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Bill Bucko

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  1. In pitching my novel "The Outcasts" to publishers, I describe it as "the story of a family destroyed by the 'family values' of obedience and conformity." I, for one, grew up in a traditional family, where obedience and conformity were THE top values. And watching today's conservatives, who are careful never to mention Life (unless it's a fetus's life), Liberty, or (ESPECIALLY) The Pursuit of Happiness, I'm convinced that they see family values exactly as my own family did. "Family values" is a rallying cry for those who want to dowse the fire of reason in men's minds, and bring us closer to the world of "Anthem." Scratch a supporter of "family values," and you'll find: a Christian.
  2. The case of buttered toast represents only one instance of a WIDER generalization, which I once saw quoted in a science supply catalog. The broader law is: "An object WILL fall so as to do the most damage." The catalog did refer to this, however, as "The Buttered Side Down Law."
  3. Here’s the Jefferson quote I was referring to (Vindicating the Founders , p. 9): "Be assured that no person living wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a complete refutation of the doubts I have myself entertained and expressed on the grade of understanding allotted to them by nature, and to find that in this respect they are on a par with ourselves ... but whatever may be the degree of talent it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others." (letter to Gregoire, February 25, 1809; the reference is given in footnote 20) This book containes other anti-slavery quotes by a number of the Founding Fathers: James Otis, John Jay, Benjamin Rush, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison. Also an abolitionist, though for some reason not quoted in this book, was Thomas Paine.
  4. Madalyn Murray O'Hair (a person of horribly mixed premises) once said: after every one of my lectures, we have a question and answer period. When's the last time your minister offered to answer questions, after his sermon?
  5. Here is the book I referred to: “Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America,” by Thomas G. West (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997). It’s still in print; many new and used copies are available at Amazon, at AddAll.com/Used, etc. I’ve just ordered a copy. And here’s a list of relevant passages I found, in “The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson”: p. xxiii in 1783, at the Confederation Congress, Jefferson attempted to have slavery excluded from the Northwestern Territory p. xliii Jefferson’s unwillingness to overwork his slaves was a drain on his pocketbook p. 5 (Autobiography) in 1769, Jefferson’s first act in the House of Burgesses was an unsuccessful bill allowing owners to free their slaves (also p. xviii and pp. 641-642, letter to Edward Coles, Aug. 25, 1814) Pp. 21, 25 (Autobiography) passage in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, denouncing slavery as “cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty” p. 40 (Autobiography) in 1778 Jefferson got a bill passed banning the importation of slaves into Virginia p. 51 (Autogiography) when the laws of Virginia were revised, Jefferson hoped that a call for gradual emancipation would be included; however, there was too much opposition. Jefferson also expresses the opinion that the two races would not be able to live together under the same government, and favored transportation to Africa p. 255 (Notes on Virginia, Query XIV) more details on the proposed emancipation pp. 258-262 (Notes on Virginia, Query XIV) Jefferson compares the situation of black slaves with that of slaves in ancient Rome; and considers whether black people are inferior by nature. In one sentence he thinks it’s pretty much proved; however, in three later sentences he says that opinion is a "conjecture," must be “hazarded with great diffidence,” and ends by saying it’s “a suspicion only.” p. 278 (Notes on Virginia, Query XVIII) Jefferson observes that slavery seriously degrades the moral character of the slave-owners p. 304 (A Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1774) Jefferson attacks the king of England for hampering efforts to outlaw the slave trade; he says "the rights of human nature" are "deeply wounded by this infamous practice." pp. 313-314 (Report of Government for the Western Territory, 1784) Jefferson proposes that “there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said states” These are the results of only a quick check; there may be other passages I've missed. I wish I had a good, thorough biography of Jefferson at hand (or a nearby library with his complete works), but I don't. Hopefully some of you will be INSPIRED to carry on the search! * * * Quoting "A is A" "Hello Bill. I agree with you. Please see my post in this thread. It is post number 5." Thanks!
  6. Many (but not all) of those discussing this topic appear to have spent insufficient time studying the FACTS about Thomas Jefferson. At the very least, get "The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson" in Random House's Modern Library series (edited by Adrienne Koch and William Peden), and READ Jefferson's own words. If you're close to a large library, try looking through the many volumes of Jefferson's letters, as well. I believe it's in Jefferson's Autobiography that he states that his FIRST act in public life, his FIRST week in the House of Burgesses, was to persuade a more senior member to introduce a bill, allowing masters to free their slaves. According to Jefferson, that provoked such a storm of criticism that the senior member almost lost his seat in the legislature. Also, in that same work, read Jefferson's ORIGINAL draft of the Declaration of Independence, in which he condemns the slave trade as "cruel warfare against human nature." SEARCH through Jefferson's writings, including his letters. There are many surprises. At least one surprise is a nasty one. There exists a passage in which Jefferson says he believes that the apparent inferiority of black people is not due merely to their status as slaves, but to inherent inferiority. HOWEVER, there are many more PLEASANT surprises in his writings, as well. In particular, there is a later passage in which he reconsiders the same issue, and states a diametrically opposite conclusion, saying there is NO proof that black people are inferior. He goes on to say (I'm paraphrasing, I don't have this in front of me): even if it were true they were inferior in intelligence (which, he insists, he does NOT admit), that would in no way imply that they were in any way inferior in rights--after all, Isaac Newton was more intelligent than others but that didn't give him any extra rights! Unfortunately I cannot provide an exact source of that quote. I believe it was in one of Jefferson's letters, as quoted in a book from about 10 years ago vindicating the Founding Fathers. The book was sold, at the time, by Second Renaissance Books. (Sorry I can't be more precise than that, at the moment. I will try to find the book in their old catalogs.) The book offered many interesting details about exactly when various states banned slavery, and which states during which years allowed black people to vote. George Washington, as you should know, was a man whose library contained more works on hunting and farming than philosophy; he was not as intellectually inclined as, say, Thomas Jefferson. Yet I have read an account saying that even Washington FIRST ATTEMPTED TO FREE HIS SLAVES IN 1770--fully 6 years before the Declaration of Independence! (Again, I do not have an exact source for this. I read it several years ago in "Cricket," the children's magazine.) I dearly wish that Jefferson had been a fiery, crusading abolitionist, taking a public stand at every opportunity to denounce slavery, in spite of the harm such an unpopular stand would have done him politically and economically. He was not. But neither was he the hypocrite that some moral pygmies in academia and the media have slandered him as. WHO, in the 1700s, did MORE than he to lay the foundation for the eventual abolition of slavery? * * * On this same general subject, here's an article I hope you have read: "The Anti-Jeffersonian Revolution: Academic Irrationalism and the Sally Hemings Controversy," by J. Patrick Mullins ( The Intellectual Activist, July 2002)
  7. No, we CHOOSE our heritage. We don't blindly accept just anything that happened in the past (much less, accept guilt for the wrongdoings of others). I strongly recommend you read George Reisman's article, "Education and the Racist Road to Barbarism" (first appeared in The Intellectual Activist). It doesn't matter who your ancestors were. My own father was a murderer. So what? It's the values you choose, not what's in your genes. And if you're a rational, freedom-loving American who doesn't have imaginary friends in the sky--if you want to see children grow up with their minds unstunted, in a rational world-- your heritage includes the separation of church and state.
  8. Thank you. Good point. Back when Kelley was first causing a stir with his aberrations, I asked his followers this question: "What if I formed an institute and called it the David Kelley Institute, saying it was for spreading his philosophy, and I used it to preach intolerance? Would Kelly object? ... If yes, why is HE claiming a right he DENIES to Ayn Rand?" I never received an answer.
  9. Quote: "I had no idea. Is that info available somewhere, in a book or website? Or is it something you know from being around Objectivists for a long time?" [Maybe I pushed the wrong button; but for whatever reason I can't get the "Quote" feature to work.] Ira Levin (1929- ) exchanged letters with Miss Rand in the 1950s. (See "Letters of Ayn Rand," hardcover, p. 465.) In the 1960s he attended some of the Objectivist lectures in New York City. I was not there at the time, but was told this by Jim Davidson, the electrical engineer and inventor who first had the idea of tape recording and distributing lectures on Objectivism. (Note: This Jim is not to be confused with the Libertarian writer of the same name. The Jim Davidson I'm talking about wrote only for computer magazines. And he LIVED Objectivism to the end of his too-short life, achieving, to all appearances, in his own moral character what John Galt achieved in his. Being around him was highly inspiring, especially to a novice as I was at the time--later 60s, at Purdue University.) Quote: "I saw his movie "A Kiss Before Dying" several years ago and was quite impressed." Do NOT call it "his" movie ! If you're referring to the 1991 remake, that was cobbled together by mediocrities who did not even respect Mr Levin's work enough to keep the ending he created. The 1956 movie version was closer to the original, but still a far cry from the carefully crafted suspense of the novel. Quote: "I think he was a devoted Libertarian." If so, I'm sorry to hear it. I would not wish what Hollywood did to "A Kiss Before Dying," even on a Libertarian!
  10. Hear, hear! I totally agree. Galt's speech is colorful and full of drama. It is not just a philosophic, but a literary tour-de-force.
  11. "THIS PERFECT DAY" Best-selling author Ira Levin, who was a student of Objectivism in the 1950s and 60s, wrote one novel in particular that I would like to strongly recommend. Mr Levin's works reflect mixed premises. In "The Romantic Manifesto" Miss Rand commented on the contrast between his first and second novels, "A Kiss Before Dying" and "Rosemary's Baby." "The Boys from Brazil" is very fine (forget the movie, read the book!). But the work I would like to STRONGLY recommend is "This Perfect Day" (1970). In general terms "This Perfect Day" resembles "Brave New World," but unlike that down-beat, depressing book it has a real hero, a rebel who slowly, steadily struggles from childhood to assert his mind against the giant computer and mind-enslaving drugs of a “benevolent” world dictatorship. The plot twists are simply breath-taking; I cannot recommend "This Perfect Day" too highly. The four sections of the novel are headed “Growing Up,” “Coming Alive,” “Getting Away,” and “Fighting Back.” Of course the background premise--that an enslaved society can be scientifically advanced, rather than collapsing back into the world of "Anthem"--is incorrect. But this story is so good, I would sell my soul to have written it! This is storytelling at its best!
  12. Thanks for making this available! I enjoyed your symphony. I found several of the themes quite striking. I'm sure it embodies many musical values that I (unfortunately) am too unschooled a listener to detect. I do plan to listen to it several more times. I hope many more people listen to it, and offer more educated appreciation than I am able to.
  13. Miss Rand observed: "... abstract ideas are proper in fiction only when they are subordinated to the story. Not when the story is artificially devised to expound some thesis. That is why propaganda writers fail. That is why propaganda stories are always so false and dull." ("Letters," p. 159) As some of you know, I was quite disappointed when a certain highly distinguished Objectivist professor (Andrew Bernstein), seemingly unable to switch mental gears from teaching to storytelling, took his hero Swoop and made him into a teaching tool ... i.e. in effect treating him as an object of sacrifice, rather than an end in himself. I defy anyone who likes the published version of "Heart of a Pagan" to go back and compare it, sentence by sentence, to the vastly superior version that appeared in "The Atlantean Press Review."
  14. Undoubtedly the best translation of "Quo Vadis" is that of Jeremiah Curtin, to whom the author Sienkiewicz wrote: "I can only desire that you and no one else should translate all that I write." The modern translations are inelegant and inaccurate. As to the best translation of "Les Miserables," I have not compared too many versions, but my favorite is that of Isabel F Hapgood. As far as dictionaries: search this Forum, I recall someone else offered some recommendations.
  15. Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (12 chapter serial from 1940, starring Buster Crabbe) -- thrilling fight to stop Ming the Merciless from devastating the earth with the Purple Death. I grew up on this. Love Letters We the Living -- aside from the great acting and story, the music by Renzo Rossellini is a treasure in itself The Fountainhead You Came Along (1945) starring Bob Cummings and Lizabeth Scott; Ayn Rand co-wrote the screenplay Conan the Barbarian (1982) -- because it's about PSYCHOLOGICAL strength The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) starring a young Jodie Foster as Rynn Jacobs, a fiercely independent heroine. Incrediby suspenseful! Cyrano de Bergerac -- the Gerard Depardieu version (1990) Romeo and Juliet -- the Zeffirelli version (1968)
  16. As Miss Rand observed: "... abstract ideas are proper in fiction only when they are subordinated to the story. Not when the story is artificially devised to expound some thesis. That is why propaganda writers fail. That is why propaganda stories are always so false and dull." ("Letters," p. 159)
  17. They do indeed. My major historical novel "The Outcasts"--about the struggles of a free-thinking boy at the dawn of the Renaissance--should hit the stands a couple of years from now. The manuscript has been rejected by one publisher; I'm submitting to two more soon, and if they don't want it I will self-publish. Several chapters of an earlier version appeared in "The Atlantean Press Review." Ed Cline (author of the "Sparrowhawk" series) says my novel "will become a classic in the 21st century." And several years down the road, you can expect my next novel, "Raphaella di Piero." It's the story of a young girl with a heritage of murder, and her violent love for a boy.
  18. Thank you--I appreciate the compliment! I hope you also check out my retelling of Schiller's "The Robbers"--a work I love even more than "The Eaglet"!
  19. Forgotten Masterpieces: THE EAGLET retold By Bill Bucko If Edmond Rostand had written nothing except Cyrano de Bergerac, that would have been enough to establish his fame, for all the centuries to come. But few people know of his other plays—all of which are noteworthy and one of which, in my opinion, is almost as great as Cyrano de Bergerac. Rostand (1868-1918) started as a young poet following in the footsteps of his literary hero, Victor Hugo. His first play was the light comedy The Romantics (which later furnished the plot for the show “The Fantastiks”). Next he wrote The Princess Far Away, about the wistful, hopeless love of a 12th-century troubadour for a woman he has never seen. Then came The Woman Of Samaria, Rostand’s poetic retelling of a Biblical tale ... and I hope you know what came next, as the summit of his career. The famous actor Coquelin, impressed with the unknown young poet’s talent, promised him he would produce and appear in any new play of Rostand’s in which there might be a part for him. By chance Rostand found an old edition of Cyrano de Bergerac’s imaginary voyage to the moon—and was inspired to write. The rest is history. On December 28, 1897, a jaded French public that for decades had been told that Romanticism was dead and Naturalism was here to stay, witnessed the greatest literary sensation of the century. Every act of Cyrano de Bergerac was given a ten-minute standing ovation, and news of the play swept the world almost overnight. Rostand’s next play, and the principal subject of this article, was The Eaglet (L’Aiglon), appearing in 1900. Like Cyrano de Bergerac, it is a stirring, passionate work, almost unbearably intense, and almost as brilliantly written. It is an historical play, based on the short, tragic life of Napoleon’s son, the duke of Reichstadt. And its theme—done perhaps as well as it has ever been written—is the clash between sense of life and reality. (At least, there’s a clash for those who aren’t full-fledged romantic realists—if I may adapt a literary term to the realm of ethics.) Here is the story: Act I — “Fledgling Wings” It is 1830, at the Austrian court of the Princess Marie Louise, Napoleon’s widow. Years ago the royal family had grudgingly given her in marriage to “the usurper,” when the Frenchman’s armies were sweeping over most of Europe, toppling and scattering thrones in their way. Marie Louise is now aging, frivolous, and empty-headed. Napoleon, the “Eagle,” is dead—and hated, not for the enormous slaughter he perpetrated, but for the fact that he was a commoner who dared to rise and over-awe the so-called “nobility.” In an atmosphere of stifling envy, Napoleon’s 20-year-old son, the duke of Reichstadt, is being raised as a prince—dressed in the white uniform of an Austrian officer—and kept isolated from anyone who might still revere or even mention his father. The French tricolor flag is banned. The duke is told almost nothing of history from 1789 to 1815. Metternich, the Austrian prime minister, hopes to keep him weak and ignorant of his heritage. Metternich stands guard over Europe in the name of “the divine right of kings,” ready to crush any outbreak of popular government that might arise—and willing to suffocate and destroy the young man’s soul, as a means to that end. He believes that he will soon have nothing to fear from the duke, who is becoming a pampered, weak-willed “royal” ... Evening falls. Everyone leaves the duke alone, so he can enjoy a little dissipation with his supposed mistress, the actress Fanny Elssler. She arrives from the theater, dances across the stage, and falls into his arms. The last of the smirking, hate-ridden courtiers leave. Instantly the actress jumps off the duke’s lap and bows in deep respect. She sits down, concentrates, and begins to recite, continuing the history lesson from the previous evening: “Then, while Marshall Ney marched all night, Generals Gazan and Suchet replied with their cannon, and the imperial guard moved up ...” The curtain falls as the duke, thirsting for greatness, repeats and memorizes the tale of his father’s glory, the precious, smuggled knowledge he can only be told in secret. Act II — “Fluttering Wings” It is a year later. The duke is spied upon on all sides, his room searched, his papers seized. Yet something strange has happened. Someone has taken the duke’s trivial little set of toy wooden soldiers and repainted them ... with blue French uniforms. One of the duke’s guards, Flambeau, reveals himself to be, in reality, a former soldier of Napoleon’s who has come here to aid the emperor’s son. France is currently ruled by a reactionary king installed by Metternich; but Flambeau tells the duke there are many people who would rather see him reign ... as Napoleon II. They make plans for the duke’s escape to France. Act III — “Spreading Wings” The duke goes to his doting grandfather, the Austrian emperor Franz. The emperor agrees to let the duke rule France. Of course, he’ll have to follow Metternich’s wishes and suppress all those newfangled ideas about freedom ... The duke refuses. That night the duke gives Flambeau a signal: set out on a table is one of Napoleon’s tri-cornered hats. Flambeau stands guard, not in his white Austrian uniform but in his old French one ... It is dark. Metternich comes in, sees the hat, and recalls with a shudder that this is the very room Napoleon once occupied, in the time of his triumph. He voices his long-pent-up hatred and fear of Napoleon. Then he rubs his eyes, seeing Flambeau. A French soldier, here—were the last twenty years only a dream? ... When he realizes Flambeau is real he has him pursued. Then he confronts the duke, telling him brutally that his dream of ruling can never succeed: “You have your father’s hat, but not his head.” The duke protests, but “Look in the mirror!” Metternich snarls in hatred. “Those aren’t Napoleon’s features! You resemble no one more than ... the Austrians, the Hapsburgs!” The duke falls, prostrated by self-doubt. Act IV — “Bruised Wings” The duke, his confidence destroyed, appears at a costume ball in the park. He wonders if he is going mad. But his shattered spirits revive when he sees a courtier flirt with his mother. He throws the presumptuous man to the ground. He realizes he has found himself again ... Metternich comes in, expecting to see the duke crushed, and is startled to see him standing proudly—in his ordinary white officer’s uniform, while everyone around them is in costume: Metternich: “In uniform? Were you not advised?” Duke: “I thought that everybody came disguised!” The duke’s escape is planned for that night. The Countess Camerata, a sympathizer, will be impersonating him, ready to lead off the pursuit in the wrong direction ... But the French ambassador accidentally learns of their plans. The moment is critical. But the ambassador, resenting the insulting behavior of the Austrians, decides not to betray the duke. The two men shake hands as honorable opponents: “Is there anything I can do for you in Paris?” asks the ambassador. “I plan on reaching the ... empire, ahead of you,” the duke replies. “If to the ... kingdom ... I am first to come?” “Salute for me the Column of Vendome.” [a famous monument to Napoleon’s victories] Act V — “Broken Wings” The duke has fled toward France, and finds himself on a vast open field, in the dead of night. But lacking his father’s utter callousness, he delays because he believes the countess is in danger. And because of that delay he is overtaken and surrounded ... Rather than be captured, Flambeau stabs himself. The duke, shaken, asks to be left alone for a while with his dead friend. The field becomes covered with mist. It is the battlefield of Wagram, he realizes, scene of one of Napoleon’s greatest victories. The duke pauses, dreaming. It seems almost as though the battle were yesterday. Voices of soldiers emerge from the fog ... But now the duke must face reality squarely. Napoleon was a symbol of glory, true—but the vain, misguided, far-too-costly kind of glory that destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives. “Something to drink!” call the voices; “I’m dying.” “My leg is gone.” “My arm is hanging.” Groans and curses fill the darkness. “Don’t let me die here.” “Give me your hand.” “I haven’t any.” “Have pity! Kill me!” ... The vision of the full, actual meaning of his father’s career is too much for the duke to bear. He is weaker than his father (if weakness is the right word), he lacks the stomach and cannot stand to relive his father’s errors. Real voices replace the imaginary ones. White-uniformed Austrian troops now surround the duke—his own regiment. He looks around in a daze. Crushed, realizing he can never follow in his father’s footsteps, he joins them. Act VI — “Folded Wings” The duke lies seriously ill. He has not recovered from the gruesome revelation on the battleground. His mother Marie Louise, softening toward him and willing at last to look at the past she has tried to forget, sits at his side. Metternich and the courtiers gather quietly around the deathbed ... As a last request, the duke has someone read to him out of a history book—for once, an uncensored history book. It is the story of his own christening, twenty-two years ago, celebrated by all of Paris, surrounded by vast crowds and by visiting princes and kings from all over Europe. “Skip the kings,” the duke whispers, knowing his time is short. Finally, according to the narrative, the infant was placed into the arms of ... the man reading the book cannot bring himself to say the forbidden word. The duke looks at his mother kneeling at the bedside and says it for him: “The empress.” The reader continues: “Te Deum laudamus filled that vast place. That evening very France seemed all ablaze With the great splendor and the great delight ...” Doctor: “Dead.” [The reader closes the book.] Metternich: “Put on his uniform. Of course, the white.” In a brief poem after the final curtain falls, Rostand visits the crypt in Vienna where the duke still lies entombed within “the double prison—his coffin of bronze, and the uniform.” * * * I think you can see why I rate this violently intense play as Rostand’s other masterpiece, second only to Cyrano de Bergerac. Rostand did live to complete one more play, Chantecler, in which all the characters are barnyard animals. Miss Rand reportedly admired it; but in spite of a few good pages I have never been able to love it. In the play Chantecler the rooster believes it is his crowing that makes the sun rise. The owls and other cocks hate and envy him. His self-confidence is shattered when one morning he forgets to crow, and the sun rises without him. But he finally realizes that, even if he does not do it alone, his work still contributes to the light. And nothing is more important than his work. If you love Cyrano de Bergerac, you might want to go to a large library and look for Rostand’s other plays. I recommend the 2-volume Plays of Edmond Rostand translated by Henderson Daingerfield Norman (MacMillan, 1921), if you can find it. Norman’s translation of The Eaglet is far superior to the 1900 “adaptation” by Louis N. Parker. The Eaglet is currently out of print in English. Copyright © 1993 by Bill Bucko
  20. Forgotten Masterpieces THE ROBBERS retold by Bill Bucko How did the Romantic movement in literature begin? What was the first major work to champion man’s free will, to show him as “a being of self-made soul”? Romanticism in literature began with the “Sturm und Drang” (“Storm and Stress”) movement in Germany, in the late 1700’s. Some see Goethe’s moody, sentimental novel The Sorrows of Young Werther as the first major Romantic work. (That, as you may have heard, was the book that provoked a rash of suicides throughout Europe, as dreamy young men imitated the pining, weak-willed hero.) Others, myself included, think the honor belongs to The Robbers (Die Räuber), a fiery melodrama that appeared in 1782. Its author, Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), is not as widely known as he should be, though Miss Rand ranked him among the top level of Romanticists, on a level with Victor Hugo and Edmond Rostand. According to an eyewitness account, at the premiere of The Robbers “the theater resembled a madhouse: rolling eyes, balled fists, heated outcries from the audience. Strangers fell sobbing into each other’s arms; women staggered to the door, nearly fainting.” The play was deemed so inflammatory that it was banned in some parts of Germany. How did Schiller provoke such an intense reaction? What attitude toward values did he champion? Here is the story of The Robbers: ACT I “Are you well, Father? ... The news of our Karl, at school, isn’t the sort of news I should tell you, if you aren’t in good health.” “What has happened?” demands the aged Count von Moor, trembling. Franz, the younger brother, reports some real events—a duel, debts, wasteful living—and invents the rest, exaggerating his older brother’s faults. Full of envy, he tries to turn their father against Karl, who has always been the favorite. Franz hopes to win his brother’s inheritance, as well as his sweetheart, Amalia. And secretly he delights in his power to wrench the old man’s heart. He gains permission to write to Karl, instead of the old man doing it himself. “But—don’t write anything that would cause him to despair!” their father pleads. Several hundred miles away, Karl von Moor sits in a tavern with his fellows, brooding. “I’m disgusted with the present century, when I read in Plutarch about great men of the past.” He is a great-souled, reckless young man yearning for something better than the boredom and mediocrity of everyday life, who has gotten into a few “scrapes.” The eagerly-awaited letter from home arrives. Karl von Moor tears it open. Has his father forgiven him? “Unhappy brother!” he reads. “A pleasant beginning,” a friend remarks. His father, he reads in his brother’s misleading letter, is unwilling to forgive, and has utterly disowned him. There is no way back into his favor; only the dungeon of the family castle awaits him, if he ever dares to return. Disillusioned now with human nature, Karl decides to turn robber. Not a common robber, to be sure, but a “Robin Hood,” a champion of the oppressed, bent on righting wrongs. His libertine friends hail him as their chief. ACT II Back in the castle of Count von Moor, Amalia refuses to forget her long-lost love, even though Karl has been reported missing in battle. She sings the haunting, martial song they had shared in days gone by: the farewell of Hector, the Trojan hero, about to go out and meet his death at the hands of Achilles: All my longing, all my thought, Shall be drowned in Lethe’s black flood, But my love shall not! Hear! Wild Achilles rages at the walls now. Gird me on my sword and leave off grieving— Hector’s love dies not in Lethe’s flood! The scene changes to the robber camp in the Bohemian Forest. A bandit notes that Moor doesn’t seem to care for money; he gives his share of the booty to orphans and poor students ... Suddenly a man rushes in with the news that Roller, Moor’s best friend, is about to be hanged at a nearby town. Roller was captured, and tortured on the rack to get him to reveal the chief’s whereabouts—but he refused to talk ... Karl von Moor rides like a demon, has his men set fire to the town’s powder magazine as a diversion, and rescues his friend from the very scaffold ... Later, back in the forest, Moor hears that 83 townspeople died in the raid. Shaken, he turns to his friend: “Roller, your life was very dearly bought.” “It’s no matter,” one of the robbers interposes, “most of the dead were just infants or young mothers or sick people who stayed at home, afraid to go see the hanging. I tossed a child into the flames, myself.” Moor turns on him, furiously: “From this moment you’re no longer one of my band.” Conscience-stricken and horrified, he knows that he cannot escape responsibility for his actions. He resolves to give up his life of crime. But now hundreds of footsoldiers and horsemen, hot on the trail of the robbers, have followed them and have drawn a tight cordon around the woods. The robber band numbers only 80. In the last minutes before the impending battle, a priest comes to them as an emissary. He has a deal for them, he says, to avoid needless bloodshed. “What are you offering?” The priest answers: “Better than you deserve, incendiaries! Look around you; there’s no place left for you to run ... But hear how merciful, how kind the law will be with you criminals. If you embrace the cross on your knees and beg for grace, see, the strength of the law will turn to pity, and become as a loving mother to you—she will close her eyes to fully half your crimes and be content—just think of it! —merely to have you broken on the wheel! ”* The robbers scoff and threaten; but Moor forbids them to harm the priest. Moor boasts of his misdeeds: he’s robbed bigots in their churches, and killed a nobleman who sold offices to the highest bidder. With his own hands he strangled a preacher who was calling for the Inquisition to be revived ... Seeing his terms rejected, the priest makes a final offer. They can all escape with a full pardon, he says—all but one. All they have to do is turn in their chief—alive. Moor points out that that is a bargain worth taking advantage of. He urges his men to be reasonable and accept; he will not hold it against them. But they are still unwilling. So he ties his wrist to a tree. The robber band, now worked up to fever pitch, untie Moor, shouting: “Save the chief! Save him!” They still have their freedom, and will fight to the death for it. None of them will be taken alive, they vow. They advance on the surrounding army with drawn daggers. ACT III The battle is over. The robbers have fought like men possessed. They lie exhausted under the trees, now, near the Danube, slowly recovering. In spite of the overwhelming odds only one of them has lost his life. Who is the dead bandit? It turns out to be Roller, the chief’s best friend. Moor turns solemnly to his followers, who have fought so bravely for him. He raises his dagger: “I will never forsake you.” “Don’t say that,” a robber warns, “you may regret it someday.” “By the ashes of my Roller,” Moor swears again, “I WILL NEVER FORSAKE YOU!” And with that fateful oath, his future is sealed. A man enters, seeking to join the robber band. Moor does his best to discourage him, telling him of the life of the hunted criminal, the lawless existence from day to day, the bitter regrets for lost innocence ... but the newcomer will not be dissuaded. Grimly, he tells them his story. On the morning of his wedding, he says, he was arrested on a trumped-up charge of treason. He was imprisoned for a month. Then, mysteriously, he was released; and he could find no sign of his beloved—until someone threw down a note from the palace window. It was from his betrothed. The prince wanted her ... for himself, he explains. And to save his life, his beloved bought his freedom—the only way she could ... He describes how he grabbed a sword, tried to storm the castle in his despair, but was beaten and chased away, helpless to avenge his wrong. “You see why I’m in despair. So don’t tell me I shouldn’t cast my lot with you and become an outlaw!” This tale reminds Moor of his own Amalia, whom he hasn’t seen for several years. What has become of her? And could she possibly still be waiting for him, after everything that has happened? Is there any chance of that? ... He sets off on the gallop for his father’s castle. ACT IV Amalia still lives, and so does the envious, scheming brother Franz—who has tried, but failed, to make her his mistress. Karl visits them, in disguise. The old count, he is told, is in his tomb. He collapsed after being told his favorite son Karl was dead. The faithful Amalia, in her grief, takes up a lute and begins singing the stirring old song of “Hector’s Farewell:” Wilt thou, Hector, tear thyself from me, And go to face the deadly enemy ...? She breaks off sorrowfully, remembering her lost love, unable to continue. Karl von Moor picks up the lute and sings the reply: Dear woman, fetch my deadly lance, Let me go forth to the wild dance of war— —then flees, overcome by emotion. That night, back with his robber band at their camp near an old tower, he makes a horrifying discovery. The aged Count von Moor is not dead, after all. The treacherous Franz, impatient to assume the title, has imprisoned their father in the tower, where he is slowly starving him to death. Karl, still unrecognized, frees his father, and listens in shock to his tale ... Apparently dead, the count had been placed in his coffin. Hours later he came to his senses in the darkness, and signaled for help. The unnatural Franz lifted the coffin’s lid, cried, “What? Are you going to live forever? ”, then slammed it shut again ... The robber chief vows revenge on his monstrous brother. ACT V The villainous Franz, tortured by nightmares of the Last Judgment, is unable to pray. He orders the local priest to come to the castle. The priest tells him to repent, for God can still forgive even him; he has oppressed his subjects without mercy, true, but at least he hasn’t committed the worst of all sins: parricide or fratricide ... The robber band storms the castle and sets it on fire. In despair, Franz kills himself to avoid falling into their hands. Back at the tower, the old man expresses his gratitude to his rescuers. But Karl von Moor is through pretending, once and for all. He stands before his father. “These your saviors are robbers and murderers,” he tells him bluntly. “Your Karl is their chief.” In his weakened condition the old man cannot stand the shock. He dies. But in spite of the horrors of his life Karl finds that Amalia still loves him. All his crimes have not been able to destroy that. Perhaps with her help he can resume a normal existence, and escape his past ... But he cannot. “Think of the Bohemian woods,” his followers threaten, gathering around him. “What was it you promised us? Were those just idle words? Where is your oath now? Where is your honor?” Amalia cannot bear to be without her lover, any longer; and she cannot join him as an outlaw ... She asks to die, if that is to be Moor’s fate. Passionately, she begs the robbers for a sword-thrust or a dagger: “You who have killed so many, make me happy now!” When they refuse, she steels herself, prepared to take her own life. “Hold,” Moor commands firmly. “That’s not for you to do. Moor’s beloved shall die only by his own hand.” And he strikes her dead. The robber band, though inured to desperate deeds, is shocked. And Moor now realizes he can sum up the meaning of everything he has done, of his entire life, and weigh himself in the balance. “I tried to establish justice, through lawlessness ... But I forgot that vengeance was not mine to exact ... I stand now at the boundary of a horrifying life, and understand for the first time that two men like me would be enough to destroy the whole structure of the civilized world! ... I cannot undo the past. But there’s still one thing I can do ... They shall have me. Alive. I’ll make what amends I can. I’m going to deliver myself into the hands of the law.” “Tie him up! He’s lost his senses!” some of the robbers cry. “Let him go,” another concludes. “He’s just bemused again with that old yearning of his, for great deeds. He’s throwing his life away for an idle bit of foolishness.” “You can believe that if you like.” Moor pauses, thinking. “I remember a poor laborer I saw on the way here, with eleven children to support. There’s a thousand gold pieces offered to the one who turns in the great robber. That man can use the reward.” Moor walks off, to face his death. * * * Schiller followed this adolescent shocker with more mature masterpieces: Don Carlos (the passionate struggle of a prince to free Europe from the tyranny of his father, Philip II of Spain);** Wallenstein (the conspiracy and assassination of a general during the 30 Years’ War); The Maid of Orleans (the play that made the little-known Joan of Arc famous); and his most popular drama, another stirring cry for freedom, William Tell. These are the kind of works that inspired Ayn Rand in her youth—and that later made her write: “Romantic art is the fuel and the spark plug of a man’s soul; its task is to set a soul on fire and never let it go out.” With The Robbers, I think you’ll agree, the Romantic movement had a worthy and exciting beginning. Copyright © 1993 by Bill Bucko Footnotes: * This was a medieval mode of execution in which the victim, tied to a wheel, has all his bones broken with an iron bar, and is then left to die of exposure. ** This play was discussed by Leonard Peikoff in his course “7 Great Plays.”
  21. I was a student of Objectivism in the 1960's, and had access to a number of inside details on what happened. Let me sum up by quoting from my Amazon reviews (as billbucko). First, concerning "Judgment Day": "All relationship between them [Rand and Branden] came to an end in 1968, when Miss Rand discovered that Branden was not practicing what he preached. "This is Nathaniel Branden’s version of their relationship—or rather, one of his versions, for he’s changed his story several times ... "This is a long book; but the reader should not lose sight of an essential fact. Branden confesses, on page after page, that he lied to Miss Rand and to others—not once, but repeatedly, for a number of years. His excuse—'she made me do it'—rings hollow, coming from a man who lectured on the virtues of honesty, integrity, and independence. "After confessing his prevarications and being so 'candid,' Branden expects us to believe what he’s saying now. Instead, I suggest we ask the question: 'How do we know you aren’t still lying, given that you’ve had so much practice?'" And now, from my review of Barbara Branden's trash-wallow: "This is not a true biography of the great philosopher. It is a vitriolic exercise in hatred, riddled from beginning to end with self-contradictions. For instance, Branden insists that Miss Rand as a child conceived a life-long neurotic fear of physical reality. Yet only a few pages later she describes the young Ayn Rand joyously climbing a mountain on a vacation in Switzerland ... and later in life, happily taking the throttle of a New York Central diesel locomotive! ... "I had the pleasure of meeting Ayn Rand in 1971, and of seeing first-hand how gracious she was with her many fans. I found her a genuinely polite, warm, and considerate person, who seemed serenely at peace with herself. Can the same be said of her detractors?" Everything I saw and heard, without exception, agrees with the account offered by Leonard Peikoff in "My 30 Years with Ayn Rand."
  22. Steve Ditko was a student of Objectivism who penned a number of Objectivist-oriented comic books during the 1960s and 70s, including "Avenging World" and "Mr A." I believe he listed himself in "Cantique Connection" as an Objectivist, during the 90s. "Avenging World" was a graphic* portrayal of what's wrong with the world, showing the conflict between thinkers/producers and looters--as well as the role of compromise in draining the victims. *(and for once, that word is being used correctly: "graphic" means "in pictures," not "intense," as the illiterate zombies on TV would have you believe!) "Mr A" was a series of stories, whose hero dons a grim mask to defend the innocent and dole out vigilante justice to the guilty, without mercy. I have copies of "Avenging World," "Mr A," and a couple of others. All in all, I consider them pretty good. While not great art, a some of his panels are quite striking and ingenious. Omnibus anthologies of his works have been published. You should be able to find some for sale if you do a Google search.
  23. Our text was "An Introduction to Greek," by Crosby and Schaeffer. Highly recommended: "Greek Philosophical Terms," by F.E. Peters. For each term it offers a chronological summary, showing how each thinker used it and how the meaning developed. This would also be helpful for students who are NOT learning Greek ... because you can't really rely on the translator, many English terms do not have precise equivalents in Greek and vice versa ... you ought to know the Greek word, for the key concepts (e.g. physis for nature, psyche for soul, hyle for matter, eidos for form). A good feature of Wheelwright's "Aristotle" is that his translations do show, in parentheses, what Greek word Aristotle was using.
  24. Thanks so much for sharing this with us! I've really enjoyed it. I don't know much about the technical aspects of music--my own field is fiction writing--but your harmonies sound rich, you range all over the keyboard very effectively, and I like the way that one motif keeps coming back, each time with a different harmony (at about 3:07 to 3:37 from the beginning, for instance). You use a lot of repeated notes, too. That's something I've always loved in Rachmaninoff! I wish you were pursuing a career in music. We need more works like this!
  25. What the DVD offers is not the complete "Ideal," but excerpts ... a little more than 50 minutes, total. I didn't get to see it when it was staged; but the tape recorded reading version I heard from NBI in the '60s was about two hours long. So a lot has been cut. But this version does capture the essence of every scene. Also, this is an adaptation ... though a respectful one, with the main change being a police detective questioning Kay Gonda, to connect the various scenes, and replacing the prologue. And YES, the acting and directing ARE SUPERB! The person who compared it to being in a cathedral was absolutely correct. Seeing this masterpiece is a deeply moving experience.
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