Category Archives: Fyi

JARS: Dedicating and Rededicating …

Over the last twenty-one years of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, we have lost key members of the JARS family. In 2005, one of our cofounders—the man with the vision to create this journal—Bill Bradford, passed away. This was followed by the deaths of original Advisory Board members Larry J. Sechrest in 2008 and John Hospers in 2011. David Mayer, who joined the Board of Advisors in 2012, died in 2019. And in June 2021, we were greatly saddened to learn that Steven Horwitz, another Advisory Board member from the class of 2012, lost his battle with multiple myeloma.

It is in Steve’s memory that we will dedicate the forthcoming December 2021 issue of JARS, published by Pennsylvania State University Press.

But dedications of this sort require rededications to our mission—as we continue to be the only nonpartisan, biannual, interdisciplinary university-press published, double-blind peer-reviewed scholarly periodical devoted to the critical examination of Ayn Rand and her times. To that end, we are proud to announce the addition of four new Advisory Board members and one new Editorial Board member (and fuller bios for these folks will follow in our December 2021 issue):

We are also pleased to announce that Roger E. Bissell, another prolific contributor to JARS since its debut in 1999, has become an Associate Editor. Roger is an independent scholar living in Antioch, Tennessee. A research associate with the Molinari Institute, he has edited no fewer than ten books and is the author of more than three dozen scholarly essays in philosophy and psychology and four books, including How the Martians Discovered Algebra: Explorations in Induction and the Philosophy of Mathematics (2014) and What’s in Your File Folder? Essays on the Nature and Logic of Propositions (2019). He is also the coeditor, with Chris Matthew Sciabarra (me!) and Edward W. Younkins, of The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom. A lifelong professional musician, he has an M.A. in music performance and literature (University of Iowa) and a B.S. in music theory and composition (Iowa State University).

In welcoming these individuals, we remain profoundly grateful to all of our editorial and advisory board members for their continued support, which is integral to our ongoing intellectual journey.

Stay tuned for what promises to be a blockbuster December 2021 issue of JARS!

2021 Summer Music Festival (Dance Medley Edition)

I’ve been doing a Summer Music Festival now for six years. In 2016, 2017, and 2018, it was an eclectic mix, but by 2019, I began more “thematic” installments, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Woodstock Festival. In the summer of 2020, it was a Jazz Edition. Folks who have followed the 1,866 “Songs of the Day” that I’ve posted since 2004 must know that I have an immensely diverse musical palette, which embraces everything from classical, jazz, musical theatre, and the Great American Songbook to R&B, rock, prog rock, and ‘Planet Rock‘ (hip hop). This year, however, it’s all about Dance Medleys! Yep! Unabashed, unapologetic, dance music—much of it even Disco, stretching from the late 1970s to the late 1980s, the very years that I was working part-time as a mobile DJ and MC, playing engagements, weddings, school proms and reunions, New Year’s Eve parties, and Bar Mitzvahs (see photo below, circa 1986). Not to mention doing custom-made mix tapes for people who attended those parties and for all my friends! (Heck, I even created dance mixes for Ms. Ski‘s [my sister’s] award-winning Dance Teams!)

So, let the Haters sit this one out! This fun, rhythmic music emerged from R&B, soul, funk, and Latino influences, with many of its early DJs coming out of an urban gay subculture. That might explain some of the hostility heaped on the genre in such events as “Disco Demolition Night” [YouTube link], which took place on 12 July 1979 at Comiskey Park. Alas, Comiskey Park is now history [YouTube link], but disco’s influence on house, techno, electronica, hip hop, and dance pop lives on. And we’re not even counting the hundreds of disco hits that have been “sampled” ever since by artists across all genres in the extension of their craft.

So, it’s time to dance down memory lane! Most of the featured medleys this summer are from Disconet, the New York-based “subscription” label founded in 1977 by Mike Wilkinson. Two of the medleys that I’ll post over the summer were created by me back in the 1980s, and will be making their debut on YouTube publicly for the first time! (And a special shout-out to my dear friend Ryan Neugebauer for guiding me through some of the YouTube tech issues! Thank you! ❤).

There were many fine DJ subscription labels, including Hot Tracks and DMC, but Disconet was the pioneer. I was very good friends with the late Bobby “DJ” Guttadaro, an award-winning club giant, from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, who was a member of the original team of remixers hired by the Disconet service. When we walked into a club where Bobby was mixing, I’d slip him a playlist, and could be certain that at some point in the night, he’d play virtually all of my requests! I dedicate this year’s Summer Music Festival (Dance Medley Edition) to his memory and the memory of all those heroic, trailblazing DJs who mastered the art of the mix. We start on June 20, for by Sunday night at 11:32 pm (ET), the Summer Solstice arrives! Watch this space!

^ Me (DJ’ing, circa 1986)

The “Homonograph” and DOL Available Thru C4SS Store!

Pardon me for this commercial break!

This being Pride Month, I am happy to announce that my 60+ page-monograph, Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation (2003) is finally available again for sale—though supplies are limited—through the C4SS Store (link to sale page). I donated virtually my entire personal inventory of the work to the store. The book may be out-of-print, but the copies are pristine and being sold for only $5 each!

Available Again thru the C4SS Counter-Economic Store

The “Homonograph” (as I’ve often called it) is a combination philosophical exegesis, sociological study, and political tract, which examines Rand’s impact on the sexual attitudes of self-identified Objectivists in the movement to which she gave birth and the gay subculture that she would have disowned.

I should also mention that our special discount sale of the anthology, The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom (coedited by Roger Bissell, Ed Younkins, and me), is now over, because the book is sold out! It is still available at a higher price (in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle) through Amazon (as well as Google Books and Lexington Books), but why would you pay a minimum of $40 when you can get the book for $18 directly from the C4SS Store (link to sale page)! I’ve autographed all the copies that C4SS is selling. It is also available as part of the C4SS Store’s special collection: “The Intros Bundle” (link to sale page).

I want to thank James Tuttle for making all of this possible. Check it out!

JARS: The Third Decade Begins …

It is with deep appreciation to the readers and supporters of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies that I announce today the imminent e-publication on JSTOR and Project Muse and in print of our forty-first issue, the beginning of our third decade as the only double-blind peer-reviewed interdisciplinary, scholarly journal devoted to the study of Ayn Rand and her times.

As I previously pointed out, since the beginning of our collaboration with Pennsylvania State University Press in 2013, JARS has become a truly worldwide publication. Our authors come from every corner of the globe, as does our readership. Indeed, while a strong 48% of our article requests still come from the United States, the majority of requests now stretch from North and South America to Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania, encompassing nearly 130 countries.

With Volume 21, Number 1, we have now published 392 articles by 181 authors. In this issue alone, we introduce four contributors new to our pages—Mikhail Kizilov, Abhijeet Melkani, Stephen Marvin and Syed Haroon Ahmed Shah—each of whom embodies our mission, which welcomes papers from every discipline and from a variety of interpretive and critical perspectives, fostering scholarly dialogue through a respectful exchange of ideas.

Here is our line-up for the new July 2021 issue:

Introduction – Chris Matthew Sciabarra

Articles

Beyond “The Money-Making Personality”: Notes Towards a Theory of Capitalist Orthopraxy – Roger Donway

Hegemonic Change and The Role of the Intellectual in Atlas Shrugged: A Gramscian Study – Syed Haroon Ahmed Shah

Rand on the Atonement: A Critique – Amos Wollen

Selfish versus Selfish – Merlin Jetton

Mental Integrations as Functional Wholes – Abhijeet Melkani

Existence, We – Stephen Boydstun

Book Reviews

Re-reading Rand through a Russian Lens (review of Khudozhestvennoe tvorchestvo Ayn Rand v russkom kontekste [Ayn Rand’s Fiction
in a Russian Context
], by Anastasiya Grigorovskaya) – Mikhail Kizilov

A Multilayered Work (Review of Layers, by Nathaniel Branden) – Mimi Reisel Gladstein

A Journey to Fulfillment (Review of The Tao of Roark: Variations on a Theme from Ayn Rand, by Peter Saint-Andre) – Stephen Marvin

Discussion

Reply to Roger E. Bissell: A More Scientific Compatibilism – George Lyons

Rejoinder to George Lyons: Ontological, Ethical, and Methodological Compatibilism and the Free Will Controversy in Objectivism – Roger E. Bissell

Readers can check out the article abstracts here and the contributor biographies here. Those interested in submitting articles to be considered for publication in JARS, should use the Editorial Manager platform. And those interested in subscribing to the journal, should consult the various links here.

The third decade begins …

Pearls Patience

This is a common theme on the streets of New York …

Courtesy of Stephan Pastis and “Pearls Before Swine
New York Daily News

Motherhood Transcending Humanhood …

This is really an amazing video … a post-Mother’s Day treat!

“Lucky to Be Alive, & We Ain’t Kitten!”

Why anybody would attempt to rid themselves of a pet by throwing it in the trash is beyond me. Hopper the Cat is “Lucky to Be Alive” thanks to two sanitation workers in Queens, NY! Yay! Check out the story in today’s New York Daily News.

Awww…

Sheep Labor!

This story in today’s New York Daily News, “Sheep Labor: 5 New Workers Sink Their Teeth in Job on Governor’s Island,” just made me go: “Awww…”

Cheers to Flour, Sam, Evening, Chad and Philip Aries

Ski and Me: Update #2

As many of you know from my first post on the subject, way back in December 2020 (“Ski and Me: An Update“), my sister, Elizabeth Sciabarra (“Ms. Ski” to all those who know her), has had quite a few medical issues with which to deal since mid-November. This is just an update for all those who have sent messages of love and support along the way.

After hospitalization for serious illness from November 13 to December 12, 2020, my sister returned to the hospital from March 8 to April 7, 2021, where she underwent successful back surgery before being transferred to the hospital’s acute rehab unit. She has now been transferred to a sub-acute rehabilitation facility, and it will take some time to get her fully mobile—for her to return back home. But we have great confidence in the facility and in all of her healthcare providers. She’s been vaccinated for COVID, and, in fact, I get my own second dose of the Moderna vaccine on April 15 (next Thursday). Indeed, as my sister’s primary caregiver, healthcare proxy, and loving brother, I have been taking very good care of myself—because if I don’t, I will lose the capacity to take care of my sister or anyone or anything else! So I’ve not missed a single doctor, dental, or other appointment, and have lots of work on my very full plate.

I’ll continue to keep folks posted—especially once she has returned home.

I just wanted to extend my deepest appreciation again for all the love and support that has been expressed by colleagues, friends, and family—and especially from all of my sister’s former students, the thousands of kids she taught and mentored, and for whom she continues to care so deeply. Your goodwill wishes are part of the love that sustains her. Thank you.

Scent and Sensibility

I am way behind in my newspaper and magazine reading, but I came upon an article, “The Forgotten Sense,” which appeared in The New York Times Magazine, by Brooke Jarvis, which was among the most fascinating pieces I’ve read in a long time. The article focuses a lot of attention on the ways in which up to an estimated two-thirds of post-COVID-19 infected patients lose their olfactory senses (and in many instances, their sense of taste, which is intimately connected with the sense of smell). Lacking the sense of smell is hazardous to your health; not being able to detect food poisoning, a burning dinner or a gas leak is, indeed, problematic. “This month,” writes Jarvis, “a Texas family whose members lost their sense of smell to COVID narrowly escaped a house fire after the only uninfected member, a teenager, smelled smoke and woke everyone else up.” Indeed, “Smell is no big deal, until it’s missing.”

Those who have suffered this abnormality struggle “with depression, symptoms similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder and feelings of relentless isolation and disconnection from the world around them. It felt, some people said, as if they were living their lives in black and white, or trapped behind a sheet of glass; their sense of normalcy and well-being had disappeared with their olfaction. ‘I feel alien from myself,’ one person wrote. ‘Detached from normality. Lonely in my body. It’s so hard to explain.’ Another described feeling ‘discombobulated—like I don’t exist.’”

Our sense of smell is taken for granted and often dismissed as almost irrelevant to who we are as human beings. So many philosophers and scientists—from Plato and Aristotle to Descartes, Kant, and Darwin—have relegated it to the more “primitive” of our five senses, the “province of lesser animals.” But as Jarvis writes:

“Smell is a startling superpower. You can walk through someone’s front door and instantly know that she recently made popcorn. Drive down the street and somehow sense that the neighbors are barbecuing. Intuit, just as a side effect of breathing a bit of air, that this sweater has been worn but that one hasn’t, that it’s going to start raining soon, that the grass was trimmed a few hours back. If you weren’t used to it, it would seem like witchcraft.”

Jarvis notes that there has been a “renaissance” in “smell science” over the last 30 years. Linda Buck and Richard Axel, awarded the Nobel Prize in 2004, identified “the neural receptors that allow us to perceive and make sense of the smells around us. … The revelation opened the door to a new way of understanding the olfactory system, as well as to a new, ever-expanding world of research. A system assumed to be unsophisticated and insignificant turned out to be quite the opposite. Where vision depends on four kinds of receptors—rods and three types of cones—smell uses about 400 receptors, which are together estimated to be able to detect as many as a trillion smells. The complexity of the system is such that we’re still unable to predict how, or even if, a given chemical will be perceived by our olfactory system. The old quest to map odorants and their perception is now understood to be a wildly complicated undertaking. Joel Mainland, a neuroscientist at the Monell Center who is working on the problem, told me that while maps of color vision are easily presented in two dimensions, an eventual olfactory map might require many more.”

Smell is indeed one of the most remarkable senses we have. From its role in detecting hazards to the transmission of pheromones and its role in human attraction to its crucial role in the functioning of our immune system, olfaction is the most underappreciated and least understood of the ways in which the human organism apprehends the world. As Jarvis explains: “While what we see must pass through various parts of the brain before it reaches our centers for memory or emotion, smell has a nearly direct pathway. ‘They’re built together,’ [neurobiologist Sandeep Robert] Datta said of the brain and the chemical world that it perceives. ‘They’re meant to function as a unit.’”

The sense of smell is the only sensory modality in which the actual airborne molecules of the perceived object enter our bodies, attaching to receptor cells that are themselves neurons.  Our olfactory nerves consist of neurons with one end in direct contact with the external world and the other in direct contact with the brain. It may be the most primal, but it is also the most intimate of our sensory modalities, performing an act of neural intercourse every time we take a whiff.

Science is coming to understand the importance of the olfactory sense in more ways than one. Just as some of the recent research has shown an impaired sense of smell in COVID and post-COVID-infected patients, it is often bound up with neural diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as autoimmune disorders, from MS to rheumatoid arthritis to lupus. It is also experienced to a much higher degree by those suffering from depression. Interestingly, it has been found that “children with autism have different automatic sniff reactions than those who are neurotypical, and they use more parts of their brains to process odors. They can also follow social cues better if they can smell a mother’s odor, even if she isn’t present.”

For me, olfaction has never been a “forgotten sense.” It is something of which I am deeply aware. I cannot imagine a world without a sense of smell. It is such a crucial part of my sensory apparatus that I have never taken it for granted.

It also has a way of transporting me to places buried deep in my memory. That acrid smell of burning plastic, metal, and human flesh that inhabited southern Brooklyn in the days after 9/11 is something I will never forget. But it is not just tragic memories that the sense of smell conjures up. Walking through my neighborhood, picking up the scent of fresh baked bread or a pizza emerging from a hot oven can get my salivary glands going immediately. I cannot forget the scent of a brand-new car or of an infant child—a parent, a friend, a partner. Just the scent of a certain perfume or cologne conjures up immense feelings of a particular person, time, and place that are not triggered in the same way as, say, looking at a photo of that same person, time, and place. One whiff of Aqua Velva conjures up whole memories of my Dad, who passed away in 1972 in ways that a photo or a video image cannot. One whiff of Chanel No. 5 conjures up a flood of memories of my Mom, who passed away in 1995, in ways that a photo or a video image cannot.

A greater understanding of the “forgotten sense” is one of the more welcome scientific by-products to have come out of a tragic pandemic. Let us hope that research continues to unlock not only the mysteries of COVID, but the continuing mysteries of how our organisms function—and why it is so important to recognize when something so crucial to being human is just not functioning the way it should.