NOTABLOG MONTHLY ARCHIVES: 2002 - 2020
|november 2005||JANUARY 2006|
DECEMBER 31, 2005
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: 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
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!
I find it amusing that the wikipedia article says that in Hebrew it is either 'חנכה' or 'חנוכה'.
Posted by: Jamie Mellway | December 29, 2005 03:44 PM
The LeeVees have a great song, "How Do You Spell Channukkahh?" It's funny, but it's also good music. (The LeeVees is a spin-off, part-time band made up of members of Guster and The Zambonis.) You can hear the song on the band's website: www.theleevees.com. Enjoy.
Posted by: Shawn Klein | December 30, 2005 12:33 PM
Jamie, Shawn, thanks for the chuckles. The LeeVees stuff, Shawn, was new for me. Hilarious.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 4, 2006 07:44 AM
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: 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: 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
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"!
I also am a fan of "24", but, only caught it (as I caught any series that I was ever interested in over the years) on 'delayed-viewing' VCR tape. (Man that does wonders for the commercials!) Unfortunately, missed all after the 1st season, so will be getting the DVD's. It IS a 'no miss' series. Sutherland is great.
Am surprised that so many were surprised about the "Reunion" series (which I'm not familiar with)...especially since it was on FOX.
This prob of the apparent need of 'ratings that are Instantly-High' by the suits has been obvious for years, no? "Babylon 5" (SCI-FI) had an intended main-story arc of 5-yrs, and suit-complications arose after 2 yrs, compounding story-line probs and character changes. When they dropped the actor for the 1st commander (and my awareness of why), I dropped the show.
And my favorite series, "Space: Above and Beyond", well, forget VCR taping what with all the random time/day shifts of each episode (I understand due to behind-the-scenes turf-conflicts amongst the suits), hence any fan build-up ('cept me, I guess) necessary for ratings notice. And THAT one was on FOX, hence I'm not surprised about "Reunion."
Some good movie-stories are going right to DVD nowadays (whereas a couple yrs ago most which went right to 'tape' were considered automatically 'B' movies). Methinks 'TV'-type series may start being purposefully made for DVD soon. --- Then, where will TV be (but for ESPN, HSC and PTL, of course)?
Posted by: John Dailey | December 27, 2005 09:08 PM
Interesting thoughts on this, John... it makes one wonder how on earth "24" survived... on FOX!!! A miracle if ever there were one!
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 28, 2005 08:58 AM
I got the first epsode of Reunion and I liked but there was something on at the same time. The premise was interesting. Is there any chance it could be put on one of the cable stations.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | December 29, 2005 11:41 AM
I haven't seen Reunion as it hasn't to my knowledge been shown at all here in the UK yet, but I do share the sentiments expressed here about "serialised" shows. Fox in all fairness are at least willing to experiment with these types of shows (correct me if I'm wrong but I THINK Fox had some involvement with the legal drama Murder One back in the 90s, which followed one murder trial over the course of the whole season), but I guess with any commercial tv business, ratings and advertising have to be a major concern.
Posted by: Matthew Humphreys | December 30, 2005 08:44 AM
Ah. The market determines the network, and even cable programming. HBO recently cancelled "Carnivale"--a wonderful, if odd, show--because of the lack of DVD sales of the show's first season.
Chris, as a fan of of some offbeat shows that never "caught on" and a proponent of the free market, what's your take on situations like this? If anyone else has thoughts on this, please chime in. I'm really interested!
Posted by: Peri Sword | December 30, 2005 09:46 AM
Quick update: seems Murder One was first shown over there on ABC, but the DVDs come from 20th Century Fox, so perhaps Fox produced it. At any rate, I stand by my comment as it applies to 24 etc.
Posted by: Matthew Humphreys | December 30, 2005 09:50 AM
TV is tough. But the first season of "Lost" was enough to get all the network thunderbrains rethinking their commitment to endless reality shlock, and there's massive competitiveness with all the cable efforts. True, execs do need to think beyond the next round of ratings and think more about the long term. If they can tell a show is great but that it will take a while to gain steam, they should give the show a chance.
What happened with "Firefly"? That's billed as a combo Western and sci-fi, but it's also a great caper show. Just been seeing the first season (the total ever produced until the movie "Serenity") on DVD. It's almost impossibly funny in moments, and the dialogue and character twitches are both imaginative and realistic at the same time. The show constantly sets up situations where you might be groaning in advance, expecting a tried-and-true tv cliche to be trotted out once again, than kicks that cliche in the teeth.
Rescuing the captain: he's fighting to the death with one of his captors; crewman warns off the others: "No; he needs do this for himself" (you know, like Mel Gibson in "Lethal Weapon" "has to" do the hand-to-hand with the bad guy even though all the cops are there?). The exhausted, tortured captain barks out "no, I don't!!" The crewman says "Oh... okay" and immediately all the crewmates rain bullets on the bad guy. If you haven't seen this show, just get the damn DVD. Get it.
Posted by: David M. Brown | December 30, 2005 07:25 PM
Chris G., I think that there is always a possibility that some of the unaired episodes would make it to Cable. For example, SoapNET recently aired both the previously aired and unaired episodes of another FOX series called "Skin." I don't know how many unaired episodes of "Reunion" actually exist at this point, but the sad part is: None of these episodes will give us the answer to the question of who killed Samantha.
Matthew, indeed, "Murder One" was an ABC show; I think the first season of that serialized drama was quite riveting. And I'll give props to FOX for "24," which begins its run in another week or so.
Peri, interesting points with regard to "Carnivale" (a show I've not seen, but has been recommended to me by good friends). And David, you're right about how important it is that "the network thunderbrains rethink their commitment to endless reality shlock..." (I've not seen "Firefly" or "Serenity," but both have been recommended to me as well.)
Now, let me offer a very broad explanation as to why serialized drama is at a competitive disadvantage in the current culture. My comments here are not to suggest that this is some kind of designed conspiracy, maintained and perpetuated by some mysterious social engineers.
But I do believe that there is a connection between concrete-bound politics and anti-conceptual thinking. It is clear to me that academia has been promoting anti-conceptualism for a very long time. As I argue here:
When people are not trained to think systematically�worse: when they are trained to dis-integrate, to fragment, to atomize�they will not be apt to think of problems in their interconnections.
This has implications especially for a political process that institutionalizes ad hoc policy-making. Every piece of legislation is crafted by ad hoc considerations of pork-barreling privilege and interest-group pressure. It is as prevalent in the construction of foreign policy as it is in domestic policy. It is even etched into illusory dreams of "democratic nation-building," which focus on the external imposition of institutions or procedural rules without any appreciation of the complex personal and cultural forces that nourish and sustain them.
From where I sit, the war on integrated thinking rears its ugly head not only in ad hoc politics but also in the way this culture filters information. Yes, we live at a time when information is being generated at a remarkable rate, leading to extensive specialization. But this does not necessitate dis-integration. Again, from the above essay, which focuses on the insights of Vartan Gregorian:
None of this is meant to disparage specialization; but specialization without "synthesis and systemic thinking" is a prescription for disaster. "Information�of all varieties, all levels of priority, and all without much context�is bombarding us from all directions all the time," Gregorian states. Indeed, those of us familiar with the liberal tradition have long appreciated F. A. Hayek's insight that the increasing complexity of society leads to an ever-increasing dispersal of information and knowledge; this knowledge is essentially dispersed, and reflected in the division and specialization of labor. But, as Gregorian insists, "the same information technologies that have been the driving force behind the explosion of information and its fragmentation also present us with profoundly integrative tools." We can see these tools at work in artificial intelligence, automated information-management systems, and electronic communications networks. Nevertheless, our computers will help us to integrate the data, but they are only as good as their human programmers. Gregorian quotes author and media critic Neil Postman: "The computer cannot provide an organizing moral framework. It cannot tell us what questions are worth asking."
So, where does TV fit in here? What does any of this have to do with any bias against serialization?
Well, it just seems to me that a generation raised on fast-moving video snippets, digital games and overused TV remotes has no patience for the task of integration. In fact, that generation is being trained not to have patience for the task of integration. Some kids may be emerging from this culture with "quick reflexes" in reaction to discreet phenomenon, but they are not learning to connect phenomena systemically or dynamically.
Given these tendencies, I think it is remarkable that any serials survive in this atmosphere. And, from a political perspective, this anti-integrative tendency in culture is to be welcomed; a generation trained not to integrate, a generation trained to value dis-integration, is a generation trained not to see connections. I can think of no greater power on earth more helpful to the preservation of the status quo. Promoters of the status quo have an interest in discouraging integrated, contextual, "dialectical" thinking (an essential ingredient for any radical reimagining of current social institutions).
Now, let me emphasize a point here again: I am not saying that this is some kind of planned or designed cultural trait. All I'm saying is that there are mutual implications between politics and culture, and that a politics of ad hoc decision-making is aided by a culture that values the concrete-bound.
So, in this culture, some integrated TV serials will make it, but they are not the dominant trend in today's marketplace.
I am, indeed, an advocate of the "free market," but I have always argued that a market is only as good as the culture within which it is embedded. Ultimately, therefore, the battle is cultural, and until or unless people start to change their ways of thinking and to value different modes of thinking, there will be very little fundamental political or cultural change.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 4, 2006 08:30 AM
While I watched 24 for the first couple of years, I tired of trying to suspend disbelief regarding some of the plot lines. This years installment does look more promising however.
I would recommend Grey's Anatomy on ABC [it's on hiatus for a few weeks]. I started watching because it is set in my home base, Seattle. The locale is always fun to watch if it's in your own backyard. As a bonus, it turns out to be a terrifically well written show. It brings different generations to watch for different reasons. The Baby Boomers [like myself] love it because of the smart writing and complex characters. The teens [GenY?] like the superficial three-way love story. I found this generational difference reading storyline feedback on a G/A board.
Perhaps serialized TV won't die out. If as you say we are raising a generation of non-critical [I do agree] thinkers, a great TV show can speak to both.
Posted by: Robin | January 4, 2006 06:59 PM
Thanks, Robin... your reply went under the radar, sorry for the delay in my response. I've heard good things about Grey's Anatomy. And I agree completely that a great TV show can (should?) appeal on a variety of levels. This can help to maximize its audience, while not insulting any of its viewers.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 11, 2006 08:56 AM
I came across your Notablog while searching desperately for scheduling info on "Reunion". I am quite unhappy to learn there will be no more episodes.
Like (apparently not enough) others, my husband and I always made sure we found time on Thursday evenings to watch one of the three airings of the latest episode of "Reunion". We were intriqued by the interlacing of the main characters and most definitely want to know not only who, but WHY, someone would kill Samantha. Sure, we developed a few theories of our own. But now there is no closure. This sucks.
Fox will hear from me on their disregard for fans of the show. And, I'll express my disdain for their cowardice in not even acknowledging the show's cancellation anywhere I searched at their website. At least your Notablog told me that much. Thanks.
Posted by: Nancy Kennelly | January 12, 2006 06:49 PM
Nancy, thanks for your comments; I share your frustration and irritation at FOX. I hope they hear from enough people; it might inspire somebody connected with FOX to give the go-ahead to the producers to provide us with some kind of conclusion---whether it be on the web, or in a 2-hour cable TV movie.
But I'm not hopeful.
On the other hand, I caught the first two hours of "24" last night, and my heart is still racing. At least we know this one won't be short-circuited before its fiery spring conclusion.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 16, 2006 12:04 PM
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
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!)
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.
Awww, MERRY CHRISTMAS Blondie! And Chris! from Tim and Moira (and Max, Tania and Shakti -- meow!)
Posted by: Moi | December 24, 2005 08:02 PM
Merry Christmas Chris. And my cat, who loves dogs, sends Blondie a holiday greetings, but I couldn't translate it from Classical Feline. (Hey, we New Yorkers talk like this! Anyone want to make something of it?) ;)
Posted by: Jason Pappas | December 25, 2005 08:34 AM
Merry Christmas Blondie! (and Chris!).
Posted by: Joe | December 25, 2005 01:13 PM
Merry Christmas all!
Posted by: Matthew Humphreys | December 25, 2005 04:20 PM
Merry Christmas Chris and Blondie Hope you have a great New Year. Chris Grieb
Posted by: Chris Grieb | December 25, 2005 07:21 PM
Merry Christmas Chris!
Posted by: Nick | December 26, 2005 10:20 AM
Merry Christmas Chris!
Posted by: Nick | December 26, 2005 10:21 AM
didn't mean to post twice
Posted by: Nick | December 26, 2005 10:22 AM
Merry Christmas to you too, Nick (three times... how thesis-antithesis-synthesis can you get??) :)
And a Merry also to Tim and Moira, fellow New Yawker Jason (hehe), Joe, Matthew, and Chris!
AND A HAPPY, HEALTHY NEW YEAR BACKATCHA! :)
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 26, 2005 03:54 PM
Humbug! Oh alright, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to Chris and Blondie!
Posted by: Mark Fulwiler | December 28, 2005 02:24 PM
A happy, healthy New Year to you and Blondie! (Bernie the cat sends his regards.)
Posted by: Peri Sword | December 29, 2005 09:52 AM
Hey Mark, Peri, thanks a million! And Blondie thanks you too (and sends special greetings to Bernie the cat).
Happy New Year!
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 4, 2006 07:36 AM
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
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.
Oh, man, I haven't seen SNL in....decades....but just that clip makes me want to watch it again. Genius! Brilliant! Hysterical!
Posted by: Moi | December 24, 2005 08:06 PM
Looked at yr earlier article about rap and Eminem (I remember the bit about yr rushing to turn the sound down -- heh) -- what did you think of "Mosh"? Every time I decide I can't stand Eminem, he comes out with something brilliant like "Cleaning Out my Closet" or "Mosh" and I have to at least admire his artistry. The video for "Mosh" was amazing. And who would've thought Slim Shady would give a damn?
Posted by: Moi | December 24, 2005 08:07 PM
Several people have linked to that skit, but I don't get it. I realize that 'chronic' refers to weed, but seriously what's the big joke?
Posted by: Jamie Mellway | December 24, 2005 10:48 PM
Moi, thanks for the posts, and I agree especially about the complex Eminem... who can sometimes truly surprise.
Jamie--good to see you! I honestly hadn't even thought of the "chronic" reference!
I'm tempted to say that if you have to explain a joke, it ain't funny. In truth, however, I thought the piece funny because it was so over-the-top exaggerated in its spoofing of the gansta genre: the rapping style, the seriousness of the delivery, the hard core beat, and even the use of "mother-f*cker" and a gunshot to close the clip. And it was a clip that glorified neither cop killers nor misogny, focusing instead on the experience of going to a movie on a "Lazy Sunday" and eating cup cakes!
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 26, 2005 04:03 PM
Howdy Chris, it is good to talk to you again. It's been a while.
I guess I did get the joke after all. I just seem to be less enthusiastic about it than everyone else. [*Shrug*] Maybe I don't listen to enough rap or maybe the pot reference killed the irony for me.
Posted by: Jamie Mellway | December 26, 2005 08:34 PM
Good essay on that SNL clip here, BTW: http://www.slate.com/id/2133316/
Posted by: Aeon J. Skoble | December 28, 2005 08:34 AM
Aeon, that's a really good article.
And, in truth, people seem to forget that so much of rap began as an exercise in playfulness. Even the first "pop-rap" hit, "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang, remains one of the most delightful, funny rhymes in rap history. I can be very appreciative of "serious" raps targeting drug abuse and racism, but there is something to be said about having fun, and the SNL clip reminds us of that. Here, it's not making fun of rap, but having fun with rap. A big difference.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 28, 2005 08:50 AM
Hi Chris. Have you heard any of the rap-metal songs by Anthrax? You might like them. Anthrax might have been the first heavy metal band to cross over into rap. One of the songs, "Bring the Noise," is done with Public Enemy. Other good ones on their Attack of the Killer B's album are "Startin' Up A Posse" and "I'm the Man '91." I have them on mp3 and might be able to email them to you if you're interested.
Posted by: Geoffrey Allan Plauche | December 29, 2005 12:29 PM
Geoffrey, I sure do know the acts you mention. Thanks for bringing them to the attention of Notablog readers. There is a lot of hybridization going on at this point, in terms of cross-fertilization of styles. And then there is the phenomenon of the "mash-up"---wherein two styles are often "mashed" together through creative mixing.
Very interesting, sometimes remarkable stuff to listen to ...
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 4, 2006 07:42 AM
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: 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
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.
There is a distortion going on here, Chris. From the outset, all the ARI types I that know were advocating war with Islamic distatorships generally. They thought Iran should be primary, but hardly exclusive. Iraq was the "wrong war" not because we didn't have the "right" to overthrow a dictator (see Rand's Playboy comments, and, here, without nuclear Cold War concerns involving buclear weapons--a little difference also being ignored), but that our priorities were wrong. When it came to "tactics" ARI was also clear: concern for civilian losses, etc., was he wrong means of carrying out the war, if we were to do it. The ARI folks I know would have embraced an invasion of Iran, Iraq AND Syria from the outset--along with a "spirit-breaking" occupation a la WWII. The way one put his opposition to the Iraq war to me: "When you really want a filet mignon and all they are willing to serve is salad--you take the salad." This has been their position all along.
Posted by: James Valliant | December 22, 2005 10:25 AM
James, I certainly have not taken issue with the principle of overthrowing dictatorship. No dictatorship has a right to exist. It is a separate question, however, whether any dictatorship should be overthrown and for what reason.
I don't think what I've stated here is a distortion, however. I state quite clearly here that many ARI-affiliated writers wanted to see a multi-pronged attack against many regimes in the Middle East, and that though Iraq was not a primary, the US had a "right" to overthrow Hussein (curiously, Saudi Arabia---the fountainhead of Wahhabi fantacism has never been much discussed in Randian circles, except by people like Jason Pappas).
In truth, however, Peikoff has made the point that Iraq was not an Islamic dictatorship, but a secular one, and it was not the right war.
As a tactical issue, I should point out that there can sometimes be a problem with accepting "salad" when you want "filet mignon." You can, unwittingly, become a useful idiot for the kind of meal being served to us on a silver platter by the very neoconservatives whom so many Randians abhor.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 22, 2005 10:45 AM
Yes, but Peikoff has also used the very food analogy I used aboiut Iraq. To be fair, he stipulated that we are "famished" and that we take each war, "as necessary," when and if the will of all regional dictatorships was broken -- starting with the Islamic ones.
Posted by: James Valliant | December 22, 2005 11:26 AM
Of course, if you ask me ... the backs of some of these dictatorships could have been broken eons ago if the US had stopped getting into bed with so many of them and giving their most fundamentalist sects a pretext for nihilistic attacks on Americans. Even Bush recognizes the shameful history of US policy in that region.
But I'm not looking to replay this debate.
I don't want my essential point to be lost in all this; I thought it was a positive point: That the Ayn Rand Institute, which frequently is criticized for presenting to the world a "monolith" of opinion, with no toleration for dissent, has, in fact, in this instance, been a place where one can find a diversity of views. That is commendable.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 22, 2005 11:36 AM
Chris, you already klnow where I stand on all this, and it is pretty much in line with Trascinski and Schwartz.
So as usual, we disagree.
But I am not writing you now to beat that long dead horse. I am writing you because I just noticed a "change" in the Sciabarra persona!
Are my eyes deceiving me, or did you just respond to someone with the following, "You can, unwittingly, become a useful idiot for the kind of meal being served to us on a silver platter by the very neoconservatives whom so many Randians abhor." ?
Wow!!! Looks like the gloves are off and you have adopted some of the pro-war rhetoric. Didn't I fire that "unwitting useful idiot" charge at you a year ago? lol
Look out world, Sciabarra has become more dangerous than ever!
Regards, Doubting Thomas
PS: Now don't lie, be honest, when you posted the blog entry that mentioned Damon joining the Yanks, you would have bet a hundred bucks that I would post a comment to that one. I purposely did not, just to prove you wrong, - yet again.
Posted by: George Cordero | December 22, 2005 11:38 AM
LOL ... not only do you surprise, but you always entertain. :)
In truth, I did use the phrase "useful idiot" as a retort to the claim that ~~I~~ was a "useful idiot" for the Hussein regime, in my opposition to the Iraq war. Here's where I first used it, in my article "A Question of Loyalty":
Now, Perigo and other Objectivists may oppose such democratic "nation-building." Even Presidential candidate George W. Bush once opposed the goal of democratic nation-building in Kosovo and Bosnia. But his neo-Wilsonian advisors seem to have convinced him that the US government can engage in such folly in Iraq. And it has become increasingly clear that these neoconservatives have a disproportionate influence on the foreign policy agenda. Not Perigo. Not any other Objectivists. So much for being a "useful idiot" for established power elites.
But, of course, you always inspire me, George, toward more and more dangerous ways.
So... what do you think of this Damon business? ;)
(And if you choose to answer, put it on that thread... :) )
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 22, 2005 11:58 AM
Great work as always, Chris.
Posted by: Chip Gibbons | December 22, 2005 12:27 PM
Understood about the basic point.
And there's no doubt selling/giving weapons to various dubious (and worse than dubious) regimes over many decades has been nothing less than sheer folly. To that extent we have made our own beds up real neatly.
Forgive my many typos and have the Merriest ever!
Posted by: James Valliant | December 22, 2005 04:26 PM
One tiny follow-up: The past US involvement in that region is bad enough on the weapons count; when you also add other forms of subsidy, government sanctioned monopoly concessions in the oil industry, the propping up of various authoritarian regimes in Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc., the history of that region gets pretty ugly.
Okay... on that note: The merriest to you and my other readers too. But Blondie will be putting up her Christmas greeting in another couple of days, so stay tuned.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 22, 2005 08:36 PM
To follow up on Chris' last remarks: ". . .when you also add other forms of subsidy, government sanctioned monopoly concessions in the oil industry, the propping up of various authoritarian regimes in Iran, Saudi Arabia, . . .," I would assert that we reds have a label for all that. We call it imperialism but I think that Chris knew that already.
Oh yes, and happy winter solstice festivals to everyone here (i.e. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza etc.) And don't forget that on December 25, we celebrate the birthday of one of the greatest human beings to have ever lived, Sir Isaac Newton.
Posted by: Jim Farmelant | December 23, 2005 07:36 AM
Indeed, Jim. Three cheers for Newton!!!
And, yes, I know the left has traditionally viewed the global system as "imperialism." In my own writing, I've shied away from calling it "imperialism," because the word does have a different kind of nineteenth-century connotation about it. (Of course, Lenin's usage differs somewhat.)
But whether we call it "imperialism," or "neo-imperialism," or "state capitalism," or the "New Fascism," as Rand would have it, I think there are certainly global implications for U.S. political economy.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 23, 2005 04:03 PM
As you may recall, we have discussed imperialism in the past, such as in a 1999 thread on Marxmail concerning Lenin, John Hobson, and Murray Rothbards' respective analyses of imperialism (along with Rand and Hayek).
Posted by: Jim Farmelant | December 23, 2005 07:03 PM
Wow... what a trip down memory lane, Jim. It's amazing what water-under-the-bridge that there is out there, still online.
BTW, for those who don't know, go to the Internet Way Back Machine to uncover a lost world of Internet archives!
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 26, 2005 03:46 PM
Oh, one other reference for Notablog readers, on the issue of Iraq and nation-building: Take a look at Sheldon Richman's piece, "Nation-building is now job one."
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 26, 2005 04:07 PM
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
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.
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.
Yes there is indeed much unhappiness in Beantown over Johnny Damon's defection to the Enemy. Matters are not helped by the apparent disarray that's been manifested by the front office of the Red Sox. They said that they first learned about Damon's signing with the Yankees from the media. Combined with Theo Epstein's leaving his position as general manager, it's not been a good offseason for Red Sox Nation.
Posted by: Jim Farmelant | December 22, 2005 09:31 AM
Jim, I honestly could not believe that the Bosox got rid of Theo Epstein, and I wonder how much of this Damon loss could be blamed on the fact that Epstein wasn't there. Still, they did get Josh Beckett who was a Yankee killer with the Florida Marlins.
In any event, I have to relate a cute story told to me last night by a Boston pal of mine. He wrote:
A restaurant in Boston's fashionable Beacon hill had a wooden, free-standing sign in fornt of it that pretty much sums up the feelings in Boston today it read: "We hope Johnny Damon's dog dies."
That's the kind of Boston cuisine I'd have fully expected. :)
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 22, 2005 09:48 AM
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
Today, I finally received my copy of a new book edited by Edward W. Younkins, entitled Philosophers of Capitalism: Menger, Mises, Rand, and Beyond.
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: 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: 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: 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: 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
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: 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: 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
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.
Glad you got to see it, Chris.
Now that I've seen your comments I look forward to seeing it this weekend even more.
Posted by: Chip Gibbons | December 14, 2005 11:59 AM
Chris; I am unsure about Brokeback Mountain but your review may get me to see it. I agree about the publicity. The story in EW that emphasized Ledger's new child. Heath has been a very attractive actor but has not had great roles. I loved Jake Gyllenhaal since October Sky. The Colbert Report did a funny take on Brokeback that anyone who knew about the movie would find very funny.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | December 14, 2005 12:03 PM
Thanks for posting your impression, Chris S. I listened to the Annie Proulx's short story on CD (after trying unsuccessfully to get a copy of it from my local gay bookstore). I don't particularly like Proulx's style--certain aspects seem "gritty" for the sake of being it and not because of any characterization reason--but I think this is a story that needed to be told. Not to mention, a movie that needed to be made. It's definitely a sign of the times--in both a good and bad way. Good because there were people involved thinking the American movie-going public was ready for such a commerical venture; bad because of how the reactions mark how far we have to go in accepting true spiritual sexuality in general, between any two people.
Posted by: Jason Dixon | December 14, 2005 12:30 PM
Chip, Chris, Jason, thanks for your comments; I'll be interested to hear your feedback should you gents see the film.
A few additional points and links. I especially liked comments made by Roger Ebert about the film.
I was also especially tickled by a comment published today in the "Voice of the People" section of the New York Daily News. The "Thumbs Down" note comes from Mission Viejo, California by voicer Carl Baker:
Daily News movie critic Jack Mathews was correct about a red state backlash against "Brokeback Mountain" ("'Brokeback' enters Golden age," Dec. 14). Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was blasted by critics and received barely any awards from Hollywood. Now we get this gay cowboy movie, and the critics are falling over themselves to praise it and give it awards. It's pretty obvious who runs the entertainment industry and what their agenda is. Count me among the "garden-variety homophobes" who are tired of having homosexuality thrown at me every time I turn around. I won't be spending a dime to see this one, and I predict a lot of other people won't either.
Good. It's always admirable to condemn a film without having seen it. So, don't see it, Carl. We live in a free country and you don't have to spend your dime seeing this or any of the other thousand or so gay romance films currently running across the land in multiplexes from the West coast to the East coast and everywhere in-between.
It must be awful to be subjected to all these Sodomites on the Silver Screen.
I remember when there was a similar wave of "mainstream" gay love stories hitting those multiplexes some years ago; the year was 1982, and people were screaming about, uh, two such films: "Making Love" and "Personal Best."
And that's been about it, except, perhaps, for the 1993 film "Philadelphia," which depicts gay men dying of AIDS, while never allowing lovers Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas to share a simple kiss.
Yes, it must be so hard to deal with all this rampant homosexuality on screen.
Interestingly, Ang Lee himself recognizes that "Making Love" was indeed the last mainstream gay love story to hit American cinema. And that was nearly a quarter of a century ago.
So, despite the influence of the ever-powerful Hollywood Gay Mafia, I'd like to know where all these other mainstream gay films are, which have led this voicer to complain about "homosexuality [being] thrown at [him] every time [he] turn[s] around." PUH-LEASE.
Speaking of Hollywood: Money Talks. And because "Passion of the Christ" was a bona fide money maker, other religious-themed films and products are now in development. (See this PDF, which talks about the growing impact and influence of Christian fundamentalism on American culture and entertainment.)
And I'm the very last person to condemn "religious-themed movies," since "Ben-Hur" is my favorite movie of all time (see here). But, at least, I saw "Passion of the Christ" and thought it a good film, despite its sometimes over-the-top violence. I actually believe it is important to see a film before judging it.
I wish the Carl Bakers in this country were open to such a simple principle as that.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 17, 2005 08:49 PM
Chris; I would like to offer a candidate for one of the most homophobic films in recent years. JFK from Oliver Stone which has the chief plotter, Clay Shaw, being a closeted homosexual who has wild orgies invovling Lee Harvey Oswald. The film barely mentions that Shaw was found not guilty after the jury was out less than an hour. I must also I agree completely don't judge until you've actually seen the movie.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | December 18, 2005 10:33 AM
Hey, Chris, I remember the outcry among some in the gay community over those scenes (though I don't recall Oswald himself being part of the orgy, the Clay Shaw character was certainly portrayed the way you say).
Interestingly, Stone was also responsible for "Alexander," which, some have claimed, whitewashed the same-sex romances of Alexander the Great.
Not to imply any guilt by association, but it is not unheard of to see some left-wingers being very gay-unfriendly. One of Stone's pals, Fidel Castro, has set up a notoriously gay-unfriendly regime, after all.
I should add that homophobia is something that is deep-rooted in some left-wing circles; Marx and Engels weren't exactly cheerleaders for same-sex relationships, and a few Marxist-sympathizers have viewed homosexuality as a symptom of bourgeois decadence, a violation of the "union of opposites" so important to the Marxian "dialectic."
This is definitely an issue that transcends left and right; the "right-wing" religionists have the "name" but some of their "left-wing" counterparts play the game equally well.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 18, 2005 12:43 PM
Critics will love it for all the worng reasons, but it's cool to see films like 'Alexander' and this one crossing those fading lines -- BUT the hell coming from the conservatives if this gets any more attention from the award-givers will be intense. Expect demonstrations at the Oscars if this gets that far. And it's just like Hollywood today to push it that far...
Posted by: James Valliant | December 19, 2005 12:55 AM
Brokeback Mountain had a very limited release this past weekend but seems to have done well where it was shown. I did not see Alexander because of my anger over JFK so I have to take your word for it.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | December 19, 2005 08:32 PM
Enjoyed your reality-based response to Carl Baker's comments.
I saw the movie with a sold-out crowd in Seattle. People waited up to an hour in line in the freezing cold to get in. The audience seemed to love it.
My review of the movie is here.
"I wish I knew how to quit you."
Posted by: Chip Gibbons | December 19, 2005 11:32 PM
James, I'll be watching the Oscars. :)
Chris, interestingly, as a pure cinematic experience, I have to say that I actually liked "J.F.K." Yes, it was propaganda of the highest order and the clever use of editing was just remarkable enough to piss anybody off. But I really thought it was a well-done movie, cinematically speaking. I'm also somewhat obsessed with the Kennedy assassination, having read many books and seen many documentaries on it.
But your points are well taken.
And Chip: thanks for the link! Well-written and with your typically fine points!
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 22, 2005 09:45 AM
My daughter, a friend and I went to see Brokeback on Monday [we had to travel a ways to see it]. My background is horse oriented, and I've been married for 30 years. Most of my male friends [and hubby] would not want to see this movie. That's life. We all really enjoyed the movie. The point is it's a love story, period. In some ways it's like one of my all time favorite movies, The Crying Game. It's all about what do you do when you fall in love with the wrong person...
I felt that Ang Lee didn't make this movie pro or anti gay. It just is. You may draw your own conclusions about the choices made by the main characters. For me, that's a sign of a good movie; I'm still thinking about it days later.
I hope it gets the attention and awards it deserves. It's one of the best films I've seen in a long time. If the subject matter isn't to your liking, feel free to stay home.
Posted by: Robin | December 28, 2005 03:45 PM
Interestingly, the bisexual references are just about gone in Stone's "director's cut" of Alexander. But the bad bleach job of the lead is still there, alas!
Posted by: Mark Fulwiler | December 28, 2005 06:27 PM
I loved JFK, also. I thought it was just a really well-made, thrilling piece of fiction.
Great soundtrack, too.
And thanks for all the hits my review is
getting from this post!
Posted by: Chip Gibbons | December 28, 2005 09:49 PM
I'll chime in here and say that my fiance Michael Russell(who turned me onto your blog) and I read the Annie Proulx story over Christmas weekend. Just the thing to get us into the holiday spirit! :-) We both came away with the same impression--the original story, though touching, felt rushed. She should have made a novella out of it, rather than a long short story (if that makes any sense(.
We plan to see the movie this weekend; perhaps it will be the first movie to actually improve upon the book.
From the "buzz" I'm willing to guess this movie will get some Oscar nods, and then...let the games begin! After watching the Blowhard O'Reilly whipping the sheep into a frenzy over the manufactured, so-called "War on Christmas" I KNOW we'll hear from the usual suspects.
I didn't bother with Stone's "Alexander" because I couldn't stand seeing Colin Farrell with bleached hair, or hearing Alexander the Great speak with an Irish brogue. It's almost as bad as having to listen to Judas Iscariot speaking with a Brooklyn accent--which, while extremely charming, is just a little jarring coming from someone who is supposed to be living in 1st Century Palestine, in Scorsese's "Last Temptation of Christ". ;-)
Posted by: Peri Sword | December 31, 2005 09:27 PM
I had the opportunity to see Broke Back Mountain last evening and the movie had a profound affect on me. The story, the acting and the directing were all incredible. I am sure this film will go on and win many awards. Thank you Heath and Jake for making a really great movie.
Posted by: Anthony | January 2, 2006 06:43 PM
So glad to see someone else has figured out that the "war on Christmas" is a bunch of BS.
The true axis of evil at work...
Posted by: Robin | January 2, 2006 08:48 PM
My husband and I saw the movie yesterday. We actually had to leave the theater and come back after buying tickets because the showtime we intended to see and the one before it were sold out. When we returned to see the movie at 4:00 it was sold out as well (good thing we got our tickets in advance). When we left the theater hours later the next show was also sold out.
My husband and I truly loved this movie. We have a great many friends in the gay community whom we love dearly. It hurt to see even a small portion of the day-to-day struggle they endure daily.
The heart wrenching struggle these two characters endured to hide a love and lifestyle that is not accepted by societal norms was devistating to watch.
Two thumbs up to both these young actors for taking a chance on making a movie that was poigent, heart warming, sad and thought provoking.
Posted by: SydneyAnn | January 3, 2006 10:50 AM
I just wanted to chime in and thank those who have continued to post their thoughts here on the film, "Brokeback Mountain." I hope that as the film becomes available in local markets, people will continue to post their thoughts to this thread. At some point, I may even see the film again, and return with a bit more reflection. For now, a couple of brief replies to those who have posted over the past week or so.
To Robin and SydneyAnn, thank you both for your thoughts upon seeing the film. Interestingly, Robin, I've never seen "The Crying Game." I know the "mystery" of that film, but I was told to still see it.
Mark: You're right about "Alexander"... :) (The only thing worse than the bleached hair, however, was hearing Angelina Jolie speak with a Dracula accent, far worse, Peri, I think, than having Judas speak with a Brooklyn accent... hehee)
Chip: Glad you're getting all the hits you deserve, and props to John Williams for that great JFK soundtrack you mention.
Peri: Thanks to your fiance Michael for turning you onto my blog! Glad you're a participant here. I just got a hold of the Annie Proulx story, and hope to read it for myself. I've heard the same thing though: that the film does, indeed, flesh-out the story much better.
But now I want to know what you think about the movie, since you'd planned to see it last weekend!
Anthony, thanks for your thoughts upon seeing the film. I agree with you in your overall comments.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 4, 2006 08:46 AM
The Screen Actors Guild nominations are out, and "Brokeback Mountain" leads the pack with 4 nominations, one for the ensemble cast, and one each for Ledger, Gyllenhaal, and Williams. I think it is kind of ridiculous to refer to Gyllenhaal's slot as a "supporting actor," but I don't know how the potential nominees are fielded by the nominating organization. It will be interesting to see how this is handled at Oscar time.
Anyway, read about the SAG nominations here.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 5, 2006 10:50 AM
Posted by: jeremy | January 8, 2006 12:04 PM
Jeremy, peddle your homophobic crap on another list. Your message has been deleted, and you have been banned from my site.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 8, 2006 12:16 PM
I saw brokeback mountain last night and I must say I was really disappointed. I
found the screenplay week and shallow. I loved heath ledger's performance as
well as the woman who plays his wife Elma but I thought Jake Gyllenhall looked
very uncomfortable and out of his element. I didnt believe he was a rodeo cowboy
at all--esp. since in the film he is never dirty, always cleancut with his shirt
tucked in, etc....totally unbelievable as a ranch-hand...?
Im not sure why ang lee would overlook such obvious contradictions to the story....Ive worked alot in film and that is one thing that always irritates me if its overlooked....production design/stylists are key to a film like this and it seems like they werent even considered.
Very Cliche scenes (running around outside--topless and lasso-ing eachother--PLEASE!! How utterly CHEESY and Unrealistic!!!
I think i t is about time a gay love story is told on screen and for that I commend the cast and crew. But to stand alone as a film BBM doesnt hold up.
Posted by: nina | January 8, 2006 05:56 PM
I've occasionally prided myself on being able to understand characters, their feelings and motivations; I become a part of the plot and relate viscerally to both good and bad characters, especially in well made and acted movies. To me, becoming that invested in a movie was a means of experiencing it more fully. It didn't matter whether the characters were hetero. My heart would still race and I'd hold my breath during a masterfully presented thriller; I could still feel the knot in my throat and cry over a touching love story.
I saw Brokeback Mountain on opening day here in Birmingham (1/6/06). It brought me to tears, and I'm not particularly softhearted. I cried myself to sleep that night and then some more the next day. I cried because I fear never experiencing a love like theirs, and because I related to their own internalized homophobia and the knowledge that I have made similar decisions in my life that have lead me to being alone. I thought of old lovers, some of whom have moved on in their lives and others who've died, and lamented not having done more for them.
I guess I was mistaken about relating well to characters in other movies, because but no love story I've seen has ever produced a reaction in me like this one did. 'Tis doubtful that my comments will ever make it to their ears, so saying this here is the highest compliment I know how to give, not just to writer, the director and the actors, but to everyone involved in creating Brokeback: you truly moved me and I am and will be a better man for it. Thank you. James
Posted by: James | January 9, 2006 12:15 AM
You've made some interesting comments about the movie. However I must disagree about the cleanliness of cowboys.
I have a horse background and have been a part of the rodeo world for many years. Most cowboys [both pro/am] are freaks about their clothing. My ex brother-in-law would not wear a pair of jeans that didn't have a razor crease in front. Strange huh? Their shirts are always tucked in, even after a bull-dogging event [expensive western wear has extra long shirt tails]. There are women that I have competed against that wear white [I'm not one of them LOL!] that look fresh at the end of the day. Anyway, in the real modern cowboy world, it would be possible to see a well turned out rider, even after competition.
I did see some inaccuracies in the style of hats [the ones worn in the movie had bull-rider brims that weren't in use in the 60's], the saddles/pads were too modern and so were the bits used. In the scene were the buckskin horse is trying to dump Jack, the bit used is no older than 10 years.
Usually the inaccurate horse/riding related stuff really bothers me in a movie centered around ranching/rodeo, but this moving story was so good that I forgot to pick apart.
Posted by: Robin | January 9, 2006 09:54 AM
Well, BrokeBack Mountain was definitely life altering for me....as a young man who loves men. The portrayal of internalized homophobia, fear, and self alienation was potent. Jake and Heath to me were allowing themselves as humans through art to channel and express male to male love. Thankfully so. ang lee cast and crew major props for a job well done and and for a job that needed to be done. Also thanks chris for the site.
Posted by: jose | January 11, 2006 02:06 PM
I had the chance to see the film on opening night in LA. The theatre was filled
to capcity. During the movie there was absolute silence among the audience & I
must say, the audience seemed to be heterosexual couples with several single
men. When the movie was over, it was intersting to see majority of the audience
remained seated and watched all of the credits. What one heard upon exiting was
"Terrific", "Unbelievable", "Wonderful film". The movie is a must in our times,
to show how and why homosexuality is part of our society--it has been since
recorded history. Remember, no one choses to be homosexual. The filming was
excelent, the scenery breathtaking--I have spent many years in the Rockies,
Grand Tetons, & Absorkie Mountains. I also knew many REAL cowboys, both in the
Rodeo and as Ranch Hands. I also have taken pack trips with them into the
mountains, and I must say, that because of the lack of female companions,
several paired off with each other. Not all of them, but a good number of them.
I felt that the movie captured that element of cow boy life. It was tastefully
done. And of course, the sad outcome drove home the point to take advantage of
the moment so their will be no regrets in the future.
We all have experienced the addage-- 'why didn't I do it when I had the opportunity'. See the movie with an open mind and remember 'Beware to judge, unless ye be judged'. Is LOVE wrong?
Posted by: Ray Crenna | January 15, 2006 07:47 PM
What was with the blood or whatever the stain was on Jack's shirt sleeve - that was sort of hidden in his boyhood room closet? This scene was toward the end of the movie
Posted by: robin wood | January 15, 2006 08:03 PM
The scene near the end where Ennis [Ledger] found the bloody shirt refers to the first fight in the mountains between Ennis and Jack. It was a rememberance of the first time they were together. Ennis comments to Jack as they are riding out of the mountains that he can't believe he left his shirt behind...
Posted by: Robin | January 16, 2006 09:17 AM
I'm really delighted with the continued discussion of "Brokeback Mountain" here at Notablog, and I suspect it will continue for quite a while as people see the film, which goes into more general distribution. I'll be very interested to see how it is received at the Golden Globes this evening, as well.
I'm also very happy that there is some dissent here on the film; I have no objection whatsoever to those who have a different, even negative, view of the film. My objection is only to those who seek to use this forum to spew their hatred. Not here. Not in my house. Ever.
Nina, I'm not sure we have yet reached "cinematic maturity" in the depiction of a gay love story. But I do think these things happen in stages. I think "Brokeback," for example, is a long way from "Making Love," even though, when that film came out, most of us thought it was a breakthrough---however, "Hollywood-like" its treatment was.
James, Jose, and Ray: Thank you so much for your comments here; they were all very touching.
And Robin and Robin Wood: Thanks so much for your continued contributions.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 16, 2006 12:24 PM
I thought Brokeback Mountain was was of the best I've ever seen and I've been seeing films since about 1936! This was beautiful, honest, romantic and real. Thanks to all who had a hand in making this terrific movie and I'd love to see them again together in another film. The scenery in this one is breathtaking enough to make the whole thing worthwhile but it's not the only good thing. Thanks to all.
Posted by: Barbara | January 16, 2006 03:20 PM
Just a follow-up on the Golden Globes for those who haven't been kept up to speed on award season: "Brokeback" took home four Golden Globe awards (dramatic film; director; screenplay; song). See here.
It remains to be seen if this translates into Oscar nominations and wins.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 19, 2006 07:24 AM
Michael and I saw "Brokeback Mountain" last weekend, after a couple of weeks of its being released in San Diego. It was first booked at the multiplex art house in our city's "gay" neighborhood, but the demand to see it was such that its release was quickly expanded to the three other art houses in town, including the one remaining "single screen" theater in town, which is where we saw it.
We bought tickets on its first showing on a Saturday afternoon (my fiance even sacrificed watching the Seahawks playoff game to see it, hee hee). I was encouraged to see a line at the theater that included lots of other straight couples of all ages, including moms and dads with teenagers.
The movie was...well, heartbreaking. As I suspected it would be, this was one movie that was actually BETTER than the book. The original story was the skeleton (vivid imagery aside); this movie fleshed out the characters.
Days later, it haunts me, and I can't get the score out of my mind. I want to drag everyone I know to see it; it was that wonderful.
Posted by: Peri Sword | January 19, 2006 09:46 AM
I was listening to the radio station KMTT in Seattle yesterday as they discussed Brokeback Mountain. I was surprised at the amount of families that have viewed the movie together. One gentleman called to say he went with his wife and 15 year old daughter. They loved the movie. When asked about how his daughter reacted, he said "she cried buckets".
I too am haunted [still] by the movie. I would love to see it again. I'm waiting until it goes into wider release. However, I wouldn't sacrifice a Seahawks playoff game to go;)!
Chris - I was shocked while watching the Golden Globes that Heath Ledger didn't win for Best Actor. While I'm sure Philip Seymore Hoffman is deserving of this award, "Brokeback" was on a roll and I figured it would be a sweep. We shall see what happens at Oscar time...
Posted by: Robin | January 19, 2006 11:39 AM
Broke Back Mountain broke my heart. Long after the movie,the memory of it still lingers. It was truly refreshing to see the genuine protrayal of two manly men in love and not to have the scenes of that love compromised. I probably could have written it, with the exception of the ending. I wouldn't have written that ending. I believe we deserve a story with a more happy ending, even if there was some suspense thrown in, but I guess this type of situation is more in sync with reality. It's also probably what is needed to get more people thinking about how we as human beings torture each other. Just to think there is so much about our vulnerability as human animals that we cannot help,it's sad that we don't try to change the things that we do have control of. Like allowing people to be true to themselves and to have some peace in this world.
Posted by: Stephen Jackson | January 19, 2006 06:22 PM
We saw "Capote" about a month ago, and I must say that Phillip Seymour Hoffman did a hell of a job. He WAS Capote. I don't know the tricks the cameramen used to film the actor--who in reality is a big, lumbering, sprawling sort--to make him look like the small, dapper Truman Capote--but the actor, his mannerisms, the way he carried himself-- certainly convinced us of that reality as well. It was not simply a mimicry (I'm thinking of Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles here); he simply was Capote, and I was pleased his work was recognized.
On the other hand, Heath Ledger was a revelation as Ennis Del Mar.
Too bad there couldn't have been a tie!
Posted by: Peri Sword | January 20, 2006 10:11 AM
I went to see Broke Back yesterday and was very disappointed, I was expecting to see a romantic movie but instead saw two people thrown together by some force "lust" perhaps but definitely not love, and acting what acting no drama and no comedy either this was truly sad and a waste of time. I'll take your word that the film is better than the book and skip on that. In my opinion this is no "Making Love" by any stretch of the imagination. I thoroughly enjoyed that one!
Posted by: Belinda | January 20, 2006 03:38 PM
I thought maybe I should start a new thread, but I think this one will do just fine for the additional comments I wish to make on "Brokeback" and in reply to the additional points made by others.
First, I'm really glad to read your feedback on the film, Peri. And I'm glad to
hear about the diverse demographics at the showing you attended.
Like Robin, I'm pleasantly surprised by the families that are apparently viewing the film. And I too am hoping to see it again to catch what I missed the first time. (And, yes, Robin, congrats on the Seahawks. :) )
It remains to be seen about the Oscars, but I have heard that Philip Seymour Hoffman is quite superb as Capote.
Stephen, thank you too for your thoughts on the film. It's interesting that you should say "we deserve a story with a more happy ending..."
Indeed. While it's not unusual to see tragic love stories depicted on screen, it would, of course, be unusual to see mainstream dramatic films depict successful gay relationships.
I would not be surprised, however, if such tragedies continue to be produced for the silver screen. Ironically, just yesterday I read an article (not online, unfortunately) by Michael O'Keefe in the New York Daily News. O'Keefe cites comments by Outsports.com columnist Jim Buzinski, who writes here:
We have come a long way in the acceptance of gays in society, but sports still remain the final closet and the door is still firmly shut. As I watched "Brokeback Mountain," much of the time with a lump in my throat, I flashed to contemporary sports and wondered how many closeted jocks were living their own version of Ennis and Jack. It is still an amazing statistic -- There has never been a male athlete from a major pro team sport (NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball) who has come out while playing. The same is true of elite jocks at major college programs. We know they're out there (no one disputes this), but they remain as closeted as Ennis.
In the Daily News article, O'Keefe argues that "Brokeback" may pave the way for other films that deal specifically with gays and sports. Just as "Brokeback" queers the "Western," future films might very well drag other traditionally "macho" genres into engagement with gay themes.
Author Patricia Nell Warren, a gay activist and one of the first female marathoners, says there's renewed interest in bringing her 1974 novel The Front Runner to the big screen.
I read that book years and years ago, and loved it.
Paul Newman held the option on the book -- the story of a promising Olympian who falls in love with his track coach -- in the 1970s. But Newman dropped the project because he couldn't get a screenplay that satisfied his vision of the film. "The country was not in a place where people were thinking about a film like this in 1974," Warren says. "But because of 'Brokeback Mountain' and its box office success (the $14 million film has already grossed $33 million), people are willing to spend the money required for talent and production values. I think people are watching 'Brokeback Mountain' very closely."
I'd be very encouraged by a fine film adaptation of The Front Runner.
Finally, thanks Belinda for sharing with us your disappointment with "Brokeback." I do think that "lust" is portrayed in the film, but I also believe that the men clearly do love each other, and are tortured to tears because they can't spiritually consummate the relationship while having internalized all the poisons of homophobia.
BTW, I did enjoy "Making Love" when I first saw it (though back then, so many critics commented that the film had a "Hollywood" ending). And the title song is sure to make my "Song of the Day" in the coming months. But I tend to think that the depiction of the "love that dare not speak its name" into mainstream film is a kind of "social process," and it's going to take time to reach full maturation in that process.
In my view, "Brokeback" is a sign of progress in that evolution.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 23, 2006 08:05 PM
I saw Brokeback Mountain about a month ago here in Los Angeles and loved it. (I just discovered this thread today.)
What particularly moved me, as it moved others, was the film's portrayal of the genuine, romantic love between the two men. It seemed absolutely real to me. I think it's rare to see this kind of love portrayed so finely in ~any~ romantic movie.
The only difference of reaction I had to others who loved the movie is that I somehow did not experience it, ultimately, as saddening.
Certainly I cried tears, but as I walked out of the movie, after staying through the music of the credits for the sake of a smoother emotional landing, I felt inspired, and that sense of inspiration has stayed with me.
Perhaps this is because I am at a place in my life where I am just starting to re-open the door to love in my own life; for, though I understand the film was in fact a tragedy, what I personally experienced was that in the face of many obstacles, including psychological ones, these men knew love, and expressed and enjoyed that love passionately in their time together, and that love was wondrous, and I had the privilege to witness it.
Posted by: Andrew Schwartz | January 24, 2006 04:49 PM
The movie isn't playing in all of europe yet, expected half of february but it is on the news special for it is one of the first movies to be shown at the Rotterdam Filmfestival. Rumour has it that George C will be there also, I was touched by all the personal stories which can be red on the website of the movie. Makes you realise how well we are off in a country like Holland, where we have also a "biblebelt" but they seem to accept it for some sort of reason.
Posted by: Ronald Mulder | January 25, 2006 08:41 AM
can someone please tell me the dialogue of the last line. I liked the film a lot.. but man, I could hardly understand Heaths performance!!! I imagine that the last line was important.. but after rewinding it 19 times, I gave up!!!
Posted by: gina | January 25, 2006 01:19 PM
I believe the last line was: "Jack, I swear..."
But maybe I'm remembering that line from the book. :-)
Someone commented on the lack of gay love stories with a happy ending. I submit another Ang Lee directed movie, "The Wedding Banquet." I saw it years ago, and it portrayed the gay couple with humor and dignity, and it had a happy ending!
Posted by: Peri | January 26, 2006 10:03 AM
I believe the last line was: "Jack, I swear..."
But maybe I'm remembering that line from the book. :-)
Someone commented on the lack of gay love stories with a happy ending. I submit another Ang Lee directed movie, "The Wedding Banquet." I saw it years ago, and it portrayed the gay couple with humor and dignity, and it had a happy ending!
Posted by: Peri | January 26, 2006 10:21 AM
I saw the movie last weekend after learned that it won the Golden Globe and was directed by one of my favorite directors. I was dissappointed. I'd recommend a much much better film on the similar subject: Maurice (See IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093512/).
Posted by: Hong | January 26, 2006 10:38 AM
I saw Brokeback this past weekend. It has not been out of my thoughts at all during the past week. I have always liked Heath and Jake but they totally surpassed themselves. The Screen Actors Guild has their awards this weekend Jan 29th. That should be a very good clue to the Oscars. Actors have the largest branch in the Motion Picture Academy. Two actors competing against each other for the same award frequently lose. So it is better that Heath be nominated for actor and Jake for supporting actor.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | January 26, 2006 12:54 PM
Brokeback Mountain sucks. Oops, sorry about that guys.
Posted by: Jeb | January 26, 2006 01:47 PM
Andrew, thanks for those thoughts. Indeed, our response to art is so deeply personal insofar as any work of art, be it a film, novel, or musical composition, engages our very personal context.
Interesting about Holland, Ronald. And thanks for letting us know what you thought, Chris G. The film certainly seems to be having that effect on a lot of people.
Glad Peri gave you that last line, Gina.
With regard to other films portraying gay relationships in a positive light: My point was not that these films don't exist. It is that there are very few mainstream commercial films doing so. There are plenty of "independent" films (and even TV series) that have been produced, however, which show a wide spectrum of gay and lesbian relationships. (And I loved "Maurice," Hong!)
Now, Jeb, I chuckled at your quip, but, honestly: Did you see the film? Because I'd be curious to know why you thought it sucked.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 26, 2006 02:37 PM
Oh, I just want to clarify: I have nothing against the acting, directing, cinematography, etc., all the technical aspects of the movie. I wouldn't even mind the ending. It is the story that lacks...spirit. There is basically no awakening, no realization, and no progress in the characters. Yes, there is love and passion, at an almost animalistic level. I was utterly unsatisfied. Besides, there is not nearly enough nude scenes for an "R" rated movie! ;-)
Posted by: Hong | January 26, 2006 04:17 PM
If you're willing to consider a different perspective: I experienced much awakenening and progress in the characters, and this is what inspired me personally in the film.
Both characters went from being in denial about their homosexuality at the beginning of the story, to being conscious of it and able to express it in a meaningful and passionate way as the story progressed.
Both characters went from being unconscious of their capacity to love at the beginning of the film, to being awakened to love as the film progressed. (And I found their love far from merely animalistic; to me the men truly were in love with each other as full human beings.)
Ennis did ~not~ awaken to the possibility of living a life in full integrity with his homosexuality -- but Jack ~did~ awaken to such a possibility, even if he was, tragically, unable to achieve such a life, given his attachment to Ennis.
For sure, the characters didn't make it all the way to heaven, but at least they advanced from the hell of full repression to the purgatory of expressing their love in hiding.
There's still a lot of pain in purgatory, I know, but I see heroism in the advance from hell, and to me it's progress.
Posted by: Andrew Schwartz | January 27, 2006 04:19 PM
I saw Brokeback last weekend. I haven't been able to get out of my mind. I plan to see it again.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | January 28, 2006 12:28 PM
Hong: Regarding your disappoitment with the dearth of nude scenes in Brokeback--when I hear the Idiot Gibson (John), fret about the so-called "ick" factor in a movie he hasn't even bothered to see--well, heck! There really wasn't that much sex to see! There are more sex scenes in any number of "straight" love stories, no? This right-wing hue and cry over the "sex scenes" in Brokeback is clearly ridiculous and uninformed.
I do take issue with your contention that the characters did not grow. Andrew said it much more eloquently than I can, so, I'll let what he said stand without any further comments from me.
Oh, and Robin, if you are out there, congrats on your Seahawks! Good luck at the Big Party.
Posted by: Peri Sword | January 28, 2006 12:53 PM
My partner Peri and I saw Brokeback Mountain two weeks ago. She has posted her thoughts numerous times on this thread and now it's my turn.
Yes, the movie is heartbreaking, yet I found it ultimately uplifting. The growth in the character of Ennis is remarkable. His visit with Jack's parents is evidence of Ennis's acceptance of his own sexuality and an understanding of his deep love for Jack.
Posted by: Mick Russell | January 28, 2006 05:18 PM
The Director's Guild award was won by Ang Lee for Brokback. The Screen Actors are tonight on TNT. The Oscar nominations come out tomorrow or Tuesday. If Ledger and Williams get nominated will they be first husband and wife nominated in the same year.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | January 29, 2006 01:09 PM
The cast of Brokeback did not win any awards at the SAG awards. If I were asked to guess a reason it would be the youth of the cast.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | January 29, 2006 10:14 PM
***HELP??? Great movie. I did not take the time to read all the blogs above but did anyone notice in the movie the ligends on actors Ledger's hand when he hugged partner in the last scene together at Broke Back Mountain??? Was that to imply that he had contracted aids from his long time promiscuous partner? Please let me know if you noticed this subtle detail in the movie.
Regards to all.
Posted by: Chris | January 30, 2006 12:34 AM
Chris S. & Peri - Thanks for the well wishes regarding the Seahawks. After 3 decades of being a fan, it's a wonderful feeling to know I won't be watching the big game just to see the commercials!
I watched part of the SAG awards last night and it appears that Phillip Seymour Hoffman may take home all the best actor awards for Capote. It least it is well deserved.
One other note: After 30 years the great state of Washington passed a gay civil
rights bill involving protection for employment, housing and insurance. There
was the usual hue and cry about this bill instituting gay marrage...
While I don't believe that Brokeback had a direct effect on the vote, I do believe in a collective consciousness and I wonder if the movie had an indirect effect.
Posted by: Robin | January 30, 2006 10:03 AM
Perhaps, I did somewhat lost my perspective regarding this movie. We need to consider those two cowboys' background, the time they lived in, and the social environment, etc. But they did not and could not rise above their surroundings. They were completely helpless in the wake of their "awakening", and could do little about their love and passion. Their short annual meetings over the 20 years time struck me as rather pathetic. They lived a brutally repressed life.
I was disappointed perhaps because I had expected too much.
Posted by: Hong | January 30, 2006 11:41 AM
I'll have additional comments shortly on the additional posts here; for now, FYI... "Brokeback Mountain" leads the pack with 8 Oscar nominations.
See the full list of nominations at the Oscar site.
And, as predicted, Jake Gyllenhaal got a "Supporting Actor" nomination... like he did for SAG. I'm still astonished that, as a co-star with Ledger, he qualifies as a "Supporting Actor," but... the studios sometimes do this, as Chris G. suggests, so that it maximizes the potential of each actor to win an award.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 31, 2006 08:48 AM
Chris; You stole my thunder. Brokeback did very well. I repeat my question; does anyone know if any other couple have been nominated in the same year and for the same movie. I have doubts that any of the acting nominess will win because of their youth. It still may win the most Oscars.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | January 31, 2006 09:28 AM
I am so looking forward to seeing this movie. However, I guess I will be going without my husband. He said he would watch it at home but not at the theatre. My sister saw it and tells me it is a beautiful love story. How could it not be? Look at the 2 gorgeous actors chosen for this story. What good comes from hate and homophobia. Only through love and acceptance can we truly change the world. I believe that is the one true message. If this movie comes home to roost then so be it.
Posted by: Rhonda | January 31, 2006 09:55 AM
Let me answer my own question. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were nominated for Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe. Taylor won.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | January 31, 2006 11:49 AM
I just recently saw Brokeback mountain and I have to say I think it was one of the best movie's that I have ever seen. I never wanted it to end. After watching this film I was filled with so many emotions. I find that I can't stop talking about it either. To me it was a great love story, sad if you really think about it, but wonderful all in the same. My only complaint is that I felt Heath mumbled alot and was very hard to understand. I am still trying to figure out what he say in the last scene of the movie before the credits come up. But other then that anyone who loves a love story should go and see this movie.
Posted by: marlo | January 31, 2006 02:33 PM
I'm really enjoying the posts here. Thanks especially to Hong, Andrew, Robin, Peri, Rhonda, and Chris G (and yesss!!!, knew the answer to that "Virginia Woolf" question). Marlo, check out Peri's post on January 26, 2006 at 10:21 AM, for those last lines of the film.
As for the other Chris---I don't recall any lesions at all on Ledger's hand, and don't recall any AIDS subtext at all.
For those who don't think the film uplifting enough: Let me go the academic route, and suggest that you get your hands on Kirsti Minsaas's JARS article, "The Role of Tragedy in Ayn Rand's Fiction," not because it focuses on Rand's work, per se, but because it focuses on the cathartic significance of portraying tragedy.
More soon enough...
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | January 31, 2006 09:36 PM
"North Break Mountain" is a genuine MASTERPIECE? It tells a story of Love and Friendship / Lust and Deceipt? I think if anyone cannot identify with the human condition/subject contained therein - then they are Not Human
Posted by: David | February 1, 2006 05:26 PM
Many years ago I read The Frontrunner. I loved and read it several times that year. Sometime I attended a gay literary discussion where I was the only person who liked it. I later discovered the book The Catchtrap by Marion Zimmer Bradley. This is the story of two trapzee artists who are "gay". I always thought that was the better story. Has anyone else read The Catchtrap? What do you think.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | February 2, 2006 08:35 PM
Chris G: Never read the Catchtrap, but I read "Fag Hag" by Robert Rodi years ago, and it featured the wonderful character Lloyd, a gay libertarian Rand admirer as the antagonist (the protagonist/title character was not admirable; she was a pathetic, manipulative, crazy person). It wasn't a particularly deep read, but it amused me; it portrayed Lloyd in a positive light and piqued my interest in Objectivism. It had cinematic elements. Maybe a little to sitcomesque, though.
Now I've really strayed off topic.
Posted by: Per | February 4, 2006 03:13 AM
I've never read "Claptrap," but loved "The Front Runner." As for "Fag Hag": I read it in preparation for my essay, "The Illustrated Rand" and also my monograph Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation. Quite an interesting read, indeed!
Meanwhile, I have yet to read Annie Proulx "Brokeback" short story; I now have it, and hope to get to it in the coming weeks.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | February 4, 2006 11:28 PM
It's Catch Trap not Clap trap. Please it deserves better. I love this tread, thank you!
Posted by: Chris Grieb | February 5, 2006 11:16 AM
ROFL LOL ... forgive me. I meant "Catch Trap."
Oh this gave me a much-needed laugh on a morning dominated by news shows. LOL
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | February 5, 2006 11:20 AM
I saw it over the weekend--finally. I had read the story a couple of times... and listened to the audiobook (I'm a huge Proulx fan) and was pleasantly surprised that the movie was fairly faithful to the author's intent. Any embellishments (of which I thought there were few) just made the story a bit more user friendly for folks not used to the sparse subtlety of Proulx's writing.
I have been quite interested in people's negative comments on the movie. One such comment was that the character of Jack Twist was a seducer who ruined Ennis's life. You definitely would not get that impression from Proulx's story, to the contrary, it was a story about two men who were very much life partners and who loved each other deeply. I did not get that impression of Jack as a "seducer" from the film, but my perceptions may have been skewed by my familiarity with the original story.
The more frequent negative that I hear is that the movie is about "lust" not "love." That one gives me a good chuckle because, realistically, I think that ALL romance stories are primarily about lust, if you want to look at it objectively. (Think Romeo & Juliet, Lancelot & Guinevere, etc.) Brokeback Mountain, in which the lovers endure for two decades despite societal, familial and psychological pressures is much more of a "love" story than most.
Posted by: Valda | February 6, 2006 03:30 PM
I have not seen the movie myself (ironically, though gay, I have little interest
in gay themed movies and books). But I find it amusing to hear criticisms of the
movie because its "cowboys" are not of the John Wayne/Gary Cooper archetype.
John Wayne certainly would not have been tolerant of gay cowboys. And this movie
is not set in the present day wear homosexuality is much more tolerated. Back
then, one could be killed for being queer.
The situation is much better today, but we still have our incidents of people being attacked and murdered for being gay. We are still dealing with the transition from the idea of homosexuality as moral depravity to mental illness ( and it was Thomas Szasz who lobbied to have homosexuality removed as a mental illness from the DSM.)
Not only was there the threat of physical violence, but more powerful was the acceptance of the unearned guilt, as Lindsay Perigo so eloquently put it in Chris Sciabarra's powerful monograph on Objectivism and Homosexuality. Remember, the characters in the movie are NOT Objectivists, they are more likely to be of the Christian redneck variety than the John Galt type. Growing up with the stigma of steers vs. queers and the immorality of such a lifestyle, not to mention the stereotype of the limpwristed fag, many men of stronger stature have repressed their sexuality, or even killed themselves. And as Chris documents, the situation is no better among the "enlightened" of the followers of a selfish philosophy such as Objectivism, given that ARI still follows the mental illness view of homosexuality.
Having been in the transition stage myself of dealing with my own sexuality through the lense of Christianity and Objectivism, and finding my nature at odds with my accepted morality, I'd prefer to see the movie, from what I've heard about it, through the tragic lense used in WE THE LIVING: the fact that some men accept their sexuality successfully is an exception similar to Kira's escape from Soviet Russia, where the moral system denies men access to their true natures through intimidation, electroshock therapy, ostracism, and death.
Posted by: Joe | February 7, 2006 11:50 AM
Thanks for the additional contributions from Valda and Joe.
I should note that "Brokeback" has brought a lot of comedians some great opportunities for joke-telling (though the Vice Presidential gun accident might give "Brokeback" a run for its money in the joke department). Some comic take-offs have been too predictable; others have been a bit more creative. If you haven't seen any of the spoofs on the film, take a look here (this one links to a "Top Gun" take-off; others are listed on the side bar to the right). Hat tip to Chip!
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | February 13, 2006 06:25 AM
I understand from friends that recently attended the redneck comedian Larry the Cable Guy concert, that he has devoted a whole section of his routine to Brokeback. Whether it's funny or not remains to be seen.
I'd have to agree that the Dick Cheney gun incidence should provide comic relief in the face of the ever increasing scandals that plague the White House. I await Jon Stewart's take on the gun toting VP.
My new favorite bumper sticker: Cheney/Satan '08...
Posted by: Robin | February 13, 2006 11:34 AM
Brokeback Mountain is not in the first place a movie about gays. It is a monumental film in all of its aspects (one that will most certainly join the league of the greatest movies ever made) to say the least. For me Brokeback Mountain is really about the hopeless struggle of people trying (needing) to break taboes and who are consequently crushed by a society that is too fearful to even beginning to understand what the taboe breakers motivates. We all remember the plight of king Oedipus who broke two taboes at the same time and was punished in a predictable way. I truly enjoyed the film and it touched a raw nerve. After leaving the theatre it took me a while before I could even talk about it. This movie has the potential to catalyse a societal change. Let's hope it does.
Posted by: Patrick Bols | February 14, 2006 12:03 AM
Saw the movie out of curiosity, went to the men's room after it was over and vomited. The idea of this being a good movie sickens me, of course I'm straight and that may be one reason. Forever more will I look at "Cowboys" in a new light..when John Wayne says he was in the saddle to long maybe he was talking about something other than a saddle, or when the bad guy says up with your hands or I'll plug you, he dosent mean with a bullet. A story like this makes most Americans sick, let the fringe groups and the deviats enjoy it for what it is, a gay love affair by two degenerate men, but please, it's not a film to please most people. I wonder what Hoppy would say or maybe Roy Rodgers..who knows, maybe Dale Evans was a drag queen..Ya Hoo!
Posted by: Keith | February 17, 2006 01:07 PM
I have to say I was very disappointed in the film myself. I know Chris will want to know why. So I will try to post a longer message as to why that is in the next few days. I want to think about it carefully as I write it as I don't want to ruin anything for those who have not yet seen the film and wish to do so. One problem in expressing this disappointment is that it is mostly about the plot itself and that makes it difficult to discuss without spoiling it for some.
Posted by: Watcher | February 17, 2006 01:17 PM
I just saw Brokeback for the 3rd time. This film requires multiple viewing to
fully appreciate the nuance of the performances/story/filming. I fully agree
with other comments regarding Maurice, the Merchant/Ivory film with Hugh Grant
and James Wilby. Wonderful character study. Both films, in my opinion, must be
viewed with the time and place in mind. I thought Brokeback conveyed the
loneliness often felt in gay relationships due to social pressure to conform. It
never has been easy for any of the community to be accepted simply as human
beings. We are most often considered with the "gay/lesbian, etc." adjective
preceding the notion of person, not simply as a person. These films help to
convey the difficulties faced. All exposure in the artistic media helps to this
Posted by: Tim | February 20, 2006 07:57 PM
I saw this film last night and cannot get it out of my mind. I felt so sad to think of the lives which were destroyed because of society's intolerence. Jack and Enis did have 100% enjoyment of their times together tho. But did Jack's wife have anything to do with Jack's death. Did she have him killed because of his relationship with her friend's husband?
Posted by: irene | February 20, 2006 11:50 PM
Getting back into the swing of things, let me first offer my condolences to Robin and all the other Seahawks fans. (And, yes, Robin, that Cheney incident has certainly had "legs" for many comedians!)
Patrick, I don't know if "Brokeback" qualifies as one of the greatest films ever made�having seen the film only once, it is difficult for me to assess it with that broad scope in mind. (In fact, I'm impressed with Tim's comments precisely because he has seen the film three times now; I agree completely that thought-provoking films are best viewed multiple times, because each time one views such a film, different layers of appreciation and meaning may emerge.)
And there is no doubt that "Brokeback" is one of the most provocative films ever made, as this very thread suggests. And I do agree that film, and art in general, can be very culturally and, perhaps, politically influential, in the long run.
Watcher, I will be very interested to hear why you were disappointed in the film. I don't think it "out of bounds" to be disappointed, given all the hype and the fact that the film runs at a deliberately slower speed than most. But if your disappointment relates to plot, simply warn us, prior to posting, with the label: "SPOILER ALERT." I think enough people have now seen the film to want to share in their assessments of it.
SPOILER ALERT FOR THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS: Irene, as to your questions, I read an interview with the screenwriters who both suggested that they left the ending of the film a bit ambiguous. In the February 28th issue of THE ADVOCATE, Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana (the screenwriters) have some very interesting things to say. You can read that interview here. Here's the relevant excerpt:
Ennis is convinced that Jack was murdered with a tire iron. I don�t necessarily believe it.
McMurtry: It�s what Ennis is feeling at the moment. But Lureen�s explanation is just as good. A lot of tires blow up and kill people.
Do people hope Jack wasn�t murdered? What do they believe?
Ossana: We�ve been asked that [in every interview]. You can�t believe the things we�ve heard�for example, did Lureen�s father have him killed? A reporter walked up to me and said, "What really happened? I need to know." I said, "What do you think?" He told me, and I said, "Well, if that works for you, then good."
Oh, that�s the most hateful writer answer.
Ossana: But even Annie will tell you it�s ambiguous to her. When you see that [flash] on the screen, we tell people that [we don�t know] what actually happened to Jack. But it�s what Ennis thinks, and he�s been set up to think that by his entire past. This was his biggest fear, that something would happen. And the tragedy is multilayered. If Jack was killed that way, the guilt that Ennis must feel�maybe if he�d taken him up on it, this wouldn�t have happened. But also the fact that he�s not sure. What is more tragic than not knowing how your loved one has died?
There�s "don�t ask, don�t tell" for you.
Ossana: So when he goes to Jack�s parents��
McMurtry: It�s when Ennis goes there that it becomes a great movie, that it becomes a tragedy.
Ossana: The father�s talking about Jack�"Ennis Del Mar, he used to say." The camera turns to Ennis and you see this little faint smile on his face, �cause Jack was talking about him. Then the father says, "And then Jack was gonna bring another fellow up here." And you go back to Ennis and his smile is gone. That�s when he realizes there was somebody else. That hurts too. But he knows in his innards that it�s his own fault. He can�t blame Jack for that anymore. And then he goes up to Jack�s room and he finds his old shirt hanging tucked inside Jack�s, and he realizes how much that man loved him�how deeply he loved him from the get-go.
Read the whole interview; it's worth the time.
END SPOILER ALERT
BTW, for those who did not know, the film earned the top prize at the BAFTA awards (the British Oscars, as they are called). See here. It was a very entertaining show; it was shown stateside on "BBC America." Check your local listings in case they decide to repeat it.
Finally, let me address Keith. I deleted some comments above by a gent named Jeffrey because they were extremely offensive. I don't think your comments are offensive, per se; they seem to be an expression of your genuine disgust with the film and its subject matter.
But it leaves me very perplexed. Gay people have been seeing men and women do it on screen for eons; I don't recall a single gay man or gay woman ever telling me that they have had to vomit after watching straight love scenes. I really don't understand that phenomenon among some straight men�many of whom would find woman-on-woman love scenes to be a turn on, btw. So it's not the phenomenon of same-sex affection that causes this reaction. (And in any event, I think "reactions" per se are not "caused" necessarily by anything on screen; they are deeply personal and a reflection of many internal dynamics, including values, sense of life, and even one's mood.)
I don't think, however, that one can root your reaction in your comment: "of course I'm straight and that may be one reason." Clearly, many straight women and straight men have seen this film (some of them have even written about it here at Notablog) and they have not had the same reaction. And with the film now generating box office receipts of $72+ million, it is exceedingly difficult to chalk up all of those receipts to "degenerates" flocking to the theaters.
I'm not looking to psychoanalyze you, but I just don't think the reaction you describe is determined by your sexual orientation. Aesthetic reaction is, as I suggest, much more complex than that.
I also don't believe that a single film depicting two "gay cowboys" should, could, or would have any effect whatsoever on our views of other "cowboys" or "cowboy movies."
In any event, if you are so inclined to address these issues respectfully, I'm sure Notablog readers would find the discussion enlightening.
Thanks again to all the posters.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | February 22, 2006 08:19 AM
This morning I was listening to a caller on my favorite Seattle radio station. She asked if the DJ's knew where to get the Willie Nelson song that played on the Brokeback sound track. The station played a portion of the song [as it is only available at i-tunes]. I only vaguely remember the song as I was too caught up in the visuals. After hearing the song again [Willie only performs this song in concert] I did remember the melody was similar to Mama's Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys and did remember the word "queer" in the lyrics. In fact, the lyrics go something like, "the cowboys that brag the most about the women they sleep with, are the ones that are most queer". This song was written long before the movie came out.
To get to my point in a very round about way, the the song reminded me of the post by Ray here regarding male ranch hands pairing up on a regular basis. Hmmm, this was a well kept secret. Perhaps this is what really hits a nerve with the moral police; that not all cowboys were of the Hollywood sterotype variety [of course this was at a time when the "indians" were played by white actors]. My hope is that we can learn to live and let live.
To Chris S. - Thanks for the condolences! As longtime fans of the Hawks, we are still hurting over the unfairness of it all. [And bless Steve Young for lambasting the NFL on ESPN].
Posted by: Robin | February 22, 2006 04:10 PM
Tim mentioned the movie "Maurice" again, which made me thinking...Brokeback Mountain is like "Maurice" with two Clives and without an Alec, and with James Wilby (Maurice) turning into a Clive instead of an Alec. How dreadful would that be for "Maurice"?!
Posted by: Hong | February 23, 2006 09:11 PM
I have just been through a divorce. Man and wife, hetrosexual 20 yr marriage. Horror ending. There was so much in that movie that I felt that I had lived. The gender of the two main characters is irellevant. The emotion, the pain , the conflict are all real regardless of sex. Obviously the era and the homosexuality played a part in the story line. but the pain, the awful need to give up a memory or experience that you know is controlling your life. But the intense pleasure that memory gives you. It can happen to anybody.
A fantastic film.
Posted by: cys | February 25, 2006 04:25 AM
I believe the last line was "dear god I swear".
I believe a promise to full fill Jacks wish.
Posted by: Deepwoods | February 26, 2006 11:35 AM
We are a week away from the Oscars. My issue of EW with predictions is out. The predict Picture,Director, and Screenplay being won by Brokback. That is my sense. The actors are all young.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | February 26, 2006 03:06 PM
Posted by: John | February 27, 2006 09:26 PM
Ah, so, we have another homophobic asshole posting to Notablog.
John, your post has been deleted, and you have been banned from my site.
Go off into the sunset and leave my blog alone.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | February 27, 2006 09:31 PM
I have observed an interesting phomoenhon about Brokeback. I have talked to two young men who have told me they don't intend to see Brokeback becauses relatives of theirs were cowboys. I am courios to know if anyone else has run into this problem. The comments on Brokeback are really enjoyable and thank you again for them. This last to Chris S.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | February 28, 2006 02:20 PM
What promise to Jack did Ennis fulfill? Jack's parents wouldn't give Jack's cremains to Ennis to throw to the winds of Brokeback mountain. I can only assume they buried the cremains in the family plot, as they had planned. Poor Ennis was too frightened to commit to Jack while Jack lived...sadly, the only "promise" was in the past...like the final sentences of the "Great Gatsby"--I'll have to paraphrase because I'm too lazy and time constrained to look them up--we are boats against the tide, aiming ceaselessly towards the past.
Posted by: Peri Sword | March 1, 2006 10:03 AM
Chris G -
As I've mentioned before, I've spent a fair amount of time around the modern day cowboy. Being that most are from conservative backgrounds, I can't imagine any of them going to see this movie.
As far as the young men you spoke with about seeing Brokeback, I'm guessing that they have a romanticized idea of the cowboys that were in the family. Heaven knows we wouldn't want to think that old uncle Harry might not have been Gary Cooper come to life.
Even though we've come a long way in my 49 years, we have a long way to go. Many people STILL think that somehow gay is contagious...
Posted by: Robin | March 1, 2006 10:54 AM
Most schools would be proud to have a former student go on to achieve success. Not so with Santa Fe Christian School in Solana Beach, California. Here's what Santa Fe Christian headmaster Jim Hopson (as quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune March 1, 2006) had to say about former Santa Fe Christian student Michelle Williams
�Michelle doesn't represent the values of this institution. We would not approve of her movies and TV shows (including the teen drama �Dawson's Creek�). We'd not like to be tied to 'Brokeback Mountain.'
�I hope we offered her something in life. But she made the kinds of choices of which we wouldn't approve. 'Brokeback Mountain' basically promotes a lifestyle we don't promote. It's not the word of God.�
How nice :(
Posted by: Mick Russell | March 2, 2006 01:22 AM
Chris G., thanks for your observations. I wasn't aware of that phenomenon of which you speak. Thanks to both Peri and Robin, for these additional comments as well. And, I'm sorry to say, Mick... nothing in that quote surprises me.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | March 2, 2006 07:31 AM
The Oscars are tomorrow(March 5). Brokeback is strong for picture,director, and adapted screenplay. One of supporting acting awards is given early and if it is actor and Jake should win I think it will be a sweep. If it is actress and Michelle wins it will be a good night for Brokeback. Whatever happens try and find the tackiest gown. Maybe Richard Gere will try and do a mind meld with PRC's leader.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | March 4, 2006 10:37 AM
hi i just want to say to all the straight people that hate gay people. Im a tax paying hard working person just like the rest of u straight males. Im glad that for once that the gay life style is being shown. Not every gay person is about drugs partying and doing any one we can. My family has totally stopped speaking to me since coming out in 2002. I lost everything to be who i am and most of the time thats being alone. But living a lie kills u slowy day by day. This movie shows that because love is love and sometimes u can not help who u fall in love with. I hope that this movie will help my family see that im a person with feelings and hopes and dreams just like them. I was so afraid that the movie would not be allowed in Oklahoma. But when i saw that it was playing i had to see it. I cried all the way home and all the next day because before i came out i was enis and now i no longer want to be someone whom im not. I do not in any way try to make straight people uncomfortable and i do not try to hit on every straight man i see. Sorry guys but we are not trying to convert u. just wanted to say please be kind to others because u do not know what they have been through to come out. Ive lost my family the only people ive ever cared about because of hate.
Posted by: brian | March 5, 2006 07:35 PM
Brian, hopefully your family will come around one day. Just keep living life. I wish you well :-)
Posted by: Mick | March 5, 2006 11:36 PM
I'm disappointed with Brokeback's failure to win Best Picture. I have not seen Crash so I won't comment on it. I must say I didn't see any tacky gowns. Richard Gere wasn't a presenter. I don't expect that the radio stations I listen will play the winning song. I thought John Stewart was enjoyable.
Posted by: Chris Grieb | March 6, 2006 07:10 AM
Well...that "Pimp" song was terrible. It wasn't even good rap. Was it intended as satire? I sincerely hope so, although watching that group Mafia 6 or whoever they were, collect their award, I'm not so sure.
Except for that quixotic song choice, the Academy played it safe again.
Posted by: Peri | March 6, 2006 09:14 AM
Just thought I would express that I feel that Brokeback was not so much rated on the picture itself but because of all the talk about it being a gay movie that it did not get judged fairly and I belive that is why it did not win. How would all the homophobes be able to work today knowing that a love story that just happen to have 2 men possibly win. Well it didnt and it might not deserved to have won but I just think that because of all the talk about it some of which I think came from people who didnt even see it ruined it. My hat goes off anyway to all involved. I felt so much for the movie and each time I see it I feel a different emotion.
Posted by: marlo | March 6, 2006 10:23 AM
I am gay. Where's the reality? Love in the gay community? You're kidding... Gays
in the real Brokeback world would cruise until they meet, clandestinely, inside
the local public outhouse, or a barn. At first they'd do show-and-tell and then,
weeks later, maybe there'd a full gay fledged romp. After a while, each party
would move on. At best, if they stuck together, they form and OPEN relationship,
a staple in my world. Gay fantasy is all this movie is about.
Personally, I wish the characters were straight because it's more realistic. Just tellin' the truth
Posted by: John | March 6, 2006 08:44 PM
I have mixed emotions about BB not winning the best picture Oscar. First of all,
I am happy that the movie has achieved the success it has based on its merits as
a movie, a work of art. Take Maurice, the Merchant/Ivory film, a brilliant
masterpiece and work of art about a failed relationship. This film won best
actor awards in Vienna for Hugh Grant and James Wilby, and best director for
James Ivory. But in America at the time (1980s) the film was only nominated for
best costume design, a travesty. So, in essence, the nation has come a long way
recognizing a quality film about a subject that many cannot accept. Therefore,
there has been progress.
However, on a recent trip back to the US (I live abroad) I couldn't help but notice the amount of BB jokes, parodies, etc., soley because it is a "gay" love story. In essence, it is a story about two star-crossed lovers, whose relationship was doomed due to social and personal circumstances. Isn't this the same theme as Romeo and Juliet (brilliant Franco Zeffirelli film of the '80s)? So, American society still can't see gay folk simply as people, which is the main reason I believe Hollywood chickened out with the best picture oscar going to Crash. America just can't handle the fact that people are people, period.
Posted by: tim | March 9, 2006 05:07 AM
The spammers are having fun posting to this thread, and if that continues, I'll be forced to shut this thread down. Before doing that, I'd like to post a few thoughts in response to all those who have posted since March 4th.
Brian: Your comments were a painful reminder of how difficult it still is for people of a different sexual orientation to gain acceptance even among their loved ones. With Mick, I too wish you well in your own family situation.
As for the Oscars: I only saw "Brokeback," "Crash," and "Capote." I did not see the other nominated films, so I don't think it would be fair of me to declare that "Brokeback" was the best picture of the five nominations. (I do believe that Hoffman earned his Oscar for a terrific performance as "Capote.") I thought "Crash" was very thought-provoking, though I thought it was, in some ways, a retread of the path traveled by the film, "Traffic." Different subject matter, but similar style. Among the films I saw, I think "Brokeback" made the deepest impact on me, and I would have been inclined to vote for it. On that subject, let me recommend a very fine and thought-provoking essay by David Mayer: "A Tale of Two Movies." Again, I have no way to comment on "Munich," but David's points about "Brokeback" are well taken (and not only because he cites me!).
Like Marlo, I do wonder if "Brokeback" was 'done in' by the hype. And, Tim, thanks also for your very interesting comments on the film.
Finally, as for your very interesting comments, John: I'm certainly aware of the reality you describe as a very visible segment of the "gay community." But I don't think "Brokeback" soft-soaked "gay life." In fact, the character Jack cruises for other guys in Mexico, as I recall. But in "Brokeback," the reality being addressed was not so much the cruising and polyamorous connections of gay men. The film explored, instead, the tragedy of the closet, of living one's life without authenticity, thereby damaging one's self and everybody else in the process. That is a reality which needed to be addressed, and I think "Brokeback" did it very well.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | March 9, 2006 09:14 AM
The spammers won't let go of this ... so I'm going to close this thread.
We'll have the occasion to revisit these themes again soon... so stay tuned to Notablog!
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | March 9, 2006 02:45 PM
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
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.
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!
And damn both of you for bringing this to my attention a week after I ordered a
load of books on Rand ;-)
But just started on "Norms of Liberty" and awaiting a load of JARS I think I can wait for a while before ordering this.
Posted by: Mattias $ | December 13, 2005 11:57 AM
Excellent mention, Chris. By the way, The Atlasphere plans to run a few chapter excerpts of the book and bring it to the attention of fans of Rand's fiction. Just watch www.TheAtlasphere.com for details.
Posted by: Jason Dixon | December 13, 2005 02:06 PM
The book is also aviable from The Objectivist Center. I have already ordered it from them. Chris
Posted by: Chris Grieb | December 13, 2005 02:29 PM
Hey Chris, that's good to know. I just saw an advertisement for the book in the new TOC book catalogue.
Speaking of TOC, people should check out their newly designed website here.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 17, 2005 08:53 PM
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: 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: 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: 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
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.
Picture of Bill: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ABPub/2004/08/16/2002006758.jpg
Posted by: Kenneth R. Gregg | December 10, 2005 04:57 AM
Though I didn't know Bill Bradford personally I am familiar with some of his work, and his passing is indeed saddening. My deepest sympathies to all who are mourning his loss on a personal level.
Posted by: Matthew Humphreys | December 10, 2005 06:42 AM
This is dreadful news. I had heard that Bill had been ill.
Liberty magazine is a very valuable asset for the libertarian movement, not only in the US but across the world. I look forward to issues landing on my doormat every month.
Bill has been kind enough to publish several of my articles under my own name and psueudonym. He was always easy to deal with.
I will make a personal effort to send in new material and support Stephen Cox and the magazine's team. We owe it to Bill to ensure that Liberty thrives even though he has left us.
Please pass on my deepest sympathies to every one at Liberty and Bill's family. He will be sadly missed.
Posted by: Kenneth Irvine | December 10, 2005 09:37 AM
My condolences. I posted the following at L&P, but thought I should post it here also:
That's really a shame. I didn't know him personally, although we corresponded once or twice, but his _Liberty_ magazine has been a great asset to libertarianism. The idea that there ought to be intra-libertarian discussion and a magazine devoted to it was a valuable one. He was clearly a principled and dedicated person, with a true commitment to liberty. I know Steve Cox will do a great job, but Bradford will be sorely missed. I remember one time when I was still in grad school, Bradford ran some poll on most influential libertarians, and it occurred to me that he should have been on the list. Too bad. My condolences to those of you who knew him personally.
Posted by: Aeon J. Skoble | December 10, 2005 10:04 PM
Chris; Bill Bradford will be missed. Liberty is a mixed bag but more good than bad. I hope those close to Bradford go well through this trying time. Chris Grieb
Posted by: Chris Grieb | December 11, 2005 10:24 AM
I only met Bill Bradford briefly at an LP convention or two, and exchanged a few notes with him by email. But I strongly respected his initiative and perserverence in founding Liberty magazine and making a going venture out of it.
As another person posting here alluded to, Liberty has served an invaluable purpose in providing a communication forum within the movement. Bill could be a little hard on the Libertarian Party at times, but his criticisms were generally well-taken, and always written with the recognition that the party's doings matter and are newsworthy. One also sensed behind those criticisms his strong desire for the libertarian cause he cared so much about to succeed.
Not only was Bill from all external appearances a capable reporter, editor and manager, but I frequently found his pieces to be some of the more thoughtful and insightful reads in Liberty, which is no small praise considering the quality of many of the articles therein.
I too offer my sympathy to his friends and family, and the assurance that the world is a better place and the libertarian movement a stronger one thanks to Bill's efforts.
Yours in liberty,
((( Starchild )))
Outreach Director, Libertarian Party of San Francisco
Posted by: Starchild | December 11, 2005 09:44 PM
You're an atheist, so I'm curious: what's with the "rest in peace" stuff?
Posted by: Jon | December 11, 2005 11:19 PM
I'm sorry to hear that. Please accept my condolences.
Posted by: Technomaget | December 11, 2005 11:31 PM
Folks, I do hope the comments keep a comin'. For now, I'd just like to add a few additional thoughts. I've been asked to write a commemoration for the upcoming issue of Liberty, so I won't review all the things I hope to discuss there. I will be writing about my personal and professional relationship with Bill; the downs, the ups, and the zig-zags.
Let me just assure the world---those who are fans and those who are detractors---that The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies lives. I thank those who are fans for your many offlist notes of support. We're here to stay.
I did want to follow-up here, however, based on some of the comments.
First, thanks Ken G., for posting that photo.
Matthew and Technomaget, thanks for your good thoughts.
Ken I., I'm sure Stephen will be profoundly grateful for your continued support of the magazine. I'm sure Bill's family and friends appreciate your good wishes.
Aeon, thanks for your personal condolences here and at L&P. I agree that "intra-libertarian discussion" is extremely important and very valuable, and that Liberty has done it well.
Of course, I agree with Chris G. that the "intra-libertarian discussion" can sometimes be a "mixed bag"; like the best of thought-provoking magazines, Liberty publishes pieces that will both inspire and infuriate. And, from my perspective, that can be a good thing.
Starchild, your memories of Bradford, especially his criticisms of the LP and others, are shared by many, I'm sure. You are also so right to note "his strong desire for the libertarian cause he cared so much about to succeed."
Finally, Jon, as far as the "rest in peace" expression: I think it has long been culturally co-opted by nonbelievers. I wish many people "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Easter" too, and partake in many of the traditions of the current season (including putting up a Christmas tree and even an old creche, glorious in its aesthetic, and a family heirloom for over 50 years). I'm not very "religious" about my beliefs, or lack thereof. But all these expressions are, generally, expressions of good will.
In this particular context, this much applies: Bill Bradford suffered, and died; today, he suffers no more. I will miss him very much, but I am thankful that his suffering is over. And, deep down, my colloquial use of "RIP" is less about Bill and more about those who survive him: his wife, his family, his friends... those of us who mourn his death, and who need now to rest peacefully, knowing that his suffering is over and that the memory of his life and achievements will live on.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 12, 2005 10:09 AM
I am stunned, shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of Bill Bradford. I have been a loyal reader of his works since the days of Liberty Coins, and have saved every issue of Liberty Magazine. His uncompromising commitment to liberty and peace, and his consistent Rothbardian approach to issues was my rock and my refuge in a swirling sea of political machinations. I could always count on Bill to view the news and issues through a thoughtful, comprehensible libertarian lens. His voice will be sorely missed in our home. Judy and I grieve deeply by his premature passing. Please extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends.
Tim and Judy Dove
Posted by: Tim Dove | December 12, 2005 12:35 PM
Terrible news. RW always made me laugh, especially at his denunciation of the negative work so many freedom promoters have performed in recent years. His scandalous reports on the LP were part of the reason for my departure from supporting political parties in any form. His comedic side was rare in the culture of freedom -- we're generally so venomous even to one another. I hope Liberty can continue on without him, as it is the last print media that I actually find myself purchasing at the book store.
Posted by: A.B. Dada | December 12, 2005 12:50 PM
Chris, Bill's longtime managing editor, Tim Virkkala, posted a piece on his own blog about why death should be meaningful even if we cease to exist in any meaningful sense after we die.
Posted by: Eric D. Dixon | December 12, 2005 08:25 PM
I want to add my respects for Bill Bradford. He was the first to publish me when I was yet out of high school, and for that I am forever grateful. I did have the pleasure of meeting him once, at a libertarian conference, and he was very kind, gracious, good-humored and sunny. (Surprisingly so -- I was expecting a caustic and rancorous radical. I couldn't have been further off.) The news of his premature death saddened me greatly.
The more irritated I get with the politics of persuasion, the more attractive becomes an introspective mission like Liberty's. I am confident that Steve Cox -- whose literary frame of reference and knowledge is probably wider than any active libertarian's -- will do very interesting things with the magazine.
Chris, my condolences for the loss of your dear friend.
Posted by: Alec Mouhibian | December 13, 2005 02:26 AM
I was a fellow member of the Eris Society with Bill (www.Erissociety.org) and greatly enjoyed his friendship. He was wise as well as witty.
I will miss his Outlook & Analysis Gold and Silver newsletter as well. Does anyone know if there is any chance of this publication continuing? Kathy, if you read this I only wish I could express how much I looked up to Bill. He was my idea of a proud and productive capitalist. He had extended several courtesies to me and I am most grateful for all he has done.
Posted by: Tim Peterson | December 15, 2005 02:04 PM
Tim and Judy Dove, A.B. Dada, Eric D. Dixon, Alec Mouhibian, and Tim Peterson: Thank you for your good thoughts and kind words.
BTW, I got a note offlist from a reader who was tickled by the discussion here of RIP. The reader pointed out that "the atheists who ran the French reign of terror put signs up at the cemeteries saying, 'Death Is an Eternal Sleep.'"
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 17, 2005 09:00 PM
Bill Bradford was a great libertarian. No doubt about it. He contributed much to our cause.
All the greats are quirky.
Posted by: Chris Whitten | December 19, 2005 12:49 PM
Chris Whitten, it is so good to see you at Notablog, and amen to your comments.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 22, 2005 09:42 AM
I met Bill and Kathy for the first time at the 1990 Eris Society gathering in Aspen, Colorado. I have subscribed to LIBERTY since Murray Rothbard sent me a note suggesting I do so.
It is sad to see a productive and noble life cut short in such a painful fashion. My heart goes out to Kathy. This loss to the libertarian movement and letters comes so soon after the death of Joan Kennedy Taylor.
I'll probably write something on my own blog, www.mythsmasher.blogspot.com
Posted by: Richard Cooper | December 24, 2005 01:21 AM
Exactly my sentiments, Richard---especially with such a sad event happening after the passing of Joan Kennedy Taylor.
Keep us posted on anything you write for your blog.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 26, 2005 03:48 PM
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 (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 (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: 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
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.
I enjoyed reading your, critique of Turner's article. At one point in your comments you said, "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." This took me back to something I once read in reference to Nietzsche�s work, I believe it was R.J. Hollingdale that made the comments, but I am not sure. I remember that the author believed that Nietzsche had been given a bum-rap as a proto-fascist because of his �style� of writing.
Hollingdale's comments inferred that the Fascists had co-opted Nietzsche's philosophy because the metaphors he sometimes used, along with the highly dramatic aphoristic style he often employed, easily lent itself to misinterpretation and outright distortion of his intended meaning. Personally, I believe that Nietzsche was in fact a proto-fascist, albeit to a far lesser degree than the mid-20th century Fascists made him out to be. Nevertheless, having read and studied some Nietzsche in my youth; I do agree with Hollingdale to some extent.
Now let me get back to Ayn Rand and my real questions.
After so many years of reading her work, and the works of people writing about her ideas (Merrill, Gotthelf, Machan and yourself), it is nearly impossible for me to interpret anything Rand has ever written as remotely �fascistic�. From the first day I ever read anything she wrote (The Fountainhead), I can honestly say that I have never got the slightest impression of her suggesting an autocratic or oppressive social order; on the contrary, every page seemed to shout out against anything that smacked of these even in the slightest.
That said, there have been enough criticisms of Rand, like Turner�s, that it causes me to ask, are all these criticisms merely dishonest or the by-product of taking too cursory a glance at Rand�s work? Or is there something more, something I cannot see, but others do?
So along the lines of my Nietzsche analogy, to what degree do you feel that Ayn Rand�s writing style lends itself to "HONEST" misinterpretation?
Posted by: George Cordero | December 6, 2005 01:09 PM
Once I read the following line in Turner's review, I sort of dismissed the rest of the content.
"So The Fountainhead is trash, but trash of the most bewitchingly odd lines and angles."
(sigh) One more to ignore. That review was a completely weird overview of Rand and her ideas anyway. It seemed to land all over the place. Rand admirers mostly see the criticism, but I see a complete lack of consistency in it.
It will be interesting to see what her own novel will read like, that is, if I ever read it.
Posted by: Michael Stuart Kelly | December 6, 2005 03:34 PM
Great job, Chris!
I thought you might have something to say about that article.
Posted by: Chip Gibbons | December 6, 2005 03:36 PM
I only skimmed this article.
I see that a couple Objectivist blogs have picked this up. I sense that "Official Objectivists" seem almost delighted to find bad criticism of Rand (which I assume this is) so they can launch into a diatribe about the Brandens, etc.
Unfortunately Rand's ideas seem to get lost in all this.
Posted by: Neil Parille | December 6, 2005 08:30 PM
Some very good comments here. Thanks George, Michael, Chip, and Neil.
George, I think that you're right that Nietzsche's style has contributed to his "bum-rap" as a "proto-fascist." And, to a certain extent, let us not forget that there is a connection of sorts between Rand and Nietzsche, and it is entirely possible that some superficial readers of Rand will find a similar Nietzschean "proto-fascism" at work. Some people will always see parallels between the Aryan Master, the New Communist Man, and the New Intellectual. And, in truth, I, myself, have argued that there was a bit of the "God-builder" in Rand's conception of the "New Intellectual," a vestige of a Russian past that is Nietzschean in origins, and that affected many writers of the Silver Age, including Trotsky. That doesn't make Rand a fascist or proto-fascist, but it does tie her remotely to a certain literary and intellectual tradition that some find unsettling. And I do think that those who read certain aspects of Rand's fiction, in particular, might walk away with a misinterpretation that is an "honest" mistake. Turning away from stylistic considerations, it becomes less and less honest in terms of substance, especially if readers acquaint themselves with Rand's own antifascism; indeed, her whole critique of US political economy is an attack on a form of neofascism. And, I might add, it is a critique that shares some important similarities with the critiques of New Left writers, as I argue in Chapter 12 of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical.
However, I don't think we can discount the fact that many left-wing critics see no distinction whatsoever between contemporary capitalism and fascism. And, to a certain extent, I think this can be blamed on the fact that no matter what libertarians and fellow freedom travelers say, left-wingers hear the word "capitalism" and do not care one iota about "unknown ideals." All they see is the "known reality," something I discussed here. And whatever the reality of "fascism" (a concept I examined more comprehensively here), the left-wing critic tends to believe that defenders of "capitalism" are, wittingly or unwittingly, "apologists" for the "known reality." It allows the left-wing critic to paint not just Rand as a "fascist" but to dismiss people like Mises and Hayek as "fascists" as well, despite the fact that Mises fled the Nazis and that Hayek saw fascism and socialism as two peas in a pod.
Now, I'm not saying that there are no dishonest critics on the left; I'm simply saying that in some situations, the left-wing critic is operating with such fundamentally different premises that the view of Rand-as-fascist or even fascist "apologist" becomes a clear implication of the premises.
That's why the battle is, ultimately, a battle over fundamental premises.
One more point I'd like to make about this whole subject. A lot of attention has been paid to the fact that critics of Rand focus on Rand's private life as a way of impugning her public philosophy. I don't like this practice, even though I do think that, to a certain extent, Rand invited the criticism by stating "And I mean it" at the end of Atlas Shrugged, and that orthodox defenders of Rand further invite the criticism by insisting that there is some kind of identity between Rand and Objectivism.
I should add, however, that Rand is not the only public intellectual to be impugned because of her private life (whatever the merits or demerits of that private life). Just today, Scott McLemee has published a piece on the Marxist Louis Althusser, whose private life overshadowed his life as a public intellectual. Take a look at McLemee's article, "Thinking at the Limits."
I believe that ideas can and should be evaluated independently of those who form them; as the author of Russian Radical, I'd be the last person on earth to tell you that it is unimportant to grasp the historical and personal context in which such ideas are formed. But ideas can never be reduced to that context, personal or historical; they have integrity and they must be evaluated on their own terms.
That is the dialogue that has yet to take place in the mainstream press on Rand. Fortunately, scholars are moving forward in this task.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 7, 2005 08:48 AM
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 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.
Great article! I've posted some extended remarks on my blog. Click Here
Posted by: mike van winkle | December 8, 2005 09:43 AM
Mike, I just wanted to thank you for your detailed commentary at your blog. I'll answer briefly here and for the benefit of our readers, I'll reproduce a few of your sentences for the sake of continuity:
You write: "First, you are making a critique of libertarian methodology and while I agree with you in principle, it is not immediately clear why liberals/libertarians should abandon the simpler, atomistic analysis in the first place. If the static approach is compelling and to some extent valid, why abandon it?"
In reply, let me say that I think it is all a question of "level of generality." The point of dialectics is not to obliterate "atomist" or even "organicist" alternatives, but to show that each of these might indeed be useful---in a particular context. I think much can be learned, in a certain context, by deriving the logical implications of so-called "Robinson Crusoe" economics. But the implications therein are still only one aspect of a larger picture.
You write: "You are making one assumption that libertarians in general do not. That is: the how matters. The nature of the analysis, the ability to explain as well as critique, and the overall robustness of a theory is important. So convincing us that a methodological change is necessary is a critical part of your argument, and to the extent that one already values completeness in theoretical constructs, I think they will be compelled by your case. However, you maybe underestimating how many libertarians value a 'comprehensive' approach to libertarianism."
In reply, let me say that I don't think many libertarians do value such a "comprehensive" approach---which is why Sciabarra-ian Dialectics hasn't exactly caught on. :)
You write: "What are the practical implications of a methodological reevaluation? If as you mentioned the state has a psychological impact on the population, isn�t it problematic to assume that simply removing this state interference makes the problem go away? Is this a possibility libertarians are willing to consider?"
In reply, I do believe that it is problematic to assume that the removal of state interference is a panacea. The problem here is that there are dynamics that drive each level of generality---and these often reciprocally presuppose one another. Even a so-called "atomist" such as Rothbard admits that while eliminating state interference might be wise, "praxeologically speaking," there are many factors that would drive a society right back down the "hegemonic" road toward statism. Those factors are often cultural and socio-psychological, which is why we need to focus on them, in my view.
You write: "Moreover, most libertarians seem to be very attracted to the notion of truth as static. Truth exists for sure, but my point (and the your point I presume) is that truth is a much more complicated affair than we suppose. Ironically, by believing in static truth libertarians are committing the fatal conceit so scorned in rationalist/socialist theorizing."
Indeed, I think too often they try to counterpose "static" conceptions with "relativist" conceptions---not recognizing that there is a "contextual" alternative here. (Rand used to criticize the former as "intrinsicist" and the latter as "subjectivist," offering her "Objectivist" view as a third-way.)
You write: "Which naturally, brings me to my second point. Libertarians, in general, are too committed to the conception of libertarianism as a 'political theory'. The political nature of the theory is quite attractive because it allows interlocutors to 'agree to disagree' about the meaning of life but agree to leave each other alone. This fear has been driven by an inability to properly connect the concept of freedom to a theory of meaning. Ayn Rand, of course, understood the necessity of such connections but her rather spectacular failure, I think, has discouraged others from taking up this noble charge."
Putting aside our evaluation of Rand's efforts, I do think it is true that even among those who initially would have embraced the "agree to disagree" presumption, there has been a movement toward some kind of "theory of meaning." The Hayekians embrace tradition and even the Rothbardians eventually moved toward "paleolibertarianism"---because, they argued, certain cultural forms were necessary for the sustenance of a free society.
So, ironically, I think more and more people do appreciate the fact that the battle is ultimately cultural: It requires therefore a more in-depth discussion of culture---not just for our domestic politics, but globally too: especially given the political desire to bring "democracy" to the rest of the world.
You write: "The point is that dialectical libertarianism implies a 'comprehensive' understanding of liberty, which would include a deeper understanding of the role liberty plays in the 'meaning of life,' for lack of better terminology. To the extent that this is a source of some resistance to your approach, it might be worthy of some consideration."
Well, I certainly agree that it is a source of some resistance. But I think one way out is to admit that theories of meaning cannot be removed from the circumstances of a particular place and time. We need to understand those circumstances if we are to propose ways of promoting voluntary social relations in vastly different contexts.
You wrote: "Dialectical libertarianism, to some degree has to accept the notion (which Hayek accepted) that at least part of the human experience is shaped by non-rational forces (notice I did not say irrational). I have come to believe that libertarians are irrationally afraid of such a suggestion for fear it undermines homo economicus which plays such a huge role in libertarian philosophy. To what extent does your methodological shift open the door to the non-rational?"
I think it opens the door... in fact, it pushes the door WIDE open. I think the notion of "nonrational" is important, as distinguished from "irrational." (Indeed, despite the fact that so many people have criticized Hayek as an "irrationalist," it was Hayek who once said that he fought against rationalism because he fought for "reason properly used.")
You write: "A more robust theory of libertarianism must embrace the notion of man as a developmental being and the role that the non-rational plays in human life."
I agree. But then it means that more robust theory actually will require empirical investigation to understand what is "nonrational," how it develops, and what role it plays. This is by no means an easy task.
You write: "To summarize, while I think the direction of your thought is right on track, I fear there are more 'radical' philosophical issues that are implied in your critique that can, and should be addressed head on."
Thanks again for your comments.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 8, 2005 08:45 PM
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
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: 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: 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: 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
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:
It is now accessible here:
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.
I've just been posting my own thoughts on all this here, and it will come as no surprise that you and I are by and large on the same wavelength!
Posted by: Matthew Humphreys | December 1, 2005 02:09 PM
Hey Chris -- you are one of the most civil yet unflappable people I have ever known. If someone honks _you_ off they've probably gone far beyond the pale wrt anyone else!
I was sad to see the demise of SoloHQ -- there was a lot of fun stuff there, but apparently that was part of the problem for some of the maintainers.
Posted by: Moi | December 1, 2005 07:25 PM
Attaboy, Chris. You are most interesting and worthwhile to me when you are focused on what is most interesting and worthwhile to you. Go for it! And don't forget to share with us! :-)
Posted by: Roger Bissell | December 2, 2005 04:06 AM
This post has nothing to do with the new sites. I just want to thank you for your daily �Song of the day�. Not being musical myself, I was surprised to find that many of your �Song of the day� are actually classical music and some of which even I am not unfamiliar with! I particular want to thank your for your recent recommendation of �Schroeder�s Greatest Hits� CD. It is a blast to both my son and me when we found that most pieces in the CD are the ones that my son has been and is currently playing. More than that, my son has recently become a peanut fan and considers himself somewhat a mix between Linus and Schroeder. So we promptly ordered this CD from Amazon and just love it.
Posted by: Hong | December 2, 2005 11:46 AM
Admire your stalwart blogging and plugging for the dialectic show to go on. Also, your Warsaw Concerto post was a saddened sentimental one for me as I recall the attempted Hungarian revolution when Budpast radio kept playing it over and over until put out of business by Stalin's henchmen in 1956.(oops - he died in 1953, but it surely was Soviet) I also remember how the refugees were vilified by townspeople as they were "settled" into New Jersey's Camp Kilmer. It made me mightily ashamed of some of the people I knew.
But I'm the diplomat without portfolio and am grateful to lurk and plod along as I can. I don't know what happened at SOLO but it really doesn't matter in my much reduced purview.
Please be well.
Posted by: Jane Yoder | December 2, 2005 05:40 PM
Just wanted to thank Matthew, Moi, Roger, Jane (that was chilling), and Hong for the comments. Much appreciated.
Hong, I'm glad you've been enjoying the daily "Song of the Day." It's a habit of mine that I've come to enjoy posting; even when I'm deeply immersed in work and unable to do regular "issue-oriented" blogging, "Song of the Day" is a nice break from it all.
I'm really glad you and your son have enjoyed the Schroeder CD. It's a lot of fun. And, yes, I do interpret "Song" quite liberally here; as I say on "My Favorite Songs," the "list has evolved to encompass both vocal and instrumental musical compositions." And, clearly, my tastes are quite eclectic, stretching from classical, jazz, and Broadway to pop, dance, R&B, and rock. Eclectic, indeed! Just like, uh, my scholarship, I suppose. :)
For interested readers, today begins a week+ tribute to Duke Ellington. (Didja hear that Peter?)
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 4, 2005 11:26 AM
I did, I did, I most certainly did. You're surely one that's 'beyond category,' Chris. :-)
Posted by: Peter Cresswell (Not PC) | December 4, 2005 06:21 PM
BTW, Hong, check out this Peanuts clip; it's a lot of fun. Be patient, while it loads.
And, Peter, thanks also for noting the Ellington tribute at your blog.
Posted by: Chris Matthew Sciabarra | December 5, 2005 09:06 AM
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.