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June 29, 2014

Song of the Day #1188

Song of the Day: I Know A Place, words and music by Tony Hatch, was one of those perennial favorites requested by the regular clientele of the Stonewall Inn. On the weekend of 28-29 June 1969, the site became Ground Zero for a drag queen-led riot against police harassment of gay and lesbian establishments. It is among the events that gave birth to the modern American movement to protect the individual rights of gays and lesbians, and it is in honor of that event that I post this song on this date. The song was recorded most famously by Petula Clark, but has also been recorded by Sammy Davis, Jr., with the Buddy Rich Band [YouTube links], and Vi Velasco, whose rendition features jazz guitarist Carl Barry, my Bro.

June 26, 2014

Song of the Day #1187

Song of the Day: Rock the Boat, words and music by Waldo Holmes, was a #1 Billboard Hot 100 single, that was bubbling in the Top Ten on this very date in 1974, when Derek Jeter was born. On this date, on the occasion of his fortieth birthday, I think we can safely say that Derek has "rocked the boat" for fans of the game throughout his stellar career. Having announced that this will be his final year as a professional baseball player, Derek leaves us with many rockin' moments to remember throughout a stellar career. Check here [YouTube link] for the original Hues Corporation single and Celebrate Jeter, Captain of the Yankees, and of my pinstripe heart, now and forever.

June 17, 2014

JARS: Exciting July 2014 Issue!

The July 2014 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (Volume 14, Number 1) will be in the hands of subscribers shortly, and it is filled with a host of provocative essays by Rand scholars, many of them new to our pages.

NEW JULY 2014 JARS

The issue features the following essays (see abstracts here and contributor biographies here).

Introduction: Life, Death, Renewal - Chris Matthew Sciabarra

Barbara Branden’s Bibliography - Roger E. Bissell

Why James Taggart Is No Prince Charming: Ayn Rand and Fairy Tales - Caroline Breashears

The Problem with Selfishness - Marsha Familaro Enright

Preference Formation, Choice Sets, and the Creative Destruction of Preferences - Russell S. Sobel and J. R. Clark

REVIEWS

Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies (reviews of Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue: Studies in Ayn Rand's Normative Theory and Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge: Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology (edited by Allan Gotthelf and James G. Lennox) - Fred Seddon

DISCUSSION

Symposium on Robert L. Campbell’s essay, "An End to Over and Against" (published in the July 2013 issue):

Reply to Robert L. Campbell: Thoughts for the Future - Jennifer Burns

Reply to Robert L. Campbell: The Mainstreaming of Ayn Rand - Mimi Reisel Gladstein

Reply to Robert L. Campbell: Landscapes Overlooked - Anne Conover Heller

Rejoinder to Jennifer Burns, Anne Conover Heller, and Mimi Reisel Gladstein: Psychology, Jewishness, and Noting and Working Around - Robert L. Campbell

This symposium is certainly a highlight of the issue. Imagine this: a writer reviews two recently published biographical-historical studies of Ayn Rand, and receives written replies from the authors of these books, as well as another scholar in Rand studies, and the reviewer writes a rejoinder. It may sound like a novel concept for a periodical dealing with Rand studies (though it is, or should be, business-as-usual for journals claiming to be "scholarly"). But through the years, Rand-oriented periodicals have been notoriously sectarian, their editors never dreaming to allow authors to reply to their critics for fear of sanctioning something vaguely or explicitly "evil" (thankfully, that trend is changing, as Fred Seddon notes in his review of the recent Ayn Rand Society publications, which feature essays and replies, and "Author Meets Critics" formats). In JARS, however, it is, indeed, business as usual, and we are extraordinarily proud to present such a civilized and illuminating exchange in this exciting issue.

The issue begins, however, by noting the passing of two figures important to Ayn Rand studies: Allan Gotthelf and Barbara Branden. As the author of the introduction, "Life, Death, Renewal," I had personal dealings with both of these individuals. I write:

With this issue, the journal wishes to acknowledge the passing of two individuals who made a significant impact on the development of Ayn Rand studies: Allan Gotthelf, an Aristotelian and Randian scholar; and Barbara Branden, Ayn Rand's first authorized biographer, who later went on to write The Passion of Ayn Rand, until recently, the only available full-length biography of Rand.
Gotthelf (Brooklyn-born, 30 December 1942) received his master's degree in mathematics from Pennsylvania State University, and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University. His doctoral dissertation, "Aristotle's Conception of Final Causality," won first prize in the Dissertation Essay Competition of The Review of Metaphysics, where it was published in December 1976 (vol. 30, no. 2, 226-54). Gotthelf subsequently edited a number of works in Aristotle studies, including a Festschrift in honor of David M. Balme, entitled Aristotle on Nature and Living Things: Philosophical and Historical Studies (Mathesis, 1985), and a coedited volume with James G. Lennox, Philosophical Issues in Aristotle's Biology (Cambridge University Press, 1987). A collection of sixteen essays on Aristotle by Gotthelf was published by Oxford University Press in 2012, entitled Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle's Biology, as part of the Oxford Aristotle Studies series.
Gotthelf also authored and edited a number of works on Ayn Rand. His primer on Rand for the Wadsworth Philosophers Series, On Ayn Rand (2000), was reviewed in these pages by Aeon Skoble (The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 2, no. 1, Fall 2000, 131-35). He also coedited, with James G. Lennox, the first two books collecting lectures given before the Ayn Rand Society, where he served as secretary from 1990 until his death in 2013. These books, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press---Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue: Studies in Ayn Rand's Normative Theory (2011) and Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge: Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology (2013)---are reviewed in the current issue by Fred Seddon.
For several years, Allan Gotthelf and I exchanged correspondence, both before and after the 1995 publication of the first edition of my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. I acknowledged his criticisms of my work in my book---indeed, it was he who provided the precise wording with which he felt most comfortable. But when the book was finally published, he felt obliged to tell me that he would do "scholarly battle against" my work and its "obfuscation" of the ideas of Ayn Rand (correspondence, 26 May 1996).
That battle sometimes took on a bit of partisan ugliness. When our journal was first published, we worked diligently to get it included in indexing and abstracting services across disciplines and geographic boundaries. Our efforts paid off considerably; we are now indexed and abstracted by nearly two dozen services in the humanities and social sciences. But getting JARS into The Philosopher’s Index was something that Allan Gotthelf opposed strongly. At a meeting of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in December 1999, he took exception to the very idea of including The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies in The Philosopher’s Index. He could not outright oppose the inclusion of Rand scholarship per se in an index aimed at reaching academia, for he was a cofounder of The Ayn Rand Society, itself affiliated with the Eastern Division of the APA. But he made it very clear that, in his view, JARS was not a legitimate scholarly undertaking---despite the fact that several members of its founding advisory board had been officers of, and presenters to, the very society that he chaired. Nevertheless, as required, we submitted the first three issues of our journal to the Philosopher’s Information Center, and JARS was added to the Index immediately thereafter.
Not enough has been said about Barbara Branden's scholarship and the importance of the early contributions she made to the articulation of the content of Objectivism and to the biography of its founder. She was born Barbara Weidman in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (14 May 1929). She and her future husband, Nathaniel Branden (born Nathan Blumenthal), met Rand in 1950. Barbara received a master's degree in philosophy from New York University, where her thesis on free will was developed under the direction of Sidney Hook. Barbara and Nathaniel conducted a profoundly important series of biographical interviews with Rand in 1960-1961 that formed the basis of Barbara's biographical essay, "Who is Is Ayn Rand?" the title essay of a book coauthored with Nathaniel (Random House, 1962). It was the only authorized biography published in Ayn Rand's lifetime---one that Rand considered part of the Objectivist canon even after her bitter break with the Brandens in 1968. But those recorded interviews also served as the basis for Barbara's sprawling biography of Rand, The Passion of Ayn Rand (Doubleday, 1986). It was Barbara Branden who developed a comprehensive course on the "Principles of Efficient Thinking," taught during the operative years of the Nathaniel Branden Institute, which disseminated Rand's philosophy worldwide, with live and audio-recorded lectures. Barbara's course was based on Rand's epistemology. And it was Barbara Branden who first brought the field of "psycho-epistemology" to the attention of Rand.
I should mention that my own personal dealings with Barbara began, like my dealings with Gotthelf, out of the work I was doing in preparation of the first edition of Russian Radical. But my contact with Barbara was of an entirely different nature; what she offered me was generous amounts of unambiguously constructive criticism and, over time, the depth of her friendship and love. I also worked closely with her a few years after the publication of Russian Radical, as she prepared the lead essay for a collection that Mimi Reisel Gladstein and I coedited, entitled Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, part of the Penn State Press series "Re-reading the Canon," which now includes thirty-five volumes, focusing on thinkers as diverse as Plato, Aristotle, Arendt, and Daly. It was an honor to bring her and Nathaniel together in publication for the first time since their 1962 book. Each provided a contribution to the book. "Ayn Rand: The Reluctant Feminist," by Barbara, told a tale of a woman philosopher who denounced feminism, but who nonetheless influenced a generation of thinkers in the emergence of an alternative radical individualist form of feminism, which can be found in the writings of authors such as Camille Paglia and Joan Kennedy Taylor.
It was therefore with great sadness that I learned of Barbara's passing on 11 December 2013. It is my hope that the annotated bibliography that follows, compiled by Roger E. Bissell, will, at the very least, bring to light Barbara Branden's significant contributions to the Objectivist literature, so important to the ever-expanding world of Ayn Rand studies.
It is also apropos that in the current issue we feature a symposium on Robert L. Campbell's recent JARS review of biographical and historical work published by Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, and Anne C. Heller, author of Ayn Rand and the World She Made. The exchange includes replies from Burns, Mimi Gladstein, and Heller, and a rejoinder from Campbell. Much of this discussion is enriched because of the crucial early biographical work that Barbara Branden provided for future scholars, in the extensive interviews she conducted with Rand and her contemporaries, and in the material she published in her lifetime.

Notes and references appear in the published article.

That's just an introduction to what is going to be one of the most talked about issues of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies ever published.

Check out subscription information here.

June 16, 2014

Song of the Day #1186

Song of the Day: The Love You Save, music and lyrics by The Corporation, Motown's Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell, and Deke Richards, went to Number One, the third of four straight number one singles released by the Jackson 5, which held that position on the Billboard chart for two weeks, 27 June through 4 July 1970. But Casey Kasem, who passed away yesterday, was always one week ahead of the curve, giving us a weekend countdown that reflected the chart of the following week's Tuesday release of Billboard. So the song had actually dropped to the number two position on the 4th of July debut show of Kasem's classic, "American Top 40 (AT40)." I can't help but credit Kasem with stoking my love of pop music as I grew up listening to his show on the radio, whether it was in the dead of winter or on the hot sands of Manhattan Beach through Brooklyn's steamiest summers. This song was one of my favorite early Jackson 5 songs, made all the more poignant because its lead singer is no longer with us either. Check out the original single here, and while you're listening, save a little love too for screen and stage actress Ruby Dee, who passed away on June 11th, the great and endearing Don Zimmer, who passed away on June 4th, and the ultimate gentle man of baseball, Tony Gwynn, San Diego Padres Hall of Famer, who sadly passed away today, at the young age of 54. All of them gone too soon.

June 13, 2014

Song of the Day #1185

Song of the Day: Friday the 13th ("Opening Theme") [YouTube link], composed by jazzman Henry Manfredini, clearly exhibits the composer's Bernard Herrmann "Psycho" lineage. What better way to mark a rare full-moon Friday the 13th on a rainy and grim New York June day. ("I love New York in June, How About You?"... but this one's been too rainy and it feels like March!). Nevertheless, a few thunderstorms will add to the atmosphere of watching this film. Manfredini actually composed for the whole "Friday the 13th" franchise, but the original 1980 Jason was the best (especially in that famed Hockey mask, so appropriate on a weekend in which the New York Rangers are struggling for the Stanley Cup, right now having won only 1 frightening game to the LA Kings, who are one game away from winning that horror series). The first two John Carpenter produced-"Halloween" films are, in my view, better examples of the post-1960s evil slasher genre, all of which owes its spirit to Hitchcock's utterly brilliant "Psycho." In any event, Friday the 13ths have been typically "good luck" days for me, having signed contracts for books on those days, in fact, but it's always fun revisiting a horror film from the vault.

June 12, 2014

Song of the Day #1184

Song of the Day: Love Never Felt So Good features the music and lyrics of Paul Anka and the late great King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Is there any doubt that this lifelong fan of MJ would not have fallen in love with this new release from a posthumous collection of previously unreleased MJ tracks ("Xscape," an album critic Jim Farber gave Four Stars)? It's even better because the single features a duet with the very much alive Justin Timberlake, who has long credited MJ as being one of his greatest influences. JT gave an utterly amazing concert at the mint-condition Barclays Center in my home town of Brooklyn last year that I had the privilege of seeing; he is a remarkable, multi-talented (okay, and adorable) performer, and MJ would have been proud of the ways in which JT integrated MJ influences, including a cover of "Human Nature" in a medley with his own "What Goes Around" [YouTube clip here]. Check out the official video of this song, which is a true paean to MJ in and of itself. There's also an extended dance mix. And check out the original cover of this tune by Johnny Mathis, who released it in 1984. I'm moved to tears for all that was lost with MJ's passing, but in the sadness there are tears of joy for all that he's left behind.

June 11, 2014

Song of the Day #1183

Song of the Day: Wicked ("For Good"), music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, is from one of the finest Broadway musicals I've ever seen. If ever there were a musical showing us a kind of "transvaluation of values" in such an entertaining way, I don't know of one. But it was terrific, precisely because of its clever inversions, twists and turns, fabulous music, and stirring performances (in the original run that I saw ten years ago, with standouts, Tony-nominated Kristin Chenowith and Adele Dazeem). Oops, I mean, Idina Menzel, who won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. The show endures. And so does Dazeem! This past week, the 68th Annual Tony Awards celebrated the tenth anniversary year of this charming musical, which actually opened on Broadway in October of 2003, with a performance of this song, one of the best. Check it out in its Chenowith-Menzel incarnation on YouTube.