Monday, July 20, 2009

Guggenheim's Wright Exhibit Inspires

By Joseph Kellard

I became interested in Frank Lloyd Wright through studying Objectivism and, subsequently, by browsing through or buying pictorial books on his work. Outside of the Guggenheim Museum and a replica of a prairie house interior at the Metropolitan Museum, I've yet to experience his buildings firsthand. In short, my knowledge of his life and work is superficial. And so I left the ongoing Wright exhibit at the Guggenheim, which celebrates the museum's 50th anniversary, with a deeper appreciation for the great American architect.

What intrigued me most were the renderings — some of them broad drawings spread out like battlefield maps — of his commissions that never materialized. The most ambitious of these is the Mile High Office Tower (528 floors!) for Chicago. (I didn't take the audio tour, so I'm unsure how serious Wright actually was about building this massive, soaring project.)

Other impressive but unbuilt projects were the Pittsburgh Point Park Civic Center, the Huntington Hartford Sports Club/Play Resort, and the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective and Planetarium. Wright even made cityscape plans for Baghdad, where he was originally commissioned to design an opera house.
The theme of the exhibit, which is entitled "From Within Outward," is that Wright developed original interiors based largely on their relation to their exterior environments. "As a result, exteriors became pure projections of the space that was shaped on the inside," reads the program. The exhibit also features models and animated video of his buildings.

Of course, walking through this exhibit in one of Wright's masterpieces certainly heightened my experience — especially since the section on the Guggenheim came last, at the apex of the museum's spiraling rotunda.

I left with a greater understanding of the architect's original, innovative mind and marveled at the scope of his work. He designed everything from homes, houses of worship and hotels to office buildings, schools and an aquarium. He drew up more than 1,000 projects and developed about 500 of them. Wright worked into his 90s, dying just months before the Guggenheim opened in 1959. In addition to his productive longevity, his career and life clearly ended on the highest of notes.

The exhibit is open until August 23.

Joseph Kellard is a journalist living in New York.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sag Harbor in Words and Photos

By Joseph Kellard

Herman Melville made mention of it in “Moby Dick,” and, for what it’s worth, John Steinbeck lived there.

I’m talking about Sag Harbor, my favorite spot in the Hamptons, the area on the east end of Long Island. This week I took a trip there, and while killing time tending to some social business, I drove around and took some photos that I’ve posted here.

What I like most about Sag Harbor, a former whaling port, is that it has kept its small town America atmosphere, with a Main Street that curves through the small village. Among its features are a grocer, general store, hotel, liquor store, restaurants, bookstore and Art Deco-style movie theater. Both sides of the street sport rows of head-in parked cars and tree-lined sidewalks with park benches.

At the north end of Main Street is Marine Park, where everything from cruise ship-like yachts are docked alongside sail boats and some small fishing boats the size of a twin bed. At the foot of Sag Harbor’s main thoroughfare are a church and a grave yard bordered by a black wrought-iron fence. They are known as the Old Whaler's Church and Old Burial Ground and have ties to the American Revolution.

Throughout the surrounding neighborhoods are many quaint homes, some of them obviously dating back centuries to the village’s founding. Also outside town are a whaling museum and an old library.

Just north of Sag Harbor is an area known as North Haven, where a friend of mine owns a home. In the back of her neighborhood is a small beach that I always make sure I visit whenever I’m in town. Along this beach are a few modern homes that look out onto the serene Sag Harbor Bay. It’s got a few too many rocks, but I trek there for the view and the absolute peace and quiet.

To learn more about Sag Harbor,see:,_NY

Joseph Kellard is a journalist and commentator living in New York.

Photos by Joseph Kellard

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Letter on Socialism-Capitalism in WIRED

By Joseph Kellard

WIRED magazine (August 2009) printed a letter I wrote in response to an article entitled “The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online” (June 2009), by Kevin Kelly.

Here’s a slice from this article of very mixed premises and terms:

“Of course, there's nothing particularly socialistic about collaboration per se. But the tools of online collaboration support a communal style of production that shuns capitalistic investors and keeps ownership in the hands of the workers, and to some extent those of the consuming masses.”

My letter was printed first among four others:

What Kevin Kelly calls new socialism in computing and the like is, in fact, capitalism. Voluntary cooperation and collaboration among individuals are actually forms of free trade. This new “socialism” is made possible under governments that (at least in this realm) respect property rights, the cornerstone of a capitalist system. Let’s dispense with Kelly’s equivocation on socialism and give capitalism its due.

Joseph Kellard
East Meadow, New York

Monday, July 6, 2009

Independence Day Tea Party on Long Island

By Joseph Kellard

“Oh, I love Ayn Rand! I’m a member of an Objectivist Club at my school,” the college-aged woman told me. What a welcoming reaction from the first person I handed a free Ayn Rand sampler to at the tea party I attended on Independence Day.

Inside each sampler, I slipped in copies of ARC flyers “The Significance of Atlas Shrugged” and “What the Tea Party Movement Must Stand For,” along with The Undercurrent’s special tea party edition and my recent newspaper column “A Russian Immigrant’s Lesson in American Patriotism.” That column caught the eye of one party-goer, who told me she too was a Russian immigrant. While ignorant of Rand, she readily accepted my packet of literature.

Both women were among some 115 people who showed up at the morning tea party in the middle of a busy intersection in Huntington, a town on Long Island’s north shore. Party-goers held signs and waved American flags on all four corners. There were no speakers, and one party organizer conducted mostly unimaginative chants (e.g., “Obama must go!” “Throw the bums out!” “No socialism!”), as some passers-by honked their car horns in solidarity.

Meanwhile, I handed out about 75 packets. Virtually everyone I selectively approached was receptive, as I described Rand as “a great American patriot.” About a third of the party-goers told me that they had either already read Ayn Rand or had at least heard of her. One woman started to tell me about the “aristocracy of land” in Old Europe and compared it to today’s political environment. I pointed out that a chapter in Atlas Shrugged is titled “The Aristocracy of Pull,” and she reacted with an agreeable raised eyebrow, smile and nod.

Unfortunately, the party organizers passed out literature that dismissed the principle of church-state separation and lamented “attacks on religion,” as one of them held a sign that read “Faith, family and freedom” — or some similar trio of conservative tripe. Another woman went around promoting Ron Paul’s politics, while others handing out voter registration forms and bumper stickers that read: “Spread my work ethic, not my wealth!”

While certainly not an intellectual crowd, the people I chose to give packets seemed at least receptive to reading the literature. I drove away satisfied and happy that I’d helped spread Ayn Rand’s word and, hopefully, further softened the culture a bit more toward Objectivism.

Joseph Kellard is a journalist living in New York. Visit his journalism website at

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Russian Immigrant's Lesson in American Patriotism

America is the land of the uncommon man. It is the land where man is free to develop his genius – and to get its just rewards.” ~ Ayn Rand

By Joseph Kellard

As Independence Day nears and debates over immigration rage on, I’m reminded of how an atheist √©migr√© from Soviet Russia taught me what it means to be an American patriot.

Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, once wrote: “The United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.”

Rand’s books all evoke this glorification of America, but when I first read them I was a left-wing ideologue who questioned whether she knew that ours was a racist society that had stolen this land from the Indians, enslaved blacks and exploited the poor. Nonetheless, whenever I heard our national anthem, a prideful lump always swelled in my throat. Looking back, I realize that I grasped, even as I bought into these vicious charges, that there was much more to America. That’s why Rand’s uncompromising praise of this nation struck a chord with me.

Unlike conservatives, who explained America’s greatness by calling it “God’s chosen country,” Rand showed that the United States was the crowning achievement of the Enlightenment, the 18th century intellectual movement that championed reason and challenged and thus broke religion’s dogma and pervasive influence. Our Founding Fathers, Rand noted, were explicitly pro-reason, leading them to form an unprecedented nation based on the philosophical principle that each individual has an inalienable right to his own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Rand recognized that America was distinguished from all nations, past and present, by its moral and political foundation: individual rights. That is, that each individual has a right to think for himself and pursue his independent values as he sees fit, simultaneously respecting that right in others. No authority — no god, tribal chief, king, pope or bureaucrat — may dictate the course of any individual’s life; he may live for himself, “neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself,” Rand wrote.

Based on individual rights and their corresponding economic system, capitalism, America emerged as a nation of free-thinking, productive individuals. A land of scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs and businessmen who made possible an array of labor- and time-saving advances — including the cotton gin, refrigeration, electric lighting, oil-based energy, assembly-line production, the telephone, the airplane and air conditioning — which incalculably raised everyone’s standard of living, prosperity and life expectancy.

Rand’s books also taught me that what’s fundamental about being American is not such irrelevancies as your birthplace or race, but that you understand and choose to live by the fundamental ideas that underpin this great country.

Moreover, I learned that what’s most relevant when evaluating historical figures is not how they were like their predecessors and contemporaries, but how they distinguished themselves. I came to see that our founders represent a unique bridge between the irrationalities and injustices of the old world and the much greater heights still open to this nation.

While some founders owned slaves, for example, it is crucial to note that some form of slavery existed in virtually all pre-American societies. And so what’s most significant about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington is that they were the first in history to uphold individual rights that are universal to all men, and thereby laid the moral and political foundation for slavery’s eventual abolition.

Rand also understood that America could never be a racist society yet still rise to its unprecedented status, and noted that insofar as racism existed it was a force mainly in the almost feudal, agrarian South, which lost the Civil War to the freer, capitalist, industrial North. She knew America was not the backward, tribalist society as others painted it, and showed that this was true of the original Indians, contesting the claim that they had a “right” to this land: “If a ‘country’ does not protect rights, if a group of tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief, why should you respect the ‘rights’ that they don’t have or respect?” she once asked rhetorically.

Lastly, her life illustrates what’s great about America. She defected from the Soviet slave state, where millions of innocents were slaughtered based on such communist ideals as self-sacrifice, equality of results and an all-powerful state that dictated how individuals must think and live. Rand knew that in America she would be free to think independently and write books that offered innovative, challenging ideas, exemplified by the provocatively titled The Virtue of Selfishness.

Her books provide the philosophical foundation on which America can properly complete and ground its revolutionary principles and reach infinitely greater, unimagined heights.