Category Archives: Authors

Sobering Conversations On Fascism & Scientology

                            

At the close of our conversation with philosophy professor, Jason Stanley he quips, “Thank you for a sobering conversation.” It should be pointed out, the professor was being somewhat sardonic. His must-read, How Fascism Works – The Politics Of Us And Them is certainly a serious topic, yet we had managed to bring a moment or two of levity into the conversation. Stanley a child of refugees from WW11 Europe understood fascism means dividing a population to achieve power but was alarmed by fascism’s unnerving prevalence here in America. First, with the rise of the birther movement and later the ascent of Donald Trump, he observed that not only is the rise of fascist politics possible in the United States, but its roots have been here for more than a century. Drawing on history, philosophy, sociology, critical race theory, and examples from around the world from 19th century America to 20th-century Germany (where Hitler was inspired by the Confederacy and Jim Crow South) to 21st-century India. How Fascism Works identifies ten pillars of fascist politics that leaders use to build onto power by dividing populations into an “us” and “them”. Stanley uncovers urgent patterns that are as prevalent today as ever and pins down a creeping sense that fascist tendencies are on the rise. By recognizing them, he argues, readers might begin to resist their most harmful effects. With the 45th president shouting obnoxiously from behind a teeny-tiny desk while refusing to concede he lost the 2020 election, Jason Stanley’s words are indeed sobering.

Equally sobering is Michelle LeClair’s memoir, Perfectly Clear: Escaping Scientology and Fighting for the Woman I Love. The former President of Scientology’s international humanitarian organization tried to reconcile her sexual orientation with the anti-gay ideology of the church. Michelle finally ends her horrific marriage, finds the love of her life, a woman, and ultimately leaves the Church. But the split comes at a terrible price. Her once pristine reputation is publicly dragged through the mud, the police raid her home, her ex-husband tries to gain full custody of their children, and the multi-million dollar business she built from scratch is utterly destroyed. In her tell-all memoir, Michelle offers an insider’s perspective on Scientology’s pervasive influence, secret rituals, and ruthless practices for keeping members in line. 

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Recalling Reality. A Tale Of Revenge. Passionate Music.

             

Two engaging conversations in this edition of Life Elsewhere with two authors who have written two completely different books. One is an intimate, revelatory memoir, exploring the ways we can care for and repair ourselves when life knocks us down. The other takes us into the well-trodden path of noir set in Los Angeles. Only here we find the narrator is a seemingly tough-as-nails woman who may be far more vulnerable than she appears. Plus, new music about the passion and intensity of a doomed yet all-encompassing relationship.

Katherine May Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times 

Sometimes you slip through the cracks: unforeseen circumstances like an abrupt illness, the death of a loved one, a break-up, or a job loss can derail a life. These periods of dislocation can be lonely and unexpected. For May, her husband fell ill, her son stopped attending school, and her own medical issues led her to leave a demanding job. Wintering explores how she not only endured this painful time but embraced the singular opportunities it offered. A moving personal narrative shot through with lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, May’s story offers instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat. Illumination emerges from many sources: solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, C.S. Lewis and Sylvia Plath, swimming in icy waters, and sailing arctic seas. Ultimately Wintering invites us to change how we relate to our own fallow times. May models an active acceptance of sadness and finds nourishment in deep retreat, joy in the hushed beauty of winter, and encouragement in understanding life as cyclical, not linear. A secular mystic, May forms a guiding philosophy for transforming the hardships that arise before the ushering in of a new season.

Halley Sutton The Lady Upstairs

A modern-day noir featuring a twisty cat-and-mouse chase, this dark debut thriller tells the story of a woman who makes a living taking down terrible men…then finds herself in over her head and with blood on her hands. The only way out? Pull off one final con. Jo’s job is blackmailing the most lecherous men in Los Angeles–handsy Hollywood producers, adulterous actors, corrupt cops. Sure, she likes the money she’s making, which comes in handy for the debt she is paying off, but it’s also a chance to take back power for the women of the city. Eager to prove herself to her coworker Lou and their enigmatic boss, known only as the Lady Upstairs, Jo takes on bigger and riskier jobs. When one of her targets is murdered, both the Lady Upstairs and the LAPD have Jo in their sights. Desperate to escape the consequences of her failed job, she decides to take on just one more sting–bringing down a rising political star. It’s her biggest con yet–and she will do it behind the Lady’s back, freeing both herself and Lou. But Jo soon learns that Lou and the Lady have secrets of their own and that no woman is safe when there is a life-changing payout on the line. A delicious debut thriller crackling with wit and an unforgettable feminist voice, The Lady Upstairs is a chilling and endlessly surprising take on female revenge.

Miranda McCarthy From Loving You

Inspired by the wildness of West Cork and life in profound transformation, Miranda McCarthy has in her new single, From Loving You created a moving, beautiful song. Her words and the exceptional arrangement work as a perfect segway between our conversations with Katherine May and Halley Sutton where both authors explore deep and perhaps hidden emotions.

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Reactions To Election 2020

For the last four years on his nightly MSNBC show, Brian Williams has counted down the days of the Trump presidency. As November 3, 2020, drew closer, the polls and the pundits were giddy with excitement as they predicted a blue wave. Of course, true to form as in any soap opera or reality TV show, things never go as you expected. The producers make sure there is a dastardly twist at the last minute to keep you attached to the screen for yet another episode. In this scenario, the wicked villain had already telegraphed that he would make sure that there wasn’t going to be a ball unless he could be crowned princess and accompanied by his ugly sisters. (Ok, that’s a reference to traditional British pantomimes, but the concept is the same – the bad guy messes things up and has a tantrum). By around 2.20 am Eastern Time on November 4, when Trump slouched forward to the podium in the White House he assured the world he follow through on crying foul when not a single chicken had crossed the road. So it was with many votes still to be counted across numerous counties in a number of states, we asked a panel of guests to share their immediate reactions to Election 2020.

Our panel of guests, each with an abundance of acclaim in their chosen fields are:

Jared Yates Sexton Author and political commentator. He is an associate professor in the Department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University. Latest book: American Rule – How A Nation Conquered The World But Failed Its People

Dr. Jennifer Mercieca Historian of American political rhetoric. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M. Latest book: Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump.

Dave Hill Comedian, actor, musician, radio host, and author. Latest book: Parking the Moose: One American’s Epic Quest to Uncover His Incredible Canadian Roots

Steve Brodner Caricaturist, illustrator, educator & political commentator

Dr. Binoy Kampmark Senior Lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University, Melbourne. Author & commentator

Mark Haskell Smith Author, fiction & non-fiction, including, Blown, Naked At Lunch, Raw, Moist, Delicious, Salty & Heart Of Dankness. Educator and cultural observer

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Considering America’s Soul

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In his new book, American Rule – How A Nation Conquered The World But Failed Its People writer and political analyst Jared Yates Sexton takes us on a journey through the history of the United States, from the nation’s founding to the twenty-first century. He examines and debunks the American myths we’ve always told ourselves. In recent years, Americans have faced a deluge of horrifying developments in politics and culture: stolen elections, fascist rallies, families torn apart, and locked away. A common refrain erupts at each new atrocity: This isn’t who we are. Jared Yates Sexton upends those convenient fictions by laying bare the foundational myths at the heart of our collective American imagination. From the very origins of this nation, Americans in power have abused and subjugated others; enabling that corruption are the many myths of American exceptionalism and steadfast values, which are fed to the public and repeated across generations. Working through each era of American growth and change, Sexton weaves together the origins and perpetuation of these narratives still in the public memory, and the acts we have chosen to forget. Stirring, deeply researched, and disturbingly familiar, American Rule is a call to examine our own misconceptions of what it means and has always meant, to be an American. Here we are on the eve of the most consequential of elections, listen carefully to Jared’s conversation with Norman B. He does not shy away from displaying his concern and emotions.  

The subtitle to David Treuer’s latest book, Heartbeat Of Wounded Knee, explains the American history you should know: Native America From 1890 To The Present. Sadly, as Treuer meticulously shows in over 500 pages the history of Native Americans is the history of the United States. David Treuer grew up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, he trained as an anthropologist, and researched his Native life past and present for his nonfiction and novels, he uncovered a different narrative from what he had been told. His heritage had not disappeared, despite but rather because of the intense struggles by Native peoples to preserve their language, their traditions, their families, and their very existence–the story of American Indians since the end of the nineteenth century to the present is one of unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention. In The Heartbeat of Wounded KneeTreuer melds history with reportage and memoir. Tracing the tribes’ distinctive cultures from the first contact, he explores how the depredations of each era spawned new modes of survival. The devastating seizures of land gave rise to increasingly sophisticated legal and political maneuvering that put the lie to the myth that Indians don’t know or care about property. The forced assimilation of their children at government-run boarding schools incubated a unifying Native identity. Conscription in the US military and the pull of urban life brought Indians into the mainstream and modern times, even as it steered the emerging shape of self-rule and spawned a new generation of resistance. Make sure you do not miss Norman B’s interview with David as he talks emotively about the past, the present, and the future of Native America.

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The New Map & White House Inc.

                                 
Daniel Yergin – The New Map: Energy, Climate, And The Clash Of Nations

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and global energy expert, Daniels Yergen offers a revelatory new account of how energy revolutions, climate battles, and geopolitics are mapping our future. The world is being shaken by the collision of energy, climate change, and the clashing power of nations in a time of global crisis. The “shale revolution” in oil and gas–made possible by fracking technology, but not without controversy–has transformed the American economy, ending the “era of shortage”, but introducing a turbulent new era. Almost overnight, the United States has become the world’s number one energy powerhouse–and, during the coronavirus crisis, brokered a tense truce between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Yet concern about energy’s role in climate change is challenging our economy and way of life, accelerating a second energy revolution in the search for a low carbon future. All of this has been made starker and urgent by the coronavirus pandemic and the economic Dark Age that it has wrought. The chessboard of world politics has been upended. A new cold war is emerging with China; and rivalries grow more dangerous with Russia, which is pivoting east toward Beijing. Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping are converging both on energy and on challenging American leadership, as China projects its power and influence in all directions. The South China Sea, claimed by China and the world’s most critical trade route, could become the arena where the United States and China collide directly. The map of the Middle East, which was laid down after World War I, is being challenged by jihadists, revolutionary Iran, ethnic and religious clashes, and restive populations. But the region has also been shocked by the two recent oil price collapses–one from the rise of shale, the other the coronavirus–and by the very question of oil’s future in the rest of this century.

Dan Alexander – White House Inc.: How Donald Trump Turned the Presidency Into A Business

Dan Alexander is a senior editor at Forbes, where he leads the magazine’s coverage of Donald Trump. His news-making exposé that details President Trump’s efforts to make money off of politics, taking us inside his exclusive clubs, luxury hotels, overseas partnerships, commercial properties, and personal mansions. Alexander tracks hundreds of millions of dollars flowing freely between big businesses and President Trump. He explains, in plain language, how Trump tried to translate power into profit, from the 2016 campaign to the ramp-up to the 2020 campaign. Alexander explains, just because you turn the presidency into a business doesn’t necessarily mean you turn it into a good business. After Trump won the White House, profits plunged at certain properties, like the Doral golf resort in Miami. But the presidency also opened up new opportunities. Trump’s commercial and residential property portfolio morphed into a one-of-a-kind marketplace, through which anyone, anywhere, could pay the president of the United States. Hundreds of customers—including foreign governments, big businesses, and individual investors—obliged. The president’s disregard for norms sparked a trickle-down ethics crisis with no precedent in modern American history. Trump-appointed an inner circle of centimillionaires and billionaires—including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Wilbur Ross, and Carl Icahn—who came with their own conflict-ridden portfolios. Following the president’s lead, they trampled barriers meant to separate their financial holdings from their government roles. Dan Alexander has written a page-turning, hair-raising investigation into Trump and his team, who corrupted the U.S. presidency and managed to avoid accountability. Until Now.

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