. But there’s a subplot where this boat with the criminals off the coast of Florida is hit by a hurricane. Every once in a while the plot meanders back to a news crew covering this hurricane. At first, they get news that a boy has been struck by lightning. So they send a news crew out, who are promptly killed by the storm. Then another crew is sent out, and they’re killed. This continues until the killer storm has killed only members of this news crew, who have dubbed it a killer storm because they were the only idiots (other than the criminal idiots on the boat) who have been killed by the storm. It’s funnier than I’m making it sound, but I’m making a point.

In case you’ve managed to avoid all television, websites, newspapers (kids, ask your parents) and various people on the street wearing gas masks that aren’t actually huge fans of Breaking Bad, we’re in the midst of a epidemic. It’s an epidemic that has killed at least one in the US, and has infected another. That’s right… it’s Ebola. The disease that is a legitimate threat in West Africa and such movies as Outbreak, but in the US has infected and killed less people than Taylor Swift has dated and written songs about.

Keep in mind, I’m not trying to downplay the very real threat that Ebola is in West Africa, where they don’t have the resources that we do here in America. What I’m trying to point out is… everyone stop with the panic. Please.

This always happens. Something occurs, and then people lose their minds over panic, despite the fact that in order to get Ebola, you’d need to have constant contact with the bodily fluids of someone already showing symptoms, and it can be cured by such things as “washing.” But before this, it was respiratory virus that everyone has forgotten about because they’re busy saying we need to block all flights and seal off all our borders because three hospitals have mistaken the flu for Ebola. Which isn’t a death sentence.

This is the second post I’ve written about it, but today I want to focus on something a lot more deadly than a disease that isn’t airborne and might spread as far as Texas: fear. We live in a culture of fear, and it’s going to have to stop. Mostly with idiots panicking over nothing.

I try to be polite a lot of the time, but I’m going to say it here: idiots. Panicking over nothing. 

For me it really hit home when people were protesting the doctors who were diagnosed with Ebola after going over to West Africa to help people. They were brought back to the US, where we have the resources to help these brave people, but some people that couldn’t be bothered to get off the couch for any good reason, decided to start the panic train.

Everyone… calm down. Good Old Bad Shakespeare is here to tell you that it’s all going to be ok. And if you’re worried that it’s not going to be ok, just know this: It’s going to be ok. How do I know this? Because it is.

We need to stop being afraid of stupid stuff. Giant headlines that proclaim our doom, only to not come into fruition, then they’re replaced with bigger headlines that once again… proclaim our doom. We need to stop turning to the loudest screaming heads or “experts” that know nothing. Yes, I’m aware of the irony that I’m writing this what with all my knowledge of Ebola coming from research and not my degree in English with a concentration in Theatre. But hey, if CNN can get a sci-fi novelist as their “Ebola Expert” then why not me?

There are so many other things that people can concentrate on right now that doesn’t involve a disease that’s largely contained and if you manage to defy all odds and actually get, you’re probably not going to die. In fact, I’d recommend if you do manage to get it while at home, watching the screaming heads proclaim our latest doom, take a few minutes to buy a lottery ticket.

Some fear can be good. The fear of that dark cave helped our ancestors eventually discover if they took this fiery substance into it, it would be warm and bright. Fear of dying alone eventually invented, so that’s not entirely bad. Fear of not knowing who the best Star Trek Captain was (it was Sisko) invented the internet, which in turn allows me to publish my completely unqualified opinions.

But some fear is bad. Fear that’s used to sell you crap you don’t need, or fear that is being used to generate website clicks or sell newspapers for something other than making pirate hats and then annexing Jerome’s cubical in a spectacular coup. That was a fun day. But you can’t walk around afraid because some website decided they were going to make their top story about a “possible” case of some disease that later turns out to be false, they just publish that story smaller. 

Stop being afraid of things that don’t matter. Stop being afraid of things that aren’t really that scary. Relax. Go be afraid of things that really might kill you like cats, or dark wizards. Never underestimate when the Dark Wizards are finally going to make their move. I can see them now… plotting…


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book Report: Paper Towns

Quick note, this is an analysis of the book Paper Towns by John Green. It is not a review. What does that mean for you? It means that I’m going to be spoiling the ending. Also, the book came out six years ago, so you’ve had time to read it. Yes, I know, John Green is all cool now with his Youtube Videos and his witty responses to being banned and the Fault In Our Stars causing dust to pop up in theaters everywhere towards the end, so his books are going to be suddenly re-discovered. But you don’t tune into Bad Shakespeare for the reviews, you do for the insane ramblings on how robots are going to take over the earth. This is a long paragraph to basically say, spoilers follow. 

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an interesting concept. For those unfamiliar with it, this was a term invented by one of my favorite writers, Nathan Rabin to describe Kirsten Dunst’s character in Elizabethtown. It’s the bubbly girl with a dark past sent to teach the brooding male protagonist a lesson. Naturally the phrase has been analyzed, reconstructed, played with, removed, and, regretted, sadly by Rabin himself. But it’s an interesting concept. 

Margo Roth Spiegelman, the… well, “main-ish” character of John Green’s Paper Towns could be sort of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, at first. She’s the popular girl, the mysterious one that seems to have spent most of her time carefully crafting a persona that is equal parts wacky and mysterious. She’s known for disappearing for long periods of time, so it’s not strange to a lot of people that she would suddenly disappear a few days before her high school graduation.

Except to one person.. our main character, Quentin Jacobson, thankfully known as Q which means I can cut down on the words a little bit. Q and Margo Roth Spiegelman (as she’s known repeatedly throughout the novel when someone is talking about her… never when she has her own voice) have been friends through most of their lives. The story itself starts when they’re younger, finding a dead man on the playground who Margo (I’m not going to keep typing out her name. I’ve made my point on that) describes as having all his strings “cut.” The string theme is going to repeat, pay attention.

The story picks up years later when the pair have drifted apart and are about to graduate high school. Q had is own set of friends… the computer nerd Radar and the school’s resident Quagmire from Family Guy, Ben. Margo has her own set of “friends” as well, as we learn one of them has been sleeping with her boyfriend, and she makes a surprise visit to Q in order to get revenge on her cheating boyfriend, the people who enabled the cheating, and make amends to the one person that she was mean to. Then, she disappears.

Naturally, Q thinks there’s something more to her disappearance, and sets off to find her. A good section of the book follows his quest to find her, including finding her hiding place in a run down old mall. His friends (and one of Margo’s eventually finds him.)

I started with the description of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (which is shortened to MPDG, so I’m going to start doing that) because I think one of the central questions to the novel is whether Margo falls into this. She’s only in two sequences, in the very beginning, and then again in the very end. There’s not a lot of description as to why the Q/Margo friendship sort of collapsed, although the implication is there’s not much of a story behind it: they simply fell into different social circles as people do. But she’s very much the central character in the story. Most of the conversations center around her. The whole novel is a search for her. And she even had a handy life lesson to our main character, Q, who was of course uptight and obsessed with his normal life. 

In the end, Margo is found, but it turns out she didn’t want to be found. She ended up vanishing because she was tired, and wanted to seek a different life. The thing is, by the end… can you blame her? She wanted to live a different life than her parents, her friends… she wanted to explore. She wanted to take full advantage of that life. Mostly, she didn’t want to be this ideal that the entire novel sets her up to be. I kind of feel that she was framed for most of the novel as the MPDG, but decided she didn’t want that for herself. The novel, itself, is one big character study about this girl who doesn’t appear in most of it, and we have to read between the lines to learn about. 

Naturally there’s Q, looking for her because he has some kind of love for her. But as the novel indicates, he doesn’t know who she is. No one does, really. I think that’s kind of a bold choice for a young adult novel. It’s a reminder that we really don’t know what people are going through, and it’s a reminder that High School is a time when we are all figuring it out. 

It would be easy to frame this novel differently. It’s broken up into several parts, with the last one broken up to their journey, racing to find the last trace of Margo before she vanishes forever. (It’s a long story, but it involves a Wikipedia type website, and her flair for the the dramatic…) It would be easy to frame the novel in just this sequence, as we have characters racing towards the object of the novel, each for their own reasons, on the cusp of their High School Graduation. (Technically, they’re all adults… but they’re racing somewhere unknown for no real reason). The novel builds towards this, and this is the quickest reading section because of how it’s broken down. But it’s a race to bring Margo back… to save her, when she doesn’t need to be saved. She needs to go her own way. 

And that’s what the novel is really about. Going your own way.

There’s so much I want to say about this. I could keep going. Naturally the symbolism of the strings, there’s the sleuth-like way that Q finds everything, and Ben… I know everyone needs a friend, but seriously this novel might have been better off without him. Sorry, dude, you were obnoxious. Wow, I hate him. Just… seriously… took me out of the novel every time he was on the page. I kind of feel like John Green just needed an extra character to round out the cast? Maybe? Who knows.

I’d recommend this novel, especially for High School Students. I think it does have an important message about finding your own way, and you don’t have to follow the pack. Sometimes, the circumstances suck. Sometimes, it’s great. Either way, check it out.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Your Midterm Election Social Media Survival Guide

It’s election season again, ladies and gentlemen. One every two years, the American Public takes to the polls. And this year, being a mid-term, means that people will do research on their candidates and pick who they believe is going to do the best to help America continue to be the best country on Earth, where everyone is treated well and everyone has the freedoms they so richly deserve.

Naw, I’m just kidding. This is America. We just spent the last week making fun of an infant because he had the audacity to be born to the daughter of a President half the people didn’t like, and debating just why our current President wore a tan suit. I mean, in this country it doesn’t matter if you’ve been studying the issues, you have a background in what you talk about, and you can actually make a difference, just as long as your opponent can photoshop you coming out of the House of Worship that we have currently decided is the enemy, and loosely link you to the ethnicity we decide is destroying the country. Someone let me know when we loop around to “Catholic” and “Irish” again, because then it starts to affect me.

In any event, with each election being a private vote cast based on whatever criteria you wish to use, and this being the 21st century where we complain about our privacy while at the same time posting what we had for dinner last week, of course our political views are going to be spread around. And while finding out that your co-worker that you friended to keep the peace or that aunt you haven’t spoken to since we lived in a Megan Fox-filled Transformers World has a different favorite movie, sports team, or brand of beer than you is simply a choice of theirs and something to laugh about when they come into conflict with each other, naturally finding out that they have a different political bent means they’re the enemy and should be immediately shouted down as loudly as possible. 

But, how does one survive this new 21st Century Social Media filled election cycle without having to log out of social media and do actual “work” while at work? Fortunately, Bad Shakespeare is here, once again, to help with this little conundrum. So I present you today with my very special guide to surviving the Mid-term elections just in general.

For instance, that story you’re sharing: has it been fact checked? And by fact checked, I mean actually peer reviewed, which is a fancy term for saying that someone actually took a look at it that knows what they’re talking about? And not just by some blogger with a blog spot account? Because let me tell you the rigorous trials I had to go through in order to get this website: it involved using both my name AND my email address? Never mind, of course, because as long as that sensational news story about the guy running for office that you hate selling babies to worship his false god Xandar who will rise up eventually confirms everything you think without having to do any research of your own, why not?

Remember, too, that facts are a tricky thing. Do facts not confirm your deeply held beliefs about things? Then obviously someone is lying to you, and it’s not the well-educated person who is just in the pocket of Big [insert name of organization that has a stranglehold on everyone except for you here.] It’s important to remember to cling to your made up facts as closely as possible. I mean, “experts” can say one thing, but you can obviously tell where a birth certificate has been fabricated, or a video has been edited. 

Also, try to look for buzzwords in whatever article you’re about to share on Facespace or Mybook, or… is it insulting enough to your opponent? Has it changed the name of something to “lame” or “faux” at least once? Because if it’s not using insulting language, then really what is the point? Civility? Peeling past layers of insults to make a coherent argument? In this go-go world of the 21st century, we really don’t have time for such foolishness.

Let’s not forget to be outraged. If you haven’t found a reason to pick up a pitchfork and torch yet, then what’s the point? The smaller the better, because then when something happens that really sets off your outrage meter, then you’ll be all stretched out. A reporter say something stupid, then immediately apologize? He didn’t must mean nothing by it, he obviously hates this country and everyone in it. Remember, nothing is too small to get offended about: There were actual protests against the Daredevil movie not because Ben Affleck was in it, but because it was offensive to blind people despite being a 30 year old comic book. If you look at anything hard enough, you can get offended by it.

Also remember to listen to celebrities, reality show stars, and singers. They clearly have some kind of access to some political area that the rest of us aren’t aware of. A celebrity say something stupid about politics? Make sure you organize a mass boycott of their next terrible movie/album/whatever until a popular thing comes out and everyone has forgotten about it. Base as much as possible about what a reality TV Star has said, because they’re clearly not doing anything for ratings. Remember, the ability to sell duck whistles or pretend to be someone else on the big screen is an important skill when picking who to follow.

Oh, this is also very important, remember, if the celebrity/reality star says something you disagree with, it’s important to remind everyone as loudly as possible that they’re just a reality star/celebrity and that they shouldn’t voice their opinion. But if they say what you agree with, make sure you share it with as many people as possible, using your own words to say something like “inspiring” or “this is why we should watch this.”

Also, never underestimate the power of caps lock.

I think that just about covers it. If you follow most of this advice, you don’t have to spend any time doing any research, or listening to boring debates, or walking into things with an open mind. Me, personally, I’ll be hanging out over at Myspace until this all blows over, because quite frankly, I’m a little outraged out at this point.