The Starving Activist is the sometimes-home for words. AR Neal (that’s me) finds them, cultivates them, and leaves them here. Enjoy.

November 7: A Day with Hitler and Elvis(es)

With a title like that, I might suggest, 'Don't even ask.'However, since you're here already, pull up a chair and set a spell.Why are we captivated by the dangerous, the bizarre, and the wealthy?I was scrolling through the television guide the other day -- I always have the TV on as background noise as I write, grade papers, and do other daily tasks -- and saw that the Military Channel (who knew there was such a thing?) had a special on Papa Doc, François Duvalier, the former president of Haiti. If you don't know the history, read up on him. The documentary I watched suggested that Haiti has yet to recover from his regime.I have watched multiple documentaries on other, sinister personages as well. Remember the saga of the People's Temple?Two hours of the Military Channel line-up yesterday was devoted to Adolph Hitler, in which his dictatorial powers were outlined. The voiceover person explains that he did not reveal the true nature of his desires but took the time to do away with the opposition, one by one, until no one was left to oppose the new Nazi regime he established. That helped me understand, since I often wondered, 'How did anyone let this man come into leadership?'I also wonder about the people who followed the likes of Jim Jones or Charles Manson or joined groups like the Branch Dividians. Is there a particular magnetism that overrides all sense-making? Is it less sinister, in that people follow because they want to believe in something -- anything? It all saddens me.On the other side of the coin, I had a dream a couple nights ago that included the Elvises (or should that be 'Elvi'? Anyone?) from the State Farm commercial:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaU8oLwlI_gI remember hearing them singing, just like in the commercial, before I saw them. In my dream, each Elvis was surrounded by a group of adoring fans, clamoring for autographs as they sang the jingle.And before you ask, I did not fall asleep with the television on. It was not a case of hearing the commercial in my sleep. I didn't see the commercial right before bed. It just happened, okay? Don't judge: it was dreamland, what can I say.I woke yesterday morning to a news ticker that indicated Ms. Katy Perry was declared the most earning star of the year, having pulled down something like $135M in 2015.Earlier in the week, there was a report that Justin Bieber had completed his community service time after egging the house of a neighbor, to whom he also paid $80,000 in restitution. In case you don't roll in Calabasas, California, here's a link to a Google map of the street on which this occurred. If you go to the satellite view, you can get a sense of the sheer enormity of these estates. Evidently, the one Mr. Bieber owned was sold to a Kardasian not too long after the egging incident. The homes typically go for $6M and up. You could buy my whole neighborhood of two- and three-bedroom single-family homes for that. And we live in Southern California as well.If we were back east, you could buy the town we lived in for that kind of scratch.I can't count that high, myself, especially when there is a currency sign in front of the number. But I digress.Why do these things and people captivate? I once said something to someone who lived near me about the beauty and ever-changing look of the mountains -- the person replied, "I never noticed that."People don't notice the dappling of the sun on the green hillsides, the sound of hummingbird wings, the speed of baby lizards, the scratch of coyote claws on asphalt, the brilliance of the full moon on a winter's night.But the latest Hollywood breakup? The current purchase of a 65,000 square foot home by a starlett or sports player? You betcha.I count the pennies in my palm -- three of which I found in the store parking lot -- and try to calculate which bills I can put off paying until next month. I sit in front of my computer, smiling at the plot twist in my #WIP as I hope to see an email from an agent who wants to work with me. I imagine being interviewed about my break-out best sellers (yes, that's plural on purpose because my new agent will get me a multi-book deal, of course).And I bet I'm happier for all my Elvis dreams and imaginations. How about you?

November 8: The Girl who could Stop Time

November 6: Selfish Pepper