Sunday, January 29, 2012

And now for something completely different: A post about censorship

I tend not to curse a whole lot. That's partly because I don't feel the need to often, and also, as much as I love arguing, sometimes disputes are best left not started by parents of children in public places, etc., by letting loose a toe-stubbing stream. And profanity's only a part of it; I think nudity, violence, scary stuff, and whatever else needn't be so taboo. Or Macbeth, for that matter, but that's a different story - I think. Now I'm fairly certain I've never used the word "fuck" on this blog before. I don't have a filter for mature content, nor will I consent to one for this post. I understand why parents don't want their kids to drink or smoke. Those are actually bad for them.

But what to do if one's child says something naughty? I'm going to pretend I am in my thirties or forties. I'm a full-time writer living in a flat in East Sussex when my six-year-old daughter (Callista Xylia [Winter] is a good name) walks into my study as I am pounding out an important piece of writing.

HER. Lewis?
ME. Yes, dear?
HER. What does fuck mean?
- THE AVERAGE PARENT. Don't you ever say that again! Go to your room!
- ME. It's a derogatory term used to indicate sexual acts, which can function as a noun ("that old fuck," for example) or more commonly a verb ("go fuck yourself!" - a base thing to say, but it is commonly used where I'm from). It may also take on the meaning of something gone wrong, for example, "He's a fuckup." You might not want to say fuck around the common public, but I don't personally mind your saying it in the house. So what do you want for lunch?

The odd thing is, "superiors" of age who scold young ones for cursing often have dirtier vocabulary themselves. And if you noticed my theoretical child calling me by my first name, real or not, it's because I don't find it even remotely disrespectful in any way. Now, another mini-script:

ADULT. Shit! What the hell did you do this time?
CHILD. Oh crap....
[ADULT freaks out over the kid saying "crap"]

The enormity of this hypocrisy astounds me. Also, if kids are going to hear words in real life, what's the point in shielding them from the media? As I understand it, a modern movie can have one F-bomb, sometimes two, and more than that will get it an "R" rating. I understand that intense violence or terror might disturb some people. Still. I could handle most anything on the big screen when I was thirteen or fourteen, but the age remains seventeen, with the exception of bringing a guardian.

When it comes to nudity, I'm iffy. My French teacher from last semester said that in France, nudes are sometimes featured on billboards or in shop windows. Not pornography, of course, just humans in their natural form. I'm fine with that, and the main reasons I think people ought to wear clothing still are cold weather, fashion (there is an art to attire, I think), and to prevent (really, lessen) those lusty weirdos we have so many of today. I'm not saying these things to be perverse; I just don't think there's initially anything wrong with any creature at its purest form. In English III, we read a Mark Twain essay titled "The Lowest Animal," in which he described humans' need to cover themselves up in shame or shyness (hey, I wore a swim shirt for years due to shyness, so I'm not attacking those people), but again, I think with the creeps we have in the modern world, clothing is best.

Drugs and alcohol I'm fine with in media as long as they aren't encouraged. I alluded to this earlier in saying that they stunt growth and cause other medical problems in reality if consumed or otherwise used. But if someone under twenty-one hollers out a swearword, it doesn't make one arm shorter or impair senses. They're just words. The only words I mind (and nearly never say) are terms of bigotry and prejudice. You know, like "nigger" or "faggot," etc. And I don't say them here to use them - I think if treated carefully, like an unstable mineral, they can be regarded for their meanings. In the same English III class, we watched a video about Huck Finn in which a literature professor named David Bradley (known to us a Black Santa - that was one impressive beard!) said he didn't think the uses of N. ought to be censored in Mr. Twain's novel; they were very well contextual, as it took place during the era of American slavery in the nineteenth century.

All in all, I think some censorship is appropriate, but one mustn't try to hide reality from one's offspring. I've been up literally all night. It is presently four-fifteen in the morning here, which means I have school in about three hours. My previous post, the one about Redwall, was written shortly before this one. I'm on a roll, what, what? Anyhow, I'd better wrap this one up. Hope I didn't offend anyone, but if I did, what was the point of this post, huh?

Love to all,
Lewis Winter

Book Review: Mariel of Redwall by Brian Jacques

"Old stories told by travelers / Great songs that bards have sung / Of Mossflower summers, faded, gone / When Redwall stones were young / Great hall fires on winter nights / The legends who remembers / Battles, banquets, comrades, quests! / - Recalled 'midst glowing embers / Draw close now, little woodlander, / Take this to sleep with you / My tale of dusty, far-off times / When warrior hearts were true / Then store it in your memory / And be the sage who says / To young ones in the years to come / Ah yes, those were the days...." - From the introduction


I probably mentioned earlier that I love Brian Jacques as a writer. His prose is beautiful. The first book in the Redwall series, called - wait for it - Redwall - was the best one so far for me: I gave it one of my rare "A" rating, also known as five stars (out of five). The second book (Mossflower) was good on its own but received a "B" due to similarities to its predecessor, and book three (Mattimeo) got a "C" for further formula. Alas, I must say about this was different. I was impressed. Granted, there was a poem-riddle, but something I can't quite pin about it made it different. Please don't ask me unless in jest; it just seemed original. The second book takes place many,  many seasons prior to the first, and this one is somewhere between those eras.

PLOT: Mariel, a mouse maid and a slave to the wicked sea-rat captain Gabool the Wild, is lost overboard during a violent storm. After a bit of finding shore and surviving there, she comes across three hares who place her in the care of a squirrel named Pakatugg, who [sort of] leads her to the currently incomplete abbey of Redwall. She remembers nothing of her previous life until, as I recall, the animals at Redwall give her some sort of sleep-inducing medicine which causes her to unconsciously recount her forgotten tale. There are at least two or three different sides among the sea rats, ever-quarreling creatures with awesome names for both the rats themselves (Saltar, Grimtooth, Riptung, Graypatch, Kybo, Lardgutt, etc.) and their ships (Darkqueen, Seatalon, Greenfang, etc.). Plenty of awesome scenes and such, and overall the best installment so far besides the original.

The problem I've noticed with the series overall is, as much as I hate to say it, hints of racism. There are some exceptions, such as wildcats, sparrows, and shrews; but mostly animals are considered good or evil based on their species. Among the benevolent creatures of Mossflower Wood are mice, badgers, hedgehogs, squirrels, moles, voles, otters, and hares, whereas foxes, rats, ferrets, weasels, stoats, and adders are considered to be horrible vermin simply for being born into their respective races. Earlier this month I made a post about the first villain, a rat named Cluny the Scourge (just happens to be a Redwall baddie, as the point would remain for any story), and how he didn't strike me as evil. An honest opponent is not wicked, in my view, simply for fighting for his or her rights. A backstabbing liar who harms totally innocent people for a selfish purpose? Now there's a problem. A real villain (sorry, Cluny, old pal, you're still awesome, particularly when you fight Matthias) needs to be unethical, I should say. And truth be told, a lot of the other villains (Gabool, Tsarmina, Slagar) are downright heartless. But saying that being a species of aggressive or predatory nature plays dirty simply by being a rat or fox seems rather unfair to me. That's why I disagree with people who hate spiders or snakes or what-have-you: I don't mind if you have a fear or phobia; just don't regard them as evil beings simply because of their birth...or, er, hatching, or whatever. I take it back, in fact - don't let me tell you how or what to think, as long as you don't expect me to understand or agree with it.

Final grade: B

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Velut Luna, Statu Variabilis, or, The Wheel Turns

"O Fortuna / Velut luna / Statu variabilis / Semper crescis / Aut decrescis...." - Carl Orff, "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana (translates from Latin to say "O Fortune / Like the moon / With its many changing phases / Always waxing / And waning / Hateful life....")

"Nobody wins a war." - A friend from elementary school. I first read this quote by him in fifth grade. Incidentally, between seventh and eighth grade, he introduced me to the writer Stephen King, who is mentioned in this post. I haven't seen this chap in a good while, but I sometimes talk to him on Facebook. Anyhow, on with blogging!


More emphasis on the fact that life goes on and on, like the wheel of ka (Dark Tower reference, sorry) - although I believe I mentioned in the long-ago post "Into the Jaws of [Almost] Certain Failure" that I had a tarot reading. I only briefly mentioned it then, and this will probably not be intensely detailed (I'm not John Tolkien, after all, and besides, my memory is far worse than it once was [bloody pills!]), I will relate one thing the lady said. I cannot actually remember what she called them - turns? phases? - but she said I was coming to the end of what was basically a chapter of my life. Of course, my life would likely be a long series of volumes, each with several "parts" and "chapters" and maybe even numeral dividers such as the ones sometimes used by Stephen King.

In fact I actually was coming to the end of a phase (I don't doubt the existence of energies) - one that did not altogether end well, but I was nonetheless relieved. One cannot win every battle, what, what?

I'm through with my finals, but a new semester begins tomorrow. Not quite a turn/phase - school terms are separate from those of life itself - but it signifies my drawing ever closer to an escape from this volume of life and toward that of college and hopefully freedom. At the moment I'm thinking to become a teacher or a professor - or perhaps a freelancer - and I'll be free to travel the world at my own leisure. Most European countries sound so lovely - I feel like Lennie from Of Mice and Men talking about "them rabbits" - and as soon as I am able to flee, I shall be free like a bird, or a horse...or a mix of both: a hippogriff.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I finished up my finals early today. Here marks a bit of the wee gap betwixt French I and II. First I'll relate what happened in between:

  • I read a good bit of The Fault in our Stars and talked to a couple of dear friends via instant message and email.
  • I had an audition for Applause!'s Jason and the Argonuts (yes, I'm sure I spelled it right), which was fun. The director is new to me, the third Applause! director I've auditioned for (out of three auditions, ha). She did seem really nice, I'll say. I'm rather optimistic about the whole thing: if I get in then I shall gain acting experience, and if not, I'll have time for things such as fencing, hapkido, or art classes. So I should be pleased either way. While I'm on the subject of Applause!, yesterday I walked to the outdoor amphitheater on which many previous plays were performed. I miss seeing them there, despite the new indoor theatre being nice, and I even wish I had gotten to perform on it. Ah, I at least got to stand there and act like an actor - not being pretentious, but pretending to be. (Note: I felt bad for Dracula's brides in the late October weather of 2009, having to wear arm-bearing dresses; must have been quite chilly, wot.)
  • I went to the first writer's group of the year, seeing my beloved friends after quite a bit of time - so it would seem - and there was no moderator, oddly enough. My mum sat in as a "chaperon" as we read our pieces - mine was intentionally stuffed to the brim with lame puns, which I feel self-conscious about despite its stupidity being intentional. But we had some very awesome work read tonight.
  • I got home and began taking German lessons on Livemocha.
Indeed! Guten abend. Some will say that German is an angry language; I would counter that they have not heard it spoken well: it's beautiful to me. In fact, I'd like to go to Germany sometime: there and other Deutsche-speaking nations will be good practice ground, I think. Well, it's late, and I'd better hit the hay soon (which by no means limits me to actually doing so).

Bonne nuit! Guten nacht!
- Lewis

Monday, January 16, 2012

Meeting the Vlogbrothers

Ye deities would hope you all (or you most) know about John Green and his brother Hank Green. If not, look them up!!!

I met them on Saturday night. In person. I got a few pictures, but I have not uploaded them yet. But it was very exciting and I was called on during the "questions" bit. When I finally stepped up to meet the brothers near the end, it was amazing being so close to such legends. Sorry to sound boastful; I am merely excited. They signed a few things each for each "meeter" and my copy of John's new novel The Fault in Our Stars, as well as my copy of Hank's album Ellen Hardcastle, marked "DFtbA" (Don't Forget to be Awesome).

I actually need to be somewhere soon, but I felt this was worth a post, even if it's not quite fresh in the ol' noggin. I love you all!


Writing to a Dead Man

"Do you not know death when you see it, old man? This is my hour!" - The Witch-King of Angmar from the extended movie version of The Return of the King (Peter Jackson one)

"Life is quite absurd, and death's the final word. You must always face the curtain with a bow! Forget your life of sin; give the audience a grin! Just remember it's your last chance anyhow!" - Eric Idle (I've had the song stuck in my head for several days now)

"A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist." - Stewart Alsop (via BrainyQuote)

So I finished the book Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder (a wonderful gift from my uncle Chris, who knew I had an interest in screenwriting). At the end of Chapter One, Blake gave his email address, but I decided to wait until I had finished until writing him, lest any additional questions should present themselves to me. So I finished it a few days ago and wrote the email, sent it...and got it back with one of those "failed to deliver to recipient" things. I decided for one reason or another to go to Blake's website - and found out that he had died suddenly in 2009.

No! No!

But I suppose we must all go at one point or another. It sounds like he had a great life. In John Green's new book, The Fault in Our Stars (garr, how did I forget to blog about MEETING THE VLOGBROTHERS IN PERSON???), he says something about how a full life does not necessarily mean one lives to be ninety-two or whatnot; it means to have led a great life, regardless of how soon or late one dies.

So it was a bit of a shock and I felt sort of weird - but it's not the end of the world. Gods rest you, Mr. Blake Snyder, and I hope you enjoyed your go at life.

Love from a fan,
Lewis / Danny

Friday, January 13, 2012

Printz: Finale One

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

"It is better to fail at originality than to succeed in imitation." - Herman Melville

"Read to your heart's content. Though if you are a reader, the heart is never content." - Jenny Hubbard, Paper Covers Rock

The year of 2011 was my first in a local library's Mock Printz book club. We had lots of fun over the course of the year (and a little into this one) and read some truly great books - and some bloody awful ones as well. We had to narrow down our choices to a "top three" list. Mine were as follows:

  1. Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard
  2. Every You, Every Me by David Levithan
  3. The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier
My first choice (which ended up winning) was one of the best books I've ever read. It details the guilt-burdened life of Alexander Stromm, written in the form of a journal - which works out tremendously, as it seems so real. As one member of the club pointed out, "Alex is not a character, he is a person." And I fully agree to that statement: he just felt so real. The story is very realistic and well-crafted; the writing was simply beautiful. I'm not surprised to learn that the author is a poet and playwright.

The second is the first, and so far only, piece of work I have read by David Levithan. The prose is also very good here (not Paper Covers Rock, but still great) and the characters feel a similar guilt for a friend (I'd hate to spoil it, so I'll keep it vague). The cool thing is that Mr. Levithan asked a photographer, Jonathan Farmer, to send him random pictures, which he based the story around - and nailed it. This is a wonderful novel.

And I've reviewed The Floating Islands in the past, but I still agree that the descriptions are breathtaking, similar to Redwall in their majesty. This is more my preferred style of book, although I can easily accommodate other genres. But I think this is good to show I am not biased.

The competition was keen; Paper Covers Rock was closely tied with a novel I have yet to read, titled A Monster Calls - so closely, in fact, that our lead librarian had to step in and give her vote, which was for Jenny Hubbard's piece of art. I honestly think it will become a classic.

Overall it was a great meeting and I cannot wait for the new season.

Wishing the best,

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Let the Games Begin! A Post About Upcoming Movies

Two months until the Hunger Games movie. Squee! They'd better not ruin it like Stefen Fangmeier and 20th Century Fox did with Eragon. Grrr. But it looks promising. I do like Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark) and Donald Sutherland (President Snow), and Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) is supposed to be a good actress as well. I am also aware of the making of The Hobbit. I can't get the tune right for the dwarves' song in the trailer, yet neither can I stop attempting to sing it. Christopher Nolan is coming out with a new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, which I really want to see. Only there's one unforgivable fact:

I've never seen any Batman film or even read the comics. Shoot me. I am interested, I just never found the time - that and I can't sit still with rentals (Tim Burton's Batman with Michael Keaton), and when the last Nolan one came out (The Dark Knight), I was thirteen and my parents thought I was "too young" even thought it was rated PG-13. THIRTEEN. Gahh.... Anyway, I'll try and get to it eventually. My parents didn't let me see Lord of the Rings in theaters, or Mr. Burton's version of Sweeney Todd. They think I'm younger than I am, apparently. I think I might just do a post of censorship. I've not done that one yet, have I? I don't recall one.

Battleship. What can I say? It's not so much that they're making a movie BASED ON A FREAKING STRATEGY GAME, but that it's from the makers of Transformers. Oh, lovely! I bet it's another film primarily based around special effects, no sense of plot coherence, stupid characters, and the charming message that women are sex objects - the last one being presented to a target young audience of males and females who may grow to believe this is true. The Three Stooges? Alvin and the Chipmunks AGAIN? Neither looked very appealing; Stooges just looked like a recycled excuse to remake something already existent, which looked unfunny enough (eye-pokes get old, and that looked like the whole joke of the entire movie). Alvin has been stretched so thin I won't see it (double meaning intended). Tintin looks excellent and I cannot wait to see it. I just saw Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows yesterday with a friend, and it was superb. And I hear Janet Evanovich's novel One for the Money is being adapted! Haven't read that one, but I did read her nonfiction book How I Write, which contained samples from her fiction. She's rather funny. Then there are the clueless-but-confident directors who can't stop making the same mistakes, particularly Roland Emmerich and Tyler Perry. I don't know or care what's next for them, but they can't seem to stop making film after painfully terrible film. Michael Bay...don't get me started. But Tim Burton and one of the other producers of Shane Acker's gem 9 are producing a movie based on a novel I have yet to read with a very odd title: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Yeah.... But I trust them. It sounds goofy, and might be, but I'm rooting for them to make it count. Two movies about Snow White are being made: Mirror, Mirror - which looks funny - and Snow White and the Huntsman, which looks more serious and deliciously dark. I want to see both. And there's a remake of Jack the Giant Killer, which looks cool, but I haven't actually seen the old one. The last few mentioned titles remind me of this really awesome miniseries I saw when I was nine or so called The Tenth Kingdom. I need to re-see it, but it was amazing, as I recall. That's enough for now.

Au revoir!
- Lewis

Sunday, January 1, 2012

On Cluny the Scourge

"Cluny was a god of war! Cluny was coming nearer!" - from Redwall, end of Chapter 2

For those of you who do not know, Cluny is the villain from the original novel Redwall by Brian Jacques. He's one of my favorite baddies, a rat with a poison barb attached to his tail. His voice in the audio book was amazing. He was freaking intimidating, if you're a mouse or something.

Yet he didn't seem especially evil. He did things I wouldn't do, sure. He tried to conquer Redwall Abbey. But...I don't know, he meant business. He may have been in opposition to the woodland creatures of Redwall, but I don't recall him doing anything unspeakable. He always kept his word and was an honorable, non-backstabbing warrior. He told his rats to execute the fox Sela (who I didn't think was that bad either) and her son Chickenhound (who was actually quite a nasty, evil villain in Mattimeo [he survived the execution attempt, but Sela did not]). The rats jabbed both foxes several times with spears and left them in a ditch. Ouch! Other than that, and maybe the bit about threatening the cook, Friar Hugo, with death, I thought he was a reasonable rat and an honest foe.

This is just my viewpoint. What do you think?

Winter Reviews: Mattimeo by Brian Jacques

I listened to this audio book several months ago and never reviewed it for some reason. Now don't get me wrong: I love Brian Jacques' writing style. His descriptions are beautiful. Apparently he once wrote for blind children. But the story lines, while good individually, are starting to get formulaic, as my friend Elijah would say. I think a bit of formula is OK, but this (the third book, after Redwall and Mossflower) is starting to push it. If you read my post about the original novel, you'll see that I gave it an "A" - a grade that still stands. The prequel, Mossflower, got a "B" due to a repeated formula.

Now this one, which takes place a couple years (eight seasons, as they say in the book) after the first one. Redwall Abbey has had that amount of time filled with peace and happiness, when a fox and his band of rats and weasels and such approach the castle and are allowed in to perform circus tricks. They drug their hosts and kidnap several young, including Mattimeo, the son of the abbey's champion warrior Matthias - the main character of book one and, actually, the main character of this one as well. The fox, Slagar the Cruel (pronounced "Croo-elle" by the awesome and rather scary voice actor), turns out to be none other than Chickenhound from the first book. He was not allied with Cluny (the original villain, who was a rat) - he represents another faction altogether - but I found him to be much more evil than Cluny. Cluny, while awesome, never struck me as a horrible being, more just a warlord who meant business. Maybe I'll make a different post about that rat. But the Sly One (Slagar) kidnaps and kills totally innocent creatures rather than only those who stand against him. He murders Friar Hugo (a Redwall mouse), which is a shame because Matthias had just barely saved Hugo at the end of Redwall, when Hugo was being held hostage by Cluny just  before Cluny met his end. Anyhow, this is book three I'd like to discuss.

This one had a pretty original plot, as Mossflower was sort of a recycled version of the first, but what threw me off was the riddles. I like a good riddle now and then, but it seems that every single book "just happens" to involve a riddle painfully similar to the other ones. It's been several months and now I might attempt to listen to another one (Mariel of Redwall). Each book I've read seems stand-alone enough, but still...gahh. I must say I loved Slagar, as horrid as he was (terrible creature morally, but a great villain). Horrible people (or animals) can make great characters.

One other thing gets me about this whole series, or what I've read of it: Jacques was probably not a remotely racist man, but it seems like certain creatures are labeled as vessels for good or bad: rats, foxes, and snakes are evil; mice, hares, badgers, and so forth are good. There are also some creatures who have both good and rotten members, such as wildcats, sparrows, and shrews. It doesn't seem right that every time a fox or rat approaches the abbey, he or she is patronized and ostracized.

I may sound a little fifty-fifty on this book, because I am. I enjoyed it, but I hope four is less redundant. Basil Stag Hare is still awesome. "What, what?"

Happy reading,