Saturday, September 1, 2012

Killing Time

"An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." - Gandhi
Ah, now this is something I've been meaning to tackle for some time. My opinions on it are rather inconclusive, as they branch in different directions for different specific aspects of the topic.
Initially my opinion was that murder is murder, no matter who commits it first or last. If a parent cracks a child across the face as discipline for getting to a fight at school, what does that prove? "Violence is wrong" is certainly not the message I would glean from it. Yet many figures of so-called authority seem to embrace "Eye for an Eye" punishments, regardless of their obvious hypocrisy. This is true no matter what they call it (if a zoo housed a grizzly bear labeled as an ostrich, would that change said bear's DNA strands?). Death as a punishment for murder gets us nowhere - at least for the sake of this contention. This past school year I asked my Civics & Economics teacher why a killer who kills another killer is then killed by the government, i.e., Jack Ruby (though I think he might not have been put to death). She said that Lee Harvey Oswald hadn't been convicted yet. Still, I have to wonder why having badges and permissions and jurisdiction makes the actions any different on a basic level. This does not count self-defense or mercy, the latter referring to matters such as putting animals to sleep due to hopeless afflictions. I myself once dropped a Banggai cardinalfish into a glass of club soda because it could not swim without being blasted by the water jets in my aquarium; it was a miserable little reef fish and I saw no kinder thing than to end its life in the quickest and most painless way possible. (I'm not getting another of those for a while, if ever; they're so delicate and I'm not an expert reef-keeper!) Killing killers is not effective as a punishment.
However, if a person is a horrible villain, a dangerous one, one who might escape prison, I will now say: Go ahead! Be my guest. There's no reason to stoop to their level - humiliation, torture, and theatrical executions - but a quick and humane death will get rid of them. At least, the individuals; even if wickedness was a solid thing grounded in fact, it will never be purged in my opinion. Even if every killer, rapist, robber, and fraud on the planet were obliterated, that would make the ones who extinguished them take their place. This is a bit like the awesome manga Death Note or my own poem "Bloodrose" (on my old blog) in that exterminating every flawed person in the world would leave humanity to extinction (which would be a hell of a lot better for the other life forms, but not for us). My theory is that if this were to happen, people would soon be scared to do bad things. Good? So what if the purgers decide to go after candy shoplifters, jaywalkers? A first-grader cheating on his spelling test? Ridding the world of evil is impossible if you ask me. That being said, the especially vicious beings are sometimes OK to put six feet under. John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, deals with this sort of thing in a way. Still need to finish that one myself....
Earlier I mentioned mercy killings. Well, even if I wasn't a hyperactive teenager who needs to run around for at least an hour daily, I'd be pretty damn depressed in prison. And the though of never ever getting out? I'd welcome a lethal injection, honestly. So I think that a prisoner oughtn't spend their entire remainder of life in a cell if the easy way out is available. Of course, said convict's views may or may not differ from my own, although I doubt the system would offer them a choice; that doesn't seem like something they'd do in real life, regardless of the events contained in film and literature. I just don't see the point in keeping a surplus when they'll never be released until they're corpses.

Which brings me to yet another contention: population. This is something about which I never seem to tire of ranting, and some people simply don't need to be alive. I realize that sounds cold, but recall what I said two paragraphs ago. Some people are just not going to change, and after so many chances at redemption, I don't think they need to keep breathing. They brought their own fates upon themselves and have no others to blame (except, perhaps, Rick Perry - but that is a different issue involving false convictions and idiotic politicians). I only wonder why it is OK to put down cats and dogs - good ones who haven't harmed a soul - but serial killers and pedophiles can live for years behind bars and be considered victims of murder if such occurs. It implies to me that we are better than our bestial friends. Yes, I am a supporter of animal rights. It does not make sense to me! They don't hang or chair-zap orphans, do they?

So do I support the death penalty? Sort of, sometimes. But I'm not enthusiastic to watch people suffer and die, regardless of what my peers may think.

Friday, August 10, 2012

New Blog! (again)

I am writing this to inform whomever may be reading it that I have changed emails and that my new URL is

- "Lewis"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Last Boy in the Library

Tonight, at the library at which my Printz book club meets, our awesome YA librarian and some others arranged a "Zombie Night" and a "Vampire Night." Next week comes Nosferatu (1922), but this time we watched The Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price. It was a very interesting movie, although the "zombies" were apparently vampires with qualities of both monsters. When I first saw the 2007 film I Am Legend (a remake: both of these, as well as the 1971 film The Omega Man, are based on a novel by Richard Matheson), I also thought that the vampires were zombies. It was interesting that vampirism was here a biological infection rather than a demonic curse. More scifi than magic here.

And darn, I need to read Mr. Matheson's book! I believe he also wrote the short story "Mobius," which I did read. Mind blown right there, with the twist at the end of said short story.

In any case, I'd like to thank the librarians and whomever else needs thanking, for I had a very good time.

On the topic of librar-related things, I checked out several things today, mostly graphic novels this time. This includes a couple of Batman things (my first time! - go ahead and shoot me) and the fourth volume of Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN series.

Life is currently good. Oh, and as for the post's title, I was one of the last people to leave after the official closing times. Librarians and I love to chat.

Monday, July 16, 2012

White Tiger Hapkido: Day One

"As much courage as it takes to slay dragons, it takes even more courage to spare them." - Me (not sure if  it's phrased right; does it make sense? I'm still working on it.)

Today I had my first martial arts lesson. Ever. In the past I've intended it but never actually come around to it. Well, today I did and I had a blast.

The place is an indoor facility with a beautiful koi pond between the locker rooms and the area in which we do our exercises. The masters (teachers) are quite nice, and one of them told me today I ought to learn a bit of the Korean language in order to better understand certain aspects of the art of hapkido. That ought to be interesting. For those of you who do not know, hapkido is basically an art of self-defense which focuses on defending but not attacking, as it is to be used for benevolent purposes. Then again, one might want to Google it for a better explanation; I am quite a novice at the moment. Still, I enjoyed my first lesson and look forward to more of them.

On an unrelated note, I recently got rid of much of the useless junk in my bedroom, and it feels so nice, so simple, to live in a cleaner environment. This is how I intend to live, hopefully for good. It's just so much easier. Now I must check to see if that stubborn Chihuahua, Mr. Coco, feels like going for a little walk now (he fled me before, the little booger).

Monday, July 9, 2012

Write Badly

"A writer must write what [he] has to say, not speak it." - Ernest Hemingway

"Here's to failure!" - The Producers (which I still intend to watch; I've seen bits but not the entirety)

Recently I had ample funds to purchase the book The Daily Writer: 366 Meditations to Cultivate a Productive and Meaningful Writing Life by Fred White, published by Writer's Digest, whom I seem to like and trust at the moment (many books about writing are said to be full of bullshit, but I believe there are exceptions). The prompt for July 6 (just a few days ago) instructed the reader to write the most horrid story possible. This is supposed to exaggerate what may be the slightly smaller flaws of said reader's attempts at creating decent fiction. Some of the things I've done in of my crap-story thus far have occurred in ages past, including recent times, such as
  • A cliched subject (vampires, with nothing new to offer)
  • An overly unoriginal opening ("It was a bright and sunny day.")
  • Showing as opposed to telling ("He was the most evil vampire ever," and some lengthy back-story dumps which could use a more subtle spilling; Blake Snyder would have called the latter a "Pope in the Pool." One major flaw from the Lord of the Rings novels is the fact that Mr. Tolkien spelled out way too much to soak in, and in the prologue at that.)
  • Effortless naming of characters (Count Smith. What more can I say? I guess I can say that Count-anything is overdone with vampires, and while Smith may be a legitimate name, I'm planning on having Joneses and Harrises too, without any uncommon names.)
  • Loose ends (I've only got a handwritten journal page filled, if that, and I've already told - not shown - that Count Smith is the only vampire who can go out in sunlight unharmed. And I don't think I'll concoct any sort of reason for why.)
Will I bring this to writer's group this week? Maybe, if none of my other projects prove worthy - two of the three are very much intended to be at least somewhat good, and one was a "catalyst" to kick-start me into writing something, as my plotted works were not, well, fully plotted yet. Still aren't, although the quality of my characters might have improved marginally. So I've gone from trying to produce a single story in my late desperation to juggling four of them.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Is Seth McFarlane funny?

Many people absolutely adore the television show known as Family Guy. Personally, I don't understand it: the jokes seem to be utterly random and possess no real punchlines. South Park had a great example:
  • "Peter, did you do the laundry?"
  • "No, but let's not forget my date to Mexico with Gary Coleman!
...Um, what? Did I just hear that correctly? Because I thought this show was supposed to be comedic. Of course I am referring to Family Guy, as South Park is quite hilarious, if a tad foul. If someone enjoys McFarlane's work, then I won't hold it against them. I just don't see the appeal.

Yet in a recent trailer review for Seth McFarlane's new movie Ted, which to me looks like a similar strain for comedic attention, which it somehow receives, the YouTube comments absolutely blew a fuse when the reviewer said it didn't look good, and claimed that "no one can match up to Seth's bad-ass jokes" and that "anyone who doesn't like [his works] has no sense of humor." The sad thing is, many people are of this rigid closed-mindedness and similar forms of it, and yet a good deal of them are far less vicious in person, when there's no computer screen behind which they may hide as they type trollish spam to other users. In addition to that, it would be a miracle if more than an eighth of them passed basic English classes. It still makes me cringe when people type things like "im gud, u?" If they're in a rush, that's one thing, but people now use text language all the time just out of laziness and stupidity. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a person writes the possessive pronoun "your" in the place of the contraction of "you are" - in other words, I want to add an apostrophe and an "e" along with "an idiot." "You're an idiot." And I have Mr. Nantz to thank for that example, although I was no stranger to the urge then either. But this seems to have become a grammatical tangent. My main point is still that people have a right to opinions, and while I do not always respect the opinions, I generally try to respect the person.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A shout-out to John Williams

To one of my favorite composers. He's eighty years old and, so far as I know, still at it. I am aware that he scored War Horse, which was scarcely half a year ago, and that's a great trait for an artist in any form: to not only create something original, but to create many original things, unique to even each other. This man is amazing!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

So, I really wanted to like this movie, and I thought I was going to. Perhaps I did, but it didn't meet my high expectations. Not nearly.

I won't tell the premise here because it's a very old story and I'd be wasting my time. However, this movie tried to put a "deep," "dark" spin on it (although if you look at the story itself, it's pretty grim already - "Grimm" pun absolutely intended). It did not work! There were so many things wrong with this film, including the lack of an explanation of how the huntsman's kiss revived Snow White from death. I know it was in the 1937 Disney cartoon, done by Prince Charming instead, but it still was never explained. As MelinaPendulum points out, Snow seems to radiate this "inner goodness" without actually doing anything to earn everyone's following, which annoyed me, and the scene with all the forest creatures and fairies was a direct steal from Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke, which was an excellent piece of work. But this...well. There were many plot flaws, a few of which I have just pointed out, and most of the dialogue felt stiff and sometimes downright forced.

On the good side, the visual effects were absolutely breathtaking and the main actors were quite good, despite the writing. Many people complained about the casting of Kristen Stewart, but just because she was in the mostly-horrid Twilight franchise, that does not make her a bad actress. She did not write Twilight! One of the downsides of acting is people who judge a performer's prowess by what shows said performer is in. For example, Kristen and Twilight and this. A bad movie can certainly have good actors! Kristen, so far, has seemed a pretty good actress to me. She does a great British (or whatever) accent here. And Alex Pettyfer seems another good example, though Id' have to check. And Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush were in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which was enjoyable but heavily flawed.

Which leads me to admit that I did enjoy Snow White and the Huntsman. That does not excuse its numerous faults.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Note on Count Olaf and Other Fictive Scumbags

One thing I like to see in villains is rottenness. It's OK for them to have traumatic back-stories as long as their wickedness is not excused by them. One of the best examples, I think, is Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter. He was indeed bullied as a kid, but that's no reason to be a complete monster, i.e. attempting to kill an infant. Cowardice helps, as do dishonesty and vile temperaments. Redwall's Cluny the Scourge is really cool but I don't remember him being especially horrible. Stated in a post from January is my view of being unethical instead of simply opposing the antagonist. Slagar from the same series was pretty horrid, though, but he was not allied to Cluny (the latter tried to have the former executed).

Earlier this evening I finished listening to a short (but shiver-sending) book known as The Bad Beginning, the first of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, of which there are thirteen installments - of course. On the one hand I felt the explanations to what the "big words" meant were not entirely necessary, but that was mostly made up for by the absolute bastard of a villain: Count Olaf. He was so evil that I actually felt my blood boiling whenever I heard his voice or name. At the same time, my spine went cold when he spoke; I think the fact that Tim Curry narrated the book helped this greatly. He was a manipulative, heartless, violent creep who intended to kill three young orphans in order to inherit their parents' vast fortune. Not something most folks would smile upon! He threatened to kill a toddler by having her dropped out of a tower window by an ally, and struck a boy across the face hard enough to bruise. The thing that made it all work, I think, is that while he had a plausible motive, there was no sympathy whatsoever for the man. This might sound dark of me, but I sincerely hope he dies in the end!

Screenwriter and novelist Alexandra Sokoloff has a post somewhere on her magnificent blog which instructs aspiring writers to name their ten favorite villains from books, movies, and the like. In no particular order, here are mine, based on evilness as well as coolness:

  1. Voldemort from Harry Potter
  2. Dracula
  3. Emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious (Star Wars original trilogy)
  4. Randall Flagg (The Stand, The Dark Tower series, and The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King - among possible others)
  5. Grendel from Beowulf
  6. Gollum from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  7. The Joker from The Dark Knight
  8. Count Olaf
  9. The Beldam from Coraline
  10. Iago from Othello
These will probably change, but they are what came to mind. Stephen King, being a writer of horror, has many great villains, such as Percy Wetmore in The Green Mile and Annie Wilkes in Misery as well as Kurt Barlow ('Salem's Lot) and The Dark Tower's Crimson King and the demon-infested corpses in Pet Sematary, but I don't think that'd be fair to let Steve have all the slots. The nameless monster created by Dr. Frankenstein did a few truly awful things but I felt sympathy for it. Mary Shelley did this so beautifully that that is still my all-time favorite novel.

Currently my mind - and hopefully soon my pen! - is at work on what is hopefully a completely horrible villain. It's hard work, the creation of characters. Wish me luck!

PS. - Unseen villains, namely the Blair Witch, can be incredibly frightening if properly pulled off.

Monday, June 18, 2012

They're Not Old Enough!

Earlier this year, when I was beginning to take Civics & Economics at school, our teacher showed us an episode of a television program titled The West Wing. The show itself was well-written; even if I didn't know it was penned by Aaron Sorkin, I'd recognize his ultra-fast dialogue anywhere, but it was good dialogue.

The problem was that it was the sixth episode or so, and I had no idea what the hell was going on. Later I mentioned this to my maternal grandmother on the phone and she said something about the "themes" being something I'd "come to appreciate more as I gained age and, therefore, maturity." OK, Grandma, I love you, but this is a common mistake. Trust me, plenty of teenagers don't realize the finer side of art, nor do plenty of younger children and a frightening number of adults. But some adults (not all) consistently belittle us. For example, I was unscathed by R-rated movies by age thirteen. I learned most swearwords early on. And I can fully well understand most forms of art without having to wait.

They seem to think us younger than we are. I first saw a PG-13 movie, as I recall, at age eight. It was Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which I remember being pretty cool. Sure, I had forgotten most of it by the time I decided to watch it again at age eleven. But eleven-year-olds are not toddlers. They can understand things perfectly well. One thing I think turns many kids off of the love of reading would be English assignments that suck the life out of the written word, i.e. "What do you think the author meant?" I think the author meant what they said, or if not, then it either wasn't clear enough writing or it will strike us later without it being shoved in our faces. Stephen King compared these things to the golden goose. Once killed and butchered, it won't produce any more golden eggs. Or appeal to youth. We can figure stuff out if properly motivated and if given a fair chance.

Anyhow, I'm much more mature than most people my age. Sillier, sure, but that is actually part of my maturity. I know that it's good to laugh and have fun instead of being dull and doing the bare minimum in life. In addition, I'm beyond stupid things like perversion and bigotry. In some senses I am much more intelligent than most of these herd-sheep. Moreover, I understand people to a further extent than many, despite my mother's frantic claims of my social inadequacy. Generally, I can read faces and know the safest thing to say. And being eloquent doesn't hurt. I can back up most of my arguments and find the weaknesses in those of others. That's why I need to join Debate in the fall, if I can. In the meantime, Ethics sounds interesting, but I need to find out how to get into that.

So basically, youth does not equal stupidity or immaturity, or, of course, lack of ability to appreciate the finer things in life.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In Which I Cover Coverage

This is not an explicit post. Not in my opinion.

Earlier I believe I gave my views on general censorship, and now I shall focus specifically on something with which many people seem uncomfortable: the human body in its purest form, which would be the nude figure. I consider myself to be one of the least perverse people alive, and I don't see why we ought to be required to wear clothing. That is to say, it can be useful to have a coat for winter or one of those Eastern articles for sandstorm protection, but no law with which I am familiar bans running around the Arctic tundra wearing nothing but a Speedo or bikini. It may be a plea for frostbite but I don't know that it is actually illegal. But if said swimwear comes off within public view, the person is automatically arrested for public nudity.

What I mean to say is not that clothing ought to be banned, for I understand that many people are more comfortable wearing it, but those who do not wish to do so should not be punished for removal. Shielding a child's eyes from a bare human is not protection so much as hiding said child from what's really there. Think about it: what serious harm comes to one from gazing upon another's so-called privates? Staring at the sun is legal and its effects are far more harmful. Also, people don't seem to be able to distinguish between nudity and pornography. A pornographic image in my opinion involves an act of sexuality. A plain nude doing otherwise or naught at all does not denote that. Neither am I saying that images that are actually sexual are wrong; as long as it's consensual and between appropriate parties, I don't see who it harms. STD's are a different topic entirely. Personally I don't see the appeal in watching other people engage in intercourse but I'm not condemning it.

This is indeed a "taboo" topic if I am not mistaken, but I think they need to be addressed. Perhaps I'll cover the death penalty someday.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The City of Oaks and Oddballs

This night, which grows ever later as I write these words, has been a good deal of fun for me. It was Kate's birthday celebration and we went traipsing around Raleigh and shooting witticisms back and forth. I met a new person who seemed like a simply splendid being. We all went to an Irish pub called Tir Na nOg - have I mentioned it before? - where there was not only heavenly food, but a group of Irish dancers from some local dance school. They were quite good, as was my dish of corned beef and cabbage. We went to a place known as ArtSpace, which is usually fun, but it was strangely desolate this time.

There was one artist whose work was on display, and while he was decent at his craft, he seemed to lack social intelligence: Even as I was very complimentary of his work, he eventually dismissed us quite rudely with a remark about "appreciating art from an intellectual level." Mind, we gave him absolutely no provocation whatsoever, nor he any warning. It was very sudden and, you know what? Why would I not want to leave if he was such a presumptuous and self-absorbed curmudgeon who seemed to assume that, by dint of being teenagers, we had no taste in art? As I said, I openly complimented his work and those were his thanks. Perhaps at some point a post is due about old farts who assume that we young people cannot "appreciate" things. And if I haven't already, a post on unfounded assumptions. One mustn't think I am angry with the man; he's not worth anger, but I found that rather ironic and, while I do look down on him, it is as much with pity as it is with amusement at his loss.

Also, there was a religious bloke on the city sidewalk who told us to "walk a straight path or we'd fall off." If that means what I think it does, I think a straight path with not deviations or detours whatsoever would be incredibly dull. Ah, he probably thought he was being helpful.

Anyhow, we managed to entertain each other the whole time and had some awesome discussions involving everything from the night sky to Terry Pratchett to drugs to world languages to the Norse gods to the argument of whether science drains the luster out of beautiful things (it does not). Eventually some of us, including me, had to part ways, but I truly had a blast and hope to have more blasts in the future.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


            When I worked at Silent Forest – one week per year at the end of October in the rural town of Creedmoor – one of the things I appreciated about the region was its lack of bright lights. City life may have its thrills, but in the less crowded areas, where it is not as loud, not as populated, things seem a lot simpler and life itself becomes more beautiful. My residence is in a suburban area, but tonight not many neighbors had left on their home lights and so I turned off ours and walked cautiously onto the raised back deck and descended its steps into the grass of our yard. Within moments my eyes had adjusted and I needed not carry the flashlight I had brought. The stars provided sufficient light for me to maneuver safely – I could not see every detail on each blade of grass, but I knew where I was stepping. Even our young and hyperactive dog, Launa, was subdued, although that may have been something to do with her running about and barking all day long.
            For a long time now I have had an aversion to doing nothing. “Boredom” is the wrong word; I tend not to grow bored in the traditional sense, but rather I get a feeling of time-wasting, that I could be doing something in those empty seconds. It’s a very self-conscious sort of feeling. Recently, however, I discovered that doing nothing can be good for the soul. Even though I was already thinking of considering that ideal, it really struck me tonight as I lay on my back and stared at the heavens. At one point I believe I saw a shooting star, though it could easily have been a comet or some other sort of astronomical phenomenon. As I recently wrote in the first draft of a short story, history on Earth spans what seems like sheer oceans of time, but in all those centuries and millennia, the cosmos have barely changed at all.

Temporary Liberation and Another Eulogy

As of Tuesday morning, I am free! Well, until late August that is. School should be starting again then. But until that day, I am free to read, write, draw, and many other things. Among these other things I might hopefully return to Dead Broke Farm to ride their beautiful horses. Life seems good about now.

It came to my attention that recently Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451 and many other brilliant books, passed away at the age of ninety-one. As saddened as I am, I think he had a very long and productive life. I'm sure he enjoyed his run. Rest in peace, sir; I love you and your work. The weird thing is, I am currently reading his novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, and was when he died. Well, he was a great writer, and I look forward to reading more of his life's work.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Review: The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

Prior to this I had not read anything by Nancy Farmer, although I do own the multiple-award-winning The House of the Scorpion. I'll probably read that soon enough. I listened to this one as a Recorded Books audio production, read by Gerard Doyle.

The plot: After being captured by berserkers from the north in the late 700's A.D., Jack and his young sister Lucy are forced on a journey to meet the terrible Queen Frith and her husband, King Ivar the Boneless (who was a real person). Jack attempts to sing her an epic song of praise but accidentally curses the queen and makes her hair fall out. In exchange for his life, Jack agrees to embark upon an extremely dangerous journey to Jotunheim, the fabled land of trolls, dragons, enormous spiders, and deadly magic. If he returns within a certain amount of time, Frith will spare his life as well as that of Lucy, whom she intends to sacrifice to the goddess Freya when Jack fails to return.

The book never gets dull for a second, and is filled with mythical things and references to the saga of Beowulf and to that of Sigurd. The writing is very good and it is truly fascinating. I particularly like the scene at Yggdrasil, which I seem to recall from Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods. It had something similar, if not that, but I think it was Yggdrasil. The means of obtaining water from Mimir's Well reminded me a bit of the Fountain of Youth in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - but this book came out in 2004, I believe, and so before Pirates. I won't spoil why - you'd have to read it! But this book was a hit with me, and I believe it has two sequels. I ought to read them as well.

Great book, but for now I'm not giving letter grades, maybe never again: They remind me of public school, I tend to change my mind a lot, and they are too technical, for lack of a better word. I think I'm done with those, so look to my Shelfari or my Goodreads.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I Pictured Her Otherwise!

Newsflash, people: not everyone is the same race! And when a literary character comes onto the silver screen of a color or origin you didn't expect, GET OVER IT. I recently read an article relaying that many Hunger Games fans were less than happy that Rue and Thresh were black. I personally find that ridiculous, not to mention that some selected tweets were downright offensive, i.e. the ones shown after the article - particularly "And for the record, im still pissed that rue is black. Like you think she would have mentioned that..? Is it just me, or...." I'd like to say it's just you, Lexie, but sadly many people think this way. I feel like characters are read as white unless otherwise specified. Why need Ms. Collins mention Rue's and Thresh's race? I rarely picture characters at all when reading, more just settings with mental blank faces. Am I the only one?

Still, I had no quarrel with them being black. I loved those books, and the movie as well. I am eagerly awaiting Catching Fire's appearance on the big screen! And now it's past four-thirty in the morning. On a school night.


My Precious: A Post About Real-Life Horcruxes

"The Precious will be ours!" - Gollum (The Return of the King movie, 2003)

"Courage can be what it takes to do something great, but sometimes it takes more courage to refrain." - Me (I hope I phrased it right)

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace." - Jimi Hendrix

People often have a sacred item which means comfort to them. This may be something from childhood, like a teddy bear or blanket, or it may be an heirloom of some sort. It could be many things. But I have nothing but my own flesh and mind, and the support of my beloved friends. If I poured my feelings into a material object, then I would be damaged when something happens to it. Since there is no One Ring of Sauron, and horcruxes a thing of Mrs. Rowling's brilliantly imagined fiction, I do not feel I am placing my eggs in one basket in any way. I think of it as - you guessed it - simplicity. Besides, said eggs would likely be materials as well. I'm training myself not to become overly attached to things - sure, I love my vast collection of books, and my animals, and my small-but-growing assortment of faux swords. But it's not as if I put everything into them. Well. I do tend to value the living things a bit more, as they are alive and deserve to keep living. However, I think my point is clear. As long as I myself am intact, I shall be willing to survive.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The End (of a Cycle) is Near!

"Always look on the bright side of life!" - Eric Idle

I actually don't remember what the fortuneteller called them - turns? phases? - so I'm sticking with "cycles" for the time being. But whatever they were called, I think one is ending. I've said before that the story doesn't end when one overcomes an adversity in reality - a new one will pop up soon, and a new cycle will commence. Same thing with defeat; that and victory are interchangeable for this matter. Life is a series of smaller tales which all interconnect as a huge tapestry. An epic, if you will. For an individual, the curtain closes only in death, if at all. For the world, it might never do so.

I'm almost through with my junior year of high school and I relish the idea of a long, long respite. Eventually I'll have to return...but only once more, I think. After that, I shall be relatively free. I will be able to do my own thing for a couple months and should get much more reading and writing done. Perhaps I'll even find a decent job and/or resume volunteering for my library system. Maybe even enjoy a horse ride or more! So my head is up and the horizon looks brighter. I sail toward freedom, a phase at a time, until I reach it. Even then, I'll keep sailing. And that will be the most exciting series of voyages yet. Bon courage!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


The vast majority of the time, my family cannot afford to see traveling shows - meaning the big ones, like Sweeney Todd and The Lion King. Along with those two, one I've very much wanted to see for a long time is Wicked. This spin-off on the novels of Lyman Frank Baum was filled with hilarity and great singing - the lady who played Elphaba had a simply amazing range. It is a national acting troupe, I believe; I should like to join one someday, even if only temporarily. We went out to Durham to see the show, and had to navigate ridiculous crowds, but in the end it was totally worth it. I really ought to read the book. There were plenty of made-up words (congratulotions among them) and awesome puns such as "Witch is witch?" - this one being followed by a tap-danced rim-shot.

Today we bought several drawing pencils and some other artsy things at A.C. Moore, which I am now eager to put to use. This summer I'd like to teach myself the art of knitting. My dear friend Kate says that she learned off the internet; and given the fact that I am almost temporarily liberated from school, I ought to have time. No bets on the guitar-playing, but I might give it a shot. All in its eventual time, yes? Honestly I do not know about my going to college at this point; I think it can be useful, but is not necessarily for everyone, as society would have some believe. I intend to be a freelance writer, which requires no degree. So if I get accepted into Pratt Institute (where they have a renowned writing program), I will go, but I don't know if I honestly want to study English and/or Computer Science elsewhere unless I can become self-employed. The thought of sitting in a cubicle for fifty years not only bores me; it actually depresses me. I'm not trying to knock on those who do it - I am merely saying it is not for me. I think it's a personality thing. Hopefully I shall find a way.

For now, I am forced to attend the enormous time-waster known as public school. Wish me luck!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

60-Page Reviews: Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom

What can I say? I think the title says loud and clear that this book sucks. I actually read significantly more than sixty pages, but I was just trying to read the whole thing so that I might make fun of it more easily. But alas, my life is time-crunched, both in and out of book club. Thus I found it prudent to stop this bloody awful novel and promptly did so.

While I may not be an expert on determining prose quality (I know, I know), the writing here felt very loose and awkward. Certainly not eloquent like Mary Shelley or, say, Jenny Hubbard. The story was dull enough (just an air-headed girl fussing about boys and kisses), but what drove me bleedin' bonky was the narrator, Justina Griffith. She just struck me as a tease, kissing boys and then running off to kiss other boys. At one point someone says Justina seems to consider kissing some kind of chore and she replies (paraphrased), "No, more of a sport." Plus the humor relied heavily on randomness - not the good kind one finds in the works of Lewis Carroll or Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett - just oddness. Random humor, in my opinion, has to be carefully executed or else we have an effect akin to that of a slasher movie claiming to be horror.

I tried not to judge this book by its cover and subject, but garsh, does it suck! Neeext!

Final grade: F

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Boastful Confession

Lately this thing has been going around known as Amendment One. For those of you who may not know, Amendment One legally prevents same-sex marriages, among other things. Mostly I've seen those in the LGBT community's favor, but today I took a super-long walk - not incredibly far, considering my walks in general, but for several hours. Near the end of said excursion I passed three neighboring churches, two of which had signs that read: "Vote FOR Amendment One! ... One man. One woman..." and something about "proper" families or "true" families or some such bull-crap. I don't remember, because it wasn't worth remembering. Bigoted slime. The reason I care about the signs themselves is that people these days tend not to think before they do or say things. The average person, I am afraid, will read it (provided said human can actually read) and say, "Hey, it says that so it must be true!" and cast a ballot. Scary.

I heard somewhere that about fifty-five percent of people in North Carolina (where I currently reside) are in favor of Amendment One, which makes me want to shoot someone. Are you people so thick as to never learn? Allow me to list my cases:
  • The Salem witch trials
  • The Red Scare
  • The Holocaust
  • African-American slavery
  • Black/white segregation
  • Patriarchy throughout all history
  • Medieval witch hunts
  • Plebeians and Patricians in Rome
  • Modern Communist China
  • The British vs. the Colonists
Do I need to say more there? That's why it makes me sick whenever women, blacks, Jews, or anyone else who would have suffered unfairness in the past insist on being homophobic. I'm not saying it's OK for straight, white cis-males to be prejudiced, but when the former are I think it just makes them hypocritical.

So. My boastful confession.

I vandalized the first sign by writing "BIGOTS" with a black Sharpie but then decided to rip the damn thing off its post altogether and throw it in a Dumpster later on. I did the same with both signs, ripping one of them apart with a small Swiss army knife. And I regret nothing. Je ne regrette rien! I do respect others' right to opinion, free speech and such, but this would influence people to vote for something I consider to be unethical. If I posted signs all over District of Columbia with the words "Burn the White House tonight! Kill its occupants!" I would not get away with "freedom of expression" because I would be posing a threat to others. (Don't worry, I'm not a murderer and besides, I like President Obama. It was an example, nothing more.) In my opinion, this was an attack on gays and an obstacle to their right to marry and while my actions were likely trivial, I feel great about them. That's right. Begging your pardon now, for I am about to say something crude: Homophobics have their heads up their asses, simple as that.

This is Lewis Winter, signing out.

Pensieve: Key West 2009

Of late I realized once again that I have a very interesting life, despite its setbacks, and that I have only done one Pensieve (which, of all things, was about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince). Here's another, although it's not quite about the Boy Who Lived - well, not the one most Potterheads would think of, anyway.

In June of 2009, my immediate family and I ventured to the land - and waters - of Florida. This was not my first time, which was indeed mere weeks before the events of the first Pensieve. It was as great a place to relax as I remembered it from 2005: we stayed at a Hyatt Beach House, which was a quiet retreat with nice rooms and screened-in porches. This time I wrote what I called my first novel in a matter of days on my dad's laptop, as I would not receive my own for another few months. It was a perfectly atrocious story (and a little over 7,000 words filling forty-one pages - I still called it a novel because I didn't pay attention to its size and I was also too excited that I had finished something "sizable" for once) - atrocious because the characters were mere lifeless pawns (something with which I still struggle) and the whole story was a shameless ripoff of Paolini's Eragon, which is in turn a story stolen from Star Wars (which, my friend Ezra argues, is yet another ripoff of Lord of the Rings - I still need to find out why this is). Even so, I was proud of my blue-dragon story and still am, not because it was any good, but because I was on my way to being better. Which, I suppose, many of us are.

The Hyatt Beach House had a small enclosed beach - not one of those crowded stretches of sand with seven quadrillion tourists and obnoxiously-colored umbrellas and towels everywhere, but a small area with a tiny pier and a rocky wade-in waterline. There was still the giant cracked ball I remembered from when I was ten years old, covered in coastal sea-plants and invertebrates, and young barracudas, which would swim up to greet us. I am not afraid of barracudas, or most sharks for that matter, because if they have nothing to fear, then what have I? Caroline, my sister, said she was followed around by a six-foot barracuda; I wish I had seen it, but the juveniles were beautiful in their own way. They were light brown with stripes, as opposed to the more mature silver bodies. The water was perhaps ten or twenty feet deep by the pier's end, and I would take a gulp of air and plunge down to view more intimately the sea stars and urchins and sand dollars on the ocean's sandy floor. I think I need another vacation there; relaxation would do me a lot of good these days.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Early One Tuesday Morning...

...I decided to write another blog post. There's really not a whole lot for me to say at the moment, other than that I am progressing on my unschooling project. So far I've procured a folder for personal studies, life and otherwise, and I wrote down some German words and conjugations so that I may reference them with greater ease than before. This is intended to be what I think I actually need to know, not what someone tells me to learn, and so far it's gone splendidly! Glad I am, but this is only the beginning, if you'll pardon that cliched phrase there. However, I mean it in the most positive of ways and cannot wait to continue my path to liberation.

- Lewis

Deshi, Deshi, Basara, Basara

In case I did not mention, I recently watched the two preexistent Batman films of the legendary Christopher Nolan, that is, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. This summer (2012) Mr. Nolan will release the third and last installment of the Dark Knight epic: The Dark Knight Rises.

This looks amazing. If it is not obvious, I am extremely excited for the film. That is all.

Poem: "The Prisoner" (First Draft)

We are not equal, you and I.
You lowered yourself beyond return.
As free as you seem, you are not,
Because you are my prisoner.

You are on a leash, unbroken
By your mad dashes for freedom.
You cannot see it, but it's there--
In the back of your mind, I think,

You know I will not release you.
Your every step is weighed down
Because the locusts are within,
Eating you until, but a husk,

You fall to your knees and confess.
The chains of the mind are hardened;
Sooner than you know, you've fallen
To the mercy of your own soul.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein

"When the power of love overrules our love of power, we shall be at peace." - Something I read somewhere but forgot the source; paraphrased


This book, to my knowledge, was way ahead of its time. Herbert George Wells' nameless time traveler explains some of the ideas I first encountered in the more recent Hyperspace by Dr. Michio Kaku. Said ideas include that that time is the fourth dimension; the measure of duration is just as valid as those of length, width, and height. The time traveler ventures from around 1895 (the year of the novel's publication) to the distant-but-approaching year of 802,701. He finds two races, the Eloi and the Morlocks, both of which are derived from humanity, a two-pronged fork of human evolution. The Eloi seem perfectly at peace, harmonious with their surroundings, until the time traveler finds that the second race, the Morlocks, live underground and have evolved away from any form of brighter light, are carnivorous and prey on the helpless Eloi. It becomes apparent that these two separate populations are the product of humankind's over-eagerness to progress. In creating their own perfect surface world, the Eloi have no need of defensive strategies...until the Morlocks come to devour them. But the Eloi have no knowledge as to what is happening to their lost members and continue to exist in pseudo-safety. Reminds me a bit of Orwell's Animal Farm, actually. The time traveler goes so far ahead that eventually all life has been reduced to lichens and slime. This is rather a depressing thought, but can also serve as a warning to all of us.

Final grade: A

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Asheville, April 2012: A Recap

As I said I would, I went to Asheville this past weekend. Truthfully, it's a great city, but I don't know if I'd want to live there. Not entirely sure why; it just seemed to have more creepy people this time. At one point I was walking the streets late at night, feeling awesome and independent, when an old lady approached me and asked in a distorted sort of voice if I could help her. She admitted she was extremely drunk and said she needed to find a restaurant. Knowing the whole stranger-danger thing yet worried for the woman's sake - she didn't seem trustworthy but she did seem to severely need help - I led her along and made absolutely sure to stay in the light of the sidewalks. When she asked me my age I replied that I was eighteen (technically I am, if you include my fetal months); then for some reason she wanted my first name and then my last, so I gave her a mixed alias (technically I do go by several names, so my truth-conscience is clear there as well). Finally we found a restaurant and I explained the situation to a waitress (or maybe hostess, I don't really know) who stood outside. To my dismay, the younger lady listed all of the great beers they had, which was when I went back to the hotel and ordered a Papa John's pizza, which arrived at one in the morning. Yum.
We went to the nature center and saw local wildlife (in captivity), from white-tail deer to mountain lions, snakes to black bears, otters to owls. It was a fun experience, to be sure. They even had goats, which were adorable. Someday I want to own goats and chickens - gods be damned if I would eat their meat; I just want to own them as pets - but that chapter of my life has not yet been revealed.

On Monday, having arrived back home the night before, I began my art instruction under the wondrous Jenny Eggleston. This is going to be fun, and I also hope to soon start guitar lessons and resume my education in the art of piano. There's a place not far from one of my homes that does both, and I've a gut feeling that I can swing it if I can properly fit them into my schedule.

Now, a drawing and some writing both await me. Not to mention homework.

Au revoir!
-- Lewis

Friday, April 6, 2012

Asheville's Impending Approach

"People don't come to Asheville very often, and they don't know I'm there. I enjoy it. I like it." - Jules Shear

Asheville. The city of peace, love, and all of that. The city to which I may be traveling this weekend. It is one of my favorite places so far, and not only is it a calm atmosphere: it is also an artistic place. Full of visual art, music, and other such things, it is one of my dream homes. While I do not know if I shall have wi-fi at the hotel, I am considering leaving my laptop here in the hopes of writing by hand and fully enjoying my stay. This blog can wait. Trust me, it has waited much longer.

I love you all, and should have a post upon returning.

--- Danny

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On Bruno Coulais

This is another post about relatively little-known musical artists. In the past I have covered, I believe, Medwyn Goodall, the Herb Moore Trio, and Adrian von Ziegler, plus possible others whom I may have momentarily forgotten. Today our subject is Bruno Coulais. He is European, I believe, but I'm not sure where in particular. His score for the awesome Henry Selick film Coraline (based upon a novella by Neil Gaiman) was relaxing and beautiful, and at times downright creepy (like the film itself). On iTunes, one of the artists was the Hungarian something or other. He also scored Babies (which I have not seen or heard) and a film called Himalaya, whose tracks on YouTube are listed in French, so I'm guessing that was made in a French-speaking country. I'm currently listening to "Karma," of whose origins I am uncertain, and which is oneiric and beautiful.

Basically, whoever likes relaxed, thoughtful, downright dreamlike music ought to check this guy out.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

I saw The Hunger Games on Friday, March 23 (opening night here in the States) with a sense of excitement I had not felt since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. I had wanted to go to the midnight showing, but I had school the next day and it would not do to fall asleep during a lesson.

I had a fairly good idea I would not be disappointed (if anyone mentions the Eragon movie from 2006 I shall weep for humanity) and I was right! They stayed as close to the book as reasonably possible - one of the closest adaptations I've seen of anything - and did a great job with censorship. They only showed as much of the horrible violence as was necessary to get the point across without making a graphic, disgusting mess. And that, to me, makes things all the more disturbing.

The plot of the film (and the novel), in case anyone somehow has somehow not heard it already, revolves around Katniss Everdeen (played with perfect precision by Jennifer Lawrence), who lives in the nation of Panem, which rose from the ashes of North America after a devastating war in the distant future. There are twelve districts and the Capitol. District Thirteen was destroyed by the Capitol's forces long ago. Every year, the youths of each district are required to submit their names for a lottery drawing in order to determine who receives the "honor" of representing their districts in the dreaded Hunger Games. One submits one's name once when twelve, twice when thirteen, and so forth - and they add up. Therefore an eighteen-year-old will have entered twenty-one times, and one can volunteer one's name more times in exchange for more rations of food.

The twenty-four tributes - twelve boys and twelve girls - are trained in combat and survival before being sent into an arena to fight to the death until one competitor is left.

Katniss' younger sister Primrose (or "Prim") has just turned twelve and is terrified of entering the Games. Katniss comforts her by telling her how slim the odds are of being selected when one's name has been in the lottery but one time. And - what do you know? - they pick Prim. By the way, whoever played Effie Trinket - the lady who does the drawing - was portrayed in such a creepy, clueless, startlingly perfect way by Elizabeth Banks. Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place and is whisked off to the Capitol to begin training...and to prepare for her nearly inevitable slaughter.

As I said, they portrayed everything perfectly (save for the muttations, which were supposed to have the faces of dead tributes - but they were still chilling to watch, so I'll excuse that). Donald Sutherland plays the main villain (President Coriolanus Snow) and, well? What can I say? He's Donald Sutherland! Where can one go wrong? I love Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark) in general, and Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy) was awesome too.

I hear Catching Fire (the second installment) is already in pre-production, and I shall eagerly await it. This is quite possibly the most faithful adaptation of a novel I have ever seen. I think author Suzanne Collins' writing the first draft of the script had something to do with that.

Final grade: A

Sunday, April 1, 2012

To Walk the Land Alone

"The world is my backyard." - Thomas O'Malley (O'Malley the Alley Cat), from Disney's The Aristocats

Lately I've been fretting about what must inevitably come soon: career choices. Or must it? Whenever I realize that while I know the English language very well, and plan to major in it, I hit a wall, so to speak, when it occurs to me that I might not be suited to public education. Apart from waking up insanely early each day and staying awake, I am not thrilled about public schools. Perhaps they are better in other counties, but I much prefer the idea of unschooling (see my previous post). Editing might be a nice job, but I do not want to get bogged down year-round by work and therefore stress. I am no simpleton, but I have an affinity for simplicity. Perhaps I'll freelance.

My aim is to travel the world, preferably alone but perhaps with very good friends. I have not decided yet whether or not I need a "base" - if it is practical enough I shan't; my non-materialistic nature tells me to be frugal, even with living and lodging. I ought to only keep clothes, hygienic stuff, a wallet, and a few other things:
  • Pencils, pens, charcoals, erasers, etc. in a pouch
  • A full-size journal for writing and a mini for ideas
  • A sketchbook
  • Enough reading material to last*
...and that's about it, really. I don't need a whole load of extra crap to accompany me.

*At least two or three thousand pages' worth of it per trip; hopefully that does not create a bulgy bag.

I'm Unschooled!

"Be yourself! An original is always worth more than a copy." - A poster at my school (irony?)

"The least of learning is done in the classrooms." - Thomas Merton

"When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life." - John Lennon

Finally - and not meaning "Finally I am unschooled," but "Finally I realize that I am unschooled." Such a joy! Now, granted, I do attend a public schooling facility - and a rather decent one, considering the county's system - but according to one of my closest friends (who happens to be unschooled), I can still be unschooled. And I am. Many people my age and younger coast along at school and, upon release, do little to nothing in order to educate themselves. I do not wish to be redundant, but I must say that I am who I am by nature more than nurture. My parents, as much I love them, are largely conformists and insist that there is something wrong with me and have made a hobby of telling everyone about all of my flaws - whether said flaws exist or not.

As many times as I've explained the truth to my mother, she wants to think she's right and therefore tunes me out. One mustn't believe I am simply a slacker who doesn't want to work: my motives simply lie in the ability to question the way things are. As stated in previous posts, I don't see why adults have to be addressed as "Mister" or "Missus" simply by dint of having lived a few more years, and why we have to learn certain things at school. Sure, if I am to be a geologist or an architect (probably neither, actually), it would do me well to know certain things, but I think computer science and basic first-aid would be better as "essentials" - and I don't assume that knowing the difference between lipids and amino acids won't be useful someday (I have my doubts, but I don't pretend to be certain) - but when the teachers tell us that we shall have a use for these things someday, I'd appreciate knowing why. My question is, how do the properties of silver alloys make us better citizens? Unless one is either going into a specific field or onto a stupid game show, they should be electives.

Anyhow, that aside, I was beyond exuberant to find out that I am an unschooler in some senses. I feel confident that I can make a life for myself without knowing who discovered China (was it Polo...?). Do not worry! I have no intentions of dropping out of high school. I'll most likely be an English major, but I don't intend to live large, as so many people dream of doing. I want to be able to both relax and have a blast. According to yet another post of the past, I think some stress is necessary for one's psycho-emotional health (such as a drop of the sickness itself in a vaccine, for the immune system). I intend to have a happy medium of stress as I venture to Europe and beyond, but I am like no one you'll ever find. Maybe I'll be a part-time farmhand or work at a bookstore, but I intend to be happy, and that's the best form of success there is.

Friday, March 23, 2012


"Death is only the beginning." - various sources, including Gandalf the White (I think)

I haven't posted in a while, and for that I apologize. But I have been rather preoccupied with school stuff. But since I don't think I've said this before, our cat, Zelda Phelan, had a rough couple of weeks. Today she was put down at the veterinary office. She had not been feeling well as of late, and we all knew this day was coming.

Am I sad? you may ask. A little. I'll miss Zelda and I feel bad that she went through the pains she did, but I also acknowledge that no creature can live forever. She was older than I am now (I'm seventeen, and she had a year or two on me). She was ready, I think.

She was a great animal, a great pet, and a great member of the family. She was loud and spoiled, and we loved her. She was either a human, or we are all weird-looking cats. Either way, she was one of us, and she will be missed. Even in death, I love that cat. She never had enough attention. But she loved us too, and would climb up onto one's lap and refuse to move. I love you, Z.

I was at school today when she passed, but I've been notified that her body was buried in my father's backyard, near that of her sister Lillian, who died on Friday, May ninth, 2008. We now own only one cat, Rainbow-Flower, or Rainow as we call her (Rainow, not Rainbow). But she'll keep us busy, for as I say, every cat is odd in its own unique way. I love cats.

I'm going to see The Hunger Games in half an hour or so, and I hear it's really good. Gods, did I love those books. I must reread!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Two Musicians and Two Writers

Last night I was tired after a long Elton John concert (yes, live!) and neglected to write this post then. But he was amazing! He had a glass of water but only drank from it every so often, sang song after song without respite, and happens to be in his sixties, according to my mum. I actually found that I did not know most of his songs - and didn't understand most of the lyrics due to the screaming fans - but every single one was great. Near the end he played "Daniel" (my real name happens to be Daniel) and the last song was my personal favorite: "Crocodile Rock." He even paused to let the audience sing "Naaaaaaaaaaaa, nananana-naaaaaa!"

That song is just beautiful. Makes me want to cry. The accompanying band was also great and included the relatively new Two Cellos (that's what I think they were called). I love Elton.

The second musician is still on the rise, I think: Adrian von Ziegler. If you're into Celtic instrumental (I am), or Gothic metal, he has those and more. Speaking of Celts, happy Saint Patty's Day!!!

Today I had lunch with the YA authors Ally Carter and Rachel Hawkins. Both brilliant, funny, very nice persons. It was nothing short of a privilege. Now to read their books! I still need to do so.

I think my mother is cooking potatoes now. Bye!

--- Lewis / Daniel

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Thank-You Note to My Adversaries

"That was fun. Most people vomit the first time." - Albus Dumbledore (HP6 movie)

"There never was a good war or a bad piece." - Benjamin Franklin

"There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval." - George Santayana


Without adversity, where would we be? In a way, life is like fiction in the sense that those who hinder us, help us, and occasionally the converse. Even if they hinder us in one way, they also give us experience in dealing with their kind. I live without regret, for it doesn't change the past, and my actions and those of others have shaped me into who I am now. I daresay I am not perfect - far from it! Nobody is, really; by definition, perfection cannot be achieved - but I am mostly satisfied with who I have become and who I am still becoming. I am a bit of a perfectionist and overly cautious, but I could be much worse, believe me! But even though I have largely had to raise myself despite the presence of parents, my aggressors give me the inner strength to improve. I find that a comparison to many medical vaccines is relevant here; through the syringe or what-have-you, a practitioner gives a tiny dosage of the sickness itself - the one that will hopefully be prevented. Our minds need to have immune systems akin to the literal sort.

And that is what I have: a mental/emotional immune system, and a strong one at that; I feel no hate and only become angry when it's something worth anger, such as homophobia, animal cruelty, racism, sexism, and so forth. But if someone attempts to insult me, I generally brush it aside as trivial. (If someone thinks I need to be captured or killed, then I'll start caring what others think. Otherwise I can judge myself.) In the short story "N-Words" by Ted Kosmatka, which I read in Year's Best SF 14, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, the narrator (an expecting mother) says something I felt was a jackpot of truth:

"And is that what you'd wish for him, to have an easy life?"
"Isn't that what every parent wishes for?"
"No," I said. I touched my own stomach. I put my small hand over his large one. "I hope our son grows to be a good man."

That pretty much hit the nail on the head for me. Not only is an easy life a spoiled one, but said spoiling leaves one ill-prepared for the real world. It's a tough game, life is, and only the toughest (or luckiest) can succeed.

Chew on that.

--- Lewis Mason Winter

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How Could I Forget?

My last post neglected The Woman in Black - a definite winner if you ask me.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Top Five Best Movies of 2011

I decided on five as I cannot currently think of ten. And yes, I do realize this is a few months late. And these are in my opinion, although I think I am being as objective as possible. In no particular order:

  1. The Artist
  2. War Horse
  3. Super 8
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
  5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
I am in a bit of a hurry, so feel free to suggest movies to me. I did not see all of them, and I enjoyed several that I simply do not think ought to be honored due to my critical side. But I definitely recommend all five of these to anyone who loves a very well-made picture, regardless of genre.

-- Lewis

Saturday, March 3, 2012

60 Page Review: What Boys Really Want by Pete Hautman

At the end of the 2012 Melinda Awards, there was a "galley grab," in which we teens all fell upon the past year's unpublished proofs like piranhas on a bleeding cow. The cow somehow fell into the river. Anyway, after the aforementioned grab, the cart of books for 2012 was opened to us and this was the one thing I took at the time. To quote myself, "It [looked] like a great throw off the list [of potential winners]." We tend to weed things out rather quickly; only the best of books (in a majority's opinion) make it through to the very end. And this had a ridiculous title, so I grabbed it with the intention of landing it in the Chair of Shame.

The writing was below average but not awful. It's mostly the sexism, for which the term "blatant" would be an understatement. I mean, just look at the title! Not all boys want the same thing, nor do all girls, nor does any other gender. It was chock-full of "That's a girl thing" and "Only a guy would do that" and such. Mind you, this isn't a super-bomb like Vampire Crush, but Hautman certainly isn't quite a Jo Rowling, a Suzanne Collins, or a Holly Black. He's no John Green, no David Levithan, no Jenny Hubbard. What I'm saying is that there are so many superb writers out there, and so many more mediocre ones, that I generally read only the best of things. I also do 60 Page Reviews, but - at least for the moment - I read precisely sixty of the pages before putting things down.

And trust me, I'm pretty damn good at judging books by their covers. Of course, there's a process of getting into a non-60-Page-Review book:
  • Look at the cover and title, or spine if shelved
  • Look at the summary
  • Read the first page or flip to a random page and determine the writing quality
  • Make a judgment: to read or not to read?
This book struck me as slightly below average and not worth a good deal of my time. I recently secured its return to the Printz cart and signed it back in for some other poor, brave soul to read.

Final grade: D

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What Kind of Fool am I?

"I may be an idiot, but I'm no fool!" - Monty Python's Flying Circus

" ... And he never listens to them / He knows that they're the fools ... " - The Beatles, "The Fool on the Hill"

"Who is more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows the first fool?" - Obi-wan Kenobi [paraphrased from memory], Star Wars (1977)

"I've known [Lewis Winter] since grade school, and I still don't understand him." - a schoolmate/neighbor [memory again]

"Out there they'll revile you as a monster. Out there they will hate and scorn and jeer." - Dom Claude Frollo, from Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame [1996]

The second quote, the one from the legendary rock band, inspired part of an essay I wrote last semester for my English class. I'll wager it is about time to post about this. Many people assume I'm just a fool based upon my...eccentric mannerisms. They couldn't be more wrong. If you'll pardon the lack of humility, I'm really smart. Really, I'm freaking awesome! As boastful as I know that is, I consider it also to be a heightened level of pride; it doesn't do to lose one's footing in conceit, but I see nothing wrong with realizing the truth about oneself or having a positive self-image.

Now. As the old saying goes, "Don't judge a book by its cover." When taken literally, it is sometimes best to do just that (so many books, so little time), but socially, doing so is very presumptuous and even imprudent. People only see the tip of my iceberg. I believe I am introverted, despite my jovial personality. I keep much back. An obvious example: most people don't know that "the guy with the crazy laugh" is a published writer (to be fair, I did not go through editing), or an actor, that he is actually quite careful with bladed objects such as knives and rapiers (although even my mother doesn't believe that one), that his having caffeine does not cause the apocalypse, or that he'd never harm a fly.

Some people often assume I am "creepy." Whether this is due to my fascination with death or (in a couple of cases) no apparent reason at all, I cheerfully refute these claims. I'm glad I have enemies, or even people who simply aren't worth it to me (mostly the latter), because that means that according to Bill Cosby, I'm on the road to success (by not attempting to please everyone) and, in the words of Winston Churchill, I've "stood up for something." Who had guessed that this guy [me] is a vegetarian? A feminist? A blogger?

People tend to believe I am gay as well. Now don't get me wrong: I'm not by any means homophobic; I love all people no matter what and I am into LGBT rights. But that doesn't make me gay. I mentioned a few sentences ago my being a feminist. Does that limit members to women? By vegetarian do I only not eat human meat? And no, I don't sparkle in the sun, so put your wooden stakes down. I don't have to be a member of something I support. But I've mentioned before that I'm perfectly OK hugging both sexes and all genders. A hug, to me, denotes love, but love is by no means restricted to romance. If it was, we'd be incestuous. And it's OK for girls to hug girls and guys to hug girls. But when two or more dudes hug? What's the big deal? Honestly, people.

This leads back to my nonconformity. Despite what certain doctors and such think, I am not "ill" and do not need to be "fixed." I'm not socially incapable: I just don't agree with certain social norms. People have wasted loads of time and money attempting to make me part of the herd, but I have resisted mightily, and - you know what? - I feel fine! Better, actually. Perhaps a post about adversity is due, which (by mere incident) was an essay for a previous English class. Thanks, enemies and lowly scum! Love ya!!

---- Lewis

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Link to Another "Woman in Black" Review

Well put, Vaulty! And it is almost four in the morning here. I should get some sleep.... Or better yet, some reading!

- Lewis

A Rainy Day and a Snowy Night

The title of this post refers to yesterday (Saturday, February nineteenth, 2012), when we had a chilly-but-pleasant rainy day and the first snowfall of the season. Being Lewis Winter, I love my namesake and all it brings, which is why I am half-disappointed in this particular one. One side of me yearns for cold and snow and ice and frost; the other enjoys the nice springy weather. I am glad at least one night, and I'm happy for what we did get...but I cannot help but wonder if global warming has something to do with this. Because I'm sure polar bears don't fancy it as much as we might.

Politics aside, I wrote a short poem a few minutes ago and would like to share. I am calling it "Rain Cycle" for now.

Onto leaves
And then dripping
Into the soft earth
Cycles back to the sky
And will soon return to rain.

Reminds me a bit of Herb Moore's album H2O Overture, but I like it otherwise. Any comments? Feedback? Death threats?

It's been rather warm today, but I got a good load of reading done. Now if you'll excuse me, I have forty-seven pages to read in order to complete my new 200-page daily reading goal.

Have a nice day.
-- Lewis M. Winter

Saturday, February 18, 2012

60 Page Review: Vampire Crush by A.M. Robinson

Dear oh dear.... What can I say? The title and cover pretty much review the book's content on their own, do they not? No. Well, not all of it. I found the writing to be very sloppy and at times awkward, as well as the narration. I don't have the book on me now, but I remember something like: "I poked at the grapes on my plate with my fork. They looked like little grenades, and I wondered if they might explode. They passed the test."

What? Even when not considering the total randomness of this thought (leave out unimportant words!), it doesn't make logical sense, either: grenades are not mines! They don't just explode when touched! They have pins!!

Another thing was the lack of subtlety. The vampire's name was not Edward Cullen, or even something cool like Richard Sklenar or Kolo (the latter two being of my creation; I write the occasional vampire tale too, just not lame type of which we see so much today). No, no, his name was Vlad. FREAKING. VLAD!!!! Are you gods-be-damned kidding me?? And this got published! What's scary is that the author works in New York City - in publishing. Gulp.

And while Stephenie Meyer, the infamous author of the Twilight series (often referred to as a "saga") did not invent the concept of vampire romance (not even sure who did, if not Bram Stoker - but his was not nearly as stupid; in fact, Dracula has become a favorite of mine), this book rips off Meyer's work in numerous ways, what with the strange family moving in and the Hot Guy ignoring her and sitting with her in class get the idea. This book, or at least the sixty pages I forced myself to read in order to get it off the list at my book club, is unoriginal, poorly written, and ultimately a sheer pain to read. I think I'll read something by Stephen King now, or maybe Mary Shelley's Valperga when I can find a copy. And I do hope Jenny Hubbard writes another book. I intend to be done with Robinson, but who knows? - I might have to do this again. Wish me luck.

Final grade: F

Au revoir!
- Lewis

Coming Soon: 60 Page Reviews

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

My book club has a policy which states that in order to disqualify a book from the very fierce competition toward the Melinda Awards, two or three (not sure exactly how many at the moment) persons must read at least sixty pages in order to give it a "No." I've done that at least once (Vampire Crush - even the title is terrible!), and I'm currently struggling to reach the sixtieth page of What Boys Really Want by Pete Hautman. So this is basically a preview of something to come. First I shall probably review the aforementioned "vampire" novel. Also, I may be amending my New Year's resolution to 100 or maybe even 150 books. At least. I really need to get up to speed on my reading. In addition to these, I'm trying to read more good books and sixty pages each of more gods-awful books, which means my ascending standards won't tolerate any "decent" or "OK" books - it must be on either side of the fence for me and not on its tip. This is in order to improve my own writing and throw off more books for Printz. Another reason for which I do this is efficiency: I must read more. I already read far more than most people, but I was surprised at the reading abilities of many of my fellow members, particularly Ara. Much power to that one! I must, of course, make room for non-Printz books, but that should't be an issue. Anyhow, time to go!

- Lewis

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review: Marly's Ghost by David Levithan, Plus a Ramble on Valentinians

My first encounter with David Levithan was just months ago when I read his very intense novel Every You, Every Me. This was not nearly as good, but I only say that because EYEM was one of the finest books of 2011 - not to put this one down in any pun intended, honestly.

It's a spinoff of Dickens' A Christmas Carol but focused on Valentine's Day rather than Christmas. It tells the story of Ben, a grief-stricken teen whose girlfriend has recently passed away due to sickness. He is visited by three ghosts, four if one includes that of his dead significant other Marly. They teach him lessons about moving on in a very Dickensian manner. It was very touching, but nothing amazing. Like I said, it's not EYEM. It was still a fun read and a quick one.

Final grade: B

Now for my views on Valentine's Day. It has a seemingly nice idea on the one hand, but I agree with Olivia when I say people should be kind and loving all year long. It might be considered awkward to give someone spontaneous chocolates on most given days of the year...but why? I am happily single, but I feel a non-romantic love toward all my friends and family. I go with the Beatles' ideals in spreading the message of peace and love. Basically, it's nice to be loving on one day, but better to be loving every day. Many friends of mine, male and female alike, not to mention all other genders (something I'm trying to learn about), receive at least one hug from me on almost every meeting. It's not because I'm in love with any of them, but because I simply love them. There is a difference. I apparently cannot stress it enough. Again, you people ought to know who you are. Yes, I love you guys very much.

Anyhoots, I must away, as I am technically "eating lunch" at school at the moment.

Oceans of friend-love,

Monday, February 13, 2012

We the People

"We, ever your servants, will continue to defend your liberty and defend the forces that seek to take it from you!" - Rufus Scrimgeour, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (2010)


In my Civics & Economics class, we were each asked to rewrite the Preamble in our own words. Aside from the basic grammatical irks (misuses of "shall," Seemingly random Capitalization - both of which must have been OK back then), I realized it is in dire need of updating. Here is my rewrite:

"We the people, human and otherwise, in order to perfect our union to the greatest possible degree; as well as establish true justice and ensure domestic tranquility; defend our borders and everything within – and without when necessary – yet force no being to fight unwillingly; equalize opportunities for those who seek them (depending upon plausibility but not determining anyone’s welfare according to factors out of any individual’s ability to control); secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and for our posterity – these do ordain and furthermore establish this Constitution, and any further updates within reason, of these United States of America."

Mine may not be perfect (or to perfection's greatest possible degree, as it were) - but I try to acknowledge equal rights for all - not just straight white men, not even just for humans. All beings deserve a chance at life in the beginning, and how it works out is to be determined. I do not appreciate the fact of being bred simply to die; in fact, I despise how egg-chickens are handled, to name one thing in a thousand. Nor do I like the whole "born rich, die rich / born poor, die poor" thing which seems to be going on. I do realize that there are exceptions, but it seems harder to do well when one comes from a shabby background. Life is a game - and I don't literally mean the board game of that title - and a rigged one at that. Sometimes the only way to win for any amount of time is to cheat back. I've been surviving, as stated in previous posts, and I intend to continue doing so. I didn't get where I am today by sitting on my ass complaining; I got here by doing stuff. And while various systems have screwed me over, I don't waste any more time than I have to dealing with them. I am strong, in other words.

But the Constitution, much like the Bible, seems to need a bit of tweaking. And no, I was not in the Preamble number in Schoolhouse Rock Live!, although my friends were.

Love to all,