November 11, 2017

Our Little Dante Crosses the Rainbow Bridge

After the loss of two of my dearest friends over the last five months, Murray Franck and Michael Southern, I didn't think I had much of a heart left to break.

It turns out my heart is much larger with an almost infinite capacity to love---and to grieve. This morning, we lost our little Dante (April 29, 2000 - November 11, 2017). He had a life full of love, fun, food, travel, and TV. But this morning, the Rainbow Bridge beckoned.

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Only folks who have had pets will understand the grief of losing a beloved member of the family, especially one who has brought such joy to our lives. We will miss him and love him, and keep him in our memories eternally. I love you, my little Dante.


Postscript (13 November 2017): I wanted to thank everybody who has responded to me privately and publicly (on Facebook) during a period of immense personal grief. I have no doubt that some of this grief is cumulative, given recent losses in my life, as noted above. But only pet people understand the uniqueness of the relationship between a person and a pet.

That unique character was noted by psychologist Nathaniel Branden back in the 1960s, who enunciated what he called the "Muttnik principle" in his exploration of the nature of psychological visibility. His remarks were specifically about the relationship he enjoyed with his dog Muttnik, but the principle is just as applicable to cats and other pets, as it is to dogs, despite the differences that one sees among the species.

I've been fortunate enough to be both a "cat person" and a "dog person"; my first experiences with pets were as a child with both cats (Peppers) and dogs (Timmy), and later, with our cat Buttons (1969-1987), who lived to the ripe old age of 18, and who was best friends with my brother and sister-in-law's dog, Shannon. Buttons was followed, famously on Notablog, by our dog Blondie, who passed away in 2006, at the age of 16.

Dante lived for 17-and-a-half years, and came to us through a dear friend not too long after Blondie's death. When he arrived here, he immediately asserted himself as King of the Castle, as Ralph Kramden would say [YouTube link]. In many ways, he was the most intelligent pet I've ever known. He'd watch television with remarkable intensity, as if he were absorbing the unfolding plot of a story. If an image came on the tube that he didn't like or some dissonant chords were heard in the background of a film score, indicating a coming doom, he'd give definition to the phrase "Scaredy Cat," and high-tail it outta here. He provided more laughs, more love, and more memories than we'd thought possible, especially after the difficulty of losing our beloved dog Blondie. Blondie had sat on my lap during the authorship of my entire "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy"---so much so that she was among those to whom I dedicated the last book of my trilogy, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism.

It is often said that there are essential differences between dogs and cats; an old quip reminds us that dogs have families, while cats have staff. But despite their apparent species-defined differences, each offers us something of great value, as author William Jordan discusses in his book, A Cat Named Darwin: How a Stray Cat Changed a Man into a Human Being.

In a sense, Dante picked up right where Blondie had left off. But this was not a simple replacement; each offered something unique in terms of their individual personalities and species-distinct behavior. Each was demanding, but the ways in which they manifested that characteristic were as different as night and day; where Blondie would jump and bark and lick you to death, Dante would simply continue to meow until he was noticed, and if he was not noticed, he'd make his presence known immediately. Typing on my laptop and therefore not focused specifically on Dante? Not acceptable, as he'd walk across the keys demanding attention. Eating? Not acceptable, as he'd jump on the table if we didn't at least give him his own seat (his own chair, of course, fully cushioned and on wheels). An Alpha Cat for an Alpha Household. What a perfect match.

And yet today, as I finally drag myself back to the laptop to continue working on my various projects, I find myself typing without Dante by my side or on my keyboard. This is new territory for me. There is an emptiness in this house, and in our hearts, that is hard to communicate. I have found some comfort in the work of Dr. Wallace Sife, a long-time family friend and author of The Loss of a Pet: A Guide to Coping with the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies. But the depth of my grief is palpable.

Dante was a special cat; he was on thyroid medication for years, and we'd taken good care of him---definitely giving him much more time on this earth than he would have otherwise enjoyed (thanks to the loving care he received from Dr. Linda Jacobson and her team). It made his swift degeneration over the last few days of his life that much more painful. And yet, while it came at the price of profound shock, King of the Castle that he was, Dante spared us the necessity of having to make any life-and-death decisions on his behalf. Seeing him degenerate and prepare for his own death is too painful to articulate; and yet, there was something dignified in the way that nature took its course.

I will find a way to get through this. Keeping Dante, and all of my beloved pets, alive in my memory, in photos and videos too, remains a comfort. But the emptiness is going to be with me for a long time. And it is not something that is easily filled by just getting another pet, as if they are interchangeable units of the same stock. As with all things, grieving is a process only helped by the passage of time.

Once again, my deepest appreciation to all of those who have expressed their condolences to me.

Much love from Brooklyn, New York, to all of you,
Chris

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November 07, 2017

Russian Radical 2.0: Skeen Review and Forthcoming JARS Essay

I previously mentioned here at Notablog that Ilene Skeen had reviewed the second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Skeen has now posted a version of that review on the blog "The Moral Case: For and Against." The review, entitled "Objectivism in Context" appears here.

I should mention that my own essay, "Reply to the Critics of Russian Radical 2.0: The Dialectical Rand," will be published in the December 2017 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, along with a companion reply from Roger Bissell, entitled "Reply to the Critics of Russian Radical 2.0: Defining Issues."

My article does not address Skeen's specific review, since it went to press prior to the appearance of the Skeen essay. However, it does address most of the central issues that Skeen raises.

I should mention, in passing, that aside from writing prefaces and introductions to special issues of the journal, I have spent the last twelve years editing essays written by others. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I embrace the role I've played as a founding co-editor of the journal with open arms!

But literally, I have not published a single bona fide scholarly contribution to the journal since the Fall 2005 issue, which included my essay, "The Rand Transcript, Revisited." That essay later became Appendix II of the second edition of Russian Radical. Well, as one can imagine, I really do have a lot to say in the new essay, about the historical and methodological theses of my book on Rand. It is an essay that, in my humble opinion, is a definitive addition to the scholarly literature on Rand, because it not only engages critics of the second edition (including such critics as Wendy McElroy, who wrote a review of the second edition for JARS that appeared in the July 2015 issue; and two critics whose commentary on my work appears in the Blackwell Companion to Ayn Rand), but enhances my own historical and methodological interpretive work on Rand with some significant new research.

Having just signed off on the second corrected page proofs of the December 2017 issue, I can tell readers that the year-end edition contains many provocative essays. Watch this space for more information on the forthcoming JARS. And thanks again to Ilene Skeen for adding the review to "The Moral Case" blog!

October 31, 2017

Song of the Day #1518

Song of the Day: Ghosts, words and music by Michael Jackson and Teddy Riley, was first featured on Jackson's album, "HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I," but can also be found on a newly released album, "Scream," just in time for Halloween. In fact, many of the songs from this new compilation album could be heard in the most recent MJ animated special, "Michael Jackson's Halloween," seen on CBS last week. It was also the basis of an ambitious video written by MJ and Stephen King, and directed by Stan Winston. A short form of the video can be found on YouTube. Also check out Mousse T's Club Mix, the DJ Rmx extended version, and the Stepper's Mix. And for old time's sake, check out the King of All King of Pop Videos, the John Landis-directed short film for "Thriller" [YouTube link], featuring the great Vincent Price, and recently named by Billboard magazine as the #1 Halloween-themed recording. Check out the video version prepared for "This is It" and the Steve Aoki Remix too! And have a Happy Halloween!

October 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1517

Song of the Day: Blueberry Hill, music by Vincent Rose, lyrics by Larry Stock and Al Lewis, was a big hit for the Big Man: Fats Domino, who died yesterday at the age of 89. This song was a staple of the 1940s swing era, but became an early rock and roll classic when Domino recorded it in 1956. The song went to #2 on the Top 40, and was at #1 on the R&B chart for 11 weeks, selling an estimated 5 million copies worldwide. Check out the original Domino single [YouTube link].

October 11, 2017

Holy Cow! Yanks Win ALDS - Bring on the Astros!

As Phil Rizzuto used to say, "Holy Cow!" The Yankees win three straight after losing the first two to the Cleveland Indians, and advance to the American League Championship Series to face the Houston Astros!

Go Yankees!

Postscript (24 October 2017): Well, it has taken a few days to get over the Yankees loss in seven games to the Houston Astros; tonight the World Series begins with the Astros taking on the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers. May the best team win. As for the Yankees: they went further this year than any fan could have possibly expected. May there be many more Octobers in the future of this great franchise. The current crop is brimming with youth and potential, and gave many Yankee fans a reason to cheer again.

Postscript II (27 October 2017): I was sad to learn that Joe Girardi was fired as New York Yankees manager; some folks are saying: "If he'd taken the Yanks into the World Series, he would have retained his job." Hogwash! Do people forget that Yogi Berra was fired in 1964 precisely because he didn't win the Series? Of course, I've always been skeptical as to how crucial a manager is to the success of a team. Casey Stengel presided over the Yankees during a period in which they won seven World Series; not too long thereafter he went over to manage the new New York Mets, who for the next three years lost 100+ games per season. Apparently, the Mets didn't have Mantle, Berra, Whitey Ford, etc. So much for the impact of a manager on a team. Not that managers can't affect the direction of a team in terms of clubhouse unity and strategic decisions on the field; but Joe took this young Yankee team, with so much potential, much further than anybody ever anticipated at the opening of the 2017 season. Good luck, Joe! And good luck, Yankees, on finding a manager more "suitable" to the Bronx Bombers.

October 08, 2017

Russian Radical 2.0: Another Review and Forthcoming Response

One can find a new review (among others) of the second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, on both amazon.com and Goodreads, written by Ilene Skeen.

Skeen's five-star review unleashed the hounds, again, especially one named Brad Aisa, who never loses an opportunity to dump on the book. I wrote on one Facebook thread, in response to Mr. AisA, the following:

As Ronnie Reagan once said: "There you go again." I will therefore re-post this material from an October 2016 discussion of the book, where I revealed that Brad Aisa had a very different view of the book when it first came out. He made a January 1996 comment on the usenet group alt.philosophy.objectivism. Today, the book he dismisses as "a giant pile of stinking hogwash," despite its "reasonable" first part, once said that he was "quite perplexed reading the entire first section of the book." But he admits back in 1996, that "Sciabarra's regard for Rand is obvious, and there is no evidence he is trying to smear or attack her..." And he even had a couple of kind things to say about the middle section that he now dismisses as "schtick" and "grievously flawed". In January 1996, he wrote: "The middle section of Sciabarra's book seemed to me to be an honest thinker's attempt to summarize Objectivism and relate it to Rand's fiction." Finally, he reveals a high regard for Part 3 of the book:
.
The final section [that would be Part 3, "The Radical Rand"] was the only really valuable part of the book, in my view -- an attempt to show the relationship between philosophic ideas and culture, using Objectivism as the subject. I think that many Objectivists could greatly benefit from studying what Sciabarra points out in this section. Philosophic ideas do not exist in a vacuum, and there is a profound interrelationship between culture and philosophic ideas, which is NOT one way. For example, statist political regimes have a very demonstrable effect on what kminds of ideas are taught and promulgated, and free societies likewise. The notions in this section are not absent from Objectivist writings -- for example see: Ayn Rand's essay "Our Cultural Value-Deprivation" (_The Objectivist_, Apr 66) wherein she discusses the relationship between cultural and individual development; and Edith Packer's essay "The Psychological Requirements of a Free Society" (_The Objectivist Forum_, Feb 84), wherein she explains the interrelationship between free thinking people and a free culture -- but some Objectivists seem to latch onto the notion of "philosophy determines history", and not realize the context of that idea, and the profound interre.lationships be.tween the spread of ideas, the content of ideas, and individual and cultural practice.
.
He has never addressed these comments that he made over 20 years ago, instead, joining the old chorus of critics who never lose an opportunity to denounce the book, virtually in its entirety, with no real understanding of the book's central methodological thesis. It is a thesis that Ilene Skeen grasps so well in the review: "The question Sciabarra raises for me, which I find riveting, even revolutionary, is what is there about Rand’s method that allows her to disregard all the methods and their many variations, and still wind up with a complete, cogent and organic philosophical whole? To my knowledge, no other book intended for the lay market has stimulated that question, framed as Sciabarra has done . . ."
Whether or not Ilene agrees with all of my answers is beside the point; at the very least Ilene acknowledges what is the central methodological thesis; my focus in that book had more to do with how Rand was exposed to, and may have absorbed aspects of, the dialectical method, a method that was in the intellectual air of Silver Age Russia---a method that was first fully articulated by Aristotle himself, whom even Hegel called "the fountainhead" of dialectical inquiry.
I will only add that I will be addressing the critics of Russian Radical 2.0 in a forthcoming article in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, and what I reveal there should raise a few eyebrows, to say the least.

October 04, 2017

A Wild Yankee Win... Onto Cleveland!

The New York Yankees were down 3-0 in the first inning of tonight's one-game "Wild Card" playoff with the Minnesota Twins, the winner of which would go on to face the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series, preceding the American League pennant and the World Series.

They came back in style, despite having to use the bullpen for 8 and 2/3 innings, and won the game 8-4, with Aaron Judge hitting a 2-run homer in the process.

This young team has already exceeded my expectations, but now that the team is in the running, I say: Go Yankees!

October 01, 2017

Song of the Day #1516

Song of the Day: Jazz Samba [YouTube link], composed by one of the best, the arranger and composer, Claus Ogerman, can be heard on "Intermodulation" (1966), one of the finest duet albums ever recorded, featuring the incomparable Bill Evans on piano and the equally incomparable Jim Hall on guitar. Perhaps my favorite track on this album is "All Across the City," a lovely Hall composition [YouTube link], but this one, in which the great guitarist provides comp support for Evans's swinging ways, is, to my knowledge, probably the only samba that Evans ever recorded. I'm sure this piece would have been on any playlist of my dear friend, the late Michael Southern, given his passion for the great Evans.

September 29, 2017

Michael Southern: Triumphs and Tragedy

In May 1981, I had earned my undergraduate degree magna cum laude from New York University, with a triple major in politics, economics, and history (with honors). To say I was stoked to have been accepted to the NYU doctoral program in politics, where I would go on in 1983, to earn a master's degree in political theory, and in 1988, a Ph.D. with distinction in political theory, philosophy, and methodology, is an understatement. I was positively ecstatic.

I had, by this time, laid out a path of professional goals that merged my passionate libertarian political convictions with a rigorous course of study that would include seminars and colloquia with scholars that only New York University could offer. I would study with such Austrian-school economists as Israel Kirzner, Mario Rizzo, Don Lavoie, and others, as well as leftist political and social theorists such as Bertell Ollman and Wolf Heydebrand. In this combustible intersection of ideas, there would emerge the seeds of what would become a life-long commitment to the development of a "dialectical libertarianism", and a trilogy of books---Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism---that would articulate the foundations of that approach.

Alas, these scholarly goals were made all the more joyful to achieve because of so many individuals whose lives touched mine in ways that were fundamental both to my intellectual and personal growth as a human being.

One of these individuals was a guy named Michael Southern. It was September 1981, my first day as an NYU graduate student, when I walked into Professor Israel Kirzner's seminar on the "History of Economic Thought." Looking around the room, few seats were available, so I found myself sitting next to Michael. When Kirzner finished his first lecture, logically structured as one would expect from any esteemed student of the great Ludwig von Mises, I introduced myself to Michael. He seemed a little shy at first, but I think he was genuinely surprised by my friendliness and that unmistakable Brooklyn accent. We went to a local cafe and talked for a very long time. I got to know a lot about him in that first encounter.

I learned, for example, that he was two years older than me, almost to the day: I was born on February 17, 1960; he was born on February 23, 1958. I also learned that he hailed from Massachusetts, and was a rabid Boston Red Sox fan. Back then, that was almost a non-starter for me.

After all, I was and remain a New York Yankees fanatic. We jousted and dueled over the Curse of the Bambino, and argued about who really deserved the American League MVP for the 1978 baseball season: the Red Sox hot-hitting outfielder Jim Rice or the Yankee pitching ace, and Cy Young Award winner, Ron Guidry, who went 25-3, with a 1.74 ERA. In 1978, the Yankees were 14 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in July, and on the last day of the season, they found themselves in a tie for first place. And, I argued, no man was more valuable to that team than Guidry, who had pitched back-to-back two-hit shutouts against Boston down the stretch, and won the deciding extra 163rd game of the season, enabling the Yanks to advance to the AL Championship series against the Kansas City Royals, and ultimately to win their second straight World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Michael was going on and on about Rice's hitting. Blah, blah, blah.

In any event, it wasn't Guidry's victory that was the most memorable aspect of that deciding game; it was a miraculous 3-run homer hit over Fenway Park's Green Monster by the Yankee shortstop Bucky "F*&%ing" Dent, as Michael put it, who had hit a measly four homers prior to this game throughout the entire season. But that homer lifted the Yanks ahead for good. I guess Michael was still a little bitter. For Dent, apparently, was as beloved by Boston fans as Bill "F*&%ing" Buckner, whose fielding error in Game Six of the 1986 World Series, ultimately allowed the New York Mets to win the trophy in Game Seven. Even this diehard Yankees fan reveled in Boston's loss that year! Oh was it fun locking horns with Michael on these issues.

Animated baseball disagreements aside, it was clear that Michael and I had a lot in common; we were both avid fans of Ayn Rand, devoted readers of Nathaniel Branden, extremely interested in politics and culture, lovers of film and of music from jazz to progressive rock. All he had to say was that he had seen my favorite jazz pianist Bill Evans perform live, and that he had fallen in love with the emotional depth of his music, and I just knew that there was something very special about this man.

Over time, our friendship deepened; he'd tell me about some trouble he was having with a girl he was dating, I'd tell him about my own dating woes; we talked about our families, our friends, our goals, our triumphs, and our tragedies. He had extraordinary qualities about him; he was perceptive, intelligent, gentle, kind, compassionate, and had a great sense of humor.

By holiday time in December, that sense of humor manifested itself on both sides of the baseball divide. Michael gifted me a Jim Rice T-shirt, which I own till this day, and I gifted him a Ron Guidry T-shirt. Such was the nature of our developing affection for one another.

He had taken a waiter's job at the Cheese Cellar on East 54th Street in Manhattan, which became a regular stop for me and my family. The waiter's service was terrific, I might add. As he got to know my jazz guitarist brother Carl and jazz vocalist sister-in-law Joanne, and saw them perform at so many jazz clubs in Manhattan, loving their music, he eventually offered to do a website for them (as he would eventually develop my own website---all for free).

But something was troubling him deeply, early in that first semester, as the class with Kirzner continued. I'm paraphrasing the conversation from memory, but it went something like this. He said to me: "I can see you coming from blocks away. You just have a way about you. It's in your walk. Your step. It's never timid, but it's not overbearing. It's just the walk of a man comfortable in his own body, walking purposefully to his destination, wherever that might be. The way you walk is a bit of an inspiration to me. I just don't walk that way. I don't feel that way inside."

My walk? Lord . . . I'd never even given a second thought to the way I walked. And here, my friend was telling me that there was something in my walk that inspired him, and that made him focus on the things that he felt he lacked. He had attended weekend Intensives in New York run by Nathaniel Branden and his wife Devers Branden, and felt that they had tapped into something that needed greater attention.

I was no professional, but I was becoming a very dear and trusted friend. I tried to help him through it, with long phone conversations into the wee hours, but he seemed stuck, unable to get through a term paper for Kirzner's class. It was then that he made a momentous decision that I figured spelled the end of a friendship; he decided he was too overwhelmed by the course, that something deeper was at work, and that he needed help. As he put it later in "My Years with Nathaniel Branden," a deeply personal essay written for The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies symposium, "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy":

For the third time, I'd finished reading The Psychology of Self-Esteem, Breaking Free, and The Disowned Self, all books by Nathaniel Branden. I placed my meager belongings in a backpack, went to the Registrar's Office at New York University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, officially withdrew from Graduate School, booked a flight, and in two days landed at Los Angeles International airport; I had come to be a client of Nathaniel Branden.
Prior to my time at NYU, I had finished an undergraduate degree with honors. I was thrilled when I got accepted to NYU, to study the history of economic thought under Israel Kirzner, who had been a student of Ludwig von Mises­---both being giants in the field to me. And as it all nicely fell into place, I froze.
I don't ever remember this happening to me before. While Kirzner's class was better than even I had anticipated, I couldn't write the paper for the course. I sat at home, or at the library with ten and twelve books piled up in front of me, but I couldn't begin. Anything I thought about writing seemed trivial after a little research. I began to panic so that the more I tried to push myself, the greater the feeling that whatever I produced wouldn't be enough. I tried everything I knew to get myself "back on track." I believed I had something to offer, but I was paralyzed, much like an actor might experience stage fright. I spoke with Kirzner, and he was kind and logical and gave me some suggestions, but I was too in awe of him to show just how lost I was in terms of generating a paper. It seemed an emotional block, not an intellectual one; how could I ask for his help for an emotional problem? I understood the coursework, and the books on his reading list. I just couldn't seem to create.
...
Sitting in an outdoor cafe in the Village I reached in my backpack for The Disowned Self. I ordered coffee, threw the waiter a gigantic tip so he'd leave me alone, lit a cigarette (you could do that back then), and read the entire book, slowly, making notes; the lights and noise of the West Village turned on around me as night fell.
The next day I headed for Los Angeles, wanting to resolve, heal, and grow. I was beginning to suspect that I had had a particularly difficult childhood, and had responded to it by shutting down huge parts of myself.

To my surprise, Michael and I never lost touch. He was in therapy with Nathaniel Branden, and making strides. Every so often, we'd speak, not so much about the details of his therapy, but more about how he was challenging himself to keep moving . . . forward. Sometimes a month would pass, or two, and he'd call, and it was as if the last conversation had occurred only an hour ago; we picked up where we left off, never missing a beat. And during this period, as I faced my own trials and tribulations---with everything from relationships to my health problems (an outgrowth of a congenital intestinal condition)---he was as present and tuned-in to me, as I was to him. This was never a one-way street; the friendship that I thought would be lost by distance, had intensified. And the feeling that he was a "brotha from another mutha" only deepened. It was clear that we loved one another as only brothers could---something that geographic distance did nothing to alter.

As Michael explained in that wonderful essay of his, he was able to work through so many of his problems; he credited Nathaniel Branden and Devers Branden with saving years of his life. He would become an intern for Branden and then an office manager at Branden's Biocentric Institute in Beverly Hills, California. He'd go back to school to earn a master of science in management from Lesley College and a master of science in information systems from Boston University. As a technology specialist, he did wonderful work for Fortune 500 companies.

Through all the years, our friendship only grew. He would go on to develop my website, and the original website of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. In fact, he was a member of the JARS family from its beginnings in 1999, as we unveiled the website on the day that our first issue was published. While I remained with NYU as a Visiting Scholar for twenty years (I guess you could say I bleed "violet"), he would travel the world. He was never so far away, however, that he didn't participate once or twice in my cyberseminars on "Dialectics and Liberty." Eventually he married, and even moved back to New York City for a while, living in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn.

There were bumps along the way---though never between us. His marriage didn't work out, his work took him out of New York again, and his interests, especially in the history of the Holocaust, took him to other countries. But again, geographic distance never seemed to interfere with our friendship. Eventually, he came back to the states, and his software expertise gave him many job opportunities, including business with a company in Detroit, Michigan, where he worked for several years.

Indeed, his software expertise was certainly highly valued by JARS; the two of us worked hard in 2015-2016 as he created a brand spanking-new website for the journal, which made its debut with the Nathaniel Branden symposium, to which he contributed that enormously revealing and enlightening essay.

In many ways, writing that essay was, for Michael, a catharsis of sorts; while it served the greater symposium's purpose of understanding the work and legacy of Branden, it also served as a profoundly personal statement of how Michael stood up courageously to the challenges he faced. It was a commitment to a life of promise, of so much more to come.

Immediately after the debut of the new JARS site and the publication of our Branden symposium, Michael began working on a prototype to finally revamp my website, which, he said, "embarrassed" him because he'd become so much more sophisticated in his software development. We had so many plans for so many projects.

But, of course, life always seemed to get in the way of smooth transitions. As my own health problems became more difficult to bear, he spent as many hours on the phone with me in 2016, as I had spent on the phone with him in 1981, except that now, we both knew each other so well that we could complete each other's sentences, anticipate each other's thoughts. Thirty-five-plus years will do that.

We last spoke in early September about the website and a few other issues; Lord knows, we still had our differences with regard to sports teams (though I was enough of a good sport to congratulate him back in 2004, when his Red Sox finally beat the Yankees, and went on to win their first World Series since 1918). We even had developed a few political differences. But nothing ever affected our mutual love, admiration, and respect for one another. When I'd call him on the phone, he'd answer "Chris!"---as if with an exclamation point. There was always joy in his voice when he heard mine on the other end of the phone. And if I needed to cry because of a slew of unending medical or personal problems, the gentility with which he treated me was just the medicine I needed.

We last corresponded on September 11th. A few days passed by, and I hadn't heard back from him, so I wrote him again. Still, no reply.

I figured he was busy or traveling, but it was unlike him not to reply to an email. So on the weekend of September 23rd, I called him on both his personal and business lines and left voice mail. It was comforting to hear his voice, even if it was automated, telling callers to leave a message. So I left messages. And still, no reply.

On Tuesday, September 26th, I got an email from his cousin, who lived in Waco, Texas, where Michael had been staying. She told me to give her a call. My heart dropped. I knew that this meant something had happened to Michael; maybe he was in a hospital. Maybe something worse. I called her immediately.

She told me that Michael had been pursuing new business in Detroit, a city where he had once worked for so many years.

And then she told me that his body was found at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 19th; he had been killed by gunshots. Police are investigating the crime as a homicide.

I have suffered many losses in my life. I lost my father suddenly to a massive coronary, when I was 12 years old. I lost my Uncle Sam, who was like a second father to me, in 1994, to prostate cancer. I lost my mother in 1995, before my first two books were published, after five years of being one of her primary care-givers, as she struggled with the ravages of lung cancer and the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. I've lost many loving friends and relatives over the years, in circumstances that were painful and difficult.

But absolutely nothing could have possibly prepared me for the grief that I felt upon hearing that one of my best friends in the whole wide world had just lost his life by a wanton act of brutality. I had the phone in my hands, tears streaming down my face, stunned, shocked, horrified, feeling literally destroyed. My heart had not been broken; it had felt as if it had been completely shattered. I still can't quite wrap my mind around this event.

Michael's funeral is scheduled for Monday, October 2, 2017 in Waco, Texas. My health issues prevent me from attending his funeral. But my heart goes out to his family and friends, who so loved him, and who suffer with unimaginable grief.

I pray that justice will be done, and that the murderer will be apprehended.

But nothing will bring Michael back.

The December 2017 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will be dedicated to Murray Franck (1946-2017), who died this past July, and to Michael Southern (1958-2017). Both of these men were part of the JARS family from the very beginning, and deserve to be so honored. But they were both among the dearest human beings and friends I've ever known. To have lost both of them within two months of one another is unbelievable. But to have lost Michael in such a violent manner is just beyond tragic. He didn't deserve this ending. The pain of this loss is almost unbearable.

Rest in peace, dear friend. You made such a difference in the lives of so many people. And you made a difference in my life. I will honor you and remember you for the rest of my days. And I will miss you until the day I die.

Postscript (October 2, 2017): I posted a link to this tribute to Facebook, and was comforted by how many folks have shared the post and shared their condolences with me, both publicly and privately; I added this to my own Facebook thread:

Thanks to everyone who shared my post and who have expressed their condolences to me, both privately and publicly, here and elsewhere. Anyone who was fortunate to know Michael was blessed by his presence in their lives. And I express my condolences to all of you for this loss.
Today is Michael's funeral in Waco, Texas. It's also a day that I awake to hear that this country has just experienced the worst mass shooting in its history, this time in Las Vegas, with over 50 people shot to death and over 200 injured. Not counting the folks I knew who were murdered on 9/11, I have never had the experience of having lost a loved one to a shooting. This morning, I send my empathy and condolences to those who are mourning the deaths of their own loved ones who have died in this massacre.
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Savagery and brutality have always been a part of the human condition; that is not a comforting thought, however. What is comforting is that there are still far more people in this world who care and who will not give into the fear of such carnage, even when it hits so close to home.

September 25, 2017

All Rise for The Judge

Since the 2017 season began, I have been watching the young Bronx Bombers (aka "the Baby Bombers") with great interest. In my playbook, with the era of the Core Four long gone, and a young group being nourished in the big leagues right before our eyes, I would have been satisfied with a season in which wins outweighed losses. But it now appears that the young Yanks are headed for at least a wild card playoff game, their first postseason appearance since 2015. That's more than any fan could have asked for.

I have taken special interest in Yankee outfielder Aaron Judge. The rookie had a great first half and then put on a majestic show for the All-Star Home Run Derby at Marlins Park, becoming the first rookie to win the competition outright (hitting a total of 47 HRs, including four that travelled over 500 feet, one of them measuring 513 feet). He cooled off a bit after the All-Star break, but showed great poise throughout that slump.

Slump no more. Whereas yesterday, many in the National Football League gave the President a knee to the groin, today, I rise for the Judge. Aaron hit two home runs against the Kansas City Royals in a Yankee 11-3 win. After hitting two home runs yesterday, Judge went deep for another two today, reaching a total, thus far, of 50 Home Runs for the season. His 50 home runs this season breaks the all-time Major League Baseball season record for a rookie, previously held by Mark McGwire (yes, he of the Steroid Era).

Whatever happens in the postseason, I think the Yankees have a lot of youthful potential for a wonderful future. Today, Judge joins an exclusive club of great Yankees who have had seasons of 50 or more home-runs. This list now includes only five Yankees, three of whom did it in the non-Steroid era: Babe Ruth (who did it four times); Mickey Mantle (who did it twice); and Roger Maris. (Alex Rodriguez hit 54 for the Bombers in 2007---but this was during the Steroid Era.)

I think Judge wins the American League Rookie of the Year hands-down. He has not only amassed 50 home runs, but is the first Yankee right-handed hitter to have at least 110 walks, 110 runs scored, and over 100 RBIs in a single season (Mantle held such records, but he was a miraculous switch-hitter). An argument can be made for Judge having Most Valuable Player credentials; but even if he does not get the American League MVP, he has certainly been this season's Yankee MVP.

Either way, congratulations to Aaron Judge. And... GO YANKEES!!!

September 22, 2017

Song of the Day #1515

Song of the Day: Disturbia, words and music by Brian Kennedy, Chris Brown, Robert Allen, and Andrew Merritt, is featured on Rihanna's 2008 album "Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded." This song went to #1 on four Billboard charts, including the Hot 100 and the Hot Dance Club Songs (almost 9 years ago to the day!). Check out the original video, the 12" remix, the Magnifikate Remix, the Daniel Brown remix, the Techno Remix, and finally, the DONK Remix, which makes the Techno Remix sound chill by comparison! Our Second Annual Summer Dance Series concludes today, since the season ends with the Autumnal Equinox at 4:02 p.m. But we ain't disturbia-ed... we're going out dancing!

September 21, 2017

Song of the Day #1514

Song of the Day: Make Me, words and music by Rodney Jerkins, Thomas Lumpkins, Michaela Shilo, Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers and Janet Jackson, was the 19th #1 Hot Dance Club single of Janet's career. The song appears on Janet's 2009 album, "Number Ones." Check out the video version (where Miss Jackson, if your Nasty, shows us she can still move and groove!). And her paean to her late brother Michael is clear; when she says "Don't stop til you get it up," she is, no doubt, tipping her hat to "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" [YouTube link]. Check out a few other remixes: the Moto Blanco Video Remix, DJ Dan Audio Remix, Dave Aude Club Mix, and Ralphi's Martini Mix. The Autumnal Equinox (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) doesn't arrive in NYC till 4:02 p.m. tomorrow, so expect one final song as our Second Annual Summer Dance Series concludes.

September 20, 2017

Song of the Day #1513

Song of the Day: Turn Up the Music has ten credited writers, but the one I'll focus on is the man who recorded this super dance single: Chris Brown. It appears on Brown's 2012 album, "Fortune." Check out the video single, the Roc Hound Club Mix, the Miami Life Remix. and the remix version with Rihanna (yes, Rihanna!).

September 19, 2017

Song of the Day #1512

Song of the Day: Fantastic Voyage features words and music credited to the 9-member band that recorded it: Lakeside. This was the title song to the band's 1980 SOLAR-label album. This #1 R&B dance track offers us some early hip hop touches steeped in a deep bass line. Indeed, it makes you want to "come along, pack your bags, get on up and jam y'all," as we take that "fantastic voyage . . . to the land of funk." Check out the original extended mix [YouTube link].

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