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Leonard Cohen’s haunting work will endure

Leonard Cohen was not a household name, but many of his songs will endure in the popular imagination. The French-Canadian singer-songwriter, who died Thursday at 82, wrote such familiar pop hymns as “Suzanne” and “Hallelujah.”

His sepulchral monotone was instantly recognizable to music fans drawn to his spare guitar playing and dark lyrics that examined everything from death, disillusionment, addictive love, God, saints, devils and everything in between. Cohen was never the “I wanna hold your hand” type.

Before he became an unlikely pop star, Leonard Cohen was a well-known poet with several books and major Canadian literary awards to his name. He split his time between Greece and his native Montreal. Despite his success as a poet, he was drawn to American music and left Canada for Nashville and Los Angeles once he had enough songs in hand. Like all aspiring folk artists, he eventually found himself in New York’s Greenwich Village.

For many rock aficionados, Leonard Cohen’s only lyric-writing rival is Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, who became a friend. Where Dylan dashes off lyrics in a frenzy, Cohen took a methodical approach, laboring over lyrics for years.

Cohen’s fan base stretched across generations and genres. His fellow musicians from U2 and Elton John to Herbie Hancock and REM adored his dark poetics as much as his millions of fans did. He taught us all to appreciate that even though there’s “a crack in everything,” it also lets the light in.

Post-Gazette , Nov. 14

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Pointless Christmas competition wastes tax dollars.

In “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” Chevy Chase’s wacky, costly efforts to cover every inch of his house with Christmas lights and decorations were funny.

When two cash-strapped governmental entities similarly lose their sense for the season, it’s not.

The city of Orange and Orange County are acting like a couple of dueling neighbors trying to have the most envied display on the block. A month after the city spent $20,000 on new Christmas decorations, the county responded with an $8,000 Nativity scene of its own. The displays are similar — and about a third of a mile from each other.

At least the school district hasn’t joined the competition — yet.

If the city and county governments were rolling in money, taxpayers might pass it off as typical Christmas overkill.

But both entities are anything but flush. The county’s new display seems particularly questionable, since it was the second in the series and is located in the city of Orange — just like the one it’s sort of copying.

The combined $28,000 in tax dollars that have been shelled out could have paid the salary for an entry-level job or bought a decent truck. You know, things that are actually central to the mission of local government.

Did either entity ask a local business or philanthropist if they could pick up the tab for the Christmas party?

Maybe taxpayers can take comfort in the thought that it could have been worse. Their eyes could have been assaulted by giant Santa’s elves staring at giant angels and shepherds — with maybe a giant Christmas tree in the middle.

This is one Christmas list that should have been returned to sender. The city and county will be filled with plenty of Christmas decorations this year — on private homes, churches and businesses.

Those lovely displays will be more than good enough, and they won’t involve a single tax dollar.

Beaumont Enterprise, Nov. 11

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