Monthly Archives: February 2012

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Burn Down the Ground’: Kambri Crews Scores with Memoir of a Hearing Child Growing Up With Deaf Parents

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Burn Down the Ground': Kambri Crews Scores with Memoir of a Hearing Child Growing Up With Deaf Parents

For a book reviewer who has been vocal about his distaste for memoirs, I’m also aware that a powerful mysterious force draws me to this literary form. I searched the websites where my reviews appear and I discovered that I’ve read and reviewed many memoirs. Maybe the reviewer doth protest too much!

I missed Jeannette Walls’ bestselling 2005 memoir, “The Glass Castle,” partially set in southern West Virginia. Perhaps my dislike of the literary form was in reaction to the faked memoirs of James Frey (“A Million Little Pieces” published in 2003) and Margaret B. Jones — really Margaret Seltzer, a middle-class white woman from the San Fernando Valley pretending to be a mixed-race L.A. ghetto dweller in “Love and Consequences” (2008). For a list of the top 10 fake memoirs — including these two — click: http://listverse.com/2010/03/06/top-10-infamous-fake-memoirs/. The site includes at least two fake Holocaust memoirs and gives a capsule account of each book. The Wikipedia entry on faked memoirs —http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_memoirs — uses the phrase “misery lit” to describe this literary genre.

Kambri Crews

Kambri Crews

In a telephone conversation from her cabin in New York state’s Catskill Mountains Kambri Crews, author of “Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir” (Villard Books, 352 pages, $25.00, available in a Kindle eBook) told me that Walls’ memoir was one of the inspirations for her book. Kambri Crews and Jeannette Walls both managed to find their new lives and careers in New York City.

Despite my reservations about ooks about people escaping from dysfunctional families (with a nod to Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”, aren’t all families dysfunctional in some ways?), not to mention doubts about the “truthiness” of the events in the books, I was drawn into Crews’ account of growing up a CODA — a Child of Deaf Adults — along with her older brother David. CODA Inc. — Children of Deaf Adults — is an actual organization, formed in 1983 (website: http://coda-international.org/blog/about/) but CODA is used informally to refer to people like Kambri and David, the hearing children of Ted and Christy Crews.

Kambri, age 9, in front of the outhouse saying "I love you" in sign language.

Kambri, age 9, in front of the outhouse saying “I love you” in sign language.

Kambri Crews was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1971 but grew up in an industrial section of Houston, Texas and in rural Montgomery County, north of Houston, where her dad, Theodore R. Crews Jr. owned acreage. He cleared it of snakes and vermin by setting it on fire in a slash and burn operation common to Texas. Hence the title of the book, which also reflects the tumult of the family’s life. Ted Crews was an Oklahoman, educated in a school for the deaf and proficient in American Sign Language (ASL). Both Kambri and David became adept at signing and in her readings Karmbri uses ASL to make the sessions comfortable to the Deaf. 

The memoir opens with Kambri visiting Ted in the maximum security prison in Huntsville, Texas, where he’s serving a twenty-year sentence for attempting to murder his girlfriend in 2002. Kambri is smuggling him his favorite chewing gum, Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit. She’s the only member of the Crews family who visits Ted, who’s up for parole this summer.

 

BOOK REVIEW: 'Burn Down the Ground': Kambri Crews Scores with Memoir of a Hearing Child Growing Up With Deaf Parents

 

I could try to describe the mixture of humor and drop-dead terror in the book, but instead I’m including a passage from the book’s first chapter — after the prologue at Huntsville — to give readers an idea of how Kambri Crews has turned her performance pieces into a memoir that I highly recommend (I know, I know! I’m not supposed to like them, but this one knocked me overI I celebrate my contradictions, a la Walt Whitman):

 

I tugged on the belt loop of Mom’s skintight jeans, and waited for her to look down and acknowledge me. I wanted money to play Space Invaders in the bowling alley arcade, but she was concentrating on reading the lips of a balding deaf man who had two hooks for hands. Despite having no fingers, he tried to communicate with American Sign Language (ASL), scraping the curved metal claws against each other as if he were giving a Ginsu knife demonstration. My mother was an expert lip reader and kept her eyes focused on his mouth to make sense of the flurried flashes of metal; she bobbed her head up and down to let him know that she understood.

Ted Crews with Toyota-- Oh! What a Feeling

Ted Crews with Toyota– Oh! What a Feeling

I stared at the beige plastic attachments that encased each wrist and wondered how they stayed connected to his fleshy stubs. Did he take them off at night? Were they suction cups or drilled into his arms? I shuddered at the thought and watched how he made the hooks open and close.

Was he born that way or did he have an accident? After contemplating both scenarios, I decided it would be better if he were born without hands. That way he wouldn’t know the difference. I couldn’t imagine that the world would be so cruel as to take the hands of a grown deaf man.

As I stared at his signing, his hooks brushed perilously close to my face, causing me to reel back in fear. I had a brief horrifying image of running for my life being chased by him, with his grunts and wheezing breath hot on my neck. But Mom, who made fast friends with everyone she met, was perfectly at ease.

I yanked harder and smacked her round bottom. “MAAAA- MMMMAA!!!”

“What?” Mom signed by waving her hand with the palm side up, exasperated at my persistence. “Can’t you see I’m talking?”

“Need quarter,” I signed back.

Mom could partially hear when she wore powerful hearing aids—one of which was always on the fritz, in need of a battery or screeching like brakes crying for new pads—but they were useless in the din of crashing bowling pins. For all practical purposes, she was as deaf as every other grown-up gathered in the dingy Tulsa bowling alley smelling of fried food, cigarettes, and beer. They had traveled here from all parts of the country to compete in the 1978 National Deaf Bowling Tournament, where Mom was scheduled to defend her title as women’s singles champion.

This event was the type of activity the Deaf community created so that members could mingle. In the days before the Internet and mobile gadgets, the best way for the Deaf to socialize was old-fashioned face-to-face time through clubs, travel groups, cruises, and sporting events like fishing and bowling tournaments. While some fathers may have gravitated toward fishing and hunting, mine liked bowling because he could smoke, drink, and carouse between rounds. Mom liked it because she was damned good, with a 164 average. Usually her winnings were enough to pay for our trips with a little profit to boot.

The National Deaf Bowling Association was founded in 1964, but the women’s singles had only been around for four years and Mom was already a force to be reckoned with. She loved to brag about how she was knocking down pins while knocked up with me. She’d bowled three days prior to my birth and was back in the alley three days later.

The wooden lanes and alley lights may as well have been the stage and footlights of Broadway. She was a star and I was proud to say she was my mother.

Mom answered my plea for a quarter by pantomiming empty front pockets and signing, “I’m out. Go ask your daddy.”

Without hesitation, I turned on my heels and skipped to the bowling alley lounge, where I found my father leaning against the pool table holding court among a small gathering of onlookers. He held a cold can of Coors Light and a lit Kool in one hand and was signing with his free hand.

“Two deaf people get married. The first week of living together they find it hard to talk in the bedroom after they turn off the lights.”

I caught Dad’s eye and he gave me a quick wink as he gave the ASL sign for “wait” by wiggling his slim fingers palm side up, revealing the calluses from his years as a construction worker. Unlike my mother, Dad didn’t speak at all other than an occa- sional shout of a name or profanity aimed at a Dallas Cowboys game. When he did, his voice came out in an oddly high pitch with too much air behind it. He couldn’t read lips as well as Mom and didn’t move his mouth much when he signed.

I let him finish the joke that he didn’t bother censoring, even though I was nearby. I had watched him tell it at least a dozen times. As he signed, the ash on his cigarette grew longer.

“After several nights of misunderstandings, the wife comes up with a solution. ‘Honey, we need simple signals in the bedroom at night. If you want to have sex, just reach over and squeeze my breast once; and if you don’t want to have sex, squeeze it twice.’

“The husband replies, ‘Great idea. If you want to have sex, pull my dick once. If you don’t want to have sex, pull it a hundred and

fifty times.’ ”

His audience erupted into a variety of loud grunts and squeals of laughter. One waved his hands, while another signed ASL let- ters, “H-A-H-A-H-A.” Dad chuckled at himself with a slight curl of his upper lip, making a dimple appear in his right cheek. He took a drag of his cigarette and the long, crooked ash finally broke off, landing on the worn, booze-stained carpet. A few flakes floated onto his dark blue jeans and he sent them flying with one forceful burst of breath. He inspected his appearance and brushed off the remaining ashes before he asked, “What’s wrong?”

I signed back, “Need money.” 

* * *

 

Ted Crews was a genius at woodworking and building anything with his hands. When he worked in construction in booming Houston, he often served as foreman for a construction crew. His lack of hearing was an advantage in an environment of jackhammers and screaming saws and pounding hammers and he was in demand. When his drinking didn’t get in the way, Kambri Crews notes. In between bouts with serious drinking he turned their five and a half acres in Montgomery into a homestead with electricity and running water for their mobile home. Kambri and David had to walk to the road leading into Boars Head, as the tract was called. There wasn’t a school-bus-worthy bridge over the stream where the bus stopped, so Ted constructed one that, with improvements, is still in use today.

 

As adept Ted Crews was with working with his hands, his mishaps with motor vehicles were part of the family’s lore:

 

“Time and distance helped me forget the wounds,” she writes (Page 276) when she was living in Ohio with her first husband, Bob, and climbing the corporate ladder at a bank. She married Bob, a naval officer, at 17 to escape the destructive family environment. The marriage didn’t last, but Kambri Crews is grateful that Bob rescued her from a profoundly dysfunctional family. “Besides, there was one law Dad couldn’t escape: Murphy’s. He’d send one letter with news consisting of one broken-down, vehicle, car wreck, failed relationship, and just overall bad luck. Dad shrugged off the misfortunes and said if it had tits or tires it was bound to cause him trouble.”

 

In our telephone conversation, I praised her for her ability to forgive and forget — not only for her father’s abusive behavior with his wife, Christy, but also her brother’s taunting and often dangerous behavior, including pointing a loaded rifle at her. She said her nearly 44-year old brother David has been clean and sober for many years. Kambri commented that hanging out with the wrong people — in her case her friend Marie — led her to sample the drug culture of the 80s. She tells groups that addiction to drugs and alcohol is as much a life-style decision as a disease. If you hang with drug users, you’ll become a drug user, pure and simple. My view completely! Avoid the bad people and chances are you won’t become one yourself.

 

The takeaway from “Burn Down the Ground”: Read it and rejoice. It’s a marvelous book by a gifted storyteller. To the best of my knowledge, it’s a true account, at least as true as any memoir can be. But i have to remember that more famous book reviewers than I — including the top New York Times reviewer — have been fooled in the past, as the two fake memoirs sites at the beginning of this review reveal.

 

About the author

Kambri Crews owns her own PR and production company specializing in comedy. A renowned storyteller and public speaker, she has appeared at the Moth, Upright Citizen’s Brigade, and SXSW Interactive. She splits her time between Astoria, Queens, and Cochecton, New York, with her husband, comedian Christian Finnegan.
Visit www.kambricrews.com for more. 
Crews’ memoir includes prose versions of many of her performance pieces. She also provides updates about her father in her blog, LoveDaddy.org, The photo of Kambri with her dad at Huntsville is from that blog.

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘It’s Murder, My Son’: Mac Faraday’s Good Fortune Followed by Murder Spree in Western Maryland Resort Town

Reviewed by David M. KinchenBOOK REVIEW: 'It's Murder, My Son': Mac Faraday's Good Fortune Followed by Murder Spree in Western Maryland Resort Town

No disrespect to Mac Faraday, Archie Monday, David O’Callaghan, Travis Turner or any of the multitude of good, bad and ugly characters populating Lauren Carr’s “It’s Murder, My Son” (CreateSpace, 286 pages, $14.99) but to me the most interesting character in the book is a lovable, mischievous, sneaky German shepherd named Gnarly.

Even people who are allergic to dogs and cats will get a jolt out of this Army veteran of a dog, originally imported to Spencer and Deep Creek Lake — Maryland’s largest lake — to guard local beauty Katrina Singleton. Gnarly is unsuccessful in his task and is brutally beaten in his attempt to save the wealthy Katrina from her murderer. Gnarly is rescued by Spencer Police Officer David O’Callaghan, who grew up with Katrina and has a history with her.

Gnarly ends up with former District of Columbia homicide detective Mac Faraday, who inherits a $270 million fortune from his birth mother, “America’s Queen of Mystery” novelist Robin Spencer. The inheritance couldn’t come at a better time: Faraday’s wife of 20 years, Christine, has left him for a D.C. lawyer named Stephen Maguire, and Mac loses everything in the divorce, including a house in the pricey Georgetown district of D.C. (How a cop can afford a house in Georgetown escapes me, but I think his affluent wife paid for it).

In a book that cries out for a front-of-book cast of characters (I had to keep paging back and forth to sort out who is Chad, what’s Rachel up to, etc., etc.) hardly anyone in the book is what he or she seems to be. Travis Turner, who grew up in Spencer with David and Katrina, was an indifferent student in high school who relied on his many girlfriends to write his term papers. Now, he’s a best-selling, prize-winning mystery writer. He’s not a workaholic writer; instead, he travels the world with his supermodel 29-year-old wife Sophia Hainsworth-Turner. Travis does research, exploiting his friendship with the police chief for details of crimes, and he has an administrative assistant (we used to call them secretaries) named Betsy to do additional research and schedule his appearances.

Lauren Carr

Lauren Carr

In retrospect, it’s a wonder how the beautiful Katrina managed to live as long as she did. She’s had a checkered career as an investment manager at a D.C. law firm. She inherits the fortune of Niles Holt, a much older man she marries and who conveniently ends up dead not long after. She’s stalked by a mysterious person going by the moniker “Pay Back” who may or may not be a disgruntled former client. At the time of her death, her latest husband, lawyer Chad Singleton, is in the greater D.C. area cavorting with his mistress Rachel.

When Mac Faraday is informed of his good luck, he’s basically homeless, at odds with his corrupt police department supervisor, Harold Fitzwater, and is avoiding all lawyers. Fortunately, one of the few sympathetically drawn lawyers in the novel, Ed Willingham, manages to catch up with Mac, whose sole luxury purchase after he’s handed his inheritance check is a Dodge Viper sports car. Arriving by Viper in Spencer, the former penniless ex-cop discovers he’s the owner of a magnificent estate, the Five-Star Spencer Inn and the landlord of R.C. “Archie” Monday, the very attractive and computer savvy former assistant to Robin Spencer. It doesn’t take a detective to figure out what will transpire between the two.

Soon Mac is working with his half brother David, the son of the late Pat O’Callaghan, the town’s former police chief (and Robin Spencer’s impregnator) to find out who is killing so many people in the expensive resort community. Gnarly, who is smarter than half the people in Deep Creek Lake and Garrett County — make that three-quarters of the people — turns out to be a surprisingly effective dog detective — when he’s not stealing cell phones, purses and food from Mac’s refrigerator. 

 

“It’s Murder, My Son” is a delightful, well-written introduction to Mac Faraday. For my review of the second in the Faraday series by Lauren Carr, “Old Loves Die Hard”, check out the Huntington News Network site:www.huntingtonnews.net › Entertainment

About the author

“It’s Murder, My Son” is Lauren Carr’s third mystery novel. Carr’s first novel — “A Small Case of Murder” — was named finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Carr lives with her husband and son on a mountaintop in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. “I love a good mystery,” says Carr. “Growing up in a small community an argument at the corner store can become a murder by dinner. Making the story a reality on paper is a real thrill.” Carr’s website is www.mysterylady.net.

Editor’s note: There are no natural lakes in Maryland or West Virginia, for that matter: they’re all reservoirs, artificial lakes. Deep Creek Lake is a result of the Youghiogheny Hydroelectric Company hydroelectric project on Deep Creek in the 1920s. Deep Creek Dam, located about 8 miles north of Oakland, Maryland, consists of an earth and rock wall dam across a tributary of the Youghiogheny River. Construction of the dam began in 1923 and was completed in 1925. The hydroelectric plant became operational in 1928. The lake was purchased by the state of Maryland in 2000 from the Pennsylvania Electric Company and public access to the lake is provided by Deep Creek Lake State Park. Deep Creek Lake is the largest inland body of water in the state of Maryland and is home to a wide variety of freshwater fish and aquatic birds. It covers approximately 3,900 acres and has 69 miles of shoreline. Deep Creek Lake has evolved as the centerpiece of tourism in Western Maryland. The popular Wisp ski resort is adjacent to the lake.

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘How to Disappear’ Former Skip Tracer Compiles Comprehensive Guide for Extreme Privacy Seekers

Note: I reviewed this book for http://www.huntingtonnews.net on Oct. 30, 2010. I just received a review copy of Frank M. Ahearn’s latest book “The Digital Hit Man His Weapons for Combating the Digital World” and will post the review as soon as I read it

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen

Although “How to Disappear:Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, and Vanish without a Trace” (Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, 208 pages, $16.95) by Frank M. Ahearn and Eileen C. Horan targets those who want to disappear and perhaps start over with a new identity a la the Kathleen Turner character in the 1981 film noir movie “Body Heat”, the book also is useful for those who seek to protect their privacy in a world where anyone with access to a computer can find out just about everything about you and your life.

Written by two of the world’s leading experts on finding people and helping people avoid being found, “How to Disappear” covers everything from tools for disappearing to discovering and eliminating the nearly invisible tracks and clues we tend to leave wherever we go. Learn the three keys to disappearing, all about your electronic footprints, the dangers and opportunities of social networking sites, and how to disappear from a stalker.

Frank Ahearn and his associate Eileen Horan provide field-tested methods for maintaining privacy, as well as tactics and strategies for protecting personal information and preventing identity theft. They explain and illustrate key tactics such as misinformation (destroying all the data known about you); disinformation (creating fake trails); and, finally, reformation–the act of getting you from point A to point B without leaving clues.

Ahearn illustrates every step with real-life stories of his fascinating career, from undercover work to nab thieving department store employees to a stint as a private investigator; and, later, as a career skip tracer who finds people who don’t want to be found. In 1997, when news broke of President Bill Clinton’s dalliance with a White House intern, Ahearn was hired to find her. When Oscar statuettes were stolen in Beverly Hills, Ahearn pinpointed a principal in the caper to help solve the case. When Russell Crowe threw a telephone at a hotel clerk in 2005, Ahearn located the victim and hid him from the media.

An indispensable resource not just for those determined to become utterly anonymous, but also for just about anyone in the world of on-line information, “How to Disappear” sums up Ahearn’s dual philosophy: Don’t break the law, but know how to protect yourself. Ahearn and Horan are known as the devious duo. Veteran privacy consultants in the business of helping people who want to start a new life, they run AhearnSearch.com, a global skip-tracing company, and Disappear.info, which works with people and organizations in fulfilling their privacy needs.

Ahearn and Horan have been featured in more than fifty newspapers and magazines worldwide, including GQ, London Times, and Die Welt, and as far off as China, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Croatia, and Hungary. They have been guests on over 100 radio shows and on BBC and CNN television programs. Born in the Bronx, Ahearn divides his time between Venice Beach, California and New York City. If you can’t find him in either one of those places, visit www.frankahearn.com.

A few entries From the skip-tracer’s glossary: Misinformation: The act of deviating or deleting information that could be accessed by a hunter and bring them closer to locating you. Pre-text: A misleading or untrue reason given for doing something in an attempt to conceal the real reason. Pretext is about attitude, about picking up the phone and being who you claim to be. It’s about not being afraid to get arrogant or high-handed or to ask for the person on the other end of the phone to put there supervisor on the line. It’s about schmoozing. A good pretexter employs all the skills of a con artist, except that rather than taking money, we’re taking information–which is as good as gold. Social Engineering: In the world of the skip tracer (see below), this refers to the use of fraudulent means to gain access to computer systems that are protected by passwords or user IDs. Skip tracer: A person whose specialty it is to find those who have, for whatever reason, skipped town (or country), often changing their identities in the process.

To give you an idea of Ahearn’s idiosyncratic writing style, here’s an excerpt from “How to Disappear”: How Not to Disappear. There are several books and Web sites that explain how to obtain a new identity. If you are a not a criminal or international spy you do not need a new identity to safely and discreetly disappear. . . . What people fail to take into consideration is how they can test out their new identity. Do you book a trip internationally and just wing it past customs? Do you speed in your car and wait till you get pulled over and a have the cop run your new license? Perhaps you walk into social security office with your birth certificate and apply for a social security number at the age of thirty-five and explain you have been living in a cave for the past twenty years? . . . New identities are a bad idea. Imagine that you are now Mr. Vincent Vega from Palm Springs, and you’re hanging out with your lady friend and her family sipping Pina Coladas and over walks your best friend from high school. This dumb nut starts calling you by your real name, Dexter Plaidpants. Just try explaining that to all at the table–cover blown. New identities are like roulette: It is only a matter of time until your number comes is up.


BOOK REVIEW: ‘Old Loves Die Hard’: Newly Wealthy Ex-Cop Mac Faraday Deals With Former Wife Who Wants Him Back, Along with His Fortune

BOOK REVIEW: 'Old Loves Die Hard': Newly Wealthy Ex-Cop Mac Faraday Deals With Former Wife Who Wants Him Back, Along with His Fortune

Timing is everything and former D.C. police detective Mac Faraday’s ex-wife Christine certainly timed her infidelity and departure from Mac’s life poorly, pun intended!

In “Old Loves Die Hard,” (CreateSpace, 240 pages, $14.99, available from Amazon.com, also available in a Kindle eBook edition) Lauren Carr continues the saga of Mac Faraday, a poverty row homicide detective from Washington, D.C. who inherits $270 million dollars from the mystery writer who gave him up for adoption at birth. Mac’s great fortune came on the day his divorce from Christine became final. Their two children were amply provided for in a bequest from Robin Spencer.

Mac retired from the force and moved into his new estate in the mountains of western Maryland, on Deep Creek Lake. In addition to sprawling Spencer Manor, the sprawling home of mega-best-seller Robin Spencer, Mac has inherited the five-star resort built by his maternal ancestors, the Spencer Inn.

After almost twenty years of marriage, Christine left Mac for lawyer Stephen Maguire, a rising star in D.C. and a man with more money than Mac, or so Christine believes — until the death of Mac’s writer birth mother. She turns up just when Mac is hitting it off very nicely indeed with Robin’s attractive editor and assistant R.C. “Archie” Monday and getting used to Gnarly, the rambunctious -that came with the inheritance.

 

Lauren Carr

Lauren Carr

 

Now Christine — estranged from her lawyer lover — is back in town and wants Mac back — something Mac doesn’t want. Christine made her bed, let her lie in it, is Mac’s view, in this second outing of the mystery series featuring Mac Faraday (the first one is “It’s Murder, My Son” and I’ll review it shortly. Carr graciously sent me review copies of both trade paperback novels; both can be read without reference to each other, but they’re part of a series that West Virginia-based author Carr intends to continue.

Mac doesn’t want Christine staying at his house, so he has the Spencer Inn put her up in his private suite. Suddenly, with the murder of Christine and Stephen in the suite, Mac’s life is complicated in the extreme. As in any good who-done-it, there are red herrings and plot complications in “Old Loves Die Hard” and fans of mysteries and police procedurals will get a kick out of Lauren Carr’s books.

The investigation leads to the discovery of cases files for some of Mac’s murder cases in the room of the man responsible for destroying his marriage. Why would his ex-wife’s lover come to Spencer to dig into Mac’s old cases? With the help of his new friends at Deep Creek Lake, Mac Faraday must use all his detective skills to clear his name — and make sure the Spencer Inn doesn’t lose its sterling reputation.
Here’s what Lauren Carr has to say about this new mystery detective:

“When I sat down to write the second installment for my Mac Faraday Mysteries, I had to ask:
What does a homicide detective do with all his spare time when he comes into a multi-million dollar inheritance and a luxurious estate on Deep Creek Lake?

“If you’re Mac Faraday, you pursue the lifestyle of a millionaire playboy between solving mysteries.

“The Mac Faraday mysteries are set on Deep Creek Lake, where my family often vacations. The resort area struck me as the perfect location for a detective. Deep Creek has everything I love to find in a mystery — from a diversity of characters to locations either up on the mountain or down on the lake. Deep Creek has it all.

“After years of working as an editor in Washington, I gave up life in the big city to return to small town life and her native West Virginia. Growing up in a small community, an argument at the corner store can become a murder by dinner for a writer with an active imagination who loves mysteries. Making the story a reality on paper is a real thrill.

“In the Mac Faraday mysteries, I strive to combine the rich diversity of Deep Creek Lake with the small town atmosphere of Western Maryland and West Virginia.”

About the author

Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. From reading murderous bedtime tales, she grew up to write mysteries for television and the stage. She wrote her first book after giving up her writing career to be a stay-at-home mom. The first installment in the Joshua Thornton mysteries, “A Small Case of Murder” was a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award. “A Reunion to Die For”, her second full length book, was released nationally in 2007. “Shades of Murder”, the third title in the Mac Faraday series, will be released this spring. She lives with her husband and son in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Her website: www.mysterylady.net

 

OP-ED: Obama to law enforcement: Stop linking Muslims to Terrorism

By Jim Kouri

In yet another curtsy to the politically correct orthodoxy, President Barack Obama’s White House plans to tinker with federal police curriculums for counterterrorism training classes. The first bit of “revamping” is the removal of all material that groups, such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR, find offensive or containing a “negative” image  of Muslims.

It’s a government-wide call to end Islamophobia, according to a blog by a Washington, DC-based watchdog group that investigates, exposes and prosecutes government corruption.

A few months after the Obama White House ordered an investigation of government counterterrorism training, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has destroyed instructional material that characterizes Muslims as prone to violence or terrorism, according to the Judicial Watch blog.

So far 700 pages of documents from about 300 presentations given to agents since the 2001 terrorist attacks have been purged, according to a new report published this week. The White House order came after the same publication reported in late November that the FBI, Department of Justice (DOJ) and Pentagon taught employees that mainstream Muslims embrace violence and compared the Islamic religion to the death star.

And the purge of training material regarding Islamic terrorism from law enforcement training is only the beginning.  Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress that anti-Muslim instructional materials hurt the country’s fight against terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. As a result of this mentality, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were asked to collect counterterrorism training materials at all military academies and academic centers such as the National Defense Intelligence College and the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center.

“The goal, evidently, is to banish any material that could be viewed as offensive to Muslims,” said the JW blog.

To fulfill this politically-correct mission, the FBI enlisted the Army Combating Terrorism Center at West Point to purge material that conflates terrorism with mainstream Islam, according to inside information cited in the Judicial Watch report. The cleansing also includes a White House review on any information related to “cultural awareness” training for troops that were preparing to deploy to the Middle East.

This appears to be part of a wider Muslim outreach effort on the part of the Obama Administration and the president’s allies in Congress. Last spring, for instance, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee quietly scheduled a special hearing to better protect Muslim civil rights in America. Organized by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin — arguably one of the most sympathetic lawmakers to Islamic causes — the event came in “response to the spike in anti-Muslim bigotry” and marked the first ever congressional hearing on Muslim civil rights.

It was Durbin who on the floor of the Senate in 2004 called U.S. soldiers Nazis, and detention centers such as Guantanamo Bay “gulags.” He later apologized, but his constituents were happy to hear him denigrating U.S. troops since his district has a very large Muslim population, according to news reports.

According to the Examiner, other Muslim outreach efforts under Obama included; Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano meeting to discuss national security matters with a group of extremist Muslim organizations including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the nation’s space agency (NASA) being ordered to focus on Muslim diplomacy, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signing a special order to allow the reentry of two radical Islamic academics whose terrorist ties long banned them from the U.S.

 

Jim Kouri


BOOK REVIEW: ‘Financial Turmoil in Europe and the United States’: Legendary Billionaire Investor George Soros Offers Solutions to Repair Broken Worldwide Financial Structure

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'Financial Turmoil in Europe and the United States': Legendary Billionaire Investor George Soros Offers Solutions to Repair Broken Worldwide Financial Structure

In a slim book, with an Introduction and 27 essays, George Soros analyzes the financial meltdown of 2008 in “Financial Turmoil in Europe and the United States” (PublicAffairs Books, 208 pages, index, $19.99). The 81-year old Hungarian born billionaire investor and philanthropist not only gives his expert opinion on what went wrong, he offers concrete solutions to prevent another crisis that rivaled the Great Depression of the 1930s — a crisis that continues to roil the world.

Most of the essays originally appeared in Financial Times, the widely respected British and international financial newspaper that many consider to be superior to The Wall Street Journal — especially to those leery of Rupert Murdoch’s ownership of the latter. Others appeared in the liberal publication The New York Review of Books.

Don’t skip the comprehensive introduction: Soros traces the roots of the meltdown to policies initiated in the early 1980s by the Reagan administration, especially financial deregulation and supply-side economics that asserts that the markets are self correcting, that they follow rules similar to that of Newtonian physics. Not so, says Soros, who knows the market from the inside out (sometimes more inside than the laws permit, as his controversial conviction for insider trading by the French stock exchange regulatory agency in 2005 — after a delay of 14 years after the alleged events — shows.

I was disappointed that Soros didn’t discuss the financial deregulation under the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton, other than mentioning that the scrapping of the Glass-Steagall act in 1999 is an event that most likely cannot be reversed. This Great Depression era legislation created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and separated commercial and investment banks. On Page 50 Soros writes in the essay “The Three Steps to Financial Reform” (Financial Times, June 10, 2009) that “It is probably impractical to separate investment banking from commercial banking as the US did with the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. But there has to be an internal firewall that separates proprietary trading from commercial banking. Proprietary trading ought to be financed out of a bank’s own capital.”

George Soros

George Soros

Conservatives — most of whom hate Soros and his ideas — will rankle at a passage immediately following this: “They [financial regulators] must regulate the compensation packages of proprietary traders so that the risks and rewards are properly aligned. This may push proprietary trading out of banks into hedge funds. That is where it properly belongs. Hedge funds and other large investors must also be closely monitored to ensure that they do not build up dangerous inbalances.”

On Page 55, Soros again addresses Glass-Steagall, which I — along with many respected economists — believe was instrumental in preventing bubbles from turning into meltdowns like that of 2008. I don’t see any reason why the Gramm-Leach-Bliley legislation that replaced Glass-Steagall can’t be modified to separate commercial and investment banks. Soros says on that page, “…there have to be internal compartments that separate proprietary trading from commercial banking and seal off trading in various markets to reduce contagion.” Yes, but the best way to do this, in my opinion, and especially of those of many economists, is to separate commercial and investment banking — as Glass-Steagall specifically and almost always effectively did.

To show the clarity of Soros’ writing, I’m reprinting — from the PublicAffairs Books website — an excerpt from the book:

“The euro crisis is a direct consequence of the crash of 2008. When Lehman Brothers failed, the entire financial system started to collapse and had to be put on artificial life support. This took the form of substituting the sovereign credit of governments for the bank and other credit that had collapsed. At a memorable meeting of European finance ministers in November 2008, they guaranteed that no other financial institutions that are important to the workings of the financial system would be allowed to fail, and their example was followed by the United States.

“Angela Merkel [Germany’s chancellor] then declared that the guarantee should be exercised by each European state individually, not by the European Union or the eurozone acting as a whole. This sowed the seeds of the euro crisis because it revealed and activated a hidden weakness in the construction of the euro: the lack of a common treasury. The crisis itself erupted more than a year later, in 2010.

“There is some similarity between the euro crisis and the subprime crisis that caused the crash of 2008. In each case a supposedly riskless asset—collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), based largely on mortgages, in 2008, and European government bonds now—lost some or all of their value.

“Unfortunately the euro crisis is more intractable. In 2008 the US financial authorities that were needed to respond to the crisis were in place; at present in the eurozone one of these authorities, the common treasury, has yet to be brought into existence. This requires a political process involving a number of sovereign states. That is what has made the problem so severe. The political will to create a common European treasury was absent in the first place; and since the time when the euro was created the political cohesion of the European Union has greatly deteriorated. As a result there is no clearly visible solution to the euro crisis. In its absence the authorities have been trying to buy time.”

You don’t have to be an economist to understand the essays, they’re written in astoundingly clear prose. I did notice, in the Introduction, on page ix, that one of the publisher’s copyeditors missed correcting the spelling of “strait jacket”, which Soros writes as “straight jacket.” (To be totally fair to the editors, at least one of my dictionaries–“Webster’s II New Riverside University Dictionary” — gives “straight jacket” as an alternative spelling, but the preferred one is “strait jacket.”).

Since they were published in newspapers and other periodicals, the essays are real-time analyses of the events of the crash of 2008, from those days in September 2008 when everything seemed to be tumbling down to the end of 2011 when the financial meltdown of the small Eurozone country of Greece and the perilous positions of other European countries.

While many — if not most — of the essays deal with the problems with the euro, which Soros says is flawed because the European Union currency adopted in 1999 has a central bank but no central treasury, Soros addresses the urgent need for the U.S. to restructure its banking and financial system. He anticipates the globalization of the crisis and, in particular, its perilous second phase in Europe; and finally he calls for concerted international action.

While charting the journey from the American mortgage crisis to riots in Athens, Soros often reveals an alternate course to that chosen by the U.S. and European governments. Soros was among the first to appreciate the scale of the disruption, and that “these are not normal times.” His analysis is cogent, informed by years as a fund manager and supporter of European integration. His concern for the eurozone’s future is palpable, as the markets test Europe’s banks and political processes to the brink of destruction, to a degree never before seen—or foreseen—since the creation of the European Community.

As a journalist who has spent much of his career covering real estate, I was particularly drawn to the essay (Pages 63-68) “Reforming a Broken Mortgage System” wherein Soros addresses the problems of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, “the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) now in limbo.” I couldn’t agree more when Soros says the business model of the two GSEs is “fundamentally unsound. These public-private partnerships are supposed to serve the public interest as well as the interest of shareholders.” What needs to be done, Soros writes on Page 65, is that Fannie’s and Freddie’s mortgage insurance function “must be separated from the mortgage financing. The former, mortgage insurance, is the legitimate function of a government agency — especially when the private sector has collapsed. It should be run as a government agency.” The folks at MGIC and other private mortgage insurers might beg to disagree, but Soros has a point here, and he adds that “mortgage financing should revert to the private sector. This would get rid of a business model that has failed.”
The Danes have a system that has worked well since the Great Fire of Copenhagen in 1795, Soros writes (Page 65). The Danish model has not prevented housing bubbles (in fact I read of a recent one in the tiny country) but “it has never broken down. And it proved its worth again in 2008.”

In a piece I found on a Google search, Soros describes in considerable detail the Danish system that he discusses briefly in the book:

“It remains the best performing in Europe during the current crisis. First, it is an open system in which all mortgage originators can participate on equal terms as long as they meet the rigorous regulatory requirements. There are no GSEs enjoying a quasimonopolistic position.

“Second, mortgage originators are required to retain credit risk and to perform the servicing functions, thereby properly aligning the incentives. Third, the mortgage is funded by the issuance of standardized bonds, creating a large and liquid market. Indeed, the spread on Danish mortgage bonds is similar to the option-adjusted spread on bonds issued by the GSEs, although they carry no implicit government guarantees.

“Finally, the asymmetric nature of American mortgages is replaced by what the Danes call the Principle of Balance. Every mortgage is instantly converted into a security of the same amount and the two remain interchangeable at all times. Homeowners can retire mortgages not only by paying them off, but also by buying an equivalent face amount of bonds at market price. Because the value of homes and the associated mortgage bonds tend to move in the same direction, homeowners should not end up with negative equity in their homes. To state it more clearly, as home prices decline, the amount that a homeowner must spend to retire his mortgage decreases because he can buy the bonds at lower prices.

“The U.S. can emulate the Danish system with surprisingly few modifications from our current practices. What is required is transparent, standardized securities which create large and fungible pools. Today in the U.S., over half of all mortgages are securitized by Ginnie Mae, which issues standardized securities. All that is missing is allowing the borrowers to redeem their mortgages at the lower of par or market.

“Because of the current havoc in the mortgage market, there is no confidence in the origination and securitization process. As a result, a government guarantee is indispensable at this time, and may be needed for the next few years. As the private sector regains its strength, the government guarantees could, and should, be gradually phased out.

“How to get there from here? It will involve modifying the existing stock of mortgages, so that the principal does not exceed the current market value of the houses, and refinancing them with Danish-style loans. The modification will have to be done by servicing companies that need to be properly incentivized. Modifying mortgages that have been sliced and diced into securitizations may require legislative authorization. The virtual monopoly of the GSEs would be terminated and they would be liquidated over time.”

This makes sense to me! Let’s get rid of Fannie and Freddie or sell them off to Soros or The Blackstone Group or Bain Capital or KKR, or anybody who wants to buy them! We already have enough government agencies dealing with housing, which in my “cafeteria libertarian” philosophy the federal government shouldn’t be involved in the first place. Housing should be a local — or statewide at best — concern and the obsession of both political parties with trying to make everybody a homeowner is what got us into the current mess in the first place, in my opinion.

Although I disagree with Soros on many political issues, I found the essays in this book, especially the above cited essay on restructuring the U.S. mortgage system, profoundly reasonable. The book is worth reading by those of all political persuasions, and especially by legislators struggling with the current flawed financial infrastructure that affects all nations in this era of globalization.

About the author


George Soros is chairman of Soros Fund Management and is the founder of a global network of foundations dedicated to supporting open societies. He is the author of several best-selling books includingThe Crash of 2008: The New Paradigm for Financial Markets; The Crisis of Global Capitalism, The Bubble of American Supremacy, Underwriting Democracy, and The Age of Fallibility. He was born in Budapest in 1930 and lives in New York City.

Publisher’s website: www.publicaffairsbooks.com

REALTYTRAC: January 2012 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report: Frozen Up Foreclosure Process Begins to Thaw

  • By David M. Kinchen
REALTYTRAC: January 2012 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report: Frozen Up Foreclosure Process Begins to Thaw

The just released January 2012 foreclosure market report from Irvine, CA-basedRealtyTrac (www.realtytrac.com) shows foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — were reported on 210,941 U.S. properties in January. That was a 3 percent increase from the previous month but still down 19 percent from January 2011. The report also shows one in every 624 U.S. housing units with a foreclosure filing during the month.

“Although overall foreclosure activity was down from a year ago for the 16th straight month in January, we continue to see signs on a local and regional level that the frozen-up foreclosure process is beginning to thaw,” said Brandon Moore, CEO of RealtyTrac. “Foreclosure activity increased on a year-over-year basis for the first time in more than 12 months in Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania, following a pattern we saw in late 2011 in states such as California, Arizona and Massachusetts.

“We expect the pattern of increasing foreclosures to continue in the coming months, especially given the finalized mortgage and foreclosure settlement reached in early February between 49 state attorneys general and five of the nation’s largest lenders,” Moore continued. “The settlement sets forth clear guidelines for lenders and servicers to follow when foreclosing, which should allow them to push through some of the delayed foreclosures from last year. Other roadblocks to foreclosure are still in place at the state level, however, including legislation altering the foreclosure process and lawsuits against lenders. We expect to see somewhat uneven trends in local and regional foreclosure numbers going forward as lenders work through these additional legislative and legal roadblocks.”

Default notices were filed for the first time on a total of 58,362 U.S. properties in January, unchanged from the previous month but down 22 percent from January 2011.

Default notices increased more than 20 percent on a year-over-year basis in several states, including Connecticut (23 percent), Massachusetts (27 percent), Florida (36 percent), Maryland (100 percent) and Pennsylvania (112 percent). Florida default notices increased on an annual basis for the third straight month, and default notices in Pennsylvania reached a 15-month high.

Foreclosure auctions were scheduled on 86,037 U.S. properties in January, up 1 percent from December, but still down 20 percent from January 2011.

Scheduled auctions increased more than 20 percent on a year-over-year basis in several states, including Minnesota (24 percent), Massachusetts (57 percent), South Carolina (79 percent), Indiana (141 percent) and Illinois (141 percent). Minnesota scheduled auctions increased on an annual basis for the third straight month, and scheduled auctions reached a 17-month high in Indiana and a 15-month high in Illinois.

Lenders repossessed (REO) a total of 66,542 U.S. properties in January, an 8 percent increase from December but still a 15 percent decrease from January 2011.

REO activity increased at least 30 percent on a year-over-year basis in several states, including Wisconsin (30 percent), Connecticut (39 percent), Illinois (52 percent), Indiana (60 percent), New Hampshire (62 percent) and Massachusetts (75 percent). REO activity increased on an annual basis for the fourth straight month in Massachusetts and for the third straight month in Wisconsin and Illinois. REO activity in January reached a 16-month high in Illinois and a 15-month high in Indiana.

With one in every 198 housing units with a foreclosure filing in January, Nevada posted the nation’s highest foreclosure rate for the 61st straight month — despite an 8 percent decrease in foreclosure activity from December. A total of 5,931 Nevada properties had a foreclosure filing in January, down 52 percent from January 2011 and a 52-month low.

California foreclosure activity dropped to a 50-month low in January, but the state still posted the nation’s second highest foreclosure rate: one in every 265 housing units with a foreclosure filing during the month. A total of 51,584 California properties had a foreclosure filing in January, down 23 percent from January 2011

Arizona foreclosure activity increased 14 percent from the previous month, helping the state post the nation’s third highest foreclosure rate: one in every 325 housing units with a foreclosure filing during the month. A total of 8,749 Arizona properties had a foreclosure filing in January, down 44 percent from January 2011.

The year-over-year drops in foreclosure activity in Nevada, California and Arizona were driven by low foreclosure starts in all three states. In Nevada, default notices averaged fewer than 1,200 per month from October through January after averaging more than 4,000 per month in the first nine months of 2011. In California, default notices averaged fewer than 18,000 per month in December and January after averaging more than 28,000 per month from August through November. In Arizona, scheduled auctions (the first foreclosure notice in the state) averaged fewer than 4,300 per month in December and January after averaging more than 7,500 per month in the previous 12 months.

Foreclosure starts were also at low levels in Oregon, where scheduled auctions dropped to a 40-month low, and in Washington, where scheduled auctions averaged fewer than 1,000 per month from October through January after averaging more than 2,100 per month in the first nine months of 2011.

One in every 328 Georgia housing units had a foreclosure filing in January, the nation’s fourth highest state foreclosure rate, and one in every 354 Michigan housing units had a foreclosure filing, the nation’s fifth highest state foreclosure rate.

Other states with foreclosure rates ranking among the top 10 were Florida, Illinois, Delaware, Colorado and Indiana.

Nine out of the nation’s 10 highest foreclosure rates among metropolitan areas with a population of 200,000 or more were in California. The only exception was Las Vegas, which ranked No. 5 with one in every 172 housing units with a foreclosure filing in January.

Reporting one in every 140 housing units with a foreclosure filing during the month, Stockton, Calif., posted the nation’s highest metro foreclosure rate for the fourth month in a row, followed by Modesto at No. 2 (one in every 143 housing units), Riverside-San Bernardino at No. 3 (one in 164 housing units), and Vallejo-Fairfield at No. 4 (one in every 168 housing units).

Only four cities in the top 20 metro foreclosure rates posted annual increases in foreclosure activity: Lansing-East Lansing, Mich. (20 percent increase); Orlando (55 percent increase); Chicago (13 percent increase); and Miami (21 percent increase). 

COMMERCE DEPT.: Housing Starts Rise 1.5 Percent in January to 2nd Best Production Pace Since Oct. 2008

  • By David M. Kinchen
COMMERCE DEPT.: Housing Starts Rise 1.5 Percent in January to 2nd Best  Production Pace Since Oct. 2008

Building on significant upward revisions to numbers for the previous two months, nationwide production of new single-family homes and apartments increased 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 699,000 units in January, according to a report released Thursday, Feb. 16 by the U.S. Commerce Department. This marks the second-best pace of overall housing production since October of 2008.

 

“Today’s solid housing starts report indicates that builders are putting more of their crews back to work, and adds to the growing field of evidence that the overall housing market is gradually but consistently moving in the right direction,” said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. In addition to today’s numbers, recent builder surveys have indicated steadily increasing optimism regarding market conditions while the number of improving housing markets nationwide has grown substantially over the past six months, he noted.
“The fact that the three-month moving average for housing starts has now increased for nine consecutive months and is approaching the 700,000 mark for the first time since October of 2008 is indicative of a solid recovery in housing activity stemming from recent firming in employment and consumer confidence measures,” agreed NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “That said, housing production is still far from what would be considered normal in a healthy market, and many challenges remain for home builders in terms of tight credit conditions, difficult appraisals and the continued flow of foreclosed properties on the market – all of which are certainly slowing the pace of improvement in both housing and the overall economy.”

Following significant upward revisions reported for both November and December, single-family starts held virtually flat in January with a 1.0 percent decline to a 508,000-unit rate. Together with the revised December number, this is the best pace of single-family starts since April of 2010, when the home buyer tax credit was active. Meanwhile, single-family building permits, which can be an indicator of future construction activity, also held virtually unchanged, with a 0.9 percent increase in January to 445,000 units – again, the best pace since April of 2010.

The multifamily segment also continued to display greater strength in January following a 55 percent increase in starts activity in 2011 that was attributed to rising demand for rental apartments. While multifamily starts rose 8.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 191,000 units for the month, permits edged up 0.4 percent to 231,000 units.

The South, which is the nation’s largest regional housing market, posted the biggest gain in housing starts in January with an 18.3 percent increase, while the West and Northeast also posted significant gains of 11.9 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively. The Midwest was the exception to the rule, posting a 40.7 percent decline that partially offset a dramatic gain in the previous month.

The South also posted the largest gain in permit issuance in January, with a 10.1 percent increase. Permits also rose by 4.2 percent in the Northeast, but declined 3.7 percent in the Midwest and 18.2 percent in the West.

 

Other housing data from the Commerce Department report:

BUILDING PERMITS

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 676,000. This is 0.7 percent above the revised December rate of 671,000 and is 19.0 percent above the January 2011 estimate of 568,000.

Single-family authorizations in January were at a rate of 445,000; this is 0.9 percent above the revised December figure of 441,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 208,000 in January.

HOUSING COMPLETIONS

Privately-owned housing completions in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000. This is 12.0 percent (±8.8%) below the revised December estimate of 602,000, but is 4.1 percent above the January 2011 rate of 509,000.

Single-family housing completions in January were at a rate of 389,000; this is 14.9 percent below the revised December rate of 457,000. The January rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 136,000.

VALENTINE’S DAY POEM: Canadian Poet, Songwriter, Artist Leonard Cohen: ‘When I Uncovered Your Body’

By David M. Kinchen

 

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen

Today, a valentine from the Knopf poetry program, to be shared with the one you love: a poem by the incalculably influential singer-songwriter and longtime poet Leonard Cohen, who turned 77 in September and just released his newest album last month. It is from a new eShort sampling of his verse, Fifteen Poems, published today by Everyman’s Library, that also includes many of his provocative line drawings. Like so much of Cohen’s genre-crossing work, “When I Uncovered Your Body,” originally published in a 1961 collection, has lost none of its freshness and sidelong genius over the decades.

When I Uncovered Your Body
When I uncovered your body
I thought shadows fell deceptively,
urging memories of perfect rhyme.
I thought I could bestow beauty
like a benediction and that your half-dark flesh
would answer to the prayer.
I thought I understood your face
because I had seen it painted twice
or a hundred times, or kissed it
when it was carved in stone.With only a breath, a vague turning,
you uncovered shadows
more deftly than I had flesh,
and the real and violent proportions of your body
made obsolete old treaties of excellence,
measures and poems,
and clamoured with a single challenge of personal beauty,
which cannot be interpreted or praised:
it must be met. 

 

About Leonard Cohen

VALENTINE'S DAY POEM: Canadian Poet, Songwriter, Artist Leonard Cohen: 'When I Uncovered Your Body'

 
Americans may perhaps best know Leonard Cohen for his hit song “Suzanne,” covered by Judy Collins. Leonard Cohen’s artistic career began in 1956 with the publication of his first book of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies (just reissued). He has published two novels, The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers, and ten books of poetry, most recently Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs and Book of Longing. He has to date made seventeen albums, the latest being Old Ideas. Numerous tribute albums, in many languages, have celebrated his songs. Cohen has been inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and both theCanadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is also a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

 

Copyright © 1993 by Leonard Cohen and Leonard Cohen Stranger Music, Inc., Copyright © 2012 by Old Ideas LLC. Excerpted by permission of Everyman’s Library, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

COMMENTARY: A Nation at War: Where’s the Music?

Joseph J. Honick

Joseph J. Honick

Editor’s Note: This column originally ran on Nov. 10, 2009 and is even more relevant today

“Over There” … “Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition” … “Say A Prayer For The Boys Over There” … these and scads of other songs permeated the airwaves, juke boxes, radios and anywhere that sound could be received during dark days of wartime for generations. But not now!

“War” is now the word used by those who favor it and those who don’t.

Where is the demand from government to make movies hyping our men and women in uniform, fighting and dying every day? Where are the composers writing patriotic songs? Where are the pumpers to get us all to help pay for a nation at war with savings bonds that might add up to the $187 billion in World War II dollars Americans happily came up with then?

The answer: nowhere!

I have raised the questions before about how come we could have promoted a profligate economy at home that ran aground while running up a wartime tab that seems to have no end? If oil is so precious, we have to pressure auto makers to produce cars that consumer less fuel or run on some other stuff, how come we have no programs to ration the black gold here so our troops don’t run short overseas?

One reason may well be that this administration, as did its predecessor, keeps working at promoting its economic progress which we now know has run down quite a bit, with growth much slower than had been predicted, read bragged about. With all that, the pressure is to keep the battle going with no end in sight or any even modest description of what it looks like when we have won.

Perhaps Americans are both confused and discouraged. Certainly we are inexcusably apathetic in demanding leadership from both political parties who seem similarly confused, but, shucks, they get paid to lead, and it’s our money they’re gobbling up.

When you add all of this up, you understand why there are no new patriotic songs to motivate armies and civilians alike, why we cannot figure out what victory looks like and why it is ok to keep traveling, using oil and not worrying about material shortages needed for war. The reason: those who run the joint seem not to worry about it either.

Yet this is the same apathetic American public now being targeted to determine who should take over and carry the burden they will most assuredly inherit.

As we move toward the end of another year of “Afghanistan Forever” with millions of Americans in the dumper, here are questions that demand answers … or at the very least … demand to be asked:

1. Why are we in Afghanistan and what is our mission?

2. Who is the enemy really and how can something called “insurgents” hold off the most powerfully armed forces in the world for so long?

3. If it costs us billions to stay in the Afghanistan game, who is financing, training, arming and commanding the Taliban, and how are they doing it?

4. Why does the government fail to tell the American people how this all happens?

5. If we are at war, why is there no draft?

6. How have the Russians suffered for being driven out?

7. Why are these questions not being to our government by media? Whatever happened to the music? 

* * *

Joseph J. Honick is an international consultant to business and government and writes for many publications, including huntingtonnews.net.