Category Archives: Remembrance

Happy Mother’s Day

… to all the Moms out there!

Holy Week Memories

This date, April 21, has special significance to me. On this date in 1974, I was admitted to Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn—the same hospital in which I was born—to undergo life-saving intestinal by-pass surgery for Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome. I often think of that hospital as the place in which I was born—and re-born.

It was also on this date—in 1995—that my mother, Ann Sciabarra, passed away at the age of 76, after a five-year-long battle with lung cancer. It was in the wee hours of Good Friday morning that she left us. She was one of the eight children of Vasilios P. Michalopoulos, my Papouli, who was the first pastor of the Three Hierarchs Church in Brooklyn. Her name in Greek was Anastasia. Father Eugene Pappas of that same church remarked at her funeral that it was just like my mother to have died on Good Friday, “only to be resurrected with Christ on Easter, her name day.” “Anastasia” is a derivative of “Anesti”, of the Resurrection, which is why Greeks say to one another on Orthodox Easter: “Christos Anesti” (or “Christ is Risen”).

This year, Good Friday falls on April 22, but it just so happens that today is Holy Thursday on the Greek Orthodox calendar. Which brings me to another one of those classic family memories …

Every year, Mom took my sister Elizabeth and me to Holy Week services. She never forced us to go weekly to Church as children or to attend Sunday school or Greek school (though, in retrospect, I could have used the latter—instead of a year-length course in dreadful statistics—toward a second foreign language requirement in my doctoral studies). But Holy Week was a different story altogether. We received communion, and typically attended services throughout the week, including Palm Sunday, the anointing of the Holy Unction on Holy Wednesday, the Holy Thursday evening procession of the cross, Jesus’s descent from the cross on Good Friday, and both the midnight resurrection service late Saturday night and the multilingual Easter Sunday morning Vespers of Agape. It should be noted that the Greeks go all-out. Those church services certainly helped me to appreciate the beauties of ritual, which speak to a sublime part of the human soul, whatever your religious beliefs.

On the night of Holy Thursday, in keeping with the Jewish tradition that the new day begins at sunset, Greeks begin to commemorate the events of Good Friday, marking the crucifixion, in which the cross is carried around the church, a replica of the body of Jesus often carried behind, only to be symbolically nailed to the cross once the procession makes its way to the front of the altar.

On this Holy Thursday night, back in 1971, when I was 11 years old, my sister and I accompanied my Mom to Three Hierarchs Church. The Twelve Gospel readings pertaining to the Passion were highlighted, in a re-enactment of the crucifixion. After the Fifth Gospel, the church was darkened and the cross was carried around the church in a mournful procession. Atop the cross were three lit candles. I was seated at the end of one of the front pews in the church, with a right aisle up-close view of the cross. The scent of the incense only heightened the sounds and visuals of the moment.

As the cross passed by me, the priest tipped it ever so slightly and hot wax from one of the candles dripped right onto my scalp. I let out an “Ow!” so loud that a few people turned around in obvious shock and contempt. Liz started to giggle, and I lost it. My mother saw what happened and kicked me under the pew. She leaned over and whispered in my ear: “Shhh! You got burned because you don’t go to Church!”

Well. This did not make matters better; my sister and I became convulsed with laughter, trying desperately to hide it. While elderly Greek women and men were moved to tears by the solemnity of the service, the tears were literally rolling down our faces, as we tried to contain our hysterics. Somehow, we made it out of that church without getting struck by lightning.

Safely outside, even Mom could not contain her own laughter, just shaking her head over the events of the night.

Memories, hilarious memories …

Hiromi Shinya Memorial Date

As Notablog readers know, I memorialized the trailblazing Dr. Hiromi Shinya in two previous posts back in December 2021 and January 2022. I was just informed by his daughter, Erica Kim, that a memorial service will be held for her father on Sunday, October 9, from 3:30pm at the Marble Collegiate Church, 1 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to attend, but I’m very happy that Dr. Shinya will be so honored.

Coronavirus (37): An Indexical Reflection

This is the thirty-seventh and final installment to my Coronavirus series, which began two years ago on this date. This installment serves as an index to the entire series.

I use the word “indexical” not only to suggest the index herein, but as a reflection of the word’s actual meaning: a linguistic expression whose reference can shift from context to context. That is what this series has done over time; as the context has continued to evolve, not a single installment has ever been written in stone, and all of them should be subject to evaluation based on the contexts in which they were first composed. What could be more dialectical than that?

As a kind of personal “journal,” this series has been as much a therapeutic exercise in dealing with an unfathomable number of deaths in my beloved city of New York as it was an attempt to come to grips with the many issues raised by COVID-19 and the policies adopted in response to it. Ultimately, it asked more questions than it answered.

As dates go, this one has an additional degree of irony. Fifty years ago today, “The Godfather” premiered at the Loew’s State Theatre in New York City to much fanfare. The film, and its later re-edited incarnation (with its two sequels) as a chronological epic, remains one of my all-time favorites. Not for its famous tropes or its classic quotes, but for its illustration, in painstaking detail, of how the inversion of values destroys the human soul. The characters therein ostensibly try to preserve that which they value through nefarious means that lead to the loss of those values—and of life itself.

While that 1972 film drives home this point in the context of warfare among mob ‘families’, their legions of hitmen pale in comparison to the warfare perpetuated by states across the world, which have perfected the art of mass murder in a way that would make even the most ruthless of Mafia Dons blush.

In war, even in those wars fought against horrific forces of oppression, there are always consequences, both intended and unintended, that forever become a part of the political landscape. For example, the defeat of the Axis powers in World War II left in its wake the consolidation of a U.S. military-industrial complex and a national security state and ongoing policies of “perpetual war for perpetual peace”—whether it was called the Cold War, the War on Terror, or the War on Drugs. But states and their ruling classes, ever responsible for wars, have also exploited disasters—natural or man-made—to expand their powers, suppress civil liberties, and destroy the fabric of social and economic life.

That is why libertarians have been gallant opponents of state expansion, knowing full well that state actors rarely act in good faith and that governmental overreach especially during emergencies is not easily rolled back. Such emergencies have been exploited throughout history in ways that tap into people’s anxieties and fears while augmenting their obedience to a class of politically connected “experts.”

I am a libertarian—a dialectical one at that. Which means that while I retain my libertarian distrust of political and economic elites, I fully understand that we live under a certain set of institutional constraints and that the real conditions that exist give human beings highly limited and imperfect tools to deal with emergencies as they arise.

I am also a native New Yorker. I have experienced much heartache in this city, from 9/11 to Superstorm Sandy. And I have witnessed, with my own eyes, the deaths of countless fellow New Yorkers at the height of the COVID pandemic. I was utterly aghast when many of my libertarian friends were branding the pandemic an “exaggeration” or worse, a “hoax”. There has always been room to debate the effectiveness of this or that policy in response to COVID. But the epidemic of denialism that swept across libertarian circles—while neighbors to the right of me and neighbors to the left of me were literally dropping dead—only compounded my sadness. Denialism is not a strategy. It is an admission of defeat—that one has no proposals to deal with an externality, whatever its scope or fatality rate.

***

I was recently asked a very interesting and relevant question by my friend, Alexander Wade Craig: “What context have we lost in the changes COVID brought to our social lives that you think we are 1) better off for having lost, and 2) worse off for having lost?”

I acknowledged that this was a very difficult question to answer. Even though I’ve written 36 previous installments covering the pandemic and its implications, it is going to take many years to truly understand COVID-19 and the response to it—and the costs that each brought to both life and liberty. Still, this event helped to illuminate notions that we are better off for having lost, as well as notions that we are worse off for having lost—and these notions are essentially two sides of the same coin:

1) The spread of COVID-19 made it clearer than ever that the world is a global community, interconnected in ways that cannot be altered by artificially created borders. Given the ebb and flow of peoples across artificial boundaries imposed by nation-states, we learned swiftly that a virus, like the people it infects, knows no borders. What first shows up in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, in China, spreads to the Korean peninsula, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, the United States, Russia, Africa, and throughout the world. This is not a call to close borders; it is simply an acknowledgment of the unavoidable interconnections between peoples across the Earth. So, we’re better off for having lost the idea that somehow people can be isolated from one another—a rather sobering lesson, considering that the response to an infectious disease has typically been lockdowns, quarantines, and other policies of separation.

2) So, the other side of that coin introduces us to a whole litany of ‘separateness’: distancing, mask-wearing, quarantining, and so forth. Hence, just as a global pandemic illustrates that people cannot be hermetically sealed from one another (a good thing), it simultaneously leads to efforts to do precisely that: hermetically seal ourselves off from others. The effect of isolation (whether it was chosen or coercively imposed) has been increased social alienation, a rise in mental health problems, substance abuse, and overdose deaths. People of all ages, from the very young to the very old, were deleteriously affected by this isolation. I suspect that these effects will lessen over time, as the COVID ‘crisis phase’ dissipates, but we are still worse off for having lost that social connectedness for such a long period of time, no matter how necessary it may have been for various people in various contexts.

Nathaniel Branden once wrote: “We stand within an endless network of relationships. Separation and connectedness are polarities, with each entailing the other.” It’s very sad that so many people have learned the truth of this principle in such a tragic way.

Here is a chronological index to all the installments in my Coronavirus series; unless there is some huge issue that needs to be addressed in some dramatically different way, I suspect that this installment, like the last one I wrote on 9/11 (for the twentieth anniversary of that day), will be the final installment in this series. And it’s fully in keeping with my friend Tom Knapp‘s “Prime Number Obsession”—that “all sets should consist of a prime number of items.” 37 is a Prime Number! (Tom also reminds me that it’s Pi Day too!)

Coronavirus (1): School Closures (March 14, 2020)

Coronavirus (2): Disease and Dictatorship (March 18, 2020)

Coronavirus (3): Love, Pets, and Booze to the Rescue! (March 22, 2020)

Coronavirus (4): In New York State … and Beyond (March 23, 2020)

Coronavirus (5): C’mon Ol’ Folks – Do Your Part for the Sake of the Country and Die! (March 25, 2020)

Coronavirus (6): Corona-Comedy – A Little Gallows Humor To Get Us Through (March 27, 2020)

Coronavirus (7): Corona-Chaos – A Pandemic from the Political to the Personal (March 28, 2020)

Coronavirus (8): A Message from Italy (March 29, 2020)

Coronavirus (9): A Message from New York City (March 29, 2020)

Coronavirus (10): “Standing Man” as Metaphor … or Blessed are the Healers! (March 30, 2020)

Coronavirus (11): “Opening Day” and Pitching In … (March 31, 2020)

Coronavirus (12): The Trials and Tribulations of Grocery Shopping … and Living in New York City (April 3, 2020)

Coronavirus (13): New York State of Mind (April 6, 2020)

Coronavirus (14): Numbers and Narratives (April 8, 2020)

Coronavirus (15): What’s in a Number? (April 13, 2020)

Coronavirus (16): Pearls Before Swine – Comic Gems In These Times (April 16, 2020)

Coronavirus (17): Ilana Mercer on Covidiots! (April 17, 2020)

Coronavirus (18): Gallows Comics (April 23, 2020)

Coronavirus (19): Reality Check (April 23, 2020)

Coronavirus (20): A Light-Hearted Moment in the Post Office (April 25, 2020)

Coronavirus (21): Lockdowns, Libertarians, and Liberation (May 5, 2020)

Coronavirus (22): Spring Cleaning (Or Three Cheers for Sanitation Workers!) (May 8, 2020)

Coronavirus (23): Mutual Aid During a Pandemic (or Three Cheers for the Volunteers!) (May 11, 2020)

Coronavirus (24): Three Cheers for the Ol’ Folks (May 12, 2020)

Coronavirus (25): Joseph “Joe Pisa” Sanfratello, RIP (May 15, 2020)

Coronavirus (26): Gallows Humor In These Times (May 28, 2020)

Coronavirus (27): Majority Rules NY (June 25, 2020)

Coronavirus (28): Sweden is Not New York (July 16, 2020)

Coronavirus (29): Medical Procedures in the Age of COVID … And I’m Still Alive! (October 6, 2020)

Coronavirus (30): “Cuomogate” and Systemic Crisis (February 19, 2021)

Coronavirus (31): Dose #1 for a “Fake” Virus (March 18, 2021)

Coronavirus (32): Junior’s Cheesecake (or Bring On Dose #2!) (March 27, 2021)

Coronavirus (33): Dose #2 and Done—Or Not! (April 15, 2021)

Coronavirus (34): “Virtue Signaling” vs. Doing the Right Thing (August 21, 2021)

Coronavirus (35): The ABCs – Authority, Boosters, and Caregiving (November 10, 2021)

Coronavirus (36): Denialism = Death (January 5, 2022)

Coronavirus (37): An Indexical Reflection (March 14, 2022)

I will end this series with one final dose of gallows humor, something that has marked many of the installments I posted over the past two years. And let’s face it, we have needed some laughter to get us through [YouTube link].

In one of my favorite comic strips, “Pearls Before Swine” by Stephan Pastis, “The Game of COVID Life” reminds us of how crazy our lives have been upended since the beginnings of this pandemic. Here’s hoping that the Finish Line is not one of closeted isolation, but a new commitment to social life, human freedom, and personal flourishing.

Memories of Dad

As ballroom dancers, Mom and Dad met on the dance floor. Nobody could cut a rug doing a swift Peabody or a Lindy-Hop better! Dad always said if he had to die, he wanted to go out dancing.

And that is exactly what he was doing when he died on this date, fifty years ago.

On March 4, 1972, my father, Salvatore Charles Sciabarra (“Sal” to his family and friends), died of a massive coronary at the age of 55. He would have turned 56 on June 11, 1972. At the time, I was 12 years old, suffering from serious life-threatening medical problems, and the news of his passing shattered me. It was my first experience with death as a fact of life. It was so very hard. But the cherished memories I have of him are still very much alive.

Mom was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1919; Dad was born in Manhattan in 1916. As young children, they both moved to Brooklyn, New York and met as teenagers because of their mutual love of dancing. In 1935, she was 16 and he was 19. They had attended a wedding together and Mom missed curfew and didn’t want to go home to the wrath of her father, my Papouli, the first pastor of the Three Hierarchs Church. They decided to elope. Times were very different back then; intermarriage between faiths and ethnicities was frowned upon. Mom was an American-born Greek Orthodox woman whose parents had emigrated from Olympia, Greece. Dad was an American-born Roman Catholic man whose parents had emigrated from Porto Empedocle, not far from Sciacca (hence the last name), in the province of Agrigento, Sicily. Or as I put it, tongue-in-cheek: My maternal grandparents came from the home of the gods and goddesses and my paternal grandparents came from the home of the godfathers; clearly, this Brooklyn-born boy came from tough stock!

My parents were not gods, goddesses, or ‘godparents’. But they were very human renegades for their time. And, in many ways, they raised three renegade children, each of whom danced to their own music. My brother Carl—exposed to my father’s mandolin, guitar, and drum-playing, would go on to become a virtuoso jazz guitarist. My sister Elizabeth—exposed to my mother’s love of education (Mom was the first in her family to graduate from high school, James Madison High School in Brooklyn)—would go on to become a lifelong educator. And both my parents encouraged me to follow my own dreams; I would not have become what I am today without them.

Mom and Dad separated when I was 5 years old. Though my sister and I lived with my Mom, my Dad remained a very strong presence in my life. In fact, in the wake of that separation, his presence in my life only grew. There were difficult times for sure, but these were far outweighed by fun times. Trips to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, its hills like huge mountains to me, its zoo full of wonder, nourished my love of nature. Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, car rides, music, and movies delighted me.

One of those movies was “The Love Bug,” whose action centered around Herbie, a Volkswagen Beetle. Dad had proposed taking my sister and me to see the film, which was playing at the Cinema Theatre on East Kings Highway (previously known as the Jewel Theatre). Mom was flustered by both the title and the theater. “You’re taking them to see a film called ‘The Love Bug’ at the Cinema!”—knowing all too well that the theater was an infamous headquarters for first-run racy porn flicks. Dad explained that it was a Disney film.

Like Mom, who worked in the garment industry for most of her life, Dad too was a factory worker. Initially, he was an eye-setter in a doll factory. We still have some of those dolls, with their life-like eyes, which my Dad brought home for my sister Elizabeth. Eventually, he would become a cargo worker for Trans World Airlines at JFK International Airport. I still have plenty of TWA memorabilia, including TWA soaps and TWA Flying Magic Boards, given to kids of all ages on flights (see the collage below). Today, you’re lucky if you can get complementary snacks! I hadn’t flown on a plane in my Dad’s lifetime, but I got to see planes up close at the airport as a kid. It fueled my awe of the heavens and sparked my lifelong fascination with the human journey into air and space.

Despite losing my Dad in 1972, I continued to be nourished by a very loving and supportive family throughout my entire life. And it was to these family members that I dedicated each of my books. I told Mom that I would dedicate my first book, Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, to her. Alas, she died in April 1995, before that book was published. I told my Uncle Sam—my Dad’s first cousin, who married my mother’s sister (my Aunt Georgia) and who was like a second father to me—that I would dedicate my second book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, to him. But he died in 1994. It got so that I was very concerned about who would have been “sentenced” to death-by-dedication, for my third book, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. So I opted for strength in numbers, a group dedication—to my brother, sister, sister-in-law, friend Matthew, and dog Blondie, and all, except for Blondie, are still kicking till this day!

I never had a chance to honor my father. I was his “Chrissy Bear”; he was my Daddy. This post acknowledges his joyous impact on my life.

That’s me with Mom and Dad in September 1969, along with that TWA memorabilia …








Paul Cantor, RIP

I was shocked to learn today (H/T to FB friend Shal Marriott) of the death (on February 26, 2022) of Paul Cantor, the American literary critic who was the Clifton Waller Barrett Professor in the English Department at the University of Virginia. Paul was 76.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1945, he would go on to write extensively on a wide range of topics, from Shakespeare and English Romanticism to pop culture. I was introduced to his work through our mutual friend Stephen Cox, with whom he edited a fine 2010 anthology, Literature and the Economics of Liberty: Spontaneous Order in Culture.

I contacted Paul for the first time in December 2021 to invite him to submit a review essay to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, an invitation which he enthusiastically accepted. I found him to be an amicable and hilarious guy. He admitted to being a “frustrated stand-up comedian,” who was looking into “booking a lounge in Vegas.” His sense of humor was clearly fueled by his Brooklyn roots. As a native of the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, he would have had plenty of material to work with. He attended P.S. 208, Meyer Levin Junior High School, and Samuel J. Tilden High School, where he became co-captain of the Math Team before going on to earn an A.B. and Ph.D. at Harvard University in English literature.

He took long subway rides to see Ayn Rand lecture at Hunter College in the 1950s. He said that it “was very exciting to see Rand speak. She had a real flare for the dramatic.” He also attended the NYC seminars of Ludwig von Mises.

In his work on pop culture, Paul had examined TV series as varied as “Gilligan’s Island” and “The X-Files.” He told me that he was already working on essays dealing with “Shark Tank”, “Pawn Stars”, and “The Profit”. I would have been honored to have had his work appear in JARS.

My very deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Paul Cantor (1945-2022)

Ukraine & Moral Outrage

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I have read quite a few articles by libertarians and fellow travelers who are understandably concerned about US intervention overseas. An article at antiwar.com highlights US hypocrisy in its stance toward the Putin regime, while other writers express the hope that President Biden will show the same restraint that JFK showed during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I am fully on board with those who point to the hypocrisy of the US government when it comes to the actions of other governments across the world.

But something more needs to be said.

In the wake of 9/11, as a New Yorker and a libertarian, I felt like a man without a home: I understood fully that US foreign policy had created a boomerang effect, which led to the deaths of 3000 people in this country. Among those were family, friends, colleagues, neighbors. (Ironically, the first attack on the World Trade Center took place 29 years ago on this date.) I was utterly horrified that some libertarian friends of mine could not understand my outrage at Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, whom I held responsible for that attack. I wanted justice, but I didn’t have a blood lust against an entire group of people—like, say, the Randians, who wanted to atomize the entire Islamic Middle East. I was against the Iraq War and the PATRIOT Act, advocated the withdrawal of the US presence in the Middle East, an end to US foreign aid and the US propping-up of regimes in that region, while simultaneously seeking justice for those who lost their lives on that horrific day.

It’s always important to keep context, but if you can’t see that the United States government is not the only entity on the planet with a record of human rights abuses and horrific policies abroad, then, well, you’re blind to the global context in which we live. This doesn’t imply anything about what the United States should or should not do with regard to Russia and Ukraine. But it does mean that those of us who are concerned about human rights should speak up—whoever violates those rights across the world. And my heart breaks for those in both Russia and Ukraine whose rights and lives are being trampeled as other global actors (Putin and company) act like the thugs they are. (And my heart breaks as well for all my Russian American and Ukranian American neighbors, who are deeply concerned over the current state of affairs; indeed, the New York metropolitan area has the greatest concentration of Ukranian Americans and Russian Americans in the United States.)

Indeed, in Russia, Putin continues to clamp down on dissent, with further restrictions placed on social media—something that I was warned about by Russian colleagues days ago—further proof, regardless of country, that intervention without leads necessarily to an erosion of human freedoms within.

Is there a wider context with regard to those actions by Russia, which reflect a history of bungled US and Western diplomacy? Of course. But that context does not change the moral outrage that so many of us rightly express, with regard to the actions of Russia in Ukraine.

Postscript (28 February 2022): Folks should take a look at Thomas Knapp’s take on this crisis as well. He is absolutely correct in expressing his sympathy for the noncombatants who get caught in the crossfire of this dispute between nation-states. Check out: “Don’t Look to Politicians for Peace.”

Postscript (7 March 2022): Also check out Doug Bandow’s discussion of “Whataboutism and Russia’s Attack on Ukraine” on antiwar.com.

Merlin Jetton, RIP

I learned from my friend Stephen Boydstun today that our mutual colleague and friend Merlin Jetton has died of cancer. Merlin is survived by his wife Rebecca.

In the 1990s, Merlin contributed many articles to Stephen’s wonderful journal, Objectivity. In 2006, he contributed the first of seven articles to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. He wrote on subjects ranging from epistemology to ethics. His final JARS article appeared in our July 2021 issue: “Selfish versus Selfish” (which is available on the Scholarly Publishing Collective site here).

Merlin described himself as an independent scholar. He graduated from the University of Illinois as a math major. His bio for JARS reminds us that “[h]e escaped academia in order to apply and expand his math skills in the real world of business.” A Fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a Chartered Financial Analyst, he retired after a twenty-eight-year career as an actuary and financial engineer, having specialized in asset-liability management the last fifteen years or so.

His interest in Rand’s philosophy stretched back decades. As a member of “the Chicago School of Objectivism”, he attended the New Intellectual Forum, a salon organized by another of our friends, Marsha Enright. Merlin made several presentations to that group.

Merlin Jetton, RIP

Stephen’s poignant memories of Merlin are published here. Unlike Stephen, I never met Merlin. But having corresponded with him over the course of 17 years, I got to know him in a way that showed what a congenial soul he was. I’ll miss our discussions of everything from philosophy to baseball. I remember how annoyed he was back in 2020 when the Los Angeles Dodgers—or as he called them, those “damn ex-Bums”—beat his Atlanta Braves in a 7-game National League Championship Series.

We were unable to meet when he came to NYC in 2019, and he expressed the hope that we’d meet someday. But by October 2020, he had already undergone surgery for his second bout with cancer. His health woes never dulled his enormous empathy for me—with my own share of medical problems—or the challenges facing my sister, when she became seriously ill only a month later.

Aside from our interest in philosophy and baseball, Merlin and I shared a love of Peanuts cartoons. Less than a week after my 61st birthday, Merlin sent me a set of Charles M. Schulz classics, including the one below. It’s a reminder of how much admiration and appreciation we had for one another.

I will miss Merlin very much, not just as a member of the JARS family, but as the warm human being and friend he was. The July 2022 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will be dedicated to his memory.

Postscript: This was a particularly sad day for me … having noted on Facebook that it would have been the 58th birthday of Steve Horwitz. As I said: “You are gone, but never forgotten, dearest friend. Thank you for having graced my life and the lives of so many others. My love always … ”

NYC is Alive and Well …

With apologies to some of my pals at The Atlas Society, who recently posted a video saying that “New York City Is Now The Biggest Sh*thole In America“, this city will never die! We’ve been through civil unrest and riots, crime waves, antiwar protests, 9/11, Superstorm Sandy, and the trials and tribulations of a pandemic. We have given birth to some epically awful politicians. We even survived a “bomb cyclone” (which wasn’t even near the record for snowfalls in this town). In Washington Square Park, in the heart of Greenwich Village, in the shadow of my alma mater (NYU), a fun and peaceful, good ol’ fashioned snowball fight broke out. And nobody was hurt or killed. The people of this city are its lifeblood. You can roll your eyes over this video but it’s just a small sign that the New York spirit is alive and well.

Postscript: In the Facebook discussion that followed, a few issues came up. I reproduce them here for Notablog readers.

I’m born, bred, and still living here. I love it, always will, and have enjoyed life here through good times and bad. But to each his own. Either way, to call this city “the biggest sh*thole in America” was an exercise in outlandish, disgraceful overkill. … This city survived 2000+ murders a year back in the early 1990s. Even with the uptick in crime in 2021, there were a total of 485 murders, unheard of for a city of nearly 8.5 million people.

NYC remains one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Its strength has come from its neighborhoods—in all their magnificent ethnic diversity. I have seen so many ups and downs throughout my 60+ years living here and every time I thought this city would never recover—be it a terrorist attack that destroyed downtown Manhattan, killing nearly 3000 people, and leaving all of us in shock for eons, or a superstorm that caused nearly $20 billion in damages, destroying whole neighborhoods throughout the 5 boroughs—with a tsunami-like storm surge in which the Hudson River met the East River at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, and killing hundreds of people… NYC came back from the edge. I have lost close friends and family in that terrorist attack, that superstorm, and the recent COVID catastrophe.I have absolutely no reason to doubt this city’s resiliency—no matter how many people have left or how many politicians have stayed.

Another commentator said that The Atlas Society had made a rightward turn in its politics and that on those metrics, even the Ayn Rand Institute was better. The commentator said that Yaron Brook was even cordial to Nathaniel Branden at a party. I responded:

The ARIans are still holders of the flame and of the Ayn Rand Archives, and though they’ve opened up their archives more than in previous years, there are still many of us who will forever remain on the outside because we don’t pass their litmus test. Sadly, Yaron Brook, in this podcast, refers to Nathaniel Branden as a “second-hander”, “not a good guy,” and a “scumbag”, who “betrayed” Rand and Objectivism, and “stabbed” both in the back; he has “zero” respect for NB. He refers to him as a “mystic”, “bizarre”, “weird”, “anti-reason”, and so forth. He claims NB “faked Objectivism” and “never understood” it. To me, these comments are just beyond the pale.

Moreover, the ARIans won’t even engage with literature that was written by people since “purged” but that was part of the “authorized” canon of Objectivism, as stated by Rand herself, which included essays by Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden. In the post-Rand years, folks whose essays were held in high esteem for years—from George Reisman to David Kelley—were slowly airbrushed from existence. The ARI record speaks for itself.

No Time to Die … Wow

I won’t put any spoilers in this post, but I finally got to see “No Time To Die“—having avoided reading anything about the film, miraculously, and was totally shocked and blown away by this 2021 entry in the James Bond franchise.

So I’ll just say this much … whether or not there will be “time” for a reboot, I found that last quote from Jack London—which is discussed here—very poignant. The full passage from which it comes was unearthed from an interview with London that appeared in San Francisco’s The Bulletin (2 December 1916). It’s worth repeating here:


I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

Whether you’re a Bond fan or not, I think this was certainly one of the best films in the series, and a worthy finale to Daniel Craig‘s run as 007.