Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Dio Shrugged???"

When heavy-metal singer Ronnie James Dio died of cancer last year, would-be Objectivist leader Lindsay Perigo, reveling in the occassion, had this to say:


Lindsay Perigo's picture

By the way, you must remember to have a listen to Ronnie James Dio. He was the rocker who passed away today and one of your younger callers really wanted you to have a listen to him.

As it happens, I *must* do no such thing. I did, however, and all I can say is I'm sorry he didn't pass away sooner. Horrible, anti-life garbage. A "singer" he ain't!! I don't begin to understand why you or anyone else would commend such shit to my attention.


Why indeed? From

Atlas Shrugged: Part I, the new cinematic adaptation of Ayn Rand's multimillion-selling novel, ends with a long list of special thanks. The producers thank the Club for Growth, the organization that helps liberal Republicans spend more time with their families; FreedomWorks, the non-Koch-funded Tea Party group; the Atlas Society, a think tank that promotes Rand's ideas and legacy; and Ronnie James Dio. The late singer for Elf, Rainbow, and Black Sabbath, one of the founding banshees of heavy metal, was one of the people who kept the project alive.

Hrrm...I didn't see Perigo's name in the credits; it looks like Ronnie is having the last laugh, while Perigo is "the last in line..."

Ah, the irony...I personally had no idea of such a connection (move over, Neil Peart...), but as a fan of both Rand and Dio, it's a pleasant surprise; I'll have to learn more about this, now. I do have to kick myself, though, for not catching it as I sat through the credits...well, that's it, I'll have to go see it again...

Atlas Shrugged, Part 1

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who know, and those who don't. To those who don't: No, I have nothing to say about this movie. God gave you eyes and a mind to use; if you fail to do so, the loss is yours, not mine.

To those who know:

I liked it. Considering the time constraints and the budget, well, it was not as good as the version in my head, but for someone else's vision, I enjoyed it, overall. Because I don't believe that the movie will "change the world" overnight (so I'm not counting on it as propaganda*), and because there are others already discussing the "objective" virtues and flaws of the production itself, I'll be content to indulge myself and simply register some of my own subjective, "Objectiv-ish" feelings...

-Owen Kellogg: Contrasts with my impression of the novel version; instead of seeming confident and resolute while resigning, the movie version was obviously feeling the pain of stepping away from what conventional society would consider a "golden opportunity." All that pain disappears, as he remembers something better: "Who Is John Galt?" As someone who's been there in real life, I could relate.

-Heroes and Villains: When I first read the book, I was coming at it from a perspective of a seeker of answers regarding religion. My initial reaction, during the early parts of the book, was that Dagny, Rearden, and co. were, in accordance with conventional ethics, "real bastards, while her villains initially appeared as the good guys. By the time got to the launch of the John Galt Line, however, I was cheering them; because Rand knew that she was "challenging 2000 years of Christianity," this was by design (she had a penchant for shocking the reader), and a testament to Rand's powers of persuasion. I did not feel that from the movie; my suspicion is that, because the movie was done in a climate foretold by the book, the protagonists were presented as heroes 'straight-up," and the antagonists felt like villains from the get-go. (I don't know if a newbie would get the same impression, though...but for those well-aware of the book, the element of surprise is gone...)

-The John Galt Line: By the time I got to this scene in the book, Rand had already won me over, and I was exited about the success of the John Galt Line. If that had been the end of the book, I would have been satisfied; a "normal" book would have ended there, I felt. But it was no ordinary book...Anyway, it was fitting that this scene comes towards the end of part, as a "false climax". Because of the lack of time in the movie to develop Rand's themes, and the "predetermined" nature of the heroes and villains (compared to my experience with the book), it would have been a mild victory, compared to the book version. Fortunately, because of the cliffhanger of the real climax ("Wyatt's Torch,"), what would have been a superficial ending become the start of the real conflict, which was only hinted at by this time in the movie.

-Ellis Wyatt: The main characters were not my ideal cast from my imagination (from my first reading, I imagined Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams (in their
Poltergeist roles) as Rearden and Dagny, and Jimmy Smits as Franciso d'Anconia). But I thought most were ok, though I was disappointed with the choice for d'Anconia. But Ellis Wyatt, however, made me forget about my own mental version, and, dare I say it, stole the movie, which was fitting for the character who would light the inextinguishable fire of "Wyatt's Torch." So when Dagny screamed at the end, I really felt it (and for me, that's when her character finally came alive.)

If I had to compare, I'd say I personally get more mileage from the movie version of
The Fountainhead, but I'd see this again, and I certainly hope to see the next two.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Because it is STILL a sin to write this..."

How do you know that Objectivism isn’t winning? Because, as I was reminded today, “it is STILL a sin to write this…”

So, I’ve already told you about Spiderman and Captain America meeting Obama, how Captain America and the Falcon took on those "racist Tea Party terrorists", and how Philadelphia comic book store Brave New Worlds honors the “Birthplace of Liberty” by selling Communist flag t-shirts. ("Brave New World", indeed...) So I wasn’t surprised when, during trip to Fat Jacks comics (also in Philly), as I picked up the new Anthem graphic novel, based on the novella by Ayn Rand, the clerk who replaced the empty spot with another copy said to the other clerk that Rand’s work was a “scary philosophy” that only appealed to teenagers (yes, this was said by a comic book store clerk.) The poor guy…yeah, I guess Rand is scary, with all that talk about individuality, reason, non-initiation of force and freedom; I’m sure it’s much more comforting to climb back into the womb of Mother Russia, and much more acceptable than "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" (because now it is a sin to write that, too...)

The clerk didn’t surprise me (welcome to the Endarkenment). No, to me, it was an ironic reminder of Anthem’s prescient opening line: “It is a sin to write this.” Meanwhile, Brave New Worlds still sells the commie-t’s (for when your brown shirts are in the wash, I guess), while the latest issue of Ultimate Captain America (#4) has the hero finally defeat his Tea-Party parallel (while telling the kiddies to “don’t grow up to be terrorists.")

As for the graphic novel itself, it’s simply an illustrated version of Anthem, illustrated by Charles Santino. If you’re a Rand newbie, or a fan of comics in general, pick it up before they’re gone. For those ready for the next step, though, I’d suggest A Show of Hands: A Cautionary Tale of Heroes in Exile. (pdf) A Show of Hands, a “graphic poem,” if you will, intertwines a certain "Star Spangled Patriot” with Rand’s prophetic tale. Why? Because, as the story, and today’s events remind us, “it is still a sin to write this.”

"Because It's Still a Sin to Write This..."

How do you know that Objectivism is not winning? Because "it is STILL a sin to write this..."
A SHOW OF HANDS: A Cautionary Tale of Heroes in Exile (pdf)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Atlas Shrugged Movie and Objectivism: "Winning?"

"Objectivism is winning?" So is Charlie Sheen...

"You'll know Objectivism is winning when ... there is a big demand for the Atlas Shrugged movie." This was in reaction to the headline "Atlas Shrugged Fans Shock Theater Chains."

CULVER CITY, Calif., April 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Based on the film's recent fan-based grassroots uprising, "The Strike" Productions today announced it will be expanding the initial release of the Atlas Shrugged movie from 11 markets to over 50.

"AMC called directly to report their online contact system was being hit too hard. They requested we direct traffic to a specific address just to handle the volume," said producer Harmon Kaslow.

"While it's unusual for showtimes to be listed this early, the doors of the exhibitors have been thoroughly beaten down by Ayn's fans. Many of the theaters are now posting showtimes so tickets can be pre-purchased," continued Kaslow. "And, theaters and showtimes are now being reported as sold-out." lists the 7:00pm showing at Regal Cinema's Union Square Theater in New York City as "sold out."

"Our online 'Demand Atlas!' service has been receiving an incredible amount of traffic since launch," said Scott DeSapio, Online Marketing Director of the film. "After toping the charts at another web site as the 'Hottest Demand Worldwide' for more than a week, we decided to build our own in-house 'Demand Atlas!' feature to better service Ayn Rand fans. We're completely blown away by the response."

"Our fans have spoken, and we have directed our booking agents to expand the release of Atlas Shrugged into the major theaters located in more than 80 cities across America," announced Kaslow. "Of course, until we're locked down, fans still need to let us know where the movie should play by coming to our website and demanding Atlas to their city."

"As a direct result of fans in Atlanta demanding Atlas, we immediately set about booking a theater. The current report is that the theater is already sold out for a number of shows on Friday, April 15, 2011 - opening day. We couldn't be more excited." concluded Kaslow.

I've been resolved not to comment on the upcoming movie until I actually see it; there are too many x-factors involved, from being a low-budget movie made to simply hold on to the rights, to the supposed "Roarkian" spark in the producer, for me to speculate on the movie's quality, let alone its cultural impact. That hasn't stopped others, of course. The above line, however, strikes me as the ultimate in high hopes.

Hope floats...

Putting the quality of the movie aside, the above just strikes me as severely naive. In the grand scheme of things, with the election of Obama, the passage of the universal health care law, and the Tea Parties threatened to be usurped by the religious right, this amounts to nothing more than dedicated fans saving their favorite cult T.V. show from cancellation. I've met people with copies of Atlas Shrugged on their a "trophy" piece that's never been read. I've met people who've enjoyed The Fountainhead, but disagreed with the philosophy. Glenn Beck holds up Atlas Shrugged, which challenges 2000 years of Christianity, yet holds on to his Mormon faith. (And let's not forget the hype that surrounded the Fountainhead movie...). If non-Objectivists are forgiven for these things, however, that doesn't explain the Objectivist-minded who clamor for Chris Christie or Donald Trump as president...well, hell, to claim to be an Objectivist is no guarantee of rationality anyway, or even unity; with all the schisms and infighting, and fatwas (and let's not get started on Alan Greenspan), a nation swept up in Atlas fever doesn't necessarily float my hope. (Remember how the people celebrated after Rearden's acquittal in Atlas* (see the comments section), only to turn on him later? It's like that...). Again, Billy Beck's observation of "just how abjectly useless Objectivism has been in this fight" sums it up.

Sigh...I hate to be a killjoy, and just a few years ago, I might have had the same feeling. But to be that naive is to refuse to see just how far things have sunk. Rand's books and ideas have been around so long already, yet the coming civil war in this country is still between the Left and Right, with Objectivists/Libertarians barely a blip on the battlefield. C'mon; the book's been out since 1957, and already listed as the "second most influential book next to the Bible", and we still got Obama. If that didn't do it, are you really gonna bank on a movie premier? (And we all know that the book is usually better than the movie...)

Look, I'd love for this movie to have a major impact, and I'll be happy to be proven wrong. But the idea that somehow Objectivism is winning, whether through a growing awareness or by seeing the statist infrastructure crumble...well, that's a potential, not an actuality, at this point. Objectivism is winning? "Show, don't tell." You won't see it in a cult following for a movie, or in Amazon sales. Don't show me the name brand, show me the results.

Friday, April 1, 2011

President Trump? Such a Bad Idea...

First, some Objectivist-minded people get all hot and bothered for Chris Christie as a presidential nominee, and now, Donald Trump?

From a thread at Objectivist Living: "President Trump? Maybe Not Such a Bad Idea"

Some "choice" quotes:

"He is far from perfect, but he is saying some things that no one else is saying--and doing so with eloquence and Reaganesque tenacity."

"He sounded very serious when I heard him on Hannity in January. He has two big plusses, personality and name recognition, and that he is not a middle of the road RINO like that bastard Romney."

"AND he has name recognition among libertarians..."

Cheesus H. Christ...I'm wondering how they would rationalize away this:

"We must have universal health care. I’m a conservative on most issues but a liberal on health. It is an unacceptable but accurate fact that the number of uninsured Americans has risen to 42 million. Working out detailed plans will take time. But the goal should be clear: Our people are our greatest asset. We must take care of our own. We must have universal healthcare.
"Our objective [should be] to make reforms for the moment and, longer term, to find an equivalent of the single-payer plan that is affordable, well-administered, and provides freedom of choice. Possible? The good news is, yes. There is already a system in place-the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program-that can act as a guide for all healthcare reform. It operates through a centralized agency that offers considerable range of choice. While this is a government program, it is also very much market-based. It allows 620 private insurance companies to compete for this market. Once a year participants can choose from plans which vary in benefits and costs."
-Donald Trump, July 2, 2002

Well, at least the site's owner has some sense about all this:

Trump is a mixed premises kind of pragmatist with a tough-guy charisma who leans in favor of business. I believe he would work out pretty well as a President if the recent President's are used as a standard. But I'm not comfortable with him. He plays the system too much. For instance, for him, bankruptcy is a business tool to be used like, say, issuing stock. Give a guy like that power where he isn't ruled by the bottom line and the temptations become like crack cocaine to an addict.

If only Rand's stance towards conservatives were taken more seriously, but no; on another thread, there are those who believe that the Right will get behind the upcoming Atlas Shrugged movie, and change their ways, leading this well-deserved smackdown from Jeff Riggenbach:
"Oh, yes, oh, yes, indeed. Nothing could be more important that getting a bunch of statists who shout libertarian slogans during election campaigns to get behind the Atlas Shrugged movie. What would we do without the invaluable contribution of these contemptible statists?"

It's not as if Rand didn't address all this in her "Anatomy of Compromise," but whatever, right? We've got to be practical, and pragmatic, and-oh, wait...These kinds of political compromises are what prompts Billy Beck to point out "just how abjectly useless Objectivism has been in this fight." Me, I call it "Uncle Tom" Objectivism.

Such endorsements of statist-would-be's just makes the Objectivist arguments for minarchy look like a joke. If politics is the solution, well, then, "make mine autarchy."