Into My Bookshelf: The Comedy of Errors

Today we’re getting into my tiny (admittedly) Shakespeare collection, and we’re starting with The Comedy of Errors. This is Shakespeare’s shortest play, and one of my least favorite, definitely the one I like the least of the ones I own.

Why do I own it? Two reasons: My sister was getting rid of it (because she’s got one of those massive “complete Shakespeare” books), and as a literature major and future English teacher I really do need to have a sizable Shakespeare collection.

This is the story of not one set of separated identical twins, BUT TWO. Creating chaos as only Shakespeare (and maybe Joss Whedon) knows how, one rich guy and his servant end up in the town where the twin rich guy and his twin servant are living, and this causes all sorts of shenanigans to ensue.

To be honest, there’s not a lot interesting about this play, and it wasn’t very well-liked by the audiences of the day. Despite the fact that it’s been adapted six ways to Sunday (because it’s Shakespeare), there’s a reason you probably didn’t read it in school. It’s not got the one thing Shakespeare’s plays are really famous for: stunning, almost larger-than-life characters. There’s no Portia, no Beatrice, no Romeo, no Hamlet. It’s just kind of a Three Stooges slapstick kind of comedy.

The only thing of note critically is that it’s one of only two Shakespeare plays (the other being The Tempest) to follow the classical unities, as defined by Aristotle, that were considered essential for good theatre for a very long time, particularly in France.

Just because it was considered classically important, though, does not mean that it is the best idea moving forward. The play wasn’t especially interesting or innovative, even in its time, and to be honest it really could have been written by any decent playwright of the era. The reason we remember it?

It’s got Shakespeare on the byline.




Into My Notebooks: To-Do Binder

Hello, and welcome back to my notebooks!

Today I’m talking about a different kind of notebook – the one that keeps me sane. Relatively.

This is a basic black binder, with a label on the front that says “AcademiKit Study Organizer”…. Just a simple three-ring I inherited from my sister when I asked if she had any more study materials she wasn’t using, like binders and dividers, because I always need more.

In the front pocket I have a couple dozen blank 3×5 notecards and my typed and printed single-sheet “to-do list.”

This list is basically my daily routine, things that must be done in the same order nearly ever day. It needs to be edited and reprinted, but for now it serves me well enough. It keeps me from forgetting, in my silly way, doing basic things like putting dry shampoo on my bangs to keep them from getting gross (because they will, because biology sucks), or remembering to floss before bed. Because for some reason, flossing is nearly impossible to remember, even when you keep floss in virtually every room you spend time in.

Then I have a sheet that I modeled after one that I found on the internet, where I write out in the middle the things I do every day (or virtually every day) that aren’t on the master list, like lunch, writing, when I need to check email, when I need to think about getting ready for the next day. This list, unlike the master list, is divided into time frames. I don’t start the afternoon list until Noon, for example, but if I haven’t finished it by evening I work on both lists. Some days I’m super productive and I finish all my stuff for my first three sections well before 4 PM and when I finish the section I’m on before it’s time for the next list, I work through the master list to be sure there’s not things I’m missing and start winding down for the day.

Also on this sheet I have space for my to-dos that are ever-changing, including a spot for the five most important things to get done every day. I have a quick shopping list, a place to write down critical appointments (admittedly this is usually where I write what time and channel sporting events I’m watching will be on…) and my plan for meals, exercise, and how much water to drink. Most days I don’t finish everything on the list, but every evening I hand-write a new list, so I’ve got a bunch of notebook paper in this thing. Eventually I’ll run out of space and I’ll have to think about tossing or storing old sheets, but I may store them. They’ve proven to be a pretty good reference when I can’t remember when I did something.

That’s all for now! Cheers,


Into My Playlist: Better Than Me

Welcome back to my music!

For the first time, we’ve got a legitimately sad song. This is actually very representative of the type of music I listen to, since I sort of listen to three major genres: Rock (mostly 60s, 70s, grunge, post-grunge, modern alternative), Singer-Songwriter (modern and classic), and Alternative (60s, 70s, some 80s, loads of 90s forward). This is a great example of more modern rock that I listen to.

I will start my post on Hinder’s “Better Than Me” by saying that this is a case where the music video is something I just can’t watch. It’s got some semi-graphic drug scenes, things that I could probably watch with mild discomfort if I wasn’t listening to a song that’s fairly sad along with it. Together, I’ve learned that I just can’t handle it.

Like the Naked Eyes song I covered a few weeks ago, this song is about lost love. It’s a bit regretful (“Wish I never would have said it’s over”), but there’s also a sort of defeatist tone throughout it (“You deserve much better than me.”)

Unlike the Naked Eyes song, this one has the tone of a sad song to match the lyrics. This is a guy in pain. Even when he’s remembering the good things (including sex in a mall dressing room, because why not), it’s got a very strong bittersweet quality about it. He misses the girl, but you get the sense that he thinks she’s better off without him.

By itself, it’s just as sad breakup song, but with the video you get an even sadder story of what looks like an intentional od on some kind of drug.

I have a heart for the melancholy, and I happen to really love this song, but I have to say, for some people it’s going to be too low. There’s not really an upper in this song. Even the climax feels like a minor key (although I haven’t checked, I could be wrong about that), and you do come away from it feeling a bit emotionally zapped.

Why do I love this song? It’s a great one to write to. It easily puts you in a mood of loss and melancholy, in a frame of mind to write the sad things I tend to write. If I’m having a really great day and then I need to sit down and work on a piece about mourning, I pop on tunes like this one that really set the mood.

I would say listen responsibly, though, which is something I’ll probably echo throughout. If you’re already going through a bad emotional space, this is probably not a healthy song choice for you.



Into My Bookshelf: Killer Angels

Welcome back to my bookshelf! This week’s discussion is for you history buffs, and let me tell you that there will be plenty of books for y’all on down the line.

This one is in the historical fiction frame, but it’s not like a historical fiction romance or something. Killer Angels by Michael Shaara is the story of the Battle of Gettysburg – one of the most famous battles in American military history – through the point of view of the officers involved in the conflict.

Plotwise, it’s pretty basic. That’s because this Pulitzer Prize winner is meant to be a very realistic novel, not getting caught up in dramatic and irrelevant details. It’s got detailed descriptions of the layouts, the battle plans, the machinations and it peppers throughout with philosophy to color what would otherwise be a stark history lesson.

That description probably sounds boring, but just so you get a taste of how utterly not boring this is, this has been one of the most influential books of its era (1970s). PBS made a film of it, which I haven’t seen but I have heard good things. It’s called Gettysburg.

And for all you nerd culture fans out there, Joss Whedon cited this book as a major inspiration for his beloved one-season wonder, Firefly. Don’t know at least what Firefly is?

We’re probably not friends.

My mother bought this book for me so long ago that I’ve forgotten just how old I was. It was either late elementary school or early middle school, sometime when we were making one of our many visits to Civil War battlefields. I’ve actually never been to Gettysburg, as it was always out of our way. Despite the fact that I had to memorize the Gettysburg Address in school and I was inundated with Remember the Titans pretty much all my life, I’ve actually never had any burning desire to got to that particular battlefield. Antietam, yes. Gettysburg would simply be nice.

But I was always interested in wars, explosions, the development of war technology and how it changed human history. Even as a child, I thoroughly appreciated how human the characters were. They didn’t have to turn the story into sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll to make a familiar battle interesting. It didn’t have to be about race. It didn’t have to be anything other than what it was.

Actually, this story and all its introspection likely primed me for Hamlet, which I read not long after and had far fewer explosions.

Needless to say, if you’re looking for a realistic read about a battle – any battle – or if you’re studying the Civil War or Gettysburg in particular, this book is highly recommended. And if you’re a Joss Whedon fan, well, you’ve got to read it.



Into My Notebooks: Craving Comfort

Welcome back to the world of my notes!

Today we’re going to talk about one of my personal favorite ongoing projects, my absurdly long Harry Potter fan fiction, Craving Comfort. This project has a manila folder, but it’s got a lot more going on inside that folder than previous folders we’ve looked at.

First of all, I’ve got a packet of papers that were my original notes for the project. These papers are paperclipped together, and I’m going to go through them because they’re a great example of how I use my notebooks.

At the top of page one I’ve got the title, Craving Comfort, written, followed by a note to myself that this is a character list (scribbled out in purple ink are the words “Jesus, Paul, and Christian Prosecution” because this was a notebook used in my History of Christianity course). On the left and the bottom half of the right we have a very long list of characters, starting with Sirius Black and going down to Ginny Weasley. Some characters have stars next to them, some dashes. Dashes are hospitalized characters, such as Frank and Alice Longbottom and Gilderoy Lockhart. Stars are characters who are alive at the end of the story (twenty), and then in parentheses after all other characters is the word “dies,” which I suppose is pretty self-explanatory.  Two characters, Organza and Lydia, have a bracket that connects their names, and that bracket is referenced in a note that is in the second quarter of the right column, a note talking about the second epilogue’s contents. I won’t say much more about that because of spoilers. The top quarter lists the players on Gryffindor’s Quidditch team in the Marauder era.

Pages two and three contain a large portion of the second epilogue as a draft, and a the top of the third page I have a quote from one of my English professors: “If you went up to an Italian and grabbed his wrists he wouldn’t be able to speak anymore.” I then wrote to myself in mixed English/German to look up the name Otto (for a German history course). At the bottom of page three I begin a draft of part of chapter five.

On page four the draft of chapter five continues half in black, half in burgundy, and the top margin contains more notes from my History of Christianity course. Namely: “Arianism – Non-Trinitarianism. 325 Nicea. Importance of body, not of consciousness. And does Jesus share a consciousness with god, or glimpses of? <- Antiochian 451 Chalcadon. Macedonian – Holy Spirit is God/Jesus’s minion. 381 – Constantinople (figuring out Holy Spirit-Trinity). Ebionites -> Jesus fully human.”

For those curious, those are notes on the history of the nature of the divinity of various parts of the Trinity. It’s really interesting stuff.

On page five the draft of chapter five continues, half in burgundy and half in orange, with another quote from the same English professor in the top margin in orange: “Everybody likes obscene stuff, even if they pretend they don’t.”

Page seven has more of chapter five in orange, with one of my professor’s cell phone number’s in the top margin. Just so that’s not weird, she gave me her number because we were doing an after-hours film and she couldn’t stay so she set it up for the class and said to call her if something went wrong, and as I had a pen handy (Always) I took down her number.

Page eight has more of chapter five in orange, and some lovely things from my philosophy class in the top margin. First I wrote “Nothing is real but quarks.” Then I wrote a conversation that occurred between myself, another student, and our professor. I’ll record that here:

W: “Are you coming into my room and counting my quarks?”

Professor G: “Yes. It takes a long time.”

Me: “No eternal life for any of us, guys.”

Page nine is entirely in orange, and mostly the rest of chapter five. At the very bottom there’s about half a dozen lines of the beginning of the draft of chapter eight.

Page ten is an entirely orange continuation of the draft of chapter eight. Page eleven is the same, but with three lines of sort of a cornsilk blue at the bottom. Page twelve is a continuation of that draft, half in cornsilk blue, with about five words in black and the rest of the page in royal blue. Pages thirteen-eighteen are more in royal blue.

Page nineteen is also royal blue, mostly the end of that chapter draft, with maybe a dozen lines of some of a draft of chapter twelve at the bottom. The top margin has two things. The first is another quote from my famous English professor: “Being a kids is super fun. I mean, being a kid can be super fun. If done rightly. With adult supervision.” The second thing is a short conversation between myself and my philosophy professor. Please note that I was deadly serious and had just seen the Doctor Who episode “The Power of Three.”

Professor G: “How many sides does this cube have?”

Me: “Seven.”

Page twenty is in royal blue and is more of the chapter twelve draft, with more wisdom from my philosophy classmate, W: “Right, but I mean, penguins in a vacuum of space…. That sounded ridiculous.”

Page twenty-one is two-thirds royal blue, one third black, also part of chapter twelve. Three quotes are at the top. The first is in the corner in black, from one of my English classmates. He said, “I don’t know about Blake, because he’s sort of off in a corner by himself, doing what he does.” The other two are from my English professor. The first is in blue and reads, “Not all of you? All of you should have read Dialogues by Pluto. None of you should have understood them. None of us understood it, but you should have read it.” And the second, in black, “Every one of the people in this book is a freak in some way.” [Note that he’s pointing at our anthology of British literature]

Page twenty-two is mostly in black, with the third quarter in orange, again of chapter twelve. In the top left corner is a quote from a guest lecturer in one of my English classes. He says, about the Irish, “Maybe they’re too friggin’ hospitable. They’ve been here for 700 years. That’s a long time for a house guest to stay.” Then I have some notes from my History of Christianity course: “Unitarianism (non-Trinitarianism): Faustus Socinus; W. E. Channing.” Then another quote from the guest lecturer: “The Irish are really good at losing wars against the British. It’s a bad habit they got into.”

Page twenty-three is entirely in black, a continuation of chapter twelve’s draft. At the top is a quote from my English professor: “This is a poet talking to a vase. What does he say to the vase?” [three guesses what we were reading]

Page twenty-three is also all in black, and more of chapter twelve. Another quote from my English professor: “And we are constantly plagued with an image of how it could be better, from peace on earth to a better sandwich for lunch.”

Pages twenty-four and -five are all in black, and the remainder of chapter twelve. Page twenty-six begins the draft of the end of chapter sixteen, all in black. At the top I wrote the word “Change” in large letters. I’m not sure I did change anything, so I’ve no idea what I meant about that. Pages twenty-seven and -eight are more of that section in black.

Page twenty-nine is all in black. The top two-thirds is the end of chapter thirteen, the rest the beginning of the chapter fourteen draft. At the top is another quote from my English professor: “He does the heroic thing: murders everybody. Not his wife and kid, but the suitors.” [three guesses what we were discussing…]

Page thirty is more of chapter fourteen, two-thirds in black, one third in a sort of sky-blue. Page thirty-one is more, in the same blue.

Page thirty-two is in the same blue, with more of chapter fourteen. At the top I have more from my English professor: “Praise God for multicolored stuff.” [Anyone know what poem we were talking about here?]

Pages thirty-three to thirty-six are in the same blue, with more of chapter fourteen. Page thirty-seven continues chapter fourteen with about half a dozen lines of the blue, the rest in a forest green. At the top of the page are two quotes from the great Natalie Cannon during her thesis presentation at capstone day. The first is “There’s no inspiration like last minute panic.” The second, “I didn’t write her thesis.”

Page thirty-eight is a great example of the dangers of writing in class. The page is more of chapter fourteen, all in forest green except where I’ve scribbled things out with a hot-pink pen. One word that’s scribbled was just redundant, but the end of the page, which discusses an intimate snogging session, I have this beauty: “It was a poor excuse and probably unnecessary, but it was the best work agreement and the only times it would be a problem was some sort of a trouble for teens and Young Adults.

I still have no clue what happened there. But it happens sometimes.

Page thirty-nine is the rest of chapter fourteen, in that same bright pink. Pages forty to forty-nine are all in black (except the chapter designation, which is in pink), and they are the bulk of the chapter fifteen draft. Page fifty is half in purple, which is the end of that chapter draft. The second half is in royal blue, and the beginning of the chapter sixteen draft. Pages fifty-one and -two are more of chapter sixteen, in royal blue. Page fifty-three is more of sixteen, in black, and page fifty-four is more of sixteen with one word of black and the rest of the page in lime green. It’s a bit hard to read.

Pages fifty-five and -six are in cornsilk blue, more of chapter sixteen. Page fifty-seven is more of chapter sixteen, half in orange and half in black. Fifty-eight is more of that chapter, in hot-pink, and fifty-nine continues on with two lines in pink and the rest in black. Page sixty is the rest of chapter sixteen, with a line of black and the rest in red.

The rest of the packet is part of a draft of chapter seventeen. Pages sixty-one and -two are all in black, page sixty-three has one line of black with the rest in green, page sixty-four is half green and half purple, and pages sixty-five and -six are all in black. Note that when quotations ended on the top, that’s when my semester was over….

Also note that these sixty-some pages are effectively my only course notes for an entire semester. And most of it was fan fiction.

Also in this folder are two spiral notebooks. The first – and most important, is an Environotes one subject, 100 sheet, college notebook with a double pocket. The cover is green. I have to say, they’re expensive and I don’t buy them often, but Environotes is easily the best paper I’ve ever used. I especially like how it works with my pens. Tucked into this I have a draft of a friend’s short story (I had forgotten that was there) and a photograph of a 30’s automobile from a museum I visited with my parents.

I’ve got notes from classes in this, for an English course, including a note to buy Gaston Bachelard’s The Poeticts of Space, which I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t purchased, but it’s on my list. I’ve also got notes on the system of money in Victorian England from a book I borrowed from Natalie Cannon, notes for an essay (on Bachelard) where I discussed daydreaming for the cellar-dweller (read the book, it’s fabulous). I have the very first draft of my short story, “Changes,” which I’m still editing. I have notes for another essay, this one on the boarding house in World War 2 in England, and notes for a different essay where I argued that the Tardis was the ultimate British domestic interior.

It has a packing list for leaving college, and some notes for “Unlocking the Depths” that I’ve yet to remove to their own folder, including drafts of the first four chapters and the complete outline. Then I have many blank pages (those are my favorite thing), the end of which is marked by a sticky note with an old shopping list. Then I have the outline of all 526 chapters of “Craving Comfort.” As these are set up in similar fashion to previously discussed notebooks, I won’t go into excruciating detail on this here.

The second notebook is a yellow-cover crap single subject 70 sheet college ruled notebook. The beginning are actually fairly extensive notes for my Developmental Psychology class, although not very coherent because I had mono at the time. Most of the notes were pretty useless. Then I have a list of things needed to practice flower arranging as a hobby (which I don’t have any of yet, so I haven’t started the hobby)

The notebook is mostly empty after that, with nine pages of student lists (first years only) and Quidditch rosters from 1982 to spring of 1986, with the basic framework for the student roster of fall of 1986 outlined. This is a good way for me to keep track of secondary characters, as well as what students are being Sorted, which students are in Quidditch, which students take my OC’s course (at both OWL and NEWT levels), which students become Prefects and Heads, etc. More information is added to each page as necessary. It’s important for continuity, as well as to give me some characters to toss in from time to time.

And that’s about it! Sorry for the massive update, but I figure some of you might care, and it is quite a long fic. If you’ve made it this far leave a comment saying what you found helpful in this post, and what you could have done without so I can be less long-winded in the future.



Into My Playlist: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Again, apologies for still running behind on my posts, but I’m nearly caught up on them, thankfully. This should be a fun one.

Today, we’re going to be talking about my only Christmas song. I don’t like Christmas movies (except Love Actually), and I don’t like Christmas music except “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

I’m not a Scrooge. Christmas is a deeply spiritual time, and I take it very seriously in my spiritual calendar, but the whole “festive” thing has always seemed like an elaborate way of missing the point. The best gestures of goodwill and love are the ones that happen without reminders or recognition, year round.

I absolutely believe in Santa Claus, but that doesn’t mean I have to watch Hallmark Christmas movies all winter (plus July), or that I want to be assaulted with Christmas music for two months. Because honestly, we’re lucky if people wait for Halloween to be over before they start Christmas.

The great thing about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is that it’s more of a winter song than a Christmas song, and the sass could really work year-round, so having it as a regular on my iTunes is perfectly acceptable.

For those familiar with this song you’ll know that there are a ridiculous number of versions, and to be honest I haven’t met one that I didn’t enjoy. Someday I may even devote myself to collecting some of my favorites. But the only one I have at the moment is my favorite version, performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan. Because who doesn’t love Ella?

Now, this song has a mixed reputation. Apart from being one of the most beloved songs of all time, there’s a definite case to be made for it being a creepy date rape song. A sampling of such lines?

“Say what’s in this drink?”

Yes. A girl goes to see her boyfriend in the middle of a snowstorm. Yes, they have a few drinks. And cigarettes, as it happens. And yes, things definitely happen, as the girl is borrowing a comb and saying how she really ought to be getting home. He keeps her there by pointing out that the storm is very bad, and he wouldn’t forgive himself if something happened to her.

Yes. It could be a creepy date rape song. But I happen to think of it as more the girl chose to go by in the middle of a snowstorm knowing full well they had an excuse for her not being home. She does worry that people will know, but as he keeps pointing out, it’s not really safe for her to go home anyway. And she does ask for more alcohol. And cigarettes. It doesn’t have to be sinister.

And even if it is, I can’t escape the deliciousness of something slightly sinister being delivered in such upbeat, cheerful tones and played for several months every year along with precious holiday tunes to unsuspecting children. It’s my inner Mistress of Dark Emotion. I can’t help myself.

So that’s my Christmas song. Want to take bets on whether next week will be another ironically cheerful song?



Into My Bookshelf: And Never Let Her Go

First of all, apologies for the late post. I’ve got a midterm coming up. Life gets a bit crazy.

But back to my bookshelf, still on the short shelf, we have one of my favorite things: books about murder.

This is one of my especial favorites, which I’ll talk more about later, but it’s a true crime novel. It’s called And Never Let her Go, by Ann Rule. I’m proud to say that it’s the only book I ever bought at an airport.

I was on a family vacation, and I already had a book (we were going to Hawai’i which I hate, so I brought books and homework), but my parents made the mistake of checking out the Powell’s in PDX, and I saw this book on the shelf and read the back cover. I saw what it was about, and I was going through a pretty dark place in a relationship that resonated a bit with some of the things in the book, and I begged my mom to buy it, and she did because she’s amazing.

It’s a fairly thick book, telling the true story of a murder that occurred in the 1990s in Delaware. You can actually look it up on Wikipedia, but the book is better. It’s the story of former Delaware deputy attorney general Thomas Capano, who killed his lover, Anne Marie Fahey. She worked for the then-governor of Delaware, which is how they met, if I recall.

Basically, it’s the age-old story of a man cheating on his wife and unable to control one of his lovers any longer. He killed her, and used other people (like his brother and latest lover) to help him commit and cover up the murder.

If you’re interested at all in criminal psychology, this is a really interesting book. There are lots of ways to learn about this murder, of course. It was a pretty big deal at the time, and the whole thing was highly publicized. It’s been covered on true crime television shows and in at least three different books, but Ann Rule does a really fabulous job of covering all relevant angles, making you really get inside the heads of both killer and victim, and it’s chilling how you come away and think, “That was real. A real man did that to a real woman.”

For those of you just interested in the verdict: he was convicted and sentenced to death, which was commuted to life imprisonment. He’s dead.

The thing that drew me to this book was the character of the killer. I read all kinds of murder mysteries and true crime books, and I even write them, but I’ve always been fascinated with this type of killer, the magnetic personality capable of bending almost any situation to his will. The drawing in of other people – which obviously backfired in the end when they testified – and the reasoning for killing her in the first place reminds me of some of the most interesting killers. He doesn’t have the completely sick nature of some of my favorite serial killers, but there’s a chilling coldness that makes Thomas Capano his own kind of fascinating.

This book actually was a huge push toward writing my own murder mysteries, and if you’re looking for a good true crime book to read, I highly recommend this one.