Silly Sunday: IT’S OVER!

As I begin this dose of silliness, I am a little over 1000 words away from finishing NaNoWriMo 2015. Typically, I finish before Thanksgiving because I absolutely do not want to spend the last few days of November feverishly typing my little fingers off. No. I like to go antiquing on Black Friday weekend. Why? Because it gets me out of the house and part of me is secretly hoping some drunken asshole does something stupid so I can record it for the internet. Also, I really like antiques. Am I a woman in her late twenties who enjoys poring through random crap in the hope that she finds something with some genuine age and cool factor? Yes. Yes, I am.

I refuse to apologize for it.

For the record, I found a really cool storage chest from the late 1800s. In South Florida, that’s pretty much when history begins (minus the Keys, of course, which have pirates), so it was practically ancient! Also… one of those old hamburger-head rocking horse things from old school McDonald’s playgrounds. I don’t know why, but I loved it. I never really went to McDonald’s as a kid, so it’s a weird thing to love… but incongruity or randomness of any sort has always amused me. Take this image for example:

b3jsskxiyaeh-ez

 

What makes this image so funny? Well, it’s obviously the incongruity of the entire thing. Thor is a character known for his hyper-masculinity; his signature move is to hit things really hard with his hammer. Seriously, there is an entire myth devoted to him losing his hammer and consequently having to dress up in a wedding dress. Yes, he lost his power and manliness when he lost his hammer and was, therefore, a woman. What? Norse society was actually quite egalitarian for the time, but it was still all about the dudes. Anyway. This cartoon is funny because mighty warrior (and incredible literalist) Thor is obsessed with a deliciously adorable stuffed unicorn. The mix of seemingly-incongruous personality traits is humorous. And, in this case, aww-inducing.

Did I just analyze that picture as an excuse to post it? Yes. Have I lost my ever-loving mind because NaNo is pretty much over and bringing my brain back to a semblance of normalcy (you know…normal for me, which is still pretty weird) is going to take weeks? I think I should be normal by Christmas. This is why I take such care with wrapping my presents. Do I have a theme every year? Yes. Yes, I do. Do I take care to make it utterly fabulous? Indeed, I do. Yeah, I’m a weirdo.

Here’s another funny picture to distract you from everything that just happened:

Yes! It’s even Shakespeare-themed!

Anyway…I’m going to go… do… some stuff. Maybe write some more. That might be best.

A will be back tomorrow for the Muse!

C

Shakespeare Saturday: Ms. Directing Shakespeare

Hello, everybody, and welcome to Shakespeare Saturday! Last week I dropped the ball, missing both my posts completely, but I am back and I KNOW what day it is. I promise. (It’s Saturday, right?)

Assuming it is, in fact, Saturday, I have prepared a delightful Shakespeare-related book recommendation for you, dear readers. As many of our followers know, C and I traveled to the Stratford Festival in August and our lives have not been the same since. While there I picked up an intriguing book in a fabulous used bookstore which I have finally begun to read.

Entitled “Ms-Directing Shakespeare” by Elizabeth Schafer, this book explores the triumphs and hardships of female directors tackling the bard. Female directors are a minority in classical theatre so they are often faced with the challenge of breaking into the business and then building a name for themselves. The book examines such works as directed by Dame Judi Dench and Joan Littlewood (among others). It’s a fascinating look at the hurdles and pitfalls of taking on Shakespeare in a world that is dominated by men and though I haven’t finished reading yet, I certainly recommend this to anyone interested in Shakespeare, directing, and women in theatre.

Ok back to the show now (yes, I’m doing a show again… Hence, I never know what day of the week it is).

Enjoy!!!

A

Boozy Books: The Parasol Protectorate series

Salutations, mesdames et messieurs! Yeah, I’ve committed the faux pas of mixing languages… or is that metaphors you’re not supposed to mix? I’m still in the midst of a Thanksgiving food coma. Probably because I made a sandwich as big as my face for lunch, jam-packed with pretty much the entire table’s worth of leftovers. Other people spend the day shopping, I spend the day elbow deep in more food, pots of tea, and a good book. Thanksgiving is never particularly relaxing for me given the amount of cooking and baking I do, so it’s always the day after that turns into my version of a spa day.

I don’t like spas. They’re full of people who insist on touching me. I can never really relax in those situations. A book and some tea, on the other hand? Those are heaven.

When I need a day to myself, I always choose my books with care. They have to be fun, light, and easy. Typically, they have to make me laugh and possess a certain irreverence. Christopher Moore features a lot on my Tea and Book Days, as well as Jane Austen. Yes, Jane Austen is fun, light, and easy. And she very often makes me laugh. But today, I was inspired to read something else. Probably because I’d just finished the prequel series and wanted to pore through this one for details I might have missed. Yes, I find stuff like that relaxing. I’m a trained historian; we love searching for clues in texts. Just ask anyone.

So…given that most of you have likely read the title of today’s post, this is totally an unnecessary question, but what was this series of fun, light, and easy books that make me laugh? Well, it’s The Parasol Protectorate, by the delightful Gail Carriger. It really, really works with the tea.

Let’s get through the necessary details first. The series consists of five books: Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, and Timeless. I only managed to get through the first two today because, alas, animals seem to believe they should be fed and played with at various intervals. Who knew, right? But I heartily recommend reading the whole thing, so the whole series gets the nod today. Anyway, let’s get going. I really am meandering here, aren’t I? Eh. Y’all should be used to that with me. I’ve always meandered.

The series is a Steampunk paranormal romance. Hey! Come back! Not every paranormal romance is like Twilight, guys. Yes… there are vampires and werewolves in this. What has that to do with anything? Listen. The problem with that series is not its premise, but its execution. And believe me when I say that Gail Carriger leaves whatsherface in the dust. In fact, I do actually know Ms. Meyer’s name, I just didn’t want them in the same sentence. Lesson for you writers out there: sometimes just having the right subject matter is all you need to succeed. Anyway, yes, there are vampires and werewolves, as well as a certain amount of romance. But that’s where the similarities end.

I’d say that this series counts as Steampunk-lite. It’s certainly not as sci-fi heavy as some of the other stories I’ve read in the same genre, for which I am actually pleased. Sometimes these stories lose themselves in the science a bit too much for me; this one manages to keep a light touch without going so far as to add some clockwork and call it a day. (*sings* “Just put some gears on it and call it Steampunk…”) Set in an alternate Victorian England, the series is premised upon the idea that souls are a quantifiable thing (though how to test it remains something of a mystery). The main character, Miss Alexia Tarabotti, does not have one. A soul, that is. As such, the powers of the various supernatural sets, which have been accepted into British society for many years now, do not work on her. This, combined with her being half-Italian (let’s not forget the…uh… superiority complex of the English) and rather more intellectually-minded than most women, presents her some problems. But they also make her uniquely able to solve them. And, over the five books of the series, she and her pack (hardy har har) work together to deal with various… interruptions to both domestic and national security.

Seriously, guys. This series is so fun. From the witty prose to the delightful characters, I love everything about it. There’s an outrageous vampire (italics completely necessary), a Scottish Alpha (whose name has been #1 on my list of boys’ names for almost ten years now, so perhaps I have an irrational love, but probably not because I adore many other characters just like him), a French woman dressed better than everyone reading right now, an English woman whose hats could replace Medusa’s gaze, and cephalopods. Quite a few of them, actually. Of course, the winner for me is Alexia herself (forgive the use of her Christian name, my fine readers). I love her no-nonsense bluntness. I love that she treats manners as a code of moral conduct, believing that morality is a product of the soul. Most of all, I love that her often autocratic behavior is really just a cover for sensitivity and a need to have the control over her world that the circumstances of her birth often denied her. Emotions seem to confuse her somewhat, or at least to be somewhat embarrassing (but that might just be because she’s Victorian–some of them wouldn’t even use the word trousers), and it’s great to throw the whole “women are the emotional ones” stereotype on its head. Really, it’s the werewolves that are the touchy-feely types. But, hey… that’s Pack for you.

There’s a lot of really unique world-building here, too. The way Ms. Carriger deals with vampire and werewolf lore is really cool. And a lot of the Steampunk comes from defunct scientific ideas, which it’s clear were really well researched and deployed. Listen, folks… I love good world-building. It’s my favorite part of writing. So when I say this is good world-building, it’s damn good. I’m notoriously critical of such things, to the point that I can’t even begin writing a story until I’ve figured out how the world works in my head. I’ve put books down and never finished them because of bad world-building; these books, I’ve read at least a dozen times.

Now, I’ve noticed something with this series that isn’t necessarily true with the others we’ve featured. People either really, really like it (like me) or they do not. It’s the writing style, I think. We’ve all grown accustomed to a far more streamlined, direct style of prose; in fact, we’re constantly being told to apply the Coco Chanel method of word choice. (You know… take one accessory off before leaving the house?) Ms. Carriger laughs maniacally in the face of such advice, and I adore her for it. Not every word is necessary, except to the voice of the writer and the style of the story. Which, in my mind, is absolutely necessary. But I have noticed that some people find it far too distracting, and it really is just a matter of taste. It’s been long enough since the first book was released that it’s in most of the libraries and second-hand shops; if you don’t like the writing style, just know the series isn’t for you.

OK, I’ve rambled enough. Let’s get on to the drinks. What am I going to recommend today? Weeeelll (*insert David Tennant here*), I’ve got three ideas. One of which is tea. Yes, tea. What? Do you know what tea means to the British? They think it’d bring about world peace if everyone would just give it a try. “Oh, your house has burned down? Here, have a cuppa.” I do not exaggerate. It’s not as ritualized as the Japanese tea ceremony, but it’s just as much a ritual. Anyway, choose whatever tea you would like. I’m partial to roiboos teas and Earl Grey, but I shan’t dream of imposing my style on you.

As for my other recommendations. I might have mentioned a certain rococo-loving vampire earlier in this blog. If you find yourself on Team Hive (or rove or drone), I recommend Champagne. It’s up to you whether you want to put a couple drops of something red in, or not. If you absolutely must, use one of the cheaper alternatives, but don’t you dare let Lord Akeldama know about your choice… though he’ll probably know and be critical by your decision no matter what you do, so maybe just be ballsy and he might admire your style.

If, like me, you find yourself more inclined to the Packs (or loners or clavigers), I’m recommending a good moonshine. Why? Well, it’s called moonshine for one, and I think that reason should be totally obvious. The other reason is that, short of formaldehyde, werewolves do not get drunk, so I was thinking we get the closest thing and toss barely-digestible liquor down our throats. If you’re as enamored of a certain Scottish gentlemen (term used…somewhat loosely) as I am, try peatreek, which is a Scottish version of moonshine created by using malted barley that has been dried using a peat fire. I believe there’s a brand called Peat Reek that is actually legal. If not, any moonshine will do.

So…that is it for me today. This one was particularly rambly, no? I think it’s the Final-Days-of-NaNoWriMo fever, forcing me to throw in extra words to meet the 50k goal. Anyway, I’ll be back on Sunday for your weekly dose of silly. Tomorrow, A gives you some Shakespeare. Or perhaps something completely different. (No, not Monty Python.) Until Sunday!

C

Buy the Book:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-parasol-protectorate-boxed-set-gail-carriger/1108616372

Buy the Booze:

Champagne: http://www.totalwine.com/wine/champagne-sparkling-wine/champagne/brut/moet-chandon-imperial-brut/p/449750?s=906&igrules=true

Moonshine: http://www.totalwine.com/spirits/white-whiskey-moonshine//firefly-moonshine/p/131587750?s=906&igrules=true

Monday Muse: Thanksgiving

Hey! Welcome to the Muse, my fine friends, and salutations! I did that backwards, I think. Whatever.

This Thursday in America is Thanksgiving. The day we celebrate that time a bunch of religious refugees really *did* pose a substantive threat to the native population. Okay…I swore I wouldn’t get political. I couldn’t help it. I just…as a historian, I look back at all the times this country could have done the right thing and didn’t because of fear. Because we decided the risk wasn’t worth the reward. And I can tell you, it has never ended well for the people we wouldn’t help. Oh, sure, America usually gets through it fine, but…anyway, sorry.

I was thinking about Thanksgiving because, for the first time in a long time, I will not be able to celebrate it with my family. My mother–God bless her heart–decided this was the time to go visit her family in Turkey and is now a little over 100 miles from the Syrian border. Am I happy about this? No. But I understand why she felt she had to go. Her father died earlier this year and she was unable to say goodbye; she wants to go be with the family of her childhood, and I can understand that.

Thanksgiving in the modern sense began during the Civil War, when President Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November a day to sit down and be thankful for everything we’ve got. Over 600,000 soldiers went on to die in that conflict. It was a time when death became every American’s constant companion, and the President was asking us to be mindful of what we have. I guess it’s stupid because my mom is only over there for a week and some people live with such conflict every day, but I know I’ll be spending Thanksgiving just a little bit worried. And I will be extremely thankful for her safe return.

The thing is, Thanksgiving is probably one of the purest holidays we have in this country. It’s about getting the family together over delicious food and thinking about the positive things in your life. I know I am extraordinarily fortunate to be all the things I am–healthy, American, white, educated, financially stable, surrounded by loved ones, etc–and able to do the things I want in life. But how many other holidays are just about gathering the people you love–your family, whether that be blood or not–and focusing on what you have?

I guess that’s why I get so upset when Christmas decides to horn its way in. There really isn’t a lot of money to be made on the concept of Thanksgiving. I mean, sure, grocery stores and the like do very well, but there really isn’t much capitalism inherent in a holiday meant to take stock of what you are blessed to have. In finding the light in the darkness, or realizing how little darkness there actually is and being thankful for it. Now I’m not anti-capitalist–I can acknowledge the good it’s done and does–but it pisses me the hell off that Thanksgiving has been invaded to the point that it’s basically now Black Friday Eve. That it’s overshadowed by the need to put up Christmas lights and buy, buy, buy. Doesn’t anyone else think it is not only ridiculous but nearly profane to encourage people to abandon their tables and their thankfulness for a gross adventure in greed and materialism? Thanksgiving should not be, “I am thankful I have my family, but what I really want is that PS4 that’s on sale!” (Is that still the new one? I don’t know much about this stuff.) We should not take stock of what we have as some sort of inventory showing what we don’t.

There are a lot of people out there whose lives are crap. More than crap. There are children out there whose homes have been destroyed, and who have no idea where they are going to go. They are lost and often alone, starving and frightened. They are dying in droves beneath the thumbs of terror and greed. Now, I am not saying we are all responsible for this, though I do personally believe we are all responsible for our fellow man. I am not saying we should abnegate personal happiness or the pursuit of that happiness. But what I am saying is maybe we should sit down for a bloody minute and be thankful that, but for the grace of God (or whatever, if you don’t believe in God; it’s just an expression) go I. Please. Stay home on Thanksgiving. Take stock of everything that’s gone right in your lives and express your thankfulness. Keep this holiday pure.

And, for the love of God, be nice if you go out on Black Friday. No deal is worth becoming an asshole. Especially to the people who have been forced to work it. As someone who spent some years behind a counter, I can tell you that most of them are tired, overwhelmed, and trying their best. Just be nice and you’ll make the whole experience better.

Or, better yet, stay the heck home on Friday. That’s what the internet is for.

C

Shakespeare Saturday: A Shakesperiance!

We really have not been very good at updating this during November, man. Please forgive us. My other half is in yet another show (she’s the picture in the dictionary entry for ‘Working Actress’) and I’m slowly eating my insides away trying to finish this darn novel. Seriously… these characters seem to think I’m just a fancy highway. I HAVE FEELINGS, YOU…YOU…

Gah.

Now I have no idea how to finish this. I started it and I don’t know how to finish it. Part of me wishes I had a .GIF of Berowne from Stratford’s Love’s Labour’s Lost screaming “DICK!” at the top of his lungs. That would work perfectly. Man, now I need to check if that’s one of the plays they filmed, or if it made it into the trailer. It would be perfect for so many things.

Killing off characters is hard, guys. I mean, unless you’re JK Rowling or George RR Martin. Yes, I put them together. Both of them hurt my heart. I’ve never forgiven Ms. Rowling for Fred, and I never will.

YOU HEAR THAT, YOU MONSTER?! I NEVER WILL!

*cough* I need this month to be over. I need my characters to stop breaking my heart and stomping all over it with such malicious glee. Worst is they’re doing things that I did not tell them to do, so it’s hurting me AND it’s a surprise. There was no preparing for this. I am a hostage to my own characters. Yes, it’s a good thing, but it also makes it really hard to write. Honestly, this bottle of cider I’ve been saving for midnight on Dec 1st might not make it that long. I’m watching cartoons to make up for this. Dexter’s Laboratory and Hey Arnold!, folks. The Powerpuff Girls are next.

But none of this has anything to do with Shakespeare. Except, of course, that the characters in question are our own version of Shakespeare’s characters (which are, in turn, Shakespeare’s version of a lot of other peoples’ characters). But, anyway…

Here’s an article I came across while putzing around the internet in the hopes of not falling into the Pit of Despair (my favorite color is blue, the capital of Assyria was Nineveh, and…African or European?).

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/nov/19/a-film-for-each-play-to-mark-400th-anniversary-of-shakespeares-death

Well, I don’t know about you, but I guess it’s time to sell a kidney. How much do those go for these days?

Anyway, that’s it. Apologies for missing yesterday; I didn’t catch it on time to fill in because I was, again, wallowing in character-driven despair. December will be better. We promise.

C

Monday Muse: Enough

Hello, readers, and welcome to the Monday Muse.
This past weekend has been difficult for many across the world. We are collectively angry, scared, and bewildered by the terrible attacks and sheer hate that a few horrible people unleashed upon unwitting innocents.
I’m sick of it. I’m sure you are too.
I’m sick of terrible people ruining my faith in humanity.
I’m sick of people STEALING the lives of others.
I’m sick of people doing absurdly disgusting things in the name of their religions despite EVERY major religion CLEARLY having a DON’T KILL PEOPLE clause.
IT’S REALLY SIMPLE. JUST DON’T DO IT.
RESPECT LIFE, YOU ANIMALS.
Look, I honestly wasn’t sure how to handle today’s muse. I still don’t know where I’m going with this. I’m angry. I’m defiant. I’m confused and worried and pretty much convinced that if there is intelligent life in the universe it’s not on this planet.
Originally I had hoped to write something deep or meaningful; to make some kind of difference? Honestly, what suggestion for a more peaceful world can I possibly make that hasn’t already been suggested? Why can’t we all just love one another? People always say smiling takes less effort than frowning and I believe love takes less effort than hate. Hate settles and seethes and brims over, drowning people in black, blinding rage. Love floats and breathes and warms us from the inside out.
So yeah, maybe this muse wasn’t as powerful or important as I wanted it to be, but PLEASE, I implore you, smile at someone today, give your best friend a hug, call your parents, and for the love of love itself don’t let those bastards win by giving into fear.
Enough.

A

Silly Sunday: Yes, Writing is my job…

…I’m just currently at volunteer status. Or maybe intern. Yes, intern sounds much better.

So, we’ve reached another day of untoward silliness here at Nerd Cactus. I know it might seem inappropriate to post giggle-worthy things right now, given what the people of Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, and Africa are going through. But I think we especially need humor in these moments, because laughter is human and what we need to do right now is find that humanity. I echo the sentiments of A in her post yesterday and urge you to donate to worldwide relief efforts. Donate especially to Doctors Without Borders, an organization founded in France and dedicated to making sure that people everywhere–even in the heart of war zones–have access to medical care. Because then you’ll be donating to something so emblematic of what France stands for and, ultimately, that seems to me to be the thing you can do to celebrate France’s humanity the most.

But, let’s have some laughter. As a person shoulder deep in NaNo right now, I’m finding just about anything celebrating the plight of the writer very funny. Fits of giggles, I’m telling you. Here’s a few good ones:

(Oh, the rage.)

And my current favorite:

That’s it for today! Tune in tomorrow for the Muse!

C