Monthly Archives: May 2013

Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator by Gary Noesner

 A fast-paced recap of the career of a Hostage Negotiator, including highlights and low points, the book is, at times, an entertaining read. However, Noesner spends a fair bit of time defending himself, and casting aspersions on others, for the calamity that was Waco. It is his contention that, had the higher ups constrained the more militant members of the FBI, he and his team of negotiators would, slowly but surely, have gotten most of the people out. From the information provided by Noesner, this seems very likely to be the case, but, it is a case of Noesner protesting too much. By throwing over former colleagues, Noesner leaves a reader with bad feelings towards him.

In general, Noesner treats those in opposition to him with respect, trying mostly to understand their thinking. There is, unfortunately, one glaring exemption where he shows pure contempt for those on the other side. This is in his treatment of the situation on Vieques (an island in the Caribbean that belongs to Puerto Rico, a U.S. Commonwealth). He characterizes the Puerto Ricans who were opposing the U.S. Navy’s live bombing exercises on Vieques as ignorant and stupid. It is a more than unsavory element, especially coming so late in the book. As a Puerto Rican, and knowing of many other communities in the U.S. that have waged the same losing battle against having live ammunition so close to their families, this strikes me as patently unfair and makes me wonder if Noesner’s problem is more with Hispanic people than with activists. An uneven book, I would not recommend it to others…as vanity projects go, this one seeks to rewrite history in a way that flatters only one person, and that is Noesner.

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Book Reviews


Tags: , , , , , ,

Holiday Inn (1942)

Boy, Girl, Boy singing and dancing group. One boy, Jim (Bing Crosby), decides to settle down with the girl, Lila (Virginia Dale), marrying her and moving to Connecticut, leaving the New York rat race…especially working on holiday’s. Lila stands up Jim and stays in New York with Ted (Fred Astaire) to keep on performing. Jim moves to Connecticut anyway…and hates farming. He meets a new girl, Linda (Marjorie Reynolds), and they join forces to open a Holiday Inn- literally only open on holiday’s. Lila runs off with a millionaire, leaving Ted high and dry. Ted goes to Connecticut, hi-jinks ensue as he steals Linda from Jim, and away to Hollywood. Jim, depressed at Thanksgiving, heads to Hollywood to track down Linda. He locks Ted up and takes his place at the piano where he and Linda sing “White Christmas” together. She agrees to marry him after all…and Lila, having found her millionaire lacking, returns to join Ted in their dance show again. Hooray! Every boy has a girl, every girl has a boy!

An Irving Berlin feature, Holiday Inn is most notable for being the first use of the song “White Christmas”, later used in my favorite Christmas movie, White Christmas (1954). It also features the song “Easter Parade”, first heard in the Broadway review As Thousands Cheer (1933). Nice song and dance numbers are seen throughout the film but, a black-face performance, and a stereotypical “Mamie” character, Mamie (Louise Beavers), strikingly showcase just how prevalent this type of racism was in society at this time, and made me very uncomfortable as I was watching, literally cringing as the beautiful Ms. Beavers came on the screen, thinking about how much more they could have done with her if they had been aware of the waste of talent they were perpetuating. Thankfully, Ms. Beavers did have periodic times to shine in her career…read her bio (linked above) for more!

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Movie Reviews


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel & Fraud by David Rakoff

Front CoverRunning short on cash after years of success as a biographer, Israel turned to forgery to keep afloat. She started small, as most criminals do, stealing letters from a poorly guarded library research room to sell to autograph hunters. Realizing that content could increase value, she began appending juicy post scripts to the stolen letters. Pretty soon, she began putting her years of research experience, and her ability to get inside a subject’s head, to create forged letters from beginning to end. Borrowing oft-used phrases by the purported writer, as well as biographical information, she created new letters out of whole cloth. When she suspected that the dealers she was working with were beginning to get suspicious, she brought on an accomplice, a gay friend with experience as a con man. In 1992, she was caught and sentenced.

This book is a breezy read, unapologetic to a fault, and offers a peek into the mind of a creative person who relied on a shortcut until it backfired.

 Expecting another tome of literary forgery (see above), I was surprised to find that nothing could be further from the truth. Fraud is a collection of essays, most previously published or broadcast on NPR’s This American Life. The acerbic viewpoint of a jaded New Yorker (via Toronto), the link between the stories is Rakoff’s feeling of not belonging – of being a fraud – no matter the situation.

A very fast read, this collection could not be called witty, but it is an intriguing peek into the life perspective of one man. My favorite story, “Christmas Freud”, tells of the year Rakoff, dressed as the infamous psychoanalyst, spent four weeks sitting as part of one of the famous display window’s of Barneys New York. Oh, Simon Doonan, how I love you. Rakoff writes of feeling, at first, like a polar bear on exhibit, of scoping out guys through the window, and of his exhilarating feelings of empowerment when he started putting his years in therapy to good use, psychoanalyzing his friends as they lay on his couch, actually helping a few achieve catharsis. This piece is beautifully written, and a wonderful example of the rest of his work.

**Unfortunately, Rakoff lost his bout with cancer in August of last year. One of the essays in his collection tells of his first brush with cancer, dealing with life-interrupting Hodgkin’s Disease at age 22. He was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in 2010.**

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 3, 2013 in Book Reviews


Tags: , , , , ,