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Viewing Blog: Paul Acampora's LiveJournal, Most Recent at Top
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Author of Defining Dulcie
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1. Goodbye LiveJournal

Goodbye, LiveJournal
Hello, WordPress
http://paulacampora.com/blog/

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2. Stephen Sondheim quotes and moments


Here are a few Stephen Sondheim quotes and moments from
this evening’s conversation between Stephen Sondheim and Frank Rich:

 

"One of my favorite songs is Something’s Coming. It was written in less than 48 hours during early West Side Story rehearsals. The actor playing Tony just didn't have the kind of “weight” that made you want to follow his adventures. But he could sing a 2/4 song better than anybody. So I wrote the song thinking it would give him an opportunity to establish himself on the stage. And give him confidence. And then he would give the rest of the company confidence… and it worked."

 

"‘Lenny’ Bernstein had a 12 room apartment at the Dakota. It was all big, spacious rooms inside this old-style New York City building that looked like a castle. But his studio… it was the size of a throw rug with a window that looked out on an airshaft. No distractions... There was nothing to do there but work."

 

"The song I'm Losing my Mind from Follies is a torch song.  It started out as a total imitation of Gershwin’s The Man I Love. I knew I wanted a particular kind of song there. And I knew that I wanted to imitate a certain style and feel. So if I was going to imitate, I might as well imitate the best."

 

"When I write a song, I become an actor… Of course, the song has everything to do with me because I’m writing it. But it also has nothing to do with me. It’s for a specific character in a specific scene in a specific story."

 

"You have to write about what interests you… and you can’t get interested in something you can’t relate to."

 

"Two-thirds of all American theater is about yearning for a connection… the stage is home to a whole lot of yearning."

 

Regarding the song “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George: 

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3. A Very Short Meditation on Book Awards



Me: This book (Lizzie Bright & the Buckminster Boy) has one of my very favorite covers. I wish they didn’t cover it all up with the award stickers.

(Note: In addition to earning a Printz Honor and Newbery Honor awards, Lizzie Bright is an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an ALA Notable Children’s Book, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and it was selected for a Kirkus Reviews Editor Choice Award. )

My daughter: I bet the author doesn’t mind.

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4. September pictures from our house...

From blog


From blog


From blog


From blog


From blog


From blog

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5. If we really wanted to raise boys that read…

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting opinion piece today by Mr. Thomas Spence entitled, “How to Raise Boys That Read.” Mr. Spence is an Ivy-league educated lawyer who runs a publishing company (the modestly named Spence Publishing Company) that focuses on a mostly (but not exclusively) right-wing readership. In his piece, he offers several reasonable points including:

1. A full experience with literature is a good thing.
2. An educated citizenry is vital to a functioning democracy.

I agree. Also, I have to respect Mr. Spence’s willingness to stand in opposition to the anti-intellectual bent that so many of his conservative brothers and sisters have embraced.

But somewhere along the line, Mr. Spence’s essay started to grate on me.

Is it when he makes not-so-subtle fun of teachers and librarians? (First he builds them up as experts, and then he knocks them down as gushing idiots.)

Is it when he takes publishers to task for making a profit? (A very odd point to make within the pages of the WSJ I have to say.)

Is it when he uses C.S. Lewis in support of the proposition that we stop bringing books down to children’s level? (Is he talking about the same C.S. Lewis who recast Jesus as a talking lion or is there another one that I don’t know about?)

Or is it when he poses his thesis in the form of a question so that it doesn’t really seem like he’s got an agenda of his own?

It’s all that and more.

Overall, Mr. Spence does a good job spray painting a gauzy film of truthiness over his entire piece. But he does not present an accurate picture of reality. And his solutions, like so many Republican red herrings these days, are simply bait and switch, name-calling exercises with no real point or substance. (See the new GOP Pledge to America for a wordier example.) A solution that cannot be implemented is not a solution.

What if we really wanted to achieve a higher level of literacy, education and democratic engagement in America? What solutions would truly get our children from here to there?

As the Wall Street Journal should know, capitalism is a system in which you generally get what you pay for. If our nation’s boys can’t read, then it’s because that’s what we – as a nation – are buying for them. With that in mind, here’s my modest proposal for how we might work together to achieve Mr. Spence’s admirable goals of increasing literacy, improving education and generally bolstering a free American society:

Raise taxes to support libraries, school districts and public colleges and universities that can authentically educate our nation’s children.

Raise taxes to support public and private research and development programs, which – as any Fortune 500 CEO will tell you – will create jobs, lead to breakthroughs in health, science and technology, and inspire young people.

Spend less time and fewer resources on exercises, efforts and fake pundit opinion pieces designed to divide our communities.

Instead, let’s put time and money into creating a shared national focus on issues that really matter.

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6. Some thoughts inspired by Banned Book Week

Banned Books Week starts in a few days, but there’s always somebody somewhere who wants to get a head start. This year’s go-getter is Wesley Scroggins of Springfield, Missouri. With some high quality misrepresentation, faulty logic and poor writing skills, and in the name of Jesus Christ, citizen taxpayers and concerned parents everywhere, Mr. Scroggins advocates the pulling of several books from the shelves of his school district’s libraries. As a concerned parent and a citizen taxpayer, I have to confess that it annoys me when idiots I’ve never heard of speak on my behalf. That’s what elections are for. Thank you very much.

In any case, Jesus and I have been talking about this situation. Jesus is who I talk to when I get angry (or when I want a pony or a puppy). Personally, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that every school library should carry every single book ever printed. Not everything is appropriate for everybody. And there is a thing called a budget. To my mind, an important role of the school librarian is to work within his or her limits – budget, curriculum, literary and literacy benefits and abilities, and yes, community values – to select titles that will serve the goal of building educated and engaged citizens for our towns, states, nation and world. It’s a big job.

But when you start yanking Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five… that’s a no-brainer. As in, you have to have no brains to suggest that these books do not belong in the educational experience of America’s young people. So – with apologies to those who believe that reasonable dialogue is the universal path to defusing discord and defining constructive solutions – here is my note to Wesley Scroggins: Shut the *&#$ up you ignorant, fear-mongering, anti-American ass hat.

As a point of interest, Jesus disagrees with my stance that all books are not for everybody. He’s all “screw the budget” and “love one another” and “I had a teen mother, and it worked out fine” and “people are basically good and I should know because I made you.” To which I say, Jesus, hold your hands up to the sky, dude. That’s sunlight beaming through your palm. How do you think those peepholes got there? Perhaps limiting access to “Making Crucifixes for Dummies” might not have been a totally bad idea. And he says, “Paul (I love it when Jesus calls me by my name), I got crucified by a mob. Mobs come from fear. And fear happens when you don’t trust people to think for themselves… For the love of God, give your kids the freaking books.”


For a more intelligent response to Mr. Scroggin’s thoughts, see below:

Why we should read “Soft Pornography” by Isabel Kaplan:

"Another Ugly Case of Attempted Censorship" by Tahleen

"This Guy Thinks Speak is Pornography" by Laurie Halse Anderson

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7. Finding time to write


People often ask how I find time to write. The answer is simple:
I try not to think about it.

 

There are 168 hours in a week. If I added up all the commitments I’m supposed to address, there simply would not be enough time to write. So I carry a notebook everywhere I go, and I’m not embarrassed to use it.  In any given week, you can find me making stories in grocery store parking lots, on soccer sidelines, inside ballet studio waiting rooms, perched atop bleachers, and, very occasionally, at stop lights waiting for the green. Lately, I’ve also been getting in 30 – 60 minutes of writing time before work every morning. I try hard to give myself a scheduled time to write every day so that I can always hit my goal of producing at least 2 pages/day at least 5 times/week. But sometimes, things don’t work out.  Like yesterday:

 

I started out by hitting the snooze alarm and staying in bed 10 minutes longer than I should have.  My bad. Goodbye 10 minutes.

 

I did not set up the coffee pot before I went to bed … so I had to do it this morning. 5 minutes.

 

I also did not prepare my lunch before bed so I had to do it in the morning. Goodbye 5 more minutes.

 

I spilled coffee on my pants. Had to change pants. 5 minutes.

 

Dogs. I love my dogs. I do not love when I step in my dogs’ poop. 10 minutes to clean work shoes.

 

Finally, my son reminded me that I promised to bring him to school 10 minutes early so that he could meet with a teacher before class. And that leads us to…

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8. Special Message to my Bristol Friends

Hello friends,
If you grew up in Bristol, it’s possible that my Uncle Tony was your grade school Principal or you’re your teacher. If you went to South Side, Hubbell, Westwoods, Jennings or Ivy Drive, you probably had Mr. Acampora at your school or in your classroom.

Last year, my Uncle Tony was diagnosed with Lou Gherig’s disease. He remains one of the smartest, kindest and funniest people I know. At the same time, his body is behaving badly. Rather than sit around and mope, however, he’s working with the Connecticut Chapter of the A.L.S. Association to help others. If you know my Uncle Tony, this is no surprise. In fact, if you know my Uncle Tony, it’s very likely that he’s helped you out somewhere along the line.

I’m writing to ask you to take a moment to return the favor by clicking the link below to join “Team Acampora” and make a pledge to this year’s A.L.S. walk.

Here’s the link: http://goo.gl/r994

Lou Gherig’s disease is not just a physically paralyzing condition. It can also be remarkably frustrating and demoralizing. Your gift will help fight A.L.S, but more important (to me) -- your pledge will make a difference to my Uncle Tony. I didn’t really know much about Lou Gherig’s disease before it hit my family. It certainly was not on my list of problems to solve. But if my Uncle Tony is in, then I’m in. And I hope you’re in too.

Here’s that link again: http://goo.gl/r994

Click it now!

Thanks!!!

Sincerely,
Paul

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9. www.paulacampora.com

www.paulacampora.com
Sept 7, 2010
Just finished updating my website. Took me 3 months to update 8 pages which leads me to believe 1) I should stick to fiction and 2) I've got to hire a webmaster. In the meantime, check out some pictures from our really fun trip to the Great Allentown Fair. For people who ask where I get my ideas, you should go to the fair!



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10. I’m really looking forward to books I don’t even know about yet!


In no particularly order, here’s what I’ve read or am in the process of reading during 2010:

  • A Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan
  • My Rotten Live:-Nathan Abercrombie Accidental Zombie by David Lubar
  • Harpers magazine (totally depresses me, but I can’t avert my gaze)
  • The Rising Tide by Jeff Schaara
  • Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
  • The New York Times (I love David Pogue and Paul Krugman. In that order.)
  • Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis
  • Through a Narrow Gate by Karen Armstrong
  • A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving
  • Looking for Alibrandi by Melinda Marchetta
  • 2010 American Girl of the Year books(Lanie) by Jane Kurtz
  • Bark magazine
  • Welcome to Camden Halls (Book 1 in the Main Street series) by Ann Martin
  • National Geographic Magazine (Did it get thinner this year?)
  • Howard Hughes Aviator by George Marrett
  • The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
  • Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by Ted Orland & David Bayles
  • A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin

 

Also in no particular order, here’s what I might read before December 31:

  • The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski
  • anything and everything written by Francisco X. Stork
  • At least a couple Henre Nouwen books and/or lectures
  • Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Case for God By Karen Armstrong
  • Puppy Love by Bob Krech
  • All the rest of the Main Street series by Anne Martin
  • Book of Everything, by Guus Kuijer
  • 4 Gospels, Acts of Apostles and Pauline epistles
  • Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime ~ John Heilemann
  • I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay ~ John Lanchester John Lanchester
  • Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip
  • Looking for Mary (or, the Blessed Mother and Me by Beverly Donofrio
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • The End of the World as We Know It By Ken Auletta
  • The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America By Steven Johnson  
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The River Gods by Brian Kiteley
  • The secret circus by Johanna Wright
  • anything and everything written by Donna Freitas
  • When you Reach me by Rebecca Stead
  • Going Bovine by Libba Bray
  • The Dark Days of Hamburger by Josh Berk
  • Scott Westerfeld – please publish the follow up to Leviathan this year!
  • Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook by Ellen Potter & Anne Mazer
  • Stitches: A Memoir by David Small

 

What I’m really looking forward to are the books that I don’t know even about yet!

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11. We either carry our audience with us or irritate them.

A collection of observations that pertain to writing and writers from Blaise Pascal’s Pensees:

The greater intellect one has, the more originality one finds in men. Ordinary persons find no difference between men.

All great amusements are dangerous to the Christian life; but among all those which the world has invented, there is none to be more feared that THE THEATER.

It is not enough that a thing be beautiful; it must be suitable to the subject, and there must be in it nothing of excess or defect.

Rivers are roads that move, and which carry us whither we desire to go.

The last thing one settles in writing a book is what one should put in first.

Eloquence… it requires the pleasant and the real; but the pleasant must itself be drawn from the true.

When we see a natural style, we are astonished and delighted: for we expect to see an author, and we find a man.

It is a bad sign when, on seeing a person, you remember his book.

A maker of witticisms, a bad character.

We either carry our audience with us or irritate them.

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12. A short lesson on plot...



Snapshot from my house in which we discuss what book my kid should read next, I receive a short lesson on plot, and the child proves that perhaps it is possible to read too much...

Kid: Emmy & the Shrinking Rat. What’s that about?

Me: It’s about a girl named Emmy and a shrinking rat.

Kid: Very funny, dad. But really. What’s it about?

Me: Didn’t I just tell you?

Kid: But what’s the problem they have to solve? Do they go on adventures? Is there a bad guy?

Me: I’m not sure, but I don’t think the rat actually shrinks. I think the girl shrinks so that she can see what it’s like to be a rat.

Kid: Do they know how to make her big again?

Me: Not at first.

Kid: Well there’s your plot then.

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13. Writing day log...

Got in a rare full day of writing today! Kept a log to keep on track. Enjoy:

5:10 Up and at ‘em. Shower. Dress. Make coffee. Breakfast. Write write write.

6:30 Dress the dogs. Let the kids out. Make son’s lunch. (Note: pasta smells bad before dawn, but chili does not. Weird.) Greet teenage boy with a little made up song about chemistry. It’s hard to rhyme this early. Dentistry?

7:00 Check backpack contents: laptop, powercord, notebooks, pens, apples, leftover Halloween candy. Stick post-it notes on manuscript pages that need attention. Check work email. Wish I hadn’t done that. Drink more coffee. Put more candy in backpack. Read a few pages of Sabriel.

7:30 Bring son to school. We listen to a chapter from Harry Potter book 7 (AKA DEAD WIZARD WALKING) on the way. Leave him with some more chemistry rhymes (elementary. Christmas tree. Gadgetry. Them is me… coffee definitely kicking in) Boy asks if I put any candy in his lunch. I tell him that candy’s not good for him. I drink more coffee, eat chocolate and run several errands on way to library.

8:00 Arrive at library. Have to pick library carefully because I am notoriously chatty, and I know librarians in every library within 30 miles. My nature can easily turn writing time into visit-with-friends time which is equally worthwhile – maybe more so – but it’s not today’s goal. I select the library of a local college where I used to work. Parking can be a challenge but doors open at 8. Also, college library more conducive to work/study than the public library. Plus, food and drink are permitted in the building. They actually make and sell coffee in here! And if I want more than candy and apples, I can cross the quad to the cafeteria without having to move car.

8-830 Visit with friends in the library. Did I mention that I’m chatty?

8:30-9:00 Get coffee (pumpkin flavor! yum!) Stake claim to large second floor table with awesome window view and handy outlet. Set up computer, scope out restroom location, quickly browse the nearby stacks. Fill table with browsing material for when my writing brain gets stuck. Never know what inspiration can move me forward. I pick a couple beautiful books featuring the work of artist Joan Miro and also a bunch of academic tomes about women’s roll in popular music. One is called GIRLS!GIRLS!GIRLS! I keep that one under the art books so nobody gets the wrong idea.

9:00 write write write write write…

10:40 I write something that I think is not bad. (yes, this is notable)

11:00 the universal question arises: what do you do with your laptop when you’re alone in a public place and you have to pee?

…write write write write write…

11:25 I write something that makes me laugh out loud.

1:45 a corollary to the universal question: why do I drink so much coffee when I know I’m going to be in the library with my laptop?

… write write write write…

1:55 take a break to wander through Joan Miro a bit. It’s wonderful, but it’s not what I’m in the mood for today. Resist urge to find Chagall books. Check out the women and pop music essays. First random sentence I read in Girls!Girls!Girls!: “you do not notice absence until it affects you.” That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

… write write write

2:40 apparently, the library study room located a few feet behind me is the afternoon location for cheerleading practice or primal scream therapy. I plug in headphones and listen to Neko Case.

2:45 what am I thinking? I can’t write with Neko Case in my head. I keep thinking of questions I’d like to ask her.

2:50 I’m stuck. I review editor’s notes and divide them into two lists. List 1 contains things like: HA!/VERY FUNNY!/NICE!/LOVE THIS! List 2 contains things like: WHAT ARE YOU

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14. Best description of elephants ever

Best description of elephants ever...

"They're just this group of normally abnormal creatures going through the ups and downs of life with big hearts, mood swings, and huge, swingy-assed togetherness."

From Deb Caletti's "The Nature of Jade"

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15. Thank you Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Sometime in 1977 or 1978, Donna Smith, the prettiest girl I’d ever seen up to that point in my short life, approached me in the hallway at St. Paul Catholic High School. Donna was tall and athletic with a sweet, round face like a ragdoll cat’s. Her hair was long and brown, and she looked a lot like Susan Day in the Partridge Family. Unlike Susan Day, Donna also had really cute ears. I’d never noticed anybody’s ears before.

Donna asked me if I could help her with something. She could have asked me to leap in front of a snow plow, and I would have said yes. In fact, I think I said yes before she even made her request. And that’s how I ended up becoming a volunteer for the Special Olympics.

Looking back, it’s possible – even likely – that I was hoping and wishing that Donna Smith might be the girl who changed my life. Did I mention that she looked like Susan Day? And the ears? In my own defense, I had not yet learned about the be-careful-what-you-wish-for rule. In any case, my wish came true, but not in the way I thought it would. Donna Smith recruited me to volunteer for the Special Olympics, and then the Special Olympics changed my life.

I’m thinking about this today because of Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s passing. Mrs. Shriver founded the Special Olympics in 1968. Her obituaries are taking great pains to talk about the millions of Special Olympic athletes whose lives have been touched because of the games, but the story is not complete without mentioning the millions of “able” people touched by the Special Olympics over the years. For me, it was my first volunteer experience. It was the first time I discovered that helping a stranger is not a difficult thing to do. It was the first time I really understood that just showing up means a lot. At the Special Olympics, I learned quickly and clearly that who I was did not matter. It only mattered what action I took in the moment. I learned that when you put other people’s needs first, you almost always get more than you give. These are still lessons that still ring true for me today.

As a result of my experience at Special Olympics, I ended up building a career (maybe two or three careers) helping people (at least on my good days). In elementary schools, nonprofit organizations, colleges and volunteer organizations, I discovered that you can actually earn a living by doing good. Of course no job I’ve ever been paid to do has been as rewarding as the volunteer job I got at my first Special Olympics. I was an official “hugger.” My job was to stand at the finish line and give each athlete a hug as they crossed the finish line. I can’t say I’ve had many more important jobs than that. So thank you Eunice Kennedy Shriver. And thank you Donna Smith wherever you are. I hope good things are in store for you both.


“My mom never ran for office, and she changed the world. Period. End of story.” – Robert Shriver.

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16. Soundtrack for one of my works in progress...


Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

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17. Hope

I try not to worry about things I cannot control. For the most part, I'm almost too good at it. But there has been something that's been worrying me for many months now. It's the movie version of Where The Wild Things Are. Why do we need that? Why would we want it? Now I understand why. And I am totally counting the days till it gets here!


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18. DLAW BEGINS CANCER FREE!

I wasn't sure how I was going to start my observation of this year's DLAW -- DAVID LUBAR APPRECIATION WEEK -- until I read David's thoughtful "Surivivor, Cancer Island" note this morning.

Cancer has been a member of my family for many years. We know it well. We don't like it. But the fact that so many of us are able to stand around grinning like fools these days is evidence that regular check-ups, quality healthcare and medical research really works. I'm very glad that cancer is no longer a part of David's life. And not just because I want more weenies books and can't wait to read more about the boys from Edgeview Alternative School.

So, with no further ado, it gives me great pleasure to kick-off my personal celebration of DLAW 2009 by dedicating my recently completed colonscopy to David. Three cheers for being cancer free! Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

In case you're interested, my results were clean. Very clean. Let the celebration continue!

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19. Alive, well and very excited in a battleground state!

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20. Science Fair Creatures Attack





Here's an illustration from my short story, "Science Fair Creatures Attack (AND IT'S [mostly] NOT MY FAULT)" which appears in the October issue of Scholastic's STORYWORKS magazine. The magazine goes to several trazillion students in grades 3 - 6. My story involves a chihuahua, a boy named Milo, some dead frogs, Mexican professional wrestling, mistaken identity and a bunch more. I love this picture. I also love that there are teacher materials and worksheets available online that promise to reveal "Paul's secrets to great writing!" I keep doing the worksheets in the hopes that I'll figure out why sometimes thing work and sometimes they don't. More news soon...

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21. I'm busy delivering abuse...

“Sometimes a manuscript is like bread dough. You have to abuse it.”
-- Carolyn Chute, whose fourth novel, “The School on Heart’s Content Road,” comes out on Friday, November 7.

Click here to read the whole article (New York Times)





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22. IMPORTANT ELECTION NEWS: Obama kids getting puppy!!!


Win to deliver new puppy for Obama's daughters

"I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House," Obama told Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, during his victory speech.

The good news for his daughters came as Obama acknowledged his family's contributions to his campaign. The news prompted even bigger smiles as they surrounded him. He did not go into details about a name or breed for the new White House pet, who will follow in the steps of the Bush family's Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley.

***

I recommend that they shop here: www.petfinder.com
 

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23. The quiet intensity of William Shatner calls to all old A.V. Club Members

So it looks like somebody went ahead and made the fantasy biography film of me and my old high school friends.  Here's the synopsis of FANBOYS:

It's 1998 and Star Wars fanboys across the globe eagerly await the release of Episode I.  But for Eric, Linus, Hutch and Windows the term "fanboy" is more than just a title, it's a badge of honor. Spurred by impatience and an undying loyalty to their cause, these former high school friends reunite to undertake the road trip of their fan-tasies. Traveling West across the country to visit their Mecca - George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch - the plan is to break in, steal the film and stake their claim as the first fanboys in history to watch it. But to secure their place in the fanboy hall of fame, they'll have to contend with bizarre bikers, a crazy pimp, a deranged group of trekkies and the quiet intensity of William Shatner.
 
I am going to find my Mom's old Buick Electra, gather up the guys from the 1980 St. Paul Catholic High School A.V. club , and we are totally going to sneak into this movie!


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24. Book recommendation: In Hovering Flight


Check out this wonderful, well-deserved Washington Post book review of "In Hovering Flight," a quietly powerful and beautiful novel by my friend, former teacher and current writing group partner, Joyce Hinnefeld. And then go buy her book!


Update:  I see that one of my very favorite book reviewers, Colleen Mondor, loved it too!

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25. Space Dog!


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