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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.

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 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 25, 2020

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".

June 06, 2020

Lists, Lists, and More Lists

Back on May 5, 2020, I was first tagged by my friend Daniel Bastiat (on Facebook) to engage in a book challenge: To post the covers of seven books over a seven-day period that had an effect on you, with no explanation. I listed the following seven books (and tagged other people with this, and subsequent challenges):

1. "Dialectical Investigations", by Bertell Ollman
2. "A New History of Leviathan: Essays on the Rise of the American Corporate State", edited by Ronald Radosh and Murray Rothbard
3. "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal", by Ayn Rand
4. "National Economic Planning: What is Left?", by Don Lavoie
5. "The Disowned Self", by Nathaniel Branden
6. "Nationalism and Culture", by Rudolf Rocker
7. "The Libertarian Alternative", edited by Tibor Machan.

This was followed by a ten-day "Album Challenge", posting key albums that affected you throughout your life:

1. "Ben Hur" (1959 soundtrack)
2. "Concierto de Aranjuez" (Julian Bream)
3. "Concierto" (Jim Hall)
4. "Intuition" (Bill Evans)
5. "The Mad Hatter" (Chick Corea)
6. "Thriller" (Michael Jackson)
7. "Ultimate Sinatra" (Frank Sinatra)
8. "At the Close of a Century" (Stevie Wonder)
9. "I Wanna Be Around" (Tony Bennett)
10. "Getz/Gilberto" (Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto/Astrid Gilberto/Antonio Carlos Jobim)

And that was followed by the final challenge: List ten films and ten TV shows that had an impact on your life or tastes or that loom large in your memory (they need not even be ranked among your all-time "favorites", though clearly they may very well be). So here were my choices for that challenge:

Day 1:
Film: "King Kong" (1933)
TV: "Looney Tunes Cartoons" (1930-1969)

Day 2:
Film: "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)
TV: "The Honeymooners" (1956)

Day 3:
Film: "North By Northwest" (1959)
TV: "The Twilight Zone" (1959)

Day 4:
Film: "Ben-Hur" (1959)
TV: "The Fugitive" (1963)

Day 5:
Film: "Inherit the Wind" (1960)
TV: "I, Claudius" (1976)

Day 6:
Film: "Planet of the Apes" (1968)
TV: "Jesus of Nazareth" (1977)

Day 7:
Film: "The Exorcist" (1973)
TV: "The Winds of War" / "War and Remembrance" (1983/1989)

Day 8:
Film: "The Godfather: The Complete Epic, 1901-1959" (1977)
TV: "The X-Files" (1993)

Day 9:
Film: "The Deer Hunter" (1978)
TV: "The West Wing" (1999)

Day 10:
Film: "Alien" (1979) / "Aliens" (1986) - I know, it’s cheating, but I can’t pick one without the other!
TV: "24" (2001)

And that's all folks! Next up will be the Fifth Annual Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition), which will begin when summer arrives in the Northern hemisphere and conclude on the day of the autumnal equinox.

June 02, 2020

America: On Wounded Knee

When I started to compose this essay, I couldn't get three images out of my mind. The first image is of former NFL quarterback, Colin Rand Kaepernick, who took to kneeling during the national anthem, in protest against police brutality and racial inequality in this country:

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Some folks expressed great moral indignation at Kaepernick's "disrespectful" behavior; Donald Trump himself called on NFL owners to fire anyone who "disrespects our flag." At the time, he said: "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired! ... That's a total disrespect of our heritage. That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for." The NFL was so petrified by the public outcry that it adopted a league policy, allowing teams to fine any players who exhibited such behavior "an unspecified sum"---demanding further that such players be relegated to the locker room rather than exhibit disrespect for the flag on the field, for all to see. When all was said and done, Kaepernick went unsigned after the 2016 season, and filed a grievance against the NFL, accusing owners of colluding to keep him out of the league. He later reached a confidential settlement with the league, and withdrew the grievance.

Alas, the technicalities of NFL ownership of teams didn't make this a clear-cut issue that might fall under free speech guidelines; players employed by the NFL either play by the rules or get another job. The fact that most of them play in stadiums that have been built with taxpayer dollars or through the use of eminent domain didn't mitigate the circumstances in favor of free expression.

Next to that image of an NFL player taking a knee during the national anthem, and all the hoopla that surrounded it, there is the harrowing image of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, handcuffed, face down, pinned to the ground by a white policeman, Derek Chauvin, whose knee was also bent---grinding into the back of Floyd's neck, even as he pleaded with Chauvin that he couldn't breathe, that he was going to die.

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Fortunately, the moral outcry over this nightmarish injustice seems to have eclipsed the umbrage expressed by so many when they saw an NFL player kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner"---in protest of police brutality.

But there is now a third image that haunts me. It is the image of another man, George Floyd's brother Terence, who traveled from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, to the spot in Minneapolis, where his brother was killed. Terence tried to kneel, but the wounds in his soul ran so deep, that they crippled his ability to balance himself. He collapsed in tears.

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These three images tell different stories---but they are all united in some way. They tell the story of protest---both after and before, before and after, the ongoing murder of unarmed black men throughout our country by police officers. They tell the story of what happens when taking a knee in prayer morphs into using a knee as a weapon to snuff out the life of another human being. They tell the story of what happens in the aftermath of that death, when a kneeling man can barely steady himself in an effort to pay tribute to his fallen brother.

America is now under siege, not by rioters, but by what these three images project: protest, death, and remembrance. And if what we are seeing on the streets of America is a war of sorts, I can only quote Herman Wouk: "The beginning of the end of war lies in remembrance."

***

Over these last three months, I have lived in a home town that has lost nearly 30,000 human beings to a pandemic. I've posted twenty-six installments on the Coronavirus. It is typical of funeral processions around these parts for the hearse carrying a person's remains to pass that person's home on the way to the cemetery. So, every morning, over the past few months, as I get on my stationary bike to work out in the front room of my home, I look out the bay window of my apartment, which faces the street below, and I've seen---day-in, day-out---one funeral procession after another. A part of you becomes numb to the vision. Until it doesn't.

The morning after Memorial Day, I heard of yet another nightmarish tragedy taking place in an American city. It was the day after George Floyd was killed on the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota by police officer Derek Chauvin, whose knee was pinned to the right side of Floyd's neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, even as the victim pleaded that he could not breathe---and onlookers screamed for the officer to stop [warning: graphic YouTube link].

When I first heard this news report, I found myself just as numb. Numb not because it was yet another death in a time of unending mass death, devastation, and destruction. Numb because it was the death of one more African American man, in a long list of such atrocities, by a police officer. These senseless brutalities have become so common over the years. But the outrage expressed in their aftermath has become so predictable---and so ineffective---that as I watched the news, all my overtaxed brain could manufacture as a response was: "Another one."

I shook my head in despair, I felt my eyes well up with tears, but I was confident that, once again, people would express their anger for a few days, the politicians would get in their potshots at each other, as they did in the aftermath of Charlottesville, and life would return to "normal"---whatever the hell that term means nowadays.

But I was wrong. By Friday night, May 29th, the protests were spreading from coast-to-coast. And when I turned on the television at around 11 pm, and saw the streets of my home town, Brooklyn, aflame, in front of the Barclays Center, and down Flatbush Avenue, I could not contain the depths of my sorrow. I just began to cry. Night after night, I have watched peaceful protests punctuated by violence and looting, with the typical push-back from police.

I'm not going to sit here and pontificate about how violence is not the answer. For a person who has celebrated the riotous response of the Stonewall Rebellion fifty-one years ago, I certainly appreciate how a violent reaction against a corrupt police force attempting to destroy the lives, liberties, and property of a marginalized group can have a revolutionary effect. Those rebellious souls in 1969 directed their anger specifically at a corrupt police force that routinely raided the Stonewall Inn and arrested its peaceful patrons to clamp down on "lewd behavior" (that is, same-sex folks who were holding hands and kissing in the confines of a private establishment). Those raids were almost predictable---especially if the police didn't get their timely payola from the Mafia owners of the bar. This singular violent event has been marked ever since that fateful late June day not with further violence, but with annual parades, in which police---some of them out and about, walk arm-in-arm with their same-sex partners and friends.

The current violence that has punctuated otherwise peaceful mass protests across the country might be chalked up to spontaneous outbursts from those who feel the sting of poverty and institutional inequality, magnified further in the wake of lockdowns and high unemployment during a period in which a pandemic has taken the lives of over 100,000 Americans (many of them Latino and African American, in percentages disproportionate to their populations).

In many instances, the violence, however, has not been spontaneous at all, since it does appear that outside groups have infiltrated these protests specifically to cause mayhem---provocateurs from the left or the right, perhaps. The looting of a Target store in Minneapolis, known for its collaboration with the police, might seem justified to some. But mob action sustained over these many days must, by necessity, degenerate over time. It is not about striking a blow for equality or against oppression; it is not about looting luxury stores in midtown Manhattan or Macy's on 34th Street or the swanky shopping districts in SoHo [YouTube links] as a symbol against "excess" [Twitter link]. The mob does not distinguish; it ultimately aims its wrath even at small neighborhood businesses and stores like those along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx [YouTube link], which directly impact the very communities that have been victimized by police brutality. Their store owners have struggled to keep afloat throughout this pandemic, and now they have no businesses left to open.

Terence Floyd, George's brother, who traveled from Brooklyn to pray at the site in Minneapolis where George was murdered, collapsed in agonizing grief when he arrived there. You could hear him praying---"I need you and Pops to watch over me"---as he cried uncontrollably.

But then he turned to the crowd: "I understand ya'll upset. But ... I doubt y'all are half as upset as I am. So if I'm not over here wilding out, if I'm not over here blowing up stuff, if I'm not over here messing up my community---then what are y'all doing!? What are y'all doing? Y'all doing nothing! Because that's not gonna bring my brother back at all. ... You all protest, you all destroy stuff. And they [the powers that be] don't move. You know why they don't move? Because it's not their stuff. It's our stuff. They want us to destroy our stuff." He implored them to find "another way." "My family is a peaceful family," he exclaimed. He asked the protesters to use their anger as a tool for peaceful, nonviolent change. He urged them to exercise their power at the ballot box and implored them to an even higher cause: "Educate yourself," he said. "It's a lot of us. And we still gonna do this peacefully."

This has been a mantra among long-time civil rights advocates. Even Al Sharpton, an "imperfect vessel" if ever there was one, has also expressed an urgent moral indignation: "Don’t use George Floyd and Eric Garner as props," he declared. "Activists go for causes and justice, not for designer shoes. New York should set the tone, because the first time we heard, 'I can't breathe,' it was not in Minneapolis. It was on Staten Island, six years ago, and we did nothing."

I have always understood the horrific structural issues at work, the broader, tragic context of historic and systemic brutality that breeds violent responses such as we've seen over the past week. I have addressed these issues countless times over the past three decades, including essays, in recent years, on subjects as varied as the war on drugs and the problems of mass incarceration, the trouble with Trump and Antifa, and the reciprocal relationship between the growth of state power and racism as a cultural and political phenomenon. I refer readers to those highlighted links because this is just not the time to say: "I Told You So."

Nevertheless, understanding why violence often punctuates protests does not mean that I subscribe to the view that nonviolent resistance is somehow deficient or protective of the status quo.

For a person, like me, who has dedicated his life to exploring the context of human freedom, who has upheld the libertarian ideal of a free society, the status quo is a system that is the embodiment of violent brutalization. Violence is a way of life in this country. It is the means by which a genuinely political economy redistributes wealth to those who are powerful enough to wield the mechanisms of state. They have been wielding those mechanisms at home and abroad for eons, especially through the apparatuses of "national security," designed to sustain a policy of "perpetual war for perpetual peace." It sometimes astonishes me that so many folks who are understandably threatened by these newest displays of violence on the streets of America's cities and who call upon their government to "dominate" the rioters, have rarely given thought to how such "domination" has given the United States the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the entire world---higher than both China and Russia, and the even more horrific distinction of being, historically, among the most powerful forces for instability throughout the globe, given sustained policies of interventionism abroad.

On the importance of using strategies of nonviolent resistance---not to be confused with pacifism---I highly recommend the work of Gene Sharp, a man of integrity whom I met and with whom I had a 25-year correspondence. The author of such books as From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation, Social Power and Political Freedom and a three-volume work, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Sharp did more to champion various strategies by which to overturn the status quo in ways that tend not to reproduce the patterns of brutality that its practitioners seek to end.

Over this past week, there have been remarkable displays of how nonviolent protest---in some profoundly symbolic gestures---can change the dynamics between protesters and those to whom their protests are typically directed. Yes, we have seen burning neighborhoods, but we have also heard stories and seen images marked by an extraordinary depth of humanity. From Bellevue, Washington, where the Police Chief declared "We are with you. We are not against you"---to Miami, Florida [YouTube links], where a highway trooper hugged a protester, who told him "I love you"... from Foley Square in Manhattan, where police officers kneeled to the applause of the protesters, a young African American man reaching out, telling them: "I really appreciate you doing that. Thank you very much. I hope you all stay safe and have a great night" to images of protesters in Louisville, Kentucky forming a human barrier to protect a police officer who had been separated from his unit, from violent attack. White women standing in a line, to separate and protect protesters from police and police from protesters. Police chiefs from New Jersey to Wisconsin walking side-by-side with protesters. Chief of Department of the New York City Police, Terence Monahan, hugging an activist as protesters paused in Washington Square Park, the same park where I once protested myself---against the reinstatement of selective service registration for the draft by President Jimmy Carter---telling protesters that he was with them standing against police brutality.

And then there was an unforgettable video that went viral [YouTube link] of Flint Michigan, Genesee county sheriff Chris Swanson [YouTube link], who confronted a gathering of protesters and spoke to them from his heart. He assured the crowd that he meant them no harm. He took off his riot gear, put down his baton, and yelled out to the crowd: "We want to be with you all … I want to make this a parade, not a protest. ... These cops love you." The crowd chanted: "Walk with us!" And he did. "We will protect you. We are with you," he said. Later, he observed: "I knew that the benefit far outweighed the risk. And when you show action of, listen: I'm going to make myself vulnerable in order to come into your circle and show you that I want to be that solution. That was the change maker right there. It was beautiful. Not a single arrest. Not a single injury. Not a single fire."

As much as these stories and images uplift and inspire, Kumbaya is not going to cut it. (Indeed, in some instances, the same police who knelt with the protesters were later involved in tear-gassing the folks with whom they expressed solidarity.) Nor is the opposite tendency among those who simply call for the outright abolition of the police going to cut it. Why stop there? Abolish the state!

To my principled anarchist friends (not the "bomb-throwing" kind),** who see the state and its police functions as the distillation of evil in the modern world, I am compelled to ask: If you were capable of "pushing the button," what do you propose to replace it with? This is the danger of thinking undialectically, of dropping the context of the conditions that exist in the real world. We are dealing with structural racism that permeates not only our political institutions but our very culture. Certain measures can be taken (from ending qualified immunity to challenging the militarization of the police force) but a genuine cultural transformation is a necessary precondition for any genuinely radical social and political change.

***

Despite all these mixed messages in an age of mixed premises, I must end this essay where it began---with images. Images of many police officers who have now taken to one knee, one wounded knee, the position of the Colin Kaepernicks of this world---in opposition to the brutality in their own ranks and the racial inequality it perpetuates. [Ed.: This practice has continued in earnest even weeks after the riots have subsided... to the credit of people on both sides of a crumbling blue wall.]

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--
Notes
** In a recent study group discussion for the anthology, The Dialectics of Liberty, I had the occasion to quote from a Spring 1980 article I wrote, while an undergraduate at New York University for The New Spectator: The NYU Journal of Politics:

Anarchism has had a long and negative conceptual history. Traditionally, the image of the anarchist has always been one of a bearded, bomb-hurling immigrant attempting to violently overthrow the social order in a revolutionary and bloody battle against authority. It is quite ironic that skeptics will see anarchism as a ridiculous, idealistic, floating abstraction without realizing that the present-day situation is in essence, one of international anarchy among monopoly governments, which have considerably refined the practice of bomb-throwing beyond what any anarchist would have dreamed. In this context, the real issue seems to be what kind of "anarchy" we want---governmental or voluntary.

May 15, 2020

Coronavirus (25): Joseph "Joe Pisa" Sanfratello, RIP

On May 12, 2020, our neighborhood lost the proprietor of Pisa Pork Store on West 6th Street and Kings Highway in Brooklyn, New York, a block or so from our home. He was Joseph "Joe Pisa" Sanfratello, a "legend" to all those who knew of the wonderful store he helped create and sustain all these years to serve loyal customers who came from near and far because they were grateful for the A+ quality of the foods he sold and the A+++ hospitality of Joe, his family, and his workers.

Where else could you get a piece of fresh mozzarella or a rice ball---handed to you by Joe himself---while you waited on line to finally put in your order? You'd go into that store figuring you'd purchase a few items, only to walk out with bagfuls of Italian delicacies, cold cuts, and homemade meals prepared with love.

Joe was one more casualty in our Brooklyn neighborhood from COVID-19. Today, there will be a private family visitation at Cusimano and Russo Funeral Home and a committal service at Saint John Cemetery in Middle Village, New York. We wrote in his online memory book:

Our hearts are broken to read of the passing of Joe. Our deepest condolences to all his family and friends; we will miss him very much. Our neighborhood and community are greatly diminished without him.
Love always,
The Sciabarra Famly

Outside Pisa Pork Store, a makeshift memorial has formed; the sign outside the store promises that they'll be back before too long. And I might add: So will all of New York!

RIP, Joe.

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May 14, 2020

Song of the Day #1787

Song of the Day: Elegy for Barbara [YouTube link], composed by Roger E. Bissell, was written in memory of writer and lecturer Barbara Branden. Today is the 91st anniversary of Barbara's birth [YouTube link]. Having passed away on 11 December 2013, she left behind a wonderful personal and intellectual legacy. I was proud to have written the Foreword to her posthumously published book, Think as If Your Life Depends On It: Principles of Efficient Thinking and Other Lectures. You remain deep in my heart, dear friend.

May 10, 2020

Song of the Day #1786

Song of the Day: Mother features the words and music of Billy Walsh, Ryan Tedder, Louis Bell, Andrew Watt, and Charlie Puth, who released this song in September 2019 [YouTube link]. Check out the video single [YouTube link], with its shuffle beat, and then check out a host of remixes by Fedde Le Grand, Codeko, CPEN and Meridian [YouTube links]. This song has absolutely nothing to do with Mother's Day, but it gives me an opportunity to say Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

May 09, 2020

Song of the Day #1785

Song of the Day: Tutti Fruiti features the words and music of Dorothy LaBostrie and Little Richard (aka Richard Wayne Penniman), who died today at the age of 87. His flamboyant, charismatic showmanship combined the "sacred" shouts of gospel the "profane" sounds of the blues. He would be dubbed "The Innovator, The Originator, and the Architect of Rock and Roll." His influence on American popular music has been felt across musical genres from rhythm and blues to rock, soul, funk, and hip hop. A Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Little Richard opened this signature song with that classic cry of "A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-bom"---practically announcing, in 1955, that a new era had arrived. Ranked as #1 on Mojo's "Top 100 Records That Changed the World," the song was later included on the artist's 1957 debut album, "Here's Little Richard". Check out this rock and roll classic [YouTube link]. RIP, Little Richard.

April 23, 2020

Coronavirus (19): Reality Check

As many readers know, I have a whole lot of pre-existing medical conditions, including a lifelong congenital intestinal disorder. To enumerate all of the pre-existing medical problems, it would take up a bit more of this post than is necessary. But I am taking two prescribed drugs to control high blood pressure, and on that count, I'm doing quite well. And yet, though there has been no noticeable spike in my blood pressure, I have to say that there are fewer things that make my blood boil than the ongoing stream of naysayers who seem to be completely blind to the stubborn facts of the current Coronavirus pandemic.

The CDC is now combining confirmed Coronavirus deaths and probable deaths related to COVID-19 in its total casualty count. Some of the naysayers argue that this is artificially inflating the numbers.

I can only speak to the situation in New York state, with nearly 270,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus. It is the state with which I am most familiar, because I've lived here my whole life. If anything, from what I see, the number of cases is vastly underestimated. It is highly likely that most people are asymptomatic. And while many businesses have closed---having a disastrous effect on the local and national economy---most people seem to be acting quite rationally in the current context. Most of those who are symptomatic are voluntarily self-quarantining and practicing social distancing. Indeed, to my knowledge, nobody is being arrested in NY state for coming out of their homes whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic. New Yorkers are taking the most prudent actions, under extremely stressful, extraordinary circumstances, without anybody putting a gun to their heads. This is clearly having an effect on slowing the spread of the virus. The state reached a plateau of over 700 deaths per day and for the last few days, there has been an average of 400+ confirmed cases of Coronavirus-related deaths per day.

But there is growing evidence that the number of confirmed cases vastly underestimates (rather than inflates) the number of those who have been infected with the virus. A new random statistical survey of people out and about in public, typically coming in and out of grocery stores, was conducted in New York state, and it is reported that 13.9% of those tested had antibodies for Coronavirus. Some have suggested that up to 2.7 million people in New York may have become infected with this virus. If one could find a silver lining in the cloud hanging over us, that's actually a "good" statistic. It means that the great bulk of people who have been infected are either asymptomatic or have not had symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization. Perhaps some kind of "herd immunity" will eventually arise, but that remains to be seen. There is still no "cure" for this virus and no vaccine.

It should be noted, however, that up to this point, New York state hasn’t been doing much mass testing (though New York City is finally opening testing centers in some hot spots, especially in minority communities). Tests have been conducted almost exclusively on people who are symptomatic---but many of those who are symptomatic don’t even get tested. Their voluntary self-quarantine typically allows the virus to run its course---or not. The "not" refers to those who never make it to a medical facility---and who die at home. They may never have been tested for the virus; hence, they are counted by the CDC as among the "probable" deaths from COVID-19.

What kills me, no pun intended, about the naysayers who doubt the extent of the death and destruction of this pandemic is that even if there are significant pre-existing conditions that predispose many folks to becoming infected with---and dying of---the virus, something about this virus therefore becomes a crucial factor that has led to a horrifying spike in the number of deaths being recorded in the state of New York. Perhaps it becomes the straw that breaks the camel's back, so-to-speak, for people who would not have died otherwise.

So the naysayers need to explain why in hell there have been 20,000+ deaths in less than two months in my home town. Why are so many people dropping dead at the same time? If not COVID-19, then WTF! I'm all ears.

It is almost irrelevant at this point how accurate the statistics are. You cannot deny the evidence of your senses. This is beyond belief. As a resident of what has become the epicenter of this disease in the United States (and certainly one of the hottest spots in the entire world), I feel like I'm living in some sick surreal apocalyptic sci-fi movie or some new incarnation of an epic Biblical film. Indeed, as a fan of "Ben-Hur," I've started referring to this place as the Valley of the Lepers [YouTube link] and to Brooklyn as one of the five Leper Colonies of New York City. (And before the epidemiologists start jumping all over me: Yes, I know the difference between an infectious bacterial disease such as leprosy and a viral infection, such as COVID-19. It's just a metaphor in the spirit of gallows humor.)

But let me speak a bit anecdotally for just a moment.

Due to that lifelong congenital intestinal illness I mentioned above, I had to be rushed to Emergency Rooms five times between December 7th and February 29th. My hospital of choice for such visits has been Mount Sinai Brooklyn, closest to my home in the Gravesend section of the County of Kings.

While ERs are typically overcrowded with people suffering from all sorts of illnesses and accidents, there was a distinct difference between my first visit to Mount Sinai Brooklyn in December and my last visit on the afternoon of February 29th. On that Leap Year Day, the ER was utterly insane, completely inundated by an astounding inflow of patients. It was as if some earthquake had struck, and the place was being flooded by survivors in need of immediate medical attention. I was stuck in there for nearly six hours, even though I'd been rushed passed triage and right into the ER proper. I couldn’t believe what was going on around me. It was, ironically, the day before the first confirmed COVID-19 related case was reported in New York state and fourteen days before its first reported death. But something was clearly wrong.

Most of the incoming ER patients were suffering from acute respiratory distress. The hard-working EMTs, nurses, and doctors I spoke with that night were telling me that they’d never seen anything like this in their lives. That was then. But this is now---and that Mount Sinai ER, like virtually every ER across the tri-state area looks like a battle zone. Just check out the observations of Dr. Peter Shearer at Mount Sinai Brooklyn, way back on March 26th. Since then, the situation has only gotten worse. Yes, the rate of hospitalizations are going down throughout the state. But this is mass death on a scale that none of us has seen in our lifetimes.

So let's return to those controversial numbers of "confirmed" versus "probable" deaths from the virus. From New York magazine:

As of Thursday morning [23 April 2020], there have been more than 263,754 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in New York, including more than 138,435 in New York City. More than 15,740 people with COVID-19 have died in the state, not including the deaths of people with probable cases.

The CDC lists 20,000+ COVID-19-related deaths here in New York state, so let’s just throw out the 4,000+ "probable" (rather than confirmed) deaths from the virus here in New York. And I mean that with the utmost respect to the families whose 4,000+ loved ones have died suddenly and without full confirmation of cause of death. We’re still talking about close to 16,000 confirmed deaths related to Coronavirus infection, in less than two months. I won't even address this issue globally. So what in hell could possibly account for this spike in mass death in this state?

I have read some persuasive theories about what may have happened here in New York though I know that it is going to be a very long time before this crisis can be fully understood on any number of levels, from the epidemiological to the political to the economic. There is growing evidence that the virus was most likely manifested here as far back as January. And that would make some sense. After all, from mid-December until mid-January, New York City in particular typically attracts millions upon millions of tourists from all over the world. They come here to see the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center or to see the Ball Drop in Times Square (and I'm not even considering the possibility of the millions of folks who came to NYC at the end of November for the Thanksgiving Day weekend). And most of them make use of a mass transit system that typically transports over five million people per day. I can't think of a more perfect petri dish for the transmission of an infectious disease. In fact, Dr. Jeffrey E. Harris maintains in a new study (pdf document) that the subways most likely became a key component in the deadly spread of COVID-19 throughout New York City and the tri-state area.

I already know too many people who have been infected by this disease and several who have died, including one of my sister's former students. My immediate family remains okay, but I would not be surprised if we all test positive for antibodies at some point. Neighbors to the right of me, neighbors to the left of me, remain on ventilators in Intensive Care Units in various local hospitals. We may have reached a plateau. And we will surely come out of this pandemic better than before.

But this "reality check" remains a sobering reminder that something terrible has impacted too many lives.

Postscript (24 April 2020): I wanted to thank Irfan Khawaja for linking to this entry on his Policy of Truth blog. He states there, in an installment of his "Coronavirus Diary (51): Reality Check with Chris Sciabarra":

As philosophers from Plato to Popper have argued, there's enormous value in the dialectical clash of divergent opinions: we learn, and arguably converge on the truth, through the process of disagreement. But there's also something to be said for the solidarity produced by agreement on basic facts and values, as well as a sense of shared purpose. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, I've relied on different people for one or both of those things, but relied consistently on Chris Sciabarra for the latter: for whatever reason, Chris and I basically agree on how to think about the COVID-19 crisis, as well as what to do about it.
To that end, I highly recommend his most recent blog post (the nineteenth in his series), Reality Check, on life and death in New York as a result of COVID-19. And check out the links, especially the paper near the end by Jeffrey Harris of the National Bureau of Economic Research, "The Subways Seeded the Massive Coronavirus Epidemic in New York City." Arguably, the problems Harris describes there haven't yet been resolved, and won't be until New Yorkers deal with the problems of homelessness and housing in their city---yet another indication of the interconnectedness of what are often thought of as discrete "topics." Among other things, Harris’s paper raises a practical question for me: what do I do with my old MTA subway cards? Get them the hell out of my house, or donate them to science?
I have two maps on my office wall, one of Palestine and one of the New York-New Jersey metro area; I think of both, in some sense, as "maps of home." I've often found myself musing on the fact that the one-horse "transit hub" where I live in Jersey, Whitehouse Station, is located at almost exactly the same latitude on the map as Sciabarra's neighborhood in the Gravesend part of Brooklyn. I don't know that that really explains anything, but as far as COVID-19 is concerned, it’s a metaphor that captures what matters.

And while you're at it, check out Ilana Mercer's newest column, "The Ethics of Social Distancing: A Libertarian Perspective."

Postscript: On another thread I posted the following comment:

All crises are used by governments to expand power over our lives---including nightmarish events, like 9/11, which also struck my hometown in a way that made our everyday lives into a total nightmare for months on end... and for years on end---for those who are still dying from diseases contracted while working on "The Pile" at Ground Zero. I've had disagreements with people on this very thread about how the US government used 9/11 as a pretext to make some of the worst foreign policy mistakes in the history of this country---coupled with a never-ending attack on our liberties at home.
Still, for the benefit of those who are reading this thread, several things need to be acknowledged:
First, though flu and pneumonia have killed people in NY state (as they do every year in every state), they have never taken this many lives in this short a period of time the way COVID-19 has done. And in my post, I'm fully cognizant of the fact that people who have pre-existing medical conditions are particularly susceptible to this virus, and that it may be just the "straw that breaks the camel's back" for such individuals. Regardless: The hospitals almost reached the breaking point here in trying to meet the overwhelming flow of patients into emergency rooms. The flu and pneumonia don't even register as a BLIP on the radar compared to what has happened here in the past two months.
Second: I clearly recognize that One Size Does Not Fit All. I do not recommend that Alaska (with 339 cases and 9 deaths) follow the same social distancing policies as New York. In this state, and especially in this city, I am hunkered down in my apartment to preserve my very life---and I'd venture to say that most people are doing this voluntarily and willingly. In my own neighborhood, I don't know a single family that has not been affected: Every person knows somebody who is sick, dying, or dead.
Finally, this crisis does not give local, state, or federal authorities a license to take away any of my rights to liberty, property, or the pursuit of happiness---and there is not a liberty-minded person among us who should not remain vigilant against the very real threats to our freedoms that a crisis like this has ignited.
But at this time I'm far more concerned with preserving the most basic right of all: my right to live. And I'm trying to preserve that the best way I know how.

Postscript (5 May 2020): Thanks to Amir Abbasov for translating this blog essay into Azerbaijanian and to Jean-Etienne Bergemer for translating this blog essay into French.

Coronavirus (18): Gallows Comics

In these times, a smile always helps ...

WuMoCorona_1.png

PearlsBeforeSwineCorona.png

April 21, 2020

Song of the Day #1784

Song of the Day: Have a Heart, music by jazz pianist Gene DiNovi, lyrics by the great Johnny Mercer, is featured on jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson's album, "A Touch of Today." This LP was regularly spinning on the Sciabarra family turntable from the time of its release in May 1966, and till this day, I could hear my mother's voice singing along to all its tracks. This was one of her favorites, and one of mine. This song and this album were also a comfort to her for the five years that she fought gallantly against small cell lung cancer, before dying, at home, in the presence of her children, at the age of 76, at 2:37 a.m. on this date back in 1995. It was, ironically, Greek Orthodox Good Friday, and given that her full name in Greek was Anastasia (everybody called her Ann or Anna), her Greek Name Day would have been Easter (derived from the Greek word for "resurrection"). Twenty-five years have come and gone since that night, but mom's voice still fills our memories: "Have a heart and when you do, have a heart! For a heart that beats for you!" She left behind family and friends whose lives have been touched forever by her strength, her support, and her love. Our hearts keep that love alive. Check out Nancy Wilson's rendition of this gentle song [YouTube link]. [As I said on YouTube: "One of my mother's all-time favorite songs from one of her all-time favorite albums. She's gone 25 years (21 April 1995), but the music and the memories never end."]

April 18, 2020

Song of the Day #1783

Song of the Day: El Cid ("Friendship") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, is featured in the 1961 epic historical drama starring Charlton Heston as the medieval Castilian knight, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar and Sophia Loren as his wife, Jimena Diaz. The film's gorgeous score received an Oscar nomination, as did "The Falcon and the Dove" for Best Original Song. Today is the 113th anniversary of Rozsa's birth [pdf link]. He is one of my all-time favorite composers; this soundtrack is one of his finest achievements. And I can think of fewer things in these difficult times in need of greater celebration than friendship.

Song of the Day #1782

Song of the Day: You Say You Care, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Leo Robin, was featured in the 1949 Broadway musical, "Gentleman Prefer Blondes," that introduced Carol Channing to the world. It was sung in the musical as a duet by Yvonne Adair and Eric Brotherson [YouTube link]. It is also one of the highlights on a lovely duet album, "One on One," with jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and jazz pianist McCoy Tyner. This marks the thirtieth anniversary of the release date of this classic album by two legendary jazz instrumentalists---no longer with us, but still very much alive in their recorded performances. Check out their inspired duet here [YouTube link].

April 13, 2020

What's In a Number? (Part Two)

On 26 July 2002, the New York Daily News published "New Yorkers of the American Imagination: From The Fountainhead: Howard Roark"---which I'd written for their series, "Big Town Classic Characters." It was later republished on the site of the Atlas Society here.

On that same day, I began blogging on what I would call "Notablog." It started as a page on my home site, until "October 1, 2004," the title of my first post to the new interface with which New York University provided me. Through the years, I have written on subjects as diverse as economics (especially Austrian economics), culture, dialectical method, education and pedagogy, film, TV, and theater, fiscal policy, food, foreign policy, frivolity, music (including a "Song of the Day" feature now up to #1781 and counting), politics (not just elections, but a focus on theory, history, and current events), Ayn Rand studies (including the "Journal of..."), religion, remembrance, sexuality, and sports.

Earlier today, I posted a somber update on the Coronavirus pandemic, asking "What's in a Number?" Tonight, I ask that same question, with a far less somber tone. For with this entry, I have reached the 3,000th post in the history of Notablog over these last eighteen years. In many respects, it seems like a relatively small output, when you consider that there have been nearly 6,500 days since that very first post. But I'm very happy to have reached this milestone, if, for nothing else, to count my blessings that I'm still here and that I've been around long enough to keep writing---shedding some light and, on occasion, some heat, but always doing my best to tell it the way I see it.

To 3,000 more! Or 30,000! Nothing will shut me up after all this time!

Coronavirus (15): What's in a Number?

And so, today, the statistics show that the United States has nearly 580,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, with 23,000+ deaths (and 33,754 fully recovered).

For this native New Yorker, the numbers are staggering. This state has almost 200,000 confirmed cases, and has hit a horrific one-month total (since the first confirmed NY-state deaths on March 14th) in the number of Coronavirus-related deaths: 10,056.

The nightmare of September 11th brought death and destruction that will forever stay with us, as 2,977 people were wiped out in a single day (not counting all those people who have died from 9/11-related illnesses in the wake of that terrorist attack).

But this is a number unto itself: 10,056.

It's the kind of statistic that puts the numb in number.

For in the end, we are talking about 10,056 individuals in New York state alone. And more than 23,000 across the United States. Each person is somebody's grandmother, grandfather, mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, spouse, partner, friend, neighbor. I knew several individuals who have died of the virus, who were seemingly healthy just one month ago---and they are now gone. I know too many individuals who are infected and self-quarantining, and others who are now in hospitals, on ventilators.

Please pause and remember this sobering reality. However much we are encouraged by the "plateauing" of this pandemic, the increasing numbers remain overwhelming to the families and extended families and friends of every single person who has been infected with this virus or who has lost their life.

My thoughts are with each and every one of them.

April 07, 2020

Long Live Pussy Galore: Honor Blackman, RIP

In the midst of all the tragedies around us, I just found out that Honor Blackman, who famously played Pussy Galore in my all-time favorite James Bond film, "Goldfinger," passed away at the age of 94 on 5 April 2020. She also played the trailblazing, self-confident, martial arts expert, Cathy Gale, in the British TV series, "The Avengers", alongside Patrick Macnee.

As she once stated in a "TV Times" interview: "Pussy Galore was a career woman --- a pilot who had her own air force, which was very impressive. She was never a bimbo."

Her introduction to 007 (played by Sean Connery in "Goldfinger") remains a golden cinematic moment [YouTube link], no pun intended!

April 06, 2020

Coronavirus (13): New York State of Mind

The news isn't pretty; the United States now has 356,007 Coronavirus cases, with 10,467 deaths. Of these, 130,589 come from New York state, and of these, 67,820 come from New York City. My own area in Brooklyn, New York (Gravesend) has been hit particularly hard, with several neighbors hospitalized and in Intensive Care Units. And then came the upsetting news from the Bronx Zoo, that a Tiger was infected with COVID-19 from an asymptomatic human---and other tigers and lions have also manifested symptoms of the virus. This means that while animals cannot transfer the virus to humans, infected humans can potentially infect their own pets, cats especially. I know that if I ever became infected with the virus and got over it, as most do, I don't think I could bear the possibility of infecting my beloved Cali and seeing her sick or worse as collateral damage.

In the midst of all this, I have seen an outpouring of love and support from friends and family all over this country, and from abroad as well. We are home, doing our work, listening to the news, but keeping ourselves busy with music, movie, and Cali mayhem! And every night, my cousins in Long Island, "The Warren Five", uplift us with their love and their music. I've already posted on my own Facebook Timeline, three of their ongoing #QWARRENtine selections: "Seasons of Love" (from "Rent"), "96,000" (from "In the Heights"), and "Telephone Hour" (from "Bye Bye Birdie").

And this morning, I came upon a piece written by Brian Kerrigan, a guest columnist for Michael Levin, entitled "A Lament for Gotham," which was very moving. I recommend the essay to your attention. Here are a few takeaway passages:

My beloved New York City, my adopted home for the last twenty-five years is at war again. This time though, none of us, not a single one of us can see the enemy coming. It’s the same all over the world, I know. In this city though, nine million of us inhabit just three-hundred square miles. That’s thirty-thousand people per square mile and a recipe for human tragedy on a grand scale. And it’s deafening my ears all day, every day. That’s the other ‘context’. There is an eerie quiet on the streets particularly evident right after the sun goes down. Then it screams again and I remember its 8 pm, not 3 am. The ambulances mostly turn their sirens off, except at intersections, but the sight of the flashing light and idling engine down a city street are equally, if not more haunting. ...
And so it was, at 7 pm last night that I heard a strange and unfamiliar sound outside. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was. Curious, I opened my window and gasped when I saw dozens of people leaning out their windows clapping hands and tooting air horns, blowing whistles. I looked down onto the street and saw whole families with young kids standing there cheering and clapping at nothing and at everything. Neighbors who pass each other all year long always too busy to stop and chat were standing together, at six or more feet apart, waving across the street to other random people, hands raised in the air, banging them together like flamenco dancers. I was stunned into silence, mouth agape. I noticed my neighbor Martin, a very reserved English fellow whooping and cheering like a high school cheerleader. “Martin, what the hell is going on?” I shouted. Beaming, he hollered up that this was a huge citywide demonstration of gratitude and appreciation for the men and women on the front lines of the war against the invisible enemy. I looked around and I saw no fear, just joy. I was completely overcome by a wave of emotion that swallowed me whole in its crest of humanity. The tears streamed down my cheeks, just as they are this very second as I write. I guess I’m no longer working on it. I love being a man because when we succumb to the tears and triumph over our inner voice of criticism, we are reborn. We are reborn not as infants, but as men. I gathered myself, returned to my window and they were gone. The street was quiet. Windows shut, whistles stopped.
And here lies the greatest of all ironies. Almost ninety-nine out of every one hundred of us is strong enough, brave enough and tough enough to beat this enemy on our own. The beast can be beaten if we employ the oldest method of attack known to us --- divide and conquer. Separate and win. Isolate and overcome. Armies, tanks and sophisticated weaponry are useless.

There is good news today, believe it or not: It does appear that the number of cases in New York state seems to be flattening over the last two days. We hope that this just might be the "apex" or the "plateau" we've all been waiting for. When this whole thing is over, have no fear: the people of New York and everybody else who has survived this pandemic---which constitutes the vast majority of folks who become infected with the virus---will come roaring back...

Postscript (7 April 2020): I added a few comments on Facebook for the benefit of some "conservatives" and "libertarians" who continue to debate the extent of the virus or to label the whole thing a "hoax":

I invite everybody who thinks it is a hoax to go into a hospital anywhere here in the Tri-State area and, pick a dozen or so really beautiful-looking COVID-19 patients that they can find---the ones not on ventilators of course, and depending on their own affectational preferences---and, if you'll pardon the expression, French-kiss each of them, and then, let's use them as a laboratory to see if this is truly a hoax.
Just a thought....
You have to keep a sense of humor, even a sense of gallows humor... when you have to deal with this sort of nonsense with each passing day. Yeah, I'm hoping that the virus is hitting an apex or a "plateau" here in NY state, for example, but the fact is that the deaths are still going up on a daily basis, going from 500+ yesterday to 731 deaths just in NY state over the last 24 hours, for a total of 5,489 deaths since March 1 just in NY. The funeral homes and morgues are so overloaded that they are putting bodies in makeshift freezers outside the hospitals (Maimonides is an epicenter here in Brooklyn; Bellevue has practically established a 'cemetery' wing, outside the hospital, for such freezers). They have even discussed digging up portions of Hart Island as a temporary grave site for the growing numbers of dead people.
I don't mind discussing alternative approaches on how to respond to the virus---politically, economically, etc.---but the folks who continue to deny the science are simply mastering the art of sticking their heads in the sand, and, quite frankly, are making it an embarrassment to those of us who are, indeed, libertarians... even "dialectical" ones at that.

April 04, 2020

Song of the Day #1780

Song of the Day: Just the Two of Us features the words and music of William Salter, Ralph MacDonald, and Bill Withers, who passed away on Monday, March 30th. This song was recorded by Withers and saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., on whose 1980 album, "Winelight" it first appeared. It went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the Hot Soul Singles chart. This R&B and smooth jazz staple was one of my all-time favorite Withers (and Washington) tracks, earning Withers a Grammy for Best R&B Song---one of three Grammys that he won in his lifetime. Check out the full album version of this classic and the single version as well [YouTube links]. RIP, Bill.

April 03, 2020

Coronavirus (12): The Trials and Tribulations of Grocery Shopping ... and Living in NYC

The numbers continue to startle for those of us living through this Coronavirus pandemic: The world now has 1,095,968 confirmed cases, with 58,817 recorded deaths. The United States leads all countries with 275,802 confirmed cases of the virus (with 7,087 deaths---1,094 deaths today alone). The US is ahead of Italy, Spain, Germany, and China (though the skeptic in me actually believes that the US intelligence community just might be right that the numbers in China have been profoundly under-reported by its government).

To bring these numbers even closer to home, New York state now has a total of 102,863 confirmed cases of the virus, with 57,159 of these in New York City. The state reports 2,935 deaths, 1,562 of these in New York City. In fact, in the last 24 hours, the highest single-day increase in both deaths and hospitalizations were recorded in this state.

I have already experienced more grim news than I can bear with regard to friends and neighbors who are dealing with this virus in very personal terms. And all one need do is turn on the television to hear about the growing list of famous folks who have died from this virus over the past week alone, including jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis (father to both Wynton and Branford) and Paterson, New Jersey-born jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli (father of John), who I had the pleasure of seeing many times in New York jazz clubs and concerts throughout the years. And the passing of Bill Withers, from a non-COVID-19-related illness, is just as tragic. Indeed, "we all need somebody to lean on..." [YouTube link].

And yet, with all this sickness and death around us, even with calls for greater social distancing and the omnipresent mantra of "Stay Healthy, Stay Home", you gotta do whatcha gotta do. This morning, I got up at 5 am, did an hour workout, cleaned up, and walked a block and a half to my local supermarket, which opened its doors at 7 am. Determined to shop when the place was relatively less populated, and knowing that we'd earned a 20% discount off our groceries just from our shopping there over the past month, I ventured out and purchased enough food and necessities that could fit into our kitchen cabinets, refrigerator and freezer, in the chance that we have yet to see an apex of this virus that will dwarf the number of people lost on September 11, 2001.

This had to be done with the utmost preparation. I went out, dressed in shorts and a light jacket, carrying an umbrella because of the light mist that was keeping down the tree pollen (which is my nemesis at this time of year) and quickly ran through my shopping list and my checklist:

- Vinyl Gloves: Check
- Facial Mask: Check
- Shopping Bags: Check (except I had all the groceries delivered to our apartment 2 hours after I was done shopping...)

Once I got into the supermarket, the scene was surreal. Everybody was like a mirror image of me. There wasn't a person in there who wasn't wearing gloves or some sort of facial covering. And everybody was keeping a safe distance from everybody else---and if they weren't, you could be sure that some New Yorker would speak up and simply say: "Hey, buddy, back up!"

But despite all the coverings, you could still see people's eyes. And if "the eyes are the mirror to the soul," one could see deep into the soul of almost every person in there. I'd like to say it was pure projection, but somehow, I didn't think so. Not when I could hear the hushed tones of folks saying: "I just want to get these fu@&ing groceries as quickly as possible and get the hell out of here!" Especially heartbreaking was seeing elderly shoppers, walking slowly, and backing up, in fear, as you approached them. Heck, I know, I turned 60 in February, but I was practically a kid next to the husband and wife who were surely in their mid-80s, or the one guy, walking slowly with a cane, who was probably in his late 80s. Most people are wanting to be kind and courteous, but some don't even want you to hold a door for them or to even grab the paper towels that are so obviously out of their reach, because they are simply afraid that, even with your gloves on, you'll be transmitting death to them. I found it a bit emotionally overwhelming. My eyes watered, but I marched stoically to the cashier, gave her my address, unloaded my shopping cart, paid the bill, and walked swiftly back home before the mist turned to a steady rain.

I walked into the hallway downstairs and climbed up one flight to my apartment on the second floor of this two-famly house. I got to the top step and stood outside the door of my home. And in a striptease of necessity, off came the jacket, off came the sneakers, the socks, the shorts, the underwear, the T-shirt---all of it placed in a laundry bag left outside the apartment, to be picked up this evening by the laundromat owners who are pitching in to avoid having any people gathering in their places of business, cleaning our clothes with the utmost sanitary care. And finally, off came the mask and the gloves, which were turned inside out, an art I've begun to master. And I walked into my apartment the way I came into this world... going directly into the shower.

I don't think I'll need to go back out for a couple of weeks---unless I have to pick up something at the pharmacy, which, given my own medical condition, is something of a bi-weekly ritual for me. But even here, our local pharmacists are doing everything they can to get prescriptions to their customers without having their customers come to them, keeping social distancing to a minimum.

***

There are all sorts of theories floating around about why New York City has been hit the hardest; some have argued that it's merely a function of the "leftist" politics of this urban center, which has increased its vulnerability due to overcrowding. A few others have embraced the more absurd position that this is God's retribution for countries that allow LGBTQ Pride Parades (and considering that NYC sponsored World Pride Day in June 2019, I guess that the Big Apple is at the top of the list for divine wrath!).

I think it is going to take a while to truly understand the nature of this pandemic and how it has been spread. But it does seem to me that New York Governor Mario Cuomo was at least partially correct in acknowledging that NYC in particular is "an international hub tightly packed with people from all over the country and the world. What makes New York unique has also rendered it vulnerable to a pandemic."

While I too am upset with the contribution that NYC politics has made to this pandemic and while I too can sometimes find the city's density a bit daunting, the truth of our situation transcends politics or population. This city's "density" has come less from its wrong-headed housing policies than from its promise. That promise is the source of this city's beauty and the diversity of its people, those who were born here, those who have come here from abroad, and those who stay here regardless of the regulations and rules that might constrain them.

"New York, New York" has been a magnet for millions upon millions of people since before the 1898 consolidation of the five boroughs into a single city. Millions of immigrants from every country, every race, every ethnicity, have come through its gates precisely because of its financial, cultural, and spiritual promise, embodied by the statue in its harbor that lifts "the lamp beside the golden door.

This is still a city of neighborhoods, of people who, whatever their differences, seem to find common ground when they are most vulnerable. We saw this in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, when even strangers joined hands to rebuild that which was torn down. Now, of course, as Adam Gopnik writes, unity must take new forms:

The current crisis is, in some respects, the mirror image of the post-9/11 moment. That turned out to be a time of retrospective anxiety about a tragedy unforeseen. The anticipatory jitters weren’t entirely unfounded---anthrax killed a hospital worker in Manhattan---but they arose from something that had already happened and wouldn’t be repeated. By contrast, the COVID-19 crisis involves worries about something we’ve been warned is on the way. The social remedy is the opposite of the sort of coming together that made the days and weeks after 9/11 endurable for so many, as they shared dinners and embraced friends. That basic human huddling is now forbidden, with the recommendations for "distancing" bearing down ever tighter: no more than five hundred people together, then two hundred and fifty, then fifty, then ten.

I am confident that New Yorkers are still coming together---even in the act of social distancing---and that they will rise like the phoenix from the ashes left behind by this pandemic.

Postscript 1 (4 April 2020): Some folks on Facebook inquired why my family wasn't doing more online shopping or resorting to ordering from local supermarkets for delivery, without having to leave the house. I replied:

You have no idea how much we've ordered online (Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc.) with regard to everything from BAND-AIDS to shampoo, napkins, tissues, etc. The thing we can't really get from those places, however, is fresh food or frozen food items, and, in truth, the specialty places around here offer the best stuff of all. So we've tried to cut down on the amount of time we're spending in supermarkets, focusing on milk, dairy, meats, poultry, fresh fruit and vegetables, and so forth---while getting the non-food items from the online services. So that's one way we've severely cut into our grocery-time shopping (which we've been doing once or twice a month during this pandemic; this trip will, however, last us through at least mid-May, I assure you!). We do have delivery, but unfortunately, because our local supermarket is short-staffed, they are no longer taking phone orders. So you have to go and pick out the stuff yourself (which I prefer to do because when one used to 'order' things from the store, they invariably got something wrong!). But they do, in fact, deliver all the groceries to you once you've shopped ... I couldn't possibly carry it, even with a shopping cart, and we wouldn't dare move the car for fear of losing a parking spot... for the situation in parking has only gotten worse since the days of "Seinfeld." But we still get delivery from the best pizzerias in Brooklyn, so on that count, we're in good shape!

Postscript 2 (4 April 2020): Of course, like so many things I write, some folks will offer comments that are critical. But sometimes, criticism crosses the line. One commentator attacked me with such ferocity, taking umbrage that I was "complaining" about grocery shopping in NYC during an uptick in Coronavirus cases, which pales in comparison to the experiences of Anne Frank during the Nazi genocide or the experiences of John McCain during the Vietnam War. There was nothing in this post that compared my experiences to either the Holocaust or the war in Vietnam and there was nothing written that could be remotely compared to "complaining." I am providing an ongoing journal on my Notablog of my experiences during this pandemic; it is a cathartic and therapeutic exercise for me, but also one that I hope will resonate with those who are going through similar experiences. Facing this kind of personal attack, I was compelled to Unfriend, Block, and Delete the comments of this so-called Facebook "Friend" on my Facebook Timeline. I stated on Facebook, and I state here, for the record:

Some people think they can come on my Timeline and insult me. The comments have been removed. I will not hesitate to unfriend, block, and remove comments from any person who thinks that being an FB "friend" is a license to be rude and recklessly stupid.
At one time in my life---and still to a very great extent---I was open to any and all critics, no matter how crazy some of the criticisms of my writings have been. For goodness sake, till this day, I still have on my home page every negative review ever done of any book I've ever written. I welcome criticism and I welcome the give-and-take of discussion. I also recognize that in social media, sometimes things are not as elegantly expressed as they might be and it may require a few exchanges to get things clear (after all, we can only capture so much with regards to tone and intent in simple emojis).
But let me be very clear about what I've written here and in all my installments on the Coronavirus: This is not an ongoing series of essays in the art of complaining. I am simply writing an ongoing diary or journal of my experiences during a very difficult time for my hometown. It's nothing unusual to me; as I said in a comment now deleted, I'm still posting annual installments to honor the survivors---and those who paid the ultimate price---on September 11, 2001.
I count my blessings that I am here and well enough to continue to write and to express myself. I count my blessings that I am here to take care of myself and my loved ones to the best of my ability. I count my blessings that I have so many people in my life who express their care and concern, love and support. I also count my blessings that I have people who offer comments and critiques of my work, for none of us ever stops learning.
Still, there comes a point at which even somebody who has spent the better part of his adult life promoting the value of dialogue (indeed, the "dialectical method" I champion finds its roots in the dialogues of the ancient Greeks), must give pause. And with the rudeness of the commentator, all I can say is: "My cup runneth over".
I will not tolerate somebody who comes onto my Timeline as a so-called Facebook "Friend" only to piss on my back and tell me it's raining. Not. Gonna. Happen. Those days are over. Unfriend. Block. Delete. And I will repeat that exercise any and every time I confront this kind of harassment. Life is too short. That I've devoted any time to explaining this is already a waste of more minutes of my life than was necessary.
But it had to be said. Just for the sake of those who do support my work and even those who do engage in spirited, but reasonable, disagreements with it.

March 12, 2020

Song of the Day #1778

Song of the Day: Passion Dance, composed by jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, is featured on three of his albums, including the 1967 quartet album, "The Real McCoy" [YouTube link] (with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Elvin Jones), the 1978 live album, "Passion Dance" [YouTube link] (with bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams) and the 1992 Big Band album, "The Turning Point" [YouTube link], for which Tyner won the first of five Grammy Awards. I just learned that the great pianist died on 6 March 2020 at the age of 81. He was the last surviving member of the legendary John Coltrane Quartet. Tyner developed a virtuoso distinctive "maximalist" style, incorporating and integrating the "two directions" pioneered by Coltrane into his piano playing, what Sami Linna has described as "playing chordally (vertically) and melodically (horizontally)" simultaneously, with complex use of pentatonic scales---which had a great impact on many pianists to follow in his wake, including Chick Corea. This NEA Jazz Master remains one of my all-time favorite jazz pianists. RIP, McCoy [YouTube links to Aimee Nolte's discussion of Tyner's distinctive contributions]. Think of this as a prelude to what is forthcoming in Summer 2020: My Fifth Annual Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition)!

March 09, 2020

Max von Sydow, RIP

As I stated briefly on Facebook in remembrance of Max von Sydow, who died yesterday at the age of 90:

How very, very sad: From his reverent portrait of Jesus in "The Greatest Story Ever Told" to his powerful, vulnerable embodiment of Father Merrin in "The Exorcist" ... I've always cherished his performances.

RIP, Max.

February 25, 2020

Celebrating 50 Years of John Dewey High School

I'm posting this in the hopes that graduates of John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, New York will see it! I attended the school from September 1975 through June 1978 (the month in which I graduated before going onto NYU through three degrees). John Dewey offered an extraordinary educational experience, with remarkable teachers and an innovative approach to learning. They were among the happiest years of my life, and till this day, I honor the many teachers whose lessons so profoundly affected the way I looked at the world.

JDHS will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary on the school's campus (at 50 Avenue X) on May 16, 2020. Information can be found at the Facebook page of the group: John Dewey HS 50th Anniversary Celebration Station. If the fates be with me, I hope to attend!

February 17, 2020

Song of the Day #1758

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Balthazar's World") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, incorporates several motifs from the film score, including the Prelude, the Christ theme, and the theme for the "Adoration of the Magi"---all speaking to the character of Balthazar, one of the three wise men who has returned to Judea to find the child he first encountered in a manger in Bethlehem, following the star that proclaimed his birth. William Wyler once joked that it took a Jew to make a good film about Christ (indeed, in music, as in film, such Jewish Americans as Irving Berlin, who wrote "White Christmas" and Mel Torme and Robert Wells, who wrote "The Christmas Song," have contributed some of the finest "chestnuts" to the soundtrack of the Christmas holiday season). Be that as it may, this film's soundtrack, written by one of the greatest composers of his generation---or any generation, has always provided me with a special kind of spiritual nutrition, even during some of my most difficult days. The 1959 all-time Oscar champ (tied only by "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King"---each with 11 Oscars) recently celebrated its 60th anniversary; it was released on 18 November 1959. And now, yes, today, I too am 60. It has become a tradition of sorts to feature a cue from this epic---my all-time favorite film---on my birthday. How fitting to celebrate a 60-year old film and soundtrack, when a 1960 baby celebrates his Beddian Birthday (or should that be "his Ben-hurdian Birthday"?).

Postscript on Facebook: It is an overwhelming experience to have a few hundred people sending you Happy Birthday wishes. I 'hearted' every person who posted to my 60th Birthday Timeline... because words can't express how much I appreciate such an outpouring of love and kindness. But 60 or not... this was one of the T-shirts I got for my birthday... and youthful spirit that I am, this one just about says it all!

Chris1960ShirtSmall.jpg

February 05, 2020

Kirk Douglas, RIP

We are in the middle of Film Music February, and I've just learned that the legendary actor, Kirk Douglas, passed away today at the age of 103.

A three-time Oscar nominee, Douglas was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the 1996 Oscar ceremonies [YouTube link]. We have honored Douglas through song choices in Film Music February entries in the past, including his portrayal of Vincent van Gogh in "Lust for Life", his heart-wrenching portrait of a tragic jazz trumpeter, inspired by the life of Bix Beiderbecke, in "Young Man with a Horn" (in which he co-starred with the late Doris Day), and, of course, his immortal performance of the title role in the 1960 epic, "Spartacus" (cues from which I've noted here and here).

RIP, Kirk.

January 30, 2020

A Look Back at the Life of a WW II Survivor --- And Hero

As we march through the 75th anniversary dates marking the end of World War II, the most horrific war in human history, more and more books and articles are published demanding our attention. This Jacqueline Cutler discussion of a new book by the 98-year old Professor Emeritus of Bard College, Justus Rosenberg, The Art of Resistance: My Four Years in the French Underground: A Memoir, is worth your attention.

"A Look Back at the Life of a WW II Survivor Rich with Courage and Luck" is a tribute to Polish-born Justus Rosenberg's remarkable story. Cutler writes: "It was 1937, and 16-year-old Justus Rosenberg ran home to hide. He kept running and hiding even when he had no home. Then, he added fighting back. Rosenberg’s remarkable life had him smuggling out refugees, spying for the Resistance, and joining the U.S. Army."

The book tells the story of how Justus made his way eventually to Marseille, joining the Resistance, and spending the rest of the war delivering "stacks of fake visas, cleverly forged by a cartoonist. He graduated to spiriting refugees over the Pyrenees into neutral Spain." In the end, Rosenberg is a witness to history who implores us "to teach young people about the Holocaust --- both the Jewish one and other 'holocausts' in history ... So that future generations will know where humankind's worst instincts and political ideologies can lead."

January 27, 2020

RIP, Kobe

What can one say that hasn't been said already?

RIP, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year old daughter Gianna, and the seven other people who died in a helicopter crash yesterday in the hills above Calabasas.

January 25, 2020

Holocaust Remembrance Day

I was chatting with my dear friend Ryan Neugebauer about "Holocaust Remembrance Day," which will be marked on January 27, 2020. In echoing the sentiment, "Never forget," I said in part:

"[T]here comes a point at which one must at least pause long enough to contemplate those grim films of bulldozers pushing thousands upon thousands, nay, millions, of skeletal-like nameless corpses into massive pits.
That is what should never be forgotten, regardless of whatever other lessons can be drawn from this particular day. We are marking the 75th anniversary, with each passing month, of the various monuments to statist horrors on a massive scale, just from World War II alone.
The state in all its forms---fascist, socialist, "liberal-democratic"---has been singularly responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths. The Third Reich's final solution stands alongside the Soviet gulags and the Maoist "cultural revolution" in the post-war period, not to mention the U.S. dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They are all reminders of how the human race, armed with modern forms of technology in the hands of legitimized institutions of coercion, can ultimately wipe itself out."

January 10, 2020

Neil Peart, RIP

I just learned from my friend Irfan Khawaja that Neil Peart, drummer and primary lyricist for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, Rush, passed away on January 7, 2020 at the age of 67.

I once wrote a Fall 2002 Journal of Ayn Rand Studies article, "Rand, Rush, and Rock" that spawned a Fall 2003 JARS symposium on "Ayn Rand and Progressive Rock," featuring contributions from Durrell Bowman, Steven Horwitz, Ed Macan, Bill Martin, Robert M. Price, Peter Saint-Andre, and Thomas Welsh, with a rejoinder by me. It was a lively symposium, indeed, but it would never have been possible without the contributions of Neil Peart---whose Randian phase ultimately provoked my original essay.

RIP, Neil Peart.

Ed.: As I added to a Facebook thread by my friend Steve Horwitz:

And you're right, Steve: I have no words either [to express my sadness over this loss] ... but plenty of lyrics and music to remember him by. ❤️

January 02, 2020

Don Larsen, RIP

Don Larsen, the only pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball to throw a perfect game in a World Series, died yesterday at the age of 90. The Yankee pitcher, who didn't have a particularly noteworthy career (he went 81-91 in a career that spanned from 1953 to 1967, pitching for seven different major league teams) was perhaps the least likely candidate to pitch the first---and only---no-hit perfect game in a World Series. It took place on October 8, 1956, Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, in which Larsen threw 97 pitches, 70 of them for strikes [YouTube link].

He was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1956 World Series, which the New York Yankees won over the Brooklyn Dodgers in seven games. I wasn't even a gleam in my parents' eyes back in 1956, but the great Vin Scully's classic call of the end of that game, in which Yogi Berra jumped into the arms of Larsen, is branded in my memory of greatest television sports moments [YouTube link].

My fondest memory of Don Larsen was when he showed up on Yogi Berra Day at Yankee Stadium on July 18, 1999, and threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Yogi. What followed was almost surreal. Yankee pitcher David Cone, as if anointed by the presence of two blessed Yankees, went on to throw a regular season perfect game [YouTube link], only the 16th perfect game in MLB history at that time, out of a total of 23---21 of these in the modern era, which began in 1900.

RIP, Don Larsen.

January 01, 2020

Song of the Day #1740

Song of the Day: Happy New Year, words and music by Gordon Jenkins, is featured on the 1957 studio album, "Alone," by Judy Garland. It has a certain sadness to it, but given the recent resurgence of interest in Judy (see the 2019 film with Rene Zellweger), I thought it was a poignant way of bringing in the new year [YouTube link]. To better days in 2020, filled with love, health, and happiness!

December 17, 2019

All I Want for Christmas Is ... A #1 Single! Wow!

I'm sure many of you are probably tired of hearing this 25-year old song, and it's not even a Song of the Day, since I featured it way back on December 28, 2008. But today, with its sales and streaming combined, Mariah Carey's perennial ol' time song ("All I Want for Christmas Is You") has finally ascended to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the first Christmas song to hit #1 in sixty-one years! The last Christmas song to hit #1 was "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" [YouTube link] (which I featured on December 28, 2005). Mariah's song was a true original from her 1994 holiday album, "Merry Christmas."

That gives Mariah nineteen #1 singles (first among solo artists and only one behind the all-time Beatles record twenty #1 singles)! Check out three different videos to the song [YouTube links]. And while you're at it, check out Mariah's appearance on "The Late Late Show" with James Corden and her brand new video celebrating the song's ascent to #1 [YouTube links], where the production gives a wink to Busby Berkeley. And check out this chat with Mariah Carey about the song [YouTube link].

Plenty of folks have said that the song has a 50s or 60s vibe, but don't kid yourself: You could easily do a Lindy Hop (or, if you prefer, a Jitterbug) to this song with no problem---and that sound goes all the way back to the swing era, which is why "All I Want for Christmas Is You" has been embraced by children of all ages!

So, we're decorating for the holidays---there's no "war on Christmas" in this house---and cranking up the volume, mixing those great traditional carols and popular songs delivered by Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Diane Reeves, Henry Mancini, Donny Hathaway, Joe Pass, Bobby Helms, Brenda Lee, Jose Feliciano, Paul McCartney, Karen Carpenter (speaking of which, unrelated to Christmas, check out this remarkable duet of Karen and Ella), Vince Guaraldi (with the "Peanuts" gang), Wham!, and, yes, Mariah Carey too [YouTube links]! It's time to Deck the Halls (and the windows and every other room in the apartment)!

December 16, 2019

Song of the Day #1737

Song of the Day: You're No Good, words and music by Clint Ballard, Jr., was first recorded by Dee Dee Warwick [YouTube link] in 1963. Other renditions of this song by Betty Everett and The Swinging Blue Jeans [YouTube links] charted in 1963 and 1964, respectively. But it wasn't until 1975 that Linda Ronstadt [YouTube link] took this song to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was one of the highlights on her #1 breakthrough fifth solo studio album, "Heart Like a Wheel." Last night Ronstadt was among the honorees at the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors, where Trisha Yearwood [YouTube link] delivered this song in tribute to the artist. Though retired since 2011 due to ill-health, Ronstadt was in attendance and clearly moved by the tribute to her remarkably diverse musical legacy [YouTube link]. Other honorees included Michael Tilson Thomas, Sally Field, Sesame Street (which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year), and Earth, Wind & Fire. A tribute to that seminal group served as the rousing finale to this year's festivities, with some wonderful performances by John Legend, Cynthia Erivo, Ne Yo, the Jonas Brothers, and an all-cast performance of "September," which brought down the house [YouTube links]. It was a really entertaining night. Bravo to all the recipients! But, note to the committee: I'm still waiting for Chick Corea to become a Kennedy Center Honoree!

December 12, 2019

Song of the Day #1736

Song of the Day: Day In, Day Out, music by Rube Bloom, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, has been recorded by countless artists since its first appearance in 1939. Our birthday boy, Frank Sinatra, who would have been 104 today, recorded the song three times himself in wildly different arrangements, from his albums, "The Point of No Return" [YouTube link] (recorded in 1953, but featured in a 2002 expanded edition of the album, as a ballad arranged by Alex Stordahl); "Come Dance with Me" [YouTube link] (1959, in a swinging Billy May arrangement); and finally on "Nice 'n' Easy" (1960, in a distinctively Nelson Riddle orchestral arrangement). Amazing how different arrangers could allow Ol' Blue Eyes to explore the different nuances of a single song. All part of the genius that was Frank Sinatra and the wide influence [YouTube link] he continues to have.

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

Song of the Day #1733

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 19, 2019

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.

September 17, 2019

Rothbard Lectures on American History: Lost and Found

The following essay can be found on the Mises Wire; check out the newly available Murray N. Rothbard lectures on "Libertarian Paradigms in American History" and "The Crisis of American Foreign Policy" on that site.

RothbardLecturesS.jpg

***


As Jerome Tuccille famously wrote: "It usually begins with Ayn Rand."

For me, it began in my senior year of high school. I took a year-long "Advanced Placement" course (for college credit) that offered an in-depth survey of American history, from the colonial period to the modern era. My early political views, shaped by both relatives and influential teachers, always tended toward a pro-free market stance. Invariably, the contentious discussions I was having in class were shared at home with my family. One afternoon, after listening to my tirades concerning the current events of the day, my sister-in-law told me that she'd been reading a novel called Atlas Shrugged, and that a lot of what I was saying seemed to echo the themes in this book. When she showed it to me, I took one look at it and saw that it was more than a thousand pages and said: “I have homework. I’ve got no time for that! No way!"

But as I thumbed through the back pages of the book, I noticed that there was an advertisement for a collection of essays by Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden, Alan Greenspan, and Robert Hessen called Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. So in lieu of the hefty novel, I bought a copy of that much shorter book—and as I began reading it, I was completely stunned. Here was the most stylized moral, practical, and historical defense of the free market that I'd ever read. So, before I stepped foot into college---and in place of reading a 1000+ page novel---I swiftly devoured all of Rand's nonfiction works before reading a single work of her fiction.

Perhaps the greatest revelation of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal was the vast free-market literature referenced by its contributors. Austrian-school economist Ludwig von Mises was prominently cited throughout the essays, and in the bibliography, no fewer than eight of his classic works were listed. In addition, there were citations to classic works by Frederic Bastiat, Eugen von Boehm-Bawerk, and Henry Hazlitt, along with books by such Old Right thinkers as John T. Flynn and Isabel Paterson.

I had learned that Ludwig von Mises had once given seminars at New York University's Graduate School of Business, and I had applied to New York University partially because of my knowledge that there was actually a program in Austrian economics that had taken shape there. Even though my intended major was history, I eventually took on a triple major in economics, politics, and history. Among the first talks I heard on campus were those given by Richard Ebeling and David Ramsay Steele, who gave me further insight into the remarkable diversity within the libertarian and Austrian scholarly community. It didn't take me long to register for courses with one of Mises's finest students: Israel Kirzner. Courses with Mario Rizzo, Gerald O'Driscoll, Stephen Littlechild, and Roger Garrison would follow later, as did attendance at regular sessions of the Austrian Economics Colloquium (which met weekly) and the once-a-month Austrian Economics Seminar, where I was privileged to see presentations by everyone from Ludwig Lachmann (also a member of the NYU Economics Department) and Murray Rothbard (on "The Myth of Neutral Taxation"). It was at these and other sessions that I met such folks as Don Lavoie, Larry White, George Selgin, Joe Salerno, Roger Koppl, and Ralph Raico. For me, it was as if I'd stepped into Scholarly Nirvana. Even between classes, I could just walk on over to the corner of Bleecker and Mercer Streets and thumb through the literature on display at Laissez Faire Books. And when the academic year was over, there was always a whirlwind summer weekend libertarian conference to go to, sponsored by either the Cato Institute or the Institute for Humane Studies.

History remained my deepest passion. By the spring of my sophomore year, I had been an active member of the NYU Undergraduate History Club and enrolled in the History Honors Program. Hand-in-hand with my scholarly studies, I was a co-founder of the NYU chapter for Students for a Libertarian Society (SLS). With the Soviets bogged down in Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter was calling for a return to draft registration. It was fortuitous that on April 30, 1979, the House Military Manpower Subcommittee voted unanimously to have the House Armed Services Committee consider the resumption of Selective Service registration. A planned protest in Washington Square Park on May Day became that much more prescient, as SLS joined a diverse coalition of groups to resist the growing political support for conscription.

Time spent as a growing libertarian activist took nothing away from my deepening academic studies. When I returned in the Fall of 1979, the beginning of my junior year at NYU, I had already taken courses with some of the finest historians that the Department of History had to offer, including Richard Hull and colonial historians Patricia Bonomi and Gloria Main. Simultaneously, my acquaintance with Murray Rothbard had developed into a collegial friendship; Murray's work had an enormous impact on my growing libertarian perspective and he never hesitated, in countless phone conversations, to provide me with insightful guidance and advice on the development of my professional course of study (see "How I Became a Libertarian"). Virtually every term paper I wrote---covering everything from the colonial era to the Progressive era, from the “war collectivism” of World War I to the Great Depression, from the New Deal to World War II and the postwar emergence of the welfare-warfare state---reflected a maturing libertarian perspective, informed by Rothbard's unique interpretation of American history. This work culminated with my first professional article published in The Historian (the NYU undergraduate history journal) in 1980 on "Government and the Railroads in World War I" [pdf] and in my undergraduate senior honors thesis, directed by labor historian Daniel Walkowitz, "The Implications of Interventionism: An Analysis of the Pullman Strike" [pdf].

In fairness, many years later, I criticized aspects of Rothbard's work in a full scholarly exegesis of its scope, as a segment of my doctoral dissertation, from which I derived Part II of my book, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, the culminating work of my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy" (which began with Marx, Hayek, and Utopia and Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical). That critique, however, is itself evidence of the impact that Rothbard had made on my libertarian studies---since it was simultaneously my attempt to make visible, and to grapple with, his many contributions, something that too many contemporary scholars had simply ignored.

It was in part my commitment to making those contributions visible that I approached Professor Richard Hull in the fall semester of 1979. At the time, Professor Hull was the amiable advisor for both undergraduate students of history and The Historian. I told him that there was, indeed, considerable interest among the members of the Undergraduate History Society in Rothbard's iconoclastic approach and I urged him to extend a departmental invitation to Murray to speak before students and faculty of the Department of History. The result of that invitation was Murray's talk on "Libertarian Paradigms in American History," a lecture that he gave on December 4, 1979 at 4 pm in room 808 of the Main Building. Professor Hull encouraged me to introduce Murray to a standing-room only crowd of well over 200 people. I highlighted virtually all of Rothbard's historical works, in particular, while cautioning the crowd that it would not be easy to pigeonhole him as a New Right or New Left historian; clearly, I suggested, Murray Rothbard was forging a unique interpretive approach to the study of history.

Virtually all of the department's historians were in attendance that afternoon; Murray knew many of them personally, and after the lecture, he exchanged some warm words with Gloria Main, since he had referred in his talk to Jackson Turner Main, her husband, whose work on the Antifederalists he recommended highly.

The central theme of Rothbard's lecture was the conflict between "Liberty" and "Power" throughout history. He did not deny the complexities of historical events and did not disapprove of alternative approaches to the understanding of history. Drawing from Albert Jay Nock, however, he believed that the contest between "social power" (embodied in voluntary institutions and trade) and "state power" (in which certain interests used the coercive instruments of government to expropriate others for their own benefit) was central to understanding the ebb and flow of historical events. Social power, which reached its apex in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, breeds prosperity, civilization, and culture; state power, which came to dominate the twentieth century, produced the most regressive period in human history—as government expanded its powers through warfare and a maze of regulatory agencies, central banking, and welfare-state bureaucracies. Throughout his talk, he drew on the pioneering scholarship of Bernard Bailyn on the ideological origins of the American Revolution; Jackson Turner Main on the role of the Antifederalists in restraining, through the Bill of Rights, the "nationalist" forces that forged the counter-revolutionary Constitution; Paul Kleppner, who provides an enlightening take on the struggle between "liturgical" and "pietist" cultural forces, the latter viewed as a key element in the emergence of the Progressive Era and the growth of government intervention; and Gabriel Kolko, whose revisionist work on the role of big business in the move toward the regulatory state explains much about the rise of corporatist statism in the twentieth century and beyond.

The entire 90-minute talk, which included a brief question-and-answer session, is peppered with that edgy Rothbardian wit, which entertained as much as it informed. By the end of the lecture, Rothbard was given a standing ovation.

So enthralled was I by the success of that December 1979 lecture that in September 1980, I extended an invitation to Murray to be among the speakers featured in a nearly week-long "Libertython" sponsored by the NYU chapter of Students for a Libertarian Society---dedicated to exploring the politics, economics, and philosophy of freedom. On September 23, 1980, he gave the second of six scheduled lectures that day. His lecture focused on "The Crisis of American Foreign Policy," wherein I introduced him to a slightly smaller audience than the event sponsored by the History Department. The size of the audience didn't matter; for Rothbard, there was nothing more important than the issue of war and peace. As he put it, libertarians were usually quite good in opposing the regulations of OSHA or criticizing the destructive effects of price controls. But when faced with the role of the warfare state as the single most important factor in the expansion of government power: "Blank out"---a turn of phrase he used, giving credit to Ayn Rand---was the typical response he'd witnessed from far too many libertarians. By not focusing enough attention on the role of "war and peace," all the other issues concerning price control, free will versus determinism, and so forth, become "pointless ... if we're all washed away" as a species. With a bit of gallows humor, he couldn't resist criticizing the U.S. military's plan that would whisk away politicians to safety as nuclear warfare becomes imminent such that the "goddamn government" will go on in bomb shelters, while the rest of us perish. As the antidote to war, he cited W. C. Fields, who, when asked by the Saturday Evening Post how to end World War II, remarked: "Take the leaders of both sides or all sides, in the Hollywood Bowl, and let them fight it out with sackfuls of guns." The Post didn't publish the comment, Rothbard says, but he yearns for a world that gets back to jousting between the leaders of warring governments, rather than a policy of what Charles Beard once called "perpetual war for perpetual peace," in which twentieth-century technology had made possible mass murder on an unimaginable scale.

Some will have difficulty accepting Rothbard's argument that in any clash between "democratic" and "dictatorial" countries, the latter is not necessarily the source of contemporary conflict. In fact, Rothbard argues, the foreign policy of the "democratic" United States has been at the root of many of the global conflicts in the post-World War II era.

During the Q&A session, folks who are familiar with the voice of Don Lavoie will recognize him instantly. Included here as well are several self-acknowledged "digs" that Rothbard takes at the Libertarian Party's 1980 Presidential candidate, Ed Clark, with some surprising comments on subjects such as immigration policy.

Except for those who were present at these two events, these two lectures have not been heard by anyone since 1979-1980. I had been the only person with recorded copies of these Rothbard lectures and it is remarkable that these recordings survived. Indeed, an apartment fire in October 2013 nearly consumed my library—and my family. Fortunately, we survived, as did most of my books, audio and video cassettes, and other recordings. The "lost" Rothbard lectures were found under two feet of ash and sheetrock. I later digitized them for the sake of posterity and have donated these materials to the Mises Institute, which has become a repository of so much of Rothbard's corpus. I am delighted that they will now be heard for the first time in nearly four decades.

September 13, 2019

Song of the Day #1727

Song of the Day: Amazing Grace is a Christian hymn that was published in 1779, written by John Newton. If there had been recording technology back then, I think we could fairly say that there would have been thousands of recordings of this song by now. Since the advent of recording, AllMusic estimates that there have been at least 1,000 recordings of this hymn. Our Summer Music Festival (Woodstock Golden Anniversary Edition) continues with this rendition [YouTube link] by Arlo Guthrie, who closed his six-song set at 12:25 am on Saturday, 16 August 2019. Given this week's nineteenth installment in my annual WTC Remembrance Series, I could think of fewer themes more appropriate to feature this weekend. Also check out this bagpipe rendition [YouTube link], which features a montage of 9/11 images in tribute to the 343 firefighters who paid the ultimate price on that day---so that others might live. [Ed.: Hat Tip to my friend Kurt Keefner, who mentions that the words of this song were matched in 1835 to the melody of "New Britain" by William Walker.]

September 11, 2019

WTC Remembrance: Zack Fletcher - Twin Towers, Twin Memories

Today marks the eighteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001, which, nearly two decades later, continues to affect our lives as New Yorkers, as well as the lives of those whose loved ones were killed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and in Washington, D.C. My annual series returns this year with a poignant installment: Zack Fletcher: Twin Towers, Twin Memories. It is a profile of Zack Fletcher and his twin brother Andre, both of whom were FDNY first responders on that fateful day. I can't thank Zack and the Fletcher family enough for having provided us with a riveting memoir, in words and photos.

For those who have not read previous entries in the series, here is a convenient index:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student (Tim was a student at Stuyvesant High School, which is profiled in tonight's HBO film, "In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11"

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

2014: A Museum for the Ages: A Pictorial

2015: A New One World Trade Center Rises From the Ashes: A Pictorial

2016: Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine

2017: Sue Mayham: Not Business as Usual

2018: Anthony Schirripa, Architect

2019: Zack Fletcher: Twin Towers, Twin Memories

Never forget.

September 06, 2019

Song of the Day #1726

Song of the Day: The "Fish" Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag, written by Country Joe McDonald, was first released as part of a 1965 extended play vinyl, "Rag Baby Talking Issue No. 1," recorded by Country Joe and the Fish. In 1967, it became the title song of this psychedelic rock band's second studio album. With its biting satire, this was one of the most iconic counterculture protest songs ever recorded in opposition to the war in Vietnam. And so our Summer Music Festival (Woodstock Anniversary Edition) continues with this classic song. Check out the original EP version and then the unedited live Woodstock performance [YouTube links] that ended the group's Saturday afternoon set on 16 August 2019.

September 04, 2019

Song of the Day #1725

Song of the Day: Bootylicious features the words and music of Rob Fusari, Falonte Moore, and Beyonce Knowles, who turns 38 today. This was the third single from the 2001 album "Survivor" by Destiny's Child, the "girl group" which consisted of Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, and Beyonce. The song actually features a sample from "Edge of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks (who makes a cameo in the music video) and went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 2001. To date, amazingly, it is the last song by a "girl group" to achieve a #1 hit in the United States. Though the word "bootylicious" was first used by rapper Snoop Dogg in 1992, this song's title became so much a part of the American vernacular that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004! Check out the Matthew Rolston-directed music video [YouTube link], where Destiny's Child and their supporting dancers perform choreography made famous by Michael Jackson. A Rockwilder remix [YouTube link], featuring a rap by the 2019 Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award recipient, Missy Elliott, was featured in the 2001 MTV musical, "Carmen: A Hip Hopera." The song was also featured in two prominent "mash-ups": one with Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and the other with Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" [YouTube links].

September 03, 2019

"Enemy Aliens": The Italian American Experience

For years, I've commemorated a "day of remembrance" in February, where I've focused attention on the internment, during World War II, of Japanese Americans, by executive action from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Less known is the internment of German Americans during that same period, and while I was aware of similar actions taken against Italian-Americans (and I'm half-Sicilian by ancestry), I was taken aback by the level of political and cultural repression faced by my ancestors.

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently completed an enormous re-organization of my library and file system and have quite a collection of newspaper clippings, which I've organized by topic and which will become the subject of various blog entries in the coming months. I am going to get into the habit of posting on Notablog and on Facebook, links to some of these articles, which, I believe, provide enlightenment on topics of interest.

As some may know, there was a recent Twitter war that erupted when Chris Cuomo of CNN was caught on a YouTube video, going ballistic in public. Out with his family, he was confronted by a person who referred to him as the "Fredo" of the Cuomo family. President Trump had a little devilish Twitter fun with Cuomo (brother of the current New York governor, Andrew Cuomo), after Cuomo's "meltdown" over being so characterized. Cuomo saw it as an ethnic slur against Italians. Trump responded that he too believed Chris to be the "Fredo" of the Cuomo family. And Trump's son, Donald Jr., piled on, saying: "Take it from me, 'Fredo' isn't the N word for Italians. ... It just means you're the dumb brother."

Now, with all due respect to the Trump and Cuomo 'families' (no ethnic slur intended), I couldn't care less who scores points in any Twitter slug-fest. But aside from a note in a Roderick T. Long Reason Papers essay, "The Justice and Prudence of War: Toward a Libertarian Analysis," I have to confess to an embarrassing ignorance of the history of bigotry and violence against Italian Americans in this country. I remain an unreconstructed fan of "The Godfather Epic" and don't agree with some of what Rosario A. Iaconis states in a New York Daily News op-ed piece, "Cuomo was Right to Be Offended" about "The Godfather" reference. Iaconis believes that the Coppola classic "has been as toxic to Italo-Americans as 'The Birth of A Nation' was to African Americans." To me, there are fewer films that depict so brilliantly the rise of organized crime in America with such transparency, or that illustrate the corruption of the human soul through the inversion of values, allegedly designed to protect loved ones from harm. From its sprawling, truly epic storytelling to its magnificent editing, cinematography, and score, it remains one of the triumphs of the American cinema.

But here's the takeaway material from the Iaconis essay that shattered my illusions of the government's relatively "hands-off" policy toward Italian Americans in the wake of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, which drew the United States into World War II:

In his landmark book Vendetta, Prof. Richard Gambino states that between 1870 and 1940, "Italians were second only to blacks in numbers of lynch victims." And this murderous spree spanned such states as Colorado, Mississippi, Illinois, North Carolina and Florida.
In a missive to his sister regarding the 1891 massacre of Italians in New Orleans, Theodore Roosevelt wrote: “Monday we dined at the Camerons; various dago diplomats were present, all much wrought up by the lynching of the Italians in New Orleans. Personally I think it rather a good thing, and said so.”
After Dec. 7, 1941, as the result of FDR’s executive order, some 600,000 Italian Americans were labeled “enemy aliens.” On both coasts, Italian-American homes and businesses were confiscated; newspapers ceased publishing; and draconian curfews were established. Fishermen were not permitted to sail their boats and earn a livelihood.
In California, 10,000 were evacuated from coastal areas and sites near power plants, dams and military installations. Another 257 Italians were shipped to internment camps for up to two years.

Sacco and Vanzetti and the Mafia to the contrary, many of my own relatives fought and died in World War II for the Allied cause.

As Karl Marx once famously said in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon: "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

With continuing talks of the "enemy aliens" among us, it's a sobering reminder that my own ancestors were often treated as enemies of the state. My crystal ball tells me that both tragedy and farce will continue to haunt the American experience.

September 02, 2019

Song of the Day #1724

Song of the Day: Sundream, words and music credited to the alternative dance group, Rufus du Sol, is featured on their debut album, "Atlas". It is Labor Day today, which makes it all the more ironic that it was on this date in 1946 that Ayn Rand began writing a book she had initially entitled "The Strike"; it became Atlas Shrugged, which was published by Random House in 1957. (The December 2019 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will feature a symposium on the novel, in honor of its 60+ year anniversary!) And this date shows up in the novel several times as well, which is why September 2nd has been called, in some circles, "Atlas Shrugged Day." This song, with an almost ambient dance groove, features a line reminiscent of the book as it tells us to "fall into the Atlas"---just one of the reasons I've highlighted it today. The album itself debuted at #1 on the Australian album chart on 19 August 2013, and this was the fourth single issued from it. Check out the official video, and several remixes: Claptone, Hayden James, X3SR, Classix, and Casino Gold. I know two people, including somebody very, very special to me, who are celebrating their birthdays today---and you know who you are! My love always ...

August 31, 2019

Song of the Day #1723

Song of the Day: Brown Eyed Girl features the music and lyrics of Van Morrison, who took this song into the Billboard Top Ten in 1967. From the album "Blowin' Your Mind!", the song became a signature tune for Morrison. My all-time favorite of his remains his very jazzy "Moondance," which was recorded fifty years ago this month and was the title track to his album, released in January 1970 [YouTube link], though the single wasn't released until 1977! But this one is a classic rock staple, from the "original" Summer of Love. Today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer turns 74 years old. Check out the original album version and live in concert at the BBC Radio Theatre [YouTube links].

August 29, 2019

Song of the Day #1721

Song of the Day: Don't Matter To Me is credited to numerous writers including Paul Anka, Aubrey "Drake" Graham, and Michael Jackson, who was born on this date in 1958. As I explained in my essay, "Michael Jackson: Man or Monster in the Mirror," published on Notablog on the tenth anniversary of MJ's death this past June, I believe that even if it could be proven that some artists engaged in destructive behavior during their lives, it need not erase our appreciation of the art they created. Ultimately, it's something that each person has to decide for themselves. But the case of Michael Jackson is particularly troublesome because there are so many contemporary artists who have openly acknowledged how deeply they were influenced by him. One of these artists, Drake, had been very vocal in his acknowledgment of MJ's influence on his music [MTV clip]---so much so that he asked the Jackson estate if he could include samples from a previously unreleased MJ song for his 2018 album, "Scorpion". Today's "Song of the Day" is that "collaboration"---a duet that drove the track into the Top Ten on Billboard's Hot 100 and R&B/Hip Hop charts. It's not as if allegations of MJ's exploits with children were unknown prior to the release of the documentary, "Leaving Neverland"; but in the film's wake, Drake decided to remove this song from his setlist on his current world tour in support of his album. Jackson's lyrical contribution to the track is now all the more ironic: "All of a sudden you say you don't want me no more. All of a sudden you say that I closed the door. It don't matter to me. It don't matter to me what you say." Even MTV, on which MJ made a huge impact, has been pressured to strip his name from the Video Vanguard Award at its VMAs. Protests from his most recent accusers may have led MTV to drop his name during the presentation of the Award this past Monday. But this year's recipient, Missy Elliott, would have none of it---her epic performance and acceptance speech proudly paid tribute in both choreography and words to MJ [YouTube links]. She even thanked MJ's sister Janet for all her support through the years.

For reasons I explained in June, I continue to celebrate MJ's artistry. Deep down, I'm sure Drake still acknowledges Jackson's impact on his music. But if he fears a public backlash or feels that guilty about this particular song appearing on his album to the point that he won't even perform the "duet" publicly, maybe he ought to send all the proceeds he made off this Certified Gold Single to charities supporting victims of child abuse, as SNL's Pete Davidson [YouTube link] once bitingly suggested. Either way, I remain undaunted in highlighting Jackson's contributions, even if they are featured on present or future posthumously released singles. Check out this track's original music video, with its haunting MJ vocal chorus. And then check out the Zanderz dance remix [YouTube links].

August 24, 2019

Song of the Day #1719

Song of the Day: White Rabbit, words and music by Grace Slick, was featured on the 1967 Jefferson Airplane album, "Surrealistic Pillow." The Top Ten song was actually first performed by Slick when she was with the Great Society, a San Francisco band. Check out that first recording, with its long instrumental introduction [YouTube link] (from "Live at the Matrix") and then the Jefferson Airplane version [YouTube link]. Jefferson Airplane appeared at Woodstock on Sunday morning, 17 August 1969, and this was the penultimate song in their set [YouTube link].

August 18, 2019

Song of the Day #1717

Song of the Day: Spinning Wheel was written by the Canadian lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas of that quintessential jazz-rock hybrid band, Blood, Sweat, & Tears. The song's studio version peaked at #2 in 1969 [YouTube link]; it was from the group's eponymous album "Blood, Sweat, & Tears," which won the 1970 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. They stretched out in their performance of the song at the Woodstock Festival [YouTube link] in the wee hours of this very day, fifty years ago.

August 17, 2019

Song of the Day #1716

Song of the Day: Green River, words and music by John Fogerty, was the title track to the third studio album of Creedence Clearwater Revival. The song was a Certified Gold Single that peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Check out the single version [YouTube link] and the live version [YouTube link] of the song, which the group performed on this very day fifty years ago at Woodstock (it was the second song in their set, which lasted from 12:30 a.m. to 1:20 a.m.). The song has been heard in several films through the years, including "The Post" (2017), in which it is used anachronistically---since it plays over a scene in 1966 Vietnam, three years before this single was released! One film that it was not heard in was "Easy Rider," which debuted on 14 July 1969 (during the same month that our song of the day was also released). This is therefore the Golden Anniversary Summer of a landmark "counterculture" film, which starred Peter Fonda, who, died at the age of 79 yesterday (16 August 2019). Fonda considered himself a part of the counterculture of the 1960s and was "Born to Be Wild" [YouTube link], indeed. It was all the more ironic then that, in 1999, he would receive a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for a Miniseries (for the Showtime movie version of Barbara Branden's book, "The Passion of Ayn Rand"), playing Frank O'Connor, opposite Helen Mirren, who assumed the role of his wife, Ayn Rand, and who would go on to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Television Movie.

August 16, 2019

Song of the Day #1715

Song of the Day: Lady Madonna, credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, was a Top Five hit in 1968. The Beatles may have been going through some troubles, which led to their inevitable breakup in 1970, but their music lived on in the voices of several Woodstock performers. Richie Havens, who opened up the Woodstock festival on 15 August 1969, performed a few Beatles covers in his marathon set, such as "With a Little Help from My Friends" (and he needed a little help with the lyrics!) and a medley of "Strawberry Fields Forever and Hey Jude" [YouTube links]. This Beatles song was also a part of his repertoire, but not performed live at Woodstock. I feature it today nonetheless because it gives us a chance to say Happy Birthday to a different Lady Madonna, who, was born on this date 61 years ago---a full eleven years before the festival took place. Madonna would go on to rock the charts of the 1980s and beyond, along with such artists as Prince, George Michael, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston, all of whom are now gone. But Madonna is still kickin' in 2019, scoring her ninth #1 album on the Billboard Hot 200, "Madame X," which debuted at #1 in 58 countries on iTunes in the last week of June. But getting back to this year's Summer Music theme, check out a rendition of our song of the day by the guy who kicked off the Woodstock festival, Richie Havens [YouTube link] (though the highlight of his set was, undoubtedly, the improvised "Freedom" [YouTube link], based on the Negro spiritual, "Motherless Child"). The Brooklyn-born Havens died in April 2013, and his ashes were later scattered on August 18th of that year, across the Woodstock site, that 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York, to coincide with the festival's anniversary. Finally, let's not forget the original rendition of this classic song by the Beatles [YouTube link].

August 15, 2019

Song of the Day #1714

Song of the Day: Pinball Wizard, words and music by Pete Townshend, was featured on "Tommy," the rock opera recorded by The Who in 1969. Check out the original album version [YouTube link]. Today marks the first of four days coinciding with the Golden Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival. I will be focusing primarily on some of the songs and artists who appeared at that festival (with one quasi-exception tomorrow). But our Woodstock tribute will continue until the end of the Summer (in September). Since I will be posting entries over these next four days, which coincide with the dates of the original festival, I think we should note a few things about Woodstock itself---given the bad press it received with its legendary rampant drug use and "free love" in the mud on open display.

This festival took place on Max Yasgur's 600-acre farm in Bethel, New York. Having received $75,000 for the use of his private land for the very public festival, Yasgur, who was a pro-Vietnam War conservative, was also deeply committed to the American principle of free expression. He addressed the crowd that had come to his property and openly celebrated the "kids" in attendance at the event [YouTube link]. He observed correctly that this was one of the largest gatherings of youth "ever assembled in one place"---one marked by no violence, despite some very real "inconveniences" (like severe rainstorms and shortages of both food and toilets). Even the local community rose to the occasion; the largely conservative, rural town residents, who would not have ordinarily sat down with anyone from the "hippie" generation, gladly donated food, water, and other resources to aid the young people who were overwhelmed by the sheer size and unpredictable scope of the event and its hardships. Even the Medical Corps of the armed forces flew in supplies---to monumental applause from the hundreds of thousands of people who were there.

The Summer of '69---which we have been commemorating in this year's installment of our Summer Music Festival---is a study in contrasts (Ayn Rand herself saw it as a battle between "Apollo" and "Dionysus"). But it is also a study in convergence. In July 1969, two human beings walked on the surface of the moon for the first time, while in August 1969, nearly half-a-million human beings embraced the music and message of a festival, featuring more than 30 artists and/or bands, embracing 'cosmic' peace (I'm sure some of the participants thought they were walking on the moon themselves, at various times over that four-day period!). Whatever one's attitudes toward the views of that era, of its culture or its "counterculture", this remarkable convergence of events demonstrated what was possible when people reached across a "generation gap." At Woodstock, the "counterculture" [pdf to one of my encyclopedia entries]---many of them left-wingers who were not particularly enamored by the institution of private property---nevertheless assembled on private land to very publicly voice not just their disenchantment with the Vietnam War and the draft, but to nonviolently celebrate "peace" and "love" through the music of their day, at the end of one of the most turbulent, violent decades in American history. In the summer of 1969 alone, there were thousands of military and civilian casualties in Southeast Asia, not to mention ongoing unrest and violence at home, including a sensational murder spree in early August committed by the Manson cult that led to the horrific deaths of five people in Los Angeles (including actress Sharon Tate, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant). And yet, for all its "countercultural" hoopla, only two people died at Woodstock (one from a drug overdose; another from a tractor accident). It's as if a Wizard had simply waved a wand to show, in a single unforgettable summer, what was possible---in the stars and on earth---when people of different ages, backgrounds, views, and perspectives could claim to have "come in peace for all mankind."

And so we kick off the height of our Woodstock Summer with a song of Wizardry. It was featured about half-way through The Who's set at the festival [YouTube link], in the wee hours of 17 August 1969, followed by what has become known as the "Abbie Hoffman incident" [YouTube link] (one of the few disruptions during any musical set, not counting delays due to pouring rain!). Of course, for those of us who saw the 1975 film version of "Tommy," it's not possible to forget Elton John's performance of this song [YouTube link] or its re-imagining in this year's Elton biopic "Rocketman" [YouTube link]. But wizards work magic, and in that summer, fifty years ago, there was pure magic on display in so many significant ways.

August 09, 2019

Song of the Day #1712

Song of the Day: Higher Love features the words and music of Will Jennings and Steve Winwood, who took this song from his album "Back in the High Life" to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August of 1986. The female vocals on the single were provided by Chaka Khan, who also appeared in the music video [YouTube link]. Tomorrow, we get back to our Woodstock Edition of the Summer Music Festival, but today, we mark the date, 56 years ago, when Whitney Houston was born. It turns out that despite having left a remarkable discography to posterity, Whitney actually recorded this song in 1990 (produced by Narada Michael Walden) for her third studio album, "I'm Your Baby Tonight" (and what a great song that was [YouTube link]!), but it appeared only on the album's Japanese release. So her current single is the first posthumously released recording to hit the Hot 100 since her untimely death in 2012. Check out Whitney's live performance of the song and the Kygo-produced remix released last month as well as the slammin' Stormby Club Mix [YouTube links]. The song is already a Top 5 Dance Club Track, peaking at #2 as well on the Hot Dance / Electronic Songs Chart.

August 08, 2019

Song of the Day #1711

Song of the Day: If I Can't Have You features the words and music of Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris, Nate Mercereau, and Shawn Mendes, who turns 21 today! Check out the video single and several remixes by Galoski, MT SOUL, and the Bass Brothers. And Happy Birthday, young man!

August 04, 2019

Happy Birthday, Jones Beach!

On August 4, 1929, Jones Beach State Park was officially opened, in a ceremony held by then-New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Today, Jones Beach marks the 90th anniversary of its opening by lowering its parking fee from $10.00 to 50 cents, a price reflective of yesteryear! Which means if you want to get on the beach, you better leave from now: Make your way down the Wantagh State Parkway in Nassau County, and get on line!

I used to go there as a kid with my sister and my cousins Sandy and Michael, anytime I visited my Aunt Joan and Uncle Al, who lived in Bellmore, Long Island. Memories... of hot sand, huge waves, and family fun in the sun!

August 03, 2019

Song of the Day #1710

Song of the Day: The Oscar ("Maybe September"), music by Percy Faith, lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, was featured in the 1966 movie, with an all-star cast, including Tony Bennett, who made his film debut and sang its theme song. The song appears on two of Tony's albums: "The Movie Song Album" and the second of two albums he did with the jazz piano legend Bill Evans, "Together Again". Check out the original version and the Evans collaboration [YouTube links]. And Happy 93rd Birthday to Tony!

August 01, 2019

Erika Holzer, RIP

I have learned that author Erika Holzer has passed away. She was a dear friend for many years, from whom I learned much.

Erika and I developed a warm, personable relationship back in 2004, as she worked on a wonderful essay, "Passing the Torch," which was published in the first of two Journal of Ayn Rand Studies symposia marking the Rand Centenary. That particular issue was devoted to Rand's literary and cultural impact---and Erika's essay served as a springboard to her 2005 book that traced her "mentor-protege relationship with the author of Atlas Shrugged": Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher (the book was reviewed by Kirsti Minsaas in the Fall 2006 JARS).

Erika's literary contributions were discussed at length in the pages of JARS by writers such as Jeff Riggenbach, whose essay, "Ayn Rand's Influence on American Popular Fiction" appeared in the same issue as Erika's "Passing the Torch" and Robert Powell, whose essay, "Taking Pieces of Rand with Them: Ayn Rand's Literary Influence," appeared in the December 2012 issue of JARS.

Erika's body of work included some very fine thrillers, Freedom Bridge: A Cold War Thriller (which is actually a revised version of Double Crossing) and Eye for an Eye, which was made into a suspenseful 1996 film, directed by John Schlesinger, starring Sally Field, Kiefer Sutherland and Ed Harris. She also co-wrote two nonfiction books with her husband Henry (Hank) Mark Holzer.

Significantly, in the late 1960s, Erika and Hank had tracked down the original negative of the 1942 Italian film adaptation of Rand's first novel, We the Living, starring Alida Valli and Rossano Brazzi. Under Rand's initial guidance, Erika was immensely helpful to director Duncan Scott, in the re-editing and restoration of the film, which was released in 1986, with English subtitles.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Erika Holzer was among the most empathetic of human beings I've ever known, greatly supportive of me through some of my most difficult periods grappling with a life-long illness. I loved her and I will miss her very much.

My deepest condolences to her husband Hank, her family, and friends. Her literary work and her pro bono work as a lawyer on behalf of human rights cases stand as her ultimate legacy.

July 26, 2019

Song of the Day #1707

Song of the Day: We Shall Overcome is a gospel song descended from a 1900 hymn by Charles Albert Tindley and other African American spirituals. It was sung by many folk singers, such as Pete Seeger, Frank Hamilton, Joe Glazer, and others, as a protest song during the civil rights era. But it was the Staten Island-born Joan Baez, who had first met and befriended Martin Luther King, Jr. back in 1956, that would become most associated with this song. A civil rights and antiwar activist, she sang it at the 1963 March on Washington, near the base of the Lincoln Memorial, in front of 300,000 people. During her set at Woodstock, the visibly pregnant Baez spoke eloquently about how her husband at the time, David Harris, who opposed conscription [YouTube link to a Johnny Carson interview with Ayn Rand, who opposed both the draft and the Vietnam War], was arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for draft evasion in July 1969. (He would later be paroled in October 1970). So it was no coincidence that she'd close her own Woodstock set with this song [YouTube link] in the wee hours of Saturday, August 16, 1969.

July 24, 2019

Song of the Day #1706

Song of the Day: Let's Get Loud, words and music by Gloria Estefan and Kike Santander, was featured on Jennifer Lopez's 1999 debut album, "On the 6." Though the song was not released officially as a single, it was a Top 40 hit on the Hot Dance Club Play chart. Today, the Bronx-born Jenny from the block, like Woodstock---a child of 1969---turns 50 years old! Check out the album version and remixes by Kung Pow, Castle Hill, and D.MD Strong [YouTube links].

July 21, 2019

Baseball Hall of Fame: Mo and More

I just finished watching the live MLB broadcast of the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony of the 2019 inductees into Cooperstown. It is very difficult for any baseball fan to watch a ceremony like this and not be moved or sometimes brought to tears by the presentations, speeches, and various tributes. And this year was no exception.

The 2019 inductees included: the late Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, and Mariano "Mo" Rivera, along with "game era inductees" Harold Baines and Lee Smith.

Former New York Yankee outfielder, Bernie Williams, opened up the ceremonies with an instrumental rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" on guitar (see here [YouTube link]). And he also provided us with a sweet guitar rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (with a touch of "Enter Sandman") before Mo took the stage. Indeed, by the time Mariano Rivera reached the podium, as the last person honored today, with the other three members of the Core Four present (who won five World Series between 1996 and 2009)---Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter---well, there wasn't a dry eye left in the Sciabarra household.

I was privileged to see Mo throw his wicked cut fastball to record just a few of his 652 regular season saves (not to mention 42 postseason saves) when I traveled to the old Yankee Stadium some years ago. I am delighted to have seen him enter the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, the only baseball player to have ever been selected unanimously by the Baseball Writers Association of America. You did good, Mo, and you once again "closed out" a sporting event with a touch of class.

July 20, 2019

Song of the Day #1705

Song of the Day: Moon Maiden, words and music by Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, was commissioned by the ABC News Network to debut on the day of the Apollo 11 moon landing and moon walk. Awaiting the first walk upon the surface of the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, while Michael Collins orbited above in "Columbia," the command module, ABC anchor Frank Reynolds introduced the piece. This performance by Duke was actually recorded live on 15 July 2019 but aired on the ABC network on this date fifty years ago, after the lunar module, "Eagle," touched down in the Sea of Tranquility. Check out the rare footage of its debut by Duke Ellington and a later studio recording [YouTube links] with Duke "speaking" the lyrics, accompanied by his own playing on the vibes-sounding celeste. As a 9-year old kid, I cannot even begin to describe the level of utter elation I felt watching the grainy images of human beings on the surface of a celestial body other than the Earth. I had followed the space program from the earliest moments of my consciousness of such things (the politics of it never crossed my mind at the time); I remembered John Glenn's orbit around the earth, the Apollo 1 fire, and the Christmas Eve moon orbit of Apollo 8. But nothing could compare to the excitement I felt watching my TV fifty years ago this day [YouTube link], the sense of awe I felt hearing Neil Armstrong's first words on the lunar surface, and the sense of hope that was inspired in me, hearing him enunciate the words on the lunar plaque: "We came in peace for all mankind" [YouTube link]. It gave credence to Robert Browning's poetic tribute to human potential: "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?" The promise of that which seemed impossible made real inspired me to use that line from "Andrea del Sarto" as an epigraph to Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, the first book in my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy."

July 19, 2019

Song of the Day #1704

Song of the Day: Dark Star, lyrics by Robert Hunter, music by the lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia and his bandmates, is best remembered in its 23+ minute rendition [YouTube link] from their 1969 live album, "Live/Dead," which blended psychedelia, jazz, and jam elements. By contrast, the original single version, at 2 minutes and 44 seconds [YouTube link] sold only 500 copies and "sank like a stone," as band member Phil Lesh put it. The song was also a respectable 19-minute highlight from their set at Woodstock [YouTube link]. Today's "Dark Star" is a prelude to our commemoration tomorrow of a fundamentally bright cosmic event in human history.

July 07, 2019

Joao Gilberto, RIP

I learned earlier today that Joao Gilberto, who, along with Antonio Carlos Jobim, was one of the most important figures in the creation of the sounds of samba and bossa nova, died yesterday at the age of 88. He was one of my all-time favorite artists. In fact, his trailblazing album with jazz saxophonist, Stan Getz, "Getz/Gilberto," would go on to win the 1965 Grammy for Album of the Year, Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group, and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. Its famous single, "The Girl From Ipanema," which featured vocals in Portuguese from Joao and in English from Joao's wife, Astrud Gilberto, would go on to win the 1965 Grammy for Record of the Year. The album remains one of my all-time favorites---one of those recordings that, if necessary, I would take to a Desert Island with me. I couldn't put up a "Song of the Day" in honor of Gilberto, because I've featured him so much on "My Favorite Songs." Among the songs that I have highlighted through the years, featuring Gilberto's magic touch, check out:

"The Girl from Ipanema" [listen here]

"So Danco Samba" [listen here]

"Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Corcovado) [listen here]

"Desafinado" [listen here]

"O Grande Amour" [listen here]

"Vivo Sonhando" [listen here]

"Doralice" [listen here]

"Bim Bom" (written by Joao) [listen here for Joao's version and here for the classic Brasil 66 recording of it]

"Para Machuchar Meu Coracao (To Hurt My Heart)" [listen here]

"Meditation" [listen here]

There are so many others... just type his name in "YouTube" and you'll be introduced to a world of musical genius.

July 04, 2019

Song of the Day #1701

Song of the Day: The Star-Spangled Banner features lyrics taken from an 1814 poem by Francis Scott Key, "Defence of Fort M'Henry," written during the War of 1812, with music based on a popular British drinking song written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men's social club for amateur musicians. In truth, my personal all-time favorite "patriotic" song remains "America the Beautiful" (especially as delivered by the great Ray Charles [YouTube link]). Quite apart from the controversies that have surrounded the U.S. national anthem over the years (and to all my 'anarchist' friends, chill a moment!)---from those who claim that one of its rarely sung stanzas expresses racist content to those who have taken to kneeling during its presentation prior to sports events---I have marvelled at the way it has been performed by some of the most diverse artists through the years, including Yankee stadium stalwart, the late opera singer Robert Merrill, the late Whitney Houston [YouTube links], who delivered a heartfelt rendition at the 1991 Super Bowl XXV, and the "controversial" Latin-tinged, acoustic version performed in Detroit in Game 5 of the 1968 World Series by Jose Feliciano [YouTube link]. His version became the first recorded rendition of the anthem that ever charted on the Billboard Hot 100 (peaking at #50; Whitney's version peaked at #20). But in keeping with the theme of our 2019 Summer Music Festival, there remains one truly electrifying instrumental rendition of the anthem by rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, who performed as the last artist to appear at Woodstock [YouTube link]. To some, this performance was a sacrilege; to others, it was a sign of the turbulent and violent era to which it spoke. Hendrix actually plays a couple of notes from 'Taps' to drive home the point of a nation at war abroad---and at home. Nearly all the critical commentators on the event have viewed this as the most iconic performance of the four-day festival. It reflects both the fireworks of its time and, in a twist of irony, the fireworks set off on this day in 1776 when American rebels---whatever their own flaws, embodied in the contradictions of their time---pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, in declaring their independence from the British Empire. A Happy and Safe Independence Day to all!

Postscript #1: Context: I'm a native Brooklynite and a lover of film scores.

Having been on the Brooklyn Promenade back in 1983, when there was a fireworks display to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, I thought I'd never see a better fireworks display. But the Macy's Fireworks display tonight, which focused its attention on NYC's East River and the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the world's great, iconic spans, against the backdrop of some of the greatest film themes ever written (by everyone from Alfred Newman and Max Steiner to Elmer Bernstein and John Williams) was one of the best I've ever seen.

If the program hasn't reached your time zone yet, I'm sure it will be on YouTube or the NBC site soon. But definitely check it out! You won't be disappointed. Truly wonderful. (Yes, and they even included the love theme from "The Godfather." :) )

Postscript #2: Here is a link on YouTube, starts about 16 seconds in, from the national anthem to Alfred Newman's Fox Fanfare to Casablanca (Steiner), and so forth. Somebody on the YouTube thread objected to "The Godfather" being included. But what's America without the Family? ;) And don't miss Jennifer Hudson's wonderful rendition of "Over the Rainbow," which includes the rarely heard opening verse or that absolutely spectacular John Williams segment. At 55 mins., the fireworks display is shown again, with an introduction by historian David McCllough, discussing the Brooklyn Bridge---built by immigrants---completed in May 1883.

Postscript #3 (6 July 2019): Remarkably, one reader interpreted the fireworks display as symbolizing the destruction of the Bridge. My response was light-hearted, but I think it made a few essential points. As I stated:

Maybe you need a high-definition television. :) I mean, they were by no means "covering" the bridge [with explosives]. They were cascading off the bridge like waterfalls; they were shooting straight out of the cathedral towers of the bridge. And they were---believe it or not---in complete sync with the magnificent film score medley; even during the love theme to "The Godfather" there were red, heart-like shapes forming over the bridge; rainbow colors accompanied "Over the Rainbow", and "celestial" shapes accompanied the John Williams segment, and so forth. But as I said: To each his own. I opened the original thread about this fireworks display with "Context": That I was a native Brooklynite and a lover of film scores. I was also there when the Grucci Family celebrated the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge; here is a link to that fireworks display; Macy's actually adapted the very same "waterfall" and cathedral firework effects from that celebration, as a paean to the Centennial display. Why on earth are we debating this display as if it were a symbol of celebration or nihilism? Inquiring minds want to know...

The reader responded that there was a distinct difference in context between the 1983 display and any displays after 2001. I replied:

Well I appreciate that; but I truly am not interpreting this as some kind of expression of post-9/11 terrorism. Remember that part of the glory of fireworks on the Fourth of July is that despite all the explosives, the iconic image still stands (whether it be the flag in "The Star-Spangled Banner" or the Brooklyn Bridge). To me, the effects highlighted the Bridge and its glory; to you, it is destruction. I just think we should agree to disagree. You're no less a Brooklynite if you despised the display then or now. Cheers!

July 01, 2019

Song of the Day #1700

Song of the Day: Heart of Glass features the words and music of Chris Stein and Debbie Harry, who as the lead singer of the new wave group, Blondie, took this song to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979. The song is featured on the band's third studio album, "Parallel Lines" (1978). Check out the Stanley Dorfman-directed video, the 12" dance remix, the Shep Pettibone 1988 remix, and the Philip Glass "Crabtree" remix. In 2014, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, with producer Bob Sinclar recorded a charity single cover version of this song; check out the video. But in my mind, I always hear the voice of Debbie Harry, who today celebrates her 74th birthday!

June 28, 2019

Song of the Day #1699

I introduced this song and essay on Facebook with the following preface: Whatever your social, religious, philosophical, or cultural views, if you embrace the basic principles embodied in this country's "Declaration of Independence"---and its enunciation of the individual's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness---then it is time to take a "Stand" for Stonewall on its Fiftieth Anniversary. Indeed, as the lyrics to today's song of the day state: "Stand! You've been sitting much too long. There's a permanent crease in your right and wrong." Check it out:

Song of the Day: Stand!, words and music by Sly Stone, was recorded by Sly and the Family Stone in 1969. This was the title song to the group's fourth studio album and was the last song they played on their set list at Woodstock---this year's first bona fide Woodstock Golden Anniversary moment, the theme of our 2019 Summer Music Festival. It was also a song that was featured on the jukebox of the Stonewall Inn, which in the wee hours of this very day, fifty years ago, was raided for the umpteenth time by the New York City Police Department. Perhaps the police didn't get the payola they expected from the Mafia-owners of the bar, since bars that served alcohol to people engaging in "disorderly conduct" (code for simply being gay) would be denied a liquor license in New York City. But this time, the patrons had had enough; they were, indeed, 'mad as hell and not going to take this anymore' [YouTube link]. They pushed back, rioted, and fought for six days in a siege against political oppression---giving birth to the modern gay liberation movement.

For those who are uncomfortable with this whole subject, as if it were some "leftist" expression of "identity politics," we need to make one thing perfectly clear (a phrase often attributed to President Richard Nixon, who took the White House fifty years ago this year): Both "liberals" (going all the way back to the policies of FDR) and "conservatives" (of both the McCarthyite and religious right variety) have played a part in crafting repressive laws in the United States aimed at crushing homosexuality. It is neither our job nor our responsibility to change the minds of those who find "alternative lifestyles" repugnant or who believe that same-sex relationships are a sign of "sickness" or "sin". Whatever one's cultural, religious, philosophical, or political views, it all comes down to liberty. If one values human liberty, one must recognize that state-sponsored terrorism against individuals---simply because of who they love or how they love---continues to this day across the world. Seventy countries still maintain laws that make it illegal to engage in same-sex sexual activity, and so-called "leftist" regimes have been among the most repressive, in this regard. Whether in the name of politics or religion, these countries have used imprisonment, flogging, and torture to punish those who are different, and in ten countries, execution---by stoning, hanging, beheading, or being thrown off buildings---is government policy, legitimized by various states' interpretations of Islamic law. The battle cry of Stonewall is as prescient today as it was fifty years ago. Indeed, "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." And those who value liberty need to embrace a future in which the Rainbow Railroad [CBS News link] is no longer required to save those who are being persecuted in other countries for their sexual orientation.

In the United States, there were heroes in the battle for individual rights prior to Stonewall, who fought government entrapment and discrimination against "the love that dare not speak its name"---going all the way back to the 1920s, with the Society for Human Rights and into the 1950s, with organizations such as the Daughters of Bilitis, the Mattachine Society, and, among individuals, the courageous Frank Kameny, who challenged "The Lavender Scare" [PBS video link].

But the significance of the Stonewall Uprising by a group of individuals who were too often marginalized and brutalized by the police, the courts, and the culture-at-large is that, in its fundamental premises, it was based upon a sacrosanct libertarian principle: that every human being, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, race, or sexual orientation, has a right to equal protection under the law, a right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, without infringement by the coercive, oppressive tools used by municipal, state, and federal governmental institutions. This month, New York City's Police Commissioner James O'Neill apologized for the NYPD's actions fifty years ago at the Stonewall. This was no mere nod to "political correctness." The commissioner recognized that "[t]he actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple. The actions were discriminatory and oppressive and for that I apologize." Even the New York Yankees unveiled a plaque in Monument Park to commemorate this date in history.

We can listen to the lyrics of today's song as an expression of the libertarian spirit of the Stonewall Rebellion: "Stand! There's a cross for you to bear. Things to go through if you're going anywhere. Stand! For the things you know are right. It’s the truth that the truth makes them so uptight. … Stand! You've been sitting much too long. There's a permanent crease in your right and wrong. … Stand! They will try to make you crawl. And they know what you're saying makes sense and all. Stand! Don't you know that you are free. Well at least in your mind if you want to be. ... Stand! Stand! Stand!" I stand in solidarity with those brave men and women who fought for their rights half-a-century ago on this day. Check out the album version of this song and its energetic performance by the group at Woodstock [YouTube link].

Postscript (29 June 2019) Justin Raimondo, Outlaw, RIP. Justin lost his battle with lung cancer and has died at the age of 67, on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. I knew JR from way back when---going all the way back to when he wrote that monograph for Students for a Libertarian Society, "In Praise of Outlaws: Rebuilding Gay Liberation," which saw Stonewall and the rise of the gay liberation movement as a distinctively libertarian event. And he was right. A lightening rod for many people, antiwar.com was his passion, and though we had our disagreements through the years, he was always fighting against the policy of "perpetual war for perpetual peace."

Postscript #2 (30 June 2019): In another thread on Facebook, I had a bit of a discussion with regard to whether the struggle for "gay rights" is over in the United States, and I made the same point in that thread that I make here in my Notablog post: Seventy countries across the world still treat same-sex activities as a crime punishable by imprisonment, flogging, and torture, and ten of those countries treat it as a crime punishable by execution (beheading, hanging, and being thrown off buildings).

It was suggested that I might be implicitly advocating trying to intervene in those other countries to change their domestic policies; as a firm non-interventionist in foreign policy, I am totally against such intervention even for the purpose of human rights abuses abroad. But that does not mean that I favor the long history of foreign aid policies practiced by the United States, which involves expropriating the American taxpayer for the purpose of sending "foreign aid" to despotic regimes abroad, like Saudi Arabia, which are then required to use that "foreign aid" to purchase US munitions, which they can use in their wholesale slaughter of people in Yemen and elsewhere. US relationships with such despotic regimes is legion, and our current President believes "it is good for the economy."

Considering that the Saudis gave us 17 of the 19 hijackers who flew planes into the Twin Towers and elsewhere and that they were probably complicit in the 9/11 attack, I would say that what might be "good for the economy" is most definitely not good for the stability of the Middle East and other hot-spots around the globe, where the US has a record that even Trump himself once said was not so "innocent."

No, we cannot change the domestic policies of foreign governments that engage in violations of human rights. But that doesn't mean the U.S. taxpayer should be subsidizing them. This is not a battle for "gay rights"; it is a battle for individual rights, and individual rights don't cease at the borders of the United States.

But yes, Stonewall 50 is a a cause for celebration for all those who believe that individual rights apply to every person regardless of sexual orientation. And I stand in solidarity will all those who sacrificed their lives over the past century to get this country to recognize those rights.

Postscript #3 (1 July 2019): I added this comment to a Facebook post by Tom Palmer, who provided a link to a fine 2016 article by David Boaz, "Capitalism, Not Socialism, Led to Gay Rights:

Good piece by David Boaz and thanks for posting, Tom!

I've heard from quite a few of my very orthodox Marxist colleagues over the years who believe that homosexuality is one of the decadent offshoots of capitalism (guess they missed all that stuff that went on in the ancient world) and that it would wither away, like the state, under full communism.

They also leave out the part that gulags will play in helping the withering-away process.

Of course, orthodox Marxists actually reject the whole development of 'identity politics' (which the fight for same-sex individual rights is most certainly not) as a way of obfuscating the "essential" conflict between proletarians and capitalists.

I've argued this past weekend that the Stonewall Rebellion was in its essence a libertarian expression of the fight for the individual's right to live his or her own life, socialize in privately-owned establishments without police harassment, and pursue happiness without the interference of state-sanctioned terrorism. That fight goes on globally and even within this country; the battle for "gay rights" is not over, as James Kirchick says in "The Atlantic." If it is over, I invite anyone to go into the reddest of red states (or any sections in "blue" states in which "tolerance" is not a key cultural value), holding hands with their partner, and in open spaces, sharing a romantic kiss as the sun sets. Then we'll take a poll and see how many folks get their heads bashed in.

On all these issues of markets having changed traditional notions of the family, women, and sexuality, over time, I highly recommend the work of Steve Horwitz, especially his book Hayek's Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions and, of course, his essay in The Dialectics of Liberty: "The Dialectic of Culture and Markets in Expanding Family Freedom." Check out the abstract here.

I agree that the essential political and legal battles have been won, but changing political culture and mores is a long-term process, and often leads to a kind of political/legal backlash against which one must always be vigilant.

And as a noninterventionist in foreign affairs, while I would never advocate interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries, the fact remains that seventy countries still categorize homosexuality as a crime punishable by imprisonment, flogging, and torture, and in ten of those countries, it is punishable by execution (beheading, hanging, or being thrown off buildings). No, the US has no business being the world's policeman on violations of human rights, but the least it could do is to stop expropriating its taxpayers into providing "foreign military aid" (a fancy phrase to describe providing U.S. financial assistance to foreign governments that are then obligated to purchase U.S.-manufactured munitions) to reactionary governments, such as Saudi Arabia, which has a horrendous human rights record, and is using all those munitions to slaughter people in Yemen.

Ah, but our President says it's "good for the economy."

June 25, 2019

Song of the Day #1698

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 #1697

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).

June 17, 2019

Song of the Day #1696

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 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 07, 2019

Song of the Day #1693

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 #1692

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). I should note that the site itself, maintained by Peter Lagasse, includes over 200 letters written by his Uncle Charlie (Charles David Knight) to his parents. Peter began sharing these letters with his readers on 31 July 2017 and they are a remarkable memoir of his "uncle's feeling, fears, hopes, and concerns [as] a soldier while serving his country overseas in World War II in the European Theater of the war." Check out the site from the very first entry. [Ed.: And his posts continue as of 22 September 2019!]

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.

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In Calverton National Cemetery, Calverton, New York

May 20, 2019

Song of the Day #1691

Song of the Day: Take Me Home, words and music by Michelle Aller and Bob Etsy, was a Top Ten Pop and Dance track for Cher in 1979, making an impact as well on the Adult Contemporary and Hot Soul Singles charts. She turns 73 years old today! The title single from Cher's fifteenth solo studio album was pure unadulterated disco, just one of the many genres of popular music from Cher's long and remarkable career, celebrated even today on Broadway. A recent Kennedy Center Honoree, she was serenaded by Adam Lambert [YouTube link] at the induction ceremony, who sang "Believe"---the biggest song of Cher's long career---as a ballad. Check out the rare original video of today's song and the Casablanca 12" vinyl extended mix. Happy birthday to the Oscar-winning actress, Grammy-winning singer, and three-time Golden Globe Award winner!

May 17, 2019

Politically Incorrect: Dennis Miller & Don Rickles on Frank Sinatra

A friend sent me a link to a Dennis Miller monologue on his dinner with Frank Sinatra. It really has to be watched to be appreciated. Miller recounts that this was toward the end of Sinatra's life, and that comedian Don Rickles remarked that Frank was suffering from Sicilian Alzheimer's Disease: "He only remembers the grudges."

Folks could never get away with that kind of humor today. But this is worth a watch; check it out on YouTube.

May 14, 2019

Song of the Day #1690

Song of the Day: The Tim Conway Show ("Main Theme") was composed by Dan and Lois Dalton, for the short-lived 1970 CBS-TV series that re-united Tim Conway and Joe Flynn (check out parts one and two of "Mail Contract") from their multi-year stint as part of the ensemble that made up "McHale's Navy," a TV show that I watched religiously from age 2 through age 6. It starred Oscar-winning actor Ernest Borgnine as Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale and introduced me to the hilariously funny Emmy-winning actor and writer Tim Conway, who played Ensign Parker [YouTube link]. Conway would go on to a comedic career that encompassed classic stints on "The Carol Burnett Show" [YouTube link to "Went with the Wind!"] to his own variety show [YouTube link]. Today, the funnyman died at the age of 85. RIP, Tim [YouTube links].

May 13, 2019

Song of the Day #1689

Song of the Day: The Man Who Knew Too Much ("Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)"), words and music by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, made its debut in Alfred Hitchock's 1956 remake (with James Stewart and Doris Day) of his own 1934 film. The song became central to the plot of that suspenseful remake, and it was the great Doris Day who sang it numerous times in that film, taking it to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It won the Oscar for Best Original Song and became Day's signature tune and the theme to her TV show, which ran from 1968 to 1973. Doris Day passed away today at the age of 97. A powerhouse and often underrated talent, she will be remembered for her work in film, television, and song, and as one of the most humane defenders of our domestic pets and family members. For years, folks lobbied to get her that honorary Oscar that forever eluded her. Now her charming legacy belongs to the ages. Check out this song as performed in the film, not once, but twice and in its studio version [YouTube links]. RIP, Doris.

Postscript (8 June 2019): I just wanted to alert those who are interested that Turner Classic Movies is running a 24-hour marathon of Doris Day films tomorrow (June 9th) starting at 6 am Eastern time (more information here).

May 09, 2019

Song of the Day #1688

Song of the Day: Only The Good Die Young, words and music by Billy Joel, was the third single from the artist's 1977 album, "The Stranger." Tonight, the Bronx-born Joel is rockin' Madison Square Garden in celebration of his 70th birthday! Apparently, the Good Live On! One of my all-time favorite Joel tracks, check it out on YouTube. And Happy Birthday, Billy!

March 04, 2019

Song of the Day #1680

Song of the Day: Beverly Hills 90210 ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by John E. Davis, opened up the coming-of-age television teen drama during its ten-year run on Fox. It was a guilty pleasure, I admit, but I watched all ten seasons, and at least one of its various spin-offs ("Melrose Place"). As in all teen-age soap operas, the series had one brooding young male character, and in '90210', it was Dylan McKay, played by Luke Perry, who died today at the age of 52, due to complications from a massive stroke. The only person I ever actually visited from that zip code was Nathaniel Branden, back in 1999. Today, however, is a date seared into my own memory---for my own father died on March 4, 1972, at the age of 55 from a massive coronary. As you get older, it's only natural that you are reminded of your own mortality, but at the age of 59, you tend to think that this happens to folks older than you. At some point, of course, the mathematics tend to outweigh the thoughts. Still, at 52, Perry is another person gone too soon. RIP, Luke. RIP, Dad.

February 25, 2019

Song of the Day #1679

Song of the Day: The Monkees ("Main Theme" or "Hey, Hey, We're the Monkees"), words and music by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, was the theme song of the TV show "The Monkees," that I regularly watched as a child. On February 21st, Peter Tork, one of the quartet's original members, passed away. Check out the memorable theme [YouTube link].

February 24, 2019

Song of the Day #1678

Song of the Day: Yentl ("Papa Can You Hear Me?") features the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman and the music of the late Michel Legrand, who would have turned 87 today. I still feel the sadness of his passing. How apropos then to conclude our Film Music February tribute on Oscar Day with a song from this man who died on January 26th, days before our annual tribute began. He gave so much to the art of the score throughout his illustrious career. This song comes from the 1983 film, directed by and starring Barbra Streisand, who became the first woman to win a Golden Globe Directing Award (for a Musical or Comedy), as the film itself took home Globe honors for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy). This particular song, along with "The Way He Makes Me Feel," was Oscar-nominated for Best Original Song, but lost out to "Flashdance: What a Feeling." But Legrand and the Bergmans took home the Oscar for Best Original Score (Adaptation). Tonight, composers and lyricists will take home awards for scoring and songs at the 91st Annual Academy Awards. And we'll be back next year for another Film Music February tribute. For now, check out this song as heard in the 1983 film [YouTube link].

February 23, 2019

Song of the Day #1677

Song of the Day: Sharky's Machine ("High Energy") [YouTube link] was composed by Bob Florence for the jazz-infused soundtrack to this 1981 thriller, directed by and starring Burt Reynolds. Reynolds is sure to be among those mentioned in the "In Memoriam" segment of tomorrow night's broadcast of the Academy Awards. This particular track from the film is performed with blazing heat by the Doc Severinsen Band.

February 15, 2019

Song of the Day #1669

Song of the Day: Home Room ("Going Home") [site link] was composed by my colleague and friend, Michael Gordon Shapiro, for a 2002 film, starring Erika Christensen, Busy Phillips, and Victor Garber, dealing with the traumatic psychological effects in the aftermath of a school shooting. It is a phenomenon that continues to haunt American society (yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting), and Shapiro brings to it an understated poignancy that reflects the tragic, numbing sense of loss that one would expect in a score of this nature.

February 14, 2019

Song of the Day #1668

Song of the Day: Dr. Zhivago ("Lara's Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Maurice Jarre for his Oscar-winning soundtrack to the 1965 film, remains one of the most famous, sprawling romantic melodies to emerge from the cinema. From the David Lean-directed epic, starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie and based on the Boris Pasternak novel, with the Russian revolution as backdrop, the theme can also be heard with accompanying film clips and in a jazz arrangement by the Harry James Band [YouTube links]. But it was by request of singer Connie Francis that a vocal version (with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster) materialized as "Somewhere My Love" (nominated in 1967 for Grammy Song of the Year). It was recorded first by Ray Conniff and the Singers (who took it to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100), and also by Connie Francis and Andy Williams [YouTube links]. Whatever melancholy one might find in the lyrics, I want to wish a Happy Valentine's Day to all!

February 13, 2019

Song of the Day #1667

Song of the Day: Two for the Road ("Something for Audrey") [YouTube link], composed by Henry Mancini, is only one of the lush, romantic tracks from the utterly gorgeous score for this 1967 film, starring Audrey Hepburn, with whom Mancini had a musical love affair. Mancini received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Score, and long considered the title song [YouTube links] from the film his all-time favorite and it's one of my all-time favorites too!). The film also stars the late Albert Finney, who passed away on February 7, 2019 at the age of 82 [YouTube links from one of Finney's best moments in "Erin Brockovich," for which he received one of his five Oscar nominations]. The Stanley Donen-directed flick was experimental for its day, since it told its story of a twelve-year marriage (the principals played by Hepburn and Finney) in a nonlinear fashion. This was Hepburn's third Donen-directed film (the others were "Funny Face" and "Charade," the latter featuring another great Mancini score [YouTube link]). Today's Film Music February entry is just preparing you for a romantic tomorrow.

February 12, 2019

Song of the Day #1666

Song of the Day: Soldier in the Rain ("Love Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Henry Mancini, is one of the maestro's most beautifully orchestrated film themes. It can be heard in this 1960 film starring Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen, an unlikely pair, indeed. Adapted from the William Goldman novel by Blake Edwards and Maurice Richlin, the film has a lot to say about the special bonds of friendship that can be forged between folks who often march to a different beat. Today begins a two-day appreciation for Mancini's melodic movie music.

February 10, 2019

Song of the Day #1664

Song of the Day: The Wind and the Lion ("Love Theme") [YouTube link] composed by Jerry Goldsmith, is a highlight from the Oscar-nominated and Grammy-nominated Best Original Score, from this 1975 film, starring Sean Connery and Candice Bergen. Tonight the Grammy Awards will present yet another Original Score award. Today would have been Goldsmith's 90th birthday and it is only fitting that he is among the illustrious composers who have been honored by the Recording Academy with nominations in this category.

February 09, 2019

Song of the Day #1663

Song of the Day: The Detective ("Main Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, the 90th anniversary of whose birth we honor over the next two days. This cue opens the 1968 neo-noir film version of the Roderick Thorp novel. It stars Frank Sinatra, and the title theme has a touch of that Sinatra swagger.

February 08, 2019

Song of the Day #1662

Song of the Day: The Post ("The Presses Roll") [YouTube link] was composed by John Williams for the 2017 Steven Spielberg-directed film, focusing on the controversial publication of "The Pentagon Papers," which revealed the extent to which the U.S. government had engaged in a systematic policy of disinformation in its conduct of the Vietnam War. Tom Hanks (as Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (as Katharine Graham) give fine performances as the principals who published these classified documents in The Washington Post, which, with The New York Times, went on to win its First Amendment case in a 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Today, our birthday boy, John Williams, turns 87 years old. He is the consummate maestro whose cue, here, can make even the functions of a printing press sound heroic.

February 04, 2019

Song of the Day #1658

Song of the Day: Furious 7 ("See You Again"), words and music by Andrew Ceder, Justin Franks, Cameron Thomaz, and Charlie Puth, who provides the vocals to match Wiz Khalifa's poignant rap tribute to Paul Walker, who had portrayed the protagonist in the series (Brian O'Conner), and who tragically died in an automobile accident before this 2015 film was released. This lead single from the film's soundtrack spent 12 nonconsecutive weeks at #1, tying Eminem's Oscar-winning "Lose Yourself" and the Black Eyed Peas "Boom-Boom-Pow", as the longest-running rap track atop the Billboard Hot 100. It is among the most streamed and most viewed videos (exceeding three billion views) in history, and was among the best-selling singles of 2015. We did a Puth spotlight this past summer. Check out the video single and a live performance of it at Berklee by Charlie and in concert (at 01:23:10).

January 30, 2019

Michel Legrand: A Notablog Index

On January 26, 2019, the world lost a gifted composer, musician, arranger, and conductor: Michel Legrand. I offered my thoughts in a tribute to the maestro on that day. I was asked by several people if I would not mind providing an index to the various Legrand compositions that I've highlighted over the years. There are scores of songs in "My Favorite Songs" that provide us with Legrand renditions of non-Legrand compositions (most from the Great American Songbook). This list is limited just to Legrand compositions performed by Legrand, other instrumentalists, or singers with whom Legrand collaborated.

These are Notablog entries, wherein you should find a link to the full song or an excerpt (since in the old days, you couldn't get anything but an excerpt off the Internet):

Brian's Song [13 September 2007]

Cinq Jours en Juin [24 February 2017]

Dingo (Paris Walking II) [24 February 2018]

How Do You Keep the Music Playing? [18 March 2005]

Images [16 January 2005] (but go here as well)

I Will Say Goodbye [16 July 2014]

Monsanto Legrand Jazz Interlude [19 September 2013] (This particular tune was recorded by me when I was 12 years old on an audio cassette recorder placed close to the TV speaker; it features such musicians as Stan Getz, J. J. Johnson, and Dave Grusin, and was recorded off of a 1972 Monsanto-sponsored special on Michel Legrand, which is not available anywhere except the Library of Congress and on my site. My version includes my brother's dog Shannon, who barks in the middle of the bass solo.)

Never Say Never Again ("Main Title") [24 February 2014]

Once Upon a Summertime [22 June 2006]

Once You've Been in Love [13 August 2005]

Paris Was Made for Lovers [15 November 2015]

The Summer Knows [20 September 2004]

Summer Me, Winter Me [21 June 2007]

The Thomas Crown Affair ("Chess Scene") [14 February 2018]

What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? [1 September 2004] This was the very first song on the list that became "My Favorite Songs."

You Must Believe In Spring [20 March 2005]

This is just a small sample of Legrand's magic; I will be featuring his work for many years to come. Watch this space. For now, just enjoy the music!

Postscript: Check out this wonderful essay by Howard Reich on The Sublime Poetry of Michel Legrand's Film Music" and this Guardian interview.

January 29, 2019

Song of the Day #1654

Song of the Day: Baby, Come to Me, composed by Rod Temperton, and produced by Quincy Jones, both of them at the top of their craft, made its debut on "Every Home Should Have One," a 1981 Patti Austin album, in which Patti duets with James Ingram, who died today at the age of 66. Ironically, there is a connection between Ingram and Michel Legrand, who I honored in a tribute on January 26, 2019, when he passed away. Ingram sang with Austin on the first recorded rendition of the Legrand-Bergmans' Oscar-nominated song, "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" [YouTube link], from the 1982 film, "Best Friends." Today's "Song of the Day" duet, which predates the film duet, only reached #72 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1982. But it was regularly heard by fans of the ABC soap opera hit, "General
Hospital
," as the love theme for the character Luke Spencer, and in October 1982, it was re-released, reaching #1 by February 1983 on the Hot 100 chart. Check out the lovely single [YouTube link]. RIP, James. Your velvety voice will be missed.

January 26, 2019

Michel Legrand: Legendary Composer, RIP

Ordinarily, to mark the death of somebody, especially somebody from the enchanting world of music, I'd put up a "Song of the Day." As it happens, I am days away from beginning my fifteenth annual Film Music February, which will culminate on February 24, 2019, the date of the 91st Academy Awards. And it was on that date in 1932 that one of the greatest composers of our time was born: Michel Legrand. So, appropriately, I have planned and will post one of his many wonderful compositions to conclude my film music tribute next month. Today, he died at the age of 86.

In truth, however, I have featured scores of his compositions throughout these last fifteen years. In fact, on September 1, 2004, my very first Song of the Day was "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" [YouTube link to Michel's arrangement caressed by the Divine One, Sarah Vaughan]. It began a "Song of the Day" practice that has continued to this day (now well into the 1600s!]. With the romantic lyrics of his frequent collaborators, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and the melodic loveliness of Legrand's music, that song has remained one of my all-time favorites. That Oscar-nominated masterpiece from the 1969 film, "The Happy Ending," lost out to "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head." But Legrand would earn three Oscars, including one from "The Thomas Crown Affair" (for which he won for Best Original Song, "The Windmills of Your Mind") and one each for the lush orchestrations of "Summer of '42" and "Yentl" [YouTube links].

I had the honor of seeing Legrand perform live at Hunter College in April 1996; I went backstage to shake his hands, ever-so-gently, after he had played a grand piano in a remarkably energetic two-hour performance of so many of his greatest compositions. I told him that the year before, in April 1995, my mother had passed away, after a five-year bout with lung cancer, and that one of the joys of her life was his music, which she listened to almost to the very day she died. He was so genuinely moved, and I was deeply touched by the endearing and comforting expression on his face. He could not thank me enough for what I had said to him.

I felt as if I were in the presence not merely of genius and boundless talent, but of a man of genuine human grace.

Let me remind those who may think of Legrand as a "film score composer" that he was also one of the greatest jazz musicians, arrangers, and conductors of his generation---indeed, of all time. His "Legrand Jazz" is a milestone recording of its genre, featuring such jazz greats as Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and John Coltrane (check out Side One and Side Two on YouTube). And if you have not heard Legrand's Grammy-winning three-movement suite, "Images," with alto saxophone soloist Phil Woods, you're in for a treat. The album itself won the 1976 Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album and the suite won a Grammy for "Best Instrumental Composition." Turn up the volume, and get ready to blow a hole through your ceiling [YouTube link].

Today, sadly, I feel as if the news of Legrand's passing has blown a hole through my heart. But the legacy of his music will swiftly turn the heartache back into joy. RIP, Michel, with love.

January 14, 2019

Mel Stottlemyre, RIP

Yesterday, one of the all-time great Yankees, Mel Stottlemyre passed away at the age of 77, after a long battle with cancer. He pitched for eleven seasons with the New York Yankees, before going on to a distinguished career as a pitching coach, a key component to World Series championships for two New York baseball teams: the 1986 World Champion New York Mets and the World Series Champion New York Yankee dynasty that won four World Series championships in the five-year period between 1996 and 2000. The Yankees honored him with a plaque in their famed Monument Park at The Stadium.

He was a gentle man who was deeply passionate for America's favorite sports pastime and leaves us with a wonderful legacy of great baseball memories. RIP, Mel.

December 25, 2018

Song of the Day #1652

Song of the Day: Christmas Swing [YouTube link], composed by Django Reinhardt, was recorded by the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, with the immortal Django on guitar and the legendary Stephane Grappelli on violin. You can swing your way into Christmas Day, watching Santa make all his stops on NORAD, in keeping with the situation [Yarn clip]. A very Merry Christmas, with peace on earth, and good will to one and all.

December 14, 2018

Song of the Day #1651

Song of the Day: Guess Who I Saw Today, music by Murray Grand, lyrics by Elisse Boyd, was originally written for "New Faces of 1952," a Broadway musical revue by Leonard Sillman, and sung by June Carroll [YouTube link]. The song was later recorded in 1957 by both Carmen McRae and Eydie Gorme [YouTube links]. But it became a signature tune for jazz song stylist Nancy Wilson, who recorded the song for her second album, "Something Wonderful," released in 1960. I learned today that Nancy Wilson passed away yesterday at the age of 81 after a long illness. One of my all-time favorite singers, whose music filled the air of my youth, Nancy Wilson was one of those singers with a truly distinctive style. Check out the album version of this song, with its Billy May arrangement, as well as two live presentations, which combine her singular interpretive style with an understanding of both the comedic and dramatic elements of performance: a 1987 Newport Jazz Festival appearance and a 1994 concert (with a tip of the hat to "Miss Otis Regrets") [YouTube links]. RIP, Nancy. You will be greatly missed.

December 12, 2018

Song of the Day #1650

Song of the Day: Ain't She Sweet, music by Milton Ager, lyrics by Jack Yellen, was published in 1927 and became a Tin Pan Alley standard. In 1962, it was recorded by Frank Sinatra for a Neal Hefti-conducted album, "Sinatra and Swingin' Brass." For those who remember my Frank Sinatra Centenary Tribute, today marks the 103rd anniversary of Sinatra's birth. Check out this wonderful rendition of a timeless classic [YouTube link].

December 09, 2018

Song of the Day #1648

Song of the Day: Young Man with a Horn ("Get Happy"), music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Ted Koehler, was introduced by Ruth Etting in the 1930 Broadway musical "The Nine-Fifteen Revue." It was performed by Kirk Douglas (dubbed by the great Harry James), who turns 102 today, in this 1950 film, based on the novel by Dororthy Baker, and inspired by the life of jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke. Check out the film clip (with the legendary Hoagy Carmichael on piano) and vocal versions from Judy Garland (from the 1950 film "Summer Stock") and Ella Fitzgerald. [YouTube links]. And a Happy Birthday to one of the greats!

November 22, 2018

Song of the Day #1646

Song of the Day: I've Got Plenty To Be Thankful For, words and music by Irving Berlin, made its debut in the 1942 film, "Holiday Inn." The soundtrack features some truly wonderful gems that would make their way into the Great American Songbook. This particular tune was sung in the film by Bing Crosby, accompanied by Bob Crosby and his Orchestra [YouTube link]. It's just my way of saying "Happy Thanksgiving" to one and all.

November 11, 2018

Veterans Day: A Centenary Remembrance of the "War to End All Wars"

Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of Armistice Day, when the guns of World War I were laid down on the Western front at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. In 2018, the United States marks this day as Veterans Day.

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 Italy, 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 Infantry Division eventually became part of Patton’s Third Army, in the second wave of the D-Day invasion on June 7, 1944, spending over 300 days in combat, involved in five campaigns---in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe---as they fought to liberate Paris, 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, 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.

One of those veterans, my Uncle Sam (Salvatore) Sclafani, I had the honor of interviewing in 1976; that interview formed the basis of a 2004 Memorial Day tribute to him---but as a naval veteran of World War II, he was one of those Veterans of Foreign Wars who, perhaps more than any other relative, had the greatest impact on my early thinking about politics. I remember Uncle Sam telling me about a 1939 film, "Idiot's Delight," starring Clark Gable (in the same year in which he starred in "Gone with the Wind") and Norma Shearer. The film was an adaptation of Robert E. Sherwood's 1936 play, for which the playwright won a Pulitzer Prize. It was Uncle Sam who had introduced me to several antiwar films from the early days of cinema that had a profound effect on his thinking about the horrors of war. Among these films were the 1925 silent movie, "The Big Parade" and the 1930 version of "All Quiet on the Western Front," based on the Erich Maria Remarque antiwar novel.

And yet it was the 1939 Clark Gable movie that left a profound effect on my Uncle Sam, just for a couple of lines of dialogue that resonated with him through the years---precisely because he experienced first hand the nightmares of war, as he was stationed in the Aleutian Islands, the closest U.S. base in proximity to the Japanese mainland. The character Achille Weber (played by actor Edward Arnold) asks: "Who are the greater criminals [in war]? Those who sell the instruments of death or those who buy them and use them? It is they who make war seem noble and heroic . . ."

In fact, my Uncle Sam cast his first vote in the 1940 Presidential election for Franklin D. Roosevelt for his promise that American boys would not fight on foreign soil. As my Uncle Sam later observed: "He forgot to add: 'They'd be buried in it.'" His distrust of politicians from that moment on lasted for more than three decades, as he refused to walk back into a voting booth. He was outspoken in his political views, always politically incorrect, but whatever views he held were colored deeply by his experiences in World War II. I'd like to highlight a link to my 1976 interview with Uncle Sam, which was the basis of a Memorial Day tribute to him back in 2004, on the site of the History News Network. It's still a good read, especially on this 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. You can find the essay here.

Whatever one's view of war and peace, my Uncle Sam always honored veterans; coming from a family of veterans, I too honor them---because they lived to bear witness to the horrors of war, and fought for the ideals they held dear, despite the dishonesty of the politicians who helped to make the twentieth century the bloodiest century in the history of humanity.

October 02, 2018

Song of the Day #1644

Song of the Day: J'aime Paris au Mois de Mai ("I Love Paris in May") features the words and music of Pierre Roche and Charles Aznavour, who passed away yesterday, October 1, 2018, at the age of 94. Known as the "French Frank Sinatra," he was the writer (or co-writer) of over a thousand songs, sold over 180 million albums worldwide and appeared in over 80 films. This particular song was first recorded by Aznavour in 1956 [YouTube link], but it is also featured in a collection of Aznavour's hits, re-interpreted in a jazz setting, that he re-recorded in 1998 for the album "Jazznavour." Check out this wonderful duet with the incomparable jazz singer Diane Reeves [YouTube link]. RIP, Charles Aznavour.

September 11, 2018

WTC Remembrance: Anthony Schirripa, Architect

Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001, which so deeply affected our lives as New Yorkers, as well as the lives of those who were killed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and in Washington, D.C. My annual series returns this year with the recollections of architect Anthony Schirripa, who was in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when terror struck on September 11, 2001---a late summer Tuesday morning, much like today.

As a preface to this year’s installment, I wanted to state, first, that I have never used this series as a place to discuss the historical, political, cultural, or economic preconditions and effects of the causal chain of events that led to the attacks on September 11, 2001. I have spent much room elsewhere on Notablog discussing these issues (see here, for example) and pointing to the provocative work of others on this subject (such as my friends and colleagues Roderick T. Long and Irfan Khawaja.) Ultimately, however, any end to the longest war in U.S. history cannot be disconnected from the profound significance of memory. As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk once wrote: "The beginning of the end of war lies in Remembrance."

For eighteen years now, this series has been an exercise in remembrance. And as long as I am here, I will continue to add installments to this series to keep alive the memories of those individuals whose lives were forever altered by the events of this tragic day.

One aspect of this exercise in remembrance was reflected in remarks I made on a recent Facebook thread, prompted by a 2015 book review essay by Robert Kirchner, "A Paradise Built in Hell" that my pal, Ryan Neugebauer, shared on FB. The article highlights the role of mutual aid as a response in times of crisis. I testified to the importance of such mutual aid on that horrible day in my home town: "Nothing proves this point more than what I saw and experienced in the city of my birth on 9/11. So much for 'rude New Yorkers.' Nothing could be further from the truth." I expanded on my point:

... I do have to say that as a native and life-long resident of New York City, who was here on September 11, 2001, the "communal disaster reflex" never truly diminished, certainly not in relationship to those who continue to feel the effects of the nightmarish events they experienced. Let's not forget that over 1,400 first-responders have died from all sorts of weird cancers and diseases in the wake of their voluntary work at a toxic Ground Zero, and the community outreach and assistance that has been provided to survivors remains strong.
This will be the seventeenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, which I will mark with my own annual essay on 9/11. But this Tuesday, thousands will gather at Ground Zero, at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and participate in the annual reading of the names of those who were murdered in 2001.
I think that since that day, I have seen a change in the culture of this city. It's a palpable response to anything that even hints at another terrorist attack, whether it's a water main break or some nutjob riding an SUV down the bike path of the West Side Highway. Let nobody doubt the resiliency of this town, where people of remarkably diverse backgrounds, still "have each other's backs" in crisis. That has been the one "silver lining" that remained from the clouds that darkened our skies on that horrible day.

This year's installment in my annual WTC Remembrance series tells the story of Anthony Schirripa and gives us a glimpse of the nature of that mutual aid in action. I want to thank Tony, as he is known to his friends, for giving of his time to my project.

For those who have not read previous entries in the series, here is a convenient index:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

2014: A Museum for the Ages: A Pictorial

2015: A New One World Trade Center Rises From the Ashes: A Pictorial (This essay has been translated into Portuguese by Artur Weber and Adelina Domingos.)

2016: Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine (This essay has been translated into Portuguese by Artur Weber and Adelina Domingos.)

2017: Sue Mayham: Not Business as Usual (This essay has been translated into Portuguese by Artur Weber and Adelina Domingos. It has also been translated into Russian by Timur Kadirov.)

2018: Anthony Schirripa, Architect

Never forget.

September 09, 2018

WTC Remembrance: A Personal Photo

We are nearing the seventeenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. On that day, I will post another installment to my annual series of remembrance.

Looking through some old photos, however, I have always had a special fondness, for obvious reasons, for this pic from 1999.

It was actually in March of 1999, with some pretty fierce March winds, and I was 40 stories up, on top of the roof of 22 Cortlandt Street, when photographer Don Hamerman took this photo for a story on Rand scholarship for The Chronicle of Higher Education, which focused attention on my work and the work of others in academia. It is a photo framed by Twin Towers that I will always cherish.

chrislarger2.jpg

Check out the photos here and here as well.

September 06, 2018

Song of the Day #1632

Song of the Day: Sharky's Machine ("Love Theme"), words and music by Cliff Crofford, John Durrill, Snuff Garrett, and Bobby Troup, appears on the wonderful jazz soundtrack to this action-packed 1981 thriller directed by and starring Burt Reynolds (in the title role). Reynolds passed away today at the age of 82. The song is delivered in Sassy fashion by Sarah Vaughan. Check out the Divine One on YouTube. RIP, Burt.

Sports and 9/11: 2001 Mets Visit Memorial Museum

Next Tuesday, September 11, 2018, I will publish my annual essay in remembrance of the horrific events of that day in 2001.

Today, however, many members of the 2001 New York Mets team visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum to view a new exhibit, "Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11." Among the events commemorated at the museum was the first baseball game played in New York City after the terrorist attacks. It was at Shea Stadium, old home of the New York Mets, in which Mike Piazza put the Mets ahead for good to win the game 3-2 over the Atlanta Braves [YouTube link]. Hall of Fame Catcher Piazza recalls the events [YouTube link], as the Mets were down 2-1, when he hit what was ultimately the game-winning home run. In one blast of the bat, even this New York Yankees fan found a reason to cheer.

As it turned out, the New York Yankees gave New Yorkers something to smile about in the postseason too---even if briefly---as they fought their way into the 2001 World Series [YouTube link], winning three iconic games in New York City, before ultimately losing the Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks in seven unforgettable games.

Still, one can't look back on the events of September 11, 2001 without recognizing the role of sports and its capacity to lift the spirits of a broken-hearted town.

August 29, 2018

Song of the Day #1625

Song of the Day: Speed Demon features the words and music of Michael Jackson, who was born sixty years ago on this date in 1958. This track from Jackson's 1987 album, "Bad," was never released as a single, but it is memorable for its funk-rock music video, featured on the artist's "Moonwalker" 1988 video anthology. Check out the album version, the fun video with its cool animation, the Extended Alternate Mix, the Dilemmachine Edit, the DMC Remix, and the Nero Remix included on the 25th anniversary edition of "Bad" [YouTube links]. The song has even been covered by British heavy metal band Xerath [YouTube link].

August 25, 2018

Song of the Day #1623

Song of the Day: West Side Story ("Symphonic Dances") [YouTube link], composed, arranged, and conducted for the concert stage by the great Leonard Bernstein, is derived from his score for the classic musical. Here, Bernstein lifts his baton to lead the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (for which he was the Musical Director from 1958 to 1969) at Lincoln Center, which was built over the very terrain on which the movie version of this classic Broadway musical was filmed. He actually made his debut conducting the Philharmonic on November 14, 1943 at Carnegie Hall, on a few hours notice, when conductor Bruno Walter came down with the flu. On that date, he led the orchestra in a challenging program that included Richard Strauss's "Don Quixote," along with works by Schumann, Wagner, and Miklos Rozsa---and was met with enthusiastic applause and critical acclaim. In this 1976 clip, the composer interweaves so many of the wonderful themes from the musical, illustrating his distinct ability to integrate elements of classical, jazz, Latin, and other idioms into his repertoire. So in keeping with our Summer Dance Party theme, this gives you dance of another kind entirely. Let us hail the Maestro, in a Centenary Tribute on the date of his birth, one hundred years ago today.

August 24, 2018

Song of the Day #1622

Song of the Day: Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs was written by legendary composer Leonard Bernstein, the centenary of whose birth we celebrate this weekend---as we take a little break from our Summer Dance Party. This ensemble piece was originally written for Woody Herman before the breakup of his band. Its premier performance was shown on the CBS show "Omnibus: The World of Jazz" [Vimeo show link] on October 16, 1955. Dedicated to clarinet great Benny Goodman, Bernstein recorded the piece with the King of Swing in 1963 [YouTube link]. The piece suggests a three-movement classical composition, its first two movements typical of the Baroque form, its final movement based on a series of jazz "riffs." It is the kind of piece that was the perfect incarnation of Bernstein's and Goodman's penchant for crossing over from classical to jazz and back. Stay tuned: Tomorrow is Lenny's Centenary.

August 16, 2018

Song of the Day #1618

Song of the Day: Respect was written by Otis Redding, who recorded the song in 1965 [YouTube link]. But it was in 1967, that Aretha Franklin recorded a version of this tune that went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became her signature song, featured on her album "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You." Franklin would go on to win her first two (out of eighteen) Grammy Awards for her rendition, for "Best Rhythm & Blues Recording" and "Best Rhythm and Blues, Vocal Performance, Female"---in the latter category, the first of an unprecedented eight consecutive wins, and a record-holding 11 wins out of a record-holding 23 nominations. The song was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame (in 1998), added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry (in 2002), and rated #5 on the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The Memphis-born Aretha herself became the first female inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 1987). On a date that marks the sixtieth birthday of the Queen of Pop (Madonna), the forty-fifth anniversary of the passing of "The King" (Elvis Presley), as well as the seventieth anniversary of the death of the Bambino and Sultan of Swat (Babe Ruth), we have lost the Queen of Soul today at the age of 76. Ironically, I had already programmed this song for later in our 2018 "Summer Dance Party"---but moving it up to today is so much more apropos. Check out Aretha's soul-shaking recorded version of this classic, along with two live performances, one in Detroit and the other in Paris (at 16:33) [YouTube links].

August 02, 2018

Andrea Rich, RIP

I have just learned that yesterday, August 1, 2018, my friend Andrea Rich, who operated Laissez-Faire Books for years, and was one of the libertarian movement's greatest champions, passed away, after a nineteen-year battle with lung cancer. It is with great sadness that I report on this passing, as Andrea was one of the kindest, most generous and supportive friends I've ever known.

Doubtless, much will be written about her indefatigable work on behalf of liberty, but I had the opportunity to discover another aspect of her multifaceted, wonderful personality: The gal really knew how to throw a party!

Back in the fall of 1995, with the near simultaneous publication of the first two volumes of my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy," (Marx, Hayek, and Utopia and Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical), Andrea threw a classy and truly enjoyable book party for me, bringing together more than 50 folks from all walks of life, ranging from my many libertarian friends and colleagues to my Marxist mentor Bertell Ollman. The party took place in her glorious apartment in the heart of Greenwich Village, where one could see the glittering lights of the Empire State Building to the North and the staggering brilliance of The Twin Towers to the South.

We had a ball that night and it was only one of the many generous and supportive things she did for me over these many decades. I will always cherish my friendship with her and I will miss her, especially for kindness and her vitality.

I send my deepest condolences to her husband Howard Rich and her many friends and family; a community of liberty grieves with them.

July 30, 2018

Rothbard, Rand, and Revisionism

Very soon I hope to provide some information on some important resources that will be made available to scholars of the work of Murray Rothbard, thanks to my preservation of them for nearly 40 years.

However, a recent discussion on Rothbard has broken out, especially with regard to his contentious relationship with the inner circle of Ayn Rand, on the FB site of "For the New Intellectual" and I just wanted to bring together, in a single Notablog entry, the various comments I made about Rothbard, especially in light of that forthcoming announcement. I observed that I was

second to none in criticisms of Murray Rothbard; Part Two of Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism criticizes him especially for the context-dropping that is inherent in his dualistic view of the triumph of anarcho-capitalism as a panacea for society's ills. But my book also praises his highly dialectical (read: context-sensitive) analyses of the boom-bust cycle, the incestuous relationship of the state and banking, and the class conflicts that arise under a political economy of statism, as well as the emergence of the welfare-warfare state from the Progressive era, and so forth.
But it should be noted that when so few came to Rand's defense in the time after the publication of Atlas Shrugged, it was Murray Rothbard who wrote a rousing endorsement of the book in the magazine Commonweal. In Barbara Branden's Passion of Ayn Rand, he would later state that he was "in agreement basically with all her philosophy," and that it was Rand who convinced him of the theory of natural rights that his books would champion.
But there are such things as deep personality clashes and there was a lot of bad blood between Rothbard and Rand when their circles came into contact with one another. Rothbard headed the "Circle Bastiat" which had some intellectual fireworks with Rand's Collective: in the end, Bastiat "members" Robert Hessen and George Reisman hitched up with Rand, while Leonard Liggio, Ralph Raico, and others stayed with Rothbard.
But I don't think it can be denied that Rothbard was a remarkable intellect; his Man, Economy, and State and Power and Market are brilliant re-statements and extensions of the insights of Ludwig von Mises; his various historical works, from his four-volume work, Conceived in Liberty, to The Panic of 1819 to America's Great Depression and a recent collection of his essays on The Progressive Era were path-breaking studies. And his essays in A New History of Leviathan, which he coedited with, then "Democratic Socialist" (now, neoconservative) Ronald Radosh, is one of the great classics of revisionist history. Add to that his two-volume work on The History of Economic Thought, works on The Mystery of Banking, and so many other books---and it is simply hard to dismiss his work as unoriginal or unserious . . .
I also should acknowledge that [Rothbard] was an important figure in my intellectual evolution on "How I Became a Libertarian."
I think Rothbard was imperfect; I have criticized him even in his later years, when he attempted to correct for the obvious hole in his strategy to achieve libertarianism. When he finally recognized the role of culture in the fight for liberty, what he embraced was a kind of social conservatism that, to me, was anathema to the achievement of freedom.
But I don't think he was a nihilist looking to make a name for himself; he was just as much an outsider as Rand. To focus on minor comments he made when Patrick Buchanan was running for President and to dismiss his entire corpus because of it does seem to lose a sense of proportion. It would be like somebody fixating on Rand's idealized picture of William Hickman, using it as the pretext for dismissing everything she later wrote because she seemed to be celebrating a serial killer.
For the record, Rothbard talked much about the importance of the relationship between science and ethics; when folks argued that the state could do things better than the market and that all we needed were those who adhered to more efficient "scientific" policies of state planning, he remarked famously that there was a high-IQ high-culture Western European nation that once embraced more efficient "scientific" policies of exterminating millions of people in gas chambers and that it should not be our goal to have I.G. Farben help the Nazi Germany's of this world to come up with more effective means of mass destruction. I don't think this amounted to denial of the Holocaust at all.
And while I disagree with some of Rothbard's revisionist historical work, I think most of it is spot on: it is eminently clear that it was big business that worked toward destroying the free market by lobbying for and helping to create the entire regulatory apparatus, which they used to destroy entry into whole fields of economic endeavor and to consolidate their profits; I think his view of the rise of "war collectivism" in World War I was key to our understanding of the roots of the creation of the New Deal, which even Mussolini applauded for its corporatist ideal. You don't have to accept all his conclusions to appreciate some of his contributions.

In another post, I acknowledge that Rothbard's personal biases became the basis of raging interpersonal wars even among those in libertarian circles. But for Objectivists to point to this as proof that he was off his rocker is a bit like: Pot. Kettle. Black. The same stuff has happened within Objectivist circles for eons, and Rand's behavior was not exemplary at all times and in all cases. But that doesn't mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater. I also acknowledge my disagreements with Rothbard on such subjects as Gandhi and the strategic use of nonviolence, mentioning that no single theorist has done more for that area of study than the late Gene Sharp, who was a friend and colleague. Check out especially his book, The Politics of Nonviolent Action and his many works on Gandhi's political strategies. But the charges that Murray Rothbard was enamored by folks connected to the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review led me to post further on the charges of Rothbard's alleged "anti-Semitism":

I knew Rothbard personally; to my knowledge, his later attraction to some of the ideas in Charles Murray's book ("The Bell Curve") is ironic (in the context of any alleged anti-Semitism), especially since Charles Murray talks so much about the high IQs and cultural commitments to learning among Jews.
It was not so controversial to observe, as Rothbard certainly did, that many Jews were among the intelligentsia of the left. But considering that Rothbard himself was Jewish, as was his mentor Ludwig von Mises, his Austrian colleagues Israel Kirzner and Fritz Machlup, among others, the idea that he was a supporter of anti-Semitism sounds a bit strange to me. For God's sake, the Nazis drove Mises out of Europe and confiscated his library---which they preserved and which, ironically, ended up in the hands of the Soviets, when the secret police recovered the library of a Jewish free-market economist and preserved it under Stalin's directives (See here.) They were later recovered with the help of Richard Ebeling.
Even Rothbard's admiration for some of the work of Harry Elmer Barnes had nothing to do with any Holocaust denial. It was because Barnes correctly characterized America's political economy as one based on "perpetual war for perpetual peace." This was an argument that one could find among revisionist thinkers of the Old Right (John T. Flynn, Isabel Paterson, Albert Jay Nock, and incidentally, Ayn Rand, who opposed U.S. entry into World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam**) and the New Left (Gabriel Kolko, James Weinstein, William Appleman Williams, Ronald Radosh), and even President Dwight David Eisenhower who, in his farewell address to the American people warned of the growing and destructive power and influence of the "military-industrial complex."
I don't know how Donald Trump's foreign policies will ultimately pan out---but this is certainly a guy who stirred enormous controversy with his statements that the U.S. hasn't been "so innocent" in its policies abroad and who has assailed U.S. intelligence agencies, which have corrupted more elections and toppled more regimes abroad than one can count. So I find it odd that [some] Trump-supporter[s] can be so upset with Rothbard, given Trump's own expressed views of the corrupting influences of U.S. policies at home and abroad. I may not be a Trump supporter, but at least his campaign rhetoric to pull back U.S. intervention abroad was, to me, the only thing that I could genuinely applaud. I guess that makes him as revisionist as the America Firsters of the Old Right and the antiwar New Left---the same folks that Rothbard interacted with over his many years of intellectual life.

In a later post, somebody presented anecdotal evidence of somebody else who had a conversation with Rothbard, in which he showed skepticism about the Holocaust. I replied:

Unfortunately, this is also too anecdotal for evidence. I read virtually everything Rothbard ever wrote in preparation for Total Freedom and I have never come across a single published statement that doubted the Holocaust. But there is this classic statement of his from a Free Market essay, "The 'Partnership' of Government and Business":
"In our enthusiasm for privatization, . . . we should stop and think whether we would want certain government functions to be privatized, to be conducted efficiently. Would it really have been better, for example, if the Nazis had farmed out Auschwitz or Belsen to Krupp or I. G. Farben?"
Does this read like the works of a man who denied the existence of the Nazi concentration camps or the producers of the Zyklon-B insecticide that was used to gas millions of people? Not to me it doesn't.

I received some criticism from readers who argued that Murray Rothbard wasn't a very nice guy and that he did things that were not above board, especially in his dealings with Rand, Branden, and others in the Objectivist movement. I replied:

The whole point of the second (and bulkiest) part of my book, "Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism" was to separate what I believed was the dialectical (radical) wheat from the nondialectical (utopian) chaff that formed Rothbard's theoretical worldview. One cannot engage in a study of that worldview without having read it. And what emerged, I think, was a powerful critique that kept what was valuable, tossed what was not, and moved on, in its final chapter, to discuss promising future trends in libertarian scholarship that would avoid the pitfalls of utopian thought in Rothbard and in the works of other libertarians ("utopia" after all, means "nowhere") while moving libertarian social theory to the next, far more radical, far more "dialectical" level.
To be clear, my entire trilogy ("Marx, Hayek, and Utopia", "Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical," and "Total Freedom") has been based on the assumption that there is this distinction between utopian and radical thinking, and that utopian thinking---whether it be right or left---leads us down a road to "nowhere", sometimes a very destructive "nowhere", while the more dialectical alternative will provide us with the analytical tools to understand the "root" of social problems (the essence of radical theory) as a means of resolving them.
On that score, Rothbard's works offer us a mixed bag, but that which is valuable, in my view, cannot be denied. This is quite apart from what he was or wasn't as a human being. Karl Marx, as some studies of his personal life have revealed, may not have been that nice of a guy, but I learned a lot by reading him and understanding him. "Take what you want and pay for it," as the Objectivists used to say; precisely what I've done: taken what I have thought of value, from every thinker I've read, giving credit where credit is do, and moved on.

I will have more to say about the forthcoming original resources that will soon be available to Rothbard scholars.

---
** For those who doubt Rand's opposition to U.S. involvement in the European theater of World War II, I added this note:

Check "The Roots of War" but also check out the discussions of Rand's relationship with Isabel Paterson in Stephen Cox's book The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America. It is there that Cox makes clear that both Rand and Paterson found it obscene for the United States to be sending Lend Lease aid to the Soviet Union in its fight against the Nazis; in their view, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were both evil dictatorships and should have destroyed each other. And then, if the U.S. were forced into the conflict for any reason, it would have faced a much-weakened foe. (Some of the feel of this can also be found in Rand's appearance before HUAC.)
This, of course, was all a moot point after December 7, 1941, when the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor---followed by the joint declarations of war by Germany and Italy against the United States in the days that followed thereafter. But for Rand, World War I, the "war to make the world safe for democracy" produced Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy, while World War II handed over Eastern Europe to the Soviets and led directly to an endless "Cold War" that consumed the lives of thousands of Americans in other wars to stop communist aggression and to bring "democracy" to countries that had no concept of either democracy or individual rights.
For that matter, also read what Heller has written (in Ayn Rand and the World She Knew) about Paterson and Rand ("They preferred to let Hitler march unimpeded into Russia and then enter the war against whichever dictator was left standing") and Barbara Branden's Passion of Ayn Rand, where she states that "Ayn was passionately opposed to any American involvement in the war in Europe" and "was horrified that Willkie [the candidate she supported against FDR] did not speak out unequivocally against such involvement."
And where on earth does one find in any essay Rothbard wrote about Barnes that he agreed with Barnes that the Holocaust never happened? I've written quite a bit about the contributions of Karl Marx in his application of dialectical method to social analysis. Does my "association" with Marx and Marxist scholarship imply consent to Marxist ideas? It is possible to acknowledge that there are writers in intellectual history who have provided important work without it implying that one agrees with everything the writer ever said on every subject.
My mentor was a Marxist: Bertell Ollman; he provided blurbs for each of the books of my trilogy. I was even the cofounder of a discussion group called "marxism-thaxis" (THeory and praXIS). I consider myself a "known libertarian author"---but I have openly associated myself with many on the left. What does this say about me?
I must be a closet Marxist. And here I thought I was out of the closet all along. :)
In many ways, I believe that Ayn Rand was the libertarian movement's answer to Karl Marx---using that word "libertarian" loosely. But be that as it may, do you realize how many folks in the "America First" movement were smeared as Nazi-sympathizers or anti-Semites? Well, in fact, some of them were (Charles Lindbergh was dogged by those charges for years). But Rand, Flynn, Paterson, Nock, and others were also a part of that "America First" movement. And yet, I didn't see a single one of them as having a soul shaped by the swastika.
It is no coincidence that Trump has resurrected that very phrase, "America First"---and I don't think he's a dumb man; he knows perfectly well what problems that very phrase once caused among those in the establishment. Anyway, Mike, you know I like you a lot, even with the disagreements we've had. I'm willing to just agree to disagree; I've got so much work to do, and it is to your credit for sucking me into this discussion! LOL

July 10, 2018

Song of the Day #1599

Song of the Day: A Time for Love, music by Johnny Mandel, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, was an Oscar-nominated song from the 1966 film, "An American Dream." It has been treated lovingly by many vocalists and instrumentalists alike, including singer Tony Bennett and pianist Bill Evans [YouTube links]. One of the most sensitive readings of the song, arranged by Sammy Nestico, was recorded by trombonist Bill Watrous [YouTube link]; it was the title song for his 1993 album in tribute to "The Music of Johnny Mandel." Today, I learned of the death on July 2, 2018, of Bill Watrous, trombonist extraordinaire, whose effortless playing would leave you breathless. He was 79 years old. Whether he was playing a lush standard from the Great American Songbook, like "Body and Soul" [YouTube link] or performing a live rendition of "Spain" [YouTube link], with Chick Corea and an all-star 1976 Downbeat Awards Show line-up that included Hubert Laws (on flute), George Benson (on guitar), Stanley Clarke (bass) and Lenny White (drums), Watrous took us to musical heights for which he will be long remembered.

July 07, 2018

Steve Ditko, RIP

I have just learned that on June 29, 2018, Steve Ditko, "the legendary artist who co-created some of the most iconic characters for Marvel Comics"---and even some at DC Comics---died in New York City. He was 90 years old.

I had the great fortune to correspond with Ditko in the months leading up to the publication of an article I was working on for the first of two Journal of Ayn Rand Studies symposia celebrating the Ayn Rand Centenary. I had invited Ditko to contribute to the symposium devoted to the subject, "Ayn Rand: Literary and Cultural Impact," but as I expected, he politely declined, stating that he preferred that his work speak for itself.

But he expressed interest in my work and certainly acknowledged his debt to Rand---a debt that showed up in many of his comic book characters, including Mr. A (as in "A is A") and The Question. His most famous creation was among my favorite comic book heroes---if only because he was situated in real-life New York City: Peter Parker, a boy from Queens, who would become Spider-Man (making his debut in 1962).

Ultimately, I wrote the lead-essay to that Rand centenary symposium, "The Illustrated Rand" which is still available on my home website as a pdf file here. The essay devotes a section to Ditko and the impact that Rand made on his work.

I cherish my correspondence with him and celebrate the gifts he left us.

July 04, 2018

Song of the Day #1596

Song of the Day: Back in the U.S.A. features the words and music and classic sound of Chuck Berry. It's a quintessential Independence Day song. Check out the original Chuck Berry version and a 1978 hit Linda Ronstadt version as well. The two of them did a live version on the occasion of Berry's sixtieth birthday, with Keith Richards on backup vocals [YouTube links].

July 03, 2018

Song of the Day #1595

Song of the Day: Self-Control, words and music by Giancarlo Bigazzi, Raffaele Riefoli and Steve Piccolo, was the biggest international hit in the career of singer Laura Branigan, who was born on this date in 1952. Tragically, she died at the age of 52 from a brain aneurysm in August 2004. This was the title track to her third album, hitting #4 on the 1984 Billboard Hot 100, and peaking at #2 on the Hot Dance Club Chart. Check out the extended 12" remix and the video single [YouTube links], which was directed by William Friedkin (director of such films as "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist"). The song was also used for a key opening scene to "American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace" [YouTube link], with Darren Criss giving an award-worthy unsettling performance as spree killer Andrew Cunanan.

July 01, 2018

Song of the Day #1593

Song of the Day: Self-Image [YouTube link], composed by jazz trumpeter David Allan, is featured on one of the landmark jazz guitar albums in jazz history: Sounds of Synanon, an album which was released on this date in 1962. We may be in the middle of a Summer Dance Party---in which case, get close to a partner and feel this music in a jazzy slow jam. As Downbeat writer John Tynan tells us in the liner notes to the album from which it came: "There are times in the ironic drama of Life when happiness and fulfillment bloom out of misery and despair." Tynan explains that "the seeds of [this] music were planted in seven individuals whose lives had been blighted by drug addiction." Among them were pianist Arnold Ross, baritone horn player Greg Dykes, bassist Ronald Clark, drummer Bill Crawford, bongo player Candy Latson, trumpeter Dave Allan, and the man whose career soared to the legendary heights of jazz genius: guitarist Joe Pass. This marked the first vinyl album on which Pass was ever featured, and jazz historian Leonard Feather would say, with no apprehension, in his July 1962 Downbeat review that the Pacific Jazz label had "discovered a major jazz talent" in Joe Pass. In this selection, each of the players reveals a depth of emotion that is deeply touching. Of course, Pass shines, but it is Dave Allan, who composed the piece, who truly provides us with a poignant, heart-breaking "self-image" that will stay with you long after you've listened to it. Check it out on the link above or at this YouTube link as well.

June 25, 2018

Song of the Day #1588

Song of the Day: Scream features the words and music of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and siblings Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson, whose recording of this duet was released in May 1995. The critically acclaimed video would go on to win three MTV Video Music Awards (for "Best Dance Video," "Best Choreography," and "Best Art Direction"), as well as a Grammy Award for Best Music Video. Check out the original video single, the Flyte Tyme Remix and the Naughty Remix (featuring a rap by Treach of Naughty by Nature) [YouTube links]. On this day, nine years ago, MJ was "gone too soon." This song gave his sister a chance to provide a touching tribute to her brother at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards [YouTube link], as Janet matched the choreographic moves of MJ live on stage, with the video to this #1 Dance Club Song as her background. And for an extra treat, check out a classic Disconet medley of some of MJ's hits put to a fine video edit [YouTube]---giving us a glimpse of why he was one of the finest "song and dance men" of his generation.

June 24, 2018

Song of the Day #1587

Song of the Day: Man in the Mirror, featuring the words and music of Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard, was the fourth of five consecutive #1 singles released from Michael Jackson's "Bad," the 1987 solo album that followed the massive success of "Thriller," still the biggest-selling album in music history. This song features not only Jackson's classic vocals [a cappella link], but the background vocals of Garrett (who sang a duet with Jackson on the album's first #1 hit, "I Just Can't Stop Loving You"), The Winan's, and the Andrae Crouch Choir. Check out the single version, the extended version, the official video version, and the inevitable dance remix. Also check out his performance of the song at the 1988 Grammy Awards (which followed a jazzy live performance of the third #1 single from the same album, "The Way You Make Me Feel") [YouTube links]. This begins a two-day tribute to MJ in remembrance of his untimely passing on June 25, 2009.

June 22, 2018

Louis Prima Sets Billboard Record

From Billboard magazine comes some interesting news for long-time Louis Prima fans. Because of the contemporary penchant for sampling, it appears that Louis Prima, legendary jazz trumpeter, singer, composer, and bandleader, who died in August 1978, and whose last appearance on the Hot 100 was on February 13, 1961, for the #15 song "Wonderland by Night" [YouTube link] has just set a record. The new hip hop group, Kids See Ghosts, made up of Kanye West and Kid Cudi, has heavily sampled from Prima's 1936 recording of "What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin')" [YouTube link], for their own song "4th Dimension" [YouTube link].

That song debuts at #42 on the Hot 100 this week, which "ends a record break of 57 years, four months and two weeks between Hot 100 appearances" for Prima.

For somebody who once sang "I Ain't Got Nobody" [YouTube link] as part of a medley with "Just a Gigolo", one thing is clear: He's got a record he may hold on to for a very long time!

June 21, 2018

Our Little Cali-co Finds a Family

On March 16, 1987, our family suffered some real heartache when our cat, Buttons, passed away at the age of 18 years. We swore we'd never get another pet.

By 1990, that sworn promise was broken when our dog Blondie entered our lives. She would live to the age of 16, dying on January 12, 2006. And we swore we'd never get another pet.

Until Dante entered our lives not too long thereafter. But on November 11, 2017, our family suffered more heartache when Dante died, at 17 1/2 years of age. And we swore we'd never get another pet.

The amazing thing about each of our pets is that every one of them had their own personality, their own quirks, which made each of them truly unique, and none of them a mere "replacement" for the last one lost. Pets have always had a way of finding us, rather than the other way around.

The human heart is immense, and "Pet People"---folks who form very real connections to their pets, and who benefit from the companionship and the "visibility" (a la "The Muttnik Principle") that a pet provides---have an almost limitless capacity to fall in love again, even after the devastating loss of a cherished member of the family.

Apparently, about 9 days after we had brought Dante's body to our neighborhood clinic (The Jacobson Veterinary Clinic) for cremation, our vet, Dr. Linda Jacobson, welcomed into that clinic a cat named Cali (short for Calico). She was 5 months old, having been born on June 21, 2017. She immediately got all her shots, and a microchip, and in January 2018, she got her hysterectomy.

So, on May 17, 2018, we spoke to the folks at the vet's office, who wanted us to meet Cali. Dr. J encouraged us to give Cali a "trial run" on the weekend of May 18th. Somewhat worried about "falling in love" again, we took the challenge. Poor Cali was petrified entering this apartment, especially when I let her out of her carrying case. Within a short while, with an odd "Twilight Zone" twist of irony, Cali discovered the only place where she could find comfort. It was under a small table in the corner of our front room---in the very space where Dante's bed had once been located, the very space where Dante died back in November. She stayed there all night. Until about 5 am... when I got up, and she and I met in the darkness and she was so startled she went speeding by me.

And then, she was gone.

Now, she could not have left the house; we had closed off the doors to two bedrooms and a storage room and she had nowhere to hide. Or so I thought. It was 12 hours later. I'd looked under every table, every piece of furniture, and even under the sink, where we have one of those carousel storage cabinets. No sign of her.

Another couple of hours passed. It was now around 8 pm. Surely this cat had to visit her litter box at some point. I mean, I know that I could not hold it in for 15 hours (let alone 15 minutes). So I checked under the sink again. And I suddenly saw two glowing eyes staring back at me. I talked in a high-pitched voice, "Come on, Cali, come on." And I went to fetch a flash light and returned---and she was gone again. I emptied the carousel of all its contents, and put my whole body under the sink---no small feat! And I discovered that there was this slit between the back of the cabinet and the wall. I got myself a mirror, and put the mirror diagonal to the slit, and I shined the flash light on the mirror. And there she was. God knows what was behind a slit that I never knew existed. And we've been living in this apartment for over 30 years! She wouldn't come out for anything. Not for food, water, or conversation.

I spoke to Dr. J and she suggested that we just leave the cabinet open and allow her to come out on her own. I took out a couple of old sheets, and a roll of duct tape, and told my sister: "If I should hear this cat in her litter box, then I'll know she will have left that little safe space, and I will race to the cabinet, stuff sheets in the slit, duct tape it shut, put everything back on the carousel, and duct tape the cabinet closed."

And so, sleeping lightly, I heard the scraping in that litter box. It was 4 o'clock in the morning, almost 24 hours from the time she had probably entered that space.

I raced to the kitchen to complete the mission of closing that hiding space. It was an exhausting 24-hour period.

When my sister got up for work a couple of hours later, I said to her: "Next time somebody offers us a new pet, slap my face!"

But it wasn't Cali's fault. After all, she had spent most of her life being bullied by her half-sister, and then when she came to the vet, she spent most of her life in a large cage, coming out to be nourished and nurtured, but still going back into that small space that was her home.

When she entered this apartment, with its seven rooms, it must have looked like a vast continent, too intimidating to explore. I'm happy to say that the trial period ended within about a week. Cali is now a new member of the Sciabarra family, and today, she has turned one year old. Happy birthday to Cali!

Cali_1.jpg

Cali Stretching Out After "Playtime"


Two weeks after her arrival, I joked to Dr. J: "Cali is like the Indominus Rex in 'Jurassic World': She is discovering what life is like beyond the enclosure she had lived in for so long, and I'm not sure we want to find out how mischievous she will be in figuring out where she sits in the house hierarchy."

Well, we're slowly discovering that she is vying to become Queen of the Castle. And who is going to argue with her?

Judging by how she has explored this new continent, making bottle caps, rubber bands, and tissues into toys, in addition to her regular array of playthings, it is clear that she is a very young, very healthy, and very energetic cat.

Cali_11crop.jpg

Cali: Diva In the Making


We'll probably have a makeshift cake for her tonight, made of the finest ingredients, and sing her a chorus of "Happy Birthday."

In any event, I've gotten so used to writing loving obituaries, that I thought it was time to speak of this new joy in our lives. May Cali live nine lives and more---providing us with the gift of her unique character, with health and vigor. She is already getting all the love her new family can give her in return.

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Cali: Dog Tired After Her All-Night, In-House, Nocturnal Run

June 17, 2018

Song of the Day #1583

Song of the Day: You're Looking Hot Tonight features the words and music of Barry Manilow, who celebrates his 75th birthday today. He opens his Vegas residency this weekend with concerts at Westgate Las Vegas. We've not officially started our Third Annual Summer Dance Party, but I figured it would be nice to post a rare 1983 dance track from Manilow. Check out the single version and then listen to the superior dance remix offered by Disconet [YouTube link].

June 09, 2018

John Hospers: On the Centenary of His Birth

Today, I posted on the Timeline of my "Facebook friend," John Hospers, who died on June 12, 2011. But it is on this date in 1918, that this gentle man was born, and it is in remembrance of his wisdom, sincerity, and warmth as a human being, that I celebrate the Centenary of his birth.

John was one of the most important figures in the formation of the modern libertarian movement. Yes, he was the first (and only) Libertarian Party presidential candidate to receive a single Electoral Vote (made by Roger MacBride, a renegade Republican from Virginia, who refused to cast his vote for Richard Nixon in 1972; MacBride, himself, would later go on to run for President on the LP line in 1976). But more importantly, he was the author of the monumental book, Libertarianism: A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow, not to mention a veritable library in philosophy, political theory, and social commentary.

On a personal level, I will always be thankful to John for having been among the very first scholars to offer praise for my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and went on to become one of the first members of the Board of Advisors to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, back in 1999. That journal was founded as the first nonpartisan double-blind peer-reviewed biannual periodical devoted to a discussion of Ayn Rand (with whom John Hospers once shared a friendship) and her times. And here we are still, on the precipice of the beginning of the eighteenth year of our publishing history, now a journal published by Pennsylvania State University Press. We could never have come so far if it were not for John's unwavering support for (and contributions to) the journal.

I will forever be indebted to this man for his accomplishments and his guidance. All the more reason to celebrate the Centenary of his birth and the joy that he brought to so many during his life.

June 07, 2018

Song of the Day #1578

Song of the Day: Erotic City features the words and music of Prince, the sixtieth anniversary of whose birth we celebrate today. Recorded by Prince and the Revolution in 1984, this song was released as the B-side to the Purple One's classic "Let's Go Crazy." And I can think of no song more appropriate to showing the "naughty side" of this Naughty Boy. The song, with co-lead vocals by Sheila E., is not freely available on the web, but you can hear an excerpt at Amazon.com.

June 05, 2018

RFK Assassination: Fifty Years Ago

I was only three years old when President John F. Kennedy, had been shot and killed in Dallas on November 22, 1963 [graphic YouTube link]. I was at my grandmother's house that day; she had fallen, and my mother took me in her arms and ran to the house to help out. While there, "As the World Turns" was on TV, and Walter Cronkite had interrupted the broadcast with a series of special reports about the JFK shooting in Dealy Plaza. For days thereafter, all the TV networks devoted 24-hours of coverage leading up to the funeral and burial at Arlington Cemetery. Among the shocking events that unfolded before my young eyes was to witness live, on television, the shooting of the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jr., by Jack Ruby [graphic YouTube link].

This was my introduction to the 1960s. Those who speak much today about how polarized our society is tend to suffer from a case of historical amnesia. I don't think I ever lived through a more turbulent period than that which lasted from 1963 through the mid-1970s.

By the time I was 8, I had already seen a President shot, followed by years of nightly news coverage of civil rights and antiwar protests, both violent and nonviolent, along with scenes of carnage coming from Southeast Asia and thousands of body bags of U.S. soldiers returning to American soil each week. Within a few years, there were revelations of government lies about that war coming to light from the "Pentagon Papers," followed by all the lies that could be summed up in one word: "Watergate." Trust in government institutions was at an all-time low. Sound familiar?

On April 4, 1968, I felt bewildered by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We watched as the special reports came in on television, around the time of the evening news, with regard to King's assassination [YouTube link]. That night, Robert F. Kennedy gave a famous speech about the assassination in Indianapolis, Indiana [YouTube link], as cities across the United States were lit up with riots and violence. I returned to my neighborhood school the next day; it was P.S. 215, and our principal's name was Morris H. Weiss, and we were all encouraged to talk about the events of the previous day. (By the time I had graduated from that school, it had been renamed the Morris H. Weiss School!) But I remember all-too-well, the sadness that I saw in the eyes of one of my classmates. Her name was Wanda and she was a young, bright, African American girl. She said to me: "One of your kind of people shot one of my kind of people." And I said to her: "That white guy was a bad man. Not all white people are bad. There are good and bad in every group." And she seemed to relax after I had said that. What I said wasn't as profound as the speech RFK had given, but it seemed to have had a similar effect.

Little did I know that almost two months later, to the day, Robert F. Kennedy would fall to another assassin's bullets. It was June 5, 1968, around 3:30 a.m., fifty years ago today, when the phone rang. Usually, when a phone would ring at that hour in our home, it could only be bad news. It was my Aunt Georgia, who was a late night TV watcher, back in the days when Johnny Carson was hosting "The Tonight Show" on WNBC and WCBS was showing movie after movie with something it dubbed "The Late Show" and "The Late Late Show," and so on. She told us to turn on the TV: "Robert Kennedy was shot!" [graphic YouTube link].

We turned on our black-and-white television, and what we saw was pure pandemonium [YouTube link], but I remember seeing photos of RFK laying in a pool of blood. I don't recall going to school after daylight arrived, and the following day, June 6th, was Brooklyn-Queens Day, when schools in Brooklyn and Queens were closed. And it was in the early morning hours of that day, nearly 26 hours after being mortally wounded, that Robert F. Kennedy was pronounced dead.

We watched the RFK funeral, which took place at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City on June 8th, and I remember well the eulogy given by another Kennedy brother, Ted, as he spoke through his tears [YouTube link]. Ted quoted RFK's words, which were actually a paraphrase from a work of George Bernard Shaw. It is a quote etched on the side of a building in downtown Brooklyn, once belonging to the Brooklyn Paramount, taken over in 1954 by Long Island University: "Some men see things as they are, and say 'Why?' I dream things that never were and say 'Why not?'".

It was an inspiring quote to me at the time. And I suspect that with all the intense news coverage that I watched as a child, my interest in history and politics took root. It was not all doom and gloom, because I was also a kid enthralled with the space program, and the images of seeing Neil Armstrong taking his first steps upon the moon on July 20, 1969 [YouTube link], were heroic enough to make me truly realize that the things that never were, could be.

And so I mark today's fiftieth anniversary of RFK's assassination. It makes no difference if you were a fan or an opponent of his politics or the politics of other public figures who were shot down in the 1960s. I mark this date because, like other moments from that difficult time period, it was one of the defining events that shaped my own political consciousness and that of a generation to come.

May 14, 2018

Song of the Day #1576

Song of the Day: As Long as I'm Singin' features the words and music of Bobby Darin, who was born on this date in 1936. Recorded in 1964, it was one of those songs that went unreleased in Darin's tragically short lifetime (he died at the age of 37). The song can be heard on the soundtrack to the 2004 Kevin Spacey-biopic of Darin,"Beyond the Sea." But the original recording showcases Darin's swingin' ways. Gone but never forgotten. Check it out on YouTube.

May 13, 2018

Song of the Day #1575

Song of the Day: Mama Said, words and music by Luther Dixon and Willie Denson, was a huge hit for the Shirelles, who took the song to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B chart. It has been covered by many artists through the years, but the original Girl Group hit remains my favorite. What better way to wish all the mothers out there "Happy Mother's Day." Check it out on YouTube.

April 25, 2018

Leland Yeager, RIP

I have just learned that Leland Yeager, a dear colleague of mine, and of so many others, passed away late Monday evening, April 23, 2018.

I had the enormous pleasure of working with Leland, in my capacity as one of the founding coeditors of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. He contributed three articles to the periodical. The first was a Fall 2001 review of James Arnt Aune's book Selling the Free Market: The Rhetoric of Economic Correctness. Always one to turn a phrase, he titled his review, "Economic Incorrectness," which, of course, elicited a response from Aune, and a rejoinder from Leland in our Fall 2002 issue. It was a very short rejoinder that thanked Aune for his good-natured response, but it was clear that their differences were fundamental, and he asked: "Why drag the tedium out?"

The final essay that Leland contributed to the journal was a response to Will Thomas's review of Yeager's book Ethics as Social Science: The Moral Philosophy of Social Cooperation. This much more substantive response, paired with Will's rejoinder, appeared in our legendary Spring 2005 symposium on "Ayn Rand Among the Austrians," the second of two issues devoted to a celebration of the Ayn Rand Centenary. I say "legendary", because that issue completed sold out. I, myself, have only a single copy of it! But for those who subscribe to the journal electronically, that back issue, along with all of our back issues over the last eighteen years, is available through JSTOR.

All I can say is: I have worked with many, many authors and peer readers through the years, and most of the time, our exchanges have been respectful. Then there's a Top Ten List for our own version of the Horror File: Authors or Peer Readers Never to Work With Again. I can enumerate off the top of my head the folks on that illustrious list, but would much rather focus on another Top Ten List: Authors or Peer Readers Who Are The Best to Work With.

Leland certainly makes that Top Ten list; he was not merely the supremely knowledgeable scholar but among the nicest and kindest, most sincere academics I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. A gentleman's scholar, and a fine human being. He will be missed. I extend my condolences to his family and friends.

A Memorial Service has been set for early evening on Saturday, April 28, 2018 in Auburn. Further details will be made available for those wishing to attend. (I will try to update this blog entry should I receive those details sooner than later.)

Postscript: Leland's farewell wine tasting party will be held at the Oak Room in The Hotel at Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center between 5 and 7 pm on Saturday, April 28, 2018.

April 09, 2018

Chuck McCann, RIP

The site of the NYC-based WPIX Channel 11 tells us: "Anyone who grew up in the 1960s in the New York area knows the face and voice of Chuck McCann."

I should know. I was born in 1960 and grew up watching Officer Joe Bolton, Captain Jack McCarthy, Bozo the Clown, and, always, after elementary school let out, I'd come home to "The Chuck McCann Show."

What childhood memories! I'm sad to report that yesterday, Chuck McCann died at the age of 83.

March 09, 2018

Song of the Day #1571

Song of the Day: When You're Smiling/The Sheik of Araby is a Tin Pan Alley duet made famous by the rip-roaring pair of Louis Prima and Keely Smith. Keely Smith would have been 90 years old today. "When You're Smiling" was written by Larry Shay, Mark Fisher, and Joe Goodwin in 1928; "The Sheik of Araby" featured the music of Ted Snyder and the lyrics of Harry B. Smith and Francis Wheeler, and was a response in song to the popularity of "The Sheik," which starred the smoldering silent screen star, Rudolph Valentino. Greatly influenced by Louis Armstrong, trumpeter and vocalist Louis Prima, a native of New Orleans, brought a spicy touch of Sicily to the popular sounds of jazz and early rhythm and blues. In fact, it was in the largely Italian-owned social clubs of the city that Prima learned much of the vernacular of early jazz. But it was in the magic pairing of Prima with jazz singer Keely Smith that the two would launch one of the earliest and most successful lounge acts on the Las Vegas strip. Though the pair divorced in 1961, their studio and live recordings were legendary. Prima died in 1978 at the age of 67, and Smith died at the age of 89 in December 2017. But at their height, they were selling out five shows a night at the Sahara in Vegas. Check out their duet of this classic medley (with smokin' saxman Sam Butera) and Smith's own 1958 live recording of it as well [YouTube links].

January 29, 2018

Song of the Day #1533

Song of the Day: West Side Story ("Cool"), music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is one of the highlights to the score of the Broadway musical and 1961 Oscar-winning film version of "West Side Story." Yesterday, the Grammys celebrated the contributions of the great Leonard Bernstein, in this, the year of his centenary (I will feature some classic Bernstein around the time of his 100th birthday on August 25th). The very talented Ben Platt---who won a Tony Award for "Dear Evan Hansen" and yesterday, as part of the cast, he was a winner in the Grammy category of "Best Musical Theater Album"---sang "Somewhere" [check out his tribute here from the famed score]. Three cheers to the Grammys for featuring music not confined to the pop charts and for providing us a smooth transition (albeit an early kick-off) to Film Music February, our annual tribute to film score music as we approach the 90th Academy Awards. Check out the film version of this song [YouTube link], with the lead sung by Tucker Smith as the "Jets" character "Ice," highlighted by the brilliant choreography of Jerome Robbins. Word has it that director Steven Spielberg has acquired the rights to remake this musical classic, which won 10 Academy Awards, the most of any movie musical. Spielberg is certainly one of my all-time favorite directors. And his relationship with composer John Williams has added such depth to even his most popcorn-friendly summer blockbusters. We've been assured that the remake will retain the Bernstein score, but the only question I have is: Why would anyone want to remake "West Side Story"? (On another topic, actually a postscript to our Bruno-fest, which concluded yesterday, Grammy Day: Mars won everything for which he was nominated in a clean sweep! Six Grammys, including "Song," "Record," and "Album" of the Year! Can I pick 'em, or what?)

January 24, 2018

Bettina Bien-Greaves, RIP

I have just learned that a dear colleague and friend, Bettina Bien-Greaves, passed away on Monday, January 22, 2018 (a hat tip to Chris Baker for letting me know).

It is with sadness that I report this; just this past July, we marked Bettina's 100th birthday. As I said in my birthday message to Bettina, she was a beautiful soul. Then, as now, her work belongs to the ages. Bettina, RIP.

Postscript: I added a few additional thoughts in the Facebook thread that linked to this remembrance of Bettina. I reproduce it here:

I have to say she was one classy human being, who had a really mischievous sense of humor. When I used to attend the Junto many years ago, sponsored by Victor Niederhoffer, I'd always end up next to her, and she'd be whispering things in my ear or poking me every time something was said that we'd both agree, was "off the wall." She was insightful, witty, sweet, and kind.
Her legacy to Mises scholarship is well known. But less well known, perhaps, was that she helped many folks with their scholarship and with getting the word out on works that she believed were of value and in need of a wider audience. She enjoyed my own books and said so, and was one of the few people who brought wider attention to the second of two Centenary Symposia that The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies published, in honor of Rand's 100th birthday. Her review of that issue, "Rand Among the Austrians" appears here.

Song of the Day #1528

Song of the Day: Bossa Dorado, composed by French guitarist and violinist Dorado Schmitt, is a fitting exploration of "gypsy jazz," which owes its origins to the great jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, whose birthday we celebrated yesterday. It shows the remarkable range of Django's influence on jazz. Accordian player Ludovic Beier delivers a wonderful live take on this Schmitt composition [YouTube link], which fuses gypsy jazz with a Latin feel. Beier has been influenced by everyone from Django to Toots Thielemans and Chick Corea.

January 23, 2018

Song of the Day #1527

Song of the Day: Djangology [YouTube link] was composed by the legendary gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt, who was born on this date in 1910. He was one of the first Europeans to contribute significantly to an American musical idiom, especially with his initial work as a member of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France (which featured another immortal musician: jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli). And for a man who suffered with two paralyzed fingers on his left hand, Django played more notes with a thumb and two fingers than most others with full-functioning digits! He would have been perfect for an interview in Folks! Django influenced artists from many genres, including Les Paul, Jeff Beck, Chet Atkins, Joe Pass, and countless others. Tomorrow, we'll feature another instrumentalist greatly influenced by the Master.

January 13, 2018

Song of the Day #1526

Song of the Day: They All Laughed, music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, was first heard in the 1937 film "Shall We Dance," where Ginger Rogers introduced it before joining her legendary dance partner Fred Astaire in a classic routine [YouTube links]. This standard from the Great American Songbook has been recorded by many wonderful jazz artists from Ella to Sassy [YouTube links]. In last night's PBS broadcast of "Tony Bennett: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song," a wealth of talent performed to honor Tony as the newest recipient of the award. As the first "interpretive singer" to be so honored, Tony opened up his own set with this standard. His rendition last night swung hard, but YouTube has a few versions at more moderate swing tempos, from "The Essential George Gershwin," a 1999 live version with Tony's long-time pianist Ralph Sharon, and in a peppy duet with Lady Gaga from their album, "Cheek to Cheek" [YouTube links].

December 14, 2017

Russian Radical 2.0: The Dialectical Rand

My essay, "Reply to Critics of Russian Radical 2.0: The Dialectical Rand," which appears in the December 2017 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, has apparently caused a bit of a stir on Facebook, as folks discuss one part of my essay---though it appears few have actually read the essay in full.

Anoop Verma has already posted a piece on his Verma Report: Ayn Rand: The Philosopher Who Came In From the Soviet Union, a clever play on Le Carre's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

I am reluctant to say much about the essay until people have actually read it, though in truth, I think the essay speaks for itself. I did, however, clarify one issue that has dogged my use of the word "dialectics" for over twenty years now. Some folks may think my use of the word is idiosyncratic, but as I explain in the first four chapters of my book, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, though the word has come to be associated with various untenable philosophical doctrines, it originates among the ancients, and its theoretical father is Aristotle. On Facebook, I posted this reply to one commentator:

I absolutely do not identify dialectics as the Hegelian "triad" of thesis-antithesis-synthesis (though this is more a formulation of Fichte, rather than Hegel); I identify it as the art of context-keeping. It is this art that led even Peikoff to exclaim that Hegel was "right" methodologically when he said "The True is the Whole"--but very wrong in terms of his philosophical premises. The original theoretician of "dialectics" was Aristotle, whom even Hegel called "The Fountainhead" (and he used those specific words) of dialectical inquiry: that is, Hegel saw Aristotle as the father of a mode of analysis that sought to understand any problem from multiple vantage points, on different levels of generality, and across time, so as to get a more enriched perspective of the fuller context of the problem, and how it is often an expression of a larger system of interconnected problems.
It would really be great if folks would actually read my book, and the new JARS article before hoisting onto me theories that I explicitly reject. (I address the issue of false alternatives in the book and in the newest essay as well.)
I agree completely about defining one's terms, . . . and I've devoted a trilogy of books (Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism) to explaining exactly what I mean by dialectics. In the concluding book of the trilogy, in fact, I reconstruct the entire history of the concept in the first three chapters, and then devote a full chapter to defining dialectics, and unpacking that definition in such a way that it cannot possibly be confused with any of the ways in which it has been distorted. And boy has it been distorted..

Stay tuned; there may be a few additional exchanges I'll post here.

Postscript (15 December 2017): In a tangential Facebook discussion on Marxism, I had the opportunity to pay tribute to a brilliant friend and colleague, the late Don Lavoie:

Just a note on Don Lavoie: He was a wonderful friend and a magnificent colleague; he was among the most supportive people in terms of his encouragement of my own intellectual adventure. And it's no coincidence that we both did our dissertations at NYU with Marxists and Austrians on our dissertation committees. He was certainly among the most well-read libertarians on Marxism (as is Pete Boettke), and in fact, when I was the President of the NYU chapter of Students for a Libertarian Society, we sponsored a debate between Don and Bertell Ollman. It was terrific---as Don was a kind of Hayekian anarchist and Bertell remains one of the finest Marxist scholars of his generation.

I also spoke of a Marxism discussion list that I cofounded:

I have fond memories of interacting with Doug Henwood, Jim Farmelant, and others on the Marxism discussion list that I cofounded, and that is still operating ("Marxism-Thaxis", as in "THeory" and "prAXIS"---yes, I proposed that crazy mashup for the list name). . . . [C]halk it up to my years as a mobile college DJ, always looking for a way to create "mashups" of different styles of music that kept the crowd dancing... [Additionally], I can tell you one thing: While I took more than my share of lumps on marxism-thaxis over discussions on everything from the calculation debate to dialectics and Ayn Rand, I honestly do not believe I was ever treated with the level of vicious disrespect that I have experienced over the last 20+ years in certain "Objectivist" circles. The Thaxis folks may have thought me eccentric and crazy, but most participants treated me with respect. Maybe some of it had to do with the fact that Bertell Ollman was providing provocative blurbs for my books, but I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that even though I had my disagreements with Marxism, I had devoted much time to studying and understanding the Marxist tradition, rather than engaging in sweeping, uninformed denunciations.

Postscript (18 December 2017): Anoop Verma's blog post on my essay has elicited a provocative response from Irfan Khawaja, which can be viewed here. Irfan says:

It's an understatement to say that Sciabarra's thesis was harshly criticized by orthodox Objectivists associated with ARI; Sciabarra himself was marked out for personal attack, and attempts were made to destroy his reputation and career. I taught for several years (1997-98, and 1999-2005) at The College of New Jersey with the late Allan Gotthelf, a well-known Objectivist philosopher associated with ARI. Allan told me explicitly that the point of his polemics against Sciabarra's book was to discredit Sciabarra as a scholar, to wreck his reputation, to wreck his career, and to make sure that no reputable scholar were ever to take him seriously. He set out, deliberately and explicitly, to make Sciabarra's views appear absurd, and to make Sciabarra himself to appear a laughing-stock. People around Allan regularly referred to Sciabarra with derision, and encouraged others to do so. They trashed JARS as an enterprise, and encouraged others to do so. One had to be there to bear witness to the intensity of the animosity felt, not just for Sciabarra's ideas, but for Sciabarra himself. I was there. It was an unpleasantly memorable experience.
The irony is that though Chris and I are friends, I've never been convinced that Ayn Rand was a dialectical thinker. Chris's work had an oddly mirror-image effect on me. Instead of concluding that Rand was a dialectical thinker, I spent some time with Aristotle's Topics, and came to the conclusion that the problem with Rand was that she wasn't a dialectical thinker. (Indeed, the problem with a lot of contemporary philosophy is that dialectics has fallen through the cracks.) Or to the extent that Rand was a dialectical thinker, the dialectical tendencies in her work were at odds with what she took herself, self-consciously, to be doing.
In any case, though it'd be pretentious to call myself a "dialectical thinker," I'm now more strongly influenced by dialectics than I once was. I owe that to Chris. So while I don't literally accept the truth of his thesis, I've ended up being positively influenced by it all the same. Despite the efforts made to shut him up and discredit him, his work found an audience, and made a lasting impression. That's quite a vindication, and a well-deserved one.
Not only did Gotthelf try to undermine Chris's reputation and career, he did his best to de-legitimize JARS as an enterprise. He (Gotthelf) had a position on the editorial board of The Philosopher's Index (a major indexing service) and did his best to get JARS excluded from their indexing service, so as to minimize its exposure to the profession. My ex-wife Carrie-Ann Biondi was (and I think is) an indexer TPI, and she told me that she had no idea that Gotthelf had engaged in such efforts. So the efforts were made, but they were made covertly.
But if you knew where Gotthelf stood--and he hardly made it a secret--none of this came as a surprise. The whole episode has been covered up and rationalized by appealing to Gotthelf's undeniably distinguished career as an Aristotle scholar. What has gone unremarked is the fact that Gotthelf self-consciously used his credentials to get away with malfeasances that he knew he could get away with precisely because he had those credentials.
The pattern is part of the Objectivist obsession with Great Men and Their Achievements: a Great Achiever is permitted to do what and as he likes without having to live up to the pedestrian ethical standards that apply to non-achievers, the lowly proletariat of the Objectivist ethical universe. Never mind the fact that no one has yet managed to define precisely what counts as "productive work" on the Objectivist account. "Intuitively," everybody "knows" what counts and what doesn't. Definitions are only the guardians of rationality until you put them to sleep.

And on 19 December 2017, Irfan continued:

I don't think we need to go very far in hunting down Gotthelf's motivation. The motivation was transparent: Gotthelf had very fixed ideas about what Rand was saying, and what scholarship on Rand should say and look like. Sciabarra's work fit neither of his pre-conceptions, and neither did JARS.
But by the late 1990s and early 2000s, both "Russian Radical" and JARS had started gaining currency in the scholarly community. This happened at a time when ARI had decided, after a long hiatus, to re-invest in the scholarly enterprise. Simultaneously, David Kelley's organization, long regarded as a bastion of openness and scholarly seriousness, began to take a populist turn, and then, to fade from view. Gotthelf was well-acquainted with all of these facts. From his perspective, if Sciabarra/JARS could be swept from the field, ARI would have a monopoly on Rand scholarship. And a monopoly is what they had wanted all along--as any reader of "Fact and Value" could figure out. The important thing was to give this monopoly a moral/intellectual blessing so that they could tell themselves and the world that they had earned it.
I don't think Allan was precisely "jealous" of Chris; he had so little respect for Chris that jealousy couldn't have arisen. But he resented the attention that Chris and JARS had gotten, attention that he regarded as undeserved, and that ought to have been directed toward ARI and Anthem.

Roderick Long added a comment with regard to Gotthelf's scholarship and behavior:

Certainly Gotthelf did some good scholarly work -- his work on Aristotle's biology, for example, is first rate. Being capable of good scholarship and being capable of unprofessional behaviour are, sadly, quite compatible.

But readers should go to Anoop Verma's blog to see Anoop's comments as well; it is a very interesting conversation to say the least.

December 13, 2017

Song of the Day #1521

Song of the Day: Night Fever is a song written and recorded by the Brothers Gibb (or as they are more famously referred to as "The Bee Gees"). It made its first appearance on the mega-soundtrack to the 1977 hit movie, "Saturday Night Fever," a film that was released forty years ago this week. I did a 30th anniversary salute to the soundtrack, so there weren't many other tunes to choose from---but there is no better one to feature than the one that seems to have inspired the very title of the pathbreaking film, which brought international fame to John Travolta who, as Tony Manero, hustled his way onto the dance floor of Brooklyn's 2001 Odyssey disco (which later became a gay dance club named Spectrum and today is a Chinese restaurant). Check out the classic original recording by the Bee Gees and then the scene in which it is heard in the film [YouTube links].

WTC Remembrance: Spanish Translation of 2016 Installment

As readers of Notablog are aware, I've been writing annual installments to my 9/11 "WTC Remembrance" series since 2001. The 2016 installment of that series, "Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine," was just translated into Spanish (it had been translated into Portuguese some months ago). Given Monday's attack at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, we are only reminded of the fragility of life during a period of what seems to be an unending "war on terror."

I'm happy that my essay, which recalls the horrific events of September 11, 2001, now reaches a wider audience.

WTC Remembrance: Spanish Translation of 2016 Installment

As readers of Notablog are aware, I've been writing annual installments to my 9/11 "WTC Remembrance" series since 2001. The 2016 installment of that series, "Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine," was just translated into Spanish (it had been translated into Portuguese some months ago). Given Monday's attack at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, we are only reminded of the fragility of life during a period of what seems to be an unending "war on terror."

I'm happy that my essay, which recalls the horrific events of September 11, 2001, now reaches a wider audience.

December 12, 2017

Song of the Day #1520

Song of the Day: The Birth of the Blues, music by Ray Henderson, lyrics by Buddy G. DeSylva and Lew Brown, was incorporated into the 1926 Broadway revue, "George White's Sandals." It has been recorded by many artists throughout the years, including the 1926 version by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra [YouTube link]. But today is the birthday of Ol' Blue Eyes, who himself was deeply influenced by jazz and the blues. And what better way to celebrate it than with one of Frank Sinatra's hits (it spent five weeks on the Billboard charts). Take a listen to Sinatra's solo recording from 1952 [YouTube link] and then, watch a very special live TV rendition on "The Edsel Show," with Louis Armstrong [YouTube link].

November 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1519

Song of the Day: It's a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving ("Thanksgiving Theme") [YouTube link], music composed and performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio for this 1973 animated feature, is one of those recognizable jazz themes long associated with all things "Peanuts." Thanksgiving is often viewed as the kick-off to the holiday season (though nowadays, stores seem to be putting up holiday decorations before Labor Day!). Despite much heartache over the past year, I never fail to count the many blessings for which I am thankful---loving family and friends, warm memories, passionate work, the wonderful food on this holiday that only a loving home can provide--and, of course, the sweetness of all the music I have celebrated in "My Favorite Songs." A Happy Thanksgiving to All!

November 11, 2017

Our Little Dante Crosses the Rainbow Bridge

After the loss of two of my dearest friends over the last five months, Murray Franck and Michael Southern, I didn't think I had much of a heart left to break.

It turns out my heart is much larger with an almost infinite capacity to love---and to grieve. This morning, we lost our little Dante (April 29, 2000 - November 11, 2017). He had a life full of love, fun, food, travel, and TV. But this morning, the Rainbow Bridge beckoned.

danteincoralcloak.jpg

Only folks who have had pets will understand the grief of losing a beloved member of the family, especially one who has brought such joy to our lives. We will miss him and love him, and keep him in our memories eternally. I love you, my little Dante.


Postscript (13 November 2017): I wanted to thank everybody who has responded to me privately and publicly (on Facebook) during a period of immense personal grief. I have no doubt that some of this grief is cumulative, given recent losses in my life, as noted above. But only pet people understand the uniqueness of the relationship between a person and a pet.

That unique character was noted by psychologist Nathaniel Branden back in the 1960s, who enunciated what he called the "Muttnik principle" in his exploration of the nature of psychological visibility. His remarks were specifically about the relationship he enjoyed with his dog Muttnik, but the principle is just as applicable to cats and other pets, as it is to dogs, despite the differences that one sees among the species.

I've been fortunate enough to be both a "cat person" and a "dog person"; my first experiences with pets were as a child with both cats (Peppers) and dogs (Timmy), and later, with our cat Buttons (1969-1987), who lived to the ripe old age of 18, and who was best friends with my brother and sister-in-law's dog, Shannon. Buttons was followed, famously on Notablog, by our dog Blondie, who passed away in 2006, at the age of 16.

Dante lived for 17-and-a-half years, and came to us through a dear friend not too long after Blondie's death. When he arrived here, he immediately asserted himself as King of the Castle, as Ralph Kramden would say [YouTube link]. In many ways, he was the most intelligent pet I've ever known. He'd watch television with remarkable intensity, as if he were absorbing the unfolding plot of a story. If an image came on the tube that he didn't like or some dissonant chords were heard in the background of a film score, indicating a coming doom, he'd give definition to the phrase "Scaredy Cat," and high-tail it outta here. He provided more laughs, more love, and more memories than we'd thought possible, especially after the difficulty of losing our beloved dog Blondie. Blondie had sat on my lap during the authorship of my entire "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy"---so much so that she was among those to whom I dedicated the last book of my trilogy, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism.

It is often said that there are essential differences between dogs and cats; an old quip reminds us that dogs have families, while cats have staff. But despite their apparent species-defined differences, each offers us something of great value, as author William Jordan discusses in his book, A Cat Named Darwin: How a Stray Cat Changed a Man into a Human Being.

In a sense, Dante picked up right where Blondie had left off. But this was not a simple replacement; each offered something unique in terms of their individual personalities and species-distinct behavior. Each was demanding, but the ways in which they manifested that characteristic were as different as night and day; where Blondie would jump and bark and lick you to death, Dante would simply continue to meow until he was noticed, and if he was not noticed, he'd make his presence known immediately. Typing on my laptop and therefore not focused specifically on Dante? Not acceptable, as he'd walk across the keys demanding attention. Eating? Not acceptable, as he'd jump on the table if we didn't at least give him his own seat (his own chair, of course, fully cushioned and on wheels). An Alpha Cat for an Alpha Household. What a perfect match.

And yet today, as I finally drag myself back to the laptop to continue working on my various projects, I find myself typing without Dante by my side or on my keyboard. This is new territory for me. There is an emptiness in this house, and in our hearts, that is hard to communicate. I have found some comfort in the work of Dr. Wallace Sife, a long-time family friend and author of The Loss of a Pet: A Guide to Coping with the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies. But the depth of my grief is palpable.

Dante was a special cat; he was on thyroid medication for years, and we'd taken good care of him---definitely giving him much more time on this earth than he would have otherwise enjoyed (thanks to the loving care he received from Dr. Linda Jacobson and her team). It made his swift degeneration over the last few days of his life that much more painful. And yet, while it came at the price of profound shock, King of the Castle that he was, Dante spared us the necessity of having to make any life-and-death decisions on his behalf. Seeing him degenerate and prepare for his own death is too painful to articulate; and yet, there was something dignified in the way that nature took its course.

I will find a way to get through this. Keeping Dante, and all of my beloved pets, alive in my memory, in photos and videos too, remains a comfort. But the emptiness is going to be with me for a long time. And it is not something that is easily filled by just getting another pet, as if they are interchangeable units of the same stock. As with all things, grieving is a process only helped by the passage of time.

Once again, my deepest appreciation to all of those who have expressed their condolences to me.

Much love from Brooklyn, New York, to all of you,
Chris

DanteWallpaper2.jpg

October 31, 2017

Song of the Day #1518

Song of the Day: Ghosts, words and music by Michael Jackson and Teddy Riley, was first featured on Jackson's album, "HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I," but can also be found on a newly released album, "Scream," just in time for Halloween. In fact, many of the songs from this new compilation album could be heard in the most recent MJ animated special, "Michael Jackson's Halloween," seen on CBS last week. It was also the basis of an ambitious video written by MJ and Stephen King, and directed by Stan Winston. A short form of the video can be found on YouTube. Also check out Mousse T's Club Mix, the DJ Rmx extended version, and the Stepper's Mix. And for old time's sake, check out the King of All King of Pop Videos, the John Landis-directed short film for "Thriller" [YouTube link], featuring the great Vincent Price, and recently named by Billboard magazine as the #1 Halloween-themed recording. Check out the video version prepared for "This is It" and the Steve Aoki Remix too! And have a Happy Halloween!

October 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1517

Song of the Day: Blueberry Hill, music by Vincent Rose, lyrics by Larry Stock and Al Lewis, was a big hit for the Big Man: Fats Domino, who died yesterday at the age of 89. This song was a staple of the 1940s swing era, but became an early rock and roll classic when Domino recorded it in 1956. The song went to #2 on the Top 40, and was at #1 on the R&B chart for 11 weeks, selling an estimated 5 million copies worldwide. Check out the original Domino single [YouTube link].

October 01, 2017

Song of the Day #1516

Song of the Day: Jazz Samba [YouTube link], composed by one of the best, the arranger and composer, Claus Ogerman, can be heard on "Intermodulation" (1966), one of the finest duet albums ever recorded, featuring the incomparable Bill Evans on piano and the equally incomparable Jim Hall on guitar. Perhaps my favorite track on this album is "All Across the City," a lovely Hall composition [YouTube link], but this one, in which the great guitarist provides comp support for Evans's swinging ways, is, to my knowledge, probably the only samba that Evans ever recorded. I'm sure this piece would have been on any playlist of my dear friend, the late Michael Southern, given his passion for the great Evans.

September 29, 2017

Michael Southern: Triumphs and Tragedy

In May 1981, I had earned my undergraduate degree magna cum laude from New York University, with a triple major in politics, economics, and history (with honors). To say I was stoked to have been accepted to the NYU doctoral program in politics, where I would go on in 1983, to earn a master's degree in political theory, and in 1988, a Ph.D. with distinction in political theory, philosophy, and methodology, is an understatement. I was positively ecstatic.

I had, by this time, laid out a path of professional goals that merged my passionate libertarian political convictions with a rigorous course of study that would include seminars and colloquia with scholars that only New York University could offer. I would study with such Austrian-school economists as Israel Kirzner, Mario Rizzo, Don Lavoie, and others, as well as leftist political and social theorists such as Bertell Ollman and Wolf Heydebrand. In this combustible intersection of ideas, there would emerge the seeds of what would become a life-long commitment to the development of a "dialectical libertarianism", and a trilogy of books---Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism---that would articulate the foundations of that approach.

Alas, these scholarly goals were made all the more joyful to achieve because of so many individuals whose lives touched mine in ways that were fundamental both to my intellectual and personal growth as a human being.

One of these individuals was a guy named Michael Southern. It was September 1981, my first day as an NYU graduate student, when I walked into Professor Israel Kirzner's seminar on the "History of Economic Thought." Looking around the room, few seats were available, so I found myself sitting next to Michael. When Kirzner finished his first lecture, logically structured as one would expect from any esteemed student of the great Ludwig von Mises, I introduced myself to Michael. He seemed a little shy at first, but I think he was genuinely surprised by my friendliness and that unmistakable Brooklyn accent. We went to a local cafe and talked for a very long time. I got to know a lot about him in that first encounter.

I learned, for example, that he was two years older than me, almost to the day: I was born on February 17, 1960; he was born on February 23, 1958. I also learned that he hailed from Massachusetts, and was a rabid Boston Red Sox fan. Back then, that was almost a non-starter for me.

After all, I was and remain a New York Yankees fanatic. We jousted and dueled over the Curse of the Bambino, and argued about who really deserved the American League MVP for the 1978 baseball season: the Red Sox hot-hitting outfielder Jim Rice or the Yankee pitching ace, and Cy Young Award winner, Ron Guidry, who went 25-3, with a 1.74 ERA. In 1978, the Yankees were 14 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in July, and on the last day of the season, they found themselves in a tie for first place. And, I argued, no man was more valuable to that team than Guidry, who had pitched back-to-back two-hit shutouts against Boston down the stretch, and won the deciding extra 163rd game of the season, enabling the Yanks to advance to the AL Championship series against the Kansas City Royals, and ultimately to win their second straight World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Michael was going on and on about Rice's hitting. Blah, blah, blah.

In any event, it wasn't Guidry's victory that was the most memorable aspect of that deciding game; it was a miraculous 3-run homer hit over Fenway Park's Green Monster by the Yankee shortstop Bucky "F*&%ing" Dent, as Michael put it, who had hit a measly four homers prior to this game throughout the entire season. But that homer lifted the Yanks ahead for good. I guess Michael was still a little bitter. For Dent, apparently, was as beloved by Boston fans as Bill "F*&%ing" Buckner, whose fielding error in Game Six of the 1986 World Series, ultimately allowed the New York Mets to win the trophy in Game Seven. Even this diehard Yankees fan reveled in Boston's loss that year! Oh was it fun locking horns with Michael on these issues.

Animated baseball disagreements aside, it was clear that Michael and I had a lot in common; we were both avid fans of Ayn Rand, devoted readers of Nathaniel Branden, extremely interested in politics and culture, lovers of film and of music from jazz to progressive rock. All he had to say was that he had seen my favorite jazz pianist Bill Evans perform live, and that he had fallen in love with the emotional depth of his music, and I just knew that there was something very special about this man.

Over time, our friendship deepened; he'd tell me about some trouble he was having with a girl he was dating, I'd tell him about my own dating woes; we talked about our families, our friends, our goals, our triumphs, and our tragedies. He had extraordinary qualities about him; he was perceptive, intelligent, gentle, kind, compassionate, and had a great sense of humor.

By holiday time in December, that sense of humor manifested itself on both sides of the baseball divide. Michael gifted me a Jim Rice T-shirt, which I own till this day, and I gifted him a Ron Guidry T-shirt. Such was the nature of our developing affection for one another.

He had taken a waiter's job at the Cheese Cellar on East 54th Street in Manhattan, which became a regular stop for me and my family. The waiter's service was terrific, I might add. As he got to know my jazz guitarist brother Carl and jazz vocalist sister-in-law Joanne, and saw them perform at so many jazz clubs in Manhattan, loving their music, he eventually offered to do a website for them (as he would eventually develop my own website---all for free).

But something was troubling him deeply, early in that first semester, as the class with Kirzner continued. I'm paraphrasing the conversation from memory, but it went something like this. He said to me: "I can see you coming from blocks away. You just have a way about you. It's in your walk. Your step. It's never timid, but it's not overbearing. It's just the walk of a man comfortable in his own body, walking purposefully to his destination, wherever that might be. The way you walk is a bit of an inspiration to me. I just don't walk that way. I don't feel that way inside."

My walk? Lord . . . I'd never even given a second thought to the way I walked. And here, my friend was telling me that there was something in my walk that inspired him, and that made him focus on the things that he felt he lacked. He had attended weekend Intensives in New York run by Nathaniel Branden and his wife Devers Branden, and felt that they had tapped into something that needed greater attention.

I was no professional, but I was becoming a very dear and trusted friend. I tried to help him through it, with long phone conversations into the wee hours, but he seemed stuck, unable to get through a term paper for Kirzner's class. It was then that he made a momentous decision that I figured spelled the end of a friendship; he decided he was too overwhelmed by the course, that something deeper was at work, and that he needed help. As he put it later in "My Years with Nathaniel Branden," a deeply personal essay written for The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies symposium, "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy":

For the third time, I'd finished reading The Psychology of Self-Esteem, Breaking Free, and The Disowned Self, all books by Nathaniel Branden. I placed my meager belongings in a backpack, went to the Registrar's Office at New York University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, officially withdrew from Graduate School, booked a flight, and in two days landed at Los Angeles International airport; I had come to be a client of Nathaniel Branden.
Prior to my time at NYU, I had finished an undergraduate degree with honors. I was thrilled when I got accepted to NYU, to study the history of economic thought under Israel Kirzner, who had been a student of Ludwig von Mises­---both being giants in the field to me. And as it all nicely fell into place, I froze.
I don't ever remember this happening to me before. While Kirzner's class was better than even I had anticipated, I couldn't write the paper for the course. I sat at home, or at the library with ten and twelve books piled up in front of me, but I couldn't begin. Anything I thought about writing seemed trivial after a little research. I began to panic so that the more I tried to push myself, the greater the feeling that whatever I produced wouldn't be enough. I tried everything I knew to get myself "back on track." I believed I had something to offer, but I was paralyzed, much like an actor might experience stage fright. I spoke with Kirzner, and he was kind and logical and gave me some suggestions, but I was too in awe of him to show just how lost I was in terms of generating a paper. It seemed an emotional block, not an intellectual one; how could I ask for his help for an emotional problem? I understood the coursework, and the books on his reading list. I just couldn't seem to create.
...
Sitting in an outdoor cafe in the Village I reached in my backpack for The Disowned Self. I ordered coffee, threw the waiter a gigantic tip so he'd leave me alone, lit a cigarette (you could do that back then), and read the entire book, slowly, making notes; the lights and noise of the West Village turned on around me as night fell.
The next day I headed for Los Angeles, wanting to resolve, heal, and grow. I was beginning to suspect that I had had a particularly difficult childhood, and had responded to it by shutting down huge parts of myself.

To my surprise, Michael and I never lost touch. He was in therapy with Nathaniel Branden, and making strides. Every so often, we'd speak, not so much about the details of his therapy, but more about how he was challenging himself to keep moving . . . forward. Sometimes a month would pass, or two, and he'd call, and it was as if the last conversation had occurred only an hour ago; we picked up where we left off, never missing a beat. And during this period, as I faced my own trials and tribulations---with everything from relationships to my health problems (an outgrowth of a congenital intestinal condition)---he was as present and tuned-in to me, as I was to him. This was never a one-way street; the friendship that I thought would be lost by distance, had intensified. And the feeling that he was a "brotha from another mutha" only deepened. It was clear that we loved one another as only brothers could---something that geographic distance did nothing to alter.

As Michael explained in that wonderful essay of his, he was able to work through so many of his problems; he credited Nathaniel Branden and Devers Branden with saving years of his life. He would become an intern for Branden and then an office manager at Branden's Biocentric Institute in Beverly Hills, California. He'd go back to school to earn a master of science in management from Lesley College and a master of science in information systems from Boston University. As a technology specialist, he did wonderful work for Fortune 500 companies.

Through all the years, our friendship only grew. He would go on to develop my website, and the original website of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. In fact, he was a member of the JARS family from its beginnings in 1999, as we unveiled the website on the day that our first issue was published. While I remained with NYU as a Visiting Scholar for twenty years (I guess you could say I bleed "violet"), he would travel the world. He was never so far away, however, that he didn't participate once or twice in my cyberseminars on "Dialectics and Liberty." Eventually he married, and even moved back to New York City for a while, living in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn.

There were bumps along the way---though never between us. His marriage didn't work out, his work took him out of New York again, and his interests, especially in the history of the Holocaust, took him to other countries. But again, geographic distance never seemed to interfere with our friendship. Eventually, he came back to the states, and his software expertise gave him many job opportunities, including business with a company in Detroit, Michigan, where he worked for several years.

Indeed, his software expertise was certainly highly valued by JARS; the two of us worked hard in 2015-2016 as he created a brand spanking-new website for the journal, which made its debut with the Nathaniel Branden symposium, to which he contributed that enormously revealing and enlightening essay.

In many ways, writing that essay was, for Michael, a catharsis of sorts; while it served the greater symposium's purpose of understanding the work and legacy of Branden, it also served as a profoundly personal statement of how Michael stood up courageously to the challenges he faced. It was a commitment to a life of promise, of so much more to come.

Immediately after the debut of the new JARS site and the publication of our Branden symposium, Michael began working on a prototype to finally revamp my website, which, he said, "embarrassed" him because he'd become so much more sophisticated in his software development. We had so many plans for so many projects.

But, of course, life always seemed to get in the way of smooth transitions. As my own health problems became more difficult to bear, he spent as many hours on the phone with me in 2016, as I had spent on the phone with him in 1981, except that now, we both knew each other so well that we could complete each other's sentences, anticipate each other's thoughts. Thirty-five-plus years will do that.

We last spoke in early September about the website and a few other issues; Lord knows, we still had our differences with regard to sports teams (though I was enough of a good sport to congratulate him back in 2004, when his Red Sox finally beat the Yankees, and went on to win their first World Series since 1918). We even had developed a few political differences. But nothing ever affected our mutual love, admiration, and respect for one another. When I'd call him on the phone, he'd answer "Chris!"---as if with an exclamation point. There was always joy in his voice when he heard mine on the other end of the phone. And if I needed to cry because of a slew of unending medical or personal problems, the gentility with which he treated me was just the medicine I needed.

We last corresponded on September 11th. A few days passed by, and I hadn't heard back from him, so I wrote him again. Still, no reply.

I figured he was busy or traveling, but it was unlike him not to reply to an email. So on the weekend of September 23rd, I called him on both his personal and business lines and left voice mail. It was comforting to hear his voice, even if it was automated, telling callers to leave a message. So I left messages. And still, no reply.

On Tuesday, September 26th, I got an email from his cousin, who lived in Waco, Texas, where Michael had been staying. She told me to give her a call. My heart dropped. I knew that this meant something had happened to Michael; maybe he was in a hospital. Maybe something worse. I called her immediately.

She told me that Michael had been pursuing new business in Detroit, a city where he had once worked for so many years.

And then she told me that his body was found at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 19th; he had been killed by gunshots. Police are investigating the crime as a homicide.

I have suffered many losses in my life. I lost my father suddenly to a massive coronary, when I was 12 years old. I lost my Uncle Sam, who was like a second father to me, in 1994, to prostate cancer. I lost my mother in 1995, before my first two books were published, after five years of being one of her primary care-givers, as she struggled with the ravages of lung cancer and the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. I've lost many loving friends and relatives over the years, in circumstances that were painful and difficult.

But absolutely nothing could have possibly prepared me for the grief that I felt upon hearing that one of my best friends in the whole wide world had just lost his life by a wanton act of brutality. I had the phone in my hands, tears streaming down my face, stunned, shocked, horrified, feeling literally destroyed. My heart had not been broken; it had felt as if it had been completely shattered. I still can't quite wrap my mind around this event.

Michael's funeral is scheduled for Monday, October 2, 2017 in Waco, Texas. My health issues prevent me from attending his funeral. But my heart goes out to his family and friends, who so loved him, and who suffer with unimaginable grief.

I pray that justice will be done, and that the murderer will be apprehended.

But nothing will bring Michael back.

The December 2017 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will be dedicated to Murray Franck (1946-2017), who died this past July, and to Michael Southern (1958-2017). Both of these men were part of the JARS family from the very beginning, and deserve to be so honored. But they were both among the dearest human beings and friends I've ever known. To have lost both of them within two months of one another is unbelievable. But to have lost Michael in such a violent manner is just beyond tragic. He didn't deserve this ending. The pain of this loss is almost unbearable.

Rest in peace, dear friend. You made such a difference in the lives of so many people. And you made a difference in my life. I will honor you and remember you for the rest of my days. And I will miss you until the day I die.

Postscript (October 2, 2017): I posted a link to this tribute to Facebook, and was comforted by how many folks have shared the post and shared their condolences with me, both publicly and privately; I added this to my own Facebook thread:

Thanks to everyone who shared my post and who have expressed their condolences to me, both privately and publicly, here and elsewhere. Anyone who was fortunate to know Michael was blessed by his presence in their lives. And I express my condolences to all of you for this loss.
Today is Michael's funeral in Waco, Texas. It's also a day that I awake to hear that this country has just experienced the worst mass shooting in its history, this time in Las Vegas, with over 50 people shot to death and over 200 injured. Not counting the folks I knew who were murdered on 9/11, I have never had the experience of having lost a loved one to a shooting. This morning, I send my empathy and condolences to those who are mourning the deaths of their own loved ones who have died in this massacre.
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Savagery and brutality have always been a part of the human condition; that is not a comforting thought, however. What is comforting is that there are still far more people in this world who care and who will not give into the fear of such carnage, even when it hits so close to home.

September 11, 2017

WTC Remembrance: Sue Mayham - Not Business as Usual

At a time when so many are suffering the effects of Hurricane Irma, a force of nature, I return to my annual series, "Remembering the World Trade Center," on the anniversary of a time when so many suffered the effects of the force unleashed by human beings against other human beings.

My series returns this year to recording the recollections of those who lived through the nightmare that was September 11, 2001.

In previous years, my interviews have focused on those within the Twin Towers, and those who witnessed the horrific events of that day; those who were first responders and those who worked on the pile at Ground Zero. I have even featured various pictorials of the memorial, museum, and the new One World Trade Center that opened in late 2014.

This year, I interview Sue Mayham, who provides an entirely different perspective on the events of that day, and the days and weeks and months that followed. Sue is an example of a different kind of heroism: the kind of heroism that symbolizes the work of those who kept aspects of the real world running even when the global capital of finance and culture had taken a direct hit from those who sought its utter destruction.

And as I have done in previous years, I provide this index for those readers who would like easy access to the previous entries in this series:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

2014: A Museum for the Ages: A Pictorial

2015: A New One World Trade Center Rises From the Ashes: A Pictorial (This essay has been translated into Portuguese by Artur Weber and Adelina Domingos.)

2016: Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine (This essay has been translated into Portuguese by Artur Weber and Adelina Domingos.)

2017: Sue Mayham: Not Business as Usual

Never forget.

August 29, 2017

Song of the Day #1500

Song of the Day: They Don't Care About Us features the words and music of Michael Jackson who was born on this date in 1958. The song was a Top 5 hit on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales Chart in 1996, and was the fifth single from MJ's album, "HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I." This is the 1500th "Song of the Day" I have posted, in the wake of a Texas-sized catastrophe at home and continuing problems abroad. My heart goes out to all who are suffering. Though some of the lyrics from this twenty-plus year-old song come from mixed premises, MJ's message is certainly prescient: "They Don't Really Care About Us." Check out the video version, the more chill Love to Infinity's Walk in the Park Mix, and the house-heavy Love to Infinity Classic Paradise Remix. There is also a wonderful instrumental version by the 2Cellos [YouTube links]. Finally, check out this tribute and that one by Ricardo Walker's crew to MJ's dancing. [YouTube link].

August 20, 2017

Jerry Lewis, RIP

I have just learned that the multitalented Jerry Lewis has died at the age of 91.

I remember him more for all the work he did with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, especially during his marathon Labor Day telethons. He was an indefatigable warrior in the fight for those afflicted by the disease, and a remarkable talent to behold on so many levels. Witness his amazing comedic timing on "The Typewriter" (see the links therein).

Jerry Lewis, RIP.

August 09, 2017

Song of the Day #1489

Song of the Day: It's Better with a Band, music by Wally Harper, lyrics by David Zippel, is the title track of the live album recorded by musical legend Barbara Cook, who died yesterday at the age of 89. Cook was born in Atlanta, Georgia but she became a New York institution, as she conquered the Broadway theater, concert halls and cabarets of the Big Apple. She achieved global recognition for her intepretation of the Great American Songbook. Check out the live album rendition of this light-hearted song recorded in 1980 at Carnegie Hall and a later 1997 rendition with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

August 08, 2017

Song of the Day #1488

Song of the Day: By the Time I Get to Phoenix, words and music by Jimmy Webb, was first recorded by Johnny Rivers in 1965 [YouTube link]. It was later recorded by American country music singer Glen Campbell as the title track to his 1967 album. Campbell's version reached #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart, earning him a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male and Best Contemporary Male Solo Vocal Performance. Campbell would go on to amass awards across the spectrum of American music, while also appearing in a dozen films. Today, he died at the age of 81, following a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease. This song was #20 on the Top 100 songs of the twentieth century by BMI, ranked according to the number of times they were played on television and radio. Even Ol' Blue Eyes called this the "greatest torch song ever written." In remembrance of Glen, check out his studio recording of this timeless song [YouTube link].

August 07, 2017

The Summer of Sam: Forty Years Later

Forty years ago this week, on August 10, 1977 to be exact, the man known to the world as "Son of Sam" was arrested after more than a year of terrorizing the city I've always called home. David Berkowitz, first dubbed the .44 caliber-killer, was caught outside his Yonkers apartment after a year during which he had murdered six people, while injuring seven others, and holding 8 million people hostage to his random carnage.

Having lived through the "Summer of Sam," a time during which New York City was in fiscal disarray and intense urban decay, I can say that we were all more than a little bit jittery, reading the daily news articles and keeping up with the nightly TV reports. In fact, on the day that Berkowitz was arrested, the New York Daily News had put on its front page a police sketch of the alleged serial killer that didn't resemble him in the least. The Daily News had played a pertinent role in the story as it unfolded, because Berkowitz was busy writing a series of bizarre letters to columnist Jimmy Breslin that spooked the public. Up until July 31st, however, Berkowitz had restricted his killing to the boroughs of Queens and the Bronx. But then, on the night of July 31, 1977, he came to the corner of Shore Parkway and Bay 44th Street in the Bath Beach section of Brooklyn, not far from my home, and opened fire on a car parked there as two people, Robert Violante and Stacy Moskowitz. were sitting inside. Their first date had ended with Violante losing his sight, and Moskowitz dying a day or so later from the .44 caliber bullets that had exploded into her head. The Son of Sam had come to Brooklyn; the word on the street was that now, even the Mafia was going to find and "take out" this "nutjob."

I had just finished my senior year at John Dewey High School, preparing for my long stint at New York University, which would begin in September 1977. Till this day, I look back at that 1977 summer and I honor the memory of the victims of those horrific shootings, while keeping their loved ones in my thoughts.

But every tragedy seems to elicit memories that provide a little relief in the form of gallows humor. I remember that during that summer, every time my sister and cousin Sandy (who was staying with us at the time) went out, they were very much aware that virtually all of the victims of Son of Sam had dark hair. Both my sister and cousin had brown hair, and Sandy even took to wearing a hat. But on the night after July 31st, in the wake of that shattering news of a senseless Brooklyn murder, we had taken an evening walk, about ten blocks from our apartment, to visit our grandmother, aunts, uncle, and cousins. We were there quite late; it must have been about 1 am, and we finally decided to walk along the brightly lit Kings Highway back to our apartment. I told my mother and sister not to worry. "I will protect you," I announced, confident in my Brooklyn street smarts. About half-way through our walk, we passed an all-night gas and auto service station. And in the silence of that hot and humid summer night, one of the cars in the service area suddenly backfired. Well. I must have jumped about two feet in the air and let out a scream that could have awakened the dead. My mother and sister were nearly bent over in laughter; even I got so hysterical with laughter that tears rolled down my cheeks. "Yeah, yeah, you're going to protect us!", they ribbed me but good. "Sure, sure!"

Fortunately, ten days later, the police had arrested the creep that had so defined the Summer of 1977. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

But we still chuckle when we remember our walk home, when a car backfired in the still of a steamy August night.

August 06, 2017

Song of the Day #1487

Song of the Day: Super Freak features the words and music of Alonzo Miller and Rick James, who brought this song to the top of the Dance chart on this weekend in 1981 (along with "Give it To Me Baby"). The song, from the James album, "Street Songs," features background vocals by the great Motown group,The Temptations. On this date in 2004, Rick James passed away. We remember him with the epic 12" extended remix of this dance classic. The song is also famous for having been sampled by M.C. Hammer in his hit, "U Can't Touch This" [YouTube link].

August 05, 2017

Song of the Day #1486

Song of the Day: Give it to Me Baby, words and music by Rick James, topped the Billboard Black Singles chart for 5 weeks and the Dance Club chart for 3 weeks in the summer of 1981. In fact, this track was in the midst of its #1 reign this very weekend in 1981, along with a song that we will feature tomorrow, the date on which James passed away in 2004. The King of "Punk-Funk" led a troubled life, but it's memorable tunes like this that remind us about the importance of appreciating art of any kind, whatever one might think of the person who originated it. Too many tortured souls in the world of music especially have given us joy on the dance floor. Check out the original 12" remix, the DJ "S" Mix, and the 1981 extended Rework Feeler Baku Remix.

July 25, 2017

Barbara Branden's POET Print Published!

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the print version of Think as if Your Life Depends on It: Principles of Efficient Thinking and Other Lectures [link to ordering information] by Barbara Branden is now available. I had previously announced the publication of the Kindle edition of the book.


POET Print Cover


As readers may know, I have written the Foreword to the book, and Roger Bissell offers us a fine introduction. But the real "meat" of this book lies in its lectures, originally delivered in 1960, updated later in 1969, and beautifully delivered by Barbara Branden. The book also includes three additional lectures, providing us with a glimpse of Barbara's later thinking on the various topics touched on in her original series, which was offered initially under the auspices of the Nathaniel Branden Institute.

It is a work that merits discussion, critique, but most of all ... attention. Up to this point, it has only been available in .mp3 form, but there is nothing like a printed copy of lectures so as to genuinely study its contents. I heartily recommend it to your attention.

July 24, 2017

A Belated 100th Happy Birthday to Bettina Bien Greaves

I just discovered that on July 21, 2017, one of the dearest and sweetest people I've ever met celebrated her birthday! For shame that I missed it.

So I'm sending my belated, but very best wishes for a happy and healthy birthday to Bettina Bien Greaves, who reached the age of 100 this past Friday. Bless her!

I actually first saw her name when I discovered the extraordinary book, Mises: An Annotated Bibliography [a pdf file] that she compiled (with Robert W. McGee). Over the years that I came to know her, I was always impressed by the extraordinary breadth of her knowledge and the warmth of her support and friendship. (She even reviewed a special Journal of Ayn Rand Studies symposium, "Ayn Rand Among the Austrians" [link to her review], which was published in the Spring of 2005.)

I may have missed your special day, Bettina, but I wish you much health and happiness in the years to come! You're a beautiful soul.

July 18, 2017

In Memory of Three New Yorkers: Wolff, Landau, and Romero

This past weekend, three New Yorkers died, each of whom left a significant mark on American popular culture.

On Saturday, July 15, 2017, legendary sports broadcaster Bob Wolff died, at the age of 96. Born in New York City on November 29, 1920, Wolff broadcasted his first sporting event in 1939 as a student at Duke University. He had the longest career of any sports broadcaster in history; he also has the distinction of having called games in the four major American sports: hockey (for the New York Rangers), basketball (for the New York Knicks), football and baseball. In fact, throughout his eight decades as a sportscaster, he called two of the most iconic games in football and baseball history: the 1958 NFL championship game between the Giants and the Colts and Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series (between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers).

Also on Saturday, a son of Brooklyn, New York (born on June 20, 1928), died at the age of 89: actor Martin Landau. Landau made his debut on the Broadway stage in 1957, but his film career began with a bang, as a supporting actor in my all-time favorite Alfred Hitchcock film, the 1959 classic "North by Northwest," starring Cary Grant, James Mason, and Eva Marie Saint. He would go on to star in memorable roles on both the small screen (in the TV series "Mission: Impossible") and the big screen, for which he received three Oscar nominations throughout his career, winning in the category of Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of film icon Bela Lugosi in the 1994 Tim Burton film, "Ed Wood."

Of course, Lugosi was the famed actor who brought Bram Stoker's Dracula to life, so-to-speak, on both the stage and screen. Speaking of vampires brings to mind another category of the Un-Dead: the Zombie. And no director was more instrumental to the development of the Zombie genre of horror flicks than the Bronx, New York-born George Romero, who died on Sunday, July 16, 2017, at the age of 77. Romero (who was born on February 4, 1940) directed the first in a series of Zombie cult classic films, the creepy 1968 black-and-white movie "Night of the Living Dead," which scared the living daylights out of me as a kid. In fact, it's still not a film I like to watch before going to bed. But for any fan of horror flicks, Romero remains the "progenitor of the fictional zombie of modern culture."

Each of these men, in his own distinctive New York way, had an impact on entertainment in general, and on my youth in particular, as I developed my love of sports and film. They will be missed.

July 16, 2017

Ayn Rand and Smoking

My colleague and friend, Pierre Lemieux, tagged me in a Facebook conversation on Rand's impact on current-day American politics. Though Pierre enjoyed my "fascinating book" (his words) on Rand, he believes that Rand was a "shallow" thinker. On this, of course, we differ, and I pointed him to a recent post of mine on the topic that he raised: "The New Age of Ayn Rand? Ha!"

In the course of our exchange, another participant remarked that Rand was an "intellectual fraud" because she died from lung cancer, and hid this from her followers, "pretending she was still smoking." Pierre asked me about the truth of this allegation, and I replied:

I believe that the official cause of death was congestive heart failure in March 1982, but it is true that she had surgery for lung cancer in 1974. Anne Heller reports in her biography, Ayn Rand and the World She Made that when her doctor told her to stop smoking because there was a lesion on one of her lungs, "[s]he stubbed out her cigarette" and never smoked again. Heller reports, however, that Allan and Joan Blumenthal asked Rand "to make her decision [to give up smoking] public, even though, as they reminded her, she had indirectly or directly encouraged her fans to smoke." (Readers of Atlas Shrugged will recall the cigarettes smoked among the strikers that had dollar signs on them.) But Rand apparently "denied that there was any conclusive, nonstatistical evidence to prove that smoking caused cancer." Heller adds: "The Blumenthals understood that [Rand] was all but unable to admit to imperfections or mistakes. And they knew that she was trying to absorb a number of profound and painful psychic blows . . ."
Rand certainly was a woman of immense psychological and intellectual complexity; but I am often reminded by the "Indian Prayer" on my wall: "Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I've walked a mile in his moccasins." I'm not excusing Rand here; I'm just saying that given her own personal context and profound disappointments (including the devastating break with the Brandens in 1968 and a painful reunion with her sister Nora in 1973), I have no way to really evaluate her personal decisions.
My own mother died of lung cancer after 50 years of smoking; she went through five years of chemotherapy, radiation, remission, recurrence, and so forth. I was one of her primary caretakers, and I can't begin to imagine the kind of psychological devastation of that initial diagnosis and the personal decisions she had to make about lifestyle changes. Once diagnosed, she never smoked again, but she sure wanted to. Then again, when we'd visit Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, we'd see folks in wheelchairs, outside the hospital, attached to IV poles, smoking through the holes in their throats. My mind could not even attempt to understand this kind of behavior, but c'est la vie.

Pierre remarked that Charles De Gaulle once said: "No one will ever be able to smoke again" and I replied: "Having seen the devastation of lung cancer up close and personal, I can only echo the old adage: 'From De Gaulle's lips to God's ears.'" That a small percentage of folks die from lung cancer, even though they were never smokers, gives one pause, of course. I added: "Well, my mother also worked in the garment industry for years, handling fabrics and some pretty toxic chemicals that she inhaled on a daily basis. So God knows how all these factors may have coalesced to lead to that horrific diagnosis."

Either way, I guess the point of all this is that I do not believe Rand's unwillingness or inability to acknowledge the dangers of smoking made her an intellectual fraud, anymore than I would view those folks outside of Memorial Sloan-Kettering as suicidal maniacs... at least not until I've walked a mile in their moccasins.

July 06, 2017

Murray Franck, RIP

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of a very dear friend, Murray Franck. He suffered for many years from a variety of illnesses, and fell into a coma some weeks ago, before his death on July 2, 2017. Murray was a trusted friend and an intellectual confidante, a lawyer by profession, in fact, an intellectual property rights attorney who negotiated all of my book contracts through the years, and provided indispensable advice on all things legal, intellectual, and personal throughout the more than twenty-five years that I knew him.

His wisdom on so many subjects, from the philosophy of law to intellectual history, his helpful comments on the content of my work---including extensive commentary on a forthcoming essay of mine due to appear in the December 2017 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies---was surpassed only by the depth of his loyalty as a friend. Indeed, his singular commitment to such commentary extended over the past three months, where I was in almost daily contact with him, despite the fact that he was in such a state of deteriorating health. That he retained a unique sense of humor through it all was a blessing.

But he was a champion of the journal, from its earliest stages of development, helpful to us behind the scenes with regard to a number of issues endemic to the launching of any new enterprise. More than this, he was a champion of ideas, a learned and creative scholar who had a gift for precision in both his thought and writing; indeed, he was one of the journal's earliest contributors. His essay, a reply to the late Larry Sechrest (another mutual friend of ours, gone too soon), which appeared in the Fall 2000 issue (Volume 2, Number 1), was a provocative discussion of "Private Contract, Market Neutrality, and 'The Morality of Taxation'."

I cannot count the number of times I sought this man's support and comfort through some of the most difficult periods of my life. And I can only hope I offered him in return the support and comfort he so freely gave.

The depth of my grief over Murray's death leaves me sad beyond words. I extend to his family and friends my condolences for their loss. Their loss is our loss. I know that I will forever be comforted by the legacy of love he left behind.

June 30, 2017

Song of the Day #1470

Song of the Day: Stormy Weather, words and music by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler debuted in 1933 at the Cotton Club in Harlem by Ethel Waters [YouTube link]. But one of its most famous versions was recorded by the Tony- and Grammy-award winning singer and actress Lena Horne, who died on 9 May 2010, at the age of 92. Lena sang this timeless tune in the 1943 movie of the same name. Check out Lena's film rendition and her 1943 single, which went to #21 on the U.S. Pop chart [YouTube links]. In honor of the centenary of her birth on 30 June 1917, I celebrate the gift that was Lena.

June 28, 2017

Song of the Day #1469

On Facebook, I prefaced this "Song of the Day" entry with this comment: It is officially June 28, 2017; on this date in 1969, in the wee small hours of the morning, the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. With all the hoopla of this past weekend’s “Pride” events nationwide, some folks seem to forget that the parades emerged initially to commemorate what happened in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969. For despite the ritual nature of these police raids, it was on this night that the patrons fought back on the basis of a crucially important libertarian premise; they rioted and rebelled in defense of their individual rights to live their own lives and to pursue their own happiness in private, safe havens, away from the brutality and harassment they faced on an almost daily basis. It is in this spirit that I add another song to my Summer Dance series. From “To Wong Foo…”, it’s Chaka Khan blowing a hole through the roof with "Free Yourself":

Song of the Day: Free Yourself, words and music by Sami McKinney, Denise Rich, and Warren McRae, is given a scaldingly hot treatment by Chaka Khan, whose pipes tear the roof off the motha'. The song is featured on the soundtrack to the 1995 comedy, "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" (and is also played over the end credits). I dedicate it today to those who participated in the Stonewall Rebellion, which began in the wee hours of June 28, 1969, in response to yet another regular police raid on a gay bar, this one in NYC. It remains a symbolic event for those who have sought equality before the law and the right to live their lives and to pursue their own happiness, without the interference of government. It began on this date as a quintessentially libertarian reaction against state repression of establishments that catered to a clientele of gays, lesbians and even their straight friends, who in their consensual social interactions just wanted to enjoy themselves at a Christopher Street bar in Greenwich Village, a safe haven away from police and social brutality (though it should be noted that such bars were typically "protected" by Mafioso who traded in under-the-table police payoffs). This track from the 1990s wasn't on the Stonewall Inn's famed 1969 jukebox, but it is an appropriate dance burner to mark the day, in keeping with our Summer Dance Party. Check it out on on YouTube.

June 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1468

Song of the Day: Hard Day, with words and music by George Michael, is posted on a day on which we honor the memory of the late Michael Jackson, while also celebrating the birthday of the late George Michael. This song can be found on the singer's 1987 first solo album, "Faith"; it went to the top 5 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs Chart. Check out the funky single and the Shep Pettibone 12" remix.

Song of the Day #1467

Song of the Day: Jam features the words and music of Rene Moore, Bruce Swedien, Teddy Riley, and Michael Jackson, who died on this date in 2009. The song, from Jackson's 1991 album "Dangerous," features a rap by the late Heavy D (who died in 2011). Take a look at the official video [YouTube link], which features the immortal Michael Jordan. Also check out the Silky 12" Remix, Space Vibes Mix, and a live version with a sweet dance segment by MJ. And check out a great mash-up of "Uptown Funk" and "Jam," featuring Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, and MJ, as well as this one, this 24K one, and that one; and another mash-up with MJ and Bruno of "Beat It" and "Beating on Heaven's Gate." And for another visit down memory lane, check out a 2017 remix of MJ's "Smooth Criminal" [all YouTube links].

June 20, 2017

Barbara Branden's POET Published!

I am honored to announce that the Kindle edition of Barbara Branden's ten-lecture course, "Principles of Efficient Thinking" (or POET, as we fondly call it) has finally been published, and a print edition is on the way as well. It is entitled Think as if Your Life Depends on It: Principles of Efficient Thinking and Other Lectures.

Principles of Efficient Thinking and Other Lectures

The original lecture series was presented by Barbara Branden in 1960 under the auspices of the Nathaniel Branden Institute and, with Ayn Rand's blessings, it was considered part of canonical Objectivism. As both Robert L. Campbell and I wrote (in our "Prologue" to the JARS symposium, "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy"):

[Nathaniel] Branden tells us that "[t]he term ["psycho-epistemology"] was first used, in print, by Ayn Rand, to designate a man's 'method of awareness,' in For the New Intellectual. However, the concept of 'psycho-epistemology,' as used in Objectivism and in Biocentric Psychology, was originated neither by Miss Rand nor by myself but by Barbara Branden who, in the mid-1950s, first brought this field of study to our attention and persuaded us of its importance." Branden goes on to define "psycho-episemology as 'the study of the mental operations that are possible to and that characterize man's cognitive behavior." He adds: "There is clearly a degree of interpenetration between epistemology and psycho-epistemology."
Indeed, Barbara Branden's ten-lecture course . . . "Principles of Efficient Thinking," was the first presentation of what might be termed an "Introduction to Objectivist Psycho-Epistemology," a virtual mirror of the title of Rand's [Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology], which nicely complements and supplements the material in Rand's work. Barbara Branden's . . . course was revised to include quoted passages from canonical Objectivist writing in [1969], and that version was transcribed by Roger E. Bissell, for forthcoming print publication . . . along with several additional essays by Branden, derived from lectures she gave in 1995, 2006, and 2011. Nathaniel Branden’s guest lecture on "the fallacy of the stolen concept" is also included in the forthcoming "Principles" book.

(I have omitted from the above passages citations and references, which can be found in the published version of our "Prologue" to the Symposium.)

What is most important for the purposes of today's announcement is that the book, which was forthcoming, has now arrived! It gives me great personal and professional pleasure to finally see it in print. "Personal" because I have made no secret of the fact that I loved Barbara dearly; and "Professional" because this is truly a wonderful collection of lectures that probe so many aspects of an underappreciated component of Objectivist philosophy: psycho-epistemology.

For those who may have the mistaken impression that Ayn Rand only focused on conscious, volitional and rational thinking as essential to the survival and flourishing of the individual, it may come as a surprise to discover that she paid much attention to what many thinkers, from Gilbert Ryle to Michael Polanyi, have termed the "tacit" dimensions of consciousness. Among those "tacit" dimensions that Rand examined were two essential components: "sense of life" and "psycho-epistemology." As I explain in Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, just as the conception of "sense of life" pertains to the "interrelationship between mental content and method from the vantage point of content," the concept of "psycho-epistemology" pertains "to the interrelationship between content and method from the vantage point of method." Like one's "sense of life," the development of one's habitual psycho-epistemology is normally a subconscious process that evolves over time.

And here is where Barbara Branden's work is significant. As Barbara explains in her very first POET lecture:

One of the most widespread of myths is the belief that everyone knows how to think, and that no learning process is required. Certainly no education in efficient thinking is offered, either by parents or by schools. We are taught to walk, to read, to write, to play baseball, but the most important of all human functions is left to blind chance, to trial and error, to each man's unaided efforts; and assuming that the knowledge of how to think is self-evident, people take their own mental processes as necessarily valid, as not to be questioned or examined.

Barbara's focus here is not just on the "Principles of Efficient Thinking" but on those often tacit practices that undermine the capacity of the individual to think efficiently. From my Foreword to the book:

In Barbara Branden’s lectures, we are introduced to much of the early Objectivist vernacular: the capacity to augment "focus," the contrast between "back-seat driving" and "front-seat driving," between "concrete-bound thinking" and "thinking in principles," the nature of insight, intuition, creativity, and language. Included here are extended discussions of the psycho-epistemological premises underlying, and social functions served by, evasion and repression, as well as some of the earliest Objectivist statements of the rules of definitions, genus and differentia, equivalence, fundamentality, circularity, negatives, obscurity, and the purpose of ostensive definitions. We are given a grand lesson in how to recognize the means by which efficient thinking is undermined, through "thinking in a square," the obfuscation of language, the use of dogma, "cue words," sloganeering, memorized maxims and the often unrecognized employment of irreducible primaries, floating abstractions, frozen abstractions, frozen absolutes, false axioms, false analogies, false alternatives, and the aforementioned "stolen concepts." At the root of the stolen-concept fallacy in particular is the error of "context-dropping," and in the end, it is the supreme importance of "context-holding" that makes possible "the psycho-epistemological habit of integration." Barbara’s perceptiveness shines throughout; she understands the inextricable connection between "context-holding" and respect for the "Law of Non-contradiction." Like Rand, she indicts "the very institution supposedly devoted to the pursuit of knowledge—that is . . . today’s universities," which provide "the most blatant examples of the failure to integrate ideas into a consistent system."

For a person like myself, who has spent the bulk of his professional career championing "dialectics" as "the art of context-keeping," this book is virtually a manual on the practice of that art. It emphasizes the various skills that one must employ in grasping the larger context in one's analysis of any object, event, issue, or social problem. In fact, it provides a gold mine of insights on how the practice of context-keeping is essential to reality-based integration.

I recommend this work to all those who are interested not only in the principles of efficient thinking and in identifying the ill-formed habits that undermine it, but also to all those who are interested in the history of ideas, especially in the history of Objectivism as a philosophy. There is simply no comparable work like this in print. Many of us know of the oral tradition in Objectivism; not enough of that tradition has been committed to print. This work has been a long-underappreciated contribution to the canon of Objectivism, which Rand herself endorsed, even after her 1968 break with both Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden.

Fortunately, the Estate of Barbara Branden has not only made these lectures available to us as a printed record of an important aspect of Objectivist intellectual history; we are also treated to three additional lectures that enlighten us as to the various nuances and interpretive reflections that Barbara brought to this subject in her later years.

The book is a powerhouse. Get it. Read it. Savor it. It should be made part of your Bucket Reading List. The chief lesson that you will take away from it is that, indeed, you must "think as if your life depends on it . . . because it does!"

Postscript: This announcement was also noted by Anoop Verma here, here, and on Facebook.

June 17, 2017

Song of the Day #1462

Song of the Day: Copacabana (At the Copa) features the words and music of Jack Feldman, Joseph Thornton, and Barry Manilow, who was born on this date in 1943. This coming week, I will begin what has now become an annual Summer series: my Saturday Night Dance Party, though there will be many days during the week when we will be partying with dance music from today and yesterday. There was a time when if I heard Barry Manilow's name announced on the radio, I'd roll my eyes; that changed as the years went by, especially when I discovered his superb jazz-infused album, "2:00 A.M. Paradise Cafe," which featured the wonderful Johnny Mercer lyrics to "When October Goes," for which Manilow composed the music [YouTube link]. But for our Brooklyn birthday boy, I figured in keeping with the coming Dance Party entries, I'd feature the song that won Manilow a Grammy for Best Performance, Pop Male. So check out Lola at the Copa on this Dance Remix, the 2012 Remix, Lola Goes Wild Remix, Maxi Dance Mix and of course, the original single [YouTube links].

June 07, 2017

Song of the Day #1457

Song of the Day: Raspberry Beret features the words and music of our birthday boy, Prince, who would have turned 59 today, were it not for his untimely death in April 2016. This song went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985, the first release off of "Around the World in a Day," by Prince and the Revolution. The song was considered "neo-psychedelic pop" but the funk is always detectable. Check out a clip of the original single (alas, the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson has restricted access to his music).

May 29, 2017

Rothbard's Impact on "How I Became a Libertarian"

On a day when I memorialize those who fought and put their lives on the line during times of war (like my Uncle Sam), I also remember those who dreamt of a world without war, whatever differences of opinion I may have had with them. Among these was the Austrian economist and libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard, who had a huge impact on how I became a libertarian. I wrote on a Facebook thread:

All I know is that Murray Rothbard had an immense impact on me personally and on the libertarian movement generally; his scholarship---from his multivolume Conceived in Liberty and his work on The Panic of 1819 and America's Great Depression to his mammoth Man, Economy, and State and Power and Market and his Ethics of Liberty and his polemical For a New Liberty---is remarkable in its breadth; and his work on Left and Right certainly made its mark. I own a copy of A New History of Leviathan, a work he coedited with Ronald Radosh, and therein are terrific essays coming from revisionist historians among the new left and the libertarian right (including Rothbard and the great libertarian historian Leonard Liggio). [In fact, my own copy of that wonderful volume is inscribed by both Radosh, who wrote "Towards democratic socialism!" on one page and Rothbard, who wrote "For liberty and anti-Leviathan" on the next page!]
It was Rothbard who introduced me to the trailblazing work being done by folks like Gabriel Kolko and James Weinstein on the new left (especially their valuable revisionist scholarship on the Progressive era) and Walter Grinder and John Hagel on the libertarian right. My mentor, Bertell Ollman, a Marxist political theorist, praised Rothbard, despite their disagreements, for the depth of his scholarship and the principled stances he took against the Vietnam War, when they worked together in the Peace and Freedom Party. (And Ollman was no stranger to libertarian and classical liberal thinking; he was actually a Volker fellow who worked personally under Friedrich Hayek at the University of Chicago.)
Whatever flaws Rothbard had (and who doesn't have their blindspots?), he was a huge presence in the emergence of modern libertarianism and was among the folks who were part of my own journey of "How I Became a Libertarian" (now a part of the volume I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians).

May 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1456

Song of the Day: Star Wars: A New Hope ("Throne Room / End Title") [YouTube link], composed by the legendary John Williams, was part of the Oscar-winning soundtrack to the 1977 first installment (later known as "Episode #4") in the "Star Wars" franchise. On this date, forty years ago, the film made its debut, and the most epic space opera in cinema history was born. It is no secret that Williams's "Star Wars" scores have been among the most majestic achievements in his repertoire and so important to the success of this franchise. So Happy 40th Birthday to the first film. And May the Force Be With You!

May 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1455

Song of the Day: Moonraker ("Main Title"), lyrics by Hal David, music by John Barry, was the theme to the 1979 James Bond film, starring Roger Moore, who passed away today at the age of 89. Sean Connery remains my favorite Bond, but Moore had his moments. This song was the third Bond theme sung by Shirley Bassey, who had previously recorded the vocal themes to "Diamonds are Forever" and, most famously, "Goldfinger" [YouTube links]. Bassey provides different renditions of the song at the film's opening and the more upbeat end credits [YouTube links]. RIP, Roger Moore; and my deepest condolences to those of his fellow Brits, who are mourning today the deaths of those attending an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, victims of a shameful act of terror.

May 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1454

Song of the Day: Casino Royale ("You Know My Name") features the words and music of David Arnold and Chris Cornell, who died yesterday at the age of 52. This 2006 song features Cornell's lead vocals, from the first 007 film starring Daniel Craig as Bond, James Bond. Actually, Craig's "Skyfall" (2012) is one of my favorite Bond flicks). But today's tribute goes to Cornell, another talent gone too soon. Check out the opening credits [YouTube link], and while you're at it, check out Cornell's transformative version of the Michael Jackson hit, "Billie Jean" [YouTube link]. RIP, Chris Cornell.

May 14, 2017

Derek Jeter Day in the Bronx

Today, in the Bronx, at the iconic Yankee Stadium, the New York Yankees organization retires the Number 2 worn by its All-Star shortstop [YouTube link] from 1996 to his retirement in 2014. Derek Jeter remains pure class in my scorebook; he was the face of baseball for nearly two decades, especially at a time when the sport was being routinely sullied by juicing scandals. It is not by pure chance that this day of tribute falls on "Mother's Day"; Jeter has always spoken of how deeply his mother, his father, and his family have given him inspiration and love. Today, all of New York and baseball fans everywhere will have a chance to share in that love.

Jeter's #2 Gets Retired at Yankee Stadium

I was fortunate enough to see Jeter play quite a few times at the old Yankee Stadium. His eloquent speech at the closing of that Stadium [YouTube link], (a year before he was among those players who went on to open the New Yankee Stadium, with a 2009 World Series Championship), his final All-Star Game appearance, his farewell speech to the home crowd, his final home game, his final tribute to the crowd, and his final career at-bat against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park (where even the Fenway Faithful applauded him) remain among the most poignant moments of his storied career [YouTube links].

His drive and his dedication to win and his passion for the game were a marvel to behold and a joy to watch. He was an absolute gem both at the plate and on the field. He was a five-time World Series champion, which included a 2000 Most Valuable Player Award for the Subway Series against the New York Mets. More than anything, he was, with that classic "inside-out" swing, a clutch hitter (having more than 200 hits per season eight times in his career). He was someone whom the opposition feared when the game was on the line. It was no misnomer when he earned the nickname "Captain Clutch," since his postseason play was as sparkling as his regular season statistics (he retired with a career .310 regular season average, and with a comparable .308 postseason average, having 200 total hits in his postseason history). But his postseason stats are even more remarkable, because they were earned against the best teams in baseball. Who can forget that "Mr. November" [MLB link] moment at the Stadium in 2001? It was at a time when New York City had more than its share of real heroes, but, like Hall of Fame New York Mets' catcher, Mike Piazza [YouTube link] before him, Jeter gave symbolic meaning to New York grit, at the center of three consecutive miraculous Yankee Stadium victories in New York (despite losing the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks in seven games).

Jeter holds many all-time franchise records for the New York Yankees, including most all-time hits (3,465), doubles (544), games played (2,747), stolen bases (358), times on base (4,716), plate appearances (12,602) and at bats (11,195). He was the 1996 Rookie of the Year, a 14-time All-Star (including a Most Valuable Player All-Star Game award the same year he was named World Series MVP). He won 5 Gold Glove Awards, 5 Silver Slugger Awards, 2 Hank Aaron Awards, and a Roberto Clemente Award. He was the 28th player in Major League Baseball History to pass the 3,000 hit mark. Always a teammate with a "flair for the dramatic," his 3000th hit was a home-run on a day in which he went 5 for 5, driving in the winning run. He is, in fact, the only Yankee player with more than 3,000 lifetime hits (which ranks sixth all-time among Major League Baseball players, and the most all-time hits by a shortstop).

Pause one moment and think about that.

Jeter has more hits for the Yankees than Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and the last Yankee shortstop to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Phil Rizzuto.

Check out some of Jeter's greatest plays, along with some of his greatest defensive plays (including the "flip play" in the 2001 playoffs against the Oakland Athletics and the flying-into-the-stands catch against the Boston Red Sox in 2004) [YouTube links].

I should digress a moment to provide a little personal context for my own celebration of this great ballplayer. Being a Yankee fan my whole life, I rooted mainly for a losing team; this was not the "GM" of American baseball that I'd heard about from my elders, who lived through the 1940s and 1950s. In my lifetime, there were two years of World Championships that I celebrated: 1977, with Reggie Jackson smacking three home runs in a single game, and the amazing 1978 comeback team, led by the overwhelming dominance of pitcher Ron Guidry (25-3). That team was down 14 1/2 games in July to the Boston Red Sox, and went on to win a one-game playoff against their notorious rivals, before eventually taking the World Series for a second consecutive year over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After that, except for a World Series loss in 1981 and a few exciting, but ultimately frustrating, years of "Donnie Baseball" (led by Team Captain Don Mattingly), the Yankees saw very little of the postseason. The Yankees may have been a New York institution, but New York has always been a National League town. After all, it once supported two National League teams: the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. So from the time of the Miracle Mets of 1969 through the 1986 World Champion Mets, even the late 1970s Yankees were just a blip on the baseball radar (in fact, in their own miracle 1978 season, you couldn't even find them on the back pages of New York's daily newspapers because the newspapers were on strike!).

For me, therefore, it was no coincidence that with the arrival of Derek Jeter in pinstripes as the full-time shortstop of the Yankees in 1996, the team began a renaissance that ended its eighteen-year drought in the World Series. With his matinee idol looks, remarkably steady demeanor, and incredible talent, he seemed perfectly matched for a city that demanded nothing but the best from its sports heroes, "a larger than life presence in a larger than life town," as sportscaster Michael Kay has put it. And from 1996 through 2001, with teams chockful of talent and Joe Torre's managerial expertise, the Yankees won four out of five World Series contests. It is no understatement to say that so much of this success was tied to Jeter's growing maturity as a ballplayer. Later, in 2009, Derek Jeter slipped a fifth World Series ring onto his gifted fingers, with the opening of the new Yankee Stadium.

More than anything, Derek Jeter proved to be a genuine leader, not just as a Captain of the team, but as a gentleman of the sport, a beloved man who inspires young players even today. In my book, #2 will always be #1. It was an honor to watch this man's career unfold. Like All-Star relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, who holds the all-time record for saves, and who is, no doubt, headed for Cooperstown, I hope to see "Captain Clutch" enter Cooperstown as well when he becomes eligible in 2020. For now, I'm just looking forward to hearing the voice of the late Bob Sheppard [YouTube link] introducing Derek Jeter as he steps up to be honored by the team with which he spent his entire baseball career -- a rarity nowadays, for sure. It was quite emotional for this fan to say "farewell" [YouTube link] to the Captain (the Yankees paid tribute to him back in September 2014 [YouTube link]). But it will be sheer delight to welcome him back home for this tribute.

Jeter recently said: "No one had more fun that I did. You're playing a game. . . . I understand that it is your job, it's your profession. You have a lot of responsibilities. But at the same time, you're playing a game, and you have to have fun. And if you don't have fun playing it, I think it's impossible to be good at it. I had fun. Every moment on the field was fun for me."

Jeter made it fun to be a Yankee fan. But that fun transcended the team for which he played. It was one of the most important gifts he gave to the game of baseball: Long live the Captain!

Postscript I [15 May 2017]: Take a look at the plaque unveiled at Yankee Stadium in honor of Jeter during yesterday's ceremony, and Derek's speech as well. And check out Mike Lupica's column today in the New York Daily News.

Postscript II [16 May 2017]: It was reported by the Associated Press that the ceremony to honor Jeter "was the most-viewed program in the New York area in its time period on Sunday night and the most-watched non-game in the history of the YES network . . ." The ceremony was also televised on ESPN. Check out this really sweet Budweiser tribute to #2 [YouTube link].

May 03, 2017

Song of the Day #1453

Song of the Day: The Every Thought of You, words and music by Reid Hall and Chuck Moore, was, for years, the theme song of "Private Screenings," hosted by the late TCM pioneer, Robert Osborne, who was born on this date in 1932. The version performed on the show is by jazz vocalist Rene Marie, in a smoky jazz room sort of way. Listen to this lovely song at 6:26 in the closing credits of a show [YouTube link] in which Osborne interviewed Liza Minnelli. Osborne was always at the top of his game; as a film historian, he participated in a "Buy the Book" program designed for educators and students, introducing viewers to "The Fountainhead." Check that out here [YouTube link]. In the meanwhile, do check out Rene Marie; finding her music has been a real eye- and ear-opener. Just wonderful.

April 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1452

Song of the Day: Too Darn Hot, words and music by Cole Porter, was written for the 1948 musical, "Kiss Me, Kate." It's another one of those songs from Ella's Porter Songbook album, and is an appropriate conclusion to our Centenary Tribute to the Great Ella Fitzgerald, who will always be Too Darn Hot [YouTube link]. Happy 100th, Ella!

April 24, 2017

Song of the Day #1451

Song of the Day: I Can See It, music by Harvey Schmidt, lyrics by Tom Jones, is a highlight from "The Fantasticks," the original production of which ran for 42 years Off-Broadway. It is also a highlight of "My Name is Barbra," the first of two studio albums that were tied-in to Barbra Streisand's television special of the same name, which won five Emmy Awards and Streisand's first of four Peabody Awards. For this album, Streisand won her third consecutive Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, Female. I was almost three years old when my mother returned from a Broadway show called "I Can Get it For You Wholesale," having enjoyed the production, but telling us that this one performer, "no beauty," had such a voice that she stole the show. "This girl is going places," Mom said. And boy has she. Streisand has collected ten Grammy Awards, along with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Grammy Legend Award, a Special Tony Award, nine Golden Globe Awards, two Oscars, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, an AFI Life Achievement Award, and a Kennedy Center Honor. Even though we are in the middle of an Ella Fitzgerald Centenary Salute, which concludes tomorrow, I don't think Ella would have minded one bit giving a "shout-out" to Brooklyn Babs, who today celebrates her 75th birthday. This is one of my all-time favorite early Streisand recordings. Check out the song, arranged and conducted by Peter Matz, on YouTube.

Song of the Day #1450

Song of the Day: There's No You, music by Hal Hopper, lyrics by Tom Adair, was first published in 1944, but was covered on "Speak Love," the third of a series of albums that Ella recorded with jazz guitar great Joe Pass. There is a poignant rapport to the two artists as they "speak" to one another in this tender ballad. Check it out on YouTube.

April 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1449

Song of the Day: A Felicidade, music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes, is featured on the album Ella Abraca Jobim, and is the only song in our tribute not sung in English! The album features so many of the very famous and melodic Jobim songs, but this is one of those rarely heard gems, with the same wonderful Brazilian flavor one would expect from the great composer, and that touch of swing one would expect from Ella. Check it out on YouTube.

April 22, 2017

Song of the Day #1448

Song of the Day: Just One of Those Things, words and music by Cole Porter, was written for the 1935 musical "Jubilee." The song is featured on the first of Ella's great songbook albums, released in 1956 as the first album for a new label: Verve Records. The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000 and one of fifty recordings selected by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. Check out Ella's rendition on YouTube.

April 21, 2017

Song of the Day #1447

Song of the Day: Love is Here To Stay, music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, was written for the 1938 film, "The Goldwyn Follies." This jazz standard has been recorded by so many artists through the years, and is another one of those that can be heard in two versions, like yesterday's featured entry: one, a solo version by Ella, the other a duet with Louis Armstrong [YouTube links], heard in the 1989 film "When Harry Met Sally."

April 20, 2017

Song of the Day #1446

Song of the Day: I Won't Dance, music by Jerome Kern, has two sets of lyrics: the first (in 1934 for the London Musical "Three Sisters") by Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach, the second (in 1935, for the film version of the Kern-Harbach musical "Roberta") by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh. It is the latter version that remains the most recorded, and Ella's Grammy-Award winning rendition with Nelson Riddle (from "Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson") is one of the best. Check it out on YouTube. And also check out another recording of the song that Ella performed with Louis Armstrong [YouTube link].

April 19, 2017

Song of the Day #1445

Song of the Day: A-Tisket A-Tasket, a traditional nursery rhyme first recorded in the late nineteenth century, was the basis for the million-selling hit by Ella Fitzgerald with the Chick Webb Orchestra [YouTube link] in 1938. Lyrically embellished by Al Feldman and Ella herself, this is the song that got our Centenary songstress off to a swinging start. Today we begin our mini-tribute to the First Lady of Song, as we move toward the 100th anniversary of her birth on April 25th.

Ella 100: Celebrating the Ella Fitzgerald Centenary

Introduction

On April 25, 1917, Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia. As we approach April 25, 2017, I will be celebrating the contributions of one of the greatest jazz singers in music history in commemoration of the centenary of her birth. Back in November 2015, when Notablog celebrated the Frank Sinatra Centenary, I took note of the fact that Sinatra himself referred to Ella as "The First Lady of Song." She brought to jazz many of the things that Ol' Blue Eyes emulated: impeccable diction, wonderful intonation, and an almost innate ability never to sing the same song the same way twice. Her improvisational gifts extended not only to her vocal phrasing but to her achievements in that unique art of jazz singing known as scatting.

Ella was raised on a steady diet of music from the likes of Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and the Boswell Sisters; in fact, it was largely in her embrace of Connee Boswell's style that she got her big breakthrough in 1934, when she competed in Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater. An enthusiastic response from the typically critical audience and from the musicians themselves launched what would become one of the most extraordinary careers of any singer in American popular culture.

Through Benny Carter, a saxophonist in the house band at the Apollo that fateful night, Ella was introduced to many of Harlem's premier musicians; she eventually joined the Chick Webb band, with whom, in 1938, she scored a #1 hit, "A-Tisket A-Tasket," which sold one million copies--not bad for an ol' nursery rhyme. Over time, she recorded with bands led by the musicians who exemplified the changing sounds of the era, from the King of Swing, clarinetist extraordinarie Benny Goodman to Dizzy Gillespie, a trumpeter charging into a new era with the sounds of be bop. Ella's style, emergent in the Swing era, slowly incorporated the idioms of bop, which contributed to her mastery of the art of scat singing, a form of wordless, improvisational vocalizing that allowed the singer to use the voice as if it were another instrument in the band. She actually married the bassist in Dizzy's band, Ray Brown, with whom she adopted a son, Ray, Jr. It was through Ray's producer and manager, Norman Granz, that Ella began appearing in his Jazz at the Philharmonic series, eventually recording a series of "Songbook" albums in the 1950s and 1960s devoted to the works of Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, and, later, in 1981, Antonio Carlos Jobim. This critically acclaimed work brought her international recognition as one of the foremost intepreters of the Great American Songbook.

Such acclaim manifested in fourteen Grammy Awards, a National Medal of the Arts, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. By the 1990s, Ella had recorded over 200 albums, giving her final concert at Carnegie Hall in 1991, the 26th time she had appeared at that iconic venue. She passed away at the age of 79 on June 15, 1996.

Ella's global impact makes it a difficult task to do a Centenary Tribute. Indeed, for years, I've been tributing this truly great singer with links to over seventy entries in "My Favorite Songs." I've cited Ella's renditions of the following songs, listed alphabetically--only, in this instance, I link not to my entries, but to YouTube presentations of her recordings, which means, you're a swinging click away from a touch of class. Prepare to be entertained: All of Me; All of You; All the Things You Are; All Right, Okay, You Win; Begin the Beguine; Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered; Bill Bailey (Won't You Please Come Home); Blue Moon; Blues in the Night; But Not for Me; Cheek to Cheek; Don't Be That Way; Don't Get Around Much Anymore; Early Autumn; Easy Living (with guitarist Joe Pass); (I Love You) for Sentimental Reasons; Give Me the Simple Life; Goody, Goody; Got to Get You Into My Life; The Glory of Love (with Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman; Goodnight My Love (with Benny Goodman); Have You Met Miss Jones?; Here's That Rainy Day; How Deep is the Ocean; How High the Moon; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; I Could Write a Book; I Got it Bad (and That Ain't Good); I'm Beginning to See the Light; I'm Confessin' (That I Love You); I'm Getting Sentimental Over You; In a Mellow Tone; It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing); It's All Right With Me; It's Only a Paper Moon; I've Got a Crush on You; Jersey Bounce; Jingle Bells; Joy to the World; The Lady is a Tramp (and check out her duet with The Chairman of the Board); Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!; Love for Sale; Mack the Knife; The Man that Got Away; My One and Only Love; My Romance; My Shining Hour; O Little Town of Bethlehem; Once I Loved (with guitarist Joe Pass); Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone; 'Round Midnight (live with Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown); Runnin' Wild; Santa Claus is Coming to Town; Solitude; Sophisticated Lady; Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most; Stairway to the Stars; Stella By Starlight; Sunshine of Your Love; Sweet Georgia Brown (live with the Duke Ellington Orchestra); Take the A Train; Tenderly (with Louis Armstrong); That Old Black Magic; That's Jazz (scatting with Mel Torme); These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You); This Can't Be Love; This Could Be the Start of Something Big; Too Close for Comfort; What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?; Whatever Lola Wants; With a Song in My Heart; and (If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini) [again: all YouTube links to enjoy!]

This list doesn't come close to the breadth of Ella's discography. Over the next week, leading up to April 25th, I'll feature just a few more gems from the Songbook of its First Lady.

And now the inevitable question: Can I give you a Top Ten list of Favorite Fitzgerald Recordings? Well, to paraphrase one of the classic lines from a Jerome Kern song I will highlight this week: I can't say... don't ask me! That's not a dismissal; it's just a reality. The woman recorded and performed so many songs in so many different arrangements throughout the years, that I would be hard pressed to pick ten specific recordings or performances. So let me just say: I love Ella. Start here and spend the next week with me, and you'll understand why.

April 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1444

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Suite") [YouTube link], composed by today's birthday boy, Miklos Rozsa, includes all of the sweeping themes for the grand 1959 epic "Tale of the Christ," starring Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur [YouTube documentary on Chuck]. This is, to my knowledge, the only suite I have heard that is different from any other pieces I have already highlighted from the soundtrack of my all-time favorite film. But what makes it so very special is that it features the composer himself conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (in 1979). It is a special treat to see this man so alive with the music of the score that remains his crowning achievement. It is a true genius that we honor today [pdf link to my Rozsa essay] on the 110th anniversary of his birth [YouTube documentary on Rozsa]. Tomorrow, we begin a week-long Centenary Tribute to another musical legend from an entirely different genre. Just don't drop your brown and yellow basket because within a week, it'll be filled with the glory of Ella.

April 17, 2017

Song of the Day #1443

Song of the Day: Eye of the Needle ("Love Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Miklos Rozsa for this 1981 film based on the Ken Follett spy novel. This lush romanticism shows us another side to the man who composed scores for fantasy films, film noir, historical and Biblical epics, not to mention magnificent orchestral concert works.

April 16, 2017

Song of the Day #1442

Song of the Day: Quo Vadis? ("Overture") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa for the 1951 MGM film adaptation of the Henryk Sienkiewicz novel, helps us to mark Easter, which is celebrated today by both Western and Eastern Orthodox Christians. The phrase "Quo Vadis?" ("Where Are You Going?") appears in the Latin Bible in both the Old Testament (based on the Tanakh) and the New Testament (including an apocryphal book). It is said to have been asked to the risen Christ by Peter as he hurried along the Appian Way, away from Rome, where he would face certain execution under Emperor Nero. This musical overture is quintessential epic Rozsa, whose music I will feature for the next three days, as we celebrate the 110th anniversary of his birth. A Happy Easter to all my Christian friends! Christos Anesti! And to all my Jewish friends who have been celebrating Passover this past week: a Zesan Pesach [that's a special link to the entire Elmer Bernstein score for "The Ten Commandments", given that Bernstein himself celebrated Rozsa by recording so many of his compositions over the years!]

April 06, 2017

Mr. Warmth is Gone But His Insults Live On

Don Rickles, the iconic comedian of insults, has passed away; I have busted an already busted gut several times through the years, watching his stand-up routines and sit-down interviews. An equal opportunity offender, RIP, Don [YouTube links].

March 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1440

Song of the Day: Johnny B. Goode features the words and music of Chuck Berry, who died today at the age of 90. A genuine rock and roll pioneer, Berry brought a wonderful R&B sensibility to his music.  This 1958 song [YouTube link] is one of his best, ranked in the Top Ten of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was also a comedic-musical highlight of the 1985 film "Back to the Future" [YouTube link] with Michael J. Fox. RIP, Chuck!

March 06, 2017

Robert Osborne, RIP

I was sad to learn today about the death of Robert Osborne, aged 84, who was selected as the host of the nightly broadcasts of Turner Classic Movies, when it opened up shop in 1994. He had been absent from this year's TCM annual "31 Days of Oscar" salute (which coincides with my own "Film Music February"), and viewers knew that he had not been well.

TCM has set up an Osborne Tribute page, which provides valuable information about the Peabody Award-winner's life and work. He was a warm and classy presence on a network dedicated to showing a broad range of cinema classics, uncut and typically, in their original theatrical format, from the silents to the contemporary era. His knowledge of film was astounding. I very much valued his presence on "The Essentials" (and his foreword to the book version, celebrating "52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter.") But more importantly, I valued his wonderful way of introducing a film, with poignancy, with wit, and always with respect for the craft of the cinema. There's a really wonderful TCM tribute that was aired on Osborne's 20th anniversary with the network; "Ben-Hur" was one of his favorites, but seeing the multiple takes of him trying to pronounce "La Cienega Boulevard" are a hoot!

I had written to him with regard to the two vastly different film versions (one flat-screen, the other becoming the first "CinemaScope" film release) of the 1953 Biblical epic, "The Robe," which is, ironically, being broadcast tonight, the first night of a month-long tribute to TCM's Star of the Month, Richard Burton. But I'd received no reply; I knew he was ill, and doubted I'd hear back from him.

He was a massive presence to lovers of the cinema as a beloved host, and he will be missed by loyal viewers of TCM. RIP, Robert.

Ed: TCM has announced that it will devote 48 hours of its broadcast schedule (the weekend of March 18-19, 2017) to tributing Robert Osborne.

February 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1438

Song of the Day: Hacksaw Ridge ("One at a Time") [YouTube link], composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, encapsulates an extraordinary motif in this shattering 2016 film, which tells the story of Desmond Doss, who served as a conscientious objector during World War II, receiving the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of an estimated 75 infantrymen in the Battle of Okinawa, one man at a time. Andrew Garfield, who played Spiderman in two films, plays real-life superhero Doss, who refused to even hold a gun or to kill another human being in military engagement, but vowed to save human life as a medic on the battlefield. It is a role for which Garfield has earned a well-deserved 2016 Best Actor Oscar nomination. I have seen many films concerning "war and peace" in my life, and this Mel Gibson-directed Oscar-nominated Best Picture, which depicts all of the unspeakable horrors and miraculous heroism of battle, easily makes my Top Ten-ish list in that cinematic genre. [Ed: See also Lawrence Read's FEE essay, "Hacksaw Ridge Deserves an Oscar for Redefining Heroism."]

February 24, 2017

Song of the Day #1437

Song of the Day: Cinq Jours en Juin (Five Days in June: "Love Makes the Changes") [YouTube link] features the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and the music of Michel Legrand, who was born on this date in 1932. Legrand also directed this 1989 film, and in case you were wondering, the song is delivered with soul and grace by the only Ray Charles, accompanied by the greatest jazz harmonica player to have ever graced this earth, Toots Thielemans, both men no longer with us. The soundtrack is pure Legrand, but boasts a few pieces by some lightweight composers, folks like Frederic Chopin and Johann Sebastian Bach. In any event, Happy 85th Birthday to one of my all-time favorite musical innovators, a brilliant and legendary composer who also happens to be a remarkable jazz musician.

February 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1436

As I stated on Facebook:

Today, as our Film Music February series moves toward its final weekend, I tribute Manton Moreland---one of the greatest and most talented African American comic actors, a trailblazer who broke through the walls of the cinema with his remarkable timing and often improvised use of the double entendre. It's exhibited in today's featured music from Kay's soundtrack to this 1941 film.

Song of the Day: King of the Zombies ("Main Title") [YouTube link, full movie, check the first minute), composed by Edward J. Kay, is from one of those classic comedy/horror hybrids. The 1941 film opens with music over ominous drumming. Remember that drumming, because it is key to one of the most memorable lines in the movie (at 1:00:52). With "voodoo" drums playing in the distance, Bill Summers, played by John Archer, asks his valet, Jefferson Jackson, played by the utterly hilarious Manton Moreland: "What does that sound like to you?" Moreland replies: "I don't know, but it ain't Gene Krupa."

February 19, 2017

Song of the Day #1432

Song of the Day: Hell to Eternity ("Main Title") [YouTube link], music by Leith Stevens (who provided that great score for the splendid 1953 George Pal production of "War of the Worlds"), is an appropriate theme to highlight on this day of remembrance, a day we forget at our peril, when the United States government opened internment camps during World War II for Japanese Americans. The 1960 film stars Jeffrey Hunter, along with David Janssen (who played Dr. Richard Kimble in the trailblazing TV series, "The Fugitive"). It is a biopic about Marine hero Guy Gabaldon Pfc. (played by Hunter), who went on to fight in the Pacific theater of the war, using his considerable Japanese language skills in the Battle of Saipan, where he persuaded the Japanese commander to order the surrender of about 1000 troops and 500 civilians.

February 07, 2017

Song of the Day #1420

Song of the Day: Batman ("Trust"), composed by Prince, features sampled horn parts from jazz trumpeters Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss. This Prince soundtrack album to the 1989 film, directed by Tim Burton, stars Michael Keaton as our Caped Crusader. The film also boasts an utterly off the wall, over-the-top, but still classically Jack Nicholson performance in the villainous role of the Joker (formerly played in the 1960s campy TV series by Cesar Romero, and later played much more darkly by the posthumously awarded Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winner Heath Ledger in the 1998 film, "The Dark Knight"). Check out this song and the scene in which it unfolds as well as a rockin' Shep Pettibone 12" dance remix [YouTube]. And so concludes our mini-tribute to Prince's film music repertoire.

February 06, 2017

Song of the Day #1419

Song of the Day: Under the Cherry Moon ("Kiss"), words and music by Prince, is heard in the 1986 film, which featured the first of many collaborations between the artist and jazz pianist Clare Fischer. The soundtrack to the film was marketed under the title of "Parade." This song was a huge hit; it went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot 12" Singles Sales, Hot US Club Play, and Hot Black Singles. Check out the single (it's #11 at this link). The song has been covered by many artists, but among the most fun-filled recordings is the one by Tom Jones. And it's not unusual! [YouTube links]. I'm sure that today Gisele Bundchen is not the only person wanting to Kiss Tom Brady, for leading the New England Patriots to an epic, comeback, overtime 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

February 05, 2017

Song of the Day #1418

Song of the Day: Purple Rain ("When Doves Cry"), words and music by Prince, is featured in the 1984 film and was the biggest hit single from the soundtrack album. The song went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Black Singles chart, and Dance/Disco chart. It is one of those notable R&B-inspired tracks lacking a bass line, but certainly not lacking in soul. On the soundtrack album, Prince plays all the instruments in addition to providing the vocals. Check out the music video [video link]. Some football fans are going to be crying at the end of Super Bowl Sunday; maybe this song will ease the agony of de-feet. If not, then watch the commercials for a laugh or embrace Lady Gaga's halftime show for a little shock and awe.

February 04, 2017

Song of the Day #1417

Song of the Day: Purple Rain ("Darling Nikki"), words and music by Prince, hit the Top Ten of the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart. It's a raw, sexually charged track from the 1984 film that prompted the use of "Parental Advisory" stickers on the soundtrack album, despite never having been released as a single. It has been covered by many artists, but there is only one Prince. Check out the film version [YouTube link].

February 03, 2017

Song of the Day #1416

Song of the Day: Purple Rain ("Purple Rain"), words and music by Prince, is the title track to the artist's quasi-autobiographical 1984 film. In 2016, I paid tribute to Prince on the occasion of his untimely death in a week-long celebration of his birthday in June. This week, as part of my annual celebration of film music, I feature a few classic songs from Prince's cinema repertoire. This iconic signature tune is one of his best. Check out the soundtrack album rendition on YouTube.

February 02, 2017

Song of the Day #1415

Song of the Day: King Kong ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by John Barry, has all those Barry signature touches of intrigue and mystery, which could be found in every one of the eleven James Bond film soundtracks he scored (and we shall not forget Ayn Rand, who was born on this date in 1905, was a fan of the early Bond films, especially "Dr. No," for which Barry was the uncredited arranger of the famous Monty Norman Bond motif, though there is lots of controversy surrounding who actually composed that theme). Sadly, this 1976 remake of the classic 1933 film doesn't quite live up to the majesty of the subject matter or the score, but the movie did introduce to the world of cinema, a wonderful actress in her first film role, Jessica Lange. The ending, like all the "King Kong" remakes does feel a bit like Groundhog Day (because the fate of our famous ape is sealed the moment he is brought to New York City). But this particular film features an ending that fans of the Twin Towers will never forget.

January 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1413

Song of the Day: Mary Tyler Moore Show ("Love is All Around"), composed and performed by Sonny Curtis, was the opening theme of an iconic TV show from the 1970s, which spawned a few spin-off shows as well ("Rhoda," "Phyllis," and "Lou Grant"). Sadly, today, Mary Tyler Moore passed away at the age of 80. This was one of those series that was part of my youth and gave me plenty of laughs (who can forget the death of Chuckles the Clown [YouTube link to full episode]?). Then again, I liked her going all the way back to the "Dick Van Dyke Show." Check out the theme song on YouTube, which includes variations of the theme as it evolved over the seasons during which it was on broadcast television (especially with that Cute Kitten Meow at the End Credits). RIP, Mary!

January 01, 2017

Song of the Day #1411

Song of the Day: Funky New Year, words and music by Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bob Seger and J. D. Souther, was recorded by the Eagles, among the newest Kennedy Center Honorees, as the B-side to "Please Come Home For Christmas" [YouTube link], first made famous by Charles Brown. Check out the Funky single and a Funky live version too [YouTube links]. A happy, healthy, and very funky 2017 to all!

December 28, 2016

Song of the Day #1410

Song of the Day: Singin' in the Rain ("Good Morning"), music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed, made its debut in the 1939 film "Babes in Arms." But it was made super-famous by the wonderful singing-and-dancing trio of Donald O'Connor, Gene Kelly, and Debbie Reynolds in the great 1952 movie musical "Singin' in the Rain" (and while you're at it, check out the original Garland-Rooney "Babes in Arms" performance) [YouTube links]. Yesterday, I posted a tribute to Carrie Fisher, who died at the age of 60. I have just learned of the death of her 84-year old mom. To have to post, a day later, a tribute to Reynolds, whose many movies and television appearances I so loved (from "The Debbie Reynolds Show" to "Will and Grace," where Reynolds debuted the "Told Ya So" dance [YouTube link]), just goes beyond tragedy. It is almost literally unbelievable to see within a few days, the deaths of celebrities such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and now, Debbie Reynolds. I am greatly saddened. For me, Debbie Reynolds was as "unsinkable" as Molly Brown. RIP, Debbie.

December 27, 2016

Song of the Day #1409

Song of the Day: Star Wars: A New Hope ("Princess Leia's Theme") [YouTube link], composed by the great John Williams, was first heard in "Episode Four," which for those who have been living under a galactic rock for 40 years, is actually the first film in the "Star Wars" franchise, which began in 1977. It is fitting to feature this theme in remembrance of the sad passing of the woman who first brought Princess Leia to life: Carrie Fisher, who died today at the age of 60. Daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, she was a gifted talent, who achieved many wonderful accomplishments in her life. But she will forever be identified with this role, which she also played in "The Empire Strikes Back" (Episode Five, 1980), "Return of the Jedi" (Episode Six, 1983), and "The Force Awakens" (Episode Seven, 2015). The setting of this epic space opera may have begun "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," but Fisher's force will be with us for light years to come. RIP, Carrie Fisher.

December 26, 2016

Song of the Day #1408

Song of the Day: Monkey features the words and music of George Michael, who, sadly, passed away at the age of 53 on Christmas Day 2016. Originally part of the duo Wham!, giving us a memorable song of the season ("Last Christmas"), Michael recorded a number of songs that have been among my favorites ("Feeling Good," "Kissing a Fool," "My Baby Just Cares for Me," and "If I Told You That," a duet with the late Whitney Houston). This track was a Top Ten R&B track that went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Dance Club Singles charts. A Jimmy Jam-Terry Lewis production, it was the fourth consecutive #1 hit from Michael's solo album, "Faith." It sported a deep bass line and a great sleaze dance beat. Check out the official video and the extended remix (with a few samples from "Hard Day" [YouTube links], another of Michael's adventures in funk). Back in 1987, when I was still doing the occasional mobile DJ gig, I'd have a ball with those two turn tables remixing the 12" vinyl records (remember those?) to packed dance floors. RIP, George. He'll be missed.

December 20, 2016

Song of the Day #1405

Song of the Day: With Plenty of Money and You features the words and music of Harry Warren and Alexander "Al" Dubin. Back in the sizzling summer, we celebrated a week-long tribute to the great Tony Bennett, who turned 90 on August 3rd. On that date, the singer was honored with an Empire State Building Light Show [YouTube link] and an all-star tribute concert that was recorded for a 2-hour primetime special to be broadcast tonight on NBC. This "song of the day" comes from an album originally titled "Basie Swings, Bennett Sings" but was also marketed as "Strike Up the Band." Either way, this song cooks. For music afficionados, see if you can hear a tiny lick of "Sweet Georgia Brown" in that burnin' Basie big band chart. Check out the swinging tune on YouTube.

December 13, 2016

Ralph Raico, RIP

I have just learned from friends and colleagues that historian extraordinaire, Ralph Raico, passed away. I first met Ralph when I was an undergraduate at NYU, attending various liberty intensives sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies. He was a celebrated member of the Circle Bastiat, which constituted an intellectual and activist salon; it included folks like Murray Rothbard, Ronald Hamowy, George Reisman, and Robert Hessen, and had some celebrated encounters with the Rand circle of the mid-to-late 1950s (with Reisman and Hessen joining the growing circle around Ayn Rand). Ralph's recollections of those encounters bordered on classical theater.

I remember Ralph as being a remarkably passionate lecturer, and a wonderfully kind and considerate scholar, who gave me deeply appreciated personal and professional advice in our various encounters through the years. And he never lacked for a hilarious sense of humor. A founder of the New Individualist Review, he was a libertarian who was often unwilling to cede to contemporary liberals the label of "classical liberalism." A principled and decent human being he was; another light of liberty has dimmed.

RIP, Ralph.

December 12, 2016

Song of the Day #1404

Song of the Day: This Happy Madness (Estrada Branca), music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes, with English lyrics by Gene Lees, was recorded by Jobim and Francis Albert Sinatra, who was born on this date 101 years ago today. Readers might recall that last year I did a three-week tribute in song on the occasion of the Sinatra Centenary. But December 12th never ceases to be a day to honor Ol' Blue Eyes. This particular song was recorded for the album, "Sinatra & Company," released in 1971, but is also to be found on the wonderful "Complete Reprise Recordings" of Sinatra and Jobim. A wonderful day to celebrate the talents of two of the finest artists to have ever graced this planet. Check out this lovely song on YouTube.

December 09, 2016

Song of the Day #1403

Song of the Day: Spartacus ("Overture"), composed by Alex North, is featured on this day, the 100th birthday of the very much alive actor, Kirk Douglas. From his starring roles in such movies as "Champion," "Lust for Life," and "The Bad and the Beautiful" (all for which he received Oscar nominations in the category of Best Actor) to "Paths of Glory" and his seven films with Burt Lancaster (including "Seven Days in May"), Douglas has been Hollywood royalty for decades. He was awarded an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement [YouTube link]. But there are few films that capture his grit at its most heroic than the Stanley Kubrick-directed 1960 blockbuster, "Spartacus." Happy birthday to the "Young Man with a Horn." And instead of singing Happy Birthday, I'd like to stand up and say: "I'm Spartacus."

John Glenn, RIP

One of my earliest memories as a child was sitting in front of the black-and-white TV we owned, which was the centerpiece of our living room. It was February 20, 1962. I had just turned two years old on February 17th, and the 20th was my mother's birthday (and the birthday of my best pal, Paul, who lived in the apartment next to us). Maybe it was because it was Mom's birthday, or maybe it was just because I was, at two years old, completely and utterly dazzled by the images I saw on the small screen that day.

John Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, having lifted off from Cape Canaveral in his Friendship 7 rocket, among the very first group of astronauts of the young Mercury program. And he orbited our planet three times before making a dramatic splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is amazing to me that I have such vivid memories of that day in front of the television set; it would be my freshman orientation, so-to-speak, with what became a lifelong education and love affair with the very idea of space travel. In later years, we'd sit in front of the TV to see the Apollo 11 moonlanding and to view the first two human beings from the planet Earth to walk on the moon. I was pinned to the TV when Apollo 13's crew announced, "Houston, we have a problem." I saw a rover drive across the surface of the moon, and the Apollo-Soyuz dockings, and the heartbreaking, tragic Challenger disaster. I have never lost my childlike fascination with space, with the potential of space travel, and with the heroic spirit that motivated those space travelers, each taking "one small step for a man," and "one giant leap for mankind."

This is all quite apart from any of the political dimensions that surround the dawn of the space age, or the political career of Glenn, when he served as Senator of Ohio (and got mixed up in political scandal. Hat tip to Christopher Baker!).

For this two-year old, still lurking inside me, Glenn's flight still encompasses the majesty and wonder of human achievement.

And so it is with sadness that I learned of the passing of John Glenn yesterday, December 8, 2016. He provided me with my first encounter with space travel; that the memory has stayed with me in such a vivid way for over 54 years now is almost as remarkable as the event itself. It was Glenn who ignited, in this two year old, the seeds of the belief in a world of boundless possibilities.

RIP, John Glenn. And thank you.

Postscript: In the Facebook discussion that followed, some questions were raised about John Glenn's post-astronaut, political career, and, by extension, about the nature of government intervention that made the space program possible. I added the following comment:

Thank you Caroline, and Christopher, read the blog entry: I give you a hat tip! I added the point about the political ramifications of the space program (and the political scandals with which Glenn's name is linked) as outside the context of this specific post: how a 2-year old kid watched a man leave the ground atop a rocket, only to orbit the Earth three times and return safely to that Earth. That thrill is forever etched in my mind, regardless of what Glenn was (as a man) or who he became (as a politician). And regardless of the fact that the US space program was government-funded on taxpayer revenue seized by force, by definition, that achievement is what it is. Ayn Rand herself made the distinction of being able to celebrate the moon landing, as a triumph of human achievement, while being opposed to the funding of programs to propel man into space. She was deeply aware of the kinds of distortions in the evolving structure and development of production that resulted anytime the government has stepped in to socialize the risks of "development", as it did with the building of transcontinental railroads in the 19th century (see her essay, "Apollo 11," September 1969, "The Objectivist"). She wrote that the " 'conquest of space' by some men ... [was] accomplished by expropriating the labor of other men who are left without means to acquire a pair of shoes." She points out, of course, that in the space program, taxpayer funding notwithstanding, "the scientists, the technologists, the engineers, the astronauts were free men acting of their own choice. . . . Of all human activities, science is the field least amenable to force: the facts of reality do not take orders." This said, Rand was also aware of another sobering fact: that when government does become heavily involved in the directions of scientific research, what often results is an interventionist dynamic that alters everything from educational to economic institutions, resulting in a self-perpetuating system that leads to a kind of 'military-science-industrial complex' more suited to producing the means and weapons of mass destruction, rather than tools for mass creation. Check out my expanded section in the second edition of "Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical", in Chapter 12, "The Welfare-Warfare State," as well as the story of Project X in Rand's magnum opus, "Atlas Shrugged."

I also added:

I should add that there is much to be said about what Murray Rothbard called the power of the market to transform the products emerging from coercive intervention into products that are of use to consumers, what he called, "a process of converting force to service." See Chapter 6 of my book, "Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism."

December 07, 2016

A Day of Infamy Remembered on Its 75th Anniversary

Seventy-five years ago, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese in what Franklin Delano Roosevelt later termed "a date which will live in infamy." Without even raising any of the historical or political preconditions or effects of this singular event in world history, I'd just like to re-post a link to a Memorial Day tribute I wrote in honor of my Uncle Sam, the man who so influenced me as a child and young adult, that I dedicated my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical to him. I re-post this to show the very real human consequences of that historical event. It can be found on the Liberty and Power Group blog, a 2004 post, A Memorial Day Tribute to Uncle Sam.

December 02, 2016

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

On this day, marking the one-year anniversary of the San Bernardino terror attack, I pause to remember the victims and the survivors.

And yet, somehow, we have survived. There is a culture of life in this country, but especially in this city, New York City, the grandest city on earth, which in 2001 suffered a horrendous attack of its own.

Nothing seems to dampen this country's (or this city's) ability to rise above the rubble, not even a contentious election that has left many of us with the feeling that Armageddon is around the corner. Yet, from the moment Santa Claus comes riding into town at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on its 90th anniversary, surrounded by about a thousand cops, seen and unseen, with submachine guns, something good happens to this city.

Indeed, every time you think the world is heading for the apocalypse, just turn on the Hallmark Movie Channel, where they've been showing Christmas movies nonstop practically since Halloween! The other night I was watching Happy the Cat and Happy the Dog on The Happy Yule Log---and I'm a long-time fan of the ol' WPIX Yule Log, so you know you have to go a long way to move this New York loyalist! But moved I was. How could I not be?

And on Wednesday night, thousands of people gathered around Rockefeller Center in the pouring rain to watch the annual Christmas Tree lighting, along with Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Donald Trump (actually actor and SNL Donald-impersonator Alec Baldwin) and Hillary Clinton (actually SNL comic and Hillary-impersonator Kate McKinnon), striking a chord for unity. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can dampen the New York Values that light up our streets and our hearts at this time of year. This city is a universe unto itself, and if you've not seen the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall or the remarkable light displays that blanket Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, well, you ain't seen nothin'!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas; we live to grieve those who have lost their lives on American soil on this sad anniversary (in which people were murdered in a facility filled with celebratory Christmas decorations), but we embrace the warmth of a holiday season that reminds us how much life is worth living.

November 13, 2016

Song of the Day #1401

Song of the Day: This Masquerade features the words and music of Leon Russell, who passed away today at the age of 74. Like "A Song for You," this song is one of my favorite Russell compositions. It first appeared on his 1972 "Carney" album, but became a Top Ten Billboard Hot 100 and R&B hit for jazz guitarist and vocalist George Benson. The recording was Benson's first single release, appearing on his signature 1976 album, "Breezin'" and it went on to receive the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Check out the Russell original and Benson's recording as well [YouTube links]. And check out a more recent version by the son of Barbra Streisand: Jason Gould. RIP, Leon Russell.

November 12, 2016

Song of the Day #1400

Song of the Day: Hallelujah features the words and music of Leonard Cohen, who passed away on Monday, November 7th, at the age of 82. Featured on his 1984 album, "Various Positions," the song would go on to much fame in film ("Shrek"), and in renditions by John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang, the jazz-infused Lon Hope, the "Gentle" alto Sax, Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris and our newest Nobel laureate for literature, poet-folk-rocker Bob Dylan [YouTube links]. But in remembrance of the remarkable songbook he left behind, it's fitting to return to the Cohen original [YouTube link]. RIP, Leonard.

November 11, 2016

Song of the Day #1399

Song of the Day: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ("Main Themes"), composed by the great Jerry Goldsmith, graced the original TV show in various iterations for its mid-1960s small-screen run. It led to a series of spin-offs and film adaptations, including a 2015 movie version. The show was inspired by Ian Fleming's James Bond series; indeed, Fleming contributed to the development of the original show, which featured two characters, one Soviet and one American, who join forces in a secret international counter-espionage agency called U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law Enforcement). The Soviet agent, Illya Kuryakin, was played by the handsome, blond David McCallum and the American agent, Napoleon Solo, was played by cleft-chinned Robert Vaughn. It was a fun show that I'll always remember from my childhood. I post this theme in remembrance of Robert Vaughn, who passed away today at the age of 83.

November 04, 2016

Don Kates, RIP

Many years ago, when I was an NYU undergraduate, I became a founding member of the NYU chapter of Students for a Libertarian Society. We staged many events over the years, from protests against draft registration under the administration of Jimmy Carter to all-day Liberty events covering everything from domestic to foreign policy. At one of these events, dealing with gun control and Second Amendment rights, we invited a speaker who turned political labels upside down. He was Don B. Kates, Jr., the editor of a remarkable collection of essays titled, Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out. The book was a revelation to me, and whether you disagreed or agreed with any of its contributors, one thing was for certain: Don Kates was a man who never tired of challenging the status quo. He was one of the most provocative writers and speakers who was ever featured at an event on the subject of gun control that I've ever witnessed then, or now.

Through the years, I have been privileged to be on his mailing list, enjoying his many enlightening posts and discussions, which always required you to pause and reflect, and occasionally, to just laugh out loud at the craziness of the world.

I was saddened to hear today that he passed away on November 1, 2016. I wish to send my deepest sympathies to his family and friends. He will be missed.

Postscript: On reflection, I remember that many years ago, Don had spoken to my mother a number of times on the phone, especially as I prepared for the SLS "gun control" event. He remarked that my mother had a voice like Lauren Bacall. Mom was elated. And he gave us a great laugh. He'd routinely ask me how "Lauren" was doing, after Mom had been diagnosed later with lung cancer.

September 20, 2016

Song of the Day #1394

Song of the Day: Velas, composed by Ivan Lins and Vitor Martins, is played with lilting beauty by Toots Thielemans on this standout Quincy Jones-Johnny Mandel-arranged track from the 1981 Quincy Jones album, "The Dude." The album itself received twelve Grammy Award nominations, and this track won in the category of "Best Arrangement of an Instrumental Recording" (though losing in the category of "Best Pop Instrumental Recording"). Quincy went on to take top honors as Producer of the Year, for this utterly superb album, one of my all-time favorites. The Toots track only provides another touch of class to an already classy album. Check out the original album cut, and while you're at it, check out his rendition of another famous Q track, "Killer Joe" [YouTube link] (written by Benny Golson). RIP, dear Toots.

September 19, 2016

Song of the Day #1393

Song of the Day: Sesame Street ("Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street"), composed by Joe Raposo, originally featured the ever-recognizable harmonica of the late, great jazz musician Toots Thielemans [YouTube link]. A vocal version often opened the series (and check out the Jimmy Fallon-Roots version as well) [YouTube links], while Thielemans closed it out in a strictly instrumental rendering. I just learned of the death of this jazz giant, who passed away at the age of 94 on August 22, 2016. He was one of my all-time favorite musicians. Now, while this theme closes our mini-tribute to TV themes for 2016, it also opens a two-day tribute to Toots. I first heard his talents on display when he whistled in unison with his melodic and inventive improvisational guitar playing, so deeply influenced by Django Reinhardt, on an original Toots composition [a .pdf file], which became his signature tune: "Bluesette" [YouTube link]. So when I was later introduced to his harmonica playing, I was utterly floored by what I heard. (In fact, he played a harmonica rendition of that classic composition in a live harmonica duet with Stevie Wonder [YouTube link].) Whether he was enriching the sounds of a film score ("Midnight Cowboy," "Sugarland Express" [YouTube links]), accompanying such artists as Vanessa Williams and Sting on "Sister Moon" [YouTube link], or conjoining his musical talents with the incomparable Michel Legrand for a lovely rendition of the main theme from the Oscar-winning 1971 Legrand film score for "The Summer of '42" [YouTube link], Toots could play that small instrument with all the dexterity of a jazz saxophonist. Check out his jazz work on such tunes as "Au Privave" [YouTube link] (a live recording with guitarist Joe Pass and pianist Oscar Peterson), "The Days of Wine and Roses" [YouTube link] (with jazz pianist Bill Evans), and "Manha de Carnaval" [YouTube link], from the first of a two-volume collection of melodic, lyrical Brazilian classics.

September 15, 2016

Zornberg's "Jews, Quakers and the Holocaust"

Jews, Quakers and the Holocaust: The Struggle to Save the Lives of Twenty-Thousand Children
By Ira Zornberg

Available in both Kindle and paperback editions from Amazon.com.


It is customary in reviews of this sort to state one's biases upfront. With author Ira Zornberg, I have an enormous bias. As I said in an interview in Full Context , Ira Zornberg had a "big influence on me." He was my Social Studies teacher at John Dewey High School, who was the first teacher in the United States to bring the study of the Holocaust to high school students." I credit him for his encouragement of my growing political philosophy and for my first forays into political writing and academic editing. Indeed, he was the faculty advisor of the school's social studies newspaper, Gadfly, of which I eventually became editor-in-chief. I knew that I was making waves when one of the front-page essays I wrote, criticizing the school's "Young Socialist Alliance," ended up face forward in the boy's bathroom, in the urinal, where it had been baptized by human excrement. If they ain't talkin' about you, or pissin' on you, you ain't makin' a difference. One of the lessons I learned early on.

But the lessons I learned from Zornberg in that trailblazing class on the Holocaust were lessons I simply could never have learned anywhere else or in any other gifted high school. At least back then, John Dewey High School was a shining beacon that encouraged independent study. With a school year divided into five cycles, the school provided specialized course offerings that ran the gamut from the Crusades to the Kennedy assassination. But Zornberg's course was unique for its intensity and sheer depth. We studied the origins of anti-Semitism, the birth of the national socialist movement in Germany, the waning days of the Weimar Republic, the rise of the Third Reich, and the tribalist. racist, and anti-Semitic cultural premises that empowered it. Such premises provided a rationale for a "Final Solution" that led to the inversion of the rule of law, the destruction of "undesirables," and a war against European Jewry that culminated in a network of concentration camps and the systematic slaughter of millions of people.

Ultimately, however, the biggest lesson that Zornberg taught me was to be true to your convictions, to engage your critics constructively, and to value civil discourse. I learned too that this was a man who embodied intellectual honesty and a sense of justice that required a recognition of the inviolability of individual human dignity. His serious commitment to the teaching of history and his remarkable capacity as mentor and guide, made an indelible mark on my young student's mind. Then, as today, I honor him, and I am proud to call him my friend.

So, when Superstorm Sandy hit, and I learned that Zornberg had lost virtually all of his library and his 40+ years of lesson plans, I offered to send him all the copious notes I took from his Holocaust class. After the October 10, 2013 fire that nearly consumed our apartment, I had the occasion to completely reorganize my file system, and among the things that survived were all my notes and papers from his superb course, which I attended as a senior at Dewey. I photocopied them and sent them to him; he expressed appreciation for the accuracy of my notetaking, which reflected the mind of a young student, whose answers raised even more questions, questions that could never be answered quite to my satisfaction. After all, students of history and even a generation of scholars who have written hundreds of books in the Holocaust, have been probing the madness of genocide for eons, and it is virtually impossible to wrap one's mind around the kind of phenomenon that could possibly give birth to a multiplicity of savage cruelties, ingenious forms of torture, and sophisticated instruments of mass murder, all used by real human beings to destroy the lives of other real human beings. I remember discovering Ayn Rand during that final year of high school, and I shared Leonard Peikoff's book, The Ominous Parallels, with my teacher. But the nightmare of the Holocaust remains deeply embedded in my mind, if only for the sheer scale of human horror that it exhibited.

Which makes reviewing his new book all the more wonderful---because this man of honor has turned out a book that reflects all the virtues and values he exemplified as a great teacher. And he is teaching us still. I was ecstatic to learn of my former teacher's continuing work in this area of study. His new book on the subject, Jews, Quakers and the Holocaust: The Struggle to Save the Lives of Twenty-Thousand Children, is more than a revelation; it is a testament not only to the horrors of Nazi Germany, but to the heroic, largely thwarted, efforts of some to save the lives of others: those who were slated for extermination by Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. As Zornberg tells us in his introduction, this book

describes the causes of the immigration crisis of 1939, the response of those who were the targets of its venom, the efforts of American Jews to assist people of their faith, the denial of locations for resettlement, the Kindertransport in Europe, and the struggle led by Christians who fought to save the lives of Jewish children. It identifies people who labored to save the lives of the Jewish children. It cites the arguments and acts of those who fought for the passage of the Wagner-Rogers Bill, and the arguments employed by its adversaries. The struggle to win congressional approval for that bill failed.
This is an American story because it is a part of the history and debate over the nature of U.S. immigration policies. . . . This story adds to our common knowledge of the U.S. immigration policies, and will hopefully provide an additional basis for constructive contemporary reasoning.

Zornberg provides us first with an historical context, a portrait of a complex "background" to the cataclysm that was to engulf Germay, Europe, and eventually the world. We move from the tribalist and racist biases that were deeply embedded in German culture to the birth of the Nuremberg Laws, which encoded not the rule of law, but the rule of Aryan blood and the criminalization of Jewish blood. He discusses at length the response of German Jews to this perversion of law. Many emigrated to other countries. Indeed, an estimated 60,000 German Jews were among the
emigrees, and many of them had fought loyally as Germans during World War I. They eventually reached Palestine due to a "transfer agreement" between the German finance ministry and the Jewish Agency in Palestine.

We are given glimpses of rapidly unfolding events that both expressed and magnified the anti-Semitism of the Nazi regime. One of those glimpses of discrimination was on display at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, including the last minute removal of Marty Glickman" of the U.S. track team from several Olympic track events (Glickman was a classmate of my mother's at James Madison High School).

In 1938, the Night of Broken Glass ("Kristallnacht") followed, and slowly the exits from Europe were closing to Jews who sought to escape from the onslaught of Nazi brutality. It was in the wake of Kristallnacht, Zornberg tells us, that the "Quakers were to assume important roles in the effort to assist Jews," focusing especially on rescuing Jewish children from German territories.

It is not that Jews were silent during these years of growing repression. But the response of Jews and non-Jews alike, in America, was far more complicated and complex. Anti-Semitism knew no national boundaries, and it was alive and well in the United States of America, a country whose various government sterilization programs for the "unfit" inspired Hitler himself.

Yes, the United States had a history of welcoming immigrants. Indeed, the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, was not a hollow symbol taking up space in New York Harbor. It gave expression to the principles of freedom that encapsulated the promise of America. And yet, throughout U.S. history, various quotas on immigration existed, and in the context of post-World War I America, the "Emergency Quota Act of 1921" was enacted, illustrative of the emergent, and growing, isolationist political culture. By the time of the Great Depression, with unemployment reaching historic heights, Zornberg writes, the demands for even greater "limits to immigration came from many quarters, and they provided a cover for those whose intent was to limit the immigration of Jews without openly saying so.

So, though many Jews fought hard to lobby Congress and other organizations to make America a refuge for those seeking freedom from Nazi tyranny, they were keenly aware that anti-Semitism was a reality in the U.S., and, Zornberg argues, this "helps explain why many Jewish organizations chose to be supportive of Christian efforts to assist refugees rather than assume the public face of those efforts," which would have only further fueled such anti-Semitism.

The portrait Zornberg paints of these heroic Christian efforts is both poignant and instructive.

The story is a testament to a Quaker act of human decency and it is at the soul of Zornberg's work in this extraordinary book. It is an inspiring tale that uplifts the human spirit. The attention to detail that Zornberg exhibits in his exploration of this historical episode is exemplary. We learn that politics is politics no matter what era of history we study. He examines in great detail the heroic roles of such people as New York psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Marion Kenworthy in calling for an American Kindertransport and of Clarence Pickett of the Quakers' American Friends Service Committee in fighting for the passage of the Wagner-Rogers Bill, which would have allowed for the entrance into America of 20,000 Jewish children under the age of 14. The bill never came to a vote, getting no help from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was clearly "not emotionally committed to saving European Jews." The political machinations that went on in the fight for this bill are revealed by Zornberg in all their shameful details.

Ultimately, of course, the Quakers were involved in worldwide efforts to stem the tide of terror; the historical record shows that the American Friends Service Committee "chose Jewish children from [their] homes and refugee camps in southern France for transfer to the United States under the auspices of the U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children," exhibiting "that interfaith activity on behalf of European Jews could be successful."

But this success, however modest, does not erase the dishonorable actions of politicians and various opinion-makers who brought the Wagner-Rogers Bill down to defeat.

I must say that Zornberg's epilogue alone is worth the price of admission. He reminds us that in 1939, when the Wagner-Rogers Bill was crushed by political cowardice, many Americans had embraced an Action comic book hero in Superman, a character developed by Jerry Siegel and Joel Schuster, two Jews living in Cleveland. Zornberg concludes powerfully:

As an adult, Superman fights the forces of evil, intent upon world domination. In embracing Superman as an American hero, Americans were embracing a survivng child, an alien, as a defender of our nation. This was something our lawmakers in the spring of 1939 refused to do.

The problem of immigration is surely one that continues to plague the U.S. political landscape to this very day; the issues may differ considerably from the crises of the 1930s, but the threats today are certainly no worse than the threats posed by the Third Reich. If nothing else, Zornberg's book provokes us to focus on yesterday's history and today's issues with the care of a highly-skilled surgeon's scalpel, rather than with the sledgehammer of the various demagogues among us.

This is a five-star book that I cannot more strongly recommend. In a summary of the above review, I say at Amazon.com ("A Provocative History That Speaks to Contemporary Immigration Issues"):

Zornberg’s new book, Jews, Quakers and the Holocaust: The Struggle to Save the Lives of Twenty-Thousand Children, is more than a revelation; it is a testament not only to the horrors of Nazi Germany, but to the heroic efforts of some to save the lives of those who were slated for extermination by Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. … The story of the Quaker’s attempts to save the lives of Jewish children is a story of human decency that reveals the soul of Zornberg's work; it is an inspiring tale that uplifts the human spirit…. The problem of immigration is surely one that continues to plague the U.S. landscape to this very day; the issues may differ considerably from the crises of the 1930s, but the threats today are certainly no worse than the threats posed by the Third Reich. If nothing else, Zornberg's book provokes us to think through yesterday's history and today's issues with the care of a highly-skilled surgeon's scalpel, rather than with the sledgehammer of the various demagogues among us. This is a five-star book that I cannot more strongly recommend.

September 11, 2016

Song of the Day #1385

Song of the Day: The Night Of [YouTube link], music by Jeff Russo, opens each episode of the tense HBO miniseries that recently concluded its summer run. The show was to star the late James Gandolfini, who retains a posthumous executive producer credit; his role was subsequently offered to Robert DeNiro, but due to scheduling conflicts, it was ultimately played superbly by John Turturro. And so begins our annual-ish tribute to television themes en route to the Emmy Awards, which will be broadcast on Sunday, September 18th. Though seemingly simple in its composition, this show's theme seems to take its 'cue' from "Psycho" and "Jaws," warning us of the ominous things to come. After viewing hours of touching tributes today, we have come to the night of September 11th. The twin beams of light from downtown Manhattan can be seen clearly from my apartment in Brooklyn, in tribute to the shattering events that occurred on 9/11/2001, destroying the WTC Twin Towers. There is a bit of irony to commence a mini-tribute to television themes with a show centered on a murder mystery in a post-9/11 America. Indeed, over the years, not even television series have been able to sidestep the ultimate "reality show" that took place on this day, fifteen years ago.

WTC Remembrance: Fifteen Years Ago - Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine

My annual series, "Remembering the World Trade Center," turns this year to my own personal reflections on the fifteenth anniversary of the day that my hometown was attacked in 2001, a day that changed our lives forever. These reflections emerge from my viewing of a series of VHS tapes that I used to record the tragic events of that day and the days, weeks, and months that followed. My focus for this essay is exclusively on the unfolding minute-by-minute television coverage from 8:46 a.m. to midnight on the day of terror that we commemorate today.

I have to admit that this essay was one of the most difficult, and yet cathartic, pieces I've ever written in my entire life. I invite readers to view the newest addition to my annual series here.

I also provide this index for those readers who would like easy access to the previous entries in this series:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

2014: A Museum for the Ages: A Pictorial

2015: A New One World Trade Center Rises From the Ashes: A Pictorial

2016: Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine


Never forget.

Postscript: Much appreciation to Ilana Mercer, who has noted the newest essay on her blog here. She writes:

I recall calling Chris Matthew Sciabarra around the time September 11 happened. Like the best of New York, Chris was hyper, in fight-but-never-flight mode. That’s my Chris. And he has commemorated the attack on the greatest city in the world—was I overcome by patriotism when I visited New York!—his hometown, in the most personal way each year.

Postscript 2: Much appreciation to Rational Review News Digest for making this the lead commentary in their September 11th edition. See here. Special thanks to long-time colleague and friend Thomas L. Knapp for noticing.

August 29, 2016

Song of the Day #1382

Song of the Day: Say, Say, Say, words and music by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, appears on McCartney's "Pipes of Peace" album, and spent six weeks at number 1, stretching from 1983 to 1984. Produced by long-time Beatles producer, George Martin, it was the seventh top ten hit for MJ within the "Thriller"-dominated year of 1983. Check out the Bob Giraldi-directed video, the 12" Jellybean Benitez remix, and a 2015 re-release by McCartney, in which the vocal roles of the duet partners are reversed [YouTube links]. (And speaking of collaborations, check out this really rare video of a spontaneous "collaboration" with James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Prince on the same stage!). Today, would have been Michael Jackson's 58th birthday. Though he is no longer with us, we can still "remember the time." [YouTube video flashback]. And we can also revel in the fact that he has left us with music open to such diverse interpretation--from the rock sounds of Chris Cornell and the jazz tribute album, "Swingin' to Michael Jackson," to a wonderful "Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson," and the classically-trained "2 Cellos" and Hungarian pianist Bence Peter [YouTube links].

August 17, 2016

Song of the Day #1379

Song of the Day: The McLaughlin Group ("Main Theme") [Television Tunes link] opened up this show every week, where viewers have been treated since 1982 to shouting matches between the discussants, among them, regulars such as Patrick Buchanan and Brooklyn-born Eleanor Clift. I often thought that only New Yorkers could really appreciate the ability of the discussants to speak louder and louder over each other, but the show has always been syndicated and appreciated nationally. Sadly, the host of the show, John McClaughlin, missed his first show in the entire run of the series last weekend [YouTube link] (though he still provided the voiceovers for the opening and the "Issue 1," "Issue 2" and so forth announcements). He passed away yesterday at the age of 89. I don't know how or if the show will continue, but it certainly provided this political junkie with a half hour of entertaining discussion of current events every Sunday morning. Check out also an alternative rendering of the theme, an orchestral version of the theme, a YouTube remembrance, his appearance in the film "Independence Day," and his famous "Bye Bye" [YouTube links].

August 16, 2016

Song of the Day #1378

Song of the Day: Holiday, words and music by Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens, spent five weeks as the #1 Billboard Dance Club Song for Madonna from her 1983 self-titled debut album. The song was produced by the famous South Bronx DJ John "Jellybean" Benitez. We post it today as part of our Summer "Saturday Night Dance Party," extended into a Tuesday, in celebration of Madonna's birthday. Like Prince and Michael Jackson, she was a 1958 baby. Unlike them, she is still with us. As an honored member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she has carved a remarkable career. And having seen her in concert, I can say she gives a great show and honors all of those, including her fallen comrades, who have had an impact on her music. Check out the original album track and her original video (made with considerably less production value than the videos to come!) [YouTube links]. Then check out this massive mash-up [YouTube link] with the classic R&B hit, "And the Beat Goes On," by The Whispers (one of my all-time favorite SOLAR groups).

August 11, 2016

U.S. Foreign Policy: The Boomerang Effect or How the Chickens Come Home to Roost

Readers should check out an extraordinary full-length New York Times Magazine exclusive, "Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart."

So much of what is discussed in this article provides us with too many examples of the unintended consequences and boomerang effects of U.S. foreign policy, a lesson in how the "chickens come home to roost," whatever the intentions of the initial actors in history.

Of course, U.S. foreign policy cannot be evaluated as a sole causal agent in the history of the Middle East, and the Times series does not even suggest this; after all, the U.S. has been involved in the Middle East for a century or so, but the tribalist and ideological insanity that has been embedded in that part of the world has gone on for centuries. I've had a lot to say about this for over a decade now. So I've taken an opportunity to provide readers with an index to many of the essays I've authored on the subject over the years:

"Understanding the Global Crisis: Reclaiming Rand's Radical Legacy" (March 2003) [a .pdf file]

"History and Oil" (December 2003)

"Dick Cheney’s Words of Wisdom, Circa 1992" (27 December 2003)

"Flames and Oxygen"(27 December 2003)

"A Question of Loyalty" (November 2003 - January 2004) [a .pdf. file]

"Consequences: Intended and Unintended" (11 April 2004)

"The Birth of a Narcostate" (13 June 2004)

"Weighing in on a Foreign Policy Debate, Again" (29 July 2004)

"Education and Nation-Building in Iraq" (15 August 2004)

"Unintended Consequences Not Unforeseeable" (12 September 2004)

"Freedom and 'Islamofascism'" (6 October 2004)

"Fascism: Clarifying a Political Concept" (8 October 2004)

"America First" (10 October 2004)

In December 2004, I turned my attention to a five-part review of Peter Schwartz's book, The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America, published on the Liberty and Power Group Blog of the History News Network:

"Peter Schwartz and the Abandonment of Rand's Radical Legacy, Part I: Introduction / Schwartz's Core Arguments" (6 December 2004)

"Peter Schwartz and the Abandonment of Rand's Radical Legacy, Part II: Foreign Aid and the United Nations" (7 December 2004)

"Peter Schwartz and the Abandonment of Rand's Radical Legacy, Part III: Saudi Arabia" (8 December 2004)

"Peter Schwartz and the Abandonment of Rand's Radical Legacy, Part IV: The History of U.S. Foreign Policy" (9 Decemer 2004)

"Peter Schwartz and the Abandonment of Rand's Radical Legacy, Part V: The Current War / The Folly of Nation-Building / The Inextricable Connection between Domestic and Foreign Policy" (10 December 2004)

Additional essays followed:

"The Costs of War, Part 1" (23 March 2005)

"The Costs of War, Part 2" (25 March 2005)

"Iran, Again" (3 November 2005)

"ARI, Iraq, and Healthy Dissent" (22 December 2005)

"Iraq: A Perception Problem?" (22 March 2006)

"A Crisis of Political Economy (1 October 2008)

None of the above essays, intensely critical of U.S. foreign policy, has anything to do with my own thoughts about September 11th 2001, the date on which a vicious attack on the home of my birth forever altered our lives. I've written 15 essays, beginning on that infamous date, and continuing each year in an annual tribute to those who lost their lives, those who saved lives, and those who have lived and learned to build again. Check out the index to those essays "Remembering the World Trade Center." A new essay in that annual series will be posted on the 15th anniversary of the attack: September 11, 2016.

August 08, 2016

Song of the Day #1376

Song of the Day: Basin Street Blues, music by Spencer Williams, lyrics by trombonists Jack Teagarden and Glenn Miller, has been recorded by so many great jazz artists through the years. But today, we highlight a classic version by the late great Dixieland trumpeter Al Hirt and the late, great Dixieland clarinetist Pete Fountain. Fountain passed away on Saturday, August 6, 2016; he was a spirited player who was greatly influenced by the King of Swing, Benny Goodman, and New Orleans clarinetist Irving Fazola. Check out the Hirt-Fountain rendition of this classic Dixie-jazz tune on YouTube.

August 07, 2016

Song of the Day #1375

Song of the Day: The King and I ("Hello, Young Lovers"), music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, is one of the highlights from the 1956 film score of this classic Broadway musical. I highlight the film version, which starred the Oscar-winning Yul Brynner as the King of Siam (a role he immortalized on the Broadway stage, and for which he won the 1952 Tony Award as "Best Featured Actor in a Musical"), in the same year that he played the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II in the DeMille epic, "The Ten Commandments." Brynner starred opposite the lovely Deborah Kerr, who lost the Best Actress Oscar, but won the Golden Globe for her role as Anna Leonewens. In the film, her singing voice was dubbed by one of the greatest invisible talents of the silver screen: Marni Nixon, who just passed away on July 24, 2016. Dubbed the "American cinema's most unsung singers," she was the singing voice of Natalie Wood in "West Side Story" and the singing voice of Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady." Check out her rendition of this unforgettable song from the film version of "The King and I" [YouTube link].