December 10, 2019

Song of the Day #1685

Song of the Day: Demolition Man, words and music by Sting, was first recorded by Grace Jones as part of her 1981 album, "Nightclubbing." The Police would record their own version of the song on their 1981 album, "Ghost in the Machine," as would Mannfred Mann's Earth Band for their 1983 album, "Somewhere in Afrika." Sting himself would release his own version as part of a 1993 EP in support of the Sylvester Stallone/Wesley Snypes film of the same name. I put this song up today with a little tongue-in-cheek (and with a hat tip to my friend, Brandon). For those who don't know why I've made this the Song of the Day, no explanation is possible; for those who do, no explanation is necessary. :) Check out the various versions: Grace Jones, The Police studio version and performance video, Mannfred Mann's Earth Band, and the Sting solo rendition [YouTube links].

December 05, 2019

Song of the Day #1684

Song of the Day: Pneuma features the music of Maynard James Keenan and the lyrics of Keenan [YouTube interview link], Adam Jones, Danny Carey, and Justin Chancellor of the progressive metal band Tool for their fifth studio album, "Fear Inoculum." Hat tip to Richie! The word "pneuma" comes from the ancient Greek for "breath"---and this track certainly breathes. It captures the notion of "becoming"---in Stoic thought, the emergence of the vital spirit, soul, and creativity of both the individual and the cosmos. Check out this piece from their critically acclaimed #1 album on YouTube.

December 01, 2019

Sassy, Mel, and Merv

I was a senior in high school, and one night I caught a showing of the "Merv Griffin Show" that was absolutely splendid. I pulled out my trusty audio cassette recorder [a Wiki link for those who don't know what that is] and immediately hit the record button. On the show that night were two of my all-time favorite singers: Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme. Each did a solo spot (Sarah did "Someone to Watch Over Me" and Mel did a stupendous "Porgy and Bess Medley" [YouTube link to his studio version of it]). But then, the two jazz greats joined forces for "Lady Be Good" and an impromptu version of "I Got Rhythm." All these years, all I had to go on was the audio cassette version of this wonderful musical TV moment.

And then, just the other day, I was having a chat with a friend, mentioning one of the lyrics to "Lady Be Good" and I did a haphazard search on YouTube and---lo and behold, I found a clip from the "Merv Griffin Show" of Sassy and Mel doing the version that has been emblazoned in my mind due to my audio cassette recording of it back in the 1970s. And watching it, I was practically able to sing along and "scat" along with every note the two traded in their exhibition of the art of vocal improvisation.

So this is not a song of the day, since I featured "Lady Be Good" on---believe it or not---November 30, 2006 (where I referred to this Sass-Mel duet!), the very date (yesterday) that I shared with my friend one of the lyrics to the song. But for those who have never heard or seen this wonderful duet, check it out on YouTube [YouTube link]. If for nothing else, you will see on display the pure joy of two giants trading in a currency unique to them, which can be appreciated by anyone who trades in the universality of music.

November 28, 2019

Mystery Solved: Cali: Calico or Tortoiseshell Cat?

So yesterday, Cali went in for her annual shots and general check-up and our top-notch vet and dearest friend, Dr. Linda E. Jacobson, found her in excellent health. Our little baby behaved with complete subdued gentility---no running around at top speed, no climbing on furniture, no dropping of large objects that make loud noises in the middle of the night, no mischief whatsoever. In other words: Nothing like she is at home.

But for those who have followed Cali's 2+ year journey as a member of our family here, here, and here, we had thought Cali was a Calico cat (from which her name was derived).

As it turns out, she's actually a Tortoiseshell cat. Apparently, the Calico and the Tortoiseshell are very closely related genetically.

Wikipedia tells us:

In the folklore of many cultures, cats of the tortoiseshell coloration are believed to bring good luck. Dating back to Celtic times, tortoiseshell cats have been perceived to bring good fortune into their homes. Even today, the Irish and Scottish believe stray tortoiseshell cats bring them luck. In the United States, tortoiseshells are sometimes referred to as money cats.

We haven't had any recent infusions of money. But she does bring good fortune. She's about the most entertaining, loving, hilarious nutjob of a cat you'd ever want as a family member! :)

Here she is today, hanging out on top of the recliner, as we get ready to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner.


Song of the Day #1683

Song of the Day: We Gather Together is a Christian hymn, derived from a Dutch poem, "Wilt heden Nu Treden," written by Adrianus Valerius, which celebrated the Dutch victory over the Spanish in the Battle of Turnhout in 1597. It was later wedded to an 1877 score arrangement of Eduard Kremser, with English lyrics provided by musicologist Theordore Baker in 1894. Recognized as an American hymnal in 1903 by the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, it was adopted by the Dutch Reformed Church in 1937 as its first non-psalm-related hymnal, but gradually made its way into the hymnals of many interdenominational institutions, especially on this holiday. Check out various renditions of this hymn from the Grace Community Church in California, the Joslin Grove Choral Society, and, finally, as a tribute to the late actor John Ingle (who played the character of Edward Quartermaine from 1996 to 2012 on "General Hospital") [YouTube links]. Whatever one's religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, I think of this hymnal on this Thanksgiving Day as a way of counting the many blessings I have. And I wish all my Notablog readers a "Happy Thanksgiving" as they gather together with family and friends to celebrate this holiday.

November 25, 2019

New December 2019 JARS: A Special "Atlas Shrugged" Symposium

It gives me great pleasure to announce the publication of a very special December 2019 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. It features a symposium on the occasion of the 60+ year anniversary of Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged. Indeed, it's a wonderful issue, and I hope readers will "think twice" about the various provocative interpretations of Rand's novel as offered here. This issue officially ends our nineteenth volume, preparing the way for our twentieth anniversary celebration! It makes its debut on JSTOR and Project Muse today, and will be headed to subscribers immediately thereafter.


As I state in the preface to the issue's symposium:

On 10 October 1957, Random House published Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. Now, more than sixty years after the publication of Rand's magnum opus, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies presents four essays offering dramatically different perspectives on the novel’s meaning, context, and legacy.

Readers can find the abstracts to the articles listed below here and the contributor biographies here. As is our policy with every issue, new authors are welcomed to the JARS family: Robert Genter and Samantha Ann Opperman are our two newest contributors.

Table of Contents - December 2019

Preface to the Symposium: Atlas Shrugged: Sixty-Plus Years Later - Chris Matthew Sciabarra

"The Strike" Reborn: Ayn Rand, Revolutionary Literature, and the Postwar American Novel - Robert Genter

Sexual Catharsis as an Experience of the Postfeminist in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged - Samantha Ann Opperman

Atlas Shrugged as Epic - Troy Earl Camplin

The Representation of Trauma in Ayn Rand’s Novel Atlas Shrugged - Anastasiya Vasilievna Grigorovskaya


The Non-Contradiction of Determinism: Conditional Volition and Vanilla Ice Cream - Roger E. Bissell


Those interested in subscribing to the journal can get more information here and those who are interested in submitting essays to the journal should visit our Penn State Press Editorial Manager platform.

Song of the Day #1682

Song of the Day: Park Avenue Petite was composed by tenor saxophonist Benny Golson. It first appeared on the 1960 album "Meet the Jazztet," featuring trumpeter Art Farmer and pianist McCoy Tyner. Check it out here and here [YouTube links]. In that same year, trumpeter Howard McGhee recorded another melancholy version [YouTube link] for his album "Dusty Blue." But my favorite version is by Blue Mitchell, which preceded both the Golson and McGhee recordings; it was featured on his 1959 album, "Blue Soul," with a group that included pianist Wynton Kelly, trombonist Curtis Fuller, tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Philly Jo Jones. Check out his haunting version here (and a hat tip to my friend Brandon!). A blue song for a blue Monday in November.

November 19, 2019

A Small Reflection on a Big Wall

As the world was marking the thirtieth anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 2019), I was going through some of my old yearbooks---from my graduating years of elementary school (P.S. 215, June 1972), junior high school (David A. Boody Junior High School, June 1974), and high school (John Dewey High School, June 1977). Many treasured memories of days gone by.

But one thing jumped out at me, quite ironically. I could not get over how many of my classmates signed my yearbooks with phrases such as: "To my friend Chris, Love you until the Berlin Wall falls!" I suspect they meant "forever"---because it seemed to those of us who grew up in the shadow of the Cold War that this would be the state of the world long after we were all gone.

Or to be more historically specific: We all have a tendency to reify our current circumstances as if they are unalterable. I look back at any generation that has faced what appear to be insurmountable difficulties: my parents, aunts, and uncles who lived through World War II and even my own generation that has lived under the shadow of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and the post-Cold War events that have unfolded since 9/11, coupled with the exponential rise of political tribalism, economic nationalism, and "progressive" democratic socialism offered as panaceas. With a nod toward gallows humor, I chuckle at Marx's classic maxim that history repeats itself, "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

But I think that, in the end, as witnesses to history, we cannot deny that circumstances both echo the past and, at surprising moments in our lives, like the events of thirty years ago, smash its most intractable assumptions.

I know the world is not a pleasant place nowadays; polarization on the home front has not been this pronounced since the 1960s, in my humble opinion. But for those of us who value human liberty, and the vigilance it takes to keep and preserve it, there is a seemingly intractable paradox: The only thing that makes the building of walls possible is the weakest of human desires, motivated typically by fear---the desire to rule or to be ruled---because the prospect of freedom is often overwhelming in the demands it places on personal responsibility and the need to "step up" on behalf of the rights of our neighbors. But the only thing that makes the falling of walls inevitable is the more powerful human desire to embrace that freedom---and all the possibilities it offers for the flourishing of the human condition.

So to my classmates from elementary school, middle school, and high school, I know what you meant when you inscribed my yearbooks with that old Berlin Wall metaphor. I can only offer a very small reflection on a very big wall: Love endures longer than walls. And the fight for freedom requires the dismantling of the walls that continue to separate and constrain us.

Rick Sincere, RIP

Yesterday, I learned of the passing of libertarian Rick Sincere, a person I never met except through the miracle of the Internet and social media.

I extend my heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. I know that I was blessed by having interacted with him over the years, and I am deeply moved by the outpouring of remembrances for him. Rick, RIP.

November 18, 2019

Grace and Rosemary Share the Same OB-GYN?

If anybody tells me I've got too much time on my hands, it'll be "Bang, Zoom!" [YouTube link].

I just happened to be watching episode 4 ("The Chicken or the Egg Donor") of the reboot of "Will and Grace" (season 11), and noticed that ol' SNL regular Vanessa Bayer is back and that "In Living Color" regular Ali Wentworth made an appearance as Grace's OB-GYN (Grace is expecting a child): Dr. Saperstein. Both had their hilarious moments.

But was I the only one to notice that Grace's doctor shares the same name with another famous OB-GYN from film history? And I'm not talking about Henry Winkler's "Dr. Saperstein" from the sit-com "Parks and Recreation."

I'm talking about Rosemary Woodhouse's OB-GYN, Dr. (Abraham) Saperstein, played by Ralph Bellamy in the 1968 classic horror film, "Rosemary's Baby" based on the famous Ira Levin novel.

Now, I don't think that they are intending for "Will and Grace" to take a demonic turn and I doubt that Grace is carrying the Devil's progeny. But this just can't be a coincidence that a couple of OB-GYN Dr. Sapersteins have shown up on TV shows in the post-1968 era! Has to be a paean to the horror classic. Or just an inside joke. Right? :)

November 07, 2019

Sinatra Across the Generations

Hat tip to Stephen Hicks for sharing this on Facebook, showing how the Chairman of the Board, Ol' Blue Eyes, Francis Albert Sinatra, reaches across the generations; check it out here.

It brought to mind my own multi-week Centenary tribute to Sinatra back in 2015.

October 31, 2019

Congrats to the Nats

I watched the 2019 World Series, all seven games, and thought the Washington Nationals, the biggest underdogs in about a dozen years, didn't have much a chance to beat the heavily favored Houston Astros. In many ways, the Nationals (formerly the Montreal Expos, a franchise that relocated to Washington, D. C.) reminded me just a bit of the Miracle Mets of 1969, who defeated the much more heavily favored Baltimore Orioles to win their first World Series Championship.

This is the first franchise to bring Washington, D. C. a World Series championship since the 1924 Washington Senators did it. It is also the first time any franchise in any major league sports that any team has gone on to a championship by winning all of its games on the road, and not a single game at home! So much for "home-field advantage"! (To be clear, the Houston Astros won all three games played at the Washington Nationals' Home Park, while the Washington Nationals won all four games played at the Astros' Home Park. That's simply unheard of in a seven-game series!)

Anyway, Congrats to the Nats! A truly enjoyable World Series to watch from beginning to end.

October 20, 2019

At Least There Were the Geico Commercials ...

Yes, at least there were the hilarious Geico commercials to watch during the American League Championship Series, like this one about the guy who passes up an opportunity to purchase a new home because of what's in the attic. Yeah, THAT made me laugh.

The American League Championship Series: Not so much.

Kudos to the Houston Astros for beating the Yanks, whom they out-pitched, out-hit, and out-played. I really thought we might be going to a Game 7, but the Astros took the American League Pennant in the bottom of the ninth inning after a thrilling comeback two-run homer by DJ LeMahieu tied the game in the top of that inning. But He Who is Not Mariano Rivera gave up a two-run homer to He Who Shall Not Be Named to lead the Astros to a 6-4 victory over the Yanks in Game 6 in Houston.

I'm super-pissed off at the Yanks for leaving so many guys in scoring position and not being able to come up with the big hit when the team needed it. And for not beefing up their starting pitching. And for ... oh, well, what's the sense?

Anyway, I'm not bitter at the Astros.

(Go Nats.)

October 12, 2019

New York Postseason Baseball Continues ...

And so tonight it begins: A re-match of the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees (who last met in the AL Championship Series in 2017, which the Astros won in 7 games to go on to win their franchise's first World Championship). The winner of this series will represent the American League in the World Series.

There should be no doubt who this Bronx Bombers Fanatic is rooting for.

But while I'm at it, I'd like to extend a Big Congratulations to Pete Alonso of the New York Mets who has been selected unanimously by Baseball America as Rookie of the Year! Next up, I think, should be the bona fide Baseball Writers' Association of America's selection of Alonso for NL Rookie of the Year. It would be well deserved; he broke the Yanks' Aaron Judge's single season home run record for a rookie, hitting his 53rd home run on September 28, 2019.

But it's the postseason now... and it's time to focus on the Yankees quest for a 28th World Series Championship. GO YANKS!

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Welcome to  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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