July 08, 2020

Long Overdue Thanks for Pod Shout-Outs

I have been so busy meeting deadlines, and have not had an opportunity to express some long overdue appreciation to several colleagues and friends for giving me a shout-out in their various podcasts.

o To Steve Horwitz who mentioned me in an interview with Ari Armstrong, while discussing his book, Hayek's Modern Family, here (16 February 2020).

o To Anastasiya Vasilievna Grigorovskaya who mentioned me in her talk, "Ayn Rand's Artistic Work in the Russian Context" at the Ninth International Conference of the Hayek Institute and the European University (Center for Modernization Studies) on "Capitalism and Freedom" (live streamed on 20 June 2020) here (yes, it's in Russian!).

o To Daniel Bastiat who discusses some points from my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical on his "Stateless Atheist" podcast, "7 Things Atheists Should Stop Saying" here (7 July 2020).

o To Sheldon Richman, whose talk, "Context-Keeping and Community Organizing" (which also appears in the superb volume Markets Not Capitalism [pdf link]), mentions my dialectical method here (1 June 2015).

o To Pasquale Cascone, my neighbor downstairs, who is co-host of the "Majority Rules, NY" podcast, who gave a shout-out to me, during a 27 June 2020 discussion of "They Say Opposites Attract?", here. (It's a really entertaining show! Check out past episodes!)

I encourage listeners to subscribe to all the channels of the folks above! And thanks again!

Postscript: Oh, and thanks to this sweet squirrel for making my day!

Dialectical Thinking in The New York Daily News

I've been working really hard on deadlines, and have fallen a bit behind in my reading. But I finally got to the July 3, 2020 issue of New York's Hometown Paper: The New York Daily News. And I came to the op-ed essay by Eli Merritt, entitled "How To Remember the Founders" (also found at the History News Network) ... and my jaw dropped. Merritt is a visiting scholar at Vanderbilt completing a history of the founding period entitled Disunion Among Ourselves: How North-South Compromise Saved the American Revolution. I have no idea how much we might agree or disagree on any number of issues, but, as you'll see from the excerpt below, he had me at "dialectical thinking."

As many folks know, I've been championing the virtues of dialectical thinking for the better part of four decades now. But too much of that discussion has gone on in scholarly circles. So it was a breath of fresh air to see Merritt's application of a more contextually sensitive approach to understanding the American founders. Whether or not you agree with Merritt's characterizations or conclusions, I think he's spot on with regard to how to approach these issues, something that I drove home in my recent post, "On Statues, Sledgehammers, and Scalpels." Here's a dose of what Merritt has to say:

Over the past several decades, the Founding Fathers have fallen severely out of favor. Once revered as the trailblazers of American liberty and equality, they are now often denounced as the nation’s patriarchal and racist architects of white male supremacy. Statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are under attack, sometimes literally. Especially for the original sin of slavery, whether as practitioners of it themselves or as willing conspirators in its perpetuation in the Constitution, the Founders are held up as objects of censure, not honorary celebration, including on the Fourth of July. ... [W]here does the reality of the Founders’ racism and barbaric practice of slavery leave a history-conscious nation?
After grappling with this question for years, I find only one way out of the grievous moral morass of our founding history. It is dialectical thinking. This method of analyzing historical questions contrasts with dichotomous or all-or-nothing thinking, in which the thinker makes binary judgments based on formulas of "right or wrong" and "good or bad." In dialectical thinking, we tolerate the cognitive dissonance of holding opposing, contradictory viewpoints in our minds at the same time, such as the proposition that Washington and Jefferson were immoral and corrupt slaveowners and, simultaneously, fierce and brilliant dissenters who established equality and justice as our nation's founding principles.
In fact, once we subject our analysis of the founding period to the dialectical method, we can marvel at the unity of our history from the toppling of the statue of King George III in New York City in 1776 to the toppling of Confederate and other white-dominant statues across the country today. Opening our minds to historical paradox, we discover that, in spite of the horrors of the past and present, Americans are philosophically one people with one narrative. Our common narrative centers on the undying fight for equality and justice for an ever-widening circle of "We the People."

What Merritt drives home in this thoughtful essay is essentially the central motif of dialectical thinking, which requires us to pay attention to the larger context. When we do look at things from different vantage points and on different levels of generality, and as we broaden the scope of our inquiry, we tend to move away from what psychologists in the cognitive-behavioral field characterize as cognitive distortions. Such distortions include: All or Nothing Thinking; Overgeneralizing (for example, thinking that if one thing goes wrong, everything must go wrong); Mentally Filtering Our Experiences (viewing an entire experience through either a fully positive or fully negative lens); Catastrophizing (magnifying a single aspect to the detriment of the wider context); and Jumping to Conclusions (taking a single factor as universal and rendering a judgment that drops the wider context).

I think that what Merritt puts his finger on is something that dialectical thinkers have understood, from Aristotle to Hegel (and Hegel himself saw Aristotle as "the fountainhead" of dialectical method). As I write in Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism:

One of Hegel's distinctive concepts in this regard is the notion of aufheben, which, Hegel tells us, "has a twofold meaning in the language: on the one hand it means to preserve, to maintain, and equally it also means to cause to cease, to put an end to." [It] has been translated on occasion as "to supersede." ... Hegel occasionally uses the phrase "erhalten und verklaren," which means, more broadly, "to preserve, transfigure, or illuminate" [sometimes rendered as] "to sublate," which means to cancel, abolish, or annul---and, simultaneously, to preserve. This translation has become standard. ... To sublate, then, actually has three cognitive implications: to cancel, to preserve, and to elevate or transcend. [It can be compared to] the English phrase "to put aside." To put something aside "may mean to put it out of the way, to have done with it, abolish it. Or it may mean to put it aside for future use, to keep and preserve it." "To sublate" embodies both of these meanings, taken together.

So, in a sense, when we look at any historical event or social problem, even when every aspect of our moral conscience tells us to cancel, abolish, annul ... there is a moment when we need to take pause and move away from "all or nothing thinking." Because it is equally important to preserve, elevate, and transcend. And dialectical thinking about any event or problem offers us the tools by which to get that job done ... with scalpels, rather than sledgehammers.

It's a good article, whatever your perspective on current events; I recommend it to your attention.

July 06, 2020

Song of the Day #1797

Song of the Day: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (Main Theme) was composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone for the Sergio Leone-directed 1966 epic Spaghetti Western film. Today, Ennio Morricone, one of the most prolific film score composers of his generation, died at the age of 91. Check out the original soundtrack version and the 1968 Hugo Montenegro hit version [YouTube links]. Then, in keeping with our Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition), check out, from the 2007 tribute album, "We All Love Ennio Morricione" this Quincy Jones-Herbie Hancock collaboration, and a truly superb live jazz interpretation featuring Herbie, Steve Woods, and Patti Austin [YouTube links].

July 05, 2020

Independence Day Fireworks: A Tribute to the Spirit of New York

For those who didn't catch the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Display... check it out here (cued to the beginning of the show).

It was staged throughout the week and combined with live footage, extending from Times Square to the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty to Brooklyn's own Coney Island (where the Wonder Wheel is celebrating its 100th anniversary ... ). And with a little "New York, New York" thrown in from < href="https://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/notablog/archives/002032.html">Ol' Blue Eyes for good measure, it was as much a tribute to the resilience of the people of New York (and its first responders) as it was to the 244th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Song of the Day #1796

Song of the Day: Prelude No. 2 in C-Sharp Minor (from "Three Preludes"), composed by Brooklyn-born George Gershwin, is illustrative of the uniquely American integration of classical and jazz idioms in a superb instrumental setting. The composer himself premiered the work at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1926. Check out recordings of this piece by Gershwin himself [YouTube link] and as later interpreted in 1959 (on the album "Brazilliance, Volume 3") by guitarist Laurindo Almeida and alto saxophonist Bud Shank, who, on this track plays the flute [YouTube link]. It was also given a fabulous treatment by Dave Grusin on his #1 Grammy-winnning Billboard Jazz Album, "The Gershwin Connection", featuring an all-star band, including Chick Corea (keyboards), Lee Ritenour (guitar), John Pattitucci (bass), Gary Burton (vibes), Dave Weckl and Harvey Mason (drums), and Eddie Daniels (clarinet). Check out this wonderful rendition [YouTube link].

July 04, 2020

Song of the Day #1795

Song of the Day: When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again has a history of varied origins, but was most likely written by Irish-American bandleader Patrick Gilmore during the American Civil War. The song was sung by people North and South who yearned for the return of their friends and relatives from the field of battle (though it was later used by Ulysses S. Grant as a campaign song with lyrics promising to leave the KKK "a-tremblin' in their shoes"). This staple of the Independence Day Songbook was even resurrected by later generations and immortalized in World War II films such as "Stalag 17" [YouTube link]. In keeping with our Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition), there are at least two notable renditions: a classic take by the Andrews Sisters and a swinging scorcher by jazz organist Jimmy Smith [YouTube links] (with Quentin Warren on guitar and Donald Bailey on drums). Americans mark this as the day on which the colonists---imperfect as they were---pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor in declaring their independence from the British Empire. The project of this country's founding remains incomplete, but forever emancipatory. I yearn for the day when all the Johnnies, Janes, and everyone in-between come marching home again---in a world of peace and freedom. Have a Happy and Safe Independence Day!

July 02, 2020

Sign O' The Times

Stephan Pastis hits another HR with this "Pearls Before Swine" installment:

PearlsBeforeSwineApocalypse.png

July 01, 2020

Celebrating Lives and Legacies

When Carl Reiner (March 20, 1922-June 29, 2020) died the other day at the age of 98, the actor, comedian, director, screenwriter, and author left behind a legacy of uproarious hilarity. I was first exposed to him in "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (and CBS will be airing back-to-back colorized episodes of the show on Friday, July 3 at 8 pm ET!). I greatly enjoyed his many movies and television specials over the years.

Today, another legend from Reiner's generation is celebrating a birthday. Olivia de Havilland, one of the few surviving stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, turns 104! From her films with the great swashbuckler Errol Flynn to her Oscar-winning turns in "To Each His Own" and "The Heiress," she has provided us with quite a film legacy.

So I'm celebrating two lives tonight... and two legacies.

June 29, 2020

Celebrating the Ray Harryhausen Centenary

Today marks the centenary of the birth of master special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen---born on this date in 1920. Turner Classic Movies is celebrating tonight with a line-up of some classic films that feature his remarkable stop motion animation.

I can't even begin to put into words what Harryhausen's films meant to me growing up. So it's best to let his genius speak for itself! From the 1963 film, "Jason and the Argonauts," augmented by a superb score from Bernard Herrmann.

June 28, 2020

Song of the Day #1794

Song of the Day: You've Made Me So Very Happy features the words and music of Berry Gordy, Frank Wilson, Patrice Holloway, and Brenda Holloway, who recorded this song in 1967 [YouTube link]. The song barely cracked the Top 40 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B Singles Chart. But it was a featured selection on the jukebox of the Stonewall Inn, which, on this date, was subject to a police raid, something that was typically aimed at private establishments catering to same-sex clientele. Such bars were often denied liquor licenses or harassed simply because it was illegal for same-sex couples to hold hands, kiss, or dance together ("lewd behavior"). This particular bar was owned and "protected" by the Genovese crime family, which paid off police officers from the Sixth Precinct to look the other way. Corrupt cops would often get payola to tip off the bar if there were any impending raids. But no tip offs came on this night. The police entered the bar, roughed up employees and patrons, and even arrested people for not wearing "gender-appropriate clothing" (something that was actually against the law at the time). The patrons had had enough. They pushed back and touched off six nights of rioting, fighting for their very right to exist and to pursue their own happiness. Though there were many other precipitating events prior to 1969 involving many brave activists, Stonewall remains the singular "nodal point" that gave birth to Pride Day celebrations the world over (today, to the date, is, in fact, the fiftieth anniversary of the first Pride March in 1970 that marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising). In the end, however, this date celebrates the birthright of every human being to pursue their own vision of personal happiness, without fear of state or social oppression. In keeping with our Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition), we mark this occasion with several jazz-infused versions of this song, chief among them the classic Blood, Sweat, and Tears jazz-rock rendition [YouTube link], released the same year as the Stonewall Rebellion, rising to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. And check out renditions by song stylist Nancy Wilson, pianist Ramsey Lewis, clarinet legend Benny Goodman, the Lasse Lindgren Big Constellation and trumpeter Chet Baker [YouTube links] (from his very commercial album, with the clever title of "Blood, Chet and Tears").

June 27, 2020

Song of the Day #1793

Song of the Day: A Little Less Wonderful [YouTube link], words and music by my dear friend Roger Bissell, is highlighted today in honor of his birthday! This song, written in 1982, features vocals by Roger's kids (Charlie, Rebecca, Andrew, and Daniel) and gospel singer, Mike Allen. Roger provides the scat-singing, whistling, finger snaps, and "mouth percussion" (sounds perverse, I know). This is a sweet track from the 2010 album, "Reflective Trombone." And for a loving twist on the tune check out this George Smith-produced video version [YouTube link]. To my brother from another mother: Many more happy and healthy returns, with love! Keep bringing more wonderful music (and many more wonderful ideas) into our world!

June 26, 2020

Song of the Day #1792

Song of the Day: Captain Senor Mouse, composed by jazz keyboardist extraordinaire Chick Corea, made its debut on two 1973 albums: "Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy" with Return to Forever (featuring Bill Connors on guitar, Stanley Clarke on bass, and Lenny White on drums) and with vibraphonist Gary Burton on the duet album "Crystal Silence" (and in the 2008 Grammy Award-winning live set, "The New Crystal Silence"). Check out this Chick composition in all its wonderful renditions: with Return to Forever and with Gary Burton in studio and live settings, as well as covers by guitarist Al DiMeola, guitarist Martin Taylor and bassist Peter Ind, guitarist Kevin Eubanks, and Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band [YouTube links].

June 25, 2020

Coronavirus (27): Majority Rules NY

As coronavirus cases ebb in NY, and are spiking elsewhere in the country, I had a chance to catch up with my friend Pasquale Cascone (who lives downstairs from me!), and his "Majority Rules NY" crew [YouTube link], which describes itself as follows:

Follow us on Instagram @majorityrulesny ... Message us some topics you’d like us to address. Check us out on iTunes, Spotify, TuneIn radio, iHeartradio, Google podcasts for more episodes from before we went to video and audio. We are a show that relates to all of us in between the full blown adult phase of life and the last ounce of youthfulness and trying to find the perfect balance.

This video made on 26 April 2020 is just a bunch of neighborhood guys who will bring a smile to your face. Pasquale's discussion of living as an essential worker during a time of "f&c*ing chaos" will give you a chuckle, even in the midst of a world turned upside down. This is no Theatre of the Absurd---since you'll find some nuggets of wisdom, and lots of laughs, while listening to these guys thrash it about.

Song of the Day #1791

Song of the Day: ABC is credited to "The Corporation"---that Motown group of musical creators who included Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell, and Deke Richards. This song was the second of four consecutive Jackson Five songs to hit #1, and alphabetically, it is at the beginning of Billboard's all-time #1 hits. Eleven years ago today, Michael Jackson died tragically. Last year, I wrote an essay addressing his legacy and controversial life; this year, I mark this anniversary with memories of a happier time. Check out the original J5 single and the Jackson Five appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on 10 May 1970. But in keeping with the theme of our Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition), check out this big band arrangement by Jim McMillen from the album, "Swingin' to Michael Jackson: A Tribute".

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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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