Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sick the Dogs on Their Premises

By Joseph Kellard

I've heard news reports with reaction from other professionalathletes regarding the Michael Vick case. Some of these athletes'comments appear to draw a moral equivalence between hunting and Vick's staging of dog fights and killing the inadequate canines.

While I'm no fan of hunting and could never kill an animal unless it attacked me with the intent to seriously harm or kill me, I recognizethat there are distinct purposes and motivations for killing animals, some entirely moral and others wholly irrational.

Staging dog fights is sadistic, and its participants get a nihilistic "pleasure" from watching animals rip each other apart and kill for the sake of its brutality. As if this weren't horrible enough, Vick killed some of these dogs' employing some gruesome methods. These actions lead me to believe that people like Vick are potentially a step away from murdering people.

Thus, morally, Vick should be roundly condemned for his irrational motives and his horrible treatment of these dogs. But the same cannot be said of the average hunter, assuming his purposes are the challenge of the hunt, the use of the deer, bear, etc., for food, clothing and rugs, etc. So while there is one group of people that want to destroy these distinctions to morally justify Vicks actions, there are others who condemn these people and me who also want to destroy these distinction to promote "animal rights."

"Dog fighting is cruelty to animals and should be against the law," they argue. And these are not necessarily your vegetarian, PETA activists, but your everyday Joe who has no problem cooking up hamburgers at his next barbeque.

PETA and their sympathizers want to destroy the moral distinctions and purposes as to why people kill animals, so that they can proceed to destroy the relevant political distinction, that is, that human beings have rights and animals don't. This allows them to go on to champion these laws against dog fighting and other acts of cruelty to animals, based on the irrational premise that animals have "rights."

Lastly, what's equally disturbing is how people describe Vick's disgraceful actions as a "mistake," which can be packaged with actions such as leaving a bar of soap on the floor of a bath tub, and how others say that Americans are "a forgiving people" and that in America "everyone deserves a second chance," as if forgiveness is required whether or not Vick shows in action that he has changed for the better.

Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Delight to Remember

By Joseph Kellard
Dianne Durante’s “Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan” (OMOM) is a rarity: a book that evaluates art from Ayn Rand’s philosophy of aesthetics — the principles of which she peppers throughout — that highlights Manhattan’s relatively unexplored outdoor sculptures-statues, and that illustrates why they are worthy of such study.

In conveying how art is a “selective re-creation of reality” that projects an artist’s fundamental view of existence, Durante in OMOM focuses on the details of some 50-plus monuments and compares and contrasts many of them. “An important part of learning to enjoy art is learning to focus on it for a substantial amount of time, and figure out the effect of the details,” she writes.

A chapter exemplary of her method is “Continents,” a monument at the United States Customs House featuring four female subjects representing Asia, Africa, Europe and America. “[America’s] left arm protectively encircles the man at her side, and she draws her cape forward to shelter him,” Durante writes. “This man is a startling contrast to those who accompany Asia. He’s strong, healthy, energetic, alert.” By contrast, she writes, “Asia includes details representing misery, tyranny, oppression, bloodthirstiness, drugged stupor, refusal to look at reality, and evil.” And with virtually each scrutinized monument, Durante adds up the details into a general theme.

Durante also ties together a monument’s details with other relevancies such as the implications of its local and the historical, biographical and other assorted information about the artist and his subject. Among her best evaluations is of “Charging Bull.” From the monument’s location in Manhattan’s financial district, to the artist’s stated purpose for creating the statue after the 1987 stock market crash, to the bull’s gleaming bronze color and twisting, aggressive posture, she concludes that it represents the “energy, strength, and unpredictability of the stock market.”

One monument Durante studies that Ayn Rand fans will find particularly interesting is “Atlas” at Rockefeller Center. While acknowledging that for many Objectivists this monument symbolizes Rand’s heroic vision of man, she nonetheless evaluates its details — e.g., the bulky muscularity and disproportionate head — and writes that these imply muscles are more important than the mind and they hold up the world.

At its best, OMOM allows readers to observe an Objectivist’s evaluative and theme-capturing thinking methods of many handsome, overlooked works of art. If you seek to develop your ability to objectively evaluate, understand and appreciate art, this book is a must buy.

Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Remembering Carol's Place

By Joseph Kellard

They don’t make ’em like they used to—not now or back then. I’m talking about bars with live bands, and none on the South Shore was better than Carol’s Place in Island Park during the 1980s and ’90s.

Except for the long-established bars and nightclubs—Paddy McGee’s, the Bridgeview Yacht Club, Coyote Grill, Montego Bay—virtually all of the many bars that dotted Island Park then are now gone, including Carol’s Place, once located at the northeast corner of Austin and Trafalgar boulevards.

My earliest memory of that bar stretches back to the late 1980s, when my then best friend, Victor, and I first stopped by and soon found that the establishment regularly showcased an eclectic array of bands. Carol’s Place featured everyone from Edward “Little Buster” Forehand, a blind, bluesy rock guitarist who once opened shows for B.B. King, and the Volunteers, a Grateful Dead cover band, to the Poets, whose sets were punctuated with Pink Floyd tunes, and Rosary Violet, the hardest and hottest metal-punk band east of Manhattan.

Victor and I shared diverse musical tastes, but we particularly wore out our albums of progressive rock bands like Yes, King Crimson and Genesis. Sonaturally we were drawn to a regular act at Carol’s Place: Primo, a lineup of exceptional musicians (some who performed with Steely Dan and Billy Joel) who wrote their own jazz-rock fusion instrumentals that were a mix of the Dixie Dregs and Weather Report.

Sure, there were similar venues around the South Shore, like the Right Track Inn in Freeport. But what distinguished Carol’s Place was its intimate setting— a single basement-sized room with round tables for two, rickety wooden chairs, a low ceiling, a bar lined with stools right next to the short, compact stage— which had the feel of a Greenwich Village jazz club.

After my friends and I became Carol’s Place regulars, Victor formed his own band, Zulu Groove, a trio that played its first and many other gigs at the Island Park bar. Their sound centered on funky rhythms that Victor rapped over—on such songs as “Can You Turn The Rest of Me On” and “Child’s Play”—evoking the Red Hot Chili Peppers¹ early LPs.

My best memories of the Long Island and city music scenes my friends and I followed back then was those early Zulu Groove shows at our adopted hangout.At each gig, Victor (guitar/keyboards/lead vocals), Rob (bass) and Tim (drums) packed the small venue with admiring and curious bar-goers hungry for good, original music. And between songs, the comedic Victor bantered with the crowd, unleashing his off-beat, sometimes dark humor, providing lots of laughs and great tunes as our posse of guys and gals drank the nights away.

Unfortunately, Carol’s Place closed its doors in the mid-1990s, and since then various restaurants have come and gone there. Another recently openedfor business. Yes, I know, times change, as those years seem almost a world away now, and some people believe all good things must come to an end. But when I drive past that one-story building today, I’m reminded of how fortunate I was to frequent what was once one of the great small venues on the local music scene. The good times I had at Carol’s Place, in my mind, will never end.

Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Friday, August 24, 2007

New Book Draws Nazi/Commie Equivolency

By Joseph Kellard

While I've only read its introduction, liner notes and reviews, "Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe" by Robert Gellately is apparently a book worth highlighting. That's because it seems to attempt to put all three dictators on an equal moral plan and, presumably, links Nazism with communism. Whether Gellately does this fundamentally, instead of through lesser, even superficial parallels, I cannot say.

Yet in the introduction, he notes that his focus is, in part, to dispel the myth of the "good Lenin" -- that is, the communist with so-called good intentions. Moreover, a review in The Economist (Aug. 11) has this encouraging lead paragraph: "In their different ways they were as bad as each other, the three monsters of 20th century Europe. That is an oddly controversial statement. Hitler is almost universally vilified; Lenin remains entombed on Red Square as Russia's most distinguished corpse; and modern Russia is looking more kindly on Stalin's memory."

The review continues: "Anyone who still believes in the myth-assiduously propagated by the Soviet Union and its admirers-of the 'good Lenin' will find the book uncomfortable reading. The author outlines with exemplary clarity Lenin's cruelty, his illegal and brutal seizure of power, his glee in ordering executions, the institution of mass terror as a means of political control and the construction of the first camps in what later became the gulag. 'Far from perverting or undermining Lenin's legacy, as is sometimes assumed, Stalin was Lenin's logical heir,' he writes icily."

One notable passage in the book's introduction comes when Gellately expresses surprise at his discovering the degree of self-sacrifice (his word) that the German and Russian exercised toward the Nazis and communists. This suggests that his book at least touches on the fundamental similarities between the totalitarian ideologies.

Today, as Russia seems bent on continuing to bury the evils of communism-with Putin praising a new history guide that calls Stalin the Soviet Union's "most successful" leader, and with Putin equating Stalin's Great Terror with the allied bombing of Hiroshima-finally and thankfully, more and more books about the evils of communism, some of which draw moral equivalence with Nazism, are being published in the West.

Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How I Got Bit By The Objectivism Bug

By Joseph Kellard

I’ve been a member of Harry Binswanger’s HBL List for several years now. In a recent post, Dr. Binswanger asked members to take part in a survey he is conducting for his list, “designed to gather data on the background of people who become Objectivists,” he wrote.

Among the questions asked were: When did you first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged? What were your pre-Objectivist political leanings? Most questions offered members a list of options to choose from, such as “Explicitly pro-capitalist and/or pro-freedom” to “No particular views/interest in politics” to “Explicitly socialist or communist.” Other questions pertained to parents’ attitudes toward religion, as well as: “How were you introduced to Ayn Rand's novels?”

This last question offered members the option to briefly explain themselves in writing. So here is what I wrote:

“When I was about 12, my sister read the 25th anniversary edition of The Fountainhead, and I was intrigued by the novel’s title, the ‘cool’ spelling of the author's name and the interesting painting on the cover. During my teens, I began lifting weights and read bodybuilding magazines that featured Mike and Ray Mentzer, two top bodybuilders whose articles periodically mentioned Ayn Rand or included quotes by Howard Roark. Finally, around my early to mid-20s, I picked up a book of Playboy interviews, a compilation that included Ayn Rand. After reading that interview, I was finally inspired enough to read The Fountainhead, and the rest is a glorious, life-changing history.”

Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Friday, August 17, 2007

Good Op-Ed on "Atlas Shrugged"

By Joseph Kellard

The East Valley Tribune, a Phoenix newspaper, on August 4, 2007 wrote an editorial, “Defending freedom, vigorously,” that seems to generally understand and praise Ayn Rand’s great novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“‘Atlas’ and her other books are still radical today. The Soviet Union, which she fled, has crumbled, but the underlying philosophy that despises competition, freedom and individualism is still dominant throughout the world, even in America. Which is why ‘Atlas Shrugged’ still inspires, enthralls and angers people. It’s still relevant. As a novel, it is more gripping than the typical nonfiction account about why an expansive government is so troubling.

“People respond to strident defenses of ideas, rather than to mealy-mouthed apologies. And Rand was no shrinking violet. Rather than make apologies for capitalism as, say, a necessary evil, she portrayed it as a moral good. She championed the ‘virtue of selfishness,’ explaining that individuals should pursue their own self-interest. That also happens to lead to the public good, although that was not her concern. The basic storyline of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is quite satisfying to those frustrated by the cravenness and incompetence of government and a system that rewards political connections and power over freedom, productivity and rationality.”

Except for some unqualified generalizations at its conclusion, such as the claim that Ms. Rand’s attacks on altruism could be “quite disconcerting,” this op-ed demonstrates not only that the wider culture is coming to understand and agree more with the novel’s radical ideas, but also that this fact indicates that “Atlas Shrugged” will continue to be “relevant” far into the distant future—when most Americans eventually comes to understand and *live* by those ideas.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Binswanger is "on the money"

By Joseph Kellard

I caught the tail end of Harry Binswanger’s appearance on CNBC’s “On The Money” on August 13. He debated a woman (whose name I only caught as “Diane”) regarding a proposal apparently championing government regulation of business advertising.

Binswanger argued that “parents should show … some backbone, and not give in to whiny kids, and not expect the government to send the police force into the advertising studios to substitute for their own lack of will power,” and that, “Advertisers have a right to broadcast whatever message they choose, as long as it isn’t fraudulent…It’s up to parents to decide what their children can watch and what they can eat.”

Diane, however, argued that the Federal Trade Commission should have the regulatory power to “protect children from corporate marketing that harms them,” particularly since children “do not have the ability to understand the intentionality of ads,” nor “to sort through the logic of [them].”

This argument reminded me of children in public schools whose so-called teachers routinely propagandized to them on issues they are unable to understand, nor are able to sort through the logic (or illogic) of it and the intentionality of their educators. Simply take the issue of catastrophic man-made global warming. Climatology is a highly complex scientific issue that young children—many of whom have yet to learn how to spell the words “tree” or “smoke stack”—are wholly unequipped to understand and thus unable to question the truth what they are being “taught.” Instead, they are fed this “theory” wholesale, and told if nothing is done to stop it, they will eventually die in unavoidable heat waves, Katrina-like or much worse hurricanes, or in floods of biblical proportions. How’s that for “education” that harms them?

I remember when my nephew, who was in elementary school at the time, told me that he’d learned about the Civil Rights movement in class. When I inquired, I found that he had yet to be taught about
Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and America’s founding. So how then can a child learn about complex, abstract issues such as rights and freedom, and their role in our nation’s history, without first learning the earlier history of the Founding Fathers, and how the rights and freedom they established made possible the Civil Rights movement? Yet this kind of destructive method of “teaching” is rampant in our public schools.

So shouldn’t the government regulate itself, that is, its public schools, to protect children from the harm these lessons undoubtedly wreak on them?

Well, no, it’s still up to the parents to protect their children from such harm, by pulling them out of these schools to enroll them in others that teach in a more hierarchical, constructive, rational manner. And so too can parents turn the TV channel and keep their kids from watching the McDonald’s TV ads, or they can drive past the fast food drive-through and on to the nearest health food store.

This is a lesson in what living under freedom demands, and so government bureaucrats have no right to take over the steering wheel of parenting.

Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cast Your Books Ballot

By Joseph Kellard

Thanks to a fellow subscriber of the Harry Binswanger List, I learned that Strand Bookstore in New York City, one my favorite bookstores – at least for atmosphere – is celebrating its 80th anniversary. In recognition of this milestone, the store is conducting a poll in which its customers are invited to cast their votes for their all-time favorite five books. The results of the poll’s top 80 vote-getters will be released in October 2007, and those books will be sold in Strand and on its website.

Of course, my favorite books -- that is, those that changed my life the most for the better -- were all written by Ayn Rand. Here’s the order in which I voted: The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, Anthem, We The Living, and The Virtue of Selfishness.

So, like the Library of Congress poll during the 1990s on the most influential books, this another opportunity for Ayn Rand fans to promote the author and her ideas.

Happy voting!