Flashback Thursday: The Hogwarts Dorm Life

My friends and I began a vlogging team that cataloged the lives of Hogwarts students. Here are the introduction videos for all three of them, myself included. There is also a short film we did as these characters, which I intend to post soon. Enjoy.

Me:

Tim McFall:

Anna Brisbin:

What did you think? This was actually a really fun, cool idea, but did not work. Anna ended up going to NYU for theatre, so how cool is that?

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Poem: I Like You (on Facebook)

In the midst of status chain-letters

and youtube videos of cats who can pogo

I found you

And I like you

I like you SO much, I spent the whole weekend

“liking” all of your posts since last April

Obviously, you’re beautiful

I told you so via comments on all

six hundred pictures in your albums

and would you be offended

if I said your profile pic is perfect

You should take more photos of yourself

in the bathroom mirror

Our fathers had Playboy magazine centerfolds

the name Cassandra boldly typed

across her breasts

The best we have is Facebook

and every picture of you in a bikini, ever

Facebook is suddenly the house

where we partied until our parents arrived

to show our friends pictures of us

as children– usually naked

But I found you

And we’re basically soul mates

though according to your INFO

you prefer Free Willy II

and I Free Willy III, so sure,

that negates perfection

but we can make it work out if ever

I muster up the courage to talk to you

in real life

I like you (on Facebook)

I’d repost you until my fingers

cramp from mouse-clicks

I’d link my page to your profile

through the URL’s of our hearts

I will be your internet bookmark

if you will be my Facebook centerfold

What are your thoughts on Facebook crushes?

Review: Moneyball

This movie… was horrible.

Baseball, naturally, is the most boring spectator sport, so making a movie about it… horrible decision.

I mean, in football and soccer and basketball, you have constant motion. Even in Hockey, you get to watch people beat each other with sticks.

What’s more boring than baseball? Economics.

So, let’s make a movie with baseball AND economics.

Sure, I adore Brad Pitt, but that does not constitute making a really crappy movie.

So, don’t go see this movie. Go see…. that movie with Wolverine and the Rock-em-Sock-em robots. Go see… The Lion King in 3D.

Go see… The Smurfs even.

But here’s a good math equation for Jonah Hill: Moneyball= Yawn-inducing bore-fest.

Oh, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is in it. So, that was nice.

Mustaches Win Elections

The 2012 election, though still a year away, already consumes the headlines. But for how long can the media keep us interested in a

If only... she might actually win.

clash of two parties, both failing miserably?
The inherent problem here is that the public is becoming bored with the current presidential candidates. We need someone new, even if we don’t expect them to win. To watch debates between Barack Obama and Mitchell Romney for the next twelve months would be the suicide of our media-consuming self-interest. Not that both candidates are bad, but definitely, both are boring. Both speak with quiet, dry voices—controlled pragmatic politicians.
While I might someone pragmatic and controlled as president, I sure do not want one for a presidential candidate. Sarah Palin, a major header of the American Tea Party, recently announced that she would be bowing out of the 2012 race. Though not a fan of Palin for president, I would have enjoyed her candidacy antics. Who doesn’t love the phrases that that Alaskan hockey mom coins? But now, the race is frighteningly deficient of crazy. With two reasonable candidates who will likely lead the Republican and Democratic primaries, who is there left to make fun of?
Every election requires a dark horse—if not that, then a stupefying, gaudy unicorn. Someone with a unique voice, even if that voice is spewing conspiracy theories about redirecting education funds in an effort to excavate Atlantis and about how Barack Obama illegally immigrated to America from Jupiter. What we need is someone potentially insane to pit against Mitchell Romney—a Republican Battle Royal.
We had Donald Trump for a few weeks, though he quickly gave up after being booed for wanting to destroy every other country on Earth. Fun, possibly unstable candidates like him—that’s what I’m looking for.
Of course, Romney is likely to win, but if the race for the primaries is already over, that means that the media will have to crank out more stories about the secrets to playing Scrabble and household tips to clean your bathroom floor tiles. Use ammonia mixed with plain white vinegar, if you’re interested in knowing how and perhaps stumbled onto this blog looking for such information.

Now that Sarah Palin has given up on being our make-fun-of-Republican-candidate-who-will-eventually-lose-the-race-and-be-promptly-forgotten, the public needs someone new. Who, though, will step up to the plate? Maybe Idaho Governor Butch Otter might run, toting his vast expertise as a hunter to support gun rights?
My suggestion, however, is Giovanni Dominice, an American who won first prize for the best Imperial Mustache in the World Beard Championships. If there is any man I cannot help by deeply respect, it is a man with a really cool mustache. His campaign starts officially… right now. So construct some homemade pickets and begin fighting for a president who can grow decent facial hair.

Now... THAT is what I am talking about!

                                                                                                            Dominice for President!

Observations Concerning the Internet

If you’re reading this right now, you can probably use the internet. But it’s a complicated place.

1.) If it were not for stupid people, we would have lost interest in the internet a long time ago.

2.) Here, it’s okay to muse about what it might be like if Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter and Spock from Star Trek staged a tryst through the wardrobe in Narnia. And it’s okay to post it on a website where other like-minded people will blog about it.

And if you ask me if I think this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard about on the internet… may I redirect you to the Tea Party’s homepage: http://www.teapartypatriots.org/

3.) The only difference between Facebook and a pornography website is that no one blogs complaints when a pornography site suddenly changes its layout. I’m not sure why.

4.) On the internet, cats are hilarious.

5.) Everything is either true or utterly ridiculous! Or moderately believable…

6.) The internet is like your best friend who presents you with almost too much information as once, but never bothers to answer what you have asked.

7.) This is what Google used to look like, fo serious: http://web.archive.org/web/19981202230410/http://www.google.com/

8.) You can become “internet-famous,” which isn’t really famous, but close enough. Like when your uncle appeared on the news in an interview considering his triumph at the chitlin cooking competition.

9.) They sell anything over the internet. Seriously. Even beards. Really. And you can buy tamales $15 dollars for 12, but with a $30 dollars shipping/handling fee tacked on. Luckily though, they offer overnight shipping. Once, someone sold “the meaning of life” on Ebay. Sold for $10.50.

The internet, anyways, is a pretty strange place.

I Feel Awkward When Celebrities Die

Steve Jobs, no doubt, was a celebrity. The tech genius who innovated Apple’s products into what he hailed as “revolutionary,” died on October 5, 2011. My reaction was, what? Steve Jobs is dead? Unless someone is fairly old, we never expect them to die… but the shock stopped there. I felt strange and regretful that I didn’t feel any worse.

Is it WRONG not to really care? It’s not that… I don’t care that he’s dead. But… should I feel personally sorrowful about it or merely sympathetic toward others?

What about all the poor American children that might not get to experience his next innovation in IPods? What about his family and co-workers? Shouldn’t I feel a lot worse about his death? I mean, Jobs is a pretty big deal.

But I think it’s generally normal to not feel anything about the death of a celebrity. These people, we’ve never met them before. They’re an enigma to us, unknown and somehow all-powerful. So when we hear about their deaths, we feel the same way we do when our friends report that their hamster has passed away. Of course we sympathize and feel badly for our friend, but… it was not our hamster.

I don’t even own any Apple products. In fact, Mac users tend to be overly pompous because of their shiny little toys. I only know Steve Jobs’ face and voice, but I wasn’t close to him. We weren’t pen pals or cousins. Sometimes, though, we

The worst case of this someone-died-but-I-didn’t-really-know-them was the death of Michael Jackson. This is when you might hate me, so hold on.

It’s just… I really enjoy Michael Jackson’s music and he had some killer dance moves, but I didn’t know the guy. I was not emotionally invested in Michael Jackson, so when he died, sure, I felt sorry for his family, but… I was not broken. Others, however, were very broken. Jackson became a huge comeback among teens who were not alive during his prime. Because after someone is dead, their sainthood is established. Their circle of friends suddenly explodes.

Everyone starts claiming how close they were to a dead celebrity, how much they adored him or her. Look at how many magazines treated Amy Winehouse’s death. Before she died, she was easily a go-to girl for gossip columns. Just look at that crazy bad hair day or look at that cellulite-slumped bikini. The media pokes fun and bashes celebrities until… Amy Winehouse becomes suddenly a revolutionary artist. In death, every person’s infamy becomes their fame.

What I’m really saying is… I hope the Jobs family is consoled in these times. But I’m not going to console some teenager, because look, you’ll still be able to use your little IPhone. Apple will still be around, for sure. This isn’t a blog lamenting his death, because I didn’t know him. Those who loved him, they will lament his death. He was a technical giant, yes, and for that, he should be remembered.

Why do you think so many people attach themselves emotionally to celebrities they don’t really know?

The Character Arc Corellation

You cannot write a good book without good characters. Compelling characters drive the plot of any novel, even those which are “plot-driven.” Because even in the midst of an alien invasion, you won’t really care about what happens unless you care about who it all happens to.

The thing about a novel is, a novel has no budget. It’s not like a Hollywood blockbuster that must use a set amount of funds. Well, perhaps people need budgets for marketing, but in plot terms, a writer can do whatever they’d like. The same stands true for characters.

The novel is a unique art form in that you can make whatever you’d like happen– in music, in films, the creators do not carry that same freedom. But to mold characters fully formed– realistic with flaws and contradictions and wide ranges of emotions– that’s a quite difficult task.

If a character can make you both laugh and cry, that may well be the gauge of how well you can relate to him or her. Relating to readers, however, relies on more than what most authors surmise. Many authors believe that by attributing quirky traits to characters, it helps their characters seem unique. That’s not true, though, unless this characteristic will play a crucial part in the story.

For example, in Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters, the narrator is missing the bottom half of her face. She’s an ex-model. In this way, a characteristic is more than just a characteristic, but an important plot point. This contradiction of what she used to be and what she now is demands the question of what occurred since then and now. In Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, the narrator speaks with a stammer; rather than be a simple characteristic, it helps propel the story.

A character, sure, might own a lot of cats, but that novel better have a lot to do with cats. If you give a character a huge scar across his face, you better explain what car accident or dark wizard gave him that scar. Don’t fall into Dickens syndrome, attributing exaggerated physical traits to characters with only stereotypical consequences. Those do not help us understand and sympathize the character; instead, we merely know that if she has a big nose, she is nosy.

People, though, are weird, jammed to the trachea with contradictions. Use that. Characters must act in the same way. Consider what makes the people you know unique. Their hobbies, their aspirations, their beliefs. These very real characteristics drawn from life contribute the motives behind which characters act.

To help a reader sympathize with a character, you need to make them go through Hell. I’m not going to care about a character for whom everything goes right– frustrate him and make him misunderstood. Make him suffer. Make him sometimes cruel. No one’s motivations are simple. Remember that.

What must be kept in mind is that characters must be fully developed. If I do not care about your characters, I will not care about your book. It doesn’t matter what happens to people that I feel I cannot care about. So, in writing stories, make sure you feel that you’re writing about real people. It will make your ability to reach people that much greater.

Failing Math? On the Bright Side…

Like most writers, I am terrible at math. I am so bad at calculus, that I have the makings to be a grand and famous writer. Because any writer worth his merit is terrible at math.

There must be, then, some sort of graphical correlation between math ineptitude and literary excellence. If we created a scatter plot where the X value represented how poorly you marked on your last math test and the Y axis represented the gauge for storytelling skill, would the graph show such a relation?

Probably.

The great thing about being a writer, though, is that you don’t become one because you couldn’t become a doctor. Well, maybe you really could not have. But that’s no reason to be a writer. Why a writer? In fact, a lot of professions begin because people cannot make it as a writer. Like many plumbers and coffee baristas I know.

If ever you feel strange and isolated from normal society, bear in mind you might, like me, possess commonalities with stereotypes often appropriated to writers.

Which, of course, means you will probably write a book some day. Just sit down and type it on out. Get published and become famous. Sort of like Henry Miller, sans the STD’s, opium, and incest.

The next time you fail to find the square root of X, you can tell your professor that the square root of evil is calculus. And

that mathematics solves nothing, really, but things we already know the answer to. I know that, because the answers are always in the back of the book. And the professors of mathematics… well, they’re just an imaginary root squared– their solution is to just make everything negative.

You may also become a brilliant writer if you drink coffee (tea is also acceptable, depending on your proximity from the British Isles).
Also, writers are apparently super anal about grammar. So if you are a member of the Grammar-reich, fear not! Naturally, you’ll be a writing.If you get writer’s block, you become verified as a bond-a-fide writer. You can, therefore, call yourself a writer without ever writing anything. It’s called “chronic writer’s block.” Just be ready to speak abstractly about the great works you’d like to create, but cannot because of your malignant disease.

And according to common stereotypes, if you cannot get a job… you can always just be a writer.

Well, even if you experience any of these bad symptoms, you can probably become a writer!

How I Write

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

— W. Somerset Maugham

As a writer, the way you say something means just as much as what you say. It’s difficult to assess something and determine it was written by a “writer.” Who judges such idiosyncrasies? Do we call someone a writer because they have published books or written readable print? Or do we gauge writer-dom by the complexity of the verbiage and the incomprehensible crux of his interminable, orbicular clause compositions?

I began considering this, having begun writing something entirely new (it’s going to be another novel, *cough, cough*). How do I write? Do I follow any specified rules or do I apply any special formulas? Every writer claims not, but in their writing, every writer implements a system. No matter how simple or complex.

Hemingway, he wants to tell you something simple, but in telling you that, he’ll imply something far more nuanced. Henry Miller wrote all of the horrible, immoral things he thought and then created a book. Dickens meticulously constructed formulaic plots and caricature characters to support his criticisms of society. Kurt Vonnegut wrote several varied paragraphs linked only by a similarly eccentric style, and TADA!

I tote a few strange rules, though not so much rules as stylistic preferences. For example, I strive never to begin a sentence with “however,” “moreover,” or “therefore.” Sometimes, the words must be used, but a sentence can be written less awkwardly by inserting the word after the first clause. While this has nothing to do with grammar, I do it still. Some things simply embed themselves in your stories and style; they stay there.

Sometimes, my style of writing fiction and style of writing nonfiction merge, sometimes to create something great, other times… troublesome. In journalistic writing, there tends to exist rigid rules that prohibit from certain behaviors. Contractions, first person pronouns, and biased statements should never be found in a news story.

I, however, write op-ed pieces more frequently:  I keep up not only this blog, but I also pen a monthly column for our school newspaper. In any pieces like that, I  give my opinion. To learn to write objectively and subjectively, though, improves writing style overall.

I proclaim opinions in the form of anecdotes. I make sense of my beliefs by telling stories. Of course, this isn’t as good as using scientific data or “textual evidence.” But to reaffirm what you already believe, it can at least convey a thought. Even if a story is untrue, if what we mean by it is, then truth doesn’t even matter. Like parables, our memories serve to justify who we are. To explain our identities.

In a fiction story, as well, we use stories as evidence. Why is this person so mean? Could it be that he has a deficiency in his amygdala or because he was abused as a child? Storytellers rely on the social causes before turning to biological ones. But it’s how our minds work. Not so much in the sense of psychology:  we are analyzing humans not on a mental level, but on an almost spiritual one. I prefer to think that the human race is more or less incomprehensible. The best we can do is… sympathize.

The best we can do to explain how we act is to tell stories. About our past or about things that never occurred.

Every writer writes differently, but what makes someone a writer, really a writer, is that through a story they hope to uncover a great

truth. The truth can spawn from the writer himself or perhaps it’s a truth about the reader, which the reader may discover through reading a book. Or maybe both, so that the act of writing is very much like telling prophecies. What you feel now, that indescribable emotion, will be felt by someone in the future when they read about what happened to you. About what you did. Somehow, a person will be touched through what you have written about.

Writers write with different inspirations, with varied “creative processes.” Some can only write in utter silence or in the peace of nature:  that’s me. Some prefer to be in the clash and cacophony of life, sprint-typing in the center of some urban Starbucks. Dan Brown, after each hour of writing, does a quick set of push ups and then of sit ups.

I often write in the nude.

Whether you rely on the night sky or hardcore drugs, every writer is striving to find the same truth.

To answer my question, how do I write… well, style hardly matters. What really matters is the intent of the person; this universal intent  binds us under the single title:

WRITER