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February 28, 2006

Song of the Day #561

Song of the Day: Born Free, music by John Barry, lyrics by Don Black, won the 1966 Academy Award for Best Song from the heart-string-pulling film of the same title. Listen to audio clips of versions by Andy Williams, Matt Monro, and from the original soundtrack.

February 27, 2006

Song of the Day #560

Song of the Day: My Kind of Town, music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, was nominated for a 1964 Academy Award for Best Song, from the film "Robin and the Seven Hoods." Listen to an audio clip from the one and only Francis Albert Sinatra.

February 26, 2006

Apolo Anton Oh-Yesss!

Congrats to Apolo Anton Ohno on winning the Gold Medal in the thrilling 500-meter short-track speedskating race last night.

Tonight, the Closing Ceremonies of the XX Winter Olympics.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #559

Song of the Day: More (aka "Ti Guardero' Nel Cuore") (audio clip at that link and here too) features the music of Riz Ortolani and Nino Oliviero, the Italian lyrics of Marcello Ciorciolini, and the English lyrics of Norman Newell. It was nominated for a 1963 Academy Award for Best Song, from the "shocking" documentary film "Mondo Cane." I enjoyed playing this song on violin when I was a kid in junior high school. Listen to audio clips from the original soundtrack here, a Joe Pass version played to jazzy perfection on 12-string guitar, and an Andy Williams version too.

February 25, 2006

Winter Olympics and More

Readers may have noticed that I'm doing a lot of singing and music-listening on the blog over the past couple of weeks. I just haven't had as much time to blog, even though there have been quite a few issues I'd like to write about. The upcoming Journal of Ayn Rand Studies Spring issue has been taking up a lot of my time during the day, and will continue to occupy me through the month of March. In the evening, I've been catching up on my reading, and enjoying the XX Winter Olympics (which has compelled me to tape a few of the TV series I watch on a regular basis ... so I'm behind on a number of programs...).

I have really enjoyed the skiing and the aerials, ice hockey, speed skating, snowboarding, and figure skating too (though I was rather disappointed that Sasha Cohen failed to get the gold). Last night, the figure skaters treated us to the Exhibition Gala; I have to say that I was most impressed with, and moved by, the interpretive piece performed by Johnny Weir to Frank Sinatra's rendition of "My Way." If ever there were a song perfect for a specific figure skater, this was it. Too much grace is sacrificed during the competitions in the quest to achieve technical points. Weir was among those who reminded us of just how graceful and beautiful this sport can be.

I'll have some things to say about current events in the coming days and weeks.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #558

Song of the Day: Charade is another magnificent collaboration between composer Henry Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer. It was nominated for a 1963 Academy Award for Best Song, featured on the beautiful score for the classic Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn film of the same title, the best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never directed. One of my favorite versions of this song is an instrumental rendering by jazz guitarist Joe Pass, who plays it on the 12-string guitar. Listen to audio clips from the original soundtrack here and a version by Andy Williams.

February 24, 2006

Song of the Day #557

Song of the Day: Days of Wine and Roses features the stellar music of Henry Mancini and the poetic lyrics of Johnny Mercer. This great American standard was the 1962 Academy Award Winner for Best Song. Listen to audio clips of versions by Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett with pianist Bill Evans, Bill Evans and harmonica player Toots Thielmans, guitarist Wes Montgomery, and Monica Mancini (Henry's daughter).

February 23, 2006

Song of the Day #556

Song of the Day: Mona Lisa, music by Ray Evans, lyrics by Jay Livingston, from the film "Captain Carey, USA" won the 1950 Academy Award for Best Song. In the history of the Oscars, it was the first award-winning song from a nonmusical film. Listen to an audio clip from the definitive version of this song by Nat King Cole. Also check out an audio clip from Conway Twitty (thanks Jeff!).

February 22, 2006

Song of the Day #555

Song of the Day: It's Magic, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, was sung by Doris Day in her film debut, "Romance on the High Seas." The song was nominated for a 1948 Academy Award for Best Song. Listen to audio clips from Doris Day, Tony Martin, Carmen McRae, and Sarah Vaughan.

February 21, 2006

Song of the Day #554

Song of the Day: My Shining Hour, music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, from the film "The Sky's the Limit," was nominated for a 1943 Academy Award for Best Song. One of my favorite swinging versions is by jazz vocalist Betty Carter (from a live album, "Round Midnight"). Listen to audio clips of versions by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, saxophonist Eric Alexander, and guitarist Howard Alden.

February 20, 2006

Song of the Day #553

Song of the Day: Dearly Beloved, music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, was nominated for a 1942 Academy Award for Best Song from the film "You Were Never Lovelier." My brother, jazz guitarist Carl Barry, recorded this song on his first album. Listen to audio clips from Fred Astaire (who starred in the film), Dinah Shore, and, for jazz guitar fans, the great Wes Montgomery.

February 19, 2006

Song of the Day #552

Song of the Day: When You Wish Upon a Star (instrumental audio clip at that link), music by Leigh Harline, lyrics by Ned Washington, from the Disney film, "Pinocchio," won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Song. In the film, it was performed by Jiminy Cricket (the voice of Cliff Edwards, audio clip here). Listen also to audio clips by Linda Ronstadt and Bill Evans, with Freddie Hubbard and Jim Hall.

February 18, 2006

Song of the Day #551

Song of the Day: Change Partners, words and music by Irving Berlin, was nominated for a 1938 Academy Award for Best Song, from the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film "Carefree." Listen to an audio clip of a lovely, "carefree" bossa nova rendition by Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

February 17, 2006

Spring (Training) is Here

With a dismal forecast by the Groundhog, and the biggest snowfall in New York City history, with temperatures entering the 60s today, and dropping back down to the 20s tonight, we're not quite sure what season it is. But yesterday, pitchers and catchers reported to Yankees Spring Training Camp. And that's good enough for me on my birthday (which is today!).

Welcome back, Yanks! Only 13 days, 3 hours, and 45 minutes to the first Spring Training Exhibition Game!

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #550

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Friendship") [audio clip at that link], music by Miklos Rozsa, continues an annual tradition, in which I feature a composition from my all-time favorite soundtrack. I pick this stellar theme today in celebration of my own birthday and in celebration of my friends, those who have given me their love and support over the past year, in good times and in very difficult times too. Today also begins my annual salute to film music. This year, instead of focusing on selections from my favorite film scores, like today's entry, I will focus on cinematic songs. From tomorrow until the Oscars on March 5, 2006, I will highlight some of my favorite songs from the silver screen, taking a chronological trip down memory lane.

February 16, 2006

Song of the Day #549

Song of the Day: Nessun Dorma, an aria composed by Giacomo Puccini, with librettists Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, for the opera, "Turandot," has been sung by many great tenors. Listen to an audio clip from Luciano Pavarotti, who performed the piece for the XX Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony.

February 15, 2006

Song of the Day #548

Song of the Day: Another Part of Me, music and lyrics by Michael Jackson, is a pop-funk midtempo dance track. Though it was one of an armful of hits from the album, "Bad," it actually made an Epcot debut as part of a 3D short film, "Captain Eo," starring Jackson and Angelica Houston, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Listen to an audio clip here.

February 14, 2006

Song of the Day #547

Song of the Day: I've Got a Crush on You, music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, is one of the great standards of the American songbook. It has been recorded by countless artists through the years. It was covered recently by Rod Stewart and Diana Ross (though a November 12, 2005 Billboard review said that the duet "meshes Stewart's burlap delivery with a razor-thin satiny performance from Ross. A more unlikely pairing would challenge the imagination—and that is no compliment. Every variable of this effort is an assault on good taste, like serving Pabst with brie." Ouch.) Listen to audio clips of recordings by Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald (each of these features the intro), and by Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. Moving from songs with a moon motif, I wish all the honeymooners and romantics out there (including my very own "sweetie pie") a Happy Valentine's Day.

February 13, 2006

Song of the Day #546

Song of the Day: Sister Moon, written and recorded by Sting, is a sequel of sorts to "Moon Over Bourbon Street." It is another moon song with a nice bluesy feel. Listen to audio clips of Sting solo, a jazzier version featuring Sting with Herbie Hancock, and a sultry take by Vanessa Williams with Sting on background vocals and Toots Thielemans on harmonica.

February 12, 2006

Song of the Day #545

Song of the Day: Moon Over Bourbon Street, written and recorded by Sting, was an homage to Anne Rice's novel, "Interview with a Vampire." Listen to an audio clip here, and enjoy the Full Snow Moon tonight. Indeed, we are a bit full of snow right now due to the NYC Blizzard of '06, which keeps on comin' ...

February 11, 2006

Song of the Day #544

Song of the Day: Spank, words and music by Ronald L. Smith, was recorded by Jimmy "Bo" Horne. It was one of a multitude of classic dance tracks mixed to perfection during the XX Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies in Torino, Italy last night. Leave it to my Italian paisans to stage a "Parade of Nations" as if it were one huge disco party. And many of the featured songs can be found on my list of favorites, including today's pick, a huge dance hit from 1979. Listen to audio clips of the irresistible original version and a remixed version as well.

February 10, 2006

Song of the Day #543

Song of the Day: The Pink Panther Theme, composed by Henry Mancini, is one of my favorite jazzy film themes of all time. It can be heard in the original film version and in subsequent sequels, cartoons, and the 2006 remake, starring Steve Martin, opening today. The song won Grammy Awards for Best Instrumental Composition, Performance, and Arrangement in 1964. Listen to audio clips (at title links) from the "Pink Panther" and "Ultimate Pink Panther" soundtracks and another from "Ultimate Mancini," featuring Plas Johnson on tenor sax, Joey DeFrancesco on organ, and Gary Burton on vibraphone.

February 09, 2006

Song of the Day #542

Song of the Day: Superstition, written and performed by Stevie Wonder, went to #1 on the Billboard chart in 1973. It's classic Stevie. Listen to an audio clip here. And listen also to an audio clip of a great Jeff Beck version (thanks Billy!).

February 08, 2006

Bradford Tribute in Liberty

As readers of Notablog know, Bill Bradford passed away on December 8, 2005.

In the March 2006 issue of Liberty, there is a lovely tribute to the man, with contributions from Stephen Cox, Ross Overbeek, Doug Casey, Jo Ann Skousen, Mark Skousen, Wendy McElroy, Patrick Quealy, Brian Doherty, Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, Robert Higgs, Paul Rako, Andrew Ferguson, Timothy Sandefur, Jane S. Shaw, Randal O'Toole, and Tim Slagle.

My own piece, "Ayn Rand and Coney Island," also appears therein. I will publish that piece on my blog in its slightly altered version when it appears in the forthcoming Spring 2006 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, of which Bill Bradford was a founding co-editor.

Take a look here at some of the current pieces of remembrance in Liberty.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #541

Song of the Day: Too Turned On, words and music by Alexandra Forbes, is a hot sleaze-beat 1985 dance track recorded by Brooklyn-born Alisha. Listen to an audio clip here.

February 07, 2006

Song of the Day #540

Song of the Day: Don't You Want My Love, words and music by Aldo Nova, was recorded by Nicole (actually Nicole J. McCloud). It has the same title as yesterday's song, but it's a different composition. This hot dance track was featured on the soundtrack of the 1986 film "Ruthless People." Listen to an audio clip of a 2002 remix. Back in my DJ days, I'd create my own steamy remix of this song by interweaving its "dub version" to keep the dance floor jammed.

February 06, 2006

Song of the Day #539

Song of the Day: Don't You Want My Love (audio clip at that link) is a disco stomper sung by Debbie Jacobs, with words and music by Paul Sabu. It was also recorded by Rosabel, featuring Debbie Jacobs (audio clip at that link).

February 05, 2006

Song of the Day #538

Song of the Day: Artistry in Rhythm was a signature tune for the progressive big band sounds of Stan Kenton. Listen here to an audio clip of this classic Kenton tune.

February 04, 2006

Jack Criss Aims Right

I have been working very hard on catching up with my reading and have had Jack Criss's book, Ready, Aim, Right! Editorials, Essays and Reviews, 1990-2004, sitting by the side of my computer waiting for a mini-review for much too long.

As discussions of "left-libertarianism" and "right libertarianism" proceed, I found it of interest that Criss discusses his own "odyssey" from "Marx, Ginsberg, Siddhartha, long hair and 'Rock Against Reagan' ... to Ayn Rand, Aristotle, Ludwig von Mises, Voltaire and business meetings," as he puts it in the Preface of his book. He praises "laissez-faire, individual freedom, high culture"—values "most often identified with the Right," while having no sympathy for the Libertarian Party (though he clearly agrees with the LP's core principles and "party message").

All this seems pretty "Right-wing" to me, including some of his stances on the current war.

But Criss is no traditional conservative. As he wrote back in 1995:

Put up your Playboys and hide the liquor in the cabinet. They're at it again. I mean, of course, the Grand Ol' Party and their rather empty banter about family values. Empty—content of ideas certainly has precious little to do with legislation in Washington—but potentially liberty-threatening. ... These men honestly seem intent on somehow defining a very intimate sphere of human existence as they see fit, and then enacting legislation to see that their definition is enforced. At best, this is amusing. At worst, it is moral totalitarianism. ...
Liberals interfered with families with the Great Soceity of the sixties and it got us to where we are today. ... But conservatives now wish to intervene again with government programs to cure what government botched in the first place. It won't work. It shouldn't even be considered as a viable option. Government already dictates entirely too much of what we can and cannot do in our economic lives; to allow the behemoth to enter our homes and regulate our most private and cherished institution is equally evil and should not be tolerated.

Dems fightin' words. In fact, Criss has a fightin' style to his writing: very colorful and very entertaining. Even when you disagree with him on any specific issue, you marvel at his way with words.

The book is not all politics, however; I was most enchanted by his various musings on his personal life. A tribute to his father and his reflections on becoming a father offer the most poignant moments in the book.

All in all: A very enjoyable read.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #537

Song of the Day: Nocturne No. 2 in E-Flat, Op. 9 (audio clip at that link) was composed by Frederic Chopin. Listen also to an audio clip of a sensitive rendition by Claudio Arrau.

February 03, 2006

Song of the Day #536

Song of the Day: Romeo and Juliet ("Love Theme"), composed by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, remains among his most recognizable and lovely works. Listen to an audio clip here.

February 02, 2006

The Kings of Nonviolent Resistance

It is no longer news that Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., passed away this week. She was 78.

An advocate and practitioner of nonviolent resistance, Martin Luther King Jr. once uttered a classic statement: "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

While a lot of discussion has ensued over the nature of the "love thine enemy" philosophy that seems to underlie King's statement, I think there is a truth therein, which was made even more apparent by King's wife. Coretta Scott King often repeated her husband's maxim: "Hate is too great a burden to bear." But she added: "It injures the hater more than it injures the hated."

I've talked about the effects of hating in other posts dealing with everything from Yoda to my articulation of "The Rose Petal Assumption," so I won't repeat my reasoning here. Suffice it to say, there is an internal relationship between hatred, fear, anger, and suffering, and, often, the transcendence of one brings forth the transcendence of all.

I think what the Kings focused on was not "loving one's enemy" per se, but the practice of a positive alternative in one's opposition to evil. Nonviolent resistance is not equivalent to pacifism. It is not the renunciation of the retaliatory use of force; it entails, instead, the practice of a wide variety of strategies—from boycotts to strikes, which remove all sanctions of one's own victimization. One refuses to be a part of a cycle that replaces one "boss" with another. One repudiates real-world monsters, while not becoming one in the process. For as Nietzsche once said: "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."

Nonviolence is not a social panacea, and sometimes it is absolutely necessary to use violence in one's response to aggression. But much can be learned about how to topple tyranny from the lessons provided by the theoreticians and practitioners of nonviolent resistance.

It's fitting that today I've marked Ayn Rand's birthday, for Atlas Shrugged is one of the grandest dramatizations in fiction of the effectiveness of fighting tyranny through nonviolent resistance. It is no coincidence that, while writing her magnum opus, Rand's working title for Atlas was "The Strike." Of course, Rand was no theorist of nonviolence, but her novel is instructive.

For further reading on the subject of nonviolence, let me suggest first and foremost the books of Gene Sharp, founder of the Albert Einstein Institution. See especially Sharp's books, The Politics of Nonviolent Action and Social Power and Political Freedom.

Comments welcome. Cross-posted to L&P.

Ayn Rand: Centenary Plus One

Having written quite a bit in celebration of the Ayn Rand Centenary last year, there is not much I can add this year, except to note a few very provocative posts on Rand published by my colleagues, Roderick Long and Sheldon Richman. At L&P, Roderick writes of "Ayn Rand's Left-Libertarian Legacy," and at "Free Association," Sheldon discusses Rand here and here. Both cite my own article on Rand's radicalism as applied to the realm of foreign policy: "Understanding the Global Crisis: Reclaiming Rand's Radical Legacy" (PDF version).

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the points therein made, I think it is terrific that more and more people are grappling critically with Rand's legacy, and practicing that Spanish proverb that Rand and her associates uttered on more than one occasion: "Take what you want, and pay for it"... that is, in this context, acknowledge what you've learned from Rand, and take responsibility for your own integrations and conclusions.

It's one of the chief means by which ideas filter throughout an intellectual culture.

Happy Birthday, Ayn Rand!

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #535

Song of the Day: Cherokee features the words and music of Ray Noble. Listen to audio clips of versions by Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra, Johnny Smith and Stan Getz, and an early bop adventure by Charlie Parker. As an aside, the Cherokee word for "Groundhog" is "Ogana". Happy Groundhog Day! (Punxsutawney Phil tells us six more weeks of winter... but Staten Island Chuck disagrees... )

February 01, 2006

Gay Films Breaking America's Back!

It appears that a lot of people are very upset because this year's crop of "Best Picture" and other Oscar nominees are too blue for Red State America. Admittedly, I have only seen two of the "Best Picture" nominated films so far—"Crash" and "Brokeback Mountain," which has inspired this ongoing lengthy thread at Notablog. As for "Crash": I thought it was a very provocative film in its examination of the dynamics of racial prejudice, and, unless we are going to start defining "bigotry" as an American value, I am at a bit of a loss as to why anyone would view it as "un-American."

This evening, however, I learned more about fundamentalist objections to the Oscars while watching "ABC World News Tonight."

Christian conservatives are telling us again that Hollywood is "out of touch" with mainstream America. Blah. Blah. Blah. But with "Brokeback Mountain" now nominated for eight Oscars, and "Capote" nominated for five Oscars, and "Transamerica" nominated for two Oscars, it appears Sexual Perverts Are Taking Over!!! Beware the Effects on Impressionable Youths!

Ironically, many Christian conservatives have written glowing reviews of "Brokeback Mountain"—some saying that the film is a finely crafted piece of celluloid, "brilliant" and "moving," in many ways. But that is what makes the film so dangerous. It's precisely the kind of effective tool that will corrupt the morals of this Christian nation! It cannot be tolerated because it is so obviously a part of the "Gay Agenda."

Mind you, it's not exactly as if "gay" themes have never been portrayed in Hollywood films (see this "Gays in Movies" timeline at ABC). It's just that some of today's celluloid queers are ... RANCH HANDS!!! Of all the nerve!!!

Well, people "in Peoria" are just fed up! And they are voting with their wallets; "the summer comedy 'Wedding Crashers'," it has been noted, "has done more box-office business" than all five of the "Best Picture" nominees combined.

Halleluah!

Still, as the ABC report notes: "There seem to be dueling impulses in Hollywood right now. More gay-themed movies than ever were nominated for Oscars. But the movie studios have increasingly been courting Christians with films such as 'The Chronicles of Narnia' and 'The Passion of the Christ.'" Yeah. How about that?

I am, quite frankly, so sick and tired of hearing about all this crap. If Christian conservatives are pissed off because a couple of "gay-themed" films "broke" through into the mainstream marketplace, clearly nobody is compelling them at gun point to go see those films. And, likewise, nobody is compelling gays to go see the newest film installment of the "Left Behind" series.

Indeed, I'm amused that some Christian conservatives are screaming bloody hell over the use of "propaganda" in film. Pot. Kettle. Black. For a survey of how well the new crop of Christian fundamentalists have used various media for their own ideological purposes, see my article "Caught Up in the Rapture."

And I don't want to hear that I just have a prejudice against "Christian-themed" films. Hogwash. My favorite film is still "Ben-Hur," but that never stopped me from having an eclectic cinematic palette.

Comments welcome.

Song of the Day #534

Song of the Day: January, February, words and music by Andy "Panda" Tripoli and "Latin Rascals" Tony Moran and Albert Cabrera, as recorded by Tina B at "117 Heartbeats Per Minute." It's a terrific freestyle dance hit. Listen to an audio clip here.