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November 30, 2005

Song of the Day #472

Song of the Day: Warsaw Concerto, composed by Richard Addinsell, was featured in the 1941 film "Dangerous Moonlight." I remember being a bit upset when somebody said of this piece that it was all "sound and fury" signifying nothing. Whatever. I loved it when I first heard it as a kid, and enjoyed it even more when I saw Richard Carpenter perform it on TV with the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1974. It was among the very first orchestral pieces I'd ever heard and it remains a sentimental favorite. Listen to an audio clip here of a recording by Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

November 29, 2005

Song of the Day #471

Song of the Day: Cotton Tail (chord changes at that link) was composed by Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, but "vocalese" lyrics were added later by J. Hendricks of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross (audio clip here). It was recorded in a classic rendition by the Duke (listen to an audio clip here) and also in a Duke session with three violinists (Stephane Grappelli, Svend Asmussen, and Ray Nance). (Stay tuned for a Mega-Duke Tribute, coming up in December.) I also love a Wes Montgomery blazing guitar version; listen to an audio clip of that rendition here.

November 28, 2005

So Long, SOLO

The Executive Director of SOLO, Joe Rowlands, informs readers that SOLO HQ is closing up shop and will be morphing into different entities. I posted a farewell note to the forum:

Gentlemen, I wish each of you well in your endeavors. My appreciation for your efforts is deeply personal. I wish to thank you for providing a forum where many of my own articles have appeared, along with much critical engagement. And I also wish to thank you for providing a forum that still sells my monograph on Rand & homosexuality, the first such SOLO monograph ever to be published. For having hosted the kick-off to one of the early SOLO conferences, I am also thankful for having met many good people through this forum.
As one of those who has long been concerned about the preservation of historical archives, I do sincerely hope that there might be a way to preserve the current site, in some form, as a place to which people might return to see the development of that engagement over time. There are some very important discussions here. I do realize that Joe [Rowlands], Linz [Lindsay Perigo], and Jeff [Landauer] do not have an obligation to pay for this archival preservation, but it is still my hope that preservation, in some form, will be given a priority in any transition to something new.
Be well, take good care, and thanks again.

Readers are encouraged to visit the site, and leave comments.

Song of the Day #470

Song of the Day: Touch, words and music by Pharrel Williams of the Neptunes, is performed to smoldering perfection by Omarion (video clip available at that site). I was first turned on to the track when I saw it performed, in dance, on the hot Summer 2005 Fox talent show, "So You Think You Can Dance," which gave its top award to its most versatile dancer: Nick Lazzarini. Listen to an audio clip of the song here.

November 27, 2005

More on the International Ayn Rand Award

As I mentioned here, I was the recipient of the first annual International Ayn Rand Award at this year's London conference of the Libertarian Alliance and the Libertarian International.

I suspect that a video version of my acceptance speech will be made available in the near future; for now, however, Dr. Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance has posted a Record of Proceedings, at which one will find a link to a low-resolution audio version of my acceptance speech. It is archived here.

I wish to thank Sean Gabb for his efforts and Dr. Chris Tame for his kind words of introduction in presenting the award to me. I also wish to thank William Thomas of The Objectivist Center, for having accepted the award in London on my behalf.

If the video becomes available as a podcast, I'll post the link to Notablog.

Update: I note that Arthur Silber recently reposted his own discussion of my work at his new blog. See his post: "In Praise of Contextual Libertarianism."

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #469

Song of the Day: Scheherazade is a symphonic suite based on "A Thousand and One Arabian Nights" by Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov. Listen here to audio clips from the suite recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring Joakim Svenheden.

November 26, 2005

Song of the Day #468

Song of the Day: Let's Dance (audio clip at that link) is credited to Fanny Baldridge, Gregory Stone, and Joseph Bonime. But it is actually adapted from "An Invitation to the Dance," composed by Carl Maria Von Weber and orchestrated by Hector Berlioz (listen to an audio clip here). It became the swing theme song of the Benny Goodman Orchestra for the Saturday night NBC radio dance program, "Let's Dance."

November 25, 2005

Song of the Day #467

Song of the Day: Vogue features the words and music of the remixer and producer Shep Pettibone and pop icon Madonna, who recorded the song. This dance track, bathed in a pop-house beat, captures the once-underground phenomenon of "voguing." In her "rap," Madonna mentions many great stars who "strike a pose ... on the cover of a magazine," including the Yankee Clipper, [Joe] DiMaggio, who was born on this day in 1914. Listen to audio clips of several versions of this song here.

November 24, 2005

Song of the Day #466

Song of the Day: Thanks for the Memory, music by Ralph Rainger, lyrics by Leo Robin, is from the film "The Big Broadcast of 1938," where it was introduced by Shirley Ross and Bob Hope. Awarded the 1938 Academy Award for Best Song, it became the signature tune of Bob Hope. Listen to an audio clip of this classic song from its original film soundtrack here. And a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving to All!

November 23, 2005

Ted Koppel Signs Off

I watched the last broadcast of "Nightline" to feature anchor Ted Koppel; it was a tender walk down memory lane as it highlighted his famed interviews with Morrie Schwartz (of Tuesdays with Morrie).

I didn't always agree with Koppel, but I'm going to miss his presence on late-night TV. At his best, he could be a tough interviewer. I'm not really looking forward to the new "Nightline" incarnation, which will feature, among others, Martin Bashir (who conducted that infamous Living with Michael Jackson interview).

But I'll give it a chance.

With Jennings, Brokaw, and Rather gone, and with Koppel leaving the late-night stage as well, I really do feel as if an era of TV news has come to pass. But even if these gents had stuck around, it is clear that the "Old Guard" is old for a reason: It is being challenged every day by the "democratization" of news gathering and commentary on cable, satellite, and the Internet.

The good thing about this ongoing process is that there is far more critical commentary on current events now available for the layperson to read or watch. But it also means that each reader needs to be ever-more diligent in weighing the quality of the ever-growing quantity of material out there.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #465

Song of the Day: Emerge, composed by Lester Robertson, was first featured on a great Gerald Wilson Big Band album, "Moment of Truth." Steeped in brilliant counterpoint, the recording features such soloists as tenor saxophonist Harold Land and pianist Jack Wilson. Listen to an audio clip of this fine instrumental track here.

November 22, 2005

Song of the Day #464

Song of the Day: Fur Elise (aka "Bagatelle in A Minor"), composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, is a familiar and tender classical theme. Listen to this audio clip of a version by Balazs Szokolay. And, yes, I was first exposed to this as a child... when I saw Schroeder play it on "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (audio clips at those links).

November 21, 2005

Song of the Day #463

Song of the Day: Goody Goody, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, music by Matty Malneck, is, along with such compositions as "I Wanna Be Around," one of the Classic "F*&% You" Songs in the Great American Songbook. Listen to audio clips from two different swingin' Ella Fitzgerald renditions here and here.

November 20, 2005

Song of the Day #462

Song of the Day: Fever is credited to John Davenport and Eddie Cooley, but Otis Blackwell was actually the chief writer. It has been recorded by Little Willie John, Rita Coolidge, Madonna, and Michael Bublé, but Peggy Lee owns this one (audio clips at each link).

November 19, 2005

The International Ayn Rand Award

Some time ago, I got a phone call from an ailing Chris Tame, who is both a friend and colleague. Chris told me that he was about to inaugurate the First Annual International Ayn Rand Award, on the occasion of the Rand Centenary; it would be delivered at a special banquet on Saturday, November 19, 2005 (today!) during which annual lifetime "Liberty Awards" would also be presented to such important writers as Richard Ebeling and Norman Barry. (Personally, I have profited enormously from the works of both of these men; in fact, Richard was the very first libertarian I ever saw speak at any public event.)

Chris told me that I was selected as the first recipient of the award. He knew I didn't identify myself as an "Objectivist," but "post-Randian" or not, I was to receive the award for my intense scholarly activities, which have contributed, he said, to the wider dissemination and appreciation of Ayn Rand's work in the academy and beyond.

Here is how Chris described the award:

The International Ayn Rand Award was established by the Libertarian Alliance (based in London) and the Libertarian International (based in Holland) in 2005 to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand (born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum) was born on 2 February, 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia. She escaped Communist tyranny to become a best selling novelist and philosopher and one the principal instigators of the modern libertarian movement, the rebirth of radical individualism and classical liberalism.
In both her novels and her non-fiction works Rand expounded philosophical "Objectivism", a systematic and radical restatement and reconstruction of Aristotelian natural law and natural rights, which provided a firm basis for the case for reason, rationality, science, progress, individual rights and autonomy and free market capitalism—for a New Enlightenment.
The International Ayn Rand Award joins the other annual Liberty Awards bestowed by the Libertarian Alliance and the Libertarian International at their annual London Conference. The Award is specifically created to recognise thinkers and writers whose work has contributed inter alia to the development and systematisation of Objectivism, its application to specific issues and problems, and its propagation and wider understanding.

I have to say that I was—and am—deeply touched by the gesture. But I know that I am only one of many writers who have spent many years in critical engagement with Rand's philosophy.

Some have extended their good wishes, despite expressing a little confusion over my receipt of the award. I can only say that being an "Objectivist" is not, apparently, a requirement for this award. What is a requirement, in my view, however, is an acknowledgment of those whose shoulders I have stood on in my efforts to bring Rand to a wider scholarly audience.

I set out to do precisely that in a brief acceptance speech I recorded prior to my hospitalization on October 18th. I confess I was a tad bit fidgety when my friend Tony came to my home to record my speech. A kidney stone will do that to you. Recording it was a laugh a minute; the phone rang, the doorbell rang, the cuckoo clock cuckooed, and, of course, Blondie barked. We should have sent in the "blooper" reel instead of the 4 or 5 minute talk I actually gave.

But thanks to the miracles of modern technology, we were able to record the speech digitally, and send it off to London, where it will be shown tonight at the Banquet. I will post a follow-up here at Notablog soon enough, with the full text of my speech linked to the Podcast that will be available on the site of the Libertarian Alliance.

I am deeply appreciative for this acknowledgment of my work, especially since this is also the year in which I celebrate the tenth anniversary of the publication of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical.

And I am very deeply appreciative that Chris Tame, who has been battling a number of health problems, is well enough to attend the conference and to present the award to me. Get well, my friend.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #461

Song of the Day: How Deep is the Ocean is a classic Irving Berlin song that has been recorded by so many artists, including vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, and Diana Krall and instrumentalists such as Bill Evans (here too), Joe Pass, Stan Getz, Ben Webster, and Allan Holdsworth (audio clips at each link).

November 18, 2005

The Illusion of the Epoch

President Bush and his VP have been railing against the "Democrats" for "rewriting" the history of the 2002-2003 march toward war. (Some good commentary on this can be found here, here, and here.)

In the meanwhile, the critics keep a comin' and most of them, indeed, were former champions of the war. Vietnam combat vet, and current Democratic Congressman John P. Murtha, who supported the war, now calls it "a flawed policy wrapped in an illusion..."

The flaws have been legion. And the illusion? Well, H. B. Acton once spoke of communism as "the illusion of the epoch." For me, the biggest illusion of this epoch is a neoconservative one: that it is possible to construct a liberal democracy on any cultural base whatsoever. Now, I'm not looking to re-open the tired debate over whether it was right or wrong to go to war in Iraq; but even the politicians realize that the time has come for a debate about the future of that war.

But that won't stop the administration from its tarring of critics, like Murtha, as a "Michael Moore ... liberal" because he is questioning the wisdom of the war. Except the charges won't stick this time, because even though the President doesn't read polls, apparently, the politicians in his own party are reading the handwriting on the walls of the Pew Research Center and the Gallop organization. The American people are becoming increasingly pissed off over this war and its conduct. And if current trends continue, the party in power, gerrymandering notwithstanding, is going to suffer in the 2006 midterm elections.

I'm tickled, of course, that the administration puts such a priority on "consistency" in its defense of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. As the ineffectual John Kerry said, effectively, during one of the 2004 Presidential debates: Consistency is great... but "you could be wrong!" Cheney is so busy reminding opponents of the war about how they've changed their positions that he doesn't even recognize how far he's come over the last decade or so.

Comments welcome. Cross-posted to L&P.

Song of the Day #460

Song of the Day: Rhapsody in Blue is one of George Gershwin's finest jazz-influenced orchestral compositions. It was initially commissioned by Paul Whiteman's band in 1924, with Gershwin himself on piano (scroll down here to listen to that version). Also listen to an audio clip here of a version recorded by André Previn and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. An Andre Kostelanetz recording of this piece (audio clip here) inspired a young Alex Steinweiss to come up with a classic album cover depicting "a small piano under a small street lamp, with a huge silhouette of a city skyline towering behind," as David Hinckley reports. Steinweiss, who hailed from Brooklyn, New York, practically invented album cover art. He also designed another famed album cover for an Oscar Levant recording of this immortal Gershwin composition (see here).

November 17, 2005

Song of the Day #459

Song of the Day: Tabu (or "Taboo") features the music of Margarita Lecuona and the lyrics of Sidney Keith "Bob" Russell, with an additional writing credit for Al Stillman. It has been recorded by many artists, including the Kronos Quartet (audio clip at that link). But my favorite version is a melodic jazz instrumental featuring guitarist Johnny Smith and saxophonist Stan Getz. Listen to an audio clip of that version here.

November 16, 2005

A Belated Happy Birthday

... to Harriet the Turtle, who turned 175 years old yesterday.

What's your secret, sweetheart?

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #458

Song of the Day: (If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini), composed by Sam Coslow, is a signature Ella Fitzgerald tune (listen to an audio clip here). A nice Patti Austin tribute to Ella includes a version of this song too; listen to an audio clip here. Carmen Bradford gives us a terrific version as well; listen to an audio clip here.

November 15, 2005

Religious Marketing 101

For many years, I've been railing against the rise of the religious right as a political and cultural force in this country. Yes, of course: In many ways, that rise has been the effect of a cultural boomerang, a response to the "relativists" on the left. But this does not make fundamentalism any less of a threat.

The fact that the Bush administration has derived so much of its political power from an evangelical base is something that should give pause to all advocates of individual freedom. Quite frankly, it has greatly irritated me that so many people jumped onto the Bush bandwagon, in praise of its "War on Terror," while sweeping aside virtually all considerations of the administration's ties to the religious right.

As I wrote in my article, "Caught Up in the Rapture":

The Bush administration has thus become a focal point for the constellation of two crucial impulses in American politics that seek to remake the world: pietism and neoconservatism. The neocons, who come from a variety of religious backgrounds, trace their intellectual lineage to social democrats and Trotskyites, those who adopted the "God-builder" belief, prevalent in Russian Marxist and Silver Age millennial thought, that a perfect (socialist) society could be constructed as if from an Archimedean standpoint. The neocons may have repudiated Trotsky’s socialism, but they have simply adopted his constructivism to the project of building democratic nation-states among other groups of warring fundamentalists—in the Middle East.
Bush clearly believes that it is his role as President to change not only American culture but the tribalist cultures of nations abroad in the direction of democratic values. ... For a man who once campaigned against the Clintonistas’ penchant for nation-building, Bush seems to have made the building of nations and the building of cultures a full-fledged state enterprise. Bush’s maxim—that "[t]he role of government is to help foster cultural change as well as to protect institutions in our society that are an important part of the culture"—is an attempt to use politics as a cultural and religious tool.

The rise of religion has both political and cultural ramifications. Indeed, pop culture is an interesting barometer by which to measure the growing influence of religion on American life.

Today, "Good Morning America" featured an interview with Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, authors of the immensely successful Left Behind series (which I discuss in my Rapture essay). They stopped in to promote their newest book: The Regime: The Rise of the Antichrist, which is the second of three "prequel" novels to the 12-volume Left Behind collection. These books have sold in excess of 60 million copies over the last decade. This new book comes on the heels of the third film release in the series, "Left Behind: World at War," starring Kirk Cameron. (I liked him better on "Growing Pains.")

The GMA segment focused on the question: "Is the End of the World Coming?" (ABC also publishes an excerpt from The Regime here.)

With a lot of natural disasters in the news, such as tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, and many human disasters as well, like war and terrorism, everybody, it seems, is worried that the End of Days is near. (If you ask me, I'd tell you to worry more about those human disasters.)

LaHaye argues that this is probably the "stage setting" for the end. But since the Rapture has yet to take place, we're not quite there yet. LaHaye, who is 79, thinks he might live to see it, however.

Jenkins was a bit more conservative in his estimate. He confessed that only God knows when the end will come, and it's "folly" to set a date. "It seems like we're heading toward something," however.

I'll give this much credit to Jenkins: He recognizes that in a pluralistic society, this Rapture thing can be a "divisive" and "offensive" message. Jenkins does not wish to be "condescending or spiteful or hateful" toward those of other faiths, though he does celebrate the fact that Christian fundamentalists are not like the "fundamentalists of other religions [who] become terrorists. You won't see evangelicals ... becoming terrorists because the whole point is people have the right to choose, they have free will, and if they decide to disagree, we still love them and care about them. We just worry."

Well, I can deal with Jenkins's worry. Bottle up your message of pluralism and disagreement, Brother Jenkins, and send it to the jihadists in the Middle East, if you please.

Despite the fact that our homegrown fundamentalists are a lot less lethal than the ones abroad, I have no doubt that I would not wish to live in a society dominated by them politically or culturally. Right now, however, religion is not merely a rising political or cultural force; it is a rising force in marketing and economics as well.

From the TV show "Revelations" to the new writings of Anne Rice, who, as Jason Dixon reminds us, has Left Behind the Vampire Lestat to embrace "Christ the Lord" ... "it seems like we're heading toward something, indeed.

That ol' time religion has even affected the "Material Girl," Madonna, who found Kaballah some time ago. Even Madonna is starting to sound like the preachers of fire and brimstone. As Rush and Molloy report in the New York Daily News:

Once, she told papa not to preach. But now, at 47, Madonna has come down from the mount with a message for you sinners. People "are going to go to hell, if they don't turn from their wicked behavior," the singer proclaims in her new film, "I'm Going to Tell You a Secret." Despite her many homes, the former Material Girl says she has renounced "the material world. The physical world. The world of illusion, that we think is real. We live for it, we're enslaved by it. And it will ultimately be our undoing."

I can't wait for her to start unloading her earthly riches! I can think of a few dialectical projects that need funding.

Rush and Molloy continue:

Reading from Scripture at one point in the film, the mother of two—who won't let her children watch TV or eat ice cream—says, "I refer to an entity called 'The Beast.' I feel I am describing the world that we live in right now." All this seems to have come from her embracing the mystical Jewish teachings of the Kaballah. But it might seem strange to those who remember that the Catholic girl, confirmed as Madonna Louise Ciccone, used to go out of her way to shred the envelope with nose-cone bras and three-way "Sex" shots. Catholic League President William Donohue likes Madonna's new morality: "For her to have this sudden wakeup call—that the kind of behavior for which she is infamous is not salutary for young people—is refreshing."
But he doesn't like her proclamation, also made in the documentary about her 2004 Re-Invention tour, that "most priests are gay." Donohue adds, "We're glad to see she is no longer with us. Jews will have to make up their own mind about whether they're going to welcome her. Lots of them don't want to." But Madonna is clearly beloved at the Kaballah Center in L.A.

Well, okay, the Catholics don't want her, the Jews are ambivalent. What's a No-Longer-Material-Girl to do?

Release a new album, that's what! Today, in fact! And I like the lead single too!

In the end, you see, much of this can be filed under "Religious Marketing 101." Whether we fear being Left Behind or we just want to Shake Our Behinds on the Dance Floor ... the marketplace is meeting an ever-growing demand for this "product."

And God help us.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #457

Song of the Day: Moonlight Serenade features the words and music of Mitchell Parrish and Glenn Miller, the Swing era bandleader who recorded a classic version of this song (audio clip here). Listen also to a vocal rendition by Carly Simon (clip at that link). What better way to mark the night of the Full Beaver Moon!

November 14, 2005

A-Rod: MVP

Alex Rodriguez, third baseman for the NY Yankees, edged out Bosox DH David Ortiz to become the 2005 MVP of the American League. Read all about it here.

As I expressed here, I'm somewhat ambivalent about A-Rod's MVP. He had the stats ... but he still has something to prove to me in the postseason. Granted, the MVP award is not about the postseason. But something is missing.

In any event, I don't want to be a killjoy... so congrats, A-Rod. Next year, I'd like to see you put a World Series Ring on your finger too.

Update: Check out Mike Lupica and Sam Borden on all this in the New York Daily News.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #456

Song of the Day: Two O'Clock Jump is credited to Count Basie, Harry James, and Benny Goodman. It was a big hit for trumpeter Harry James; listen to audio clips here and here.

November 13, 2005

Notablog Update

I have been superbusy with a number of outstanding tasks this past week, most related to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, as my Associate Editor, Robert Campbell, continues to recover from surgery related to a biking accident. And I extend, once again, my good wishes to my friend and colleague, Bill Bradford, fellow founding co-editor of JARS.

Meanwhile, for those of you who are new to Notablog, be sure to check out my recent posts, especially those on Iran and US foreign policy.

Meanwhile, my "Song of the Day" posts continue; stay tuned for announcements this week on forthcoming publications, and an award I'm due to receive next weekend.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #455

Song of the Day: One O'Clock Jump, composed by Count Basie, became the swingin' 12-bar blues anthem of the Basie band. Listen to audio clips of a Basie version and a Benny Goodman version (at those links).

November 12, 2005

Song of the Day #454

Song of the Day: Satisfaction, composed by Benny Benassi and his cousin Alle, is a "hypnotech" minimalist, dare I say ... monotonous ... dance track, which has burned up the dance floors since its release in 2003. For my long-time DJ sensibilities, it provides many creative electro, techno and house remix possibilities. Listen to, and view, the pulsating "soft core" video here. (I doubt this video would ever be used as an ad for, say, Home Depot, but it might fuel sales in some quarters.)

November 11, 2005

Song of the Day #453

Song of the Day: Love on My Mind is credited to a number of writers, including those who wrote one of my favorite disco-era songs, "This Time Baby," from which this hot dance track samples. It is performed by the Freemasons, featuring Amanda Wilson (video clip at that link). Listen to various audio clips here.

November 10, 2005

Song of the Day #452

Song of the Day: Hung Up is credited to Madonna, Stuart Price, and B. Anderson and B. Ulvaeus of ABBA (because of the "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" sample). It's the lead single from the new Madonna album, "Confessions on a Dancefloor." Sample aside, something about the recording reminds me of Claudja Barry's "Boogie Woogie Dancin' Shoes." It's nice to have the Material Girl back where she belongs ... in the disco ... though it's not like she ever really left it. Take a look at the full video clip for this infectious dance track here.

November 09, 2005

Song of the Day #451

Song of the Day: I Got Your Love, words and music by Bruce Roberts and Donna Summer, who performs this song with both intensity and restraint. This hot dance track was heard in 2003 on "Sex and the City," but remains unreleased (except through iTunes). Listen to an audio clip at Summer's Site.

November 08, 2005

Song of the Day #450

Song of the Day: Skeletons, words and music by Stevie Wonder, is a funk-filled jam that I dedicate to this season's crop of lying politicians, many of whom have "skeletons in [their] closet, itchin' to come outside." Happy Election Day! Listen to an audio clip here.

November 07, 2005

Song of the Day #449

Song of the Day: Polonaise in A Major ("Military," Op. 40, No. 1) is a composition by Frederic Chopin, famous for its "pomp and glory." Listen to an audio clip here performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy.

November 06, 2005

Song of the Day #448

Song of the Day: Sidewalks of New York, words and music by Charles B. Lawlor and James W. Blake, is one of the great "New York songs" (audio clip at that link). It's particularly fitting today, on the occasion of the running of the New York City Marathon. It's my tribute to all the runners and all the spectators cheering from the "sidewalks of New York." Listen to a Mel Torme audio clip of this classic city song.

November 05, 2005

The Stink of New Jersey Politics

Anybody who lives in the New York metropolitan area will appreciate this post.

If you've ever been subjected to Election season around these parts, you must know that there is nothing filthier and more "negative" than the political commercials surrounding New Jersey campaigns.

At one time, I thought one of those Senatorial races involving Frank Lautenberg was tops in filth. But this year's Jersey governor's race between Jon Corzine and Doug Forrester just might take the cake. With Corzine's ex-wife featured in anti-Corzine commercials and Forrester being accused of having an extra-marrital affair, it's got to be one of sleaziest campaigns I've ever seen.

I can't wait till this year's Election Day is history... just so I don't have to watch these ads anymore!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHH

Comments welcome.

Ron Guidry: Yankee Pitching Coach

Notablog readers know that Ron Guidry is one of my favorite Yankees of all-time (see here, for example).

I was really sorry to see pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre leave the Bronx, but good news for the Yanks: Guidry has taken the position of Yankee pitching coach. Read all about it here. Of course, it would be really nice if Gator actually has healthy pitchers to coach.

Anyway, congrats to Louisiana Lightning!

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #447

Song of the Day: Nancy Jo (audio clip at that link) is a superb Gerald Wilson composition that made its debut on the classic big bebop band album "Moment of Truth," with fine solos by trumpeter Carmell Jones, saxophonist Harold Land, and guitarist Joe Pass. It has also been recorded for other Wilson projects with stellar musician line-ups: "New York, New Sound" and "State Street Sweet" (audio clips at those links). Also, listen here to some really nice audio clips regarding Wilson's life as a composer and arranger.

November 04, 2005

Song of the Day #446

Song of the Day: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (K525, Serenade in G Major) is one of my very favorite Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart compositions. Listen to audio clips here.

November 03, 2005

My Favorite "War of the Worlds"

I just got a copy of the "Special Collector's Edition" DVD of "The War of the Worlds" (1953). It's the one starring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson (both of whom had cameos in the Spielberg-directed remake this past summer). It's really terrific: a classic 1950s sci-fi film, with some wonderful special features on the DVD, including commentary by the principal actors, film director Joe Dante, and film historians Bob Burns and Bill Warren. A "making of" documentary and a piece on H. G. Wells are also included, along with the original theatrical trailer. And there is an added treat: the famous Orson Welles "Mercury Theatre on the Air" radio broadcast. If you've never heard that broadcast (and I first did, many years ago), I highly recommend it.

Those of you who have seen this classic Technicolor George Pal production, directed by Byron Haskin, will really appreciate this hilarious send-up "in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies." Hat tip to Aeon Skoble... I'm still laughing.

Comments welcome.

Jon on Alan Greenspan

I left a comment at "Liberating Our Heritage," on a Jon post: "The Maestro as Manipulator?"

Jon asks about Rand's views of Alan Greenspan, based on Nathaniel Branden's recollections from his memoir, My Years with Ayn Rand. My comment on the man whom Rand called "the undertaker" can be found here.

Comments welcome, but visit Jon's place. Also noted at SOLO HQ.

Iran, Again

After last week's pronouncements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel should be "wiped off the map," there's been a lot of saber rattling about Iran. (I've written on the subject of Iran a number of times over the past few years; see here, here, and here, for example).

There is nothing shocking or unexpected about Ahmadinejad's rhetoric. The Iranian theocrats have been talking like that for years. Their overthrow of the US-backed Shah was a clarion call for fundamentalists across the Islamic world to mobilize against both Israel and the United States. Many others in the Islamic world have uttered the same view, including those who reside in countries that are, ostensibly, current US allies.

The fact is, of course, that US actions in Iraq have emboldened the Iranian regime significantly; some are even suggesting that the US was the "useful idiot" for Iranian foreign policy goals to undermine a hostile Baathist regime in Iraq, substituting a friendlier Shiite majoritarian theocracy in its place. With the antagonistic Taliban held at bay in Afghanistan on its eastern flank, and Hussein gone on the western side, Iran has emerged as a central geopolitical power in the Middle East—and was made so in significant part as the direct result of actions taken by the United States, purportedly in our own defense.

But it is a state that is in a deepening cultural crisis, a crisis that will have profound political ramifications over time.

Today, I've read an interesting NY Times essay about "Our Allies in Iran." It's the kind of title that is meant to surprise. The writer, Afshin Molavi, makes some very important points. Molavi states:

The new president's confrontational tone threatens to deepen the isolation of Iran's democrats, pushing them further behind his long shadow. Western powers have a dual challenge: to find a way to engage this population even as they struggle to address the new president's inflammatory rhetoric. By the time Mr. Ahmadinejad was elected in June, a sustained assault by hard-liners had left Iranian democrats disoriented and leaderless, their dissidents jailed, newspapers closed and reformist political figures popularly discredited. But democratic aspirations should not be written off as a passing fad that died with the failure of the reform movement and the replacement of a reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, with a hard-liner, Mr. Ahmadinejad. The historic roots of reform run deep in Iran, and support for democratic change remains widespread.

Iran's modern middle class, which is increasingly urbanized, wired and globally connected, provides particularly fertile soil for these aspirations. The Stanford University scholar Abbas Milani has described Iran's middle class as a "Trojan horse within the Islamic republic, supporting liberal values, democratic tolerance and civic responsibility." And so long as that class grows, so too will the pressure for democratic change.

Molavi warns, however, that war against Iran could have an adverse effect on that country's "democracy-minded middle class," providing "additional pretexts for the regime to frighten its people and crack down on dissent." Anything that undermines Iranian contact "with the foreign investors, educators, tourists and businessmen who link them to the outside world," says Molavi, undermines the movement toward political and cultural reform. That movement requires a strong private sector and a growing civil society in Iran, which can be encouraged by an extension of the global market. Such an extension would nourish "a strong and stable middle class" and the "inevitable winds of change" so crucial to peace and prosperity in the region.

It is ironic that those who speak glowingly about the need for "democratization" in Iraq as a key to Mideast peace are the same people who now speak about the need for military action in Iran, which would most assuredly sabotage the trends toward democratization in that country.

The saber-rattlers tell us that they are worried about the long-run problem of a "nuclear" Iran. Fair enough. But they don't seem to worry about the long-run consequences of military intervention in Iran, given the current context in Iraq, a context that the saber-rattlers themselves did much to create. As Arthur Silber writes here:

We now have a voluminous record, in news accounts, in government documents and in other forms, to prove beyond any doubt that the Bush administration gave almost no attention to the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. No one had any serious question about our taking down the Saddam Hussein regime, except about how long it might take and the details. Despite that certainty, we know that the Bush administration did not listen to many of its own experts and planners about what should be done once Saddam was gone. To put the point simply, the Bush administration never seriously addressed the multitude of inordinately complex issues encompassed in the question: What then?

This much is true, and this much we can agree with, as Arthur puts it: "Iran is run by viciously destructive and dangerous leaders." But as people clamor for military action against Iran, they are not asking and answering the crucial question: "What then?"

I often wonder, for example, how the Shiites in Iraq, with whom the US has cast its political lot, would deal with a US military strike against Iran. How long would it take for a strike against Iran to destabilize the situation with the US's Shiite-Iraqi allies? The Sunni insurgency against the Shiites in Iraq has been awful; I can't even begin to think of the conditions that might arise should a Shiite insurgency unfold against the US—a Shiite insurgency aided and abetted by its own ideological brethren in Tehran.

And what then? In addition to the internal combustion of Iraq, might there not be counterattacks from other Arab governments? Might not the Mideast be thrown into further chaos? And what if additional US troops are needed to "finish the job" started by planes and missiles? Where are these troops coming from? How long before military conscription is reinstituted?

As Richard Cohen tells us today in the New York Daily News, in the Middle East, "bad could get worse."

The central problem in the Middle East is not strategic. The central problem is not the spread of nuclear weapons of mass destruction. The central problem is the spread of ideological and cultural weapons of mass destruction. And these weapons have been manufactured at a maddening pace for generations by countries like Saudi Arabia, a US "ally." As Jason Pappas reminds us (see here and here), the Saudis have been funding the worldwide proliferation of the very jihadist ideology that targets Western values and institutions.

But the odds are very slim that there will be any fundamental change in the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. That's because the House of Sa'ud remains a key player in US global political economy (see here). The dismantling of that neocorporatist politico-economic system is not likely to happen anytime soon.

And yet, despite its role in the proliferation of jihadist fanaticism, the collapse of the House of Sa'ud at this point could be catastrophic: it would most likely lead to the transference of power into the hands of the very worst jihadists, those who have been a by-product of Saudi education.

Yes, it's one gigantic mess of internal contradictions at work. But, currently, I have no reason to believe that a military attack upon Iran would resolve these contradictions, without engendering a host of newer and far more lethal ones.

Update: I see my pal Matthew Humphreys has drawn parallels between our views. Check out his post here, which preceded mine.

Comments welcome. Cross-posted to L&P, and take a look at L&P comments here.

Song of the Day #445

Song of the Day: Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground), words and music by Randy Jackson and Michael Jackson, is from a classic Jacksons album, "Destiny." But the "Special Disco Version" remixed by John Luongo (who also remixed "Walk Right Now") as a 1978 12" vinyl release is still, by far, the definitive version of this great dance track. Listen to an audio clip of that remix version here and the original album version here.

November 02, 2005

Rosa Parks, RIP

Today, Rosa Parks is laid to rest, after her body lay in honor in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.

I will someday write a bit more about the importance of nonviolent resistance to the forces of oppression. For now, I just wanted to note the passing and funeral of one very courageous woman.

Rest in peace.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #444

Song of the Day: Manhattan, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart, is a wonderful paean to the City of New York. It was featured in the unproduced 1922 musical "Winkle Town" and in the 1925 production "The Garrick Gaieties." I highlight this song today in honor of conductor Skitch Henderson, who passed away yesterday at the age of 87. Skitch was the first "Tonight Show" bandleader and the founder of the New York Pops. Listen here to an audio clip of Skitch with the New York Pops.

November 01, 2005

Oh Captain, My Captain

Well, it's little consolation for being knocked out of the postseason so quickly, but... the first of the postseason honors are coming in, and my favorite Yankee, shortstop and Captain of the team, Derek Jeter got his second straight Gold Glove today.

Go Derek!

Now I'm waiting for the announcements for MVP (A-Rod is in contention) and Rookie of the Year (Robinson Cano is in contention). We'll see...

Comments welcome.

More Passing Thoughts on Rand

I just wanted to alert Notablog readers that I've posted additional appendices to the "Passing Thoughts" thread below. I encourage readers to take a look at these additional postings (listed as Appendix #1, etc.).

Readers wishing to leave additional comments may do so here or on the SOLO HQ thread (my last posting there can be found here).

Update: I asked Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden about the issue of their voices being edited out of tapes still being marketed by the Ayn Rand Institute. Their replies are here.

Song of the Day #443

Song of the Day: Take Five was composed by alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, who played this classic cool jazz tune with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. After all those 3/4 waltzes, we move to 5/4 time. It's one of the most recognizable riffs in jazz history. Listen to an audio clip of this stupendous track here.