JULY 31, 2016
Song of the Day: Last Night When We Were Young, music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Yip Harburg, has been recorded by many artists through the years, but it was a highlight from Frank Sinatra's classic 1955 album, "In the Wee Small Hours." It is among the songs that appears on Tony Bennett's 1992 album, a tribute album, "Perfectly Frank," to the man who called Bennett "the best singer in the business," as I point out in my kick-off essay, "A Tribute to an American Treasure: Tony Bennett at 90." Bennett had recorded this song on his 1960 album "To My Wonderful One" [YouTube link]. But there is something about this loving, whispery version [YouTube link] on the Sinatra tribute album that drives home the fact that theirs was a mutual admiration society. Today kicks off our six-day tribute to Bennett, whose 90th birthday is on Wednesday, August 3rd.
A "Song of the Day" Tribute to Tony Bennett
For the next six days, I will be featuring a Notablog tribute in honor of a great American artist as part of my "Song of the Day" series: "Celebrating an American Treasure: Tony Bennett at 90."
Today, Sunday, July 31, 2016, I begin a mini-tribute to Tony Bennett (a Wikipedia link that provided me with the basic information herein). Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, this man would become one of the greatest vocal interpreters of The Great American Songbook. On Wednesday, August 3rd, he will celebrate his 90th birthday. Like Frank Sinatra, whose centenary we celebrated last year, Bennett recorded so many albums that I grew up listening to in my home, which was always alive with music, seemingly every waking hour of every day. Like Sinatra, Bennett was a talented Italian American singer nourished on a diet of swing and jazz. But unlike Hoboken's best, Bennett was a native New Yorker, a child of Astoria, Queens (indeed, one of his finest gifts to those who live in Astoria, was his founding of the Frank Sinatra School for the Arts, for high school students). He is a man who, like Sinatra, saw his ups and his downs, but who grew to embrace, without compromise, the music that inspired him and even the painting that he embraced as a creative product of his boundless imagination.
It is almost impossible to come up with enough songs in tribute to the great entertainer, because anyone looking at "My Favorite Songs" would find him among my most cited singers: "A Child is Born," "Darn that Dream," "The Days of Wine and Roses," "Falling in Love with Love," "For Once in My Life," "Give Me the Simple Life," "The Good Life," "Have You Met Miss Jones?," "I Could Write a Book," "I Didn't Know What Time it Was," "I Fall in Love Too Easily," "If I Love Again," "If You Were Mine," "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," "I'll Be Seeing You," "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)," "In a Mellow Tone," "It Was Me," "I've Got Your Number," "I Wanna Be Around," "Just in Time," "The Lady is a Tramp," "Let's Face the Music" (also check out a sweet duet version with Lady Gaga [YouTube link]), "Let the Good Times Roll," "The Moment of Truth," "My Baby Just Cares For Me," "Nuages," "Once Upon a Summertime," "Polovetsian Dance No. 2," "Put on a Happy Face," "The Shadow of Your Smile," "Street of Dreams," "There'll Be Some Changes Made," "Thou Swell," "Until I Met You," "We'll Be Together Again," "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)?," "You Don't Know What Love Is," and "You Must Believe in Spring." Without a doubt, my all-time favorite album of Tony's is and remains: "I Wanna Be Around," and nearly all of the songs from that album are on the list above.
My Top Ten (in alphabetical order)
I could easily give you a Top Ten list of my favorite Bennett recordings, not in any particular order except alphabetical (and all the titles below are hyperlinks to their original Bennett recordings, as featured on YouTube):
1. "For Once in My Life" [YouTube link]. Stevie Wonder may have had the bigger chart hit, but he's always said, "This is Tony's song." Appropriately, Tony did a version of this song in a tribute to Wonder in the TV special celebrating "Songs in the Key of Life" [YouTube link]. And the two also did a ballad duet rendition of the song on Bennett's "Duets" album [YouTube link].
2. "The Good Life" [YouTube link]. The lead-off track on Bennet's great "I Wanna Be Around" album, this one rose to #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1962.
3. "If I Love Again" [YouTube link]. This one also appears on "I Wanna Be Around," and it is one of the most sensitive, heart-breaking renditions of this song ever recorded.
4. "If You Were Mine" [YouTube link]. Obviously, a champion of communicating heartbreak, Bennett recorded this one for the "I Wanna Be Around" album as well.
5. "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" [YouTube link]. Written by two Brooklynites (George Cory and Douglass Cross), this one became a signature tune sung by the boy from Queens, one of two officially recognized anthems for the city of San Francisco (joining the song "San Francisco," title theme from the 1936 film). It peaked at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100.
6. "I Wanna Be Around" [YouTube link]. This one still remains one of the great, bitter "screw you" songs in the history of lost love. It is the title song from my all-time favorite Bennett album, released in 1963.
7. "Just in Time" [YouTube link] . Introduced in the 1956 musical, "Bells are Ringing," Tony scored a big 1960 hit with this one.
8. "The Moment of Truth" [YouTube link]. From his album, "This is All I Ask" and as a bonus track on the CD release of the album "I Wanna Be Around," this one swings hard.
9. "Put on a Happy Face" [YouTube link]. So good, I picked it TWICE (by accident) for "My Favorite Songs."
10. "The Shadow of Your Smile" [YouTube link]. Bennett delivers the utterly definitive version of a classic Oscar-winning "Best Original Song" from the Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor 1965 film, "The Sandpiper" (and this song has been recorded umpteen times by artists as varied as jazz pianist Bill Evans and dance group D Train! [YouTube links]). Bennett's recording actually won the 1966 Grammy for "Song of the Year." His rendition, with its introductory lyrics intact (not heard on the original score), was arranged and conducted by the man who composed and arranged the original film score: Johnny Mandel, who also collected a Grammy for "Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media," a perfect match for the shatteringly beautiful backdrop of Big Sur, featured in the film. The lyrics were written by Paul Francis Webster. And the score itself features the achingly beautiful trumpet work of Jack Sheldon.
So those are my Top Ten Bennett songs, alphabetically arranged; as for my Number One Bennett impersonator, there is only one: Alec Baldwin [among these "Saturday Night Live" skits, check out, especially, the Baldwin "Tony" interview with "Phony Bennett" played by the real one!].
Bennett emerged on the music scene in the early 1950s, a child of the Sinatra generation, who would go on to sell over 50 million albums worldwide. Bennett was impacted by many of the same artists that Sinatra listened to, from Bing Crosby to Louis Armstrong (and one of my favorite jazz violinists, the great Joe Venuti). He served in World War II, and didn't get his first musical break until 1949, when Pearl Bailey asked him to open for her in Greenwich Village. Signed to Columbia Records, he was warned by Mitch Miller not to sound like an imitation of Sinatra, though it was impossible for anyone in that era not to have been touched by the greatness of Ol' Blue Eyes. His artistry deepened with his collaborations with the great jazz guitarist Chuck Wayne (a man whose "consecutive-picking technique" greatly influenced the approach of my own brother, jazz guitarist Carl Barry, to whom Wayne was a dear friend). Wayne became Bennett's musical director for his first LP, "Cloud 7" in 1954, but by 1957, Bennett began his long musical relationship with pianist Ralph Sharon, with whom Bennett embraced an even deeper jazz idiom, resulting in albums featuring Herbie Mann, Nat Adderly, Art Blakey, and several with the Count Basie Orchestra. For me, the heights of his intepretive jazz work can be found on two magical sessions with the immortal pianist Bill Evans.
Yet the times they were a changin', musically speaking, and as the rock era came to dominate the music scene, Bennett fell into a great depression, his art form seemingly lost. He had no recording contract, no concerts outside of Las Vegas, a failing marriage, and increasingly severe tax problems with the IRS. He suffered a near fatal cocaine overdose in 1979. But with the help of his son Danny, he began to turn his life around. Stressing the music that made him grand in the eyes of generations of fans, he reached the MTV Generation, winning a 1995 Grammy for Album of the Year for his "MTV Unplugged" concert. Recognized for his achievements, he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. He has won 2 Emmy Awards, and 19 Grammy Awards (mostly in the category of "Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance"). In 2001, he became a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winner." In 2005, he was inducted as an honoree of the Kennedy Center, and in 2006, he was honored with the National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Masters Award.
It is no coincidence that Frank Sinatra, the singer whose centenary I marked with a three-week tribute in November-December 2015, called Tony Bennett "the best singer in the business." Over the next week, we'll have a chance to hear a few of the reasons why Sinatra was so moved. Our tribute starts today with a beautifully appropriate "Song of the Day," a sign of their personal, mutual admiration society: "Last Night When We Were Young," a track from the 1992 album, "Perfectly Frank," Bennett's tribute to one of his musical heroes.
When our celebration is complete, I will list all the songs of the tribute here, with their accompanying links.
JULY 30, 2016
Song of the Day: La La La features words and music credited to a host of writers, chief among them being Shahid "Naughty Boy" Khan, James Napier, Jonny Cofler, and Sam Smith, who provides the central vocals for this 2013 "Naughty Boy" production. The track charted on no fewer than five Billboard charts and went to #1 in 26 countries. It also served as the theme song for the 2013 film, "The Internship." Check out its steaming beats and infectious vocals on the White Panda X Gazzo Remix, James Egbert Remix, and DEvolution Remix.
JULY 26, 2016
Song of the Day: Motownphilly, words and music by Dallas Austin, Michael Bivins, Nathan Morris, and Shawn Stockman, was the debut single from the Boyz II Men debut album, "Cooleyhighharmony," and it was featured yesterday afternoon in the opening gala of the 2016 Democratic National Convention taking place in the City of Brotherly Love. It went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and remains my favorite single from that Philly-based Motown-produced group, for its rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic sense. If nothing else, I will admit only to my partiality to the music featured at Democratic Party events versus Republican events. I guess it's due to my urban, gritty "New York values," the ones that Ted Cruz never tired of condemning during the GOP primaries. Well, it looks like two New Yawkers, one a native, the other one viewed by some as an interloper, are going to fight it out for the Presidency, and one of them is going to sit in the White House in 2017. A friend of mine has suggested that the televised debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should be made into "pay-per view" events... you know, like Wrestlemania and such, for there is little doubt that the U.S. would be able to achieve a balanced budget, while paying off the national debt. Hmm... well, if we end up with two New Yawkers shouting over one another, I'll just turn up the volume on this song, and dance away from the TV. In the meanwhile, check out the original video for this wonderful 1991 R&B single [YouTube link] from the guys who came from the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, as well as their performance on yesterday's DNC opening [YouTube link], probably the most melodic thing we'll hear from that stage this week.
JULY 25, 2016
Song of the Day: FUM [YouTube link], composed by grand Brooklyn-born jazz guitarist Jack Wilkins (and long-time family friend; he and my brother Carl Barry [a YouTube link that features a few duets with Jack] have done many gigs together through the years), appears on his 5-star 1977 album, "Merge," which featured an all-star cast of wonderful jazz artists: Randy Brecker on fluegelhorn, the late, great Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone, Eddie Gomez on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. I saw this wonderful group perform this tune at Sweet Basil back in the day, and it brought down the house. With a flying tempo, and fluid soloing, this one burns. And, in truth, I just had to step out of the Disco DJ Booth for one day. Next week, I'll be stepping out of the DJ Booth for a full six days. Watch this space for a tribute to an American treasure as he turns 90.
JULY 24, 2016
When the Yankees used to face off against the Mets in interleague play, even during their late 1990s-early 2000s storm into the postseason, the most feared man on the opposing team was always Mike Piazza, the former Mets catcher. He was the baseball "stud" the Mets needed to bring them back into the postseason, and to an eventual World Series showdown in 2000 against their crosstown rivals. The Mets lost that "Subway Series," and eventually Piazza went off into the sunset. But today, the sun rises over Cooperstown as Mike Piazza joins Ken Griffey, Jr. as an inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
He was the man who hit that famed game-winning home run on the first home game played in New York, ten days after the nightmare of September 11, 2001, defeating the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium, lifting even this Yankee fan out of his seat to applaud the newest, but long-overdue, inductee into the Hall of Fame.
Three cheers for a feared opponent, a great ballplayer, a classy human being always: Michael Joseph Piazza.
Postscript: Watch some excerpts on YouTube of one of the finest speeches ever given by an inductee of the Hall of Fame. For me, Piazza knocked it out of the park. Bravo!
JULY 23, 2016
Song of the Day: What Do You Mean? features the words and music of Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd, Mason Levy and Justin Bieber, who recorded this smash dance hit that reached the Billboard Dance Single Summit at #1 on Halloween in October 2015. No, I haven't quite become a Bieleber, but this song is featured on a really fine Bieber album, "Purpose." Check out the original Bieber video, the official remix video with Ariana Grande (there's also a Grande solo edit), ELIAS Remix, the Jerome Price Remix, and the Alison Wonderland Remix.
JULY 20, 2016
For a political junkie like myself, every four years, watching and retching over the major political party conventions is a rite of passage into the Fall Election campaign for President of the United States. This week, I've watched wall-to-wall coverage of the GOP convention, and I will somehow get through the Democratic Party convention next week. A rite of passage is a ritual, and not all rituals are pleasant, but in my political playbook, they are necessary.
As a prelude to some of my observations on the Trump campaign, I just added a 5-star amazon.com review, "A Must-Read Book for Trump Fans and Foes," of Ilana Mercer's newest book, The Trump Revolution: The Donald's Creative Destruction Deconstructed. Much of what appears here is taken from that review, though I have added links and a few additional observations.
Starting with a quote from Mercer's book, I state: "Donald J. Trump is smashing an enmeshed political spoils system to bits: the media complex, the political and party complex, the conservative poseur complex. In the age of unconstitutional government�Democratic and Republican�this process of creative destruction can only increase the freedom quotient." So begins Ilana Mercer's provocative take on The Trump Revolution: The Donald's Creative Destruction Deconstructed.
Ilana Mercer is no fan of Obama or The W who came before him, but she thinks that "Trump is likely the best Americans can hope for." She�s �not necessarily for the policies of Trump, but for the process of Trump.� This, in itself, is the most interesting of her arguments in a well-constructed book of essays that builds the case for that process. Quoting favorably the views of Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com, Mercer drives home the point, most crucial in my view, and perhaps the most appealing aspect of Trump�s foreign policy views insofar as we know them: that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way NATO functions and that the role of the United States in foreign affairs must be fundamentally re-evaluated. Trump takes pride in being an opponent of the Iraq war, which many of us predicted would lead to the kind of chaos that has developed in the ensuing years [a .pdf link to my article, "Understanding the Global Crisis"]. But no one man or even a movement of disaffected voters behind him, a mere echo of the Old Right that was �usurped by neoconservatives,� will be able to fundamentally alter the �military-industrial complex� that lies at the root of American foreign policy, or the overall government intervention that fuels it both at home and abroad.
Though Trump is probably the least homophobic of GOPers, I am still uncomfortable with his mixed views on same-sex marriage and his stances on abortion. I am uncomfortable with his talk about deporting 11 million people, and the police power that would be required to do so; I am uncomfortable with talks about building walls when it was Ronald Reagan who talked about tearing walls down (and if the reason for the Mexican wall is to keep out criminals and drugs, as claimed by Trump, then he�s not as radical a thinker as some would have us believe � since he needs to re-evaluate the whole �war on drugs� that has fueled the crime coming out of our southern neighbor). I look back at the history of stopping certain types of people from entering this country, and I see a mixed bag; after all, many Muslims have run from their own countries, ruled by extremist Islamic dictatorial ideologues, because they have faced discrimination, torture, and death in their struggles against everything from centuries-old tribalism to oppressive misogyny. This country has had a history of being afraid of outsiders, even though it was built on the backs of so many of those who came to America seeking the freedom to live and produce in peace (not to mention the shameful chapter in our history when people came to this country unwillingly to live and produce in a state of involuntary servitude). Do we need to be reminded of the Japanese-American internment camps constructed during World War II? Or of how many German Jews were denied access to America, because of highly restrictive immigration quotas, in the years leading up to and including World War II? Incredibly, widespread anti-Semitism in this country fueled the fear that some Jews were seeking refuge here and might very well be working as agents of the Nazis! How many of them ended up in gas chambers rather than in that �shining city upon a hill� that beckoned them to the promise of America?
Mercer is completely correct that much of what corrupts our political economy is the role of the state in economic affairs; such is the root of crony capitalism, championed by Democrats and Republicans alike. And like all businesspeople, Trump knows he has to wheel and deal with city, state, and federal politicians, who are corrupt almost by definition. Using things like eminent domain, however, is not the language of the free marketer; Trump can never be confused with a libertarian, no matter how much better he might be in the eyes of some, than the Establishment Politicians (and none of what I�ve said here is meant as an endorsement of Hillary Clinton, whose politics I�ll address at the end of next week�s Democratic convention).
In the end, however, it is a testament to Mercer�s muscular writing and clever reasoning that I was able to read her book in a single sitting. That is a compliment in and of itself. She challenges all of us to think about what so many thought unthinkable: that this guy often dismissed as a reality-show clown, just might become President of the United States.
I should say that I have only one personal proviso to add with regard to the Trump family; in the last year of my mother�s life, it was Blaine Trump, ex-sister-in-law of Donald (she was married to his brother Robert), who paid for Mom�s Make a Wish Foundation round trip, via luxury limousine, with her immediate family (me, my sister, brother, and sister-in-law) to Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. At a time when mom was in the throes of her five-year battle against lung cancer, it was a charitable gesture that we will always remember and cherish, and the Trump family has always played a big role in funding that foundation. That charity aside, it certainly cannot influence my views of this man�s candidacy, even if it says something positive about his character. In any event, this proviso has absolutely nothing to do with my views of Mercer�s controversial, wonderfully readable book. Buy it, read it. You won�t be disappointed.
So ends my review of the Mercer book. For Notablog readers, I would like to make a few additional points. I have long observed the pendulum phenomenon in politics, the one that emerges from the old adage: "The job of the new leader is to make the last one look good." So disgusted were Americans with the collapse of U.S. economic and foreign policy in the Bush years, that Obama was swept into office for two terms, no less, on the promises of "Yes, We Can!" Yes, we can change things fundamentally. Yes, we can end recession at home and a war without end abroad. Yes, we can. Well, as it turned out: We can't. So, disgusted Americans, especially those attracted to the GOP, but many of these partying among the Elephants for the first time as disenfranchised "blue collar" and "working class" people, have embraced Trump. They have given the Grand Old Party Establishment a Grand Middle Finger of revolt, precisely because they are revolted by the state of affairs in this country.
When I was 8 years old, I went to my first political rally, purely out of curiosity, with my Uncle Sam and my sister Elizabeth. We stood at the corner of 85th Street and Bay Parkway in Brooklyn, across from the Chase Manhattan Bank that still stands there (except the 4-sided clock that topped the building actually worked back then!)
In attendance was Vice President Hubert Horatio Humphrey fighting for the Democratic Party, in place of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who, despite having crushed the GOP's Barry Goldwater in a 1964 landslide, had announced that he would not seek re-election. The Great Society he sought to create was collapsing under the weight of an expanding welfare-warfare state. With the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, Humphrey was left standing, fighting for his political life. That night in Brooklyn, the antiwar crowd, which had blamed LBJ for the thousands of soldiers coming back from Vietnam to America in body bags, drowned out Humphrey's speech by a constant refrain, screamed louder and louder: "Dump the Hump! Dump the Hump! Dump the Hump!"
Humphrey's battle was lost to the newest "Law and Order" man in town, who was actually part of the older long-time GOP Establishment. A former virulently hostile anti-communist Senator, Vice President to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, went on to lose the 1960 election to JFK, but by 1968, he had reinvented himself into a winning candidate. And we all know what happened after that. The anti-communist shook hands with Brezhnev and Mao, one of history's greatest mass murderers (which may help us to put Obama's handshake with one of the Castro brothers into perspective). But neither law nor order followed, in the depths of Nixon's political corruption. And so, the pendulums of U.S. politics swung with ferocity against the Watergate-corrupted administration, forcing Nixon to resign, as he handed presidential power over to the thoroughly un-elected Gerald Ford. Ford went down to defeat, in the Bicentennial Year, in another pendulum swing, handing the presidency over to the bumbling ineffectiveness of one-term Jimmy Carter. And then came the ultimate swing for the fences, as former Democrat-turned-Barry Goldwater advocate, Ronald Reagan, ushered in the modern conservative movement.
And so the pendulum continues to swing from W to Obama to ... I don't know. And right now, "None of the Above" is looking mighty good to me. Given the excitement that so many have for the Trump candidacy, but who drop the context of the real dynamics of American politics, it would not surprise me if those disgusted with Obama-Clinton carry the day. It would not surprise me if Trump became President. And it would not surprise me to hear echoes of those 1968 chants all over again, as they morph from "Dump the Hump!" to "Dump the Trump!" We've been hearing variations on that, for months, in any event. Clich� though it is, time will tell.
Postscript: In discussions on Facebook, I make a few additional points. In response to one comment, raising the issue of the Libertarian Party, I write:
. . . I don't endorse Trump. Honestly, however dishonest Clinton is--and what politician isn't?--she is a known quantity, but that's not exactly a rousing endorsement either. Gary Johnson and William Weld are good men, though I have my criticisms. I would have voted for Weld way back, but he stood absolutely no chance in a socially conservative GOP. To echo the opening words from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I": "These are dark times, there is no denying. Our world has perhaps faced no greater threat than it does today. But I say this to our citizenry: We, ever your servants, will continue to defend your liberty and repel the forces that seek to take it from you!" When those forces exist within your own country, you are in the darkest of times.
In reply to another comment, which stresses the point that we should concern ourselves with those things that are most within our power to control, things at the "local" level, I state:
. . . that's a very good observation. Unfortunately, however, what happens on the national level and even the global level can so intrude on the things that are more within our power to influence that it gets to the point where it becomes difficult even to make changes locally. The more complex and interrelated the world becomes, the more difficult it becomes for all of us. When an insane ideology from halfway around the world inspires local lone wolf nutjobs to attack a San Bernadino facility for people with developmental disabilities or to go into a gay nightclub in Orlando and kill 49 people, wounding another 53, the world starts to become smaller and smaller. That doesn't mean that I don't agree with your point that asserting ourselves on the local level is a good thing.
JULY 18, 2016
Today's post will discuss the Three Rs, as they relate, ironically, to the second edition of my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical: Reviews, Rand Studies, and Rape Culture.
As readers of Notablog know, my 1995 book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, went into a grand second edition in 2013, on the eve of its twentieth anniversary (readers can see all the blog posts related to this edition at a new page on my Russian Radical site). As is the fate of most second editions, even vastly expanded ones like the current book, few reviews seem to surface. But it has been a pleasant surprise to see that the book has made an impact on the ever-growing Rand scholarly literature. I have updated the review section of the Russian Radical page to reflect some of the reviews and discussions of the book in that literature. My own reply to critics ("Reply to Critics: The Dialectical Rand") will not appear until July 2017 in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (Volume 17, no. 1). The delay in that reply has been primarily due to the fact that we, at the journal, have been working relentlessly on what promises to be, perhaps, the most important issue ever published by JARS: a double-issue symposium, due out in December 2016 (Volume 16, nos. 1-2): "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy." It is a book-length version of the journal that will be print published and available online through JSTOR and Project Muse, and to those who wish to purchase single print copies or single copies of the first e-book and Kindle editions of JARS ever published. We are proud of the final product, which includes sixteen essays by people coming from a wide diversity of disciplines and perspectives, including political and social theory, philosophy, literature, film, business and leadership, anthropology, and, of course, academic and clinical psychology. It also includes the most extensive annotated bibliography of Branden works and of the secondary literature mentioning Branden yet published.
What makes this issue so important is that it will bring to a wider audience the work of many writers who have never appeared in any Rand-oriented periodical, while also bringing attention to the work and legacy of Branden to the community of clinical and academic psychologists. It is an issue that only JARS could have produced. Such a study would never come forth from the "orthodox" Objectivists, who have virtually airbrushed even Branden�s canonic contributions to Objectivism out of existence (the new Blackwell Companion to Ayn Rand a notable exception), or from the established orthodoxies of the psychological community who have dismissed Branden's work as "pop" psychology�in much the same way that the established scholarly orthodoxies locked out Rand from the Western canon by referring to her as a cult-fiction writer and pop philosopher, an attitude that has slowly been eroded over the years by increasingly serious work on her corpus, something to which JARS has contributed with pride.
In any event, readers can find excerpts from some of the commentaries made on Russian Radical in the recent scholarly literature by checking the updated review pages here.
Ironically, among the reviewers is Wendy McElroy, who discussed Russian Radical in the pages of JARS (in a review that appeared in the July 2015 issue). I�m happy that Wendy had the opportunity to review the book, given that she has been so hard at work on so many worthwhile projects. One of those projects was just published: a truly provocative new book, entitled Rape Culture Hysteria: Fixing the Damage Done to Men and Women. I�ve just posted a mini-review of the 5-star book on amazon.com; here is what I had to say (which relates directly to my view of "The Dialectical Rand"):
Wendy McElroy's new book, Rape Culture Hysteria: Fixing the Damage Done to Men and Women, is certainly one of the most provocative books on this subject ever written. The freshness with which McElroy approaches the subject is in itself controversial, though it is hard to believe that approaching any subject with reason as one's guide could possibly be controversial. Whether one agrees or disagrees with any particular point made by McElroy, what she accomplishes here is to show the power of a nearly all-encompassing ideology to corrupt the very subject it seeks to make transparent. The power of her analysis lies in the intricate ways in which she approaches not only the problems of rape culture ideology but in the documentation and analysis that she uses to undermine many of the arguments that its proponents put forth to support their various positions. It is a startling display of analytical power so strong that it must challenge people on all ends of the political spectrum.
The sad part of the Politically Correct doctrine of the "rape culture," however, is that it actually undermines the power of some doctrines that I, as a social theorist, accept, with provisos. For example, the doctrine that "the personal is the political," rejected with good reason by McElroy, is used by PC feminists in a way that does not illuminate the mutual implications of the personal and the political; rather, it folds everything personal into the political. That such a doctrine could have emerged out of postmodern New Left thought is doubly disturbing, however, given the Marxist penchant for so-called "dialectical" analysis, that is, analysis that aims to grasp the wider context of social problems by tracing their common roots and multidimensional manifestations and undermining them in a radical way. The same penchant exists, in my view, among many of those in the libertarian and individualist traditions, including in the work of the self-declared "anti-feminist" Ayn Rand, who, for all her anti-feminism, may have done more to empower women than any PC feminist could have ever dreamed� this, despite her views of man-woman relationships or of homosexuality, both of which one can take issue with, while not doing fundamental damage to her overall philosophic system.
The fact is that even Rand believed that there were mutual implications between the personal and the political; one's view of oneself, how one uses one's mind, the methods of one's thinking processes (so-called "psycho-epistemology", etc.) and the origins of the doctrine of self-esteem, and of the self-esteem movement championed by her protege, Nathaniel Branden, show how certain cultural, educational, and political institutions have virtually conditioned individuals to accept authority and certain destructive ideologies in ways that ultimately undermine their ability to think as individuals and accept self-responsibility, thus paving the way for the rule of coercive political power. Rand and her intellectual progeny have grasped these phenomena by showing how they operate in mutually reinforcing ways across disciplines and institutions within a system, and across time.I don't think McElroy would disagree with this, even if she fundamentally questions the doctrine of "the personal is the political," for she, herself, shows that there are indeed both personal and political consequences to the ways in which that doctrine is used by its so-called champions. But that is the kind of fundamental rethinking McElroy's book provokes for any reader who approaches her work with a critical mind. Bravo!
JULY 17, 2016
For the first time in the history of "My Favorite Songs," I have discovered with profound grief that there is a duplicate song; recently, in my Tony Awards tribute back in June, I highlighted "Put on a Happy Face" from the musical "Bye Bye Birdie." Alas, back in 2006, I listed it under its song title, rather than the musical from which it emerged, as "Song of the Day #696. I've only discovered this because I'm preparing to do another mini-tribute in a couple of weeks to one of the giants of the music industry and the Great American Songbook, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, another Tony, if you will: Tony Bennett, and I note his version of that favorite song twice! HORRORS!
So, the last "Song of the Day #1364" has been renamed "Song of the Day #1364a" and the next song (on the occasion of the next Saturday Night Dance Party series) will be renamed "Song of the Day #1364b." And we will resume our numbering sequence at #1365 right after that!
Hanging my head in shame, I am simply going to "Put on a Happy Face," and keep
singing and dancing...
With a smile,
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Brooklyn, New York
JULY 16, 2016
Song of the Day: This is What You Came For, words and music by Calvin Harris and Nils Sjobera (aka Taylor Swift) is the #1 Dance single right now (a 2-week run that will be eclipsed next week by JT's "Can't Stop the Feeling"). Recorded by Harris, with featured vocalist Rihanna, the song has a great beat for a very Sweaty Summer Saturday Night Dance Party (and we are, right now, The Big Baked Apple in NYC). Check out a variety of great mixes on YouTube: the official video, the Crystal Knives and Heuse Remix, the R3Hab and Henry Fong Remix, and the really scalding summery Dillon Francis Remix (only an audio clip, darn!).
JULY 09, 2016
Song of the Day: Love Hangover, words and music by Marilyn McLeod and Pam Sawyer, was released in March 1976 and went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Soul Singles, and Hot Dance Club Play charts for Diana Ross. If you wanna talk about retro 70s disco classics, this is it. It begins with that slow soulful prelude to an utterly unforgettable riff, sampled the world over. It was released at the same time by the 5th Dimension [YouTube link], but their single version stood no chance on the charts competing with what was, perhaps, the definitive Ross Disco Diva Dance Song of all time. It gained Ross a Grammy for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance. Ross's ad libs, telling the world that she "don't need no cure" for the sweetest hangover had clubgoers dancing into the wee hours. Check out one of the grandest of 12" vinyl remix singles of the era on YouTube. These were the years that disco remixers began wild experimentation with recorded singles, providing alternate takes for diverse audiences. So check out the Tom Moulton 17-minute mix, the Frankie Knuckles Mix, and the Joey Negro Hangover Symphony Mix as well.
JULY 04, 2016
Song of the Day: America, words and music by Prince, extends our Saturday Night Dance Party to a Monday in celebration of Independence Day. It is from the album "Around the World in a Day," issued by Prince and the Revolution. The lyrics are of what one philosopher may have called "mixed premises," but any song that includes stanzas like "Communism is just a word, But if the government turn over, It'll be the only word that's heard," and in a paean to "America the Beautiful," tells us, "America, America, God shed his grace on thee, America, America, keep the children free," can't be all that bad. Check it out in a live version on YouTube and a rare 12" extended mix and dance your way through a wonderful and safe Independence Day.
JULY 02, 2016
Song of the Day: How Deep is Your Love (not that one) is a Calvin Harris and Disciples song, with words and music by Calvin Harris, Nathan Duvall, Gavin Koolmon, Luke McDermott, Marvin White, and Ina Wroldsen, who has uncredited vocals on the 2015 single. This one starts off the Independence Day weekend with a sweet dance beat. Check out the original single, the Harris & 3Hab Remix, and the Disciples & Unorthodox Remix. Every Saturday Night, we'll be featuring a dance track till the end of Summer, but expect one more in honor of July 4th on Monday.
JULY 01, 2016
Anytime, anyone of my out of town friends show up in my home town, Brooklyn, it is a necessity to take them to the famed pizzeria, established by Ludovico Barbati in 1939 in the Gravesend section of this wonderful borough of New York City. I've lived in Gravesend my whole life, and L&B offers probably the best Sicilian pizza (the so-called "square slice") you'll ever eat anywhere. They put the mozzarella on the bed of the pie, and top it with a tangy sauce and grated cheese that will make your mouth water; and if you're into Italian ices and Spumoni, there are fewer places in New York that offer anything creamier or more refreshing.
To my knowledge, the only mob ties to the famed pizzeria are the mobs that line up awaiting their slices, sitting in the outdoor "Spumoni Gardens", especially in the summer months. Today, I learned differently.
Remarkably, last night, for the first time in eons, my sister and I stopped by at L&B for a square slice; around the same time, the grandson of Ludovico, the 61-year old Louis Barbati, co-owner of the current restaurant he built on 86th Street in Gravesend, was murdered in his backyard in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn, his family inside the home. It is being called a "mob-tied" hit. Apparently, back in 2012, a mob war almost erupted over accusations that some folks had stolen the L&B secret-tomato-sauce recipe. And today, perhaps a casualty of long-time disputes, Louis Barbati is gone.
I've heard of mob wars over narcotics and neighborhood turf, but not this. I truly extend my heartfelt sympathies to the Barbati family.
Ed. Note: We learned the day after that apparently the murder was the result of a botched robbery. All the more senseless and tragic.
Song of the Day: To Each His Own ("Main Title"), composed by Victor Young, is from the 1946 film that won Olivia de Havilland her Academy Award for Best Actress, and today, on July 1st, we celebrate her 100th birthday. (She and her sister Joan Fontaine, with whom she had an estranged relationship, are the only sisters to share the distinction of having won a Best Actress Oscar each.) Ironically, there was a popular Livingston-Evans song released in that same year, but it was only "inspired" by this film. How can one go wrong, then, picking the main theme from the film that brought Olivia her Oscar, when the music was composed by the great Victor Young, in fine melodic form. Check out the lush opening credits on YouTube.