Well. That Didn’t Work Out…

In my last post on January 1, 2012, I said I’d take a the year and read through the works of Shakespeare. All of them. Starting with one I hadn’t read before: King John. Sounded like a good plan. Definitely still something I’d like to do. Some year. One year and 6 months later, my volume of Shakespeare’s Histories is still on my nightstand with the book mark set in the middle of Act II, Scene I. Let me pause here while I go get it and put it back on the shelf with the other three volumes in the set.

Shortly after that well-intentioned post, I had to grab the opportunity to move my 90 year-old mother from Missouri up to Indiana. The move, a difficult first three months with her in and out of the hospital several times, and a year and a half of steady overtime added to my full time job to help cover her rising care costs ate up most of my time between that post and this one. In other words: life happened. And thought I love Shakespeare, I love my mom more so something had to give.

Not that I haven’t been doing a bit of reading  in my spare moments. Some book reviews and a few posts for ZombiesandToys.com.

I’ve even a bit of work on my own zombie stories. And I have, for sanity’s sake, been watching Game of Thrones, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, The Big Bang Theory, Downton Abbey and Doctor Who. I actually went to see The Hobbit, The Avengers, and Star Trek: Into Darkness (twice so far). So life hasn’t been all work, just mostly work. I’m not saying that’s going to change anytime soon. I may just find the enough energy to write a few blog posts this year though. Here’s hoping.

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The Bard and the bridge of the Enterprise (or Why a Scifi Nerd Loves Shakespeare)

Yesterday I announced my New Year’s resolution to read the complete works of Shakespeare in 2012. Two points to clear up about that: what Shakespeare has to do with my science/science fiction/fantasy nerdiness and the story of what lead to my resolution. When I said you could blame it on Charlie Rose and his series of shows called “Why Shakespeare?” that wasn’t entirely fair. You’d also have to blame it on Star Trek and my great Aunt Fritzie.

The Bard got his hooks in me at an early age. It all started becauseMiniature volume of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew we had this set of miniature books in our house. Still have them. (Picture at right.) I would pick them up and examine them long before I could read a word on their pages just because of their size. I thought, “If they’re so small they must be made for kids.” Also, their covers were interesting: each book bound in a different color and texture of leather. Then, inside, filmy thin pages like those in my Bible so I thought they must be important books. My mom told me I could look at them if I was careful. The set had been given to her by my great Aunt Fritzie who at one time worked as a cook for the Barrymores.  I had no idea who the Barrymores were or why there was an illustration the beginning of each book showing a young, but balding man with ruffles around his neck. I didn’t really care; I just wanted to be able to read the little books. Once or twice a year, I would try to read one of them, but even after I’d learned to read well in school, I couldn’t make heads not tails of what was going on in those pages. (FYI: the Barrymores mentioned were Drew Barrymore’s grandparents. Her grandfather John Barrymore, noted for his stage portrayals of Hamlet and Richard III.)

Third grade, fourth grade fifth grade, still not much luck. I knew each of the little books contained one of Shakespeare’s plays, but aside from the titles and figuring out that dramatis personae was the list of characters, the contents remained a mystery. Then…

Star Trek. First show I begged my parents to let me stay up past my bedtime to watch. Little did I know that while glued to the TV set following the voyages of the starship Enterprise, the Bard was beginning to seep into my brain. As Duane Morin wrote in his Shakespeare Geek blog, “Every good geek knows that Star Trek is loaded with Shakespeare references.” “Dagger of the Mind,” “Conscience of the King,” “All Our Yesterdays,” “By Any Other Name” —all episode titles from the original series and all references to Shakespeare.  The trend continued in the movies. The title Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country refers to Hamlet’s famous “to be or note to be” soliloquy: “…the dread of something after death,/The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn/No Traveller returns…”

So fellow nerds, the Bard’s probably already got his hooks in you, too. Next time you quote Star Trek, remember you just may be quoting Shakespeare.

By the time Star Trek the Next Generation arrived, I’d read many of the Bard’s plays, see most of the film versions, even caught a few stage performances. Watching the first episode of STTNG, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the new series, but I was willing to give it a try because of Picard’s love of both Shakespearean drama and “tea, hot, Earl Grey” —both loves of mine. In short, a perfect circle: Star Trek leading to my love of Shakespeare, Shakespeare leading me back to Star Trek.

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Blame it on Charlie Rose: A nerd’s 2012 Shakespeare resolution

So, I’ve been pondering New Year’s resolutions and decided what one of them will be: to read the complete works of Shakespeare.

Why?

Blame it on Charlie Rose, the hero of my better self, who with his passion, gentle humor and endless curiosity never fails to engage my mind and curiosity through the discussions on his PBS talk show. Occasionally, he chooses a topic on which to build a series of shows, the most recent being “Why Shakespeare?” After looking at his website, I found that it started back in November, but I’ve been behind on watching the shows in my queue.

Just today, Rose’s December 28th show caught my eye because of the lineup: Liev Schreiber, Jim Schapiro and Ken Branagh. Hadn’t heard of Schapiro until today, but the names bookending his are very familiar. So I watched the show and it stirred my fascination with Shakespeare once again.

Liev Schreiber talked about performing the Scottish play and the music of the language found in Macbeth’s speeches. Ah, yes. Familiar territory for me. The sound of Shakespeare’s lines has drawn me in from the beginning—the flow of one word building upon the next, the rhythm of the lines, the familiar juxtaposed with the strange. Even before the meaning of even one line of the Bard’s work became clear in my mind, it was the words’ music that made me listen, read, want to understand.

Jim Shapiro spoke of King Lear, a play I have not read and never seen performed. Schapiro, a Columbia University professor, has an upcoming book called The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1806. Hearing Shapiro explain why Lear speaks to him made me understand a little more why I’ve heard so many of the actors I admire speak of looking forward to the opportunity to perform the lead role when they attain the appropriate age with all the longing that adolescents use when saying, “I can’t wait till I’m old enough to get my driver’s license.”

Then, Ken Branagh discussed the importance of continuing to ask Rose’s question, “Why Shakespeare?” Branagh recently reread King John (another of the plays I’ve never read) and commented on how pertinent it was for today’s world. “If you read King Johnright now and then put it down and…pick up The Economist” and read about the Greek debt crisis….” Hmm. Perhaps I should read that one, I thought to myself.

My set of Shakespeare's works. Taking my first look at King John.

And so the New Year’s resolution popped into my head. I got up, pulled down my boxed et of Shakespeare’s works and found the volume containing King John, put it on my nightstand, and then decided I’d need a bit of outside pressure to live up to the challenge. Blog, the muse, demanded, so blog I have.

What have I gotten myself into?

Succeed or fail in this 2012 resolution—at least that will be something to blog about.

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Zombies & Supernatural: When Spooky Seeps Into Your Psyche

So…maybe I’ve been working a bit too long on writing zombie stories. And much too into Supernatural. I just saw an ad for a restaurant—a photo of barbeque ribs—and the first thought that came to mind was: Ew. Look at that charred, ripped open ribcase. Granted, it’s accurate and vegetarians the world over would agree with my assessment of “Ew.” However, I’d say it’s a sign that after I finish my novel of the zombie apocalypse, I’d best give my psyche a break and write about angels and puppy dogs and rainbows. Like that’s gonna happen. Maybe hot angels (like Supernatural’s Castiel), werewolves and, well, I can’t really think of a cool equivalent for rainbows. Although, I did, just today, start toying with the notion of a story with a hot leprechaun —sort of a Tolkienesque Elvish take on leprechauns with nothing at’all wee about these folk. Just the way my mind works.

Back to the ribs. I know exactly why my mind slid so quickly into the goriest interpretation possible: I’d just watched “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester” from Supernatural, season 4. That’s one of those episodes where vengeful ghosts tear apart those who done them wrong in life. (Lots of episodes where that happens, so not a spoiler for those who are caught up on the Winchester boys’ adventures.) Why re-watch season 4 when the new season just started this past Friday? Such a silly question. One episode a week is just not enough Dean, Sam, Bobby and Castiel.

Aside from that, I’ve been looking forward to the next half season of Walking Dead. (That’ll be a long wait, since I dropped down to just basic cable, but at least I know the new episodes will be out there soon.) Oh, and what did I do last weekend to take a break from my zombie novel? I wrote an unrelated zombie story for an eBook anthology (due out by Halloween; more on that later).

As a change of pace, I did watch the latest Doctor Who episode tonight, but it seems that didn’t take my thoughts far enough away from gore and blood. Perhaps if I watch the Pan Am pilot before I go to bed? But no. Set in a time when women turned to flying the friendly skies in form-fitting outfits to search for adventure and/or a husband—that might be the scariest scenario of the evening.

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Nerdist.com Writers Panel 8 Podcast: #1 on my list

Okay. So, I’m late in talking about Nerdist.com and in listening to the podcast Nerdist Writers Panel #8 from June 12, 2011. (Been slaving away at finishing up my zombie novel, so not much free time.) But now that I’ve listened to this podcast: woot! So good, I’ll probably listen to this one a second time.

This panel consisted of Amy Berg (Eureka); Ben Edlund (The Tick; Angel; Supernatural); Angelina Burnett (Boss; Memphis Beat). Not only were there a lot of inside stories from TV shows I love, but there was an avalanche of great advice on writing.  I strongly recommend it to any of you aspiring script writers out there. Or just fiction writers who want to take some tips from episodic TV to tighten up plots.

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Knights of Badassdom…Needest us this?

Oh yes, dost we ever. Steve Zahn (Treme), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Summer Glau (our Firefly connection), and Danny Pudi (Abed on Community and a Chicago native), among others, all in a very silly movie where LARPing meets supernatural meanies…what’s not to like? At least the trailer looks good:

It’s causing a buzz at Comic-Con. Will the film turn out to be as good as the first glimpse? Could this be the Galaxy Quest of larperdom? I hopest so. I haven’t seen a really fun flick since Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog hit the web back in 08.

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Nerd Writes on Twitter

Spent part of the long weekend starting a new Twitter account (how many is this that I have now? too many? not possible! well…maybe) just for Nerd Writes. Why? Well…

I have another relatively new Twitter account for my purely science, sans the fiction, interests (dotscoolscience — website to follow soon) and I’ve found it to be such a valuable resource that I wanted to do the same for my writing and scifi/fantasy/horror interests. I’ve started searching out the peeps and organizations that are important to my little ol’ nerd writing heart. And, of course, I’ve tweaked the design.

This guy won the contest to be my Nerd Writes profile rep. (No fruity oaty bar girls were hurt in the shooting of this picture.)

One of Wash's dinos getting psyched about the Fruity Oaty bar lunchbox.

One of Wash's dinos getting psyched about the Fruity Oaty bar lunchbox.

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