Monday Muse: On Mondays We Muse

Good evening, everybody! It’s time again for a Monday Muse. Today marks another “day off” that was not meant to be… With one day off per week you’d think I would take my down time more seriously, but, alas, I am a workaholic who needs to audition endlessly to find said work. It’s a vicious cycle, but the old adage”I’ll sleep when I’m dead” often gets me through…

In other news: I’ve finally gotten back into the swing of things, editing-wise. That’s right, I’m back to re-reading Killing Mercutio. I’m closing in on the end of the final round of editing! …Assuming I read faster than my eyes droop shut. Not to worry, though! I’m in my final week of Hair and with a full 5 days of boring unemployment in sight I will have plenty of reading time.

On that note, I think I’ll take this opportunity to do some reading/editing. Today’s Muse is more of an update, letting you, our fabulous readers, know that I am alive and well, and working towards the end of our biggest project to date. Nerd Cactus will ready for beta readers in no time. Also, C and I are making pretty great forward progress on “Project Jonspeare” (details to come).

Anyway, have a wonderful Monday and maybe a glass of wine because Mondays are rough.

Cheers!

-A

Silly Sunday: DISNEY!

Hi!

Welcome to Silly Sunday! Also known as Sunday Funday!

Wee!

Did you know it’s taken me twenty minutes to write those sentences? Watching Game of Thrones while typing is no easy feat. I can do it, but I need to do it slowly.

OMG, you DICK! Be nice to Sam! He is a precious cinnamon roll and his knowledge is going to help save the world. If only just to spite you, dammit.

Before I live blog this episode, here’s today’s gem of a Disney treat:

Ursula Does the Haunted Mansion Narration

Enjoy and have a great night. A will be here tomorrow with a Muse!

C

Boozy Books: The Sarantine Mosaic

Heyo! Welcome to Boozy Books, where we stretch our minds with books and dumb them down with booze.

Let’s get going. I’m seeing A’s new show later tonight, so I am going to make this as quick as e’er I’ve made anything, barring, perhaps, a Silly Sunday or two.

I can’t recall if I’ve ever paired something by Guy Gavriel Kay or not and I’m too darn lazy to go searching right at this moment, but, if I haven’t, it’s a damned shame and, if I have, it’s been too damn long. Kay is such a master of historical fantasy, it’d be a sin if anyone went through life without ever reading anything of his.

There are a few things I love about The Sarantine Mosaic that have nothing to do with the plot or characters within. First, it’s a duology, which is incredibly rare in fantasy. Trilogies or on-going series are far more common. And second, this duology is but one piece of the mosaic (see what I did there?) that is the world in which it takes place. While these novels focus on the Eastern Roman Empire (or, rather, a fantasy facsimile thereof), others in this world deal with the Viking invasions of Saxon England, and Moorish Spain. I am a sucker for reading about a character in one book and finding out how they’ve affected the world in another, especially if it isn’t the same series. But, I mean, you all know about my everlasting love for amazing world-building; I’ve only mentioned it a thousand gazillion times.

The Sarantine Mosaic, consisting of two novels — Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors — focuses, as much as anything titled mosaic, on the mosaicist Caius Crispus, called Crispin, who is summoned from his home in Varena to the great city of Sarantium, the capital of Trakesia, to create a great mosaic for Emperor Valerius II. The first book follows Crispin as he leaves his home and makes his way to the metropolis, eventually arriving and beginning his work on the new sanctuary (basically this world’s Hagia Sophia), as well as finding himself inextricably entwined in the city’s politics. (In case it wasn’t obvious, Valerius II is basically Emperor Justinian.) The second novel continues on from the first (obviously), with Crispin working on his mosaic and finding himself ever more part of the intrigue and politics of the mighty city.

OK, so that doesn’t sound that great, does it? Did I mention there’s a smattering, however light, of magic? And that the writing is some of the most beautiful, evocative language I’ve ever had the privilege to read? Or how about the fact that, while the world is obviously based in our history, it is at no point married to it and never sacrifices the story for the sake of being slavish to historical events? In historical fiction, that’d probably be a bad thing, but in historical fantasy, it’s absolutely the right thing to do. And Kay does it masterfully. The Sarantine Mosaic deals with themes of immortality through art (which, as a writer, I approve of), dealing with and overcoming loss, journey as change, the importance of art… and all of these things are beautifully woven through characters that are sometimes lovable, sometimes disgusting, but always human. And, really, what more could you want from a book? (Or, in this case, two?)

So… what to drink? Well, I did a bit of research into the matter and it seems that wines from the Negev region of Southern Israel were tremendously popular in the Byzantine Empire. In fact, though the exact grape may be lost to extinction, Wine of the Negev was THE most popular wine in the Empire. So, to the internet I went! And discovered that the Negev is home, once again, to quite a few wineries. My choice for tonight is, then, a wine brewed in the Negev region. And, knowing the Roman predilection for sweet wines, I have chosen a Port-style fortified sweet wine. If you can’t find a wine from a winery in the Negev, I’m pretty sure any ol’ Port will do, so long as it’s the sweet variety. The Byzantines loved wine, after all.

Well, that’s it for me today! I’m off to see A’s show! She’ll be here tomorrow with the Shakespeare!

C

Monday Muse: A Trip Down Soapbox Lane

Hello. Welcome to today’s Monday Muse.

*gets on soapbox*

Yes. Today is one of C’s bonafide rambles. I haven’t done one in a while, but I’m putting on my angry historian hat and letting my fingers fly.

I’m sure all of you have heard of V for Vendetta. I mean, seriously… we’ve all heard of it. Or watched it. Or, better, read it. And we’ve all seen the effect of its symbolism upon the world.

(Note: Before I continue, if anyone from Anonymous reads this, please do not destroy my life. I’m a nice person; I just think there’s a better person’s face you should be wearing on your face… if that makes sense. A forgotten person. You guys are great.)

OK, so the story is about oppressive governments and whatnot. I dunno… I’ve never actually gotten all the way through it. I could never get past the fact that Guy Fawkes was the person Alan Moore chose as his symbol of fighting government oppression. It baffled me and took me out of the story too much to enjoy it. Because, get this:

Guy Fawkes is not a symbol of rebellion. He’s a symbol of stupidity. And the government he wanted to overthrow wasn’t really all the oppressive, especially when you understand WHY he wanted to bring it down.

Before I explain, let me tell you something about myself: when I think someone has done something stupid, I want to know WHY they did it. What drove them. And so I had to know why it was that Moore and his artist chose, of all things, Guy Fawkes masks. I mean, I understood that the visual was something instantly recognizable to British audiences, and the visual of comics is just as important as the story they tell. Which would have been a decent explanation even if I couldn’t really throw myself behind the idea that these characters chose Fawkes as their symbol. Maybe it was the idea of being willing to use terror as a weapon against tyranny? I didn’t know. But Guy Fawkes… it just seemed stupid.

Why? Because he failed. He failed so hard. And, funnily enough, he wasn’t even really the leader of the event that made him so famous: The Gunpowder Plot. He was just the guy hired because he had munitions experience.

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was an attempt by a group of Catholic dissidents to blow up King James I and Parliament in order to put a more conservative, pro-Catholic (or just Catholic) government in its place. Led by Robert Catesby, the ultimate goal of the plot was to start a series of rebellions in the Midlands that would eventually end with the King’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, on the throne. (Let’s take a moment to appreciate the irony of English Catholics wanting to put a princess named Elizabeth on the throne. Oh… omnomnom. Delicious irony.) Catesby et al did have legitimate concerns about the treatment of Catholics in England, but simply being allowed to live and worship in a Protestant nation wasn’t enough for them: they wanted England to be Catholic again. Even as the King reaffirmed his desire to avoid religious persecution in England, they began their plot. They chose the State Opening of Parliament because, not only would the King and Parliament be there, but members of the Privy Council and even of James’ family. It would cripple the government and allow the conspirators to reform it in their own image.

It failed. Badly. An anonymous letter sent to the Lord Monteagle (possibly/probably by his brother-in-law, who was one of the conspirators) gave up the ghost and brought the whole thing crumbling down. As the man left behind the light the fuses, Guy Fawkes was the one arrested in the early hours of November 5th, but the rest of the cabal were tracked to Warwick Castle and either killed or arrested. Within a few days, Fawkes had confessed; within a month, the Catholic clergy were tied to the Plot. And rather than have a Catholic England, the Plot ended up leading to even stronger anti-Catholic sentiment in the nation.

A lesson unto you all: if you want to start a revolution, DO NOT ASSASSINATE YOUR OPPOSITION’S LEADER. All you’ll end up doing, whether you succeed or fail in killing your target, is strengthening that opposition at its lower levels. You need to change hearts and minds first, THEN work your way up to the stop.

Now. WHY, oh WHY would anyone choose Guy Fawkes as their symbol, knowing all of that?

The worst part was I found out that Moore and his artist somehow came to the conclusion that Guy Fawkes was the product of, like, government suppression of the truth. That he was actually a hero, but history had been re-written in order to paint him as a comical figure. *insert angry face* No. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but, in this case, it didn’t happen. The Gunpowder Plot was not a heroic uprising against a tyrannical government; it was just another battle in the long war of Which Jesus Do You Worship.

BUT! Let it not be said that I am a decry-er of storytelling choices without suggesting another option!

Wat Tyler.

Yeah, that’s right. You want a rebellion against an unjust government cut down and maligned by said unjust government? Then you want Wat Tyler. The Peasants’ Revolt began as a response to serfdom, taxation, and, you know, being treated as Peasants in the 1400s. It began in Kent and, initially, it was successful; they won concessions from Richard II’s government, including the abolition of Serfdom. And then, when the two sides met at Smithfield, Richard’s representatives killed Wat and forcibly suppressed the rebellion all over England, rescinding all of their promises and killing thousands.

Where the hell is his mask? This was the perfect choice for Moore and they went with GUY FAWKES?! WTF? Seriously. Does NO ONE RESEARCH BEFORE THEY WRITE?!

ARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!

OK. That’s enough for me today. I think I’ve verged into essay territory now. I apologize for that. I’ll be back on Friday for a shorter (I promise!) Boozy Books.

C

Silly Sunday: Chewbacca

Happy Sunday, everyone! It’s time for some silliness. If you haven’t already seen this video that went viral over the weekend, shame on you… but because I love you and want you to share in the joy and laughter here it is. We all need to join the world of happiness that Candace lives in. And if that means buying a Chewbacca mask, so be it.

Have fun laughing along!

-A

Shakespeare Saturday: Shakes in the Buff!

Heyo, and welcome to today’s Shakespeare Saturday! I realize I’m right on the cusp here, but I am absolutely determined to get this post in today!

The reason I’m late today is actually two-fold:

  1. I finally got tired of not being able to write at home, so I went to IKEA and bought a damn desk.
  2. As soon as it was assembled (am I Captain America now?!), I WROTE SO MUCH! YAY! I think this new novel of mine is finally well underway.

Anyway. Today’s a bit of a weird one. You know the Nerd Cactus adage that Shakespeare is for everyone? Well, apparently he’s for those who like to be nude, too. Yup. I give you:

The All-Woman, Nude Production of The Tempest

Do enjoy. It’s probably NSFW since there’s boobies and fannies (both meanings) running around in Central Park, but, hey, the Bard really is for everyone!

Well… I’m going back to writing. OMG, THE WRITING! YAY!

We’ll be back tomorrow with the Silly!

C

Boozy Books: Broadway Nights

Hello, readers! It is I, the ever-busy, always behind schedule, A. Tonight is opening night of my latest show so I’m going to do my best to throw something together for you despite the nerves and excitement that threaten to consume me.

In the spirit of the theatre I’m pairing a little-known “theatre geek” novel by Seth Rudetsky. Broadway Nights is a silly, irreverent look at theatre from a music director’s point of view. Now, it helps to know a thing or two about musicals to enjoy this one, but it has a snarky sense of humor that will keep anyone laughing. Following the journey of music director on his path to conducting his first Broadway show the story contains a wealth of truth about the industry along with the hysterical fictional story of Stephen Sherrin.

It’s an easy read and requires an easy, fun, tart type of drink. Enjoy a whiskey sour with this one, but be careful you don’t snort it out of your nose… there are lots of laughs to be had.

Happy Friday!!!!

-A

Monday Muse: Classism in Theater

Heyo, and welcome to the Monday Muse.

As you might have noticed, I am not A, who is scheduled to do today’s post. She is in tech rehearsals today and won’t be able to make it to Cactuslandia, so I agreed to step in and take care of it.

Of course, now she gets to deal with the fact that I’m going to steal today’s topic from a conversation we had yesterday as we were driving to the theater to see Civil War. So… here we go.

A and I love theater. Probably for different reasons and definitely at different levels, but both of us love it. So we both enjoy taking the opportunity to see something when the time comes. Now, admittedly, I’m not nearly as much into musicals as A is, so I don’t see as many, but the point still stands that we enjoy an evening of live theater.

But neither of us are particularly wealthy, so it can be economically unfeasible to see as much as we would like. Especially since the ticket prices are often astronomical. Seriously… you think a movie ticket is bad? I could see 5-6 movies for the price of a cheap show. Now, I’m not saying that theater isn’t worth the money — of course it is — but the prices being what they are has the unfortunate side effect of homogenizing the theater-going audience. In effect, theater is segregated, but not on racial lines; rather, class is the dividing factor. The poor simply cannot go.

It’s more than just ticket costs, as well. Even the debate about proper attire has economic undertones. Do we dress up or come as we are? In a movie theater, we can wear whatever; there is no need to prove that we belong by looking the part. But the debate over proper attire in live theater serves as an economic barrier; it’s proof that live theater is not nearly as egalitarian as film. Of course, the fact that there’s a debate at all is indicative of a thawing in those socio-economic lines. But the looks I’ve received for wearing Chucks — even with a nice outfit — would indicate that these rules serve to prove who the right people are.

Now, things are getting better. There are lotteries, student discounts, education outreach programs, rush tickets, etc. Up at the Stratford Festival, there are two-for-one deals, half off tickets, and a program for high school and college aged kids to get tickets from $15 bucks (which is how A and I got half of our tickets, to be perfectly honest). But, and this is a big but, a lot of these programs end when you turn 26. Sure, you can still rush or go for the lottery, but then you’re leaving things up to luck. And theater shouldn’t be about luck. Theater is too important, and too wonderful, to be left up to luck.

Back in Shakespeare’s day, groundling “seats” cost a penny. All but the most absolutely destitute could afford to go to the Globe for Bill’s latest project, and they would see the same show as everyone else. But then came the big divide during the Restoration. The rich got the “legitimate” theater while the poor got music halls and vaudeville. Eventually, we got film and audiences converged once more. But theater… theater remained the province of the rich. (As did opera, of course.) And this is not right. Because that economic divide in audiences has also lead to the belief that theater is elitist, especially stuff like Shakespeare. Theater-goers are the rich, out-of-touch types, too snooty and fancy to know what “real folk” like. And that, in turn, has led to the belief that stuff like Shakespeare is boring… even though he’s got as many dick jokes as anyone could want.

We need to make a campaign to fix that. Theater needs to be for everyone. It shouldn’t be about age or luck, but allowing everyone in. Will it end up being a little rowdier than we’re used to? Yes. But maybe that’ll make the experience just a little bit more genuine. Because I, for one, wish theater was more like it was in Shakespeare’s day.

(A would also want me to tell everyone this post is brought to you by the fact that she couldn’t see a show she really wanted to see because she just aged out of the Student Discount programs. Maybe it sounds whiney, but that should not have happened. People who want to see theater should be able to see theater regardless of their economic status.)

C

Silly Sunday: Lady Susan

Heyo! Welcome to Cactuslandia, readers!

Today, A and I are seeing Captain America: Civil War. In fact, we’ll probably be there as you’re reading this.

But, wait! C, I know you already saw it. You’re Team Cap. (TEAM CAP! = “Steve Holt!”) Well, yes. I have and I am. But A never got a chance to see it because she had all those rehearsals and callbacks and whatnot to go to while I’m little more than a bum who hides in her apartment most of the time, so she hasn’t seen it yet. And since no one else is available to see it with her, I swooped in like the Bestie I am to save the day.

Also, who wouldn’t see this movie again? Cap’s biceps while he’s holding on to that helicopter are borderline pornographic.

And, uh… I agree with his stance on the Accords. No, really, I do. Anything Thunderbolt Ross tells anyone to sign should be regarded with a great deal of skepticism.

Also also…

*SPOILER ALERT* (But really tiny, so… it’s not really…)

Who the hell thought General Ross would be a good Secretary of State?! The last time we saw that guy, he’d created Abomination in an attempt to subdue the Hulk and gotten Harlem destroyed! Ugh. Did President Trump actually happen in this world?! *vomit*

Anyway. Something silly for today! No, that wasn’t it. Sorry. This is it:

A reminder that Jane Austen is fricken hilarious!

It’s not that silly, I guess; it’s a review of the upcoming adaptation of Austen’s Lady Susan, but the fact that the movie evidently serves to remind the world how hilarious Jane Austen really is is super important to me. Too many people focus on the romance, but what Austen special were her wit and satire, so I enjoy anything that might serve as proof of that fact. I know I’ll be watching Love & Friendship when it’s available to me.

Tomorrow, A muses!

C