Category Archives: Blog / Personal Business

Song of the Day #1970

Song of the Day: The Thriller Megamix, mixed by DJ Jason Nevins, highlights some of the hottest tracks from Michael Jackson’s masterpiece. On this date in 1982, the “King of Pop” released the all-time global best-selling album, “Thriller“. It would have an immeasurable impact on popular music and culture. It spent an unprecedented 37 nonconsecutive weeks at #1 (and is actually back in the Top Ten this week), was the first album to spawn 7 Top Ten Hits, and advanced the art of music video—from the sparkling “Billie Jean“, the first video by a black artist to air in heavy rotation on MTV, to “Beat It“, directed by Bob Giraldi, with its kick-ass Eddie van Halen guitar solo and its Michael Peters choreography, to the John Landis-directed iconic short film, “Thriller“, a 14-minute music-and-horror dance extravaganza. Many of the songs on this all-time best seller are staged in “MJ: The Musical“—a wonderful “jukebox musical” that I saw on Broadway this past summer. This megamix highlights five key songs from MJ‘s 40-year old masterpiece, an unforgettable part of the soundtrack of my youth and of my years as a mobile DJ: the title track, “Billie Jean“, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’“, “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)“, and “Beat It“. It is not without some poignant irony that this anniversary comes during the funeral week of my sister, Elizabeth “Ski” Sciabarra. She and I both saw MJ with his brothers on the 1984 Victory Tour and the 1988 Bad World Tour. We danced to his music anytime it echoed through a dance club. And every time she took one of her dance teams to a national competition, she looked forward to hearing an MJ track on the bus—as a sign of good luck. I miss her. But these memories live on …

Elizabeth Ann Sciabarra, RIP

September 2, 1952 – November 26, 2022

My sister Elizabeth Ann Sciabarra—Ski to the thousands of students whose lives she touched as an educator for half a century—died at 8 p.m. tonight after a two-year long bout with many serious health issues. Her passing came quite shockingly after a steep decline over the past week.

Ski was the recent recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at a gala marking the one-hundredth anniversary of the opening of Brooklyn Technical High School [YouTube link]. She was fortunate enough to view the YouTube video of this presentation this past week and was very deeply moved; I think that it provided a poignant coda to her lifelong, passionate commitment to the education and well-being of young people.

Back in 2010, before she’d go on to become Executive Director of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation, she retired from the NYC Department of Education—after a professional life that took her from teacher and coach to assistant principal at Tech, principal at New Dorp High School on Staten Island, deputy superintendent and founding CEO of the Office of Student Enrollment at the DOE. At that time, I had the occasion to speak at her retirement dinner. I highlighted one of my sister’s favorite quotations, which she often used at various commencement exercises. It could just as easily and appropriately speak to her own impact and legacy. Noted historian Rina Swentzell (1939–2015) of Santa Clara Pueblo said:

“What we are told as children is that people, when they walk on the land, leave their breath wherever they go. So, wherever we walk, that particular spot on the earth never forgets us, and when we go back to these places, we know that the people who have lived there are in some way still there, and that we can actually partake of their breath and of their spirit.”

In every place she has been, with everyone she has worked, all those students she has taught, advised, assisted, coached, all the teachers, assistant principals, principals, parents, community partners and others with whom she has interacted, not to mention her dear friends and beloved family—all these have been blessed to partake of her very strong spirit.

Wherever she has walked, people will be hard pressed to forget her and her impact on their lives.

I once told her that she may not have had kids of her own, but she mothered literally thousands of kids, whose lives were forever changed by their encounters with her. Indeed, as a caring educator, in the eyes of those kids, my sister flew around the city of her birth, the city she was so proud to call home, with a huge “S” on her chest, which could have stood for “Sciabarra” or “Ski”—or even “Superwoman.”

For me, however, that “S” always stood for “Sister,” which means more than that one word can ever convey.

Indeed, as siblings, we lived together for as long as I’ve been alive. She was more than my sister. She was my friend, my confidante, my partner-in-crime, my advisor, my guide, not only for all things academic but for life itself. As someone who struggled with chronic, congenital medical issues, I could never have made it without her loving support and encouragement. She was my strongest advocate and fiercest defender.

Even over the last month, as she struggled with increasingly difficult medical complications, she was elated as I completed the copyediting and formatting of the last essays for the 2023 grand finale of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. She gave me a fist bump when I told her, “It’s done!” As a lover of music and dance—and boy did she have rhythm [YouTube link]—she was also privy to all the “Songs of the Day” that I had already lined up for the upcoming holiday season, my projected January 2023 fifteenth-anniversary tribute to the “Breaking Bad” franchise, and my annual Film Music February Festival. And so, those songs will be posted, no matter what, with added poignancy.

There wasn’t a holiday she didn’t embrace or celebrate in grand style. She was even able to glimpse the Christmas decorations I put up the day after Thanksgiving. I know that it brought her peace and joy even as she fought bravely against the agony and pain that were consuming her body.

Tonight, my heart is shattered. I am comforted only because she is finally out of pain and that she died with dignity in her own home—by the grace of the generosity of the multitude of people who contributed to her #GoFundSki campaign. For all that love and support, our family expresses a profound depth of appreciation.

My brother Carl, my sister-in-law Joanne and I ask for privacy at this time. We will announce a more public memorial at an appropriate time and place, which will be held sometime in 2023.

I will always love you, my Bitty.

A Happier Time, late 1980s

See Facebook condolences.

Postscript (29 November): There is a poignant tribute to my sister by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (NY) on Facebook.

In addition, I was interviewed by Annalise Knudson of the Staten Island Advance this morning, before attending my sister’s funeral, and I was very touched by this wonderful article detailing my sister’s legacy as an educator. See here. And also see this tribute from Tim Bethea.

Happy Thanksgiving from Ski, Me, & Turkey!

We’re a little early … but before folks head out for the holiday weekend, we just wanted to say how much we’re counting our blessings—for every person who has expressed their love and support during such a challenging time. A very Happy Thanksgiving to All!

_________
* Gravesend is the section of Brooklyn we’ve lived in our whole lives! It was one of the original towns in the Dutch colony of New Netherland, the name meaning “groves end”—from the Dutch settlement of Count’s Beach in the Netherlands.

Ski: A Lifetime Achievement Award

At the Centennial Gala on November 19, 2022, celebrating a century of excellence at Brooklyn Technical High School (1922-2022), my sister, Elizabeth “Ms. Ski” Sciabarra received the Lifetime Achievement Award. My deepest thanks to the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation and its President Denice Ware for sending me this wonderful clip celebrating the life and legacy of a beloved educator whose work has touched the lives of countless thousands of students and colleagues over a fifty-year career. Check it out on YouTube (and below)!

#GoFundSki

Thank you to everyone! And a special thanks also to Carol Cunningham dropping off these lovely flowers and memorabilia from the Centennial Gala!

Ski & Me: Counting Our Blessings

During the week of November 8, 2020, my sister began to experience difficulty standing and walking. She went to see an orthopedic specialist to no avail. By November 12th, she was clearly not feeling well at all. And so I called 911. Accustomed to being a Super Woman, she refused to go to the hospital, opting instead to make an appointment to see our family doctor the next day, who would run a few tests.

That was not to be.

On the morning of Friday, November 13, 2020, I awoke, earlier than usual, to check in on her—and found her laying in bed, the covers thrown off, her face expressionless, as her eyes stared blankly at the ceiling. No matter what I said, how loud I yelled, how hard I clapped my hands, she was completely nonresponsive. I called 911 again, and this time, she was rushed to the hospital.

She lost three days of her life. Somehow, someway, she made it through and came back to us. She was in the hospital for a solid month, but eventually, she underwent life-saving back surgery. Complications set in over time, and by early October 2021, she was back in the hospital, and we were told there was nothing left for them to do. I was shocked. I asked the doctors, “Well, what are you saying? What are you talking about? Does she have a month to live?”

“A month, if that,” one of the doctors replied. But certainly no more than six months. I signed my sister over to in-home hospice care, and brought her home to die. By October 17, 2021, she was indeed, dying. Dear family members stopped in to say goodbye. I called the funeral home and the cemetery and began making arrangements; doctors and nurses told us her death was imminent.

As day melted into night, with my sister laying in that bed again, nonresponsive, I put on some of her favorite music. She loved all genres of music and was always a great dancer. So, former mobile college DJ that I am, I picked one of her favorite R&B dance tracks to keep the mood pleasant. Out of the speakers came the sounds of Shalamar’s memorable 1982 hit, “A Night to Remember” [YouTube link]. As I sat there beside her, telling her how much I loved her, I saw tears forming in her closed eyes, one of them slowly rolling down the right side of her face. And she began mouthing the words to that song: “Get ready tonight … Gonna make this a night to remember.” Her eyes opened. And now, my eyes swelled with tears.

They told us not to put too much faith in this “end-of-life rally“. But these experts didn’t know my sister. I would later joke that Lazarus may have had Jesus, but Liz had Shalamar.

With her strong heart and her strong love of life and her strong will to live, she has somehow confounded every medical authority. More than a year later, two years after she nearly died the first time, she is still with us. She will not surrender.

This is a season of Thanksgiving, and we will surely post some pics around that holiday. But today, we count our blessings that we are here—that she is here—to talk about November 13, 2020, when, at the time, we didn’t think she’d see November 14th.

#GoFundSki

Happy Halloween!!!

No matter how crazy life is, Ski embraces every holiday!

#GoFundSki

Bwaaahahahaha!

Check out comments on Facebook here and here.

Anne Conover Heller, RIP

I was very saddened to learn this morning that my dear friend and colleague, magazine editor and journalist Anne Conover Heller, passed away on October 10, 2022. We had been in touch over the summer, and I knew she had been battling cancer. She lost that battle at the age of 71. As the NY Times legacy page tells us: “She is survived by many many friends from all corners of life, her dear sister Peggy, and David, her devoted husband. A memorial celebration will take place at the Church of the Holy Trinity in December.” My very deepest condolences to all those who had the pleasure of knowing her.

Over the years, Anne had been the managing editor of The Antioch Review, a fiction editor of Esquire and Redbook, features editor of Lear’s, and the executive editor of the magazine-development group at Conde Nast Publications. She would go on to author the probing biography, Ayn Rand and the World She Made (2009) and the insightful Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times (2015).

She was one of the most curious, tenacious, and courageous scholars I’ve ever known. She was also a very sweet, caring, supportive, and loving friend.

We first met many years ago, when she was researching her book on Rand. She was very deeply impressed with my own book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (1995, first edition), and was embarking on major research on Rand’s Russian background. Aware of my previous work on Rand’s education at Petrograd University and my discovery that Rand had studied at the Stoyunin gymnasium—including my essay “The Rand Transcript,” featured in the 1999 debut issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies—Anne worked diligently to provide further documentation of many aspects of Rand’s Russian beginnings that became more transparent over time. She gained access to materials that I did not have when I first put forth my theses.

Unlike those who had access to certain archives but who had refused to share these materials with others without stipulations that were meant to crush independent inquiry, Anne openly shared with me key documents on Rand’s education at Petrograd University. In collaboration with such scholars as the esteemed philosopher and intellectual historian, the late George Kline, I was able to provide Anne with a thorough exploration of the materials. The results of that investigation—“The Rand Transcript, Revisited” (JARS, Fall 2005; republished in the 2013 expanded second edition of Russian Radical)—were used by Anne in her 2009 Rand biography. In later years, I was able to revisit that material and expand on it greatly, in collaboration with my dear friend and colleague Pavel Solovyev. Our coauthored essay, “The Rand Transcript Revealed” (published in the December 2021 JARS), utterly delighted Anne. None of it would have been possible without the pioneering steps taken by her.

As a friend, she had this unique ability to lend a heartfelt word of support when times were tough and to laugh through the tears. And laugh we did. Our countless hours of conversation over the years were the source of great joy to me. I am greatly indebted to her—for so much. I will always honor her immense generosity of spirit. And I will miss her.

RIP, dear, dear friend.

Posted to Facebook with discussion.

#GoFundSki !!!

Nearly two years ago, in November 2020, my sister, Elizabeth Sciabarra—“Ms. Ski” to her students—nearly died. She has gone through agonizing hell for two years now, through surgeries and crippling illness. By October 2021, near death again, she was placed on in-home palliative care, under the assumption that she would not last six months. She confounded medical authorities and now must be re-certified for palliative care every two months because she refused to die on Medicare’s schedule.

With my sister living on a pension, Social Security, and dwindling savings, ineligible for Medicaid, we began a #GoFundSki campaign on March 25, 2022. As a testament to the impact she made as an educator of fifty years, influencing the lives of thousands of people, we exceeded our $150,000 goal within ten days. That money was designed to keep my sister at home, with the assistance of 24/7 home health aide coverage. We projected expenditures of approximately $15,000 per month on aides and other non-insured supplies to turn our home into a hospice. Unfortunately, $15,000 could not even cover our home health aide assistance; with supplies and other necessities, we have been averaging $20,000 per month, as inflationary pressures rose across the board. Nevertheless, our #GoFundSki campaign raised enough money (clearing $165,000+) to sustain my sister thru January 2023.

It was to my sister’s profound embarrassment that we had to pitch a #GoFundSki campaign to begin with. But at this juncture, we are faced with some very tough decisions. My sister is stable and has a strong heart. With a very strong will to live, she has no intention of dying anytime soon. Once the current money runs out, we will have no choice but to place her in a Medicare-insured inpatient hospice—as long as that choice is open to us and that she is not de-certified from palliative care simply because she’s outlived Medicare guidelines.

It is our conviction that my sister has survived this long precisely because she’s been at home getting loving, superlative, top-notch care that she would never have gotten in any inpatient facility, be it a hospice or a nursing home.

We are therefore raising our #GoFundSki goal to $325,000, which means that we’re hoping to clear an additional $160,000 with this extended campaign to cover her care way beyond January 2023. To be blunt: If Ms. Ski outlives the additional finances raised for her, we will not extend our #GoFundSki campaign. And difficult choices will be made for her.

We have updated this campaign several months before the current money runs out and do not presume that we will be able to raise the same amount of money we asked for at the end of March 2022. But this goal has been set—and we will be eternally grateful for anything we can raise toward meeting it.

Fully aware of the increasing economic pressures that have impacted so many people throughout this country, we thank every single person who has already contributed to my sister’s welfare—and all those who might still be able to contribute.

Sincerely,
Chris Matthew Sciabarra (on behalf of my sister)

Posted to Facebook.

#GOFUNDSKI

Ms. Ski celebrated her 70th birthday on September 2, 2022

JARS: Toward a 2023 Grand Finale

In the fall of 1999, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies began publication as the only nonpartisan, interdisciplinary, double-blind, peer-reviewed, biannual periodical devoted to the study of Ayn Rand and her times. In 2013, JARS began a fruitful collaboration with Pennsylvania State University Press. Our reach has grown beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. We are indexed, in whole or in part, by nearly two dozen abstracting services across the humanities and the social sciences and are reaching thousands of global readers due to our availability on a variety of e-platforms—from JSTOR and Project MUSE to the new Scholarly Publishing Collective. And all its issues will always be on the Portico dark archive.

Over these last 22 years, JARS has contributed to the expansion of Rand scholarship in a truly significant way. With the forthcoming December 2022 issue, we will have published 408 articles by 188 different authors. Thus, we have not merely reflected a growing interest in Rand’s ideas; we have helped to spark a broader critical engagement with a thinker who was once viewed as outside the philosophical and literary mainstream. To this extent, we have accomplished one of our most important goals. Indeed, unlike the first year in which JARS appeared, articles about Rand are now being published regularly across the world in a wide variety of scholarly journals. And each year, more and more books are being published about her ideas and influence, and not even we can keep up with the demand for reviews of this expanding literature.

There comes a point at which one can look back at the achievements of a project and declare that it is time to move on. After more than two decades of what could only be termed ‘a labor of love’ by a group of editors, advisory board members, peer readers, and writers, this journal will be publishing its last volume as a double issue in 2023. We look forward to providing our readers with a truly grand finale. Our back issues will continue to be made available electronically and in print for as long as there are people seeking their contents.

This decision was made by the JARS Foundation Board of Trustees. This was not a publisher decision to liquidate JARS—which has been one of the most popular periodicals in the Penn State University Press Journals Program.

We know that there is still much work to be done in this field of study, but we are proud to have made a trailblazing contribution to its long-term vitality and success. Above all, we thank our readers for having made this journey possible.

Toward that end, I should note that we have a full slate of articles for our final July-December 2023 issue and will not be accepting any additional submissions beyond those already in production.

***

As a personal aside, I have been asked by friends and colleagues about my own future in a post-JARS era. All I can say is this: It is no coincidence that the last book I published as an author was in the year 2000. It was the conclusion of my “Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy”: Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. Since then, I have worked very hard as a founding coeditor of JARS, publishing the equivalent of two anthologies per year for what will be nearly a quarter century. Aside from several reviews and historical-archival essays that I contributed to JARS, my only “side” project was as a coeditor of The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom (2019). I fully intend to invest much more time and effort in expanding on this dialectical research project and its implications for human freedom and personal flourishing. But before I return to that project, I will be moving toward the completion of JARS. I’m proud of what this journal has accomplished and look forward to its graceful conclusion.

___
*This has been announced publicly on Facebook and a link to it can also be found on the JARS home page. It was also announced by Stephen Boydstun on Objectivism Online.

Happy 70th Ski Birthday (and Song of the Day #1961)

Song of the Day: Tangerine, music by Victor Schertzinger, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, was introduced to a broad audience in the 1942 film, “The Fleet’s In,” where it was performed by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra with Bob Eberle and Helen O’Connell [YouTube link]. It soon became a jazz standard. Check out instrumental renditions by Oscar Peterson, Jim Hall, The Dave Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond, Chet Baker & Paul Desmond, Benny Goodman, Stan Getz & Bob Brookmeyer, Zoot Sims, Dexter Gordon, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and vocal renditions by Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick, Jr., Ilya Serov and Poncho Sanchez, and, of course, the Salsoul Orchestra [YouTube links]. Today, my sister turns 70, and judging by how many she’s had over the years, I’d say the tangerine has got to be her Favorite Fruit! A happy and healthy birthday, dear sister, with my love always!

“Ms. Ski” Turns 70

Postscript (9/3/22): The pic below was taken this morning. Thanks to everybody who expressed their love & support.

❤

See Facebook discussion here.