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 and...you 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 way...no 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,

But They Had a Bad Day!

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." - Bill Cosby


Often, when a person is rude for no apparent reason, the reason ends up being that the person had a bad day, or something of sorts. That may float certain boats, but I think it's a poppycock excuse for poor social conduct. If I were an adult and had a no-show day for a corporate job, would my boss take "I had a bad day" for an excuse? If I have to go to a funeral, that is one thing; but simply not feeling like being decent enough to show up to work or to be sincere to peers is a crappy reason if I ever heard one. What if Barack Obama did not show up for a war council (or whatever) because he mentally didn't feel like it? Precisely!

Part of this, I think, is what many people seem to feel: the need to be dramatic. I'm rather certain a lot of people do it because they can, expecting me to shrug it off and say, "Oh, it's OK." I may be a bit of a bottler, but I would agree that if feelings come out, they must do so in a nonexplosive manner. Channeling is the best way, and whoever accuses the output of appropriate channeling of being "dark" or what-have-you ought to be ignored, because people like that will always exist.

Anyhow, I need my tea. I might come on later....

--- Lewis

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings." - Cassius from Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare


I read Paper Towns last summer and thought it was brilliant. This book was not quite as good. Not "quite" because it was better. I ordered the novel already signed by John Green, and had it signed again by when I met John and his brother Hank. Like so few things can do (Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 come to mind, as well as several Pixar animations), it seamlessly blended hilarity with tragedy.

The Fault in Our Stars tells the story of Hazel, a teenage girl with cancer. But it does not focus on the cancer; in fact, she states the appropriate number of times that she does not want people to sympathize with her, as she is not only a victim of disease, but a person as well. She meets a boy named Augustus Waters (Gus) and has a non-cliche, non-sappy romance with him (very rare nowadays), but Gus also has cancer and his days are numbered. They go to Amsterdam to meet a writer, and there is much discussion of humanity and the philosophies and such. I can't say much more without spoiling things, but I definitely recommend this to pretty much anyone.

Final grade: A

Monday, February 6, 2012

Movie Review: The Woman in Black (2012)

My three favorite genres in film and literature are, from greatest to third greatest (because I hate to say "least"), fantasy, science fiction, and horror. This film is the latter, so I had dearly hoped it would not disappoint.

But first, let me say this: The Woman in Black, so far as I know, is my first Daniel Radcliffe movie other than the Harry Potter franchise. I know he does, or at least did - I hope he still does - live theatre back in the UK, such as David Copperfield and Equus, as well as the American Broadway hit How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I saw none of these; I had not the fortune. So he's a great actor. If I haven't established that opinion already, I do it now in a frank manner. Acting aside, this movie had loads of "jump" scares. And I didn't like it.

I loved it. Even if it did have a lot of loud and startling moments, it was very creepy on both literally morbid and deeply mental levels. The plot, to put it in my own "pitch" form for brevity, is "A lawyer must travel to an old cursed house for business purposes." There's the whole not-believing-it factor, which one could call cliche; but then I'd permit one to call human main characters cliche. I think it's perfectly realistic to be skeptical in this sort of situation. The moments with the titular Woman in Black honestly chilled me to a degree only a few other things have:

  • Dracula's moans of pain as Van Helsing stakes him off-screen in Dracula (1931)
  • Mina (Lucy in the book, for some reason they like to trade names in movies) coming to her father as a pale vampire ("Pa-pa?") in Dracula (1979)
  • Danny Glick floating outside Mark Petrie's window and tapping softly-yet-eerily to be let in (Salem's Lot [1979])
  • The ending to The Blair Witch Project (1999)
  • The corpse of the evil queen (The Tenth Kingdom, 2000, but the same one who poisoned Snow White; TTK is a fairy-tale spin-off, and remember, I was nine when I saw this scene, so it might or might not still horrify me)
  • The greater part of everything in 1408 (2007)
  • The "dead" people in The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
  • Voldemort, especially in Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)
That may look like a lot, but I've seen many, many movies (although I still have so many to see) and I really don't spook very easily. But The Woman in Black was truly a very frightening experience. If you're up for that sort of thing, go see it! It's well worth the money in my opinion. And little Harry Potter is a grown-up now.... He's older than I, true, but I still watched him grow up through the HP movies. I think being scary is harder now than in past decades. Even I am not scared by most horror flicks, even if I love them. The Shining with Jack Nicholson comes to mind: creepy, and a great movie, but it didn't send me to bed with the light on, if you get my drift. I need to finish that book, and the Mick Garris remake.... Anyhow, there's a very precise art to being scary. You have to probe the mind, I think. Something along those lines. I've seen at least a couple of non-horror movies which I found unsettling: The Silence of the Lambs; Coraline; and Inception. Arguably the first two might be considered horror, but my point is that scary is harder now. I do wonder if vampires will ever be scary again: even if (WHEN) the fad wears down, it will still have existed. Pity - as you can probably surmise, I'm a vampire geek and a Dracula nerd. The same applies to originality in any genre: there are so many writers, and even with many writing the same thing - in fact this may be part or all of the cause and/or effect - it's hard to come up with a decently original idea. Trust me, I know it!

According to the amazing Cory Doctorow and the late, great Blake Snyder, nothing is one hundred percent new. Even if it seems that way, the core of the story is one of (ten?) formulas. I don't like Stephenie Meyer's books, but I must say she seems to have hit gold (even if Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992, had demonic romance in it). I love the Hunger Games Trilogy, but as I understand, Stephen King had already written The Running Man - I have yet to read or see that one, but it sounds similar. Now dystopias are the thing. I digress.

If you'll pardon my digressing a slight further, I must directly reprimand myself for these tangents, as I have an ACT soon and plan on taking the optional Writing portion. I seem to recall something about focus and clear sequential order of thoughts, as described in my preparation book. What an active hypocrite I might be here, even acknowledging it as I type!

The movie! It was great, but I do not recommend it for anyone who spooks easily or has medical conditions sensitive to sudden noise. If you enjoy a good spook, go for it! It's really brilliant.

Final grade: A

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Pawn of God vs. A God of Pawns

The latter part of the title refers mostly to my fictional characters: I create them, right? And they cannot fathom me unless I will it? - In which case, I'd better have a damn good reason.

I think I've personally broken the record for images in one post. But believe it or not, I was not thinking of "graven images" until after. Of course I'm not taking them down. And now, the reason for this post: a semi-imaginary conversation between myself and a religious nut. I am not attempting to portray any generalization of one group; I merely mean to point out the flaws in certain areas of religious reasoning and logic.


NUT. Do you believe in God?
ME. Not sure. I don't think there is sufficient evidence.
NUT. He does not live on evidence, but on faith! Who do you think created you??
ME. My...parents?
NUT. Well, who created them?
ME. Their parents? It's a chicken-and-egg question.
NUT. So you just admitted that you don't know!
ME. I did not! There was no need to admit something I wasn't hiding. I don't know if He, or She, or Whatever, exists. At least I don't pretend to.
NUT (taken aback). How dare you! I know He exists, because He visited me in a dream! *1
ME. I suppose, by that line of reasoning, that a three-headed green cow exists?
NUT. Of course not.
ME. But I saw Her in a dream! I could swear up and down until the cows come home, no pun intended, yet still there's no reason for me to believe you.
NUT. Gahh, you will burn in Hell!
ME. If there is such a place, do open the door for me when I join you.

My personal theory is that, while there may be some sort of higher being, perhaps of time or a separate spatial dimension, or even a writer (I couldn't know if I was fictional) - but some of these claims are utter bogus. For example, according to the Law of Conservation of Mass, nothing can simply vanish from all of existence, or be newly created for that matter. There are so many quarks, atoms, etc. in our universe, particles, which at one point - (billions?) of years ago - formed amino acids and eventually led to simple life. I just combined memories from my past two science classes. Hooray for memory! Also, I think that either to explain or comfort, people create myths and such. Explanation includes Zeus of lightning and comfort implies scenes such as a loved one's deathbed. "You'll go to Heaven and see [another loved one]!" - which is a bit more socially acceptable than "You'll be turned to ashes and spread" or "You'll rot in the earth until your cold, unfeeling bones wither away through the centuries." Personally I wouldn't mind that, although I'll probably be cremated. People create deities in terror, pray "just in case" in an emergency but never otherwise, etc.

Again, I have many friends of many religions, so I'm not knocking any beliefs; rather, I am questioning the foundations of faith and knocking those who attempt to push their doctrines down others' throats.

I do believe in doing good things for others, and I don't have to worship anyone/-thing to do so.

*1 - I never had any such dream, but it served its purpose, I hope.

Confidence vs. Arrogance

"Ah, short trip!" - Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

"I call it luck." - Han Solo, Star Wars (1977 - not going to say "A New Hope," because that was not the original title)

"I'm awesome." - Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, not sure about the episode's name, but Barney is played by the legendary Neil Patrick Harris. Need I say more?


Quite simply, I think that the difference lies on two things: whether one is really as great as one thinks or is kidding oneself; and whether one lets pride get in the way of the continuation of one's success. Savvy?