June 25, 2019

Song of the Day #1648

Song of the Day: Who Is It? features the words and music of Michael Jackson, from the 1991 album, "Dangerous." On this day, ten years ago, the artist tragically died. As I note in today's Notablog essay, "Michael Jackson Ten Years After: Man or Monster in the Mirror," there are still reasons to celebrate the art of somebody, even if it should be discovered that they may have done something in their lives that was terribly destructive. This particular track went to #1 on Billboard's Hot Dance Club chart. Its various versions provide different hues of interpretation; check out the original David Fincher-directed music video and his beat box interpretation of the song in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, which became the basis of one of the song's remixes, and then hit the dance floor with the slammin' Brothers in Rhythm House Mix, the Brothers Cool Dub, Moby's Tribal Mix and Moby's Lakeside Dub [YouTube links]. RIP, MJ.

Michael Jackson - Ten Years After: Man or Monster in the Mirror?

This essay makes its Notablog debut on the tenth anniversary of the tragic death of Michael Jackson. It can also be found in the essay section of my home page here. It deals with one of the most difficult issues we face in evaluating art---and its creator.

Can Bad People Create Good Art?

Writing in The New York Times, Charles McGrath asks: "Can bad people create good art? If that question pops up on an exam or at a dinner party, you might want to be wary. The obvious answer---so obvious that it practically goes without saying, and ought to make the examinee suspicious---is that bad people, or at least people who think and behave in ways most of us find abhorrent, make good art all the time." McGrath then gives us a laundry list of folks who are frequently cited as pretty bad people who created good art, among them such notorious anti-Semites as the proto-fascist Ezra Pound, composer Richard Wagner, who "once wrote that Jews were by definition incapable of art," and Edgar Degas, whose anti-Semitism led him to defend "the French court that falsely convicted Alfred Dreyfus." (And Lord forbid any of you should respond with a slight nod of aesthetic approval to just one of these paintings, for it will only prove that you are a secret admirer of young Adolf!)

But the list of "bad artists" who may have created "good art" is legion: There's Norman Mailer who "in a rage once tried to kill one of his wives"; the "painter Caravaggio and the poet and playwright Ben Jonson [who] both killed men in duels or brawls"; Jean Genet, gay prostitute and petty thief; Arthur Rimbaud, who flaunted all the conventions of his time; Gustave Flaubert, who "paid for sex with boys," and so it goes.

We can add to that list: Director Roman Polanski, who fled the United States after pleading guilty to a statutory rape charge, but who gave us the classic horror flick, "Rosemary's Baby,"; the great neo-noir mystery "Chinatown," and "The Pianist," a harrowing biopic of Holocaust survivor Waldyslaw Szpilman (played by Oscar-winning Best Actor Adrien Brody). Most recently, let's not forget: Producer Harvey Weinstein, who may not have been an artist, but who produced Oscar Award-winning films and Tony Award-winning plays, and was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for a series of horrific allegations leading to his arrest on charges of rape and sexual assault---practically giving birth to the #MeToo Movement; R&B singing sensation R. Kelly, who was once indicted (and found not guilty) on charges of child pornography, only to be re-indicted this past Februrary on ten counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse; funk musician Rick James, who gave it to us with "Super Freak," only to end up in prison on everything from draft evasion to rampant drug use that led to kidnapping and sexual assault convictions; long-beloved comedian Bill Cosby, who is now serving a three-to-ten year sentence for aggravated indecent assault.

In the ideological sphere, honorable mention goes to Dalton Trumbo, among the blacklisted Hollywood Ten, whose trials and tribulations were the subject of a fine 2015 film starring Bryan Cranston, which doesn't once mention that Trumbo was an apologist for the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. But it does remind us of what a gifted writer he could be, when you see re-created scenes from the momentous 1960 epic "Spartacus." And let's not forget Kate Smith, whose recording of "God Bless America" has now forever been banned from Yankee Stadium during the seventh-inning stretch, because she recorded a couple of records almost ninety years ago (in 1931) with racist lyrics.

Indeed, once we open up that ideological and historical can of worms, we're faced with calls to obliterate various monuments to the American revolutionaries who fought for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, including Thomas Jefferson, who, despite penning the Declaration of Independence and speaking out against slavery, owned over 600 slaves himself, freeing only seven in his lifetime.

Human beings are a complicated lot. As McGrath points out, however, it is very misleading to ascribe "badness" and "goodness" especially in the context of artists and art, because these concepts can have different referents: they can point either to the person's moral worth or to the aesthetic merit of that person's work. Take Wagner. For this film score fan, the impact of Wagner on the art of the score is immeasurable. Even "[t]he conductor Daniel Barenboim, a Jew, is a champion of Wagner's music, for example, and has made a point of playing it in Israel, where it is hardly welcome. His defense is that while Wagner may have been reprehensible, his music is not. Barenboim likes to say that Wagner did not compose a single note that is anti-Semitic." McGrath states further that "the disconnect between art and morality goes further than that: not only can a 'bad' person write a good novel or paint a good picture, but a good picture or a good novel can depict a very bad thing. Think of Picasso's Guernica or Nabokov's Lolita, an exceptionally good novel about the sexual abuse of a minor, described in a way that makes the protagonist seem almost sympathetic."

McGrath recognizes that art, like ideas, is one of those realms of human experience that can inspire us, enlarging "our understanding and our sympathies." He hits upon an even more interesting point when he states, in almost Randian fashion, that "the creation of truly great art requires a degree of concentration, commitment, dedication, and preoccupation---of selfishness, in a word---that sets that artist apart and makes him not an outlaw, exactly, but a law unto himself." Of course, from a Randian standpoint, there is a virtue of selfishness, even if it is typically viewed as a vice. And it needn't mean that the artist qua selfish is necessarily tortured or bad. Yet, it is nevertheless true that many artists have been tortured souls throughout the centuries. Finding ways to express their inner conflicts and tensions through the sheer act of creation can provide for a kind of cathartic experience. For those of us who respond to that art, it provides a form of objectification that allows us to appreciate the art work on its own terms, whatever the moral merits of the person who created it.

But comedian Pete Davidson scored a few points in the Gallows Humor Department in one of those "Weekend Update" segments on "Saturday Night Live" [YouTube link]. "Once we start doing our research," he quipped, "we're not gonna have much left, you know, because it seems like all really talented people are sick." Well, I wouldn't go that far. Moreover, not every artist has a cesspool for a soul. Thank goodness.

But when we admire a piece of art, whether it be a painting hanging on the wall of a museum or a work of music, we don't have to contemplate how lost, how tortured, or how awful the artist may have been as a person when they engaged in the act of creation. If the work speaks to us, whether we respond to it on the level of "sense of life" or just because of our mood on that particular day, what we are responding to is that work, not necessarily to the person who created it.

Distinguishing Between the Creator and the Creation

If we focus long enough on the artist, rather than the art, or the writer, rather than what is written, we might be led to airbrush out of existence some of the most important and influential artists or intellectuals---be they "good" or "bad"---throughout human history. This is a subject that hits close to home for a scholar such as myself. In my work, I have spent much time analyzing the legacies of many individuals whose ideas stand in diametric opposition to one another. Though I stand by the dialectical mantra that "context matters"--that is, though I am inclined to place the work of a thinker within the larger context of that thinker's life and the culture within which that thinker came to maturity, all of which helps us to better understand his or her ideas---it would never lead me to dismiss that thinker's work on the basis of their personal or cultural context. Let's take Karl Marx as an example; many have focused on evidence that he "lived in filth and neglected his own children." That may be true. But I would not treat his work with a sweeping ad hominem dismissal---especially since one of my goals has been to grapple with his intellectual legacy and his use of a dialectical method of social analysis, so important to my own project of rescuing dialectics for libertarian theory. And, as a Rand scholar, I have had to face all sorts of criticisms of Rand the person---from those who despise her work, and who dismiss it wholesale on the basis of her questionable personal attitudes toward everything from Beethoven to homosexuality, or who view her as nothing more than a pop-novelist and cult-leader who had a scandalous sexual affair with her protege, Nathaniel Branden, twenty-five years her junior, which destroyed their personal and professional relationship, and which she never acknowledged publicly. And on the other side of that equation, I've had to come to grips with those Rand acolytes who dismiss all of Branden's work on the importance of self-esteem to human survival, because he lied repeatedly to Rand as that relationship dissolved, thus showing him, and, by extension, his ideas, as, at best, hypocritical, or at worst, a sign that he was nothing other than a self-aggrandizing con man.

Michael Jackson and "Leaving Neverland"

And so, finally, we come to the subject of Michael Jackson, the boy who became a man before his time, as he led his brothers in the Jackson Five straight into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and who, as a solo artist, amassed a discography that has sold hundreds of millions of records worldwide, giving him his own place in that same famed hall. Jackson's impact on music, dance, fashion, and culture has influenced scores of artists over the past fifty years. His music has been sampled, reinterpreted, and resurrected by everyone from Justin Timberlake and Drake to Alien Ant Farm, Chris Cornell, and the 2Cellos [YouTube links].

But there were those allegations that first emerged in 1993, when police descended on his Neverland Ranch, investigating claims that Jackson had molested a 13-year old boy. An exhaustive search found no incriminating evidence, though a civil case brought by the boy in question, Jordan Chandler, and his parents, was eventually settled out of court. Later, in 2005, Jackson was charged with the child molestation of Gavin Arvizo, serving alcohol to a minor, conspiracy, and kidnapping, facing twenty years in prison. His homes were ransacked by the LAPD, but nothing incriminating was found, and an in-depth investigation by the FBI came up with no evidence of wrongdoing. In the end, Jackson was acquitted of all charges.

As Forbes magazine reported, however, choreographer Wade Robson had testified in the 2005 trial under oath, that as a child and young adolescent, in the many years that he knew Michael Jackson, the artist had never touched him inappropriately or sexually abused him. James Safechuck, who spent time with Jackson in the 1980s, also defended Jackson back in the 1993 case. Various events thereafter occurred which led these two men to eventually file suits against the Jackson Estate, nearly four years after Jackson's tragic death on June 25, 2009 (a decade ago this very day), seeking $1.5 billion in damages, claiming that they had, in fact, been sexually abused by Jackson: Robson, when he was between 7 and 14 years of age; Safechuck, when he was 10 to 12 years of age. Both the Robson and Safechuck cases were dismissed in probate court.

On January 25, 2019, at the Sundance Film Festival, the documentary, "Leaving Neverland," directed by Dan Reed, featuring both Robson and Safechuck, as well as some of their relatives, made its debut. HBO showed the four-hour documentary over two nights in March 2019, followed by an Oprah Winfrey-hosted special, with Reed, Robson, and Safechuck as guests. I watched the documentary in full and the "After Neverland" Winfrey interviews, and was left feeling deeply saddened and sick at heart. The dead cannot defend themselves, and the documentary offered no cross-examination, no counter-testimony [YouTube links], and no alternative narratives [Quora Digest link]. But that didn't take away the sting of hearing the shattering testaments or of observing the body language of the two men as they painted shockingly graphic portraits of their sexual abuse by someone who had befriended them, groomed them, and subsequently betrayed their trust.

If none of what they say is true, it is a travesty to the memory of a man, who was probably abused as a child himself, and who went on to raise millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for children worldwide with his "We Are the World" single (co-written with Lionel Richie) and his Heal the World Foundation.

If only 10% of what they say is true, it is a horrifying portrait indeed. But for the sake of this essay, which marks the tenth anniversary of the tragic death of a truly unique artist, let's say it's all true.

What does this mean for those of us who grew up listening and dancing to Michael Jackson's music?

Reassessing Jackson's Artistry? Reassessing Myself?

Michael Jackson's music was, for all intents and purposes, like the coming-of-age soundtrack of my youth.

Indeed, I can tell you that as a 9-year old kid, in December of 1969, I sat in front of my black and white television and was inspired to see somebody about my own age stepping out onto the stage of the "Ed Sullivan Show" to belt out "I Want You Back" [YouTube link] like he was an old pro. I can't count the number of times, as a mobile DJ in my college years, how I lit up the dance floor with the propulsive beats of the Jacksons' "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" or "Walk Right Now" [YouTube links] or how I got a group of tired teachers up at a school reunion to dance over and over again to "The Way You Make Me Feel" [YouTube link]. Or how MJ drew me into a world of romantic intrigue with his "Heartbreak Hotel" (aka "This Place Hotel") [YouTube link]. Or, more personally, how I danced, with a blind date, to the disco beats of "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" and "Rock with You" [YouTube link] from MJ's pathbreaking solo album, "Off The Wall." Or how awestruck I was when I saw him on the "Motown 25" special doing his sensational signature Moonwalk to "Billie Jean" [YouTube link] (predictably, on the recent "Motown 60" special, he was practically airbrushed out of existence). Or the first time I saw the chilling, thrilling video to the title track of the album [YouTube link] from which "Billie Jean" emerged, the all-time global best-selling "Thriller." Or that first sensuous kiss I experienced with somebody, in a moment of intimacy, listening to the "Quiet Storm" sounds of "The Lady in My Life" [YouTube link] from that same album.

I saw MJ perform live in concert two times, once with his brothers (on the "Victory Tour") and once as a solo artist (on the "Bad" tour). He was a lion on stage, the quintessential song-and-dance man of his generation who merged the grace of Astaire and Kelly with the grit of the street. Filled with irrepressible energy that fueled more than two hours of one greatest hit after another, his choreography was staggering to watch, his vocals were purer than anything you'd hear even on a carefully produced studio album. Even my mother went to those shows, she loved him so much!

So, where does this leave me? Am I to feel guilty that my foot still starts to tap, almost involuntarily, every time I hear that bass line that opens "Billie Jean" or "Bad"?

Maybe Michael Jackson was really trying to tell us something literally when he sang, "I'm bad, I'm bad, you know it." Or maybe when he metamorphized into that monster in the "Thriller" video, he was giving us a glimpse of the horror within. Or maybe he was telling us something even more personal when he sang: "I'm gonna make a change for once in my life. ... I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself. And make a change."

Perhaps he was that Man in The Mirror [YouTube link], who was incapable of taming the monster within. Perhaps not. All I know is that my heart broke when I heard of his death on the radio ten years ago this day, and my heart breaks today every time I hear one of his songs. I can't erase what he did or may have done to those children, but I am equally incapable of erasing the part his music played in my life. And so, today, I can only be brutally honest: I highlight one of his recordings as my "Song of the Day"---"Who Is It?"---still wondering who he really was, but unflinching in my appreciation of his artistry.

June 21, 2019

Song of the Day #1647

Song of the Day: Summer of '69 features the words and music of Jim Vallance and Bryan Adams, who recorded this song for his 1984 album, "Reckless." New York City celebrates the Summer Solstice, which comes to the Northern Hemisphere at 11:54 a.m. (EDT)---which means that Notablog begins its Fourth Annual Summer Music Festival (Woodstock Fiftieth Anniversary Edition). I'm not here to debate the moral underbelly of the "Apollonian" moon landing (which, as a child who grew up in awe of the space program, I will also celebrate in song) versus the "Dionysian" mudfest that was the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, as Ayn Rand once contrasted these events (though Jeff Riggenbach once called the Woodstock generation among "the disowned children of Ayn Rand"). This year's festival will run mostly on a weekly basis from the first to the last day of summer. It will place special emphasis on the participating Woodstock artists and the songs they recorded in that era. With some notable exceptions (marking a few birthdays, for example), Notablog will also mark the Golden Anniversary of some of the defining events of the Summer of '69. Our first song is not from that era, but its very title speaks to the year of our focus---when I was only nine years old---though Adams himself has long maintained that the number "69" in the title had less to do with the year and far more to do with a particular love-making position. This single went to the Top Five on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1985; check out the Bryan Adams recording [YouTube link]. As is customary, I will open and close our annual Music Festival with songs from the same artist, so don't forget Bryan, since we'll be returning to him on the last day of summer (it was Chubby Checker who bookended the 2018 Notablog Summer Music Festival).

Happy Birthday Cali: The Terrible Twos

Today, the first day of summer, is Cali's birthday. She has now officially reached the Terrible Twos. But her mischief has been present since the beginning. Wherever she sits becomes a new place to relax---when she's not chasing after one of her balls, feathers, or pistachio nutshells. Here are just a few pics of our little baby doing her own thing.

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Open a dresser drawer, and it becomes Cali's bed...

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Even bubble wrap becomes Cali's bed...

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Even a Petco Plastic Bag becomes Cali's bed...


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Is it a bird? A fly? Curious Cali...

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Oh... time to wash the dishes!

We wish our little, lovable Cali-co many more happy and healthy returns!

June 17, 2019

Song of the Day #1646

Song of the Day: Big City Blues, words and music by Adrienne Anderson, appears on "2:00 AM Paradise Cafe," Barry Manilow's fourteenth studio album. In what is one of his best albums, the artist---who turns 76 today---brings together a host of jazz musicians, including pianist Bill Mays, baritone sax player Gerry Mulligan, drummer Shelly Manne, bassist George Duvivier, and guitarist Mundell Lowe, whose pleasant pickings can be heard at the beginning and end of today's recording. The 1984 album is one of Manilow's finest, including the gorgeous "When October Goes," based partially on an unfinished lyric from the great Johnny Mercer and a melody composed by Manilow. The album also includes two wonderful duets: one with the Divine One, Sarah Vaughan, and the other---today's Song of the Day---with Mel Torme, who left us twenty years ago (June 5, 1999). Check out this Manilow and Mel duet [YouTube link] in honor of today's birthday boy.

June 11, 2019

The Dialectics of Liberty: About That Cover Design

So I've gotten lots of sweet feedback about the really cool cover design that was put together for us with the use of Getty images and templates, but a lot of very nice input from lots of people (Roger found the best image, IMHO), and especially, Suzanne Hausman.

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But take a look at that image. On the surface, it looks like it might be a person whose chains are broken, and who is liberated---The Dialectics of Liberty providing the antidote to the corruption of enslavement as manifested on many levels of generality. And the job of its contributors exhibits their commitment to exploring the context that would both nourish and sustain such liberation (even though few of them agree on the precise nature of that context!).

Take a look at that image a little bit more closely though. The chain links are going up into the sky... like liberated birds. But wait! It's not a bird! It's not a plane! It's not even Superman. The links look like they are in the shape of the letter "M". Could it be that the image itself captures the liberation of dialectical method from (drumroll please): Its conventional connection to Marxism. Who knows!? Who knows what you get out of the cover design!?

What matters most is what you'll get when you open the book, and find that there are essays you'll fall in love with, and other essays that will provoke you to throw the book (or your e-book device) against the nearest wall! Any book that can inspire such diametrically opposed reactions with each passing chapter can't be all that bad!

Lots more to come on the book and its contents; the official release date is still four days away: June 15, 2019.

Enjoy!

Postcript on Facebook [14 June 2019]:

It has been delightful seeing the flow of pics from contributors to The Dialectics of Liberty upon receipt of the book, which officially goes on sale tomorrow. We do have 19 contributors, so I hope the flow of happy pics will continue. I'm glad I had the ba..., uh, audacity, to start this trend upon receipt of the volume earlier this week---despite the fact that I looked like hell (bronchitis, spring allergies, you don't wanna know!). But the "Ben-Hur" T-shirt did help to hype the epic character of the new book!

To those readers who are suffering sticker shock over the hardcover and e-book prices, I once again wish to remind you that there is a 30% off discount flyer available. And we encourage interested readers to make requests to their local public (or private), business, not-for-profit, university and research libraries to stock up on the book. Yes, a much more affordable paperback will be issued in early 2020, just in time for our planned "Authors-Meet-Readers" moderated discussion (which is likely to take place right here on Facebook). But this is one book worth having, if I may say so myself, given the diversity of perspectives that it encompasses.

Indeed, I encourage these early celebrations, because the critical blowback should begin soon. After all, there are not many volumes that will inspire the reader to fall in love with one chapter, only to be tempted to throw the book (or their equivalent e-book devices) against the wall in disgust with the very next chapter. Yet, that's the nature of the "Big Tent" approach of "dialectical libertarianism," which embraces no single party line; it spurs critical dialogue among its adherents (indeed, "dialectic" is cognate with "dialogue").

Enjoy!

Postscript (19 June 2019): In a lively discussion of the contents of the book, the contributors have all been admiring the fact that there is so much "disagreement" in the volume. Some lamented the absence of essays from contributors who are no longer with us, like, for example, my dear friend, the late Don Lavoie. I added these further thoughts, which I share with Notablog readers:

I'm sorry to say that we actually got the rights to include in our collection an essay by the late Don Lavoie, "The Market as a Procedure for the Discovery and Conveyance of Inarticulate Knowledge," but as many of you know, we were forced to go back to the drawing board of our prospectus and cut back dramatically on previously published essays. Don was a very dear friend of mine and a trailblazing thinker. But with Lavoie's essay ending up on the cutting-room floor, I deeply appreciated Nathan Goodman's contribution to our volume!
Only three previously published essays exist in our collection and at least two of them were reworked for the anthology (the essays by Stephan Kinsella and Deirdre McCloskey). While many of the other essays summarize points of previously published works, the bulk of them are original to the volume. And lo and behold, Roderick Tracy Long is right: There is no massive agreement among those who think dialectically in this volume. Which makes this a living project ... open to much growth in the future! All of you here made that possible and I can't thank you folks enough for all the work you did.
There really is a treasure trove of material that could be anthologized in a collection of Don Lavoie’s essays. Aside from being a very dear friend of mine, Don and I had somewhat parallel paths while we were at NYU: he was in the Economics Department pursuing a Ph.D. with Austrian economist Israel Kirzner as his dissertation advisor and Marxist James Becker on his dissertation committee; I was in the Politics Department pursuing a Ph.D. with Marxist Bertell Ollman as my dissertation advisor and Austrian economist Mario Rizzo on my dissertation committee. Don not only encouraged my work with dialectical method, but was probably the very first professor to adopt one of my books (Marx, Hayek, and Utopia) for one of his courses on Comparative Economic Systems.

June 10, 2019

JARS: The New July 2019 Issue and A New Website

It is with great pleasure that I announce today not only the contents of the new July 2019 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, but the debut of our new home page!

The journal made its first appearance in the early Fall of 1999, so, technically, we are entering our twentieth anniversary year; but we are beginning our nineteenth volume with a July issue that provides some hefty discussions of some very interesting philosophical issues. With our December 2019 issue already in the works, we are, in fact, planning out our two 2020 issues, which will officially mark our twentieth anniversary. Imagine that!

We are actually approaching two decades of providing a double-blind, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary, biannual, university-press-published (since 2013) periodical focused on Ayn Rand and her times. When Bill Bradford proposed this idea to me more than twenty years ago, I thought he was crazy! But here we are... moving forward still, with a journal that provides a safe scholarly haven for people coming from remarkably different critical and interpretive perspectives, covering virtually every aspect of Rand studies imaginable---from nitty-gritty discussions on Rand's ethics and aesthetics to engagement on "Rand among the Austrians" and enlightening dialogue over the cultural impact of Rand on progressive rock!

Back in 2016, when we published our first double issue (the first book-length symposium on "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy"), we unveiled a brand-new website, re-designed by our original webmaster, Michael Southern, who had been with us from the beginning. Michael was a dear friend of nearly forty years and transformed our original site with a custom-made template for a new site that made its debut with that symposium. Michael actually provided a centerpiece essay in that symposium, "My Years with Nathaniel Branden," which told the very personal story of his relationship with Branden, first as a client, then as an intern and associate, and, finally, as a friend.

Sadly, tragically, my dear friend was killed in September 2017. With his death, so too died the custom template he developed for our website. He was poised to re-do my own home page, and told me we had "time" for him to share the JARS template with me so that I could easily update it on my own. Alas, we took much for granted. With Michael gone, I tried to maintain the site, but found it increasingly difficult.

I count my blessings that I have come to know many beautiful, honorable, decent, kind, and generous human beings in my life; Michael was one of them.

So too is my dear friend Peter Saint-Andre, who stepped up and completely re-constructed the site, retaining aspects of Michael's design, integrated into a new template, knowing full well that we required a practical plan moving forward for the years to come. I truly cannot quite find the words that would adequately express just how deeply I appreciate Peter's hard work throughout all these months. He is truly a Saint(-Andre)!

JARS readers will recall Peter's long-time relationship with the journal as well. He contributed essays as far back as Volume 4 (2002-2003) ("Conceptualism in Abelard and Rand"; "Zamyatin and Rand"); Volume 5 ("Saying Yes to Rand and Rock," a contribution to the journal's symposium, "Rand, Rush, and Rock"); Volume 7, Number 2 ("Image and Integration in Ayn Rand's Descriptive Style"); Volume 9, Number 1 ("Ayn Rand, Novelist"---a review of The Literary Art of Ayn Rand); and Volume 10, Number 2 ("Nietzsche, Rand, and the Ethics of the Great Task," a contribution to the journal's "Symposium on Friedrich Nietzche and Ayn Rand"). In fact---of great interest to this particular editor, with Peter's current program of deep research into Aristotle (see here, for details), his interests extend to the role of dialectic in Aristotle and how it compares with dialectical libertarianism.

Take a look at the new site and all that it has to offer. Welcome back to: The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

And while you're visiting, take a look at the new July 2019 issue!

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The abstracts for the essays in the new issue can be found here and the Contributor Biographies can be found here. Here is the Table of Contents of the new issue:

Foundational Frames: Descartes and Rand - Stephen Boydstun

Ayn Rand’s Credit Problem - Lamont Rodgers

Ayn Rand and the Lost Axiom of Aristotle: A Philosophical Mystery---Solved? - Roger E. Bissell

The Return of the Arbitrary: Peikoff’s Trinity, Binswanger’s Inferno, Unwanted Possibilities---and a Parrot for President - Robert L. Campbell

As I have vowed since the very first issue of this journal, every issue would bring aboard at least one new contributor to the JARS family of authors. This issue, it is Lamont Rodgers whom we welcome to our pages. And we thank each of the contributors for providing such thought-provoking essays as we begin our nineteenth volume.

I would like to remind prospective contributors to submit their original essays through our Editorial Manager interface provided by Pennsylvania State University Press. And those looking to subscribe to print and/or online editions of the journal can find additional information here. The new issue will soon be making its debut on JSTOR and Project Muse, with print copies going out to subscribers in the weeks to come.

My thanks to all of those who have supported this journal through the years. We are happy to be entering a new phase of our development.

June 09, 2019

Song of the Day #1645

Song of the Day: The Music Man ("Seventy-Six Trombones"), music and lyrics by Meredith Wilson, is one of the rousing highlights from this 1957 Tony Award-winning musical, starring Robert Preston (who won for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical) and Barbara Cook (who won for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical). The cast album would go on to win a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. In October 2020, a revival of the musical, starring the irrepressible Hugh Jackman, will make its debut on Broadway. (Jackman actually performed "Rock Island" [YouTube link] with LL Cool J and T.I. on the 2014 Tony Awards, giving us a glimpse into the "rap" nature of one of the classic opening numbers to the musical!) Check out the original Broadway cast version of today's song from the musical and the 1962 film version [YouTube links], both led by the great Robert Preston. And I'm one to enjoy even one [YouTube link], let alone seventy-six, trombones. Enjoy the Tony Award's celebration of the Broadway stage tonight!

June 08, 2019

It Arrived!

It Arrived!

My New Ben-Hur T-Shirt!

Oh, and so did my very first hardcover copy of The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, co-edited with my friends and colleagues Roger E. Bissell and Edward W. Younkins.

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Don't laugh. I'm trying to stand still in that photo, and not to Jump, Jive, an' Wail!

Song of the Day #1644

Song of the Day: Cabaret ("Maybe This Time"), music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, was one of the winning songs not included in the original 1966 Broadway musical, which nonetheless won a total of eight out of the eleven Tony Awards for which it was nominated: Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role (Joel Grey), Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role (Peg Murray), Best Choreography, Best Scenic Design, and Best Costume Design. I wasn't fortunate enough to see the original Broadway production, but I did see its absolutely spectacular 1998 revival, which won Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (the stupendous Alan Cumming), Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (Natasha Richardson), and Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role (Ron Rifkin)---four awards out of a total of an additional ten nominations. The musical derives from the 1951 play, "I Am a Camera," which itself was adapted from the short story by Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin. This song made its way from the film into the musical revival and it remains one of its highlights, sung by the character Sally Bowles. Check out the rendition sung by Natasha Richardson in the 1998 reboot, and, of course, the Oscar-winning Best Actress performance of Liza Minelli [YouTube links], in the Bob Fosse-directed 1972 film adaptation. Today starts a two-day tribute to the 2019 Tony Awards, hosted by James Corden, which will air on Sunday, June 9th, on the CBS Network.

June 07, 2019

Song of the Day #1643

Song of the Day: Le Grind, composed by Prince, is from his "Black Album" (aka "The Funk Bible"), which was recorded in 1986-87, but not released until 1994, largely because the artist believed it was created under the influence of an "evil" demonic entity "Spooky Electric." With all honesty, it's hard to figure out precisely what was so evil about this funk-heavy track with the same sensuous lyrics we'd all come to expect from The Artist. Despite his tragic death in 2016, his music lives on. Today would have been his sixty-first birthday. Check out the rare track on YouTube.

June 06, 2019

Song of the Day #1642

Song of the Day: I Love You, words and music by Cole Porter, was the #1 song on this day, June 6, 1944, for the fifth week in a row, as sung by Bing Crosby with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra. The song came from Porter's 1944 stage musical "Mexican Hayride." It was first recorded by Wilbur Evans (who played the character David) in that musical, but it was Bing Crosby's recording of the song that took it to the top of the charts. This weekend, other musicals will be honored at the Tony Awards. But it is of particular interest that the American public had embraced a sentimental song of love for the five weeks leading up to the Allied invasion of Normandy, the largest air, land, and sea invasion in human history that proved to be the beginning of the end of World War II. That war, which led to estimated fatalities of 70 to 85 million people, may have signified the "nadir of the Old Right"---but it also brought forth the intellectual seeds of a libertarian resurgence in the decades to come. Nevertheless, I post this song today as an expression of love to my own family members who fought and died in that most horrific of wars, and in honor of those who survived that battle on the beaches of Normandy, and who have returned to those beaches today, to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of that invasion, knowing that, in the words of Herman Wouk: "The beginning of the end of war lies in remembrance." Check out the original Wilbur Evans version of this song and the #1 Bing Crosby hit [YouTube links] that serenaded Americans at home, who listened to the music on the radio, with news bulletins that, they prayed, would move the world one step closer to peace.

May 27, 2019

Memorial Day Tribute: In Honor of My Uncle Tony

Back on Veteran's Day 2018, marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, I wrote:

My family gave many of its native-born American sons to the armed services; my maternal grandparents came from Greece and my paternal grandparents came from Sicily, and their American-born children went off to war---the Second World War, to be precise, a war that was not supposed to happen after the "war to end all wars," the "Great War," which led to the deaths of over 16 million people, including 7 million civilians. Some of those in my family who fought in World War II came home as veterans: my Uncle George Sciabarra and my Uncle Al, who fought in the European theater, as part of the Allied invasion of Italy, from which their parents had emigrated; my Uncle Charlie Sciabarra, who ended up in a German POW camp, liberated after the war; my Uncle Anthony "Tony" Jannace, who, as a member of the [Second Engineer Combat Battalion] of the Second Infantry Division, which eventually became part of Patton’s Third Army, in the second wave of the D-Day invasion on June 7, 1944, [spent] over 300 days [337 to be precise] in combat, involved in five campaigns---in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe. ... [T]hey fought to liberate [certain areas of France], Belgium, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. My Uncle Tony got frostbite during the Battle of the Bulge, and after being hit by mortar on April 7, 1945, he received the Purple Heart. My Uncle Frank was not as lucky; he was killed in that battle, in which American forces suffered heavy casualties [by some estimates, over 20,000 killed, 20,000 taken prisoner, and over 40,000 wounded], under the weight of a German tank offensive. Other than my Uncle Frank, all of my uncles came home as veterans of World War II.

As readers of Notablog know, back in 2004, I wrote a Memorial Day Weekend tribute to my Uncle Sam (who fought in the Pacific theater of World War II); that essay can be found on the Liberty and Power Group Blog. This year, I'd like to highlight a recent tribute to my Uncle Tony (mentioned above).

My own memories of Uncle Tony are of a warm, loving family man, who took me to my first baseball game back in 1970, where we saw the New York Yankees beat the New York Mets in the annual Mayor's Trophy Game, which that year was held in the original, iconic Yankee stadium, before its mid-1970s facelift, and long before the construction of the new Stadium. He suffered from rheumatoid arthritis in his later years, but that didn't stop him from walking us along the Belt Parkway to get a glimpse of the July 4th fireworks display over the Statue of Liberty to honor the Bicentennial celebration of the American revolutionaries' Declaration of Independence.

Earlier this month, my cousin William Jannace, one of my Uncle Tony's sons, attended the annual Pilsen Liberation Festival, held in the Czech Republic, marking the anniversary of the Allied liberation of Czechoslovakia from its Nazi occupiers. For this Memorial Day, I wanted to highlight William's letter to the citizens of Pilsen, which appears on the site of "World War II in the Words of My Uncle," and includes a photo of my Uncle Tony (under the name of Anthony E. Jannace).

Whatever one's historical or political views with regard to the roots of war, none of this matters in the hearts of those whose family members fought---many of whom died---in the wars of the twentieth century. My Uncle Tony was lucky to have survived and flourished, bringing much joy and happiness to all those whose lives he touched.

William praised the people of the Czech Republic not only for their ability to transcend years of Nazi occupation, but for having endured another 45 years under Soviet oppression. After his attendance at the annual Pilsen Liberation Festival, William wrote a letter of appreciation to the citizens of Pilsen, for their deeply moving tribute to their liberators: "To the credit of the people of the Czech Republic who persevered another 45 years after the end of the war, you never relented in your desire for freedom---very much evident on display this past weekend." He emphasized that "the desire for freedom, democracy and rule of law can be temporarily side-tracked but never eradicated."

Read William's moving tribute here.

JannaceGraveSite.jpg

In Calverton National Cemetery, Calverton, New York

May 21, 2019

The Dialectics of Liberty: Cover Design and More

I am happy to unveil the new cover to The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom.

DOLCoverB.jpg

I'd also like to share with Notablog readers the endorsements that appear on the back cover, from my long-time friends and colleagues Stephen Cox, Lester Hunt, and Mario Rizzo:

"The Dialectics of Liberty is a remarkably wide-ranging study of libertarian ideas, conducted by writers of great authority but of different views and approaches. Mature yet lively, it is full of surprises. If you want to know the state of libertarian thought right now, you will need to read this book."

--- Stephen Cox, University of California, San Diego

"This book of original essays by thinkers from a very wide array of disciplines opens the fascinating possibility of recasting the libertarian and classical liberal points of view in terms of "dialectical libertarianism." This way of looking at the matter promises to lay to rest once and for all the charge that these points of view are atomistic and ahistorical. I hope it inspires further research along these lines."

--- Lester H. Hunt, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"This stimulating collection maps out exciting new directions in the philosophy of liberty. The essays are authored by some of the best minds in scholarly libertarian thought today. Whether you are a libertarian or not, you will find many important---and challenging---ideas developed here. An important and lively book."

--- Mario Rizzo, New York University

For those interested in obtaining a hardcover or e-book edition of this book at a 30% discount, download the promotional offer here. Visit the Lexington Books website or Amazon.com for additional information. A softcover edition is sure to follow in early 2020. Stay tuned!

Much more information will follow as we near our release date of June 15, 2019. Thanks to everyone who has made this trailblazing volume possible. The best is yet to come.

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Welcome to Notablog.net:  The Blog of Chris Matthew Sciabarra

Information on email notification, comments policy, and the meaning of "Notablog" or write to me at: chris DOT sciabarra AT nyu DOT edu. Thanks to Don Hamerman for this poignant photograph from 1999.

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