JULY 31, 2017
In a Facebook thread, I was asked by FB friend Nanda Gopal to take a look at a talk by Alex Epstein, on "Intellectual Persuasion." After watching the presentation, I posted this on Facebook:
I thought it was a very good talk. Before I say why, let me plug a book from my mentor, Marxist political theorist, Bertell Ollman. Bertell wrote a book called Dialectical Investigations, and in it, he talks about the different levels on which dialectics (context-keeping) is important. Among these is the need for the comprehensible exposition of your ideas. This "moment" of exposition, Ollman explains, is crucial to getting your point across, and some of the principles that he outlines coincide exactly with what Epstein advocates here, namely:
1. Context-bridging: In order to master the art of communication, it is extremely important to try to understand the context of the audience (be it one person or a group): their knowledge, their needs, their interests. Epstein drives home the point that by bridging your context and the context of your audience, you increase the odds of being understood and of persuading your audience. He gives some very good techniques (e.g., coming up with one-sentence condensations of your point of view; providing three concrete examples by which to illustrate your point; and bridging the differences between your point of view and the opinions of others, by what he calls "addition, subtraction, and modification.").
2. Context-briding sometimes requires one to "reframe" one's arguments in a way that connects with your audience. It helps to go into a conversation with the assumption that your interlocutors are honest, even if they are incorrect. As he puts it: "Every wrong view is an answer to a legitimate question." That's a terrific insight.
Anyway, I would say that this is a nice condensation of how one applies the principles of dialectics ("context-keeping") to the art of communication.
I was additionally asked what collections of Aristotle do I find most useful, and I replied:
The problem is that I like some of the translations in each of about four different works, but the only complete one is the Jonathan Barnes edition of the Complete Works of Aristotle, which, while complete, is not necessarily my favorite on all counts. I find The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by Richard McKeon very useful. But I also like the English translation by H. Rackham of "The Athenian Constitution; The Eudemian Ethics; On Virtue and Vices" (part of the Loeb Classical Library). And then there are some very good Selections, translated by Terence Irwin and Gail Fine (for Hackett publishing, 1995). It's very hard finding one collection that satisfies me in all ways.
JULY 30, 2017
Song of the Day: There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back features the words and music of John T. Geiger II, Geoff Warburton, Scott Harris, and Shawn Mendes, whose 2017 recording of this song is included on the reissued version of his album, "Illuminate." It's already his third Top Ten hit on the Hot 100. Check out the single, the video single, and a few nice remixes: Friash Trap, NOTD, and for those who can't get enough of it, there's a one-hour version! [YouTube links].
JULY 29, 2017
Song of the Day: Give Me Your Love, words and music by Bruce Fielder, John Newman, and Steve Manovski, was released in 2016 by British DJ Sigala, featuring the vocals of John Newman and some added production by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Nile Rodgers. The song, which was a Top Five hit on the UK Dance chart, was showcased in several routines of this week's episode of "So You Think You Can Dance" (my favorite dance competition show, the first to give Mandy Moore a platform for her choreography, before she went off to "La La Land"). Check out the song's official video and these remixes: Cedric Gervais, Andy C, Alex B-Cube & Michael Klash, Jacob Doehner, Kasmet Bootleg, MZT, Tough Love, Cliak, PBH and Jack Shizzle, DJ eMa, Viduta, Shimron Elit, and the Rap Remix.
JULY 28, 2017
The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (JARS) has undergone so many changes since its inception in the Fall of 1999. The original vision of Bill Bradford [.pdf essay], and cofounded by Bill, Stephen Cox, and me, the journal began with an all-star Board of Advisors. We were an upstart double-blind peer-reviewed periodical daring to become the first authentic forum for the scholarly discussion of the work and impact of Ayn Rand. We opened our pages to writers, from left to right, and coming from virtually every discipline across the scholarly spectrum. We faced resistance and outright condemnation from the usual suspects both within Rand-land and without (and you know who you are); we had a few missteps along the way ... but here we are... surviving... indeed, flourishing.
JARS is now indexed by nearly two dozen abstracting services in the social sciences and the humanities. The first of the two issues of our seventeenth volume (and thirty-third issue overall, which includes the double issue devoted to "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy") has just been published this month. By the end of 2017, we will have published about 370 essays by around 170 authors (obviously some of these authors have contributed more than one essay to the journal over the last seventeen years). And we have made it a policy to never publish an issue without at least one contribuor who has, as yet, not appeared in our pages. With lots of hard work from too many folks to thank here, in 2013, we went from an independently published journal to one of 56 journals published by Pennsylvania State University Press. As part of the Penn State Press family, we benefit from both print and electronic publication (the latter through JSTOR and Project Muse). And because Penn State Press markets its journals as a bundle, every time an educational, business or institutional library adds even one Penn State Press journal to its collection, it must take the entire slate of PSUP periodicals. Consequently, our issues and essays are now being accessed, through electronic media, by thousands and thousands of people worldwide. Our accessibility and visibility, indeed, has increased exponentially, as we had hoped.
Today, I am happy to announce that our rigorous review process will benefit from a new technology that, by the end of the year, will be the standard for all Penn State Press journals. It will further the efficiency of our review process, from the moment an article is submitted by an author all the way through to its publication. Whereas previously authors were submitting essays directly to me, all authors will now submit essays for consideration to Editorial Manager. Editors, authors, peer readers, and the Penn State Press production team will have various levels of access through this interface to assure the integrity of the double-blind review process and the timely turnover of peer reader reports.
This is just one more step in our remarkable odyssey from New Kid on the Block to being the only bona fide biannual double-blind peer-reviewed scholarly periodical devoted to the study of Ayn Rand and her times.
Song of the Day: On the Beat, words and music by M. Malavadi and P. Slade, was the hit lead single from the debut self-titled album of the BB&Q Band (standing for "Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens"). This 1981 song went to #3 on the Billboard Dance Club chart and #8 on the Black Singles chart. It has that classic R&B/dance throwback sound that I utterly and absolutely adore. It's the kind of thing we'd hear "back in the day" in NYC on classic FM radio stations like KISS-FM and the still vigilant WBLS-FM. Check out the original extended single, as well as the DMC Remix and the DJ Stefano Luzi Remix.
JULY 26, 2017
And so, the odyssey of a little essay I wrote way back in 2004 continues . . .
For the life of me, I have never understood the widespread interest in a seemingly insignificant Notablog entry I wrote back in 2004, advertising the publication of a Japanese translation of The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. Well, it's happened again; this time the essay (which highlights my work with Kayoko Fujimori in translating the novel for the Japanese audience) has been translated for a Ukranian readership. The essay appeared initially as a Notablog exclusive on July 20, 2004.
Check out the new translation of that essay here.
Apparently the piece is still Big in Japan, and Romania, Russia, the Ukraine, Poland, Spain, and America. C'est la vie. (Like, yeah, when will the French translators get into the act?!)
JULY 25, 2017
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.
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
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.
Song of the Day: On the Floor includes composing credits for RedOne, Kinnda Hamid, A. J. Junior, Teddy Sky, Bilal "The Chef", Armando Perez, Gonzolo and Ulises Gonzalez. But the song is well known because it was recorded by Jennifer Lopez, for her 2011 album, "Love?", with a little help from Pitbull. Today, is J-Lo's 48th birthday, and this is not only her most commercially successful single, but one of the best selling singles of all time. Check out the original video single, and a few remixes as well: Low Sunday Radio Edit, CCW Club Mix, Ralphi Rosario Extended Mix, and the Mixin Marc and Tony Svejda LA to Ibiza Mix [YouTube links]. Happy birthday, Jenny from the Bronx!
JULY 23, 2017
Song of the Day: Feels, words and music by Adam Wiles, Pharrell Williams, Brittany Hazzard, Katy Perry, and Sean Anderson, is featured on Calvin Harris's album, "Funk Wav Bounces, Volume 1." The Old School-style vocals are provided by Pharrell and Katy, with Big Sean providing the rap. Check out the fun video single and the playful instrumental version for this track, released in June 2017, and already in the top five on the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart.
JULY 22, 2017
Song of the Day: Lost Love [YouTube lyrics link], words and music by Stonebridge, Aubrey Logan, and Lisa Cole, who sings this 2017 dance hit with a throwback sound. Check out the official music video and the extended mix. And for those who doubt that a remix can change the whole feel of a song, I provide links to a host of other remixes, among the most I've ever seen for a single dance hit in my entire life, going all the way back to my days as a college mobile DJ: the Archie Remix, AstraeusMusic Remix, Robert Eibach Club Mix, Rob Hayes Remix, Junotrix Remix, Alex Lo Remix, ALX Remix, Andre Sebastian Remix, BigBadBoy Remix, chemical solution remix, Chirurgicals Waveforms Remix, Chris Woodland Remix, G-Pizzy Remix, Harvey Nash Remix, Henrique Pirai Remix, Hindu White Remix, iBug Remix, Jagwyrd Remix, Jesus Velazquez Remix, Joel Smith Remix, Jose Baptista Ferreira Dos Remix, Lolo Remix, Mark Wampfler Mix, M3 Roadworx Remix, Moodyboy Remix, NVNTS Remix, Pump Remix, Rick Cross Remix, Rivermint Remix, Russelldeejay Remix, Sam David Remix, Serkan Demirel Remix, SKALP Remix, Tamas Klein Remix, Timechaser Remix, Trappify Remix, tronicsoul remix, Twisted Dee Remix, DrewG Remix, DJ Ryan Harvey Mix, djadtoliveira Remix, Mr. Fahrenheit Remix, Osi Bahti Remix, Benny Dawson Remix, Almost Done Remix, Timmy Loop Future House Remix, ZU78 aka casseta Remix, Junotrix Dub and the IdeaL & J. Break Dub. And if I missed any, you can find them here, because it was a remix competition that led to this avalanche of renditions. If you have just listened to all these remixes, and haven't either (a) lost your love for this song or (b) lost your mind, you are a real Dance Club Freak! So for a change of pace, listen to this Donna Summer-Yaz Mashup of "I Feel Love" and "Situation", because you need a break!
JULY 18, 2017
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
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.
Song of the Day: I Don't Want to Talk About It features the words and music of James Lee Stanley, the brother of recording artist Pamala Stanley, who was born on this date in 1952. Check out the video single, the 12" remix, and the Disconet versions of this 1983 dance hit. And happy birthday, Pamala!
JULY 15, 2017
Song of the Day: Tearin' Up My Heart, words and music by Max Martin and Kristian Lundin, was a 1998 Top 40 hit from the debut album of NSYNC, with lead vocals by J. C. Chasez and a young Justin Timberlake. It has the distinction of being among the Top 30 Hits of the 1990s, according to VH1. What's a summer dance tribute without at least one Boy Band hit? Check out the single version and the official video, before listening to the Hot Tracks Remix, Riprock and Alex G's Heart and Key Club Mix, the J.J. Flores Club Mix, Stone's Phat Swede Club Mix, and the Pentatonix NYSNC Medley. (And while you're at it, check out Pentatonix's really cool "Daft Punk" tribute.)
JULY 14, 2017
There is a Facebook thread that tears apart one of my all-time favorite movies, but also one of those films that Rand-fans especially have made into a cinematic pinata: "It's a Wonderful Life." According to this story, Rand, who was a friendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee in its efforts to uncover communist propaganda in the American film industry, apparently pegged the 1946 Frank Capra classic as pinko propaganda.
I've addressed this issue several times before on Notablog, especially in a 2016 post about the 1946 film, and in a 1999 interview with "The Daily Objectivist" on the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol," starring Alastair Sim, who gives a superb, nuanced performance as Scrooge.
On Facebook, I added these comments:
People who cannot look at a film on different levels are guilty of context-dropping; Rand was not always consistent. "It's a Wonderful Life" says more about the remarkable impact that a single individual can make on the lives of many people and as such, it is a celebration of a "wonderful life." Is it guilty of having "mixed premises"? Sure. What film isn't?
Rand herself wrote some wonderful screenplays in her day ("Love Letters" is one of my favorites; "The Fountainhead" succeeds on some levels, but is botched on other levels). But one can disagree with her assessment of a film and still agree with the fundamental principles of Objectivism. I'm quite frankly appalled by the kind of knee-jerk response that I always see from Rand-fans to films like this or, say, "A Christmas Carol" (the 1951 version especially, starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge), which tells the story of a man whose life is fractured and dis-integrated. In the end, Scrooge does not renounce business; he becomes a more integrated human being. Does the film have mixed premises? Like I said: There are few films that don't have mixed premises. And any art form, especially film, can and should be appreciated on a variety of levels. Some of those films were made in black and white, but they were superb at showing the greyness and complex textures of life, as well as the remarkable color of character and individual integrity.
And that's my "Christmas in July" moment, especially fitting when you're coming off things like Amazon Prime Day and 90-degree temperatures with 80% humidity.
Merry Christmas! And good premises! ; )
Postscript: In reply to a question about how faithful the 1951 film version of "A Christmas Carol" was to the original Charles Dickens story, I wrote:
The 1951 film version considerably embellishes the original Dickens novel with a deeper backstory as to how Scrooge evolved into the dis-integrated individual he had become, truly a man with a "disowned self." I think when viewed through this lens, the complexity of the character and his transformation is made all the more poignant.
Postscript II: In response to Michael Stuart Kelly, who points out that the original article link posted on Facebook qualifies as "fake news", I wrote:
I agree with everything you said, Michael, about the "fake news" character of the original link that prompted the initial thread on this topic. But it was in that thread from which my discussion comes that I was reacting not so much to the link as to the fact that it got nearly forty "Thumbs Up" from people sympathetic to Rand who find any condemnation of "It's a Wonderful Life" a welcome relief. Indeed, it has become a seasonal ritual of late that some Objectivist or libertarian goes on some tirade about the Capra flick or any variation of "A Christmas Carol" because they allegedly depict business people in a bad light.
In truth, we do know this much: Rand never got the chance to tell HUAC what she really wanted to: that among the most loathsome films of 1946 was "The Best Years of Our Lives" (which, I consider a cinema classic for the reasons described here), as Susan [Love Brown] mentions above. Rand despised that film's depiction of bankers "with a heart" etc., and completely overlooked the cathartic character of a film that depicted the difficulty of people returning from the worst carnage in human history (World War II) and trying to adjust to civilian life. She was asked by studio folks to stay clear of such a public condemnation of such a popular film, and was incensed to focus attention instead on "Song of Russia"---clearly a trivial propaganda film made during the war to "humanize" communists, with whom the U.S. had allied in the fight against the Nazis (Lillian Hellman had a field-day ridiculing Rand over this in her book Scoundrel Time, but Robert Mayhew discusses the whole affair in much greater detail in his book, Ayn Rand and "Song of Russia": Communism and Anti-Communism in 1940s Hollywood).
If it were not for the attack on Pearl Harbor, Rand (and Isabel Paterson, John T. Flynn, Albert Jay Nock, and others on the Old Right) would most likely have continued to adhere to the "America First" line, which was adamantly opposed to U.S. entrance into that war; Rand even declared that she would have rather seen the Nazis and Soviets destroy each other, such that if the U.S. were drawn into the conflict, it would have been fighting a much-weakened foe.
Indeed, it should be noted that Rand is on record as having been against all US involvement in virtually every twentieth-century war: World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam; that noninterventionist stance should give us pause, considering that so many of her followers were ready to atomize the Middle East after 9/11. I treat this a bit more extensively in Chapter 12 of the second edition of my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, in a new section called "The Welfare-Warfare State".
In any event, getting back to this thread: though the article I linked to may qualify as "fake news," what I was responding to in the original thread was mainly Rand-fan condemnations of films like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Carol", which are offered up as Christmas pinatas every season for their alleged depiction of business in a bad light. This past year, it was libertarian Tim Mullen's turn to take a crack at both films; his comment on "A Christmas Carol" was that it was a tale of one man stalked by three left-wing ghosts. Well, maybe Dickens was a soft socialist, but the 1951 film version to which I point is the one that most speaks to the horrors of living a dis-integrated life. There is nothing I find in it that is so loathsome, when the point of the film is the reintegration of one's disowned self. Scrooge never denounces his own business or becomes any less rich than he always was; he simply becomes a healed man who understands the roots of his self-alienation.
But I do appreciate you pointing to the various errors in that original link; I laughed at some of the comments therein as well.
Well, you know where I stand on the topic of "gate-keepers." :) But the original thread to which I posted my comment got 39 Thumbs up, not quite 40... it is here. And I really can't stand seeing Jimmy Stewart called a Pinko. But that's another story...
In the continuing discussion, I made one further point on the issues of aesthetic reponse versus ethical evaluation:
[On the issue of how Scrooge is portrayed in film,] I think it depends on which version of Scrooge we look at; it is very clear in the 1951 version that Scrooge is very self-alienated, and the time spent on his past establishes the facts and tragedies that led to this.
But on another subject, I would just like to make one comment about politics and aesthetics: we all know that there were communists in Hollywood and that politics sometimes showed up in screenplays and stories. But I can't help feeling distressed that some people will dismiss any writer, actor, musician or other talented artist strictly because of their politics or personal flaws, such that we can't possibly endorse their art. If that were the case, you might as well give up listening to music, watching films, reading books, or enjoying any art whatsoever.
I was not a fan of Dalton Trumbo's politics; but I loved "Spartacus"; I am not a fan of Barbra Streisand's politics, but I adore "Funny Girl" and all the music she has made, gal from Brooklyn that she is; for all I know the charges against Michael Jackson regarding pedophilia may be true, but that doesn't stop me from loving "Off the Wall" or "Thriller" or being enthralled by the elegance of his dancing. I bet a high percentage of artists from ancient times through today, were tortured souls, who spilled out their guts in works of sculpture, painting, music, and literature. Bill Evans, perhaps the most influential jazz pianist of the twentieth century, was a tortured drug addict, but it was his modal take on jazz that made "Kind of Blue" what it became, as Miles Davis himself testified; when Evans played--and I was fortunate to see him play live at the Village Vanguard--it was as if he became part of the piano he was playing. At some point, you have to separate aesthetics and ethics and be willing to accept the fact that you can respond positively to art by folks you might not like, politically, ethically, or personally. It would be a very boring world if we all had to toe the party line every time we responded with any kind of emotional impact to any work of art.
Postscript III: My friend, Mark Fulwiler, raised the issue that Paul Robeson was a Stalinist, even though he was a good singer, and then asked the proverbial Hitler question: "What if Hitler were a great singer?" I replied:
Well, I can tell you that Hitler was definitely NOT a good painter. But Robeson was a great singer. And I suspect that if Hitler were a great singer, he would not be singing "Billie Jean"; I suspect it would be something really dissonant with some pretty scary Aryan theme. So I probably wouldn't respond to it aesthetically, if I was blinded and didn't know who the artist was.
But let's take a better example concerning somebody whose work we do know and whose contributions to music and compostion are well known: Richard Wagner. Wagner's racism and anti-Semitism are repugnant to me, but can anyone deny the brilliance of his harmonies, textures, or his use of leitmotifs in music? I have a hunch that Wagner did more to influence the whole development of what has become known as the film score than any single composer in history.
I'm not particularly fond of the work of Ezra Pound, who embraced Mussolini and Hitler, but I can't deny the impact of his work on everybody from Robert Frost to Ernest Hemingway; Ayn Rand herself detested many writers and their views; she made it a point of stating, for example, that she thought Tolstoy's philosophy and sense of life were "evil, and yet, from a purely literary viewpoint, on his own terms, I have to evaluate him as a good writer."
All I'm arguing here is that there is a lot of art out there, be it painting, sculpture, literature, film, music, etc., and if I had to use an ideological litmus test as a filter with regard to what I might like or dislike, I might find myself very unhappy because there are too many artists out there, talented in their own right, whose ideologies are diametrically opposed to my own. I don't live like that, and I think we impoverish ourselves if we bracket out of our aesthetic scale anybody and everybody with whom we disagree.
Mark liked the points I made, but said, "What if I told you I had a recording of Hitler playing Rachmaninoff on the piano with the Berlin Philharmonic?" -- to which Jerry Biggers replied, "But you don't!"... to which I replied:
LOL ROFL... sorry, I tried to take this one seriously, but you have to make me bust a gut. And you KNOW I can't afford to bust a busted gut! LOL
Jerry Biggers added: "What if I told you that I had a recording of Stalin (or other Soviet thug) having private ballet lessons for an exclusive presentation of Aram Khachaturian's "Spartacus" ballet to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet? So?......"
Chris Matthew Sciabarra (has finally collapsed into hysteria)
JULY 09, 2017
Song of the Day: Shape of You, with words and music by Steve Mac, Johnny McDaid, Kandi Burruss, Tameka Cottle, Kevin Briggs, and Ed Sheeran, who released this as the first song off his 2017 album, "Divide." This song, with its super sensuous lyrics, was #1 for 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, but also reached #1 on 5 other Billboard charts, including its Dance/Club Songs and its Dance/Mix Show Airplay Charts. I've loved this guy's music since the very beginning. But he really impressed me at the Stevie Wonder Tribute Grammy Salute to "Songs in the Key of Life" [YouTube Full Show Clip]. Sheeran did a wonderful take on Stevie's "I Was Made to Love Her" [YouTube link]. And he follows in Stevie's footsteps; he's a talented artist who has mastered the musical technology of the day all in service to the art form. This song starts with the lyric: "The club isn't the best place to find a lover." But club remixers sure have fallen in love with this song, as surely as Sheeran as "fallen in love with your body." Listen to the Galantis Remix, Major Lazer Remix, Decoy! Remix, Joe Maz Remix, DJ Asher Remix, BKAYE remix, Latin Remix (featuring Zion y Lennox), and bvd kult remix. And don't forget the official video, the version featuring Stormzy, the Jimmy Fallon Classroom Instruments Version (with Sheeran and the Roots), and the bare basic crystal-clear acoustic version.
JULY 08, 2017
On Facebook, I posted this preface to today's Song of the Day:
On July 6th, I posted a Notablog tribute to a dear friend, Murray Franck, who passed away on the 2nd. And I want to thank all of those who posted or reacted on list or off to the sad news.
But Murray always got a kick out of the fact that I had this penchant for launching Notablog "Song of the Day" entries to celebrate genres as diverse as jazz, film scores, classical, rock, disco, and today's pop music. Nothing would have bothered him more than my ceasing such tributes in the wake of his death. He would chuckle when I'd talk to him about my days as a mobile DJ, playing everything from Bar Mitzvahs to weddings, reunions, and proms. So I won't miss a beat from this year's annual Summer Dance Series, and will continue with the first of two songs planned for this weekend: "Bang Bang" by three women named Jessie, Ariana, and Nicki:
Song of the Day: Bang Bang, words and music by Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Rikard Goransson, Oniqa Maraj, charted on no fewer than six Billboard charts, reaching #3 on the Hot 100 and #22 on the Hot Dance Club chart. As the lead single from Jessie J's 2014 album, "Sweet Talker," the song was a huge hit for Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj. Check out the music video, the Bassel Remix, 3LAU Remix, the Kevin-Dave Remix, and their hot performance of the song on the 2014 American Music Awards.
JULY 06, 2017
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.
JULY 04, 2017
On Facebook, I prefaced my "Song of the Day" with the following comment:
I know some of my anarchist friends might think that today is a day that some people celebrate the establishment of yet another state. :)
For me, the 4th of July is a celebration of the idea of America, for which the founders, whatever their flaws, on this Independence Day, pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. "Only in America":
Song of the Day: Only in America, words and music by Kix Brooks, Don Cook, and Ronnie Rogers, went to #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart. It was a huge hit by Brooks & Dunn, suitable for a Red-White-and-Blue Indpendence Day. Whatever the realities in today's America, it is almost a truism that a song, like any work of art, can project an ideal; in this instance, it is the ideal of America. And truth be told, I can't help but embrace a tune that begins with the lyric, "Sun Comin' Up Over New York City," in a country where "Everybody Gets to Dance." In keeping with our Summer Dance theme, check it out on YouTube and in this 2001 video single as well, which includes a paean to the Twin Towers.
JULY 03, 2017
Song of the Day: You're My Magician, words and music by Denis and Denyse LePage, went to #1 of a double-sided #1 Dance Club Single (with "Your Love" [YouTube link]) by Lime in April 1981. This group bridged the years of the classic disco of the 1970s and the electronic dance music of the 1980s. Check out the original 12" remix and then see what happens to the track in the French Club Remix.
JULY 02, 2017
Song of the Day: Attention, words and music by Jacob Kasher and Charlie Puth, the young man with a "Vanilla Ice" eyebrow and impressive vocal beat-box skills [YouTube link], was released in April 2017, and has since climbed into the Top 20 in more than 20 countries. The song has touches of funk and soul; as a video single [YouTube link], I had hardly noticed it. And then, I saw Puth perform it on Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" and said, "Nice!" Check out especially Puth's jazz-infused chops when he solos on electric piano [YouTube link]. He also performd the song on "The Voice" and at the Wind Music Awards in Italy (where he also takes a nice solo) [YouTube links], but my favorite version remains the one on Fallon's show with The Roots. It's a summer dance track with a really cool vibe [YouTube link].
JULY 01, 2017
Song of the Day: Dance (Disco Heat), words and music by Eric Robinson and Victor Osborn, was a #1 dance hit for Sylvester, appearing on his album "Step II." Check out the album version and the extended version, which was released as part of a double-sided 12" with his Patrick Cowley remixed-iconic disco classic, "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" [YouTube link]. The double-sided hits held the #1 spot on the Billboard Dance Disco Chart for six weeks in the summer of 1978. We're partying straight through to the 4th of July, so don't you even think of leaving the dance floor!