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December 31, 2005

Song of the Day #504

Song of the Day: Same Old Lang Syne is a melancholy song, written and performed by Dan Fogelberg. The song features a saxophone solo by the great (and, sadly, ailing) Michael Brecker, who takes his cue from the classic anthem of old. Listen to an audio clip here. And a Happy New Year's Eve!

December 30, 2005

Song of the Day #503

Song of the Day: Angels We Have Heard on High (Les Anges dans nos Campagnes) (audio clip at that link) is a traditional French Christmas carol, whose words were translated into English by James Chadwick. Listen to audio clips of renditions performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Caribbean Jazz Project.

December 29, 2005

Happy Chanukah or Is That Hannuka or...

I have been wishing my Jewish friends a Happy Chanukah... but before too long, we end up in a discussion over how to actually spell the name of the holiday. So it was with a considerable chuckle that I read Helen Kennedy's brief article in the NY Daily News today:

"Chanukah ... Hannuka ... Hahfuhgedit!"

Either way, every way, a very happy holiday to all!

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #502

Song of the Day: Good King Wenceslas (audio clip at that link) features words by John Mason Neale, who used the melody of "Tempus Adest Floridum" ("Spring has Unwrapped Her Flowers") a thirteenth-century Latin carol. Listen to audio clips by Mel Torme, Loreena McKennitt, and the Harry Simeone Chorale.

December 28, 2005

Song of the Day #501

Song of the Day: The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) features the music and lyrics of Ross Bagdasarian, also known as David Seville and was recorded with Alvin and the Chipmunks. It brings back cheerful memories of childhood. It still makes me chuckle. Listen to an audio clip here.

December 27, 2005

Song of the Day #500

Song of the Day: Jingle Bells was written by Minister James Pierpoint. It has been recorded by so many artists through the years, including Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall (here too!), and, my favorite finger-poppin' version by Natalie Cole (audio clips at links).

December 26, 2005

No More Reunion

I don't watch that many regular TV series, though I am getting ready for the January return of "American Idol" (which is just a dressed-up talent show that I'm a sucker for) and "24" (which I love).

It's very hard getting into new TV shows when we live in a culture that seems to value instant gratification, rather than building viewer loyalty through carefully constructed plots. In the age of the so-called "reality" show, good storytelling is becoming a rare commodity. New shows are on a very short leash. They have to perform brilliantly in the ratings or risk being cut after a few episodes. Unfortunately, we may never know how good some stories are; how can we know—when the best of such stories are written so as to build to a climax over the course of a season?

Take the show "Reunion" on FOX. Or should I say: Formerly on Fox. The show, which sought to solve a murder mystery over the course of a season documenting 20 years in the lives of its central characters, has now been cancelled. According to Virginia Rohan of the Beacon Journal, the final 9 episodes of the season, which would have revealed the killer, will not be filmed, let alone summarized, for the benefit of viewers. "Over one season, Reunion was to span from 1986 to 2006, but ratings for this critically acclaimed show were dismal." So, after filming its 13th installment, the show is now history.

Taking its cue from "24," the series sought to plot not a 24-hour day, but a mystery of 20 years, with each episode taking us to the events of a different year, starting in 1986 and moving forward, chronologically, to the current day. Clever use of flashback made for interesting storylines and character development.

When Fox announced its lineup in May, the network boasted that [Renuion] "marks a groundbreaking concept in series television as it chronicles the lives of a group of six friends over the course of 20 years—all in just one season," adding that the series would "build toward answering two important questions raised in episode one: Which of the friends is dead? And how did that death occur?"

The latter question will forever be a mystery, apparently.

Fox had asked the producers to expedite the big revelation, but Reunion creator Jon Harmon Feldman explained why he could not: "The events of Samantha's murder are partially reliant on characters we haven't yet met—and events we haven't yet seen." In a telephone interview, he elaborated. "The story was arced out over 20 years, and there was no way to tie it up so quickly," Feldman said as Reunion was wrapping production on its next-to-last episode. "I don't know what the plan is. We're going to finish our first order of 13 episodes, and see what we can do, if anything."

So Feldman was criticized by the Fox people because he dared to suggest that a story may actually take a little time to develop, especially if one is to aim for things like integration and coherence.

As for fans of the show: We're screwed. Some are demanding to know the answer to the mystery, even if the producers simply announce it or post it to a website. Some would prefer a TV movie that wraps it up. Neither conclusion is likely.

But there may be even worse consequences to this whole sorry saga:

Some people, who set aside an hour every Thursday to watch Reunion, may be loath to ever again invest in a serialized drama, especially if they haven't experienced successful examples, such as Desperate Housewives, Lost and Prison Break. It's small wonder that network television is overrun with procedural dramas.

Indeed. But this is the kind of TV atmosphere that would have murdered most of the great serials in TV history. A great drama like "The Fugitive," for example, would probably never have made it out of development. And if it did, in fact, debut on TV, we would have had to have fast-forwarded to the identity of the One-Armed Man by Episode 3; to hell with the dramatic morality tale that the series would become!

All the more reason for today's viewers to count their blessings when they do come upon a successful serialized drama.

So... bring on "24"!

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #499

Song of the Day: Christmas Time is Here was composed and performed by the ever-recognizable pianist Vince Guaraldi. It has touched my heart from the first time I heard it on "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Listen to instrumental and vocal renditions from the soundtrack here. Also check out audio clips from lovely versions by Diane Reeves, Mel Torme, and Brian McKnight, who is featured on a tribute album in honor of the 40th anniversary of the wonderful Peanuts cartoon. Also listen to another jazz instrumental rendering by the Airmen of Note (the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force).

December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas Wishes from Blondie!

Blondie knows it is the 50th anniversary of Norad Tracks Santa, so she'll be tracking him till she hits the sack, hoping her treats are delivered before dawn!!! (Apparently, Santa has been busy this year... he's got a blog too!)

I'm here with the Grinch and Rudolph, and they insisted I put these antlers on my head.  Grrrr... Okay... MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!!!

Best wishes to all Notablog readers for a very Merry Christmas!!! Happy holidays to all!!! (And best wishes to other readers here and here.)

Comments welcome, but be nice! Blondie may not have as many teeth as she used to, but she can sport a mean bark.

Song of the Day #498

Song of the Day: The First Noel is an English composition of unknown origin, which was first published in 1833. I especially love a Nat King Cole version of this holiday favorite (audio clip at that link). Listen also to an audio clip by Ol' Blue Eyes. Merry Christmas to All! Happy Holidays!!! And Happy Name Day to Me!

December 24, 2005

The Chronic-WHAT-cles of Narnia

I am a long-time fan of "Saturday Night Live," but I often think that the greatness of the show is a thing of the past. Still, I watch. Religiously. Every so often, a cartoon by Robert Smigel or a comment on "Weekend Update" or a particular skit gives me a chuckle.

Last week, I got a hearty chuckle out of a spoof-rap clip that featured "The Dudes," Chris Parnell and new guy Andy Samberg, entitled "Lazy Sunday," but should have been called "The Chronic-WHAT-cles of Narnia." Anyway, as the NY Daily News reports today, the clip recorded over a million Internet downloads before the week was out, and the rookie Sanberg has truly left obscurity behind.

You could go directly to the NBC-SNL site above or to "You Tube" to see the "Lazy Sunday" clip. For a long-time music fan who has followed rap from its inception (see here), I think the clip is a total riot.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #497

Song of the Day: King of Kings ("Road to Bethlehem"/"The Nativity"), composed by the great Miklos Rozsa, is one of the most beautiful film score renderings of the birth of Christ. Listen to an audio clip from the soundtrack album here, and from another album here; the latter clip captures briefly the loveliness of the Nativity theme.

December 23, 2005

Song of the Day #496

Song of the Day: Babes in Toyland (selections), music composed by Victor Herbert, book and lyrics by Glen MacDonough, opened on Broadway in 1903. It is another charming seasonal favorite. From its opening overture to the "Toyland" centerpiece and the "March of the Toys," the themes of this Herbert operetta always leave a lump in my throat. I first heard these themes as a child when I saw the classic Laurel and Hardy 1934 film, "March of the Wooden Soldiers." Listen to audio clips from the score here and here.

December 22, 2005

ARI, Iraq, and Healthy Dissent

I received a note from my pal Chip Gibbons, who runs The Binary Circumstance. His post, "Ayn Rand: The Roots of War," which I applauded back in May 2004, has inspired a recent exchange. A voicer there states that Chip was being unfair in his criticism of the Ayn Rand Institute as an organization in favor of the war in Iraq. The writer states that "ARI scholars repeatedly and consistently attack the war in Iraq—from Leonard Peikoff, whose essay 'Iraq: The Wrong War' is available on-line, to Yaron Brook who has lectured both on the morality of war in general and the immorality of US involvement in Iraq and of the neo-con position in general..." The voicer believes that only The Intellectual Activist has been "mildly pro-Iraq War" and has been "subjected ... to some heavy criticism of late."

Chip responds to the voicer, stating that he published this piece 18 months ago, and that even the commentators back then observed the pro-Iraq war stance of the ARI-affiliated writers of whom he spoke. (He notes too that ARI had even displayed the Israeli flag on its site back then.) But Chip is clearly encouraged by any change in opinion at this point.

In actuality, many ARI-affiliated writers have claimed that Iran was the country to attack, but, early on, they fully supported the war to topple Saddam Hussein as a way-station to get to Syria and Iran. (Yaron Brook's recent lectures on neoconservatism and Iraq, notwithstanding, he too favors military action against Iran.) The chorus of boos against the neocons is something, however, that is a bit more recent in ARI ranks. To my knowledge, those boos were not articulated anywhere on the ARI site in the lead-up to the war in Iraq.

To his credit, Leonard Peikoff has been the most critical of that war (but please note that the cited criticism of Iraq as the "wrong war" is an article he published in 1997 against the Clinton administration ... not anything he said in the immediate aftermath of 9/11). Peikoff has also been intensely critical of Bush, and, in my view, his repudiation of Bush's religious agenda is right-on-target.

Still, pre-Iraq war articles on the ARI site certainly advocated invading Iraq (a useful compendium of quotes can be found here, whether one agrees or disagrees with the overall thrust of the site on which it is published). For example, see an essay by Peter Schwartz, entitled "War and Morality."

To his credit, Schwartz has been critical of "nation-building," but he did support the invasion of Iraq. My critique of him is indexed here, and my discussion of Schwartz's position on the Iraq war can be found here.

Also see Robert Tracinski's essay: "The Iraq Charade." The voicer at Chip's place is correct that Tracinski's Intellectual Activist has been the most vocal ARIan proponent of the war in Iraq. Tracinski's magazine, in fact, published "The Case Against Iraq" in October 2002, written by Christian Beenfeldt. Beenfeldt wrote that "it is either war against Iraq or continued passivity. A successful campaign against Iraq could serve as a model of American unilateralism and preemptive response, thus becoming a stepping-stone for future actions against Iran and other states. We must make war against Iraq as a next step in a full campaign to eradicate the long line of regimes that want to destroy the West."

In May 2003, Tracinski himself applauded the war: "The war in Iraq is over. The only resistance that remains, as this issue goes to press, is a series of sniper and grenade attacks from isolated bands of fighters ..." And he too saw it as a stepping stone to Syria, Iran, etc.

And in the June 2003 issue of TIA, Tracinski also applauds the President for seeing this as merely one "battle" in a larger war, and he argues that "'nation-building' can be a legitimate task of our military—if it is in America's interest. In the case of Iraq, it is clearly in our interests to ensure that, having overthrown one dangerous totalitarian regime, we do not allow another to replace it. And more: a pro-liberty, pro-American government in Iraq can serve as a strategic base from which to threaten neighboring regimes in Iran and Syria—and as an oil-rich ally to use as diplomatic and economic leverage against the corrupt Saudis. To achieve these benefits, America must remain in Iraq, using our military to help create and support a better Iraqi government, rather than hastily withdrawing and allowing others to fill the power vacuum."

I'd say that view is pretty much in-line with on-the-record and off-the-record Bush administration strategic statements on the war.

Now, it is entirely true and must be acknowledged that many articles written by ARI-affiliated writers after the war became increasingly critical of the Iraq policy—thank goodness. Readers can trace that development here. I, myself, have cited some of those articles approvingly, including Elan Journo's essay.

I'd like to think that people such as Chip, Arthur Silber, me, and others played a part in persuading some of Rand's latter-day followers of the problems inherent in the pro-Iraq war position, but I see no explicit indication or citation of anything any of us wrote at that time or since.

In light of all this, I do believe that it is incorrect to use a broad stroke in painting all ARI-affiliated writers as pro-Iraq war. I think it is a sign of healthy dissent that many writers affiliated with ARI are disagreeing with one another on these important issues of war and peace. There is no ARI ideological monolith on this question, and this is good.

This is not to say that problems don't exist in the views of some writers affiliated with ARI, TOC, or any number of Objectivist organizations. I conclude this post with a lengthy passage from my article, "Understanding the Global Crisis: Reclaiming Rand's Radical Legacy." That article was written in March 2003, and published in May-June 2003 in The Free Radical. I stand by every last word:

The response of Objectivists to the prospect of this kind of U.S. occupation [of Iraq[ has been mostly positive (with a few notable exceptions, e.g., Arthur Silber at The Light of Reason). Robert Tracinski, for example, rightfully criticizes the pragmatism and religiosity of the Bush administration, which pays no attention to "context or history" ("The Era of Muddling Through: How We Got Here and Why We're Still Moving," TIA, March 2003). But this does not stop Tracinski from applauding Bush for "a breathtakingly new grand strategy to remake the Middle East," a policy that Tracinski admits "is a kind of indirect colonialism. The colonial administrators will be the nominally independent leaders of Middle Eastern countries—but the essence of their form of government and their foreign policy will be inspired or imposed by the United States of America." Deriding the muddling ways of "Old Europe," Tracinski suggests approval of the U.S. ambition "to remake the world, sweeping aside hostile regimes and securing America's safety" ("New Hollywood and Old Europe," TIA, March 2003).
William Thomas writes ("What Warrants War? The Challenge of Iraq and North Korea") that "[t]he Objectivist view of foreign policy derives from its view of morality. Just as each person should pursue his rational self-interest in his personal matters, so should a proper government uphold the interests of its citizens in its conduct toward other nations." Thomas goes on to say that it is a "basic tenet" of "Objectivist political philosophy . . . that the only just governments are the free countries—and all the free countries are natural allies. Free countries are those that essentially embrace the principles of liberty, including freedoms of speech and assembly, competitive elections, the rule of law, and property rights." In Thomas's well-reasoned discussion of principles, the New Fascism is never mentioned. And though he admits that certain foreign policy goals require us "to hold our noses" when entering into "alliance[s] of convenience" with less free countries, he does not seem to appreciate the extent to which such pragmatic considerations have brought the globe to the current crisis.
In the end, however, Thomas supported the war in Iraq—and a possible war with North Korea as well. He sees the post-war reconstruction as a requirement, "the only means of eliminating the longer-term threat." Keeping the peace, funding our allies, and building a free Iraq, will require "billions upon billions of dollars . . . for reconstruction and re-education." Reconstruction? Re-education? Funding our allies? I am tempted to ask the perennial Randian question: At whose expense?
To his credit, Thomas recognizes that "if it is culturally or financially infeasible to transform . . . enemies into allies—or at least into stable, non-threatening regimes, then war will not resolve the longer-term threat . . ." To his credit, Thomas accepts the possibility that U.S. occupation might "fuel anti-Americanism throughout the region." To his credit, Thomas understands "that political policy is a symptom, but culture is the root cause." Still, he supports the risk of war and a long-term occupation that empowers "better educated" and "more secular" Iraqis, so as to "cement the transformation" of other Middle Eastern nations.
To "cement the transformation" is [ARI-affiliated writer] Ron Pisaturo's goal as well. Except that he offers a much more robust strategy. Writing in the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster, Pisaturo is an unabashed Objectivist advocate of a new U.S. colonialism ("Why and How to Conquer the Savages," Capitalism Magazine).
Pisaturo begins on the correct premise—that Americans have the right to defend themselves from murderous attacks. But he goes further: He urges the creation of a new Middle East as if from a state of nature; his regional tabula rasa, however, requires the "nuclear" incineration of millions of "savages" in order to start from scratch. Pisaturo stands, like Archimedes, outside the context he wishes to reconstruct. His canvas-cleaning strategy is the logically horrific conclusion and destructive essence of his utopianism. It applies literally to 'no-where' on earth—though, in all fairness, the Brave No-World of Ron Pisaturo is far more dystopian than it is utopian.
According to Pisaturo, the U.S. must crush all the "evil governments" of the Middle East (e.g., Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other "murderous regimes"). This is a sentiment shared by his Ayn Rand Institute colleagues, including Yaron Brook (ARI Media, 10 April 2003) and Leonard Peikoff ("America versus Americans," Ford Hall Forum, 7 April 2003)—both of whom see Iran as the next target in the war against Islamic fundamentalism. Pisaturo argues that the U.S. government must take back the oil fields for Western oil companies, appropriate Arab assets worldwide (including "real estate, bank accounts, and all other financial holdings"), and "isolate, colonize, and settle the lands the savages now roam." Sensing perhaps that such a proposal for massive colonization of the region might entail an exponential increase in U.S. tax rates and in the size of the U.S. military—perhaps even necessitating conscription—Pisaturo declares that if the Western oil companies "agree to pay the cost of waging this war," then the U.S. government could continue "occupying and defending these oil-rich territories." Once the U.S. has seized the Middle East—I suppose after several years of waiting for the nuclear fallout to settle—it will allow American pioneers to enter the region as international homesteaders. "Over time, pioneers, with the paid support of our military, can go into these isolated territories, subdue the remaining savages, install a civilized, colonial government protecting the rights of both the pioneers and the savages, and settle the land—as American pioneers subdued the savage, murderous American Indian tribes and settled America." Of course, the "savages" will eventually realize that they will be the "most fortunate beneficiaries" of such colonialism.
In truth, Pisaturo's view of the Arab world finds inspiration in Rand's own condemnation of Arab terrorists as "savages" (on "The Phil Donahue Show"). She saw the "Arab whose teeth are green with decay in his mouth" ("The Left: Old and New") as living "a nomadic, anti-industrial form of existence" ("Requiem for Man"). But this is a far cry from Pisaturo's genocidal call for an American Lebensraum.
I submit that this "cure" is far worse than the disease.
Let's analyze Pisaturo's proposal more closely. The Western oil companies whose interests Pisaturo wishes to defend are the same Western oil companies that collaborated with the U.S. government and Middle Eastern governments to develop the oil fields. The U.S. government socialized much of their risk, and replaced the colonizing British as the chief power in the region. From the 1920s through World War II and beyond, the government and the oil industry worked hand-in-hand to win concessions from, and bolster the power of, various "pro-Western" Arab regimes, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan, trying to create stability with money, munitions, and political machinations (see Sheldon Richman's "'Ancient History': U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War II and the Folly of Intervention"; ed: also see my discussion here). The "pull-peddling" between the oil industry and the various governments was a quintessential expression of the New Fascism. (Rand did not examine these oil industry-government ties; but she did believe, ironically, that U.S. foreign policy had "brought the entire Western world to the position of a colony ruled by Arab sheiks" ["The Energy Crisis, Part II"]).
When a neoconservative defends the ideal of a new U.S. colonialism, I am disgusted—but not surprised. Neoconservatism was founded—as a movement—by a group of disaffected socialists and "social democrats." Its modern representatives are now the intellectual architects of U.S. foreign policy. Having given up the fiasco of defending economic central planning, they now embrace global social engineering to bring the ideal of "democracy" to the rest of the world. And if some of them get their wish—of establishing a new "American Empire"—they'll find out that the pretense of knowledge, which destroyed socialism, will similarly destroy their Wilsonian designs. We simply never know enough to construct or reconstruct, wholesale, social systems and nations from the ground up. (On this point, see especially Hayek's Law, Legislation, and Liberty, Vol. 3, pp. 107–109.) Such schemes for a Pax Americana are fraught with endless possibilities for negative unintended consequences, however "noble" the intentions.
So "nation-building" as a neoconservative goal is understandable—given the socialist lineage of its champions. But when an Objectivist advocates mass murder and U.S. colonialism and supports the oil industry's employment of the government like a mercenary private protection agency to secure its foreign financial and material holdings, it is beyond baffling. These are the same kinds of Objectivists who would accuse the U.S. Libertarian Party of "context-dropping" (in contradistinction to "atomic-bomb-dropping") for wanting to build political solutions on a fragile philosophic and cultural foundation. Pot. Kettle. Black.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #495

Song of the Day: The Nutcracker (selections), composed by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is a wonderful seasonal favorite. From "Marche Miniature" to the Russian, Arabian, and Chinese Dances to the "Waltz of the Flowers" to the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" and of the "Reed Pipes," this great ballet has been heard the world over. Its themes have been heard on the big screen too, in films such as "Fantasia" and "Pocketful of Miracles." Listen to audio clips from a grand rendition of the suite by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic and to clips from the whole brilliant ballet performed by the Kirov Orchestra.

December 21, 2005

Steven Malcolm Anderson, RIP

I have just been told by a friend that Steven Malcolm Anderson passed away on November 27, 2005 from heart failure. Steven and I were infrequent correspondents, but I genuinely enjoyed hearing from him, as we discussed everything from politics to culture. I always loved how he concluded his notes to me, with the phrase "Blessed Be."

I had no idea that Steven died, and I am just very sorry to hear of this. It's not been a good last quarter of 2005, I'm afraid, with the passing of Joan Kennedy Taylor and Bill Bradford.

Blessed be, Steven. Farewell.

Comments welcome.

Eu-Damon-ia

The whole freaking world is falling apart, I know. The Iraqi elections have emboldened a religious element with ties to Iran. Iran has a President who spouts anti-Semitic garbage, boasts about nuclear ambitions, and bans Western music. The Transit Worker's Union has staged a damn strike as buses and subways ground to a halt in New York City. I'm having to get up at 4 a.m. just to help my sister get off to work. At least the courts struck down that Intelligent Design nonsense in Pennsylvania.

But if you were expecting predictable commentary about all the above, fuhgedaboudit.

All that matters to me this morning is that the New York Yankees have Followed Their Damon.

He's not the best fielding center fielder, but he is Johnny Damon, and this signing of the now-former Boston Red Sox leadoff hitter must surely be creating havoc in Beantown, among those who see the Yanks as the Evil Empire.

Poor Johnny is going to have to go for a haircut and trim his beard; for Yankee fans, however, let's just hope this trimming doesn't trim his stats, Samson-like.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #494

Song of the Day: Greensleeves, a traditional English ballad with no known composer, is said to have been written by King Henry VIII. Listen to a rendition by the Heavenly Harpist. My favorite version remains a playful one by jazz guitarist Chuck Wayne, whose recorded version for his superb album, "Tapestry," features Chuck on a very jazzy banjo. This seasonal favorite is in keeping with the day: Happy Winter Solstice! After today, the light begins its march back toward summer in the Northern Hemisphere! (So, uh, Happy Summer to my Southern Hemisphere friends...) Today also begins my annual 12+ days of Christmas songs and seasonal favorites. (Last year's list was kicked off here and here.)

December 20, 2005

Philosophers of Capitalism

Today, I finally received my copy of a new book edited by Edward W. Younkins, entitled Philosophers of Capitalism: Menger, Mises, Rand, and Beyond.

A New Book with a Sciabarra Contribution

The book features contributions from a number of friends and colleagues, including, of course, Ed Younkins himself, along with Sam Bostaph, Doug Rasmussen, Barry Smith, Walter Block, Richard C. B. Johnson, Larry Sechrest, and Tibor Machan, among others. Some of the articles were previously published; my own is a revised version of a piece I wrote for Philosophical Books, surveying "The Growing Industry in Ayn Rand Scholarship."

Definitely pick it up; some very interesting articles therein. You can order it from LFB or Amazon.com

Update: Check out Neil Parille's review of the anthology here.

Comments welcome. Cross-posted to L&P.

Song of the Day #493

Song of the Day: Besame Mucho (Kiss Me Much), music and Spanish lyrics by Consuelo Velasquez, English lyrics by Sunny Skylar, has been recorded by the likes of Jimmy Dorsey, with vocalists Kitty Kallen and Bob Eberly (audio clip here), the Beatles, and Chris Isaak (audio clip here). My favorite version is by Wes Montgomery on his masterpiece album, "Boss Guitar" (audio clip at that link).

December 19, 2005

Song of the Day #492

Song of the Day: La Isla Bonita features the words and music by Patrick Leonard, Bruce Gaitsch, and Madonna, who recorded this mid-tempo Latin-flavored '80s pop gem for her album "True Blue" (audio clip at that link).

December 18, 2005

Song of the Day #491

Song of the Day: Rockin' Robin, words and music credited to Leon Rene and Jenny "Jimmy" Thomas, was first recorded in 1958 by Bobby Day (audio clip at that link). But my favorite version remains the one recorded by a young Michael Jackson. Listen to an audio clip of this finger-poppin' pop hit here.

December 17, 2005

Song of the Day #490

Song of the Day: When I Fall in Love features the lyrics of Edward Heyman and the music of one of my favorite film score composers: Victor Young. It has been recorded by countless artists, from Doris Day to Rick Astley (audio clips at those links). Among my favorite versions is one by Nat King Cole (audio clip of that version here).

December 16, 2005

Cast Your Vote!

I finally had a chance to cast my vote at the Liberty and Power Group Blog. As I stated there:

I hate these polls... because I like so many aspects of the different blogs listed... arrrrrgh (and point well taken, Aeon! :) )
So, I have to approach it this way--If I had a gun to my head ...
Best Libertarian/Classical Liberal Group Academic Blog: Mises Economics Blog
Best Libertarian/Classical Liberal Individual Academic Blog: Austro-Athenian Empire
Best New Libertarian/Classical Liberal Group Academic Blog: Szasz Blog
Best New Libertarian/Classical Liberal Individual Academic Blog: Theory & Practice (IT'S A LANDSLIDE!!!)

There are also blogs that defy categorization but that I regularly read, like Once Upon a Time.

In any event, go to L&P and Cast Your Vote! (The deadline is December 31, 2005.)

Song of the Day #489

Song of the Day: Fragile was written and recorded by Sting. It is a passionate commentary on human fragility in the face of violence. Listen to an audio clip here.

December 15, 2005

Song of the Day #488

Song of the Day: Good Morning Heartache, words and music by Ervin M. Drake, Dan Fisher, and Irene Higginbotham, has been recorded by many artists. But the most memorable and poignant version is by Billie Holiday. Listen to an audio clip of that recording here.

December 14, 2005

Heart-Broke-back Mountain

I had the occasion to see the film "Brokeback Mountain," which, yesterday, received seven Golden Globe nominations. The Ang Lee-directed film, which has become known in certain circles as the "gay cowboy movie," stars Heath Ledger, who received a nomination for Best Actor in a Drama, and Jake Gyllenhaal, as well as the nominated Michelle Williams (of "Dawson's Creek" fame).

I don't like to say much about movies for fear of including too many spoilers, so I will just say this: The film is heartbreaking. It is a testament to the damage that is done to human lives by self-alienation, repression, and fear, internalized homophobia and the pressure to conform to certain "roles" in society. It can be tender, sad, and funny. The performances are superb; the cinematography is gorgeous; the minimalist score is effective; the nature-backdrop is awe-inspiring.

Right-wing scare mongers notwithstanding, the intimate scenes are not all that explicit (though the first sexually charged scene between the two main characters does have a Roarkian-Fountainhead quality about it... viewers will know what I mean when they see it). I suspect some people will always be upset at the thought of two guys kissing, or even touching. And still others will be upset because this film is not simply about two cowboys rolling in the hay, but two men who have a romantic-love connection.

I do wonder if the PR guys were scared for Ledger and Gyllenhaal, however; is it a coincidence that Ledger has a "Casanova" film coming out on Christmas day and that Gyllenhaal is featured in the recently released military-themed "Jarhead"? It's almost as if some "handlers" in the actors' camps said: "Let's make sure we get a few 'macho' flicks out there at the same time to counteract any misimpressions Americans might get about these two handsome gents."

In any event, the actors are both terrific in "Brokeback Mountain": I strongly recommend the film.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #487

Song of the Day: After You've Gone, words and music by Henry Creamer and John Turner Layton, was first published in 1918. It has been recorded by such artists as Al Jolson, Sophie Tucker, and, for the 1942 film "For Me and My Gal," by Judy Garland (audio clips at artist links). But my favorite version remains an instrumental by the Benny Goodman Trio, with Teddy Wilson on piano and Gene Krupa on drums. Listen to a full-length audio clip here.

December 13, 2005

The 9/11 Money Trough

I have been following the week-long series in the New York Daily News focusing on the "9/11 Money Trough," the entirely predictable corrupt financial feeding frenzy generated by the infusion of massive government funds in the months and years after the attacks on Manhattan. It brings to mind what Errol Louis said about the promised revitalization of New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina; he said that billions of dollars were about "to pass into the sticky hands of politicians. ... Worried about looting? You ain't seen nothing yet."

Well, we've seen it here in NYC. I highly recommend the series to readers.

Comments welcome. Cross-posted to L&P.

Erika Holzer and Ayn Rand

I had the wonderful pleasure of working closely with writer Erika Holzer when she contributed to a special Fall 2004 centenary symposium, "Ayn Rand: Literary and Cultural Impact," for The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. Erika's wonderful essay, "Passing the Torch," was "part memoir, part fiction writer's guide, part tribute" to her literary mentor, Ayn Rand.

The good news is that Erika has greatly expanded her work into a full-fledged book, entitled Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher. I'd written to her upon reading the book with these glorious words of praise:

Damn you, Erika, for taking me away from my work and compelling me, like a man possessed, to read your book from cover to cover. It's humane, dramatic, humorous, touching, terrific on every level. You've written a literary autobiography that is as much a superb guide for fiction writers as it is a touching tribute to your fiction-writing mentor, Ayn Rand. You illustrate—through a tour de force exploration of your own evolving craft—the many important factors at work in the creative process.
This brilliant memoir offers a significant contribution to Rand studies, intellectual history, and literary theory.

Readers should check out the book cover, the table of contents, a sample chapter, and the book's other endorsements. And then get thee to amazon.com and purchase it!

A fine work!

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #486

Song of the Day: Where Am I Going?, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields (2005 marks the centenary year of her birth), is from the classic Broadway musical, "Sweet Charity." I was introduced to this terrific song when my sister-in-law Joanne Barry recorded it for her first album, "This is Me." It has also been recorded by Gwen Verdon (in the original musical), Shirley MacLaine (in the film version), and Barbra Streisand among others (audio clips at those links).

December 12, 2005

Song of the Day #485

Song of the Day: Too Marvelous for Words, music by Richard Whiting, words by Johnny Mercer, made its debut in the 1937 film, "Ready, Willing and Able." Bobby Connolly was actually nominated for an Oscar for the "Best Dance Direction" for the production number surrounding this song. Having concluded my Ellington tribute, I celebrate the birthday boy, Francis Albert Sinatra who would have turned 90 today (and even Sinatra collaborated with Ellington on an album here; it was Sinatra who, in 1962, arranged a generous Reprise recording contract for Duke). Dubbed the "Chairman of the Board" by the great WNEW-AM New York radio personality, William B. Williams, Sinatra recorded this tune on his classic album, "Songs for Swingin' Lovers" (audio clip at that link).

December 11, 2005

Song of the Day #484

Song of the Day: Caravan is credited to Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, and Juan Tizol. It was made famous by the Ellington orchestra (audio clips here and here). Among the scores of recordings of this song, my favorite version of this tune remains one recorded by Johnny Pate's orchestra featuring the burning bold boss guitar of Wes Montgomery. Listen to an audio clip of that version here. And so, for now, I conclude my Ellington tribute!

December 10, 2005

Song of the Day #483

Song of the Day: Don't Get Around Much Anymore, lyrics by Sidney Keith "Bob" Russell, music by Duke Ellington, was originally known instrumentally as "Never No Lament." Listen to audio clips of versions by Oscar Peterson, Ella, and, of course, the Duke himself featuring vocalist Al Hibbler. Listen also to audio clips of the "Never No Lament" instrumental versions of this tune featuring Duke's Jimmy Blanton-Ben Webster Band and a Live at Fargo, North Dakota 1940 version.

December 09, 2005

Bill Bradford, RIP

I am very deeply saddened to report that my dear friend Bill Bradford passed away on Thursday, December 8, 2005 at the age of 58. He was the founder of Liberty magazine and a founding co-editor and publisher of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. He died at his home in Port Townsend, Washington, surrounded by family and friends, after many months of battling cancer.

Stephen Cox, the new senior editor of Liberty, has announced that "an upcoming issue [of the magazine] will feature a commemoration of Bill’s life. His work will continue."

I can only echo Stephen's words with regard to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. Bill's work—our work—will continue. I hope to contribute to the Liberty commemoration, and I will certainly write a remembrance for the Spring 2006 issue of JARS.

This is a profoundly painful personal loss for me and for all those who were touched by Bill's life. I send my love and support to Bill's wife Kathy and to the family.

Rest in peace, friend.

Update: The Seattle Times published an obituary here. See also Ari Armstrong; Jesse Walker at "Hit and Run" (where I left a comment); and Brian Doherty too. Additional posts of interest: Eric Garris; Anthony Gregory; Rational Review; and The Webzine (written by Wirkman Virkkala).

Comments welcome. Cross-posted to L&P.

Song of the Day #482

Song of the Day: Satin Doll, music by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, with later added lyrics by Johnny Mercer, is another one of those famous Duke tunes that has been recorded by many artists. Duke performed the tune at his 1969 All-Star White House Tribute in front of President Richard Nixon. Listen to a clip of that live version here. I also love another live version by Carmen McRae, featuring guitar soloist Joe Pass. Listen to an audio clip of that version here. My brother Carl Barry also recorded the song for his first album.

December 08, 2005

Song of the Day #481

Song of the Day (b): Come Together, words and music by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, was the first Beatles single to go to #1 (in November 1969) as part of a two-sided number one single (with "Something"). It appears on "Abbey Road," the final recorded Beatles album. As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's murder, listen to audio clips of this song recorded by Ike and Tina Turner (who took it to #57 in 1970), Aerosmith (who took it to #23 in 1978), and Michael Jackson (who has performed it in concert as well).

Song of the Day #480

Song of the Day (a): In a Mellow Tone, words and music by Milton Gabler and Duke Ellington, has been recorded in many fine renditions by vocalists and instrumentalists alike, including Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Tony Bennett, Joe Pass, and, of course, the Duke himself (audio clips at artist links).

December 07, 2005

Song of the Day #479

Song of the Day: Solitude, words and music by Eddie DeLange and Duke Ellington, has a title perfectly matching its melody. Listen to audio clips (at artist links) of versions by the Duke, the Duke with Charles Mingus and Max Roach, Ella and Joe Pass (a 1976 Grammy winner), Stephane Grappelli, classical pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and a midtempo treatment by pianist McCoy Tyner.

December 06, 2005

Rand Criticism, Again

Lots of people have emailed me, wondering about my opinion of the recent article on Ayn Rand, entitled "As Astonishing As Elvis," written by Jenny Turner, which appears in The London Review of Books.

I don't have much to say about the article; a full response would require an article of equal length, just to rebut all the arguable misinterpretations and misstatements therein.

For example, at one point, Turner makes the following statement:

Sometimes, she wore a mink coat to deliver her speeches, paid for with compensation received from the Italian wartime government (the Fascisti had liked We the Living so much they had filmed it, without Rand’s say-so).

Well, yes, Rand did receive royalties from the Italian government because of the unauthorized filming of We the Living, but Turner neglects to mention the fact that the film, which was initially green-lighted by the Fascisti for its anti-communism, was eventually pulled because people were responding positively to its individualism and anti-statism... two political "no-no's." Why not mention this? I suppose it is just a lot easier to leave the reader with the distorted implication that the Fascists and Rand had an ideological affinity.

I could go on and on, but there's not much that I'll say here that I haven't already said here and elsewhere.

I had a few brief email exchanges with Turner while she prepared her article. She had contacted me strictly with regard to an essay written by Slavoj Zizek, which appeared in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. As it turns out, it is because of that Zizek essay that JARS got a brief mention in Turner's article. (Even that mention contains an implicit error. Turner states: "A peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, was founded in 1999, and continues to run out of New York University..." In actuality, I am a Visiting Scholar at NYU, but the journal is not run out of New York University, and has no affiliation whatsoever with the University.)

Interestingly, while Turner mentions briefly Zizek's postmodernist critique of Rand's politics, she fails to mention Zizek's admiration for Rand's portrait of human authenticity in The Fountainhead or his admiration for the way in which Rand herself handled her Affair with Nathaniel Branden (an episode on which Turner focuses as well). I pointed out here Zizek's own words on this subject: "Rand did not cheat. ... To show such firmness in the most intimate domain bears witness to an ethical stance of extraordinary strength: while Rand was here arguably 'immoral' [in the conventional sense, a reference to the extramarital affair], she was ethical in the most profound meaning of the word. It is this ethical stance of inner freedom that accounts for the authenticity clearly discernible in Rand's description of ... Howard Roark."

As I have already stated:

[I]t's fairly typical that discussions of Rand end up becoming discussions of Rand's life. In these instances, however, biography doesn't supplement a discussion of ideas; it often supplants that discussion entirely. Even the New York Times, which has reviewed many Rand works, has never actually reviewed any books about Rand, unless those books are of a biographical character. Reading the Times, one would not even know that there is a growing secondary literature, a veritable industry, of scholarship focused on Rand's ideas.

Well, in all fairness, it should be pointed out that Turner does focus on Rand's ideas, but Rand's philosophy is presented as a stick-figure caricature of itself. And while Turner mentions that books on Rand are being published, the springboard for her essay is Jeff Britting's mini-biography on Rand, a handsome little book, but not one focused on Rand's ideas primarily. Indeed, no books in the vast and growing body of scholarly literature on Rand's ideas are examined in Turner's article, just as they are never mentioned in the New York Times Book Review or the New York Review of Books or anywhere else in the mainstream press.

But that scholarship continues to be published by university and trade presses alike, by organizations, institutions, periodicals, and individuals with vastly different perspectives on Rand. I am confident that at some point this literature will be given the attention it deserves.

Comments welcome. Noted too at L&P.

Song of the Day #478

Song of the Day: I Got it Bad (And That Ain't Good), words and music by Paul Francis Webster and Duke Ellington, is another classic American ballad. Listen to an audio clip of one sample Duke recording here, which features the vocals of Ivie Anderson. I love a version of this song by my sister-in law Joanne Barry. Check out audio clips of Ella (doing the rarely heard introduction), Diane Reeves, Nat King Cole, and a Duke-tribute version in the style of the Count Basie Band.

December 05, 2005

The Freeman: Dialectics and Liberty

The September 2005 issue of The Freeman includes my essay, "Dialectics and Liberty," which offers an introduction to dialectical method and its role in the works of such writers as F. A. Hayek and Ayn Rand. That essay finally makes its cyber-debut today! Another in a series of essays and interviews on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the publication of my books Marx, Hayek, and Utopia and Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, the article is available as a PDF here:

"Dialectics and Liberty"

Comments welcome. Cross-posted to L&P, with comments here. Also noted at Rational Review.

Song of the Day #477

Song of the Day: Sophisticated Lady features the words and music of Mitchell Parish, Irving Mills, and Duke Ellington. The Duke recorded this classic song many times; listen to audio clips here and here. Touching and tender, it has also been recorded by countless vocalists. Listen to audio clips from Ella and Sassy. And for jazz guitar fans, check out clips from Johnny Smith and Joe Pass.

December 04, 2005

Antiwar Masters of Horror

I've long been a fan of so-called "horror" films, in addition to sci-fi and fantasy.

Unfortunately, the Showtime series "Masters of Horror," thus far, has been a bit of a disappointment to me; it's a mix of schlock and gore, with just a few thrills thrown in for good measure. I prefer horror to have a purpose, maybe a bit of "Twilight Zone"-like morality play at work. At the very least, it should be suspenseful, rather than predictable.

I did enjoy Friday night's episode, "Homecoming," directed by Joe Dante, which made a few biting political points. For me, the funniest right-wing caricature was played by Thea Gill, who was a "skank"-like right-wing pundit, curiously comparable to Ann Coulter. It was quite a change for Gill, who portrayed the mild-mannered Lindsay in "Queer as Folk."

The Dante-directed "Homecoming" gives us a zombie tale, in which fallen soldiers come back from the dead to right the wrongs of a Presidential administration that involved them in a no-win war. No spoilers here; if you haven't caught the episode, check it out.

Comments welcome. Cross-posted to L&P.

Song of the Day #476

Song of the Day: It Don't Mean a Thing (If it Ain't Got That Swing), music by Duke Ellington, lyrics by Irving Mills, is one of the great Ellington classics. On this date in 1927, the Duke opened at the Cotton Club, "one of the most celebrated premieres in American music" history. Thus begins our 7+ days of Duke Tributes (audio clip of this song at that link). And for a change of pace from the Ellington version, listen to an audio clip of one of Ella's blazing versions here.

December 03, 2005

Song of the Day #475

Song of the Day: Jaguar was composed by the great jazz guitarist Johnny Smith, who also performed the piece with a terrific small ensemble that included the immortal jazz saxophonist Stan Getz. I met Smith when my brother Carl Barry participated in a wonderful jazz guitar tribute to him back in 1999. Listen to an audio clip of the fleet-of-finger smooth bop tune here.

December 02, 2005

Song of the Day #474

Song of the Day: Also Sprach Zarathustra, composed by Richard Strauss, was made famous when its introduction was used as the opening theme music to the 1968 Stanley Kubrick-directed film, "2001: A Space Odyssey." It is painted in bold musical strokes, a "tone poem for large orchestra" that was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra. Listen to audio clips from the work here.

December 01, 2005

New Sites, New Sights

Readers of Notablog know that SOLO HQ recently closed its doors. Those who try to access SOLO HQ here will now be provided with links to the two new sites that have emerged from the previous incarnation: Rebirth of Reason (run by Joe Rowlands) and SOLO Passion (run by Lindsay Perigo).

I posted welcome messages to each organization here and here, and I was given additional links here and here, given my long association with the former website.

Readers who try to access previous Sciabarra articles can now view these essays with a slight change to the URL addresses. I have made those URL changes to all the web pages on my main site (but not on Notablog). It now appears that my former SOLO HQ essays and posts are available on both sites. I feel as if I've been cloned!

For example, my essay, "Ten Years After" used to be here:

http://solohq.com/Articles/Sciabarra/Ten_Years_After.shtml

It is now accessible here:

http://solohq.solopassion.com/Articles/Sciabarra/Ten_Years_After.shtml

and here:

http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Sciabarra/Ten_Years_After.shtml

So, enjoy yourself. Twice.

I'd like to take this opportunity, however, to make a few comments about my own posting activities, which, as some readers have observed, have been much more limited recently. Though I was still posting on a rare occasion at SOLO HQ, my last published article was, in fact, "Ten Years After" (posted on August 14, 2005, and noted above). I have posted very infrequently to that site, and I don't believe I will be posting much to either of the new sites.

I still post on occasion to Liberty and Power Group Blog and the Mises Economics Blog (when the subjects of my posts are relevant to those forums).

Nevertheless, readers need to know that I have scaled back my participation on virtually all cyber-forums due to ongoing constraints on my time and health (see here, for example). Since my surgical procedure in October, I have re-focused my energy on the things that matter most to me: my own work done my own way on my own time.

That's why Notablog is still my home. I will continue to post here as the spirit moves me on subjects as varied as music and foreign policy, and I will cross-post to other forums when I think it is relevant.

Some people have written to me privately and have wondered if the rancor on other forums has been a factor in my unwillingness to participate more regularly. I've never made a secret of the fact that I am not pleased with the level of rudeness and hostility that is often shown on cyber-forums of whatever intellectual orientation (see my comments on "The Rose Petal Assumption," for example).

I'm the last one to complain about vigorous and rigorous debate; as a defender of dialectical method—"dialectic" is, after all, derived from "dialegesthai," the Greek word for "to discuss"—I am the first person to praise the importance of critical engagement. And for years I've been critically engaging my interlocutors whenever and wherever I get the chance.

But, all too often, discussions in cyberspace have disintegrated into slimefests with open use of ad hominem as a substitute for reasoned discourse.

Suffice it to say: That won't happen here. That doesn't mean I don't have a sense of humor or a sense of proportion. But as Ralph Kramden once said: "I'm the King of the Castle" in my own home. I welcome comments here from individuals of any intellectual or political persuasion, and ask only that posters show me and their fellow interlocutors the respect that is required in any civil engagement. If people can't or won't be civil, they can take their cyber-business elsewhere.

It's true: Civility is not a primary virtue. But it is a requirement of participation at Notablog.

So, to all those who post to the new forums and the old ones: Best of luck. I'll see you when I see you.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #473

Song of the Day: My Cherie Amour is credited to Henry Cosby, Sylvia Moy, and the guy who made it a signature tune: Stevie Wonder. Listen to an audio clip of this sweet favorite here.