Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Michael Jackson – Ayn Rand Connection

I know that I’ve said some pretty radical things on this blog, but anyone reading the title to this post must think that I’ve finally gone off the deep end. And yet it is true. Although one might expect that the two belong on opposite ends of the “serious” spectrum, there is nevertheless a link between the career of Michael Jackson and the teachings of Ayn Rand. I only wish that it had occurred to me, on more than an unconscious level, prior to having it pointed out to me in another of the many e-mail notifications I’m subscribed to.

This one came from the site known as The Atlasphere, which exists specifically for the benefit of Ayn Rand admirers. This particular e-mail was an invitation to read the article Eulogy for the King of Pop submitted by columnist Orit Arfa. I strongly urge one and all to read it, for it is brilliantly written and clearly links the value of “pop” culture to what it means to be American.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Pop music is emblematic of a free society. It’s an American stronghold, combining the Western achievements of melody and harmony with beats inspired by African rhythms. Some people dismiss pop music as mass-marketed, pandering, and unsophisticated, but I believe pop is among the most accessible of romantic art forms.

Pop songs abide by Ayn Rand’s definition of art as “the selective recreation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments” — giving individuals a concise medium to recreate and share an emotional idea so meaningful to them that they must sing about it to the world.

These songs may not involve complex arrangements that spell out an expansive, philosophical view of man; rather, they give us in the matter of a few minutes a “sense of life,” which Rand defines in The Romantic Manifesto as “a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence.”

Now as a person with a long history of “emotional” problems, I have know for many years that certain pieces of art can overwhelm my self-control and reduce me to what I fear would be perceived as a quivering, blubbering fool. This is the primary reason why I hide myself away from those who would not only misunderstand, but might well view my reactions as a sign of vulnerability. I’ve had quite enough of being victimized, thank you.

As I alluded to in The Last Man Standing, one of the very first pieces of art to have this effect on me was the song I’ll Be There by The Jackson 5, when I was about 14 or 15. To this day, I wonder if I was somehow able to sense, in the person of Michael Jackson, another terribly vulnerable “soul” brother. And even years later, despite our vastly different paths through them, the craziness in both our lives only helped to enhance this feeling. I can’t help but wonder if at least some of the craziness going on now because of his death is proof that there are others who feel the same way.

But by far, the most powerful such emotional reaction came when I attempted to read Ayn Rand’s The Romantic Manifesto. The very same book that Ms. Arfa refers to in her article. And I say “attempted” because, well – it’s damned hard to read through tears. Because of Ayn Rand’s death, this book will have to stand as her primary non-fiction effort to define the ultimate importance of her work to the future survival of Mankind. I knew this when I started to read it. This frustrating experience was one of the final dominoes to fall in the months before my first hospitalization and diagnosis.

And now, after years of therapy at the hands of those ill-equipped to grasp its significance, I give my most heartfelt thanks to Ms. Arfa for finally helping me to understand the link between these two experiences.

You know, looking back on it some 14 years after my first breakdown, I now know that it was caused, at least in part, by my belief that Ms. Rand’s work must be continued at all costs and my fear that I was perhaps the only one who understood, and cared, enough to try.

Fortunately for all of us, the existence of places like The Atlasphere is proof that I was wrong. You’d be pleasantly surprised at who some of the other members are. Then again, maybe you wouldn’t.

I want ice water.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

You Are Valuable!

Yet another great e-mail funnie:

The Senior T-Shirt!

Senior T-Shirt

We are Valuable!!

We are more valuable than any of the younger generations:

We have silver in our hair,

We have gold in our teeth.

We have stones in our kidneys.

We have lead in our feet.


We are loaded with natural gas!!!

I want ice water.


This movie has at least two of the most classic lines in movie history.

The first is by Bill Paxton’s character, Hudson, right after their first escape plan goes horribly wrong:

I used to have the audio clip of this as an icon on my Windows 3 desktop. When a later version allowed for it, I used it as part of my shutdown sequence.

The second is this short and powerful line by Sigourney Weaver’s character, Ripley, when she decides to take on the Alien Queen:

If those aren’t enough, here’s a highlight clip for the entire movie:

A genuine classic.

I want ice water.

“Mission To Mars” – Inspiration For Humility

Arthur C. Clarke once said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” An example of this came to me while watching Mission To Mars for the 3rd or 4th time the other day. Once again, I was struck by the awesomeness of it’s closing sequence.

I don’t care how “highly evolved” a person thinks he is, an encounter with beings that had supposedly caused our species to come into existence would have to be like encountering the Gods themselves. Talk about restoring your sense of humility! :shock:

While I haven’t exactly encountered any “Gods” lately, I have had a recent “humbling experience” that inspired me to write this article. I received an e-mail from a friend a while back describing an historic “close encounter” with the planet Mars that the Earth is supposedly about to have. I don’t recall what it was that reminded me of it, but I decided to look at it again so that I could mark my calendar. After all, who would want to miss such an historic event?

And that’s were I very nearly put my proverbial foot in my mouth – big time. I was so impressed with the images included in the e-mail, that it seemed as if I had found precisely the kind of “golden nugget” an astronomy geek “wannabe” like me should create a blog post around. So, with gleeful abandon, I rushed to get it published…

You know, I can’t really say what it was that inspired me to do the google search, although I tell myself it was to see if there were more interesting aspects to the story that I could have included. But the results of the search revealed “interesting aspects to the story” far beyond my expectations.

Apparently, this “hoax” e-mail gets updated and put back into circulation every year or so, just for the purpose of humiliating dumb-assed would be astronomy “know it alls” who fall for it. Imagine me screaming at my old hunk-o-junk to “Hurry up you slow piece of %&#$!” as I scrambled to delete the post from this blog. :evil:

I know my that friend had no knowledge of the illegitimate nature of the e-mail, but after all, the many “provocative” statements I’ve made here has already put my credibility on what some consider “shaky” ground. :-|

I want ice water.

Behind My Eyes

Can you see through my eyes? Can you feel what I feel? Can you know my history, my hopes, my dreams, or my pain? No? Then tell me, why would you expect me to be able to see the world as you see it? Why would you even pretend that I could? Do you remember that old saying that no man is an island? Well it’s just as true that no mind is a community.

I can’t “feel your pain.” I don’t “know what you’re saying,” I can only hear you speak. I really don’t “get it.” And you certainly ain’t “got me.” I can’t “lie in your bed,” or “walk a mile in your shoes.” There is no such thing as a “psychic connection.” If we really want to understand one another, then we must get down to the hard work of communicating effectively.

There are two things that I have believed for as long as I can remember. The first is that the root of all evil grows best in the soil of misunderstanding. And the second is that we can do better. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t try so hard to be a good writer. Hell, I wouldn’t try at all. But I keep on trying in the vain hope that, by effectively articulating the life-sustaining imperative that we live our lives as rational beings, my writing will help to inspire a new age of reason.

Unfortunately, all I seem to have achieved so far is an appreciation for the mentality of the sociopath.

The Who – Behind Blue Eyes

No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

No one knows what it’s like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

But my dreams
They aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That’s never free

No one knows what it’s like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you

No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain and woe
Can show through

But my dreams
They aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That’s never free

When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool
When I smile, tell me some bad news
Before I laugh and act like a fool

And if I swallow anything evil
Put your finger down my throat
If I shiver, please give me a blanket
Keep me warm, let me wear your coat

No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

I want ice water.