Monthly Archives: November 2023

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Song of the Day #2076

Song of the Day: DJ Play a Christmas Song, words and music by Sarah Hudson, Brett McLaughlin, and James Abrahart, among others, is featured on the 2023 Cher album, “Christmas“. I first saw Cher perform this song at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade [YouTube link]. It’s hard to “believe” that her song “Believe” ruled the charts 25 years ago. Alas, an annual event a lot older than the 77-year-old Cher continues tonight. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting, a tradition begun in 1931 by Italian immigrant workers, will be televised by NBC.

Song of the Day #2075

Song of the Day: My Time to Fly [YouTube link], composed by NJ-native Harriet Goldberg and featuring saxophonist Billy Novick, is probably one of the most heard pieces of music in the world. Have you ever been put on hold? And this jazzy musical ditty gets looped OVER AND OVER again? Having been on hold for over an hour today, I thought I’d feature this song. When I first heard it some time ago, I thought to myself: “That’s got a nice feel to it.” But like any piece of music that one might listen to, eventually, if played incessantly for a very long time, one’s nerves start to fray, and that’s why it’s the Song of the Day! This bouncy tune was recorded in 2011 and has been adopted by legions of companies as the Music to Hold By. Now you know why Goldberg has been dubbed the Queen of Hold Music.

And if you’d like to see my “Motion Photography” while on hold with the NY Times today, see Facebook!

It’s been a year …

It’s been a year—since your suffering ended.

It’s been a year—and I miss you so deeply.

It’s been a year—but the gift of your love is eternal.

It’s been a year—my Bitty, and I will always love you.

Elizabeth Ann Sciabarra
September 2, 1952 – November 26, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving

At a time when so many people in this world are suffering and in the depths of despair, I count my blessings for all the love and support of family and friends that have gotten me through one of the most difficult years of my life.

My best wishes to all for a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving.

Farewell, Aristos

Having served on the Board of Trustees of the Aristos Foundation for many years, I would like to report that Aristos: An Online Review of the Arts has finished its long publication history. Founded by Louis Torres in 1982 as a print publication, it ran from 1982 to 1997. Michelle Marder Kamhi became a coeditor in 1992, and Aristos began its online presence in 2003, running through 2021.

By year’s end, the Foundation will dissolve; no further issues of the journal will be forthcoming. A Farewell Statement appears on the journal’s home page. That statement reminds us of the illustrious history of Aristos, which was praised by the eminent cultural historian Jacques Barzun (1907–2012), among others. It should be remembered that the coeditors were also coauthors of the much-discussed book, What Art is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand (Open Court, 2000), which inspired a provocative Aesthetics Symposium published by The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies in 2001.

I am delighted that the journal’s contents have been preserved through Archive-It. It is a wonderful legacy that readers will be able to access in perpetuity.

I wish my dear friends Lou and Michelle well as they move forward. Readers can continue to follow their work at their respective websites: and .

The Aristos Farewell statement can be found here:

Boettke on Lavoie

The fall 2023 issue of The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy (vol. 28, no. 2), focuses attention on “Underappreciated Economists”. One essay that resonated with me is written by my friend and colleague, Peter Boettke: “Don Lavoie: The Failures of Socialist Central Planning.” Boettke is in a unique position to have authored this essay. He, along with the late Steve Horwitz, Dave Prychitko, Emily Chamlee-Wright, and Virgil Storr, were among Don’s foremost students. And in their own works, one can see how each has carried forth elements of Don’s legacy. Boettke’s essay is, in many respects, a celebration of Lavoie’s inspiring gifts as a teacher and mentor.

The essay reviews Lavoie’s two most cited works, Rivalry and Central Planning: The Socialist Calculation Debate Reconsidered and National Economic Planning: What is Left? —both of which shed much light on the crucially important “knowledge problem” and the necessity of understanding economic and social processes dynamically, across time. But Boettke rightfully laments the fact that Don Lavoie’s untimely death at the age of 50, from pancreatic cancer, left many works unfinished. Still, this appreciation of Lavoie’s contributions to comparative economic systems, philosophy of science, and computer science, including key principles applicable to emergent AI, is a worthy read.

In contrast to prominent models of politico-economic “militarization”, Lavoie provided us with an “interpretive turn,” which integrated economic insights from Austrian theory, epistemic insights from the works of Michael Polanyi on tacit knowledge, and hermeneutical methodological precepts. Boettke argues that Lavoie viewed the ideology of power and privilege as the greatest threats to free civilization, while offering a vision for a “gentle and humane” society “grounded in our mutual respect and desire to learn from one another.”

Though much of Lavoie’s work is not readily available and only a few representative presentations exist on YouTube, including three lectures that I posted back in February 2023, Boettke touches upon Lavoie’s planned projects, including those on methodology and a book entitled “Understanding Political Economy”. Lavoie hoped to realize the key aims of critical theory through an Austrian-inspired approach. In this, as in many other areas of study, Lavoie was a theorist ahead of his time.

Don was one of my dearest friends and this is a wonderful article in tribute to the projects—and promise—of his work.

SNL Goes Roman

After my post on the “Roman Empire Obsession?“, I laughed out loud at this “Saturday Night Live” skit this past weekend, featuring host Jason Momoa.

JFK 60

This essay also appears on Medium.

Sixty years ago, this week, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Since that time, there has been a never-ending debate over who was responsible for JFK’s death: Lee Harvey Oswald? The CIA? The Mafia? Cuban Exiles? All of them? None of them?

I have no intention of even attempting to resolve these controversial questions. I write neither to praise the promise of “Camelot” nor to condemn Kennedy’s “fascist New Frontier”, as Ayn Rand famously characterized it.

My focus here is a bit more personal. It’s about what it was like to be a 3-year-old kid, living in Brooklyn, New York, watching these events unfold on a vintage black-and-white television screen. And how that experience—and the experience of seeing the events of the 1960s—sparked my interest in history and politics.

My earliest childhood TV memories are of Saturday morning cartoons, as well as primetime gems like “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons“. But, for me, watching televised real-life events was even more exhilarating. I was enthralled when John Glenn orbited the earth three times on my mother’s birthday, February 20, 1962, only three days after I turned 2. Seven years later, I was ecstatic to see the first human beings step on the surface of the moon. That fascination with heroic acts of exploration and the promise of human possibility have remained with me throughout my life.

There were also quite a few unsettling news reports that I absorbed in those early years. I saw black children being blasted with high-pressure firehoses, clubbed by police, and attacked by snarling dogs because they dared to protest against the disgraceful segregationist policies in Birmingham, Alabama, in May 1963. I may have been too young to understand exactly what was going on. But I saw my mother do the sign of the cross, saying a prayer for those kids, as our family witnessed this heart-wrenching display on television.

On Friday, November 22, 1963, we watched another unfolding event of brutality that was, quite frankly, unbelievable. Though I was less than three months away from turning 4 years old, that day and the days that followed remain seared into my consciousness.

Early on that Friday morning, we received a phone call that my Yaya had fallen. My mother picked me up in her arms and held me as she walked a few blocks away to assist my aunts and uncles as they tended to my bruised grandmother. By early afternoon, things had settled down. The TV was on, and everybody was watching “As the World Turns”. A few moments into the broadcast, Walter Cronkite made his first announcements that shots had been fired at the motorcade in Dallas and that the 46-year-old President had been “seriously wounded.” Everybody in the room gasped. Within an hour or so, Cronkite confirmed that JFK was dead.

That news flash—and the horrifying reactions of my family members—rattled me. In the days that followed, my entire family was glued to nonstop television coverage. Perhaps even more unsettling was what we witnessed on November 24, 1963, as the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was gunned down on live television by Jack Ruby. The screams of family members were so intense that the whole apartment seemed to shake.

The traumatic effects of all this cannot be underestimated. Like many who bore witness to this tragedy, my family was deeply affected, even while offering us youngsters all the comfort and support we required. After all, for kids of my generation, this was our first experience not only with death but with televised violence. We saw world leaders taking part in a mournful funeral procession, played out on a global stage. Images of JFK’s own kids—including little John John saluting his father’s coffin—were replayed over and over again.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that one aunt of mine, who was quite vocal in her hatred of the Kennedys, expressed annoyance with the networks for having “robbed” kids of those Saturday morning cartoons. Nevertheless, our family was part of that 90% of the American public that embraced what author Joseph Campbell once called “a deeply significant rite of passage” over those four historic days of television coverage.

I didn’t experience a fully personal loss until the sudden death of my 55-year old father in 1972, when I was 12 years old. Still, the 1960s gave me an ever-expanding education on death and destruction. In February 1968, Walter Cronkite reported on “the bloody experience of Vietnam” that was doomed “to end in a stalemate.” Battle deaths mounted; in the end, the U.S. experienced over 58,000 fatalities, and the Vietnamese, on both sides of the conflict, suffered as many as 3 million civilian and military deaths. On March 16, Robert F. Kennedy began his presidential campaign. By March 31, Lyndon B. Johnson announced he would not seek re-election. Days later, on Thursday, April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., 39 years of age, was assassinated and the suspect was a white man.

In the wake of King’s murder, the country experienced widespread riots and civil unrest. Somehow, New York City averted major violence. Mayor John Lindsay traveled to Harlem, in an outreach to black residents, while schools fostered healing. When I walked into my second-grade class, one of my friends, a black girl named Wanda, came over to me and said: “One of your kind of people killed one of my kind of people.” She looked so sad. All I could say to her was: “He was a bad person. Not everyone is like him.” And I reached out and touched her hand. It was a teachable moment as staff distributed educational pamphlets exploring King’s legacy.

Virtually two months later, in the wee hours of Wednesday, June 5, 1968, we were awakened in the middle of the night by my Aunt Georgia, who called to tell us to turn on the TV: Robert F. Kennedy had just been shot in the aftermath of the California primary. Our black-and-white TV flickered on. I could see that RFK’s head was being held above a pool of blood. As another act of violence was beamed into our home, we watched into the wee hours. The next day, RFK died at the age of 42. It was Brooklyn Day and the schools were closed.

I have often looked back on the 1960s as the worst decade in my 63 years. Before the age of 9, I had to process assassinations, war, riots, and deep polarization. And yet, I look around the world today and find myself wondering if we are headed into a period that might surpass that era in terms of sheer brutality.

Having seen so much footage of that fateful November day in 1963—including the graphic Zapruder film—it felt eerie when, years later, I finally visited Dealey Plaza for the first time and toured the Sixth Floor Museum. I relived the experiences of a three-year old in a way that brought the events to life even more vividly. (The photos here were taken by me in Dealey Plaza.)

The JFK Assassination remains a singular emblematic event. I have no doubt that this event, and the other turbulent events of the 1960s, were partially responsible for nourishing my deep interest in trying to understand the social, cultural, and political forces that shaped them. But the decade also offered kernels of promise, the possibilities for change, an enchantment with the stars. It all coalesced to fuel my passionate vision for a nobler world in which hatred, violence, and war were relegated to the dustbin of history.

But Have You Read the Book?

I don’t read fiction. Okay, let me soften the shock. I used to read a lot of fiction throughout my pre-college and undergraduate years, and most of that was connected to literature courses. Those readings ran the gamut from William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, and Edgar Allan Poe to John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and, of course, Ayn Rand. From ancient and Renaissance classics to modern novels and plays, even works in world and comparative literature, I’ve read quite a bit.

But as nonfiction reading for research, writing, and pleasure became a way of life, I saw that I was gravitating more and more to the consumption of fiction by way of the cinematic arts—as offered in film and television. For me, having read literally thousands of nonfiction books over a lifetime, I don’t find eye relief by reading even more in the realm of fiction.

Don’t get me wrong. I love stories. It’s just that I’ve grown to enjoy storytelling by way of cinema and all that cinema has to offer—from its unforgettable images and performances to its glorious scores. I love how cinema brings fiction—and even history (accurate or not)—to life.

That made my recent reading of a new nonfiction book—Kristen Lopez’s Turner Classic Movies guide, But Have You Read the Book: 52 Literary Gems That Inspired Our Favorite Films (Running Press, 2023)—all the more interesting. Lopez’s book doesn’t offer in-depth comparative analyses of the various works it covers but it does offer fascinating discussions of films that have been faithful to, departed from, or fully upended the books upon which they are based.

The books and film adaptations that Lopez discusses are arranged chronologically and include these 52 standouts: Frankenstein (1931), The Thin Man (1934), Wuthering Heights (1939), Rebecca (1940), To Have and Have Not (1944), Mildred Pierce (1945), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Psycho (1960), Dr. No (1962), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), The Haunting (1963), In Cold Blood (1967), Valley of the Dolls (1967), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), True Grit (1969), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Last Picture Show (1971), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), The Godfather (1972), Jaws (1975), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), The Shining (1980), Blade Runner (1982), The Color Purple (1985), The Princess Bride (1987), Goodfellas (1990), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), The Age of Innocence (1993), The Joy Luck Club (1993), Jurassic Park (1993), The Remains of the Day (1993), Clueless (1995), Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), The Virgin Suicides (1999), Cruel Intentions (1999), Fight Club (1999), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), Children of Men (2006), No Country for Old Men (2007), Coraline (2009), The Social Network (2010), The Hunger Games (2012), The Great Gatsby (2013), Call Me By Your Name (2017), Crazy Rich Asians (2018), If Beale Street Could Talk (2018), Little Women (2019), Dune (2021), and Passing (2021).

I’ve seen about 80% of those films but have read only about a dozen of the books discussed in this work. Spoilers abound throughout, but what’s really nice is how Lopez delves into the context of the various movie adaptations, which often helps us to understand why there are such differences between the literary and cinematic arts. There’s a lot of Hollywood history here, including an exploration of how the Hays Code impacted earlier adaptations. Many interesting sidebars offer information on other adaptations of the various works under consideration. Even the book’s illustrations (by Jyotirmayee Patra) are lovely additions to the text.

There are tons of omissions—but that’s to be expected in a guide of this sort. I was, however, particularly pleased with how Lopez challenges us to rethink our presupposition that the book is always better than the film. Indeed, certain films offer streamlined improvements upon their source materials. For example, Peter Benchley’s novel, Jaws, included a whole subplot involving an affair between Matt Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss in the film) and Brody’s wife, Ellen (played by Lorraine Gary) that would have needlessly cluttered the Spielberg masterpiece.

As an author myself, I genuinely appreciated Lopez’s shining final sentences, in which she expressed gratitude to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for providing “a place of quiet and respite in the final months of writing this. Thank you for allowing me to indulge my inner Jack Torrance in your beautiful hotel.” All work and no play, y’know [YouTube link].

A nice guide for film buffs and fiction fans alike. Check it out!

Discussion on Facebook.

Dental Power

Having had my share of dental procedures over this past summer, I can empathize …

Pearls Before Swine, courtesy of Stephan Pastis