Monthly Archives: November 2022

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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.

Song of the Day #1969

Song of the Day: Flashdance … What a Feeling features the music of Giorgio Moroder and lyrics of Keith Forsey and Irene Cara, who took this song to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Dance Club charts. This was the title track to the 1983 film, “Flashdance“. Cara died yesterday at the age of 63. Her sweet voice graced this film and the 1980 film, “Fame“. Check out the music video to this 80s pop gem [YouTube link].

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!

JARS: 2023 Grand Finale Files Submitted!

I am absolutely delighted to report that this afternoon, I submitted to Pennsylvania State University Press the final manuscript for the final double issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. I will keep folks in suspense as to the full Table of Contents, which I will announce in mid-2023. The issue is officially designated as:

The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 23, nos. 1–2 (July 2023)

Our grand finale is a blockbuster! It includes my introduction, 7 articles, 6 book review essays, a volume index, and a 2013–2023 Master Index (for vols. 13–23, since we already published a 1999–2012 Master Index for vols. 1–12 here). When it arrives, the issue will most likely be around 400 pages.

As a preview, let me mention that our authors include: Pavel Solovyev, Anastasiya Grigorovskaya, Robert F. Mulligan, David Tyson, Marsha Enright, Roger Bissell, Cory Massimino, Douglas Rasmussen & Douglas Den Uyl, David Beito, Raymond Raad, Aaron Weinacht, Luca Moratal Roméu, and Roderick Long. The contents range from illuminating studies of archival sources to probing discussions of philosophical and cultural issues.

I will keep folks updated on our progress. Indeed, we have a long way to go as we work through page proofs and such. For now, all I can say is: YES!!!

Check out the comments on Facebook.

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

JARS: New December 2022 Issue!

As I announced on September 6, 2022, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will be publishing its grand finale in 2023 as a double issue. We are working very hard right now to complete the submission of the full slate of articles toward that end—an elegant conclusion to our 2+ decades of commitment to being the only nonpartisan, interdisciplinary, double-blind, peer-reviewed, biannual periodical devoted to the study of Ayn Rand and her times.

Today, it gives me great pleasure to announce the publication of the penultimate issue of JARS (which will be published on both the Scholarly Publishing Collective and on its way to subscribers in hard copy next month). Our December 2022 issue continues another commitment we made when this journal began, that every new issue would feature at least one new contributor to our project. With our newest issue, we welcome three new contributors: Mikhail Kravtsov, Luca Moratal Roméu, and Elizabeth Bissell, bringing our total number of authors to 188, who have contributed 408 articles over the past 22 years. Our 2023 grand finale will add to those totals.

The December 2022 issue features the following articles and contributors:

Introduction – Chris Matthew Sciabarra

ARTICLES

Archival Discoveries Related to Ayn Rand’s Residences in Saint Petersburg
(Petrograd/Leningrad) – Mikhail Kravtsov and Mikhail Kizilov

Objectivism and Libertarian Political Thought: A Comparative
Introduction – Luca Moratal Roméu

Chosen or Proven Ethics? – Robert Hartford

Error, Free Will, and Freedom – Kathleen Touchstone

Where There’s a Will, There’s a “Why?” Part 2: Implications of Value
Determinism for the Objectivist Concepts of “Value,” “Sacrifice,” “Virtue,”
“Obligation,” and “Responsibility” – Roger E. Bissell

REVIEWS

Ayn Rand, Nihilist? (review of Aaron Weinacht’s book, Nikolai Chernyshevskii and Ayn Rand: Russian Nihilism Travels to America) – Elizabeth Bissell

“Atlas Shrugged” Explored (review of Edward W. Younkins’s book, Exploring “Atlas Shrugged”: Ayn Rand’s Magnum Opus) – Fred Seddon

Index to Volume 22

Check out our article abstracts and our contributor biographies. Subscription information is available here. (This announcement has also been posted to Facebook here.)

Only one more (double) issue to go! Don’t miss out!

Sharon Presley (1943-2022), RIP

My dear friend, Ellen Young, announced today that Sharon Presley, lifelong libertarian feminist writer and activist, died on Monday, October 31, 2022, at the age of 79. Her partner Art—who has had his own share of health challenges—was able to be there to say goodbye to her.

Sharon had been suffering from serious illnesses for quite a while. In the wake of eviction from her apartment and the loss of her cats, she was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes for over a year.

Sharon received her B.A. in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, her M.A. in psychology from San Francisco State, and her Ph.D. in social psychology from the City University of New York. She taught on the psychology of women and other gender-related courses at California State University, Iowa State University, the College of Wooster, and Weber State College. Her published research included historical papers on women resisters, a study of Mormon feminists, an edited collection of essays on nineteenth-century individualist feminist Voltairine de Cleyre and the 2010 volume, Standing Up to Experts and Authorities: How to Avoid Being Intimidated, Manipulated, and Abused. Sharon was also a national coordinator for the Association of Libertarian Feminists and Executive Director of Resources for Independent Thinking.

Her frail state over these many months was quite a contrast to the rambunctious fireband whom I met way back in 1978, when I was an undergraduate student at New York University. She and John Muller had helped to launch Laissez-Faire Books, which offered a treasure-trove of classical liberal, libertarian, and anarchist literature in the heart of Greenwich Village. As a cofounder of the NYU chapter of Students for a Libertarian Society, I spent a lot of time at that bookstore, especially in 1980, when it became a virtual warehouse of antidraft placards and pamphlets that we distributed in Washington Square Park, joining with other student groups to protest Jimmy Carter’s reinstatement of Selective Service Registration.

From the very beginning of our friendship, Sharon and I had our differences, but it never interfered with her willingnesss to step up and speak out in an uncompromising, principled way on many controversial topics. She gladly accepted our invitation to speak at an NYU-SLS-sponsored event, delivering a fiery lecture in support of reproductive freedom. Given that Ayn Rand’s work played such a key role in initially sparking Sharon’s political radicalization, I was delighted, many years later, when she accepted an invitation to be among the diverse group of contributors to Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand (1999), which I coedited with Mimi Reisel Gladstein, for the Penn State University Press series, “Re-reading the Canon.” That volume, prominently featured among anthologies on thirty-five major figures in the Western philosophical tradition, brought Rand’s work into critical engagement with various feminist perspectives. Sharon’s essay, “Ayn Rand’s Philosophy of Individualism: A Feminist Psychologist’s Perspective”, was one of its gems.

My very deepest condolences to all those who knew her. I will miss her.

Sharon Presley (1943-2022)

See comments on Facebook.