Results are in. Top three 21st Century painters are…

David Hockney, Bob Ross, and Jasper Johns!

But wait, that’s not all. You can still vote for someone else. Grace Slick and Yoko Ono are in the running! So’s Tom Kinkade!

Just go to the 21st Century Painters site, and vote someone up! They don’t have to paint for you to vote!

Sackler Drug Lords Barred from Egyptian Temple at the Met

From ArtNews:

Two years after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York said it would stop taking donations from the Sacklers,  the institution announced plans to remove the family’s name from galleries within its walls. Among those galleries is the massive, airy space containing the Temple of Dendur, which has long bore the Sackler name.

The Sackler family is famous for popularizing OxyContin, a synthetic opiate, through its Purdue Pharma outfit. OxyContin has been responsible for millions and millions of deaths and ruined lives.

Serpentine Sackler Gallery

In recent years, both the Louvre and the Serpentine Gallery have concealed or avoided the Sackler name.

A suggestion that Met members receive a free vial of OxyContin with their membership packet, was mooted by someone about ten years ago, but the Met did not follow up on it and it is unclear who proposed the idea.

Jeff Koons: Lost in America

In Qatar, of all places.

“The exhibition title is borrowed from a 1985 American satirical comedy film of the same name directed by Albert Brooks, about a 1980s yuppie couple in Los Angeles who are disgruntled by their bourgeois lifestyle. Koons wants viewers to draw their own interpretations of that title, as well as the intention or meaning of the works.”

As seen in Forbes.

Crime and Punishment at the Art Students League

(Originally published June 29, 2014)

Odd doings at the Voorhees-Rohr Mansion!

Our very own Mr. Ian Stuart Dowdy of the Art Students League likes to tell the tale of how he was responsible for the death of an old lady he was supposed to be taking care of. Old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr was often bedridden with a prolapsed colon and needed round-the-clock care. As no nurse or home-care-giver was available on a live-in basis (this was during the War), and the live-in maid did not wish to do this sort of work, Mrs. V-R had her attorney look for a young man or woman who could move into the spare bedroom down the hall.

A day or two later our own Ian Stuart Dowdy appeared and you can guess the rest.

A willowy, good-hearted young bit of artsy flotsam, Dowdy was very much an urban “type” of the era. Too snooty to be ribbon clerks at Bonwit Teller, young fellows of this breed very frequently found sinecures as caretakers of enfeebled old ladies and gentlemen or even the odd congenital idiot with a monied family who did not wish to shut him up in an institution.

The Voorhees-Rohr mansion on West End Avenue, one of the original houses in the neighborhood, was in a parlous state. Electricity had not been “laid on” until the mid-1920s, and that had been done so quickly and amateurishly, by the son of an Italian cobbler (who has now inherited his father’s shoe-repair shop on Amsterdam Avenue), that the fuses blew whenever you tried to run more than two appliances at once. Our Mr. Dowdy learned this the hard way.

A shocking circumstance

He was bathing old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr’s feet in the new electric footbath her sister had given her for Christmas 1933 (but which she had never opened), and thought some music might be pleasant. So he started up a Lawrence Tibbett recording on the plug-in Victrola, forgetting first to switch off the big Atwater-Kent radio because its volume had been turned down. Immediately the house was in darkness.

“The gas! The gas!” shouted old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr. It took a while for Ian Stuart Dowdy to figure out that she meant the gaslight sconces that hung on the walls and still functioned, most of them. Soon the room was bathed in that soft, ethereal glow that only gas can provide; and Mr. Dowdy headed for the stairwell to find the fusebox.

This was nearly a weekly routine at the Voorhees-Rohr residence, and helps to explain why old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr had never had the gas lighting removed. There was the ever-present danger that gas would leak from an unlit, broken fixture; and indeed, one could detect a bit of gassy smell in some parts of the mansion; but Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr had finessed that problem by leaving a window open in every room of the house. Mr. Dowdy did not understand this, and shut all the windows one cool night in October. Livid and hysterical the way only the old and disabled can be, Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr screamed at the top of her lungs that Dowdy was trying to kill her. People in the neighboring houses heard this and sent the police over to remonstrate with the confused and by now very frightened young caregiver.

Nevertheless, when Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr met her extremely timely end, it was not because of a gas leak. Mr. Dowdy was forbearing and meticulous, and taught himself to disconnect all electrical devices that were not being used. A full month went by without blowing a fuse. Then one day when Mr. Dowdy was briefly out of the room, Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr herself turned on the radio while running both the electric footbath and the plug-in Victrola. Patient as Job, Ian Stuart Dowdy headed on down to the under-stairs to check the fuses. While he did so, Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr helpfully attempted to disconnect the footbath, the radio, and the Victrola. But her grasp of the plugs was uncertain. Just as Dowdy was screwing in a new fuse, she electrocuted herself.

Tragedy and controversy

“She should never have had electricity put in in the first place,” was the opinion of old Mr. Burnington, the sexton from Blessed Sacrament Church on West 71st St. He had an old carriage house on the other side of Amsterdam that would remain the last non-electric holdout in the neighborhood until he passed on in 1959.

Regardless, most people believed that Ian Stuart Dowdy was somewhat to blame for Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr’s death. Neighbors rejoiced when it was reported in the Herald-Tribune that the dowager had left her caregiver absolutely nothing in her will.

It was 1950 before the Voorhees-Rohr heirs were able to evict Mr. Dowdy from the mansion with the help of a $10,000 bribe. By this time they were so sick of the old house that they decided to have it torn down and replaced with one of those ugly brick apartment buildings that were just coming into vogue. Mr. Dowdy meanwhile embellished his tale through many retellings, so that today he himself half-believes that he killed the old lady, and that it was a clear case of justifiable euthanasia.

Ask the Family Doctor: Taming the Bed-Wetters

Dr. Molmar

with Ferenc Molmar, MD

Q. My youngest child, now 13, still wets his bed and I would like to cure him before he goes off to boarding school. I remember many years ago when you used to appear on the old Today Show with Jack Lescoulie and you demonstrated a sort of harness that could be used to cure bed-wetting, by strapping the children in at night. Do they still make this, or do you still use this?

A. To be honest, I have no idea what you are talking about. After the passage of many decades, even the great Jack Lescoulie is but a dim memory. As for the harness contraption you mention, I recall a restraining device that was popular at the time, for the prevention of self-abuse. It pinned the child’s arms to his sides so wayward young hands would not inadvertently find their way to the genital area.


I cannot imagine this would be of much use in curing enuresis—the official name for bed-wetting—although if you can find one it might be worth a try. Bed-wetting and self-abuse are a deadly combination in a young person and should be eliminated as early as possible, as they often lead to sex perversion. Incidentally I don’t remember demonstrating such a device on the Today Show. You may be thinking of Cleveland Amory.


Q. My wife and I have long debated the pros and cons of getting our children vaccinated. As you know, vaccination of newborns is a leading cause of autism. However, I have also read on one of the online doctor websites that children who are vaccinated as infants are much less likely to wet the bed. So there seems to be a trade-off here, between having an autistic child or one who wets the bed. Do you have any opinions on the matter?

caduceusA. You really should not read those “online doctor websites” as they are compost heaps of misinformation. They are the number-one cause of hypochondria and medical conspiracy theories. This anti-vaccination kookery, for example. I don’t know where that started, but as the old saying goes, a conspiracy theory can go around the world before an honest physician has time to put his galoshes on.

Even if vaccination did cause autism, I don’t see that as such a big deal. So what if 1 out of 20 or even 1 out of ten children become autistic? I’d rather have an autistic child than a homosexual.

Do You Make These Mistakes in English?

Poor grammar not only makes you look stupid—it can get in the way of your career!

Don’t do it!

Even highly intelligent people with a lot of “horse sense” get mistaken for Big Dummies when they say things like this:

“Between you and I, Aunt Fanny’s gotten a lot more fatter since last picnic.”

“I am quite adversed to money matters and business, in fact I’m quite financial indeed.”

“I never seen a girl get ruined by a book.”

“All my children are real eager to rake the yard every Fall, but somehow Sally always gets less leaves than Bob and Sue.”

Chances are—you’ve said things just like this, every day, and had no idea people were laughing at you behind your back!

But there’s no need any more for your bad language skills to hold you back. In just 30 days I can teach how to talk like a college professor.

Of course I mean a college professor in the old days, when that was a job that meant something, and not just a hideout for freaks and mutants! The old professors were the best.

So let me be your old professor! Send just $10.99 in cash or money order (no stamps, please) to:

Professor John’s E-Z Grammar Institute
4046 South Michigan Avenue
Department GN
Chicago 21, Illinois

The Whitney Is a Dawg. So Is Hudson Yards.

In my life I think I’ve enjoyed exactly two exhibitions at the Whitney Museum, and both were traveling shows for Grant Wood. Otherwise the Whitney was enjoyable mainly for its Permanent Collection, full of familiar figurative paintings by the likes of George Tooker and Edward Hopper and Thomas Hart Benton. Also one or two Gerald Murphy collages, which don’t seem to be on display anymore, according to the website.

Looking through the list of Events and Exhibitions, I gather that the Whitney currently specializes in a) chaotic smudges, and b) photographs of negroes.

It should be recalled that the primary purpose of the Whitney was never to display or warehouse art, in the manner of the Metropolitan Museum or the Musée d’Orsay. No, the Whitney functioned primarily as a meeting point. Kids would come home from prep school or college for the holidays, and the Whitney Museum at Madison Avenue and 74th Street was a convenient, centrally located venue.

The Met wasn’t any good for that because it was too damn big. With the Whitney, you could just say, we’ll meet at the Calder Circus in the lobby at noon, and nobody got lost.

But that was then. For some reason the Whitney organization decided it had to move to a vast, brutalist-modern box in the Meat Market neighborhood. Because the Meat Market was now Artsy-hip Central, and the new Whitney would be hard by the High Line, the pedestrian promenade that used to be an elevated freight railroad.

Perfectly understandable, but as a result the museum is no longer a meeting point. It’s a destination that’s rather difficult to get to even if you’re coming from Chelsea or the Village. (The old Whitney is now an annex of the Met.)

As a colossal mistake, the new Whitney resembles that other showy development on the West Side, the Hudson Yards. A couple of years ago we saw the opening of the world’s biggest and glitziest shopping mall (“The Shops at Hudson Yards”), 7 storeys of upscale chain stores and overpriced restaurants and gin joints. The trouble was, it was difficult to get to, mainly dependent on a new subway terminus that had just opened at 34th Street and 11th Avenue. The neighborhood was historically a dismal spread of warehouses and stables, slaughterhouses and trolley barns. Not a residential neighborhood at all. So even though the Hudson Yards developers were erecting thousands of new apartments and multi-million-dollar condos, the area wouldn’t be an established, stable residential neighborhood for another five or ten years.

And then, before the shopping mall had been open for a year, the Covid-19 lockdown began, and the public had even more reasons to stay away. Retail tenants closed and canceled leases right and left. “Eerily deserted,” said the New York Times. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

There is an upside to all this, but it’s going to be a long time coming. At the end of a era of overdevelopment and senseless expansion, the weakest members of the herd get sick and die off. Projects go bankrupt, while investors and residents refocus their attention on safe investments in tried-and-true localities. Exactly how this can benefit the Whitney is puzzle, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the directors attempt to buy their old building back from Met, and unload their crazy Big Box on a Greater Fool. Why not The New School?

Ask the Family Doctor: Race and Sex in Disposable Diapers

with Ferenc Molmar, MD

Dr. Molmar

Q. Dear Dr. Molmar, I have a little adoptive baby who you might say has a “touch of the tarbrush.” According to rumor his grandmother was part-Filipino, or Filipina, you might say. This creates a dilemma when it comes to shopping for disposable diapers at the supermarket. You see, they have Pampers and Huggies for white babies and negro babies and oriental babies of various sexes, but I do not see any for this new baby’s situation. Should I buy the white-baby diapers, or would the oriental-baby diapers be okay? Incidentally I have noticed that the Floogies brand do not seem to be designed for any particular race or sex and simply have a stick-figure baby on the box. Are these healthy to use, do you think?

A. Whoa, whoa. First of all, it’s probably not a good idea to adopt outside your own race and class, most especially if you are uncertain of the whelp’s antecedents. “According to rumor” is not a legend I would want on the family escutcheon! Furthermore, I frown on disposable diapers simply on principle, since we always found it more convenient to use cloth diapers and have the Happy Nappy deliveryman drop by every day or two.

However, what is done is done, and I’m not here to give lectures.

Huggies for Orientals

I was unfamiliar with the Floogies brand, but it sounds very sensible to have a one-size-fits-all disposable diaper, ready to be used by any sex or race. It probably won’t be as neat and tidy as a wrapping designed specifically for a quarter-Filipino, but we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. What is most important is that you never use disposable diapers designed for the opposite sex, as that is a leading cause of homosexuality.

Running the Gauntlet; or, The Joys of Contagion

Hair-salon touts, eye-cream hucksters, and other species of urban vermin.

One of the subtle delights of this past year’s Covid-19 lockdown is that it shooed away the commercial panhandlers who pester you in pedestrian thoroughfares. They used to be particularly thick in the stretch of sidewalk in front of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle.

The worst, and most insistent, were the hair-salon racketeers. These touts, generally youngish and male, would approach you and ask you if you got your hair done professionally. You’d say yes, and then the tout would try to persuade you to try out a friend’s new salon, for which you could receive a one-time discount. But to get the discount you’d have to pony up $75—right here and now on the sidewalk.

If you seemed dubious about all this—handing over $75 to a sales rep for a strange hair salon in a distant part of Midtown—he immediately assured you that it was a top-drawer outfit.

“Look! Five stars on Yelp!”—as he flashed his smartphone at you.

After this happened the first time, I spent the rest of the day pondering what a terrible business model the whole thing was. Forget the $75 and “Five stars on Yelp!” nonsense. Most women simply do not visit new hair salons on a whim or because they’re promised cut-rate service. Generally they stick with a single stylist, whom they loyally follow from salon to salon. Or else, if the stylist suddenly packs up and takes a job in Hollywood, they find someone else in a salon they know well. They’ll do this even even it means paying $250 every month or two. Price is not really a selling point in the hair business. Certainly not a deal-closer when you’re being pressured by a complete stranger at Columbus Circle.

A smoother, older kind of sidewalk hustle may be found in the eye-cream racket. These operators are always Israeli, both male and female, and stand (or rather, stood) in doorways of cosmetic shops on Madison Avenue or the stretch of Broadway just north of Columbus Circle. When they see normal women strolling past—I mean the kind who use moisturizer and makeup—they wave sample packets of eye cream at them.

There’s always something unlikely and exotic about their cream. One popular come-on a few years ago was saying it contained flakes of real gold. And so you took the little foil sachet, and the gang in the doorway immediately implored you to step inside and try some of their other wares. Sometimes they’d even offer you a voucher for a free facial or makeover on some day next week, at some spa you never heard of.

The eye-cream hucksters of Columbus Circle have been shut down, along with their neighbors, the soap girls who would stand out on the sidewalk with their baskets of colored, scented handmade samples. I do wish to say, though: those young ladies outside the soap shop were always cheery, never nagged, and arguably provided an essential service. Sometimes you need to give someone a cheap gift, or they’re doing a Secret Santa thing at your office. What could be a lamer and more inoffensive gift for some random coworker you barely know, than a hunk of pretty, perfumed soap?

Columbus Circle today is not entirely safe for social-distancing shoppers, however. Those young people in badges and hoodies proclaiming dodgy charities, they are once again out in strength, waving their clipboards as you come into view. Legalize Sex Perversion! Children in Cages! Save the Narwhal! 

Forty years ago, the neighborhood was a half-step up from a slum. You had the decaying Huntington Hartford Museum just south of the Circle, and the dismal New York Coliseum to the west, where the Time Warner Center now stands. A faint bit of cheer was injected by a banner on an old gabled building to the north, advertising Jacki Sorensen’s Jazzercise.

The sidewalk ruffians were different, too. They didn’t promote hair salons or eye cream or Planned Parenthood. They often wore jackets and ties, and tried to chat you up about Henry Kissinger and the dank history of the British Monarchy. For a mere $300 they would let you have a full year’s subscription to the Executive Intelligence Review, the most informative periodical in the world, which was published right around the corner. That’s our founder on the cover, Lyndon LaRouche!

Forty Years On: The Yuppie Handbook

The Yuppie Handbook’s cover illustration is brimming with nostalgia. The tawdry insides are brimming with dreck.

Has it really been forty years since The Yuppie Handbook? No, its copyright page says it came out January 1, 1984. But the book was so drenched in early-80s sensibility that it was already looking dated on publication date.

Coming back to it today, one gets a pungent whiff of nostalgia and wonderment. Much of it is as bafflingly antique as that fondue kit you got for Christmas in 1979 (still new-in-box, is it?).

Look at the cover here and see what I mean. The woman wears a boxy-shouldered suit with “Running Shoes.” When was the last time you heard the phrase “running shoes”?

In the early 80s, a young woman who wore a boxy “Ralph Lauren Suit” (more likely a Paul Stuart knockoff) and arrived at work in “running shoes,” was sending out obvious class signals. There was a transit strike in New York City in early April 1980, and people who lived in Manhattan walked to work, often in clunky trainers. Those heavy Adidas and Sauconys became a badge of status, announcing to the world that you weren’t a bridge-and-tunnel loser! The style spread far and wide, lingering for years as a yuppie marker, long after everyone had forgotten how the fad started.

We can’t laugh at the Sony Walkman; iPods and iPhones were for the distant future. Likewise, the “Fresh Pasta” from Balducci’s or wherever may seem naïve today as a class marker. But it reminds us there was a time, four or five decades back, when it seemed trés sophistiqué to know about “pasta,” as the cognoscenti had begun to call spaghetti, etc. If you were carrying a sack of fresh “pasta,” it suggested you’d gone to a distant neighborhood to buy it.

And now I draw your special attention to the Squash Racquet, the basic Coach Bag, and the Burberry Trench Coat. Coach and Burberry were gilt-edged brands forty years ago, but few people think of them that way now. They democratized too much, sold their goods in every shopping mall, started manufacturing in Red China. And the Burberry trademark-plaid famously tanked after it became the badge of lower-class “chavs” of southeast England, c. 2005.

The Squash Racquet needs a bit more explaining. The game of squash (or more properly, “squash racquets”) had a big vogue, 1979-1982. In New York, Boston, and Washington DC, new squash facilities sprang up like mushrooms. But then the craze suddenly crashed. It turned out most people didn’t want to play squash! If they needed to knock a little ball around a shoebox-shaped indoor court, they much preferred the prole version—racquetball—played with an ugly little short-handed paddle. Hemorrhaging cash, squash clubs accommodated them, and changed their corporate brand.

The early-80s king of the squash hill, Town Squash, Inc., renamed itself Town Sports. It lives on today as a “leisure industry” conglomerate, mainly known for its value-priced commercial gyms, e.g., New York Sports Club, Boston Sports Club, Washington Sports Club, even a Philadelphia Sports Club—in basically any city where squash once flourished.

Second Edition, c. 2006

The Fake Sequel. There was a 2nd Edition of The Yuppie Handbook (sort of), circa 2006. I don’t think it was a real book; it seems to have been a promotional item given out by a knitwear company. Here we see no squash impedimenta, or even a racquetball paddle. Instead we get a golf club. Bad choice! At this point, the annoying status symbol was a $3500 triathlon bike.

Gone too is the now-declassé Burberry. It’s replaced with a plaid-lined “Trench Coat made by dead grandmother.” I suppose the point here is that a unique, handcrafted garment made in 1939 affords more status than a pricey brand. A reasonable point, but it confutes the idea that ostentatious consumerism was the prime marker of yuppiedom.

Further along, the Coach Handbag is now an oversized “bowling bag” model of the sort that was popular around 2002, although neither it nor the Coach brand carried any cachet. Finally, instead of a Walkman, the lady carries an iPod Nano. Now, the original Sony Walkman was expensive for its day, and often hard to find. But by 2006, everyone had an iPod. No one ever thought of it as an accessory for upscale young “professionals.”

Truly, Yuppiedom faded out sometime in the 1990s, the era when corporate offices began to have Casual Friday dress codes, which soon and inevitably yielded to “Business Casual” slob culture year-round. 

  *   *   *

And now for the insides. The 1984 Yuppie Handbook was a bait-and-switch deal. The text of the book has little to do with the cover’s promise. It is coarse, tawdry, slapped-together, like something hashed out in a few days from some old cent-a-word porn-novel boiler-room.

Even more than its model, The Official Preppy Handbook (1980), it has a noticeable Jewish slant. The chapter on “Organized Religion” consists mostly of jokey comparisons of how Orthodox and Reform Jews spend “the Sabbath.” There are no Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans within this eruv. Holy Communion for Yuppies means brioche and mimosas for brunch (yok yok yok).

The book never rises above this Borscht Belt level of wisecrack. In a chapter called “Y.U.” (Yuppie University) we get spoof course-offerings from The Learning Annex, including “The Cuisinart Seder.”

Learning Annex parody

All this would seem to subvert the book’s advertised purpose. Going by the cover and blurb, the ideal Yuppie objective is to be a stylish member of the Anglo-Celtic haute bourgeoisie, the class celebrated in the fiction of John O’Hara, John P. Marquand and Sloan Wilson. But that “Cuisinart Seder” clues us in to the authors’ frame of reference. The Learning Annex, with its ubiquitous course catalogs distributed streetside in newspaper-style racks, was a new fixture of 1980s urban living.

As with singles bars, no one regarded The Learning Annex as a yuppie preserve. But there’s a subtext here. Its courses functioned as a cover for “networking” and hookups, and thus attracted a disproportionate number of Jews. Catalog offerings were heavily weighted toward self-help gurus and pop psychology. They were thus like a downmarket version of EST, with classes that cost $35 rather than $1350.*

Seeking demographic balance, The Yuppie Handbook strives hard to be an equal-opportunity offender. We’re told about exotic subcategories, such as “Guppies” (Gay Yuppies) and “Buppies” (Black Yuppies). Guppies, the authors gush, “are really super Yuppies because they were the pioneers of Yuppie culture.” That is, (male) gays were into ostentatious consumerism and self-preening long before straight folk picked up the trend. Two incomes, no kids, right?

The “Buppies” section is a tooth-grinding read today. We’re told Buppies have “a tendency to name their daughters Keesha instead of Rebecca.” They have a “preference for custom-made suits” rather than “ethnic fashions like dashikis.” And they can talk sort of like White people, or as the authors put it, they have “carefully articulated and accentless speech,” which is why “so many Buppies get jobs as newscasters.” I’m sure we can all think of a couple better reasons.

“Prominent Buppies” supposedly include Bryant Gumbel and Arthur Ashe (though not of course the articulate, smooth-talking, luxuriantly afro’d Barack Hussein Obama, who’d just finished his two years at Columbia College).

Straining at gnats, the authors also conjure up “Juppies” (not what you think—they’re Japanese) and “Puppies,” that is, Pregnant Urban Professionals. The authors thought it might be amusing to mock thirty-something female VPs running around the office (usually to the bathroom) in business-appropriate maternity wear. But they never really explore the idea, they just point and laugh (yok yok yok).

The only people left out of the Yuppie Diversity Tent are normal, everyday Heritage Americans.

  *   *   *

The Yuppie Handbook was one of a number of little humor books that came out in the early 1980s, all pivoting around a theme of social class. Some were better than others, but it was an identifiable genre of a place and time. We had The Official Preppy Handbook (1980), the copycat and rather clueless Sloane Ranger Handbook (1982) in England, Paul Fussell’s Class (1983), part-way inspired by Jilly Cooper’s earlier Class (1979) in England; along with whimsical parodies of L.L. Bean (Items from Our Catalog) and The New Yorker (the parody title escapes me). The most witless of these by far is The Yuppie Handbook. Its authors and producers evidently sold-in the book proposal on the strength of the name alone, but didn’t bother to figure out what made those other books work, what made them stylish and amusing.

The Yuppie Handbook was never really more than a concept (“Let’s do a Preppy Handbook…but for yuppies!”) and a cover illustration. The 8,000 words of drivel on the inside were just filler. Not a spark of wit, not a dram of insight. Usually you can judge a book by its cover, but not this time.

*Erhard Seminars Training (EST) and its later edition, the Landmark Forum, were high-pressure self-assertiveness courses created by one “Werner Erhard,” alias John Paul Rosenberg. Ayn Rand’s onetime boytoy Nathaniel Branden held similar “Power of Self-Esteem” courses through The Learning Annex. A perennial Learning Annex offering was New Age blather from one “Marianne Williamson” (real name: Vishnevetsky) whose offerings had titles on the order of,  “A Short Course in Miracles.”