Up When Nobody Was Looking

Twenty-six Montecito properties closed escrow in December ’06; that’s double the number that closed in December ’05 and nearly 50% more than sold in December ’04. In fact, December turned out to be the second busiest December of the 21st century, bested only by December ‘03’s 30 closings. The median crept upwards too, from $1.85 million last year, to $1.97 million (though well under December ‘04’s $2.51 million). Just thought you should know.

It’s All About Books

Twenty-one-year-old Tara Nicole Lengsfelder (writing under the name Tara L. Nicole) is a former Montecito Union student whose first book, “Dancing In The Rain: The Final Cut,” was published in December ’06 by UK’s Pneuma Springs publishing house. Writing is nothing new for the Brandeis student; “I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen,” she reveals as we sit outside Pierre LaFond during a recent conversation. Tara gives credit to her parents, John and Janet Lengsfelder, whom she says always encouraged her creativity. John is a film & video producer; Janet is a marriage & family therapist in private practice and R.N. at Cottage Hospital.

Tara also credits a triumvirate of Montecito Union School teachers: Sue Carmody, Julie Bennett and Jackie Hammer. “All three of them became my friends and mentors,” Tara says, adding that at MUS, “we did so many writing projects, and poetry projects; they’re really good about that. In all their classes, we wrote a lot of fables and stuff. In Sue Carmody’s class, we did a whole book of poetry anthologies.” As an eighth-grader, Tara (who also paints and plays the oboe) wrote and starred in a reading of her own one-act play – “A Race Not Yet To Be Won” – under the aegis of the Young Playwrights Program at Dos Pueblos High School.

Tara was born and raised in Montecito and attended Monroe, Montecito Union, Santa Barbara Junior High, and is a 2003 graduate of San Marcos High School. She majors in economics and business – “completely unrelated to the writing thing” – and will receive her degree from Brandeis University in Boston in May.

When I point out that she discovered she had an affinity for writing at an early age, yet majored in econ and business, she explains:

“I always thought ‘econ and business, that’s practical, and that’s good,’” she says, smiling. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she continues, “so I thought business and economics, if nothing else, would serve me well. It would teach me how to manage my own money no matter what I end up doing. Even now, in marketing my book, I’m relying on everything I learned in my business courses. I always thought I was going to go to Wall Street, but I’m not doing that… yet,” she adds.

“Yet?”

“I’m looking at doing human relations for a finance firm or somewhere in that area where I can use economics or business, but I really want to work with people,” she answers, adding that she loves watching the stock market but that, “it’s always just going to be money to me. If I work with the people who work with the money, it’s more human.”

Tara grew up in a creative family. Her grandfather – Hans Lengsfelder – was a playwright. She says he “only produced one or two plays in the United States,” but was popular in Austria (before World War II). Both her parents are creative too, she says.

The young author classifies “The Final Cut” as “a coming of age story.” She says it is about finding one’s inner strength, and the idea that outside sources can be there – or not. “It’s really about finding that love for yourself to get you through those tough teenage years. I come from the most loving and supporting family, but even they weren’t able to help me through this. I really had to learn how to do it for myself and how to rely on myself.”

Growing up, Tara and her sister (Savannah, three and a half years older, is a legislative aide for U.S. Senator Russ Feingold [D-Wisconsin] in Washington D.C.) wrote plays together. “We were brought up to think if we needed to process something,” Tara says, “we should write it in our journals.”

The book began as Tara was going through what she calls “a very hard time,” and she would sit down and write as if it were a journal entry. “It was easier to write it in the third person,” she recalls, “so I could make my story more real by writing it down and turning it into fiction, changing it, altering it. That’s how it all started, but at some point I read what I wrote and went ‘Wow,’ I could add a character to this and make it a compelling story. It wasn’t just me anymore.”

In June 2006, Tara finished the book – a sophisticated mix of “journal entries,” third-person observations that move the plot along, and crisp dialogue – and immediately went online and began sending enquiries to publishers.

“They asked for excerpts, so I sent them excerpts,” she says. The first group of publishers she sent excerpts to asked to see the entire thing and because she was in Ireland at the time (having spent two semesters abroad), she sent it to Irish and UK publishers. Pneuma Springs agreed to publish “The Final Cut,” but advised her that, “the only hitch is that you are going to have to market it in the states.”

Which she is doing.

She is looking for a U.S. distributor, since her UK publisher has all the publishing rights. Tara says the ideal reader is a junior high student, but she believes therapists working with teenagers will find interest in it, because it tackles tougher subjects, such as kids that try to harm themselves.

Locally, she has met with limited success so far. Read ‘n Post told her to ‘check back’ with them in the summer, as they had no room for another local author at the moment, and are not taking in new inventory. Tara plans to “stop in at Tecolote,” and says she is doing her best to get it picked up by Borders and Barnes & Noble, but “that it’s a lot of paperwork, and they have to review it and stuff.”

Tara is already working on her second book and has applied for a two-year “Teach For America” program that requires her to teach (for pay, at a teacher’s salary) in a low-income area; at the end of the two-year period, she’ll receive her teaching credential.

She is also looking for human relations positions at finance firms.

“Beyond that, I don’t know,” she laughs.

The Truth About Islam

Robert Spencer, author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide To Islam (And The Crusades)”, and more recently The New York Times bestseller, “The Truth About Muhammad, Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion,” is this month’s Wednesday Morning Club speaker and is scheduled to speak at Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel on Tuesday, January 23, beginning at 4 pm.

The following conversation took place by telephone from his home:

Q. We hear your book, “The Truth About Muhammad,” has been banned in Pakistan. Did that surprise you?

A. No, but it is ironic. I relied exclusively on Islamic sources for the book, so, in saying that my book contained objectionable material, they are in effect saying those books contain objectionable material, which of course is something they would not acknowledge.

Are there other Muslim countries, like say, Saudi Arabia, where your book is also likely to be banned?

The Saudis in particular exercise very strict control over what enters the country. They even go so far as to cut Christmas advertising out of magazines before they allow them into the country, so I don’t think there is any chance that my book has made it into the country at all, even enough to be banned.

Care to speculate on how and why the Left and radical Islam have become bedfellows?

I have a chapter in my book, “Onward Muslim Soldiers,” about the strange congruence between the jihadists and the Left and that is a very, very, odd phenomenon that we have seen over and over again. For example, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman – mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing – was defended by the radical lawyer Lynne Stewart, who was recently convicted of helping him pass messages to his followers on the outside. When they asked her why she did it, she said, ‘I don’t believe that the struggle against racism and sexism can be pursued entirely by peaceful means.’ And I thought, ‘Well, that is really extraordinary.’ That she would think Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman was somebody that was on her side in the ‘struggle against racism and sexism’ in the first place.

But, why do you think this confluence has taken place?

This is a congruence that is on a very deep level and comes from the fact that both the Left and the jihadists want to establish an earthly paradise, and that earthly paradise is one they wish to establish by force, if necessary. The jihadists want to establish Sharia law over the world and Sharia law enforces their Islamic vision of morality via Draconian punishment: stoning for adultery, amputation for theft, and so on. It is akin to the Left’s willingness to use force to obtain its goals, as we’ve seen again and again with, really, every Leftist regime: Castro, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, the North Koreans. At every point, they enforce their utopia by terror, by making the prospect of disobedience a matter of fear. That is something that makes for a kinship on a deep level between the Left and the jihadists; they recognize blood brothers between themselves and are therefore happy to unite.

But the Left’s secular paradise is completely at odds with Islamic fanatics’ version of ‘paradise,’ isn’t it?

Of course it is. They are both totalitarian visions, but they are ultimately incompatible totalitarian visions, with the Left wanting to establish an atheistic secular paradise and Islam wanting to establish a paradise of obedience to Allah.

Is the West, including the United States, at this point, too decadent to defend itself?

The West is decadent, but it’s not because we’re decadent that we’re unwilling to defend ourselves. It is because we no longer believe that we have anything worth defending. Multiculturalism and political correctness have made the West the focus of evil in the modern world. People in the West can’t conceive of a situation in which they would be not perpetrators [of evil], but victims. Even though we were quite obviously victims of the jihad terror attacks on 9/11, most analysts have focused on what we have done to enflame the Islamic world and what we can do now to keep them from being further enflamed.

Isn’t there some truth to their assertion?

The Islamic jihad proceeds from imperatives within the Islamic religion that do not depend on America in any way. The idea [that it is America’s fault] originally stemmed from the Left and from thinkers like Noam Chomsky, but now conservative thinkers like Dinesh D’Souza are promoting the idea that jihad is being encouraged by Western immorality. He suggests we could find a whole lot more allies in the Islamic world if we were more moral. To a certain degree, that is true; jihad recruitment proceeds from the perceived sins of the West. However, it is completely naïve and foolish to think that if we correct whatever it is they are pointing to as the great injustices we have committed, somehow the jihad will end. We could be the purest, most moral people on earth, and this would still be going on because it proceeds from the imperative in the Islamic religion to convert or subjugate the non-Muslim world.

Which Western country will be the first to fall to radical Islam?

France. Because of the demographic jihad, because of the war that’s been going on there without anybody noticing for the past thirty years that has put the French in the position of having a Muslim majority by mid-century.

Where does Iraq fit in the larger picture of international jihad?

The Sunni/Shia conflict was not caused by the Americans. The conflict is almost as old as Islam. Whether it is wise for us to be there is a serious question at this point. Not to say that there weren’t good reasons to topple Saddam Hussein, but it’s not the same question as to whether we should still be there and to try to bring democracy. When you have people that believe that Sharia is the law of God and that nothing is preferable to the law of God and are going to fight for that proposition, how likely is it that we’ll be able to institute democratic rule? I don’t think civil war is avoidable, because Iraq has no essential unity. It is a country cobbled together from three opposite provinces and its character as a country is something that has been forced. They have not stayed together because they love each other. And, they are not going to start loving each other when the Americans leave, no matter what kind of government they have.

How then does America extricate itself from Iraq?

At any point, we could say that we won and get out. The question is ‘What constitutes victory?’ Why do we have responsibility to fix something that can’t be fixed, to shore up a fictional country and keep it from plunging into a civil war that is more or less inevitable? Why is that our responsibility?

Upcoming Wednesday Morning Club speakers include radio talk show host Tammy Bruce, Bill Gertz (“The China Threat”), John Stossel (ABC’s “20/20”), Melanie Phillips (“Londonistan”), Victor Davis Hanson (“Mexifornia”) and Mel Morgan (“Morning in America”). Anyone interested in attending this lecture ($45) or joining the Wednesday Morning Club, should contact Mary Belle Snow at 969-0148 or mbsnow23@cox.net.