August 20, 2017

Jerry Lewis, RIP

I have just learned that the multitalented Jerry Lewis has died at the age of 91.

I remember him more for all the work he did with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, especially during his marathon Labor Day telethons. He was an indefatigable warrior in the fight for those afflicted by the disease, and a remarkable talent to behold on so many levels. Witness his amazing comedic timing on "The Typewriter" (see the links therein).

Jerry Lewis, RIP.

"Open" versus "Closed" Objectivism, Again

I posted this on Facebook:

The debate over the "Open" or "Closed" nature of Objectivism does not much matter in the wide sweep of the history of ideas, at least judging from the way that other schools of thought have evolved. The Objectivists used to be fond of quoting the old Spanish proverb: "Take what you want, God said, and pay for it."
I have always taken this to mean, in the context of Rand's ideas: Take what you want, and give credit where credit is due. And then, if you wish, move on, especially if you are interested in being educated about the depth of intellectual history. You will learn from many different thinkers and traditions, and most likely, you will emerge with a vision that Rand may have dismissed as a "hodgepodge" but that may, in fact, given the process of advancing human knowledge, be truer to reality. Either way, take responsibility for your own vision.
We can always test that vision with regard to its consistency with Objectivism, but more importantly, we should be testing that vision in terms of its correspondence to reality. In general, that's how ideas evolve. No debate over the "open" or "closed" nature of Rand's thought is going to stop this evolution, and in a hundred years, I suspect, nobody will care. But Rand's works will have influenced thousands of people, and will have made their mark, in one way or another. At the very least, let's be "open" to that.

Postscript: Raymond Raad agreed with much of what I said in my initial post but stated: "The insistence on a closed system has already stunted the development of Objectivism intellectually and damaged Objectivism's reputation." I agreed, and elaborated:

I agree, Raymond [Ray], that the "closed" adherents have stunted the development of the philosophy; but I think the effects of their approach are going to be drowned out in the long run. Generations die off, and a hundred or so years from now, there is the potential for so many permutations of Rand's influence that this particular debate will be an asterisk.
I discuss the evolution of Marxist thought in "Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical" to illustrate the point:
>>. . . David Kelley (1990) views Objectivism as an "open system": "A philosophy defines a school of thought, a category of thinkers who subscribe to the same principles. In an open philosophy, members of the school may differ among themselves over many issues within the framework of the basic principles they accept" (57).
The evolution of academic Marxist thought illustrates Kelley's point clearly. In defining the essence of contemporary Marxism, it is impossible to disconnect the statements of Karl Marx from the multiple interpretations constructed over the past century. These interpretations are as much a logical development of Marx's methods and theories as they are a reflection of the particular historical, social, and personal contexts of his interpreters. The interpretations also reflect different periods in Marx's own development. Some scholars stress the earlier, more "humanistic" Marx, whereas others argue for an economistic interpretation based on his mature works. Most scholars would agree, however, that one cannot detach Marx's unpublished writings from the corpus of his thought. Indeed, the great bulk of Marx's work was issued posthumously. For example, Marx"s Grundrisse, composed of seven unedited workbooks, was first published in the twentieth century. It provides a cornucopia of material from which one can reconstruct his method of inquiry as a distinct "moment" (or aspect) of his dialectical approach. The Grundrisse is an essential complement to and reflection on Marx's published exposition in Capital.
In addition, a Marxist scholar cannot neglect the plethora of interpretive twists resulting from the combination of Marx's theories with compatible approaches in psychology, anthropology, and sociology. What has emerged is a scholarly industry that must take account of structuralist, phenomenological, critical, and analytical approaches, to name but a few. Finally, we have been presented with different philosophical interpretations of the "real" Karl Marx: the Aristotelian Marx, the Kantian Marx, the Hegelian Marx, and the Leninist Marx. None of these developments alter the essential body of theory that Marx proposed in his lifetime. One can empathize with the innovative theorist who, jealously guarding his discoveries, aims to protect the "purity" of the doctrine. Ironically, Rand suggests a spiritual affinity with Marx on this issue. She remembers that upon hearing the "outrageous statements" made by some of his "Marxist" followers, Marx exclaimed: "But I am not a Marxist."
Nevertheless, although one can debate whether a particular philosophy is "closed" or "open," scholarship must consider the many theoretical developments emerging over time directly or indirectly from the innovator's authentic formulations. Much of current intellectual history focuses not on the ideas of the innovator, but rather, on the evolution of the ideas and on the context in which the ideas emerged and developed. As W. W. Bartley argues, the affirmation of a theory involves many logical implications that are not immediately apparent to the original theorist. In Bartley's words, "The informative content of any idea includes an infinity of unforeseeable nontrivial statements." The creation of mathematics for instance, "generates problems that are wholly independent of the intentions of its creators." <<
The whole point of all this is that today, the "closed" adherents seem to be standing in the way of innovation and application, and the "closed" adherents will accuse the "open" adherents of "impurity"... but in the end, none of it will matter. Rand is going to have an impact that no "closed" advocate will be able to stop. If the ideas are as powerful as we think they are, none of us will even be able to predict how it will be applied to different contexts, time periods, and cultures. There is a world of wonderful possibilities that awaits.

Statism and Tribalism: Fraternal Twins

While I've been posting songs regularly for my "Summer Dance Party," I don't want to give the impression that I'm sitting home fiddling while Rome (or Charlottesville, Virginia) burns. Nero, I am not.

I just wanted to say a few things about the conflicts we are witnessing across this country. For the record, I actually agree with President Trump on one issue: there is a lot of "fake news" out there. One example of "fake news" is that Confederate monuments were erected in the years after the Civil War exclusively to commemorate the fallen. With all due respect to those who honor the memory of the dead in that War, especially my southern neighbors, most of those monuments were erected predominantly in the era of Jim Crow and while I personally understand why Southerners mourn the loss of their relatives in the Civil War, which took the lives of more than 600,000 Americans, both Blue and Gray, I'm not convinced that all of these monuments were innocent expressions of commemoration. Some were clearly intended as symbols of intimidation during a period in which many Southern state governments maintained laws that were designed to enforce racial segregation.

I live in Brooklyn, New York, an unreconstructed libertarian American. But even here, in Brooklyn, New York, there are streets named for both Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee at the still-active army base, Fort Hamilton, where both men were stationed in the 1840s. I don't see the point in changing the names or the history of any of the streets of this fort, whose roots can be traced all the way back to the Revolutionary War. (In fact, I had my own book party back in 1995, upon the publication of Marx, Hayek, and Utopia and the first edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, at the Officer's Club of the celebrated fort).

There is one Civil War image that has always resonated with me, however---though its validity has been questioned. It is a symbolic story of reconciliation that occurred at Appomattox, when the Confederate forces surrendered to the Union forces, effectively ending the Civil War. The men of the Blue and the Gray had been overwhelmed with battlefields that knew no color, save one: blood red. And it is said that on that day, April 12, 1865, they departed, saluting one another, giving expression to Lincoln's maxim "with malice toward none, with charity for all."

Two days later, on April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth put a bullet in Lincoln's head.

Unlike the imagery of Appomattox, the imagery coming out of Charlottesville has more in common with the events at Ford's Theatre. When I check out the Vice documentary on Charlottesville, watching White Supremacists march through that Virginia city, chanting "Jews will not replace us" and criticizing Donald Trump for not being racist enough because "he gave his daughter to a Jew . . . that [Jared] Kushner bastard", I am utterly disgusted. Any administration that earns even a modicum of respect from these folks is already running out of time.

Nevertheless, why should any of this surprise us? After years of witnessing the identity, tribalist politics of the left, we're now seeing an administration that is clearly emboldening the identity, tribalist politics of the right.

Friedrich Hayek once wrote, in The Road to Serfdom that the more politics came to dominate social and economic life, the more political power became the only power worth having, which is why those most adept at using it were usually the most successful at attaining it. That's why, for Hayek, "the worst get on top." Well, I don't know if we have yet seen the worst, but one thing is clear. It is in the very nature of advancing government intervention that social fragmentation and group balkanization occurs; indeed, one might say that the rise of statism and the rise of group conflict are reciprocally related. Each depends organically on the other.

Few thinkers understood this dynamic better than Ayn Rand. As I wrote in my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical:

Rand argued that the relationship between statism and tribalism was reciprocal. The tribal premise was the ideological and existential root of statism. Statism had arisen out of "prehistorical tribal warfare." Once established, it institutionalized its own racist subcategories and castes in order to sustain its rule. The perpetuation of racial hatred provided the state with a necessary tool for its political domination. Statists frequently scapegoated racial and ethnic groups in order to deflect popular disaffection with deteriorating social conditions. But if tribalism was a precondition of statism, statism was a reciprocally related cause. Racism had to be implemented politically before it could engulf an entire society: "The political cause of tribalism's rebirth is the mixed economy---the transitional stage of the formerly civilized countries of the West on their way to the political level from which the rest of the world has never emerged: the level of permanent tribal warfare."

Ever the dialectician, capable of seeing the larger context, Rand was adamant about this reciprocally reinforcing relationship. Indeed, "she maintained that every discernable group was affected by statist intervention, not just every economic interest. Every differentiating characteristic among human beings becomes a tool for pressure-group jockeying: age, sex, sexual orientation, social status, religion, nationality, and race. Statism splinters society 'into warring tribes.' The statist legal machinery pits 'ethnic minorities against the majority, the young against the old, the old against the middle, women against men, welfare-recipient against the self-supporting.'" Ultimately, the emergent

mixed economy had splintered the country into warring pressure groups. Under such conditions of social fragmentation, any individual who lacks a group affiliation is put at a disadvantage in the political process. Since race is the simplest category of collective association, most individuals are driven to racial identification out of self-defense. Just as the mixed economy manufactured pressure groups, so too did it manufacture racism. And just as the domestic mixed economy made racism inevitable, so too did the global spread of statism. Rand saw the world fracturing into hostile ethnic tribes with each group aiming to destroy its ethnic rivals in primitive conflicts over cultural, religious, and linguistic differences. Rand called the process one of "global balkanization."

The fabric of this country has been unraveling for years. Advancing statism both depends upon and emboldens the tribalism, inter-group warfare, and "identity politics" on all sides of the political divide.

The Trump administration is neither the cause nor the solution to the problem; it is yet one more sign of how the chickens are coming home to roost. All we can hope for is that open Civil War remains off the table, for the stakes are too great for the survival of life, liberty, and property. And no matter what the color or identity of the victims, the battlefields will still run blood red.

Postscript: My comments here generated some response. For example, on Facebook, Wyatt Storch claims: "You're drinking from the same cesspool you're complaining about the smell of. The idea that the policy and actions of the government of the U.S. should be guided by the goal of not getting praised by some obscure group of idiots is absurd and insupportable. Check your premises." And Anoop Verma makes the fair point that "we can only judge Trump on the basis of the success of failure of his economic agenda. If he passes tax cuts and healthcare reform, then he will be judged fairly by history, and do a great favor on not just US but the entire world (because if the reforms succeed in US then there will be reforms in Asian countries too). If not, then we will see..."

I responded:

I'm simply stating a fact: [Trump is] earning the respect of groups that I do not wish to associate with. And in any event, no conservative, and no pragmatist--such as Trump--is in any way, shape, or form, an advocate of the free market. They are all apologists for the status quo no matter how much they claim to oppose it. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we will grasp that nothing is going to change fundamentally under Trump, or anyone else for that matter.
The statist mixed economy is so entrenched--from the "Deep State" of the National Security apparatus to the Fed's control over money--that no individual is capable of altering it.

To which Wyatt responded: "Chris, I understand your point. But that statement is absurd and insupportable. You should take it back. Else because your article didn't disavow cannibalism, if some cannibal approves your article, then it reflects badly on you, would be the ad absurdum analogy."

Responding to both Anoop and Wyatt, I added:

All agreed, but right now, it's not very promising. [Trump] can't even run the Oval Office or the West Wing without it appearing like a weekly installment of "The Apprentice" and he has a fractured Republican party that, though in control of both Houses of Congress, 26 governships, and 32 state legislatures, can't seem to do one fundamental thing to alter the course that this country has been on for a hundred years or more... a "road to serfdom" paved by both Democrats and me-too Republicans, which is why Rand repudiated the conservatives so fervently.

I added:

For the record, I predicted Trump would win way back in July 2016; I was not a Clinton supporter, and I did not vote for either major candidate. But I expressed my reservations about Trump's political project back then; I am still reserving judgment on where this administration is going, but I'm not encouraged. Here is what I said back in July: "The Donald and Mercer's 'Trump Revolution'."

Wyatt admitted that we disagreed on very little, but warned me against the "histrionics" of the blood-in-the-streets metaphor that I used in this post. To which I responded:

To which I will say: From your lips to God's ears (whether or not one believes in a deity). As a student of the Holocaust, who actually took the first course offered on the subject for high school students (by my teacher Ira Zornberg), I get the willies anytime I see a bunch of neo-Nazis chanting anti-Semitic slogans. What started as laughable brown-shirted rallies during the Weimer Republic became one of the worst catastrophes in human history. Indeed: "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." And that vigilance must be maintained against both leftist and rightist hooligans.

Wyatt replied: "OK, so you're triggered and you have an excuse for hysteria. Thanks for the confession." To which I replied:

I just think it's called being aware of one's surroundings; I'm not hysterical, but I'm not going to put blinders on. . . . I have had cannibals write nice things about my blog, and I've also had cannibals write lousy things about my blog. I could not care less what the cannibals say either way; I'm just calling it as I see it. I don't like hooligans or tribalists of any kind, and if the shoe fits, they should be called out on it. The only problem is that the left has typically been blind to its own hooligans, while pointing fingers at the right, and vice versa.
I will hold onto your optimism that nobody has the balls to do anything more stupid than they have already.

Wyatt added that I should simply retract my statement that seems to "back-paint immorality" from the neo-Nazis to the Trump administration. To which I responded:

But I stand by that statement; Trump is not distancing himself enough from the cannibals. To this extent, he is becoming a politician, because he knows that a certain constituency of disaffected, disenfranchised white folks voted for him, and he is not going to alienate them when he needs their support.
And I don't take your comments as a personal attack. I'm just concerned that the administration is not being vigilant enough about the thuggery that exists among some of its supporters. To that extent, yes, he is running out of time. It's not even a question of back-painting their immorality to him; it's that he will be stained by their immorality in terms of public perception, and it will undermine any good that he may have been able to achieve (at least from the standpoint of those things that I could support, like his original intent for a less-interventionist foreign policy, etc.)

I added:

I'm not reading his mind, Wyatt; I'm just looking at his actions. He's starting to look more and more like a politician to me. Time will tell.
And no, I do not believe that he is a secret Nazi; I think he is a full-on pragmatist who has tapped into legitimate fears and offered some awful solutions (like high tariffs, protectionism, building walls, amping up the War on Drugs, and now, even back-tracking on the promises of a less-interventionist foreign policy).
As for Rand: Anoop, you are correct. We should not judge Rand based on those who praise or reject her. But I've spent an awful lot of time on Notablog for years having to defend her precisely on those issues, most recently by those who implied that just because a few Rand fans were in Trump's administration, we should be prepared for a "New Age of Rand". Hogwash.

I added another note about the subject in the Facebook thread:

Wyatt, let's take Ayn Rand as an example. She wasn't a politician, to say the least; she was certainly uncompromising. She missed no opportunity whatsoever in making it very clear who she supported as well as those whose support she didn't want. She denounced folks that at times praised some of her writings, and that included everyone from William F. Buckley (who thought The Fountainhead had its moments of sublime beauty) to Ronald Reagan. She dissociated herself from conservatives and from libertarians, whom she called "hippies of the right"; she pulled no punches in telling folks that she repudiated various individuals and movements that claimed her as an influence.
Trump came in as an outsider, not a politician, or so he claimed. He certainly had no trouble using various phrases, like "Islamic terrorists", to describe people who fit the bill.
But it was like pulling teeth to get him to denounce the neo-Nazis, the White Supremacists, and the KKKish thugs who were carrying torches through the streets of Charlottesville, like they were a bunch of brownshirts. Perhaps the man should put the freaking Twitter down for a moment, stop focusing on attacking every little slight that has been thrown his way by anybody anywhere, and call out these Nazi pigs for what they are.
I'm not calling him Hitler, I am not calling him a full-fledged fascist (not yet, at least)--though the system he heads remains the same "neofascist" one that Rand condemned. I'm just saying that he seems to be less enthusiastic about dissociating himself from these white nationalists and white supremacists. And I think the reason he is less enthusiastic is because his pragmatist approach is now geared toward the same goal that all politicians seek: getting re-elected and retaining power.
That is just the nature of politics. His response to these folks has been tepid, at best, because he knows that they are among the constituencies that heavily supported him, and they are a part of a disaffected constituency that he needs to maintain if he wants to be re-elected. He is fully a politician now; he is part of the very system he condemned.
And as I pointed out in my "New Age of Rand" essay, even among the most enthusiastic of Rand acolytes, even a man who was part of Rand's inner circle, who once favored the abolition of the Fed---like Alan Greenspan---becomes corrupted once he becomes a part of the system, indeed, part of the very Fed he sought to extinguish. And he used all the levers of power to bring forth an inflationary expansion and housing bubble that was bound to burst; and in the end, it was the so-called "free-market" that took the blame, not state intervention.
Trump has a long way to go to prove that he can drain the swamp; right now, in my view, he's swimming in it.
Well, he already did one good thing: He threw Bannon out on his ass.

Song of the Day #1496

Song of the Day: Make That Move, words and music by Kevin Spencer, William Shelby, and Ricky Smith, was recorded by Shalamar for their 1980 album, "Three For Love." This Shalamar song, with its irresistible hook, truly embodies the quintessential soulful "SOLAR" ("Sounds of Los Angeles") sound. Check out the original extended Top Ten R&B Dance mix [YouTube link]. I was asked what inspired this mini-SOLAR tribute within our Summer Dance Party, and the full truth finally comes out, for it concludes, as it should, on the eve of tomorrow's Solar Eclipse, which will be visible across the United States.

August 19, 2017

Song of the Day #1495

Song of the Day: I Owe You One, words and music by Joey Gallo and Leon Sylvers III, appears on "Big Fun," the 1979 album that first featured the "classic" Shalamar line-up of Howard Hewett, Jeffrey Daniel, and Jody Watley. The album also included hits that have made "My Favorite Songs" previously, such as "Right in the Socket" and "The Second Time Around." Check out the sweet original extended mix of this R&B Dance track [YouTube link].

August 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1494

On Facebook, I opened this weekend's Summer Dance Party with the following preface: This weekend we take a trip down memory lane to celebrate one of the best groups and record labels of the Disco Era. The group: Shalamar. The label: SOLAR. The Music: Divine.

Song of the Day: Take That To the Bank, words and music by Kevin Spencer and Leon Sylvers III, was recorded by the SOLAR-label supergroup Shalamar, which originally featured Gerald Brown, Jeffrey Daniel, and Jody Watley. This song has been sampled many times in dance music history, and appeared on Shalamar's second album, "Disco Gardens" (1978). For a group that released two of its first three albums in August of their respective years, it's all the more apropos to celebrate a Shalamar disco weekend in August. We kick off a three-song arc with this Old School dance club gem on YouTube.

August 16, 2017

Encyclopedia of Libertarianism Online: My Contributions Too!

Back in 2008, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism was published by SAGE Publications. The hefty volume (at 664 pages) included entries on virtually everything and everyone in the history of thought with a relationship to libertarianism. The late Ronald Hamowy was its Editor-in-Chief.

I'm happy to report that Libertarianism.org has just published the volume in its entirety online in an interactive digital format.

I was fortunate to be invited to author two entries in the volume: one on Nathaniel Branden and the other on Ayn Rand [the links are to my entries].

Check out the Encyclopedia in its entirety; it's a terrific resource, now made far more accessible by its online publication.

Song of the Day #1493

Song of the Day: Everybody features the words and music of today's birthday girl, Madonna. Released in 1982, it was included on her 1983 eponymous debut album. With 45 number one songs on the Billboard Dance Club chart, she is the artist with the most #1 singles on that chart. She also holds the record for 157 number one singles on all Billboard charts combined. So for her 59th birthday, it's nice to go back to her first bona fide dance hit (it peaked at #3 on the Dance chart). Check out the original video, the 12" remix, and the "You Can Dance" Remix.

August 15, 2017

Song of the Day #1492

Song of the Day: Body Moves features the words and music of Rami Yacoub, Albin Nedler, Kristoffer Fogelmark, and Joe Jonas, who was born on this date in 1989. Yes, he's a tot! This song by DNCE, the band that brought us "Cake By the Ocean," went to #2 on the Billboard Dance Club Singles Chart in January 2017. Check out the video single and the Victoria's Secret video version; and then we've got a host of remixes by Alex Shik, Kay Stafford at the Ibiza Beach Club, Eric Kupper and the Damien Hall Dub Mix.

August 12, 2017

Song of the Day #1491

Song of the Day: Falling in Love, words and music by J. Bratton and D. Drewry, was a top 30 Dance and R&B hit for Sybil in 1986. As her debut single, it had a slick sound and a lot of soul. Check out the remix and the more extended Club Mix.

August 11, 2017

Song of the Day #1490

Song of the Day: Despacito, words and music by Luis ("Fonsi") Rodriguez, Erika Ender, and Ramon Ayala, is the song of the 2017 summer, indeed maybe for the year as a whole, given that it is the first song to reach 3.058 billion views on YouTube (surpassing the Wiz Khalifa-Charlie Puth "See You Again" video, at 3.003 billion views, which was a tribute to the late Paul Walker from "Furious 7" [YouTube link]). The song, aided by the addition of Bieber's vocals, has also spent 13 weeks at the summit of the Billboard Hot 100, just surpassing Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" for the most weeks at #1 in 2017, and sets a new record of 14 weeks atop the Digital Song Sales Chart. Check out the original Luis Fonsi video, the one featuring Justin Bieber and Daddy Yankee, a Salsa version featuring Victor Manuelle, as well as these remixes: Jeydee Club, Gelo Remix, Major Lazer and Moska Remix, Prince LJ Remix, Muffin Remix, Exitos Remix (with the Lobato Brothers), and the Marnage Bootleg Remix. There's even a Portuguese version featuring Luisa Sonza.

August 09, 2017

Song of the Day #1489

Song of the Day: It's Better with a Band, music by Wally Harper, lyrics by David Zippel, is the title track of the live album recorded by musical legend Barbara Cook, who died yesterday at the age of 89. Cook was born in Atlanta, Georgia but she became a New York institution, as she conquered the Broadway theater, concert halls and cabarets of the Big Apple. She achieved global recognition for her intepretation of the Great American Songbook. Check out the live album rendition of this light-hearted song recorded in 1980 at Carnegie Hall and a later 1997 rendition with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

August 08, 2017

Song of the Day #1488

Song of the Day: By the Time I Get to Phoenix, words and music by Jimmy Webb, was first recorded by Johnny Rivers in 1965 [YouTube link]. It was later recorded by American country music singer Glen Campbell as the title track to his 1967 album. Campbell's version reached #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart, earning him a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male and Best Contemporary Male Solo Vocal Performance. Campbell would go on to amass awards across the spectrum of American music, while also appearing in a dozen films. Today, he died at the age of 81, following a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease. This song was #20 on the Top 100 songs of the twentieth century by BMI, ranked according to the number of times they were played on television and radio. Even Ol' Blue Eyes called this the "greatest torch song ever written." In remembrance of Glen, check out his studio recording of this timeless song [YouTube link].

August 07, 2017

The Summer of Sam: Forty Years Later

Forty years ago this week, on August 10, 1977 to be exact, the man known to the world as "Son of Sam" was arrested after more than a year of terrorizing the city I've always called home. David Berkowitz, first dubbed the .44 caliber-killer, was caught outside his Yonkers apartment after a year during which he had murdered six people, while injuring seven others, and holding 8 million people hostage to his random carnage.

Having lived through the "Summer of Sam," a time during which New York City was in fiscal disarray and intense urban decay, I can say that we were all more than a little bit jittery, reading the daily news articles and keeping up with the nightly TV reports. In fact, on the day that Berkowitz was arrested, the New York Daily News had put on its front page a police sketch of the alleged serial killer that didn't resemble him in the least. The Daily News had played a pertinent role in the story as it unfolded, because Berkowitz was busy writing a series of bizarre letters to columnist Jimmy Breslin that spooked the public. Up until July 31st, however, Berkowitz had restricted his killing to the boroughs of Queens and the Bronx. But then, on the night of July 31, 1977, he came to the corner of Shore Parkway and Bay 44th Street in the Bath Beach section of Brooklyn, not far from my home, and opened fire on a car parked there as two people, Robert Violante and Stacy Moskowitz. were sitting inside. Their first date had ended with Violante losing his sight, and Moskowitz dying a day or so later from the .44 caliber bullets that had exploded into her head. The Son of Sam had come to Brooklyn; the word on the street was that now, even the Mafia was going to find and "take out" this "nutjob."

I had just finished my senior year at John Dewey High School, preparing for my long stint at New York University, which would begin in September 1977. Till this day, I look back at that 1977 summer and I honor the memory of the victims of those horrific shootings, while keeping their loved ones in my thoughts.

But every tragedy seems to elicit memories that provide a little relief in the form of gallows humor. I remember that during that summer, every time my sister and cousin Sandy (who was staying with us at the time) went out, they were very much aware that virtually all of the victims of Son of Sam had dark hair. Both my sister and cousin had brown hair, and Sandy even took to wearing a hat. But on the night after July 31st, in the wake of that shattering news of a senseless Brooklyn murder, we had taken an evening walk, about ten blocks from our apartment, to visit our grandmother, aunts, uncle, and cousins. We were there quite late; it must have been about 1 am, and we finally decided to walk along the brightly lit Kings Highway back to our apartment. I told my mother and sister not to worry. "I will protect you," I announced, confident in my Brooklyn street smarts. About half-way through our walk, we passed an all-night gas and auto service station. And in the silence of that hot and humid summer night, one of the cars in the service area suddenly backfired. Well. I must have jumped about two feet in the air and let out a scream that could have awakened the dead. My mother and sister were nearly bent over in laughter; even I got so hysterical with laughter that tears rolled down my cheeks. "Yeah, yeah, you're going to protect us!", they ribbed me but good. "Sure, sure!"

Fortunately, ten days later, the police had arrested the creep that had so defined the Summer of 1977. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

But we still chuckle when we remember our walk home, when a car backfired in the still of a steamy August night.

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