Sunday, September 05, 2010

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Sarah Palin's Monster Next Door Goes Bye-Bye!

So Joe McGinniss has finally gone home. Good!

I don't believe that a person had to be a Sarah Palin fan to sympathize with her and her family when McGinniss, who's writing an unauthorized biography on the former vice-presidential candidate, bought the house next to her home in Wasilla Alaska in late Spring.

Yes, I'm a writer myself. And I'm a former journalist. I understand Freedom of the Press, and the public's right to know, and wanting to get close to the subject so as to know the most about the subject.

But moving next door to the woman's house? Where she lives with her husband and her children? RIGHT NEXT DOOR?

I think that's carrying things a little too far!

In all fairness, McGinnis is no stranger to Alaska. He was there in 1975 while writing a book on oil money, and then again in 1982 when writing an article for Portfolio magazine. And I would have had no qualms with him moving to Alaska to write the book; or even him moving to Wasilla. But moving right next door?

I'm just not so in line with that.

McGinniss, all I can say to you is: GOOD RIDDANCE!

What's up with The Bad Girls Club?

Brandi - Catya - Danielle - Erica - Kayleigh - Kristen - Lea

My favorite? A tie between Lea and Catya

My least favorite: A tie between Brandi and Erica

Although, I do kinda feel sorry for Erica. She played herself on the second episode when she challenged Kristen, thinking "Blondie" was a pushover.


Ooh, and by the way . . . does anyone besides me think that Kristen is right in questioning whether Danielle is really an ex-heroin addict? I think she might have dabbled, but that doesn't quite justify in identifying yourself as a full-blown addict that way Danielle does.
So why would anyone want to be identifyed as an ex-junkie. Hmmmm . . . publicity? A way of standing out? Let's face it, in every other way Danielle is just plain vanilla. And even as an ex-junkie she's pretty darn boring.


And I also have to justify picking Catya as a favorite. She's the most interesting for me to watch, but I actually like Lea better. Most of the time I agree with Catya when she's going off, but she just so over does it that I'm like over her. But watch . . . she's going to be one of the last girls standing.
And I think Lea and Kristen will also be around to the very end.

I'm expecting Brandi and Kayleigh to be booted out any moment, though.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Kanye West

I think I first fell in love with Kanye when he got up on national television and said, "George Bush hates black people."

Now, I'm taking a stand on whether ole George doesn't dislike an entire race, but I LOVED the fact that Kanye decided to use his fame as a platform for controversial views, even though he knew (or did he) that he could lose fans because of it.

And my heart bled for him over the tragic loss of his mother back in 2007 due to a "cosmetic procedure."

I haven't said that I also love his music, but I do. I was loving myself some Kanye. I even started loving Amber Rose because Kanye loved her.

But then came the VMA debacle. I couldn't believe he had the nerve -- the audacity -- the balls --- to get up on stage and ask Taylor Swift to admit that Beyonce deserved the award, and not her. My mouth dropped! My eyes watered! Sobs escaped from my mouth.

Oh, no! Not my Kanye!

All of a sudden my love turned to hate. Yes, I said it . . . hate. I detested anyone who could humilate a young girl like that. I hated anyone arrogant enough to think that his opinion was so worthy of being heard that he would STEAL someone else's limelight. I abhorred anyone who would be seen on camera swigging liquor from a bottle as he entered an award show.

To hell with Kanye!

But, um, my heart is melting again. It's not all the way defrosted, mind you . . . but, yeah, there's some water sliding down my icy demeanor.

He's said he's sorry. And I admire that.

Why did it take him so long to make a public apology to Swift, though? And it really does seem to be driven by his realization that he's losing money as his fanbase turns away from him.

But still he's so cute. He's so talented. And he's motherless.

I do love you Kanye . . . I just also hate your guts.

Title: Homer & Langley
Author: – E. L. Doctorow
Publisher – Random House
September 2009

I need – yes, need – to start off this review of E. L. Doctorow’s latest novel, Homer & Langley, by saying that I’m a fan of Doctorow. I’ve read most of his books (Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, and Waterworks are my favorites), and have been looking forward to reading his new literary work for months.

When I read the very first line in the book, “I’m Homer, the blind brother, I didn’t lose my sight all at once, it was like the movies, a slow fade-out,” I let out a sigh of pleasure. The writing already proved to be exquisite. And the writing remained a masterpiece throughout the book; it was the story that I found lacking.

Homer & Langley is based on two real life brothers who died in 1947. Homer and Langley Collyer lived in New York City and became infamous as much for the way they died as the way they lived. Sons of a wealthy gynecologist and opera singer, they were raised in the lap of luxury, but when they died in they were the city’s best known recluses. Though they were quite wealthy they lived in squalor. When they died the city removed more than 100 tons of debris and junk from their Fifth Avenue brownstone.

Being born in New York, I was familiar with the Collyer story. My mother would often come into my messy bedroom and tell me that it looked like the Collyer brothers lived there. Knowing a bit of the history made me all the more eager to read Homer & Langley.

In Doctorow’s book, the Collyers don’t perish in 1947, but in fact live through the late 1970s or early 1980s, and Doctorow manages to weave historical events from Prohibition through Watergate, into his novel. He also takes further liberties, making Langley the older brother, though in reality he was the younger. Langley serves in World War I, returning home shell-shocked (though never diagnosed), somewhat bitter, and utterly cynical. Homer is made the younger sibling who loses his sight in his teens (in reality, he lost his sight in his forties). When their parents die in the influenza epidemic in the 1919, the brothers set up housekeeping in their inherited brownstone.

Homer & Langley starts off at a rather slow pace, but there seems to be a promise of excitement. The promise centers around the brothers’ (especially Langley’s) eccentricities. Like the idea to have tea-dances in their home during the Depression, much to their neighbor’s dismay. And Langley’s theory that history simply keeps repeating itself and people are simply replacements for people who lived before. Therefore, he reasons, if he keeps track of every newspaper article written in a three, four, or five year period he can write an eternally current newspaper – only one edition needed – that will provide all the information that anyone need ever know. Though the theory seems dubious to Homer, he accepts it, just as he accepts Langley’s eccentric junk collecting.

And In the beginning of the novel, Homer is shown to be quite independent, having a relationship with one of the house servants, befriending the coronet playing grandson of the cook, and developing a crush on an assistant hired to accompany him to his job as a pianist at a local movie theater.

But while these eccentricities and events are recounted, they’re never fully felt by the reader. Homer, the narrator, has a distant way of detailing events that never fully manages to draw the reader in. Even the scene where a quartet of organized crime members take the brothers hostage in their own home falls flat.

Instead of fulfilling its promise of excitement, the book actually becomes more and more depressing. And Langley’s descent from eccentricity to full-blown madness is never really explained.

I won’t reveal the last sentence of the book, but it is as depressing as the first sentence is beautiful. The only book I’ve ever read that disturbed me as much was Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun about a World War I soldier who has lost his arms, face, legs, tongue, and face in the war. I kept reading because I thought there had to be some kind of payoff ; like some kind of series of surgery that would miraculously -- if not make him whole – at least allow the soldier some semblance of a real life. It never happened. But at least that book had a social message; war is Hell.

Homer & Langley has no such social or moral message, so it just left me feeling sad and miserable.

Info on the REAL Homer and Langley

Homer (1881-1947) and Langley (1885-1947) Collyer were sons of a wealthy gynecologist and a retired opera singer. In 1909 the family moved into a swanky brownstone on the corner of 128th Street and Fifth Avenue in Harlem, which was then a haven for upper-middle class folks wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown.

Both men received degrees from Columbia University – Homer (the elder brother) studied admiralty law and worked in a law firm, and Langley studied engineering, though he never held a job. After their parents’ deaths in the 1920’s, the brothers –then in their thirties – started exhibiting strange behavior. Langley started roaming the streets of New York and bringing home all kinds of discarded items, a.k.a. junk. When Homer went blind in 1932 and was forced to retire from the work force, Langley’s junk collecting increased. Now he also started collecting newspapers. He would later say that he was storing them for Homer, so that he could catch up on the news when he regained his sight. And in fact, Langley prescribed his older brother a diet of 100 hundred oranges a week to cure him of his blindness.

In 1938 the electricity, gas, and water were turned off because the brothers refused to pay their utility bills. They then heated with a small kerosene heater which was kept in the living room. For water Langley would nightly walk four blocks to Mount Morris Park and fill buckets from a water pump. Their failure to pay their bills was not, however, because the brothers were broke. This was proven, in 1942, when the bank attempted to foreclose on the house because of a delinquent mortgage. When the sheriff arrived to evict them, Langley grandly wrote a check for $6,700 (almost $100,000 in today’s dollars), paying off the entire mortgage, and ordered the interloper off of his property.

When the newspapers got wind of the story they wrote articles speculating that the Collyers were hoarding not just junk, but also cash and treasure. Langley responded by closing the shutters over the windows, blocking out prying eyes but also sunlight. His hoarding also had increased, and he started piling stacks of books and newspapers against the doors and windows, in order to thwart break-in attempts. Using his engineering skills he devised a maze of bobby-trapped tunnels through the junk so that he could move about.

In 1947 the police received a tip that there was a dead body in the Collyer house. It took them two hours after breaking down the door to enter the house because of the blockade of newspapers. When they finally made it to a second-story bedroom they found Homer’s body. He had died of starvation. It took two weeks more to find Langley’s body. He had been buried alive when he accidentally tripped a booby trap while making his way through one of his junk tunnels to bring Homer food. The city eventually removed more than 100 tons of junk and debris from the house which was subsequently torn down.

Showing Versus Telling Writing Exercises

Showing versus Telling

One of the problems exhibited in manuscripts written by new writers is telling instead of showing. Telling is boring, vague, and can be misunderstood, or misinterpreted. For instance, to say that a man is old may mean one thing to one person, and a whole other thing to someone else. Telling usually takes fewer words, but actually slows down a story. Showing, on the other hand, is exciting, specific, reads quickly and allows readers to feel as if they are actually witnessing the action. Most importantly, showing allows the reader to connect with what’s going on, and feel as if they are there witnessing the action.

Here’s the thing to remember: If a person is thirsty, and anywhere in the sentence you actually use the word “thirsty,” then you told rather showed. Never actually say the action, feeling, or emotion . . . show it. If she’s nervous and any where in the sentence you use the word nervous (or antsy), then you showed and not told. If he’s mad, and anywhere in the sentence you say he’s mad (or angry), then you showed and not told. And don’t cheat by using synonyms!

Look at the below examples:

Telling: He was impatient because she was taking so long.

Showing: He glanced at his watch for the second time in ten minutes, then glared at her, his foot incessantly tapping on the floor.
Telling: He was hungry and wanted a piece of fried chicken, but didn't want anyone to know.

Showing: His mouth watered as he looked at the fried chicken, then quickly turned away and gave a weak smile at the others around the table; then coughing to mask the grumbling sounds coming from his stomach.
Okay . . . now you try it!

Telling: She was happy to see him.



Telling: She was sleepy.



Telling: Jim was so angry he wanted to hit her, and he struggled to regain his composure.


Telling: Her coat was dirty and too small.



Telling: There was a picture missing from the wall

Telling: She liked the flowers he brought her.

Telling: He didn’t like the coffee, but drank it so as not hurt her feelings.


Telling: He was coming in, and she didn’t want him to know she’d been smoking.


Remember, practice makes perfect! It may seem hard to master the technique of Showing vs. Telling, but once you have mastered it you'll see you'll the technique almost without thinking about it.

Obama As Superman - It's The Only Way To Satisfy Everyone!

Obama as Superman – It’s The Only Way To Satisfy Everyone
I wonder if President Obama -- when he ran for president in 2008 -- I wonder if he remembered the old universal truth known by all Black folks -- in order to get half the credit of your white counterparts, you have to be twice as good. (That's right, feminists . . . this was a saying in the Black community loooooong before the modified version made it into the women's lib movement. Get over it!)
I like President Obama, but I don't think he's the best president we've ever had (at least not yet), nor do I think he's the worst (again . . . at least not yet); however, I do worry that he might be the most naive.
Did he really think he was going to have the respect of past presidents?
See, the reality is, he's a Black president. Oh, yeah, folks . . . Young Jeezy may have written the song, and Black folks may have been the one singing it in the streets, but they're not the only one very aware of Obama's blackness.
Do you REALLY think Rep. Joe Wilson (R-TX) would have yelled "You lie" at George W. Bush? It doesn't matter how many lies Bush or any of his predecessors told no one would have disrespected the president -- the office of the president -- in that manner.
But it's not just Republican conservatives who consider him the Black president. So many white liberals I've spoken to say they thought he would have done so much more by now, in regard to social issues, because (after all!) he's a president of color. (Yeah, they call him a president of color, but they mean Black.)
The thing is, when Obama decided to run he should have considered that he didn't just need to be a good president; or a great president; he has to be a super president. As in, he ocassionally needs to snatch open his shirt to display the big "S" on his chest (etched in black ink, of course) and do things like:
Dive into the ocean, pick up a big boulder (they do have boulders in the ocean, right?) and plug up that damn oil leak in less than 15 minutes;
Use his supervision and find Osama Bin Laden;
Fly in the air and change the atmosphere (substitute stratosphe, if that's more appropriate) and erase global warning;
Wave a magic wand and make the deficit appear; (Yes, I know Superman didn't have a magic wand, but since Obama is Black he has to be twice as good, remember?)
After all that the American publicy might even consider adding his likeness to Mt. Rushmore! Oh, wait a minute . . . what was I thinking? Um, scratch that!
But they might grudgingly admit that Obama isn't too bad a president.
And that would be something.
Now is the time