Shakespeare Saturday: Yon Dread Cthulhu

Greetings, Internetlandia! It is I, C, back for another round of Nerd Cactusery…? OK, no. Let’s forget that ever happened, shall we? I’m on literally no sleep minus a 2-hour nap I just rose from the deep to shake off. When the blog calls, sleep can wait!

Speaking of rising from the deep…

No. No. I will not continue that sentence. No.

Listen. I love Shakespeare. I think we’ve all discussed that. I am also a fan–albeit less of one–of H.P. Lovecraft, the man literally shaped by the gods to write dark, twisted Sci-Fi. I mean, seriously…some people are clearly born to write dark stuff.

Edgar Allan Poe

H.P. Lovecraft

Dr. Seuss.

What? I’m convinced there’s something sinister in Whotown. A Whotown Whodunnit would be Whotastic! It could be solved by the Doctor! Who? No. No, no, no. I did it again. Ladies and gentlemen, DO NOT SKIP SLEEP. I had reasons which made it necessary for one day, but I’m beginning to think there is nothing in the world that is worth going without sleep. LOOK WHAT IT DOES TO ME!

Anyway. The lovely lady over at The Scribble Bug sent this my way this morning, and I just about had a meltdown. Seriously…my face nearly melted from excitement. (Or was it the whispers of the Great Old Ones…?) It is…*fanfare* a Kickstarter for an amazing anthology of Shakespeare-meets-Lovecraft stories! And…*double fanfare*…it’s already met it’s goal.

Face-Melting Awesomeness!

Now. Just because it’s met its goal does not mean you shouldn’t go over there RIGHT NOW and pledge some money. WHY?! Because there are always other goals, like awesome art. A book of Hamlet being tortured by Cthulhu (and doesn’t that explain so much) NEEDS PICTURES! (Note: I do not know if there is a story about Hamlet being tortured by Cthulhu. This is just my new explanation for his behavior. Maybe he really was coo-coo for cocoa puffs!) Stuff like this is exactly what we need to be supporting because stuff like this is what archaeologists in the future will use to determine that the human race still had some decency left in it before President Trump nukes the world at Cthulhu’s behest in this day and age. Do we wanna rock?! Yes. We. Do.

So, go forth Nerds of Internetlandia! DO YOUR DUTY!

C

ps- A will be back tomorrow with something silly. How she’s going to top this doozy, I do not know.

Boozy Books: Emma

Greetings! I’m really sorry this is late. A is in a show right now, and that always gets the way of things here at Nerd Cactus. So you’re stuck with me. Sorry…

I wasn’t prepared to do this today. Luckily, I’ve got a backlog of books I’m ready to talk about at a moment’s notice. And so I dive into one of them today, even though I haven’t actually read it recently. I don’t need to, to talk about it. It’s something I know well enough that I can *always* talk about it.

The thing with Emma is…I don’t like Emma. Not the book. The character. And, really, that was Jane Austen’s goal. She set out to write a character no one would much like except herself. And, really, she succeeded. Emma is privileged. She is “handsome, clever, and rich” in a world where that makes her a triple threat. Because of her status, people look up to her. Because of her cleverness, people regard her opinion. And she is spoiled because of it. Spoiled, headstrong, and entirely too self-satisfied for her own good. Emma doesn’t understand how much she doesn’t understand, and imagines that her worldview is what the world really is.  And it gets her–but mostly other people–in trouble.

On the other hand, Mr. Knightley is my favorite of Austen’s heroes. Yes…even more so than Mr. Darcy. A lot of people think he’s too bossy, trying to change Emma and unhappy with who she is. This is because a lot of people think loving someone means accepting them as they are. I do not. I believe loving someone is helping them to become the best version of themselves, and that is what Mr. Knightley represents. He is mature, moral, and possesses good judgment. Most of all, he is the only person in the entire novel to bother challenging Emma’s misconceptions and selfishness. When she insults Miss Bates, he calls her on it. When she convinces Harriet Smith to refuse Robert Martin, he realizes she’s put her own wishes above what Harriet really wants (and what’s best for Harriet). He is not trying to change Emma; he is trying to get her to grow up. And I think he brings out her best side. The only reason I prefer Elizabeth and Darcy as a couple is because they do that for one another, and I’m still not sure what good Emma brings out in Knightley. (I’m open to suggestions in the comments. My current theory is that he might be a tad too serious on occasion, and she might teach him to loosen up…but she’s actually the stuck-up…so maybe not.)

Emma is basically the story of Emma Woodhouse’s attempts to play matchmaker for all of Highbury. She gets lucky with her former governess–Miss Taylor–and a widower named Mr. Weston, and decides she has a real gift for the “profession”. Emma is basically Queen Bee of Highbury society, and used to getting her own way, so, when things don’t turn out the way she expects them to, she starts digging herself an ever-deeper whole until things come to an inevitable head. Because this is Austen, everyone ends up happy…except maybe Elton, who picks an awful human being for a wife. But, really, you read Austen for the satire (or, at least, I do), and that is eminently enjoyable here.

You see, Emma is rich and, thus, does not want to marry. This makes her different from Austen’s other heroines, for whom the search for a desirable marriage and financial security are paramount. She is not a Romantic like Marianne Dashwood, and has very little understanding of her own feelings, which is reflected in her misconceptions about others. Where Emma finds her place among Austen’s heroines is in the generally dull and restrained nature of her life. She has never left Highbury, and though she is beloved there, her experiences are very narrow, so she is not worldly or cosmopolitan at all. Thus, her worldview is shaped only by what makes its way to Highbury; it is because Frank Churchill represents drama and excitement that she becomes so attached to him. And, in the end, Emma becomes Austen’s exploration (and perhaps protest) of the narrow confines of a wealthy woman’s life. It is also, perhaps, Austen poking fun at the marriage plot itself, though the novel ends as her novels always do. Is this Austen’s indictment of the inevitability of marriage for women, and the fact that they have no other means of escape? Probably. Austen herself never married and experienced first-hand the limits of society on women. (Which is why I really wish Charlotte Brontë had been a little less bitchy about Austen’s novels, since Jane Eyre deals with many of the same themes.)

Anyway…what to drink? Well, I’m choosing a Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade, with or without alcohol. Why? Like many of Austen’s novels, there’s a touch of the effervescent about a sparkling beverage; the bubbles tickle your nose, maybe make you giggle. And there are some very amusing, light, bubbly moments to be found in Emma (even if most of them do not come from the main character). Harriet Smith not figuring out Mr. Elton’s ridiculously simple riddle comes to mind. There are also some sweet moments throughout the story, represented by the strawberries (not to mention a strawberry picking party). Most of all, however, there are some tart moments, where people behave badly or you don’t quite like the flavor (like lemonade without enough sugar). When balanced, though, you get something that is marvelously enjoyable, even if the main character can sometimes leave a sour taste on your tongue. If you don’t want alcohol, mix pureed strawberries (strained of seeds) and fresh lemon juice with simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar) and sparkling water. If you do, I recommend a sparkling wine…maybe even Champagne, to reflect just how fancy Emma is.

Well…sorry that this is late, again. I’ll be back tomorrow with Shakespeare!

C

Monday Muse: It’s Excerpt Time!

Hello, lovely readers! Happy Monday… er, Tuesday, now, I suppose. C and I have been up to our ears in editing and, though progress has been slowed due to our ongoing war with technology, we have been making some great headway.

As proof: we present a teeny tiny tidbit from chapter six of Killing Mercutio (still a working title, but I’ve grown rather fond of it…).

So give it a read and let us know what you think 😉

Cheers!

-A

 

*Excerpt from Chapter 6 – Romeo

“Come, my lofty friend!” Romeo bellowed over his shoulder to poor, uncomprehending Mercutio. “Let us share a fair dose of this city’s finest villainies.”

He goosed a buxom wench who had beckoned him with a bawdy smile, and continued lampooning his way deeper into the seedy southern district of Verona. Benvolio jested that the city’s finest villainies were, in fact, the lewd tongue and groping fingers of one Romeo Montague. Romeo laughed, basking in his devilish public role. Though he was a Montague by name and birthright, none thought to conceal their wrongs before the self-proclaimed prince of debauchery.

“This way,” he called, beckoning with his entire arm as though already fighting the drunken man’s battle for balance. The afternoon was young, but Romeo and Benvolio were known to frequent the city’s taverns from dawn ‘til dusk. There was no better way to gather intelligence first-hand. The exception, of course, was house Capulet. Try as they might, Romeo and Benvolio had never come across a loose-lipped lackey of Verona’s most devious lord.

They meandered through an alley and came out in a small square surrounded by the backsides of several inns of ill repute. Mercutio looked thoroughly irritated. “If this is some kind of jape, you will find I have no interest in playing along.”

“Oh, calm thyself, Mercutio, thou pompous dewberry,” Romeo chuckled. “We aim to assist you. If you like us not and should so choose, death awaits with open arms, I assure you.”

Benvolio scouted the area and, when satisfied they had not been followed, made his way up a set of stairs attached to the back of one of the edifices. Mercutio watched him ascend, gasping audibly as he swung out onto the smooth wall of the building and deftly climbed the rest of the way to the roof.

“He is an unusual man, isn’t he?” Romeo said, following Mercutio’s gaze.

“Man? Methinks I beheld an ape…”

Romeo laughed at that. He clapped Mercutio on the back and beckoned him to follow with a jerk of his head. 

Mercutio snorted and took a step away from Romeo. “I would sooner not break my neck attempting such a feat, thank you.”

“You need only use your feet, old friend,” Romeo said, happy to play upon Visconti’s words. He remembered that, as a younger man, Mercutio had a rather delightful gift for word play.  

Mercutio crossed his arms. “So you are aware that it is, in fact, feet that I possess? They are not paws nor claws nor talons. I repeat: I am not game for your jests.”

As Mercutio spoke, Romeo turned with a flourish, waving his hand before him as a rope ladder quietly descended from Benvolio’s perch upon the roof. “After you.”

Silly Sunday: Darcy Tries to Be Cool

Hey, guys! Welcome to Silly Sunday! It’s our day of silly! And it’s Sunday! Yes…feel the head explosions. Feel them.

Do y’all remember a while back when I decided I was going to have an unofficial Pride and Prejudice week because I was in charge of everything but Saturday? Of course you do. But in case you don’t here’s the Monday Muse:

Why Mr. Darcy is just that Awkward Kid Sitting in the Corner

(Warning: Those of you who think Colin Firth is the end-all-be-all of Darcy, please understand I mean you no harm. And don’t hurt me)

And here’s the Boozy Books from that week:

Boozy Books: Pride and Prejudice!

Now, I was seriously proud of the Silly Sunday I found that week (Guinea Pig Pride and Prejudice), but this could have been a really good substitute. Not only is it completely fitting with what I think of as Mr. Darcy’s Character, but it would have rounded out the week on a deeper thematic level. Alas, I did not find it until now. So, you! YOU ON THE INTERNET! (Hi!!!!!) Read the links I posted above and then come back here and giggle at the pictures below. GIGGLE, I tell you.

HAHAHAHAHA! OK…I didn’t giggle. I full on laughed. That’s some straight up Darcy right there. Yes, I’ve lost my mind. There’s editing, research (did you know I know nothing about science and never realized it until my head came up with an idea I have no idea how to do), world-building (well, actually…it’s more like character building at this point, since I have a pretty damn good idea of the world), and MORE research (Shakespeare totally wishes he could have Andrew Lloyd Webber’d Hamlet…or at least added some explosions for Hamlet to walk away from). And, apparently, I still need to adult, which means cleaning my house and folding the mountain of clothes lying next to me on the couch. I hate folding so much…

Again, I’ve lost my mind.

Well…that was the Silly! Tomorrow, hopefully, A will give you something coherent. I dunno, though…she can get pretty weird when her shows get going. And she’s got a ton of editing to do, as well. We’ve both got SO MUCH editing to do.

And I just realized I need to clean my shower. Dammit.

Bye!

C

Shakespeare Saturday: Famous Brits Reading Shakespeare

Happy Saturday, everyone!
I’m smack dab in the middle of another fabulous opening weekend, which means my post tonight will be short and  sweet. But no less Shakespeare-y!

I recently stumbled on a fun blogspot through bbcamerica.com that runs under the name Anglophenia. They’ve got videos and listicles, and lots of it pertains to Shakespeare. Today, I give you their collection of British actors reading Shakespeare. The compilation is wonderfully diverse, including readings of soliloquoys and sonnets by Daniel Radcliffe, Helen Mirren, Matthew MacFayden and more!

http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2015/04/12-british-actors-reading-shakespeare-for-shakespeare-day/

Enjoy!

-A

Boozy Books: Anne of Green Gables

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached another edition of Boozy Books, our favoritest feature of the week! Seriously…books and booze! How much cooler can it get?

Anyway. This morning, my friend over at The Scribble Bug reminded me of one of my favorite posts she’s ever done: a look at her favorite heroines and how they’ve affected her. I actually considered doing the book that inspired the post–How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis–but it’s such a personal thing, I wasn’t sure I could pick the proper drink. I would have picked a whiskey sour because it’s my go-to drink, but that’s not necessarily the right drink for the book, or for y’all, and I don’t want to do that. But it’s a good book and I wanted to capture some of its spirit.

So I turned to my own heroines.

Brief explanation: How to be a Heroine is about Samantha Ellis returning to the literary heroines that have defined her life at various periods and reexamining whether or not they hold up. It’s a memoir and a love letter to literature all in one, and I cannot recommend it enough.

I sat there and I looked through the characters–the heroines–that had defined my life. There weren’t as many as I thought, which surprised me, but I have always been so much harder on female characters than their male counterparts that it takes more for me to let them in. And there are some I love that end up disappointing; even the one I chose today ends up giving up what I loved so much about her. But it came down to either Beatrice or Anne Shirley for today, and Much Ado About Nothing is not, technically speaking, a book.

So…Anne of Green Gables it is. Or, I suppose, the entire series, though the latter books become as much of a disappointment to me as they became to Samantha Ellis. (Seriously, read that book.) Anne Shirley is a character whose imagination is endless, allowing her to escape her misery and make the world a better place. She is full of warmth and passion and kindness, though her innate romanticism can often get her in trouble. And, more, she turns that imagination into a passion for writing, which was the greatest thing ever. I loved the shit out of those books, guys.

And I just realized I never actually mentioned anything about what they’re about. I’m not good at this. The series follows the lives and happenings of Avonlea (for the most part), a village on Prince Edward Island, particularly those lives entwined within the world of Anne, an orphan who is (mistakenly) adopted by the Cuthberts of Green Gables. It is based upon the village of Cavendish, in which author L.M. Montgomery lived as a child. Anne, her best friend (her bosom friend) Diana, rival-turned-love Gilbert Blythe, the Cuthberts, and numerous other characters deal with life, love, fear, victories, defeats, etc. It really is a great slice-of-life of Victorian and Edwardian Canada (the series spans decades). But the most important part is undoubtedly Anne herself. And, though Montgomery makes the horrendous choice to “tame” Anne as she gets older, the true Anne will always be the girl worried about her red hair and slamming a slate onto Gilbert’s head.

But what to drink? What to drink?! It’s obvious to me: currant wine. Early on in Anne of Green Gables, Anne invites her “bosom friend” Diana over for tea while Marilla Cuthbert is out. She means to serve raspberry cordial, but instead gives Diana currant wine, which gets the poor girl drunk and causes Diana’s mother to end the friendship. (No worries on them coming back together; Anne’s too spunky for that.) In honor of that truly Anne-tastic moment (wow, I feel bad for typing that), I say we all lift a few glasses of currant wine in Anne’s honor!

So. That’s it for me today! A will be back tomorrow with the Shakespeare Shakedown. Until then, this has been me telling you what to drink!

C

Buy the book:

Anne of Green Gables

http://www.amazon.com/Anne-Green-Gables-Complete-8-Book/dp/0553609416/

How to be a Heroine

http://www.amazon.com/How-Be-Heroine-Learned-Reading/dp/1101872098

Buy (or make) the booze:

To buy-

https://vinoshipper.com/wines/strawbale_winery/black_currant_wine_1,668

OR, if you’re super into waiting six months, you can make your own-

https://foodfictionblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/anne-of-green-gables-currant-wine/

Monday Muse: Uh…what?

Hey guys! It’s Monday Muse time!

I’ll be real with you; my brain is mush. I just got home from spending the entire day with A, editing our manuscript. Basically, all the work we put into editing separately, we went and did again, only together. So…yeah.

We worked on it for just under eight hours (taking a break for lunch) and got…nine chapters done. Nine. Out of the twenty-three we were supposed to get done before meeting today, we managed to get through nine.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t as hard as we thought it was going to be. Basically, there were things we agreed should go and things only one of us thought should go, but the other agreed. There were only a few things one or the other of us fought for, and we generally kept it.

All told, we cut over 8000 words. And there are 37 chapters left to edit. I think we did well, don’t you? We really earned those whiskey sours, which we figured we needed after the tenth time one of us said, “Son of a bitch!” upon realizing we’d only gotten nine chapters done.

Something we discovered in working on this together: our skills are really complementary. A, being an actress, has a facility with natural dialogue that I do not possess (it probably doesn’t help that I often speak like a professor amongst my friends), and I am better with recognizing prose that needs editing. Stuff like getting rid of adverbs or combining two adjectives into their best possible form. Or recognizing when the voice is oddly distant for third person limited. Together, I think we’re going to find the best possible form of this novel. The form that, hopefully, the world will see.

Anyway…I’m sorry this isn’t much of a muse. I wasn’t kidding when I said my brain was mush. For a while there, I forgot how to word. But, really…it’s worth it because, in the end, editing is just as important as writing; you’ve got to be good at both to create anything worth a damn.

Well, that’s it for me today. I’m going to watch The Golden Girls and relax. See y’all on Friday with this week’s literary libation!

C

Silly Sunday: Kylo Ren on Undercover Boss

Happy Sunday, readers!
Today’s silliness is nerdiness at it’s very best, so buckle up!

For those of you who missed it, last night’s season opener of Saturday Night Live was hosted by Adam Driver (AKA Kylo Ren). The episode included a number of very entertaining sketches, but the “Undercover Boss: Star Killer Base” sketch stole the show. Without question. If you haven’t seen it, the link is below for your enjoyment!

http://www.vulture.com/2016/01/snl-sends-kylo-ren-undercover.html?mid=facebook_vulture

A

Shakespeare Saturday: On Death

I’ve been thinking about death lately. How not, when the world lost some brilliant people in the last few days? I’ve been pondering how it affects us, especially how the death of someone we’ve never met can steal the air from our lungs and leave the ground beneath us no more solid than quicksand. Is it the shock of their mortality? The idea that we never even knew they were sick? Or is it something more; something more like losing a part of ourselves that we never realized was there? The death of the characters–and they are characters, because we construct them from the snippets of what we know–we love steals from us the part of ourselves that loved them. They changed us, taught us things, made us realize who we are, and now they’re gone.

The world is a little less magical, a little less secure, because the firmament of ourselves has been built–perhaps not entirely, but certainly in bits and pieces–upon what we love about these now-lost heroes. And now we must face a world without them, which is, perhaps, something we never thought we’d have to do.

I confess it is is the loss of Alan Rickman which hurts me the most. I was never the hugest fan of David Bowie’s music, so I never connected with him the way a lot of people did; my mourning for his loss was more because I knew just how important he was to music. But Rickman…

My friend shared this with me the other day, and hearing it made me realize what I needed to write about today:

 

I needed to talk about death and Shakespeare. Both because I needed to mourn through words–they’re so much neater, so much more relatable than anything else–and because I couldn’t help but think about Shakespeare’s ability to cut right to the heart of death. He gave us Hamlet, one of the greatest works on grief and loss I think the English language has ever experienced. (How I hated it so much as a kid, I will never understand. Stupid me. Stupid, stupid me.) He had a way of expressing so…perfectly what loss can do to a person. Such a deep, unfathomable emotion–the kind which shuns erudition and sets a weight upon our tongues–and he wrenched it from himself and put it down on paper for posterity. Shakespeare gave us death in all its forms, and we have but to choose which version it is that reflects best how we feel.

The worst part about it is that we know next-to-nothing about his own death. We know he died on April 23, 1616 in Stratford-upon-Avon and was buried there. We know it was about a month after writing his will in “perfect health”, but that is about it. Based on one tribute from his fellow writer, we believe he died rather suddenly, perhaps of a fever contracted after a night of hard drinking. But, really, we know very little about the man who put grief on paper so the whole world could find the right words to describe it. I like to think that there was mourning; if Victorians could bear black arm bands for Sherlock Holmes (not to mention engage in a serious campaign to bring him back), I like to think the theaters went dark and the nation mourned. Death was no more ever-present then than in Victorian times (minus the plague, really, all the others tended to stay), and Shakespeare achieved popular acclaim on levels approaching superstar-dom. But we will never know, and I think that’s a shame. Because when the world loses someone like a Shakespeare or a Bowie or a Rickman, I think we should all take the time to mourn.

‘Tis a vile thing to die, my gracious lord,
When men are unprepared and look not for it.                                                                                                                                                        -Richard III Act 3, Scene 2

We’ll be back tomorrow with something silly. Thank the deity of your choosing (or not).

C

Boozy Books: Life of Pi

Happiest of Fridays to you, dear readers! I hope everyone made it through the week in one piece… It was particularly grueling on my end, but exhaustion will not stop me from pairing a piece of literature with a glass of alcohol! Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Yann Martel’s Life of Pi is this week’s pick; a story that is as vivid as it is unique, with a cast of unforgettable characters. (Also, Ang Lee filmed a beautiful adaptation of it, but as always, the book is better.) Having only been published in 2001 Life of Pi is a fairly new addition to the literary canon, but it has arguably claimed it’s place already.

Life of Pi follows the life of Piscine “Pi” Molitar Patel. Growing up in Pondicherry, India, where his father runs a zoo, Pi is an intelligent and curious boy. During his childhood he discovers a love of Hinduism, Catholicism, and Islam, practicing each faith with devotion. His life changes when his father sells the zoo and relocates the family to Canada. The bulk of the narrative occurs after the cargo ship Pi’s family is on sinks. He survives the wreck and ends up sharing a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a 450 pound bengal tiger named Richard Parker. I’ll end the summary there for those of you who have yet to read it… Needless to say, things get pretty interesting from this point forward.

I’ll leave it to you to read, my dears. But, now, on to the main event! What to pair with this enticing story of survival and humanity? Given that Pi is stranded in a lifeboat for 227 days the first option is to drink whatever drink you would most crave in that kind of situation. So, what is your stranded island drink? I’d stay away from Margaritas, personally. (Surrounded by all that salt water, y’know?)

Option number two is a rather delectable Indian drink called Somrus. Unfortunately, it’s only available in a few states in the US (Florida, being one of them… Yay!). It’s described as creamy, floral, and nutty, and sounds like exactly the kind of comforting, happiness-inducing drink I’d choose after spending the better part of a year with a tiger…

Well, anyway, enjoy! And don’t forget to join us for another edition of Shakespeare Saturday tomorrow!

-A

PS – We now have a Facebook page! Give us a like and get our posts directly on your feed!

https://m.facebook.com/NerdCactusAdventures/

Get the book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0156027321/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1452918446&sr=8-1&pi=SY200_QL40&keywords=the+life+of+pi

Get the booze: http://www.somrus.com/welcome.php