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Happy Independence Day!


What better way to celebrate Independence Day than to have Patton Oswalt talking about KFC’s Famous Bowls.  Time to wrap your patriotism in a high calorie bowl of sad.

And to celebrate New York state legalizing same-sex marriage, here’s Brian Posehn talking about Slayer.  Hopefully this will assuage the gay panic of the cultural conservatives that make up our readership.  (All seven of you.)

And what better way to celebrate America than with that most of American of series, The Wire.  With our current economic unpleasantness, the question remains: “Product or territory?”

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Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter IX: The Generator


Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter IX: The Generator

Pages: 1126 – 1146

Summary: And now … torture!  John Galt, having refused the entreaties of shyster hooligan Mr. Thompson, gets stripped and strapped to Dr. Ferris’s electrical contraption.  The torture is horrendous until the machine breaks and the idiot operating it doesn’t know how to fix it.

In other news, Dr. Robert Stadler heads back to Iowa where the Xylophone is under control of effeminate fascist goofball Cuffy Meigs.  Words are exchanged, a melee ensues, and KA-BOOM!

Reflections: The torture scene comes across as dramatically puzzling and unintentionally funny.  What kind of sociopath tortures for laughs?  Oh, right …

The humor in the scene throws a giant monkey-wrench into the narrative’s tone.  Granted, the electrical apparatus breaking down proves Rand’s point, but to use the phrase of libertarians, “at what cost”?  Galt, the muscular genius hero guy, gets tortured by fat looter morons.  What’s so dramatic about that?  The characters, such broad caricatures of humanity, sap the scene of momentum and give it all the depth of a Tom and Jerry cartoon.  Hell, Rocky and Bullwinkle had better plotting, better characterization, and better jokes than this banal horseshit.

The only real explanation for this nutty scene is Rand needed to make John Galt into the book’s Christ Figure.  A rather odd thing considering Rand’s rabid atheism, although not that odd since cults of personality adopt the liturgical features of religion to suit the star’s egomania.  (Yet another similarity Ms. Rosenbaum shares with Uncle Joe.)

“Aw, come on, John, be our Economic Dictator.  Pretty please!”

For a former seminary student, Stalin cleans up quite well.

Compare this to the torture scene in 1984, written by British Socialist George Orwell.  In the novel, dissident functionary Winston Smith faces torture from O’Brien.  Winston thought O’Brien was also rebelling against Big Brother, when in actuality O’Brien belonged to the Inner Party.  Unlike the rotund dimwits in Atlas Shrugged, O’Brien uses a rat-cage that he attaches to Winston’s face.  No electricity involved.  It’s sustainable and has a small carbon footprint.  It’s also effective as hell.  Perhaps Mr. Thompson had difficulty attaining rat-cage-face-masks from Airstrip One, considering the United States is in transportation crisis in the novel?

In the end, Winston confesses and thus, 1984 becomes tragedy.  Dr. Ferris’s shenanigans just seem idiotic, especially since it is in aid of making John Galt their Economic Dictator and solving all their problems.  It’s a scene diametrically opposed to that of 19841984 is a critically acclaimed novel that attained its rightful place in the Western Canon, easily making 100 Best lists without breaking a sweat.  Atlas Shrugged, on the other hands, required market manipulation by hordes of crackpot cultists buying books in bulk in a facetious attempt at popularity.  That’s just sad.  But so is having the inability to break the $2 million dollar mark on opening weekend and coming in at a lame-ass #14.  In Glengarry Glen Ross, Blake challenges the real estate salesmen to “Always Be Closing.”  Second place is a set of steak knives, third prize is your fired!  What’s 14th?

Like the Left Behind series, Atlas Shrugged isn’t literature for the ages, it’s only appeal lies with a sliver of the population that buys into its nutjob theories and infantile views of economics.  In a word: marginal.  Here’s another one: Inconsequential.

Call me anything you want, Objectivists.  I’ll make sure to have a couch handy for you to jump on.

At some point, Scientology and Objectivism become indistinguishable.

One chapter left and we’re done with this overwrought literary abortion.  Huzzah!

Quotes:

  • “There was nothing beyond the lighted strip but the emptiness of the prairies of Iowa.”
  • “He [Cuffy Meigs] wore a tight, semi-military tunic and leather leggings; the flesh of his neck bulged over the edge of his collar; his black curls were matted with sweat.”  Jeremy Clarkson?

  • “We want ideas – or else!”

  • “Had enough?” snarled Ferris, when the current went off.  “Yes, end this book NOW!  Oh, you were talking to John Galt.”
  • “Don’t kill him!  Don’t dare kill him!  If he dies, we die!”  Whew, good thing somebody explained the stakes in the scene or I wouldn’t have understood what was going in.  Way to not insult the intelligence of your readers, Ayn.

  • “Galt burst out laughing.”
  • “Galt was watching them; his glance was too austerely perceptive.”  Or if someone with actual talent rewrote the sentence: “Galt watched them; he perceived them with a muscular austerity.”  Seriously, Ayn, use the money you made from The Fountainhead and take some creative writing courses at Columbia or the New School or something.  Your utter lack of talent is repellent, lazy, and childish.  “I’m here on a mission of mercy.  If it was up to me, I’d fire your fucking ass.”

Happy Easter from Coffee for Closers


And what would the holidays be without Patton Oswalt?

Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter VII: “This is John Galt Speaking”


John Galt opines on the merits of Objectivism to the general public.  He is given much positive affirmation.

Part III: Chapter VII: “This is John Galt Speaking”

Pages: 1000 – 1069

Pages of John Galt’s Speech: 1009 – 1069

Summary:

James Taggart drags Dagny along with him to an important meeting.  All around the country, placards and radio announcements notify the public that Mr. Thompson will address the global situation on November 22nd.

When Dagny enters the radio station, the various straw men paraded before the reader in previous chapters meet her.

Mr. Thompson is about to give his speech to a worldwide audience when, suddenly, all the radio stations get jammed by a force beyond the understanding of looter idiots.

And then John Galt gives a speech.

It’s really, really, really long.

Here Mr. Smokestoomuch, aka John Galt, goes to a travel agent.

Reflections:


HOVE (adj.)
Descriptive of the expression seen on the face of one person in the presence of another who clearly isn’t going to stop talking for a very long time.

The Deeper Meaning of Liff, by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd.

I’ll be honest; the notorious John Galt Speech was one of the reasons for my interest in the book.  Much like The Phantom Menace, I wanted to see what all the hype was about.  And much like the Phantom Menace, Atlas Shrugged suffers from many similarities:

  • Both focus on the issues of taxation.
  • Both have terrible writing, pacing, characterization, and plot development.
  • Both possess a fandoms whose fanaticism is in direct proportion to the work’s suckitude.  A = A.  (The degree of an Objectivist’s fanatical devotion to Atlas Shrugged = How much Atlas Shrugged sucks.  Read the book.  The logic is self-evident.)

First, I want to offer any Objectivist out there to a simple challenge.  Objectivists like challenges, right?  They don’t back down from them like looter cowards?  Then I’ll comment on the proportion of John Galt’s Speech to the rest of the novel.  Finally, I’ll compare Atlas Shrugged to another philosophical novel, Juliette, by the Marquis de Sade.

A Challenge to Objectivists:

Hedley Lamarr: My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.
Taggart: God darnit, Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore.

Blazing Saddles (1974, Mel Brooks)

John Galt’s Speech is really long and explains in excruciating detail the particulars of the Objectivist philosophy.  My challenge: Take it out.

Matt and I have already shown that Rand has made these points repeatedly in the novel.  Why one more time?  The goal of free market economics is efficiency and speed of capital turnover.  The Speech embodies an inefficiency that slows down the pace of the novel to sub-glacial speed.  One can easily read Atlas Shrugged and get the same explanation of the philosophy without John Galt’s Speech.

Unfortunately, removing the Speech from the novel exposes a few things to Objective Reality™:

  • Rand’s rank amateurism as a novelist.
  • Rand’s lack of examples and evidence to support her claims.  All this talk of “savages” and “cannibals” and “mystics of the spirit” and “mystics of muscle.”  In the words of Seinfeld: “Who are these people?”  The overall vagueness of the speech really irritated me.  Surely a philosopher of such genius as Ayn Rand could cite examples and counter-examples backing up her philosophy?  You know who also doesn’t cite examples?  Mystics.  Hell, even the Marquis de Sade gave examples from the real world in his philosophical novels.
  • Rand’s Jupiter-sized inferiority complex.  (For someone with a monstrous ego and a conviction of her own genius, wouldn’t it be better to clearly state the philosophy of Objectivism once?  Animal Farm and Brave New World explained their philosophical perspectives in far fewer pages.)
  • Rand’s mistaking quantity as an aspect of quality.  (See above re: Animal Farm.)  Drowning the reader in bloat and poorly edited fiction just devalues the work as a whole.  Rand even acknowledges the fact: The three-foot tall dollar sign made of pure gold in Galt’s Gulch.  Francisco d’Anconia says it was a joke.  The Speech – in a novel littered with multi-page speeches – can be seen as nothing other than a joke.
  • Rand’s unquestioning fanatical fans who, superficial differences aside, behave no better than the jackbooted thugs associated with Stalinism, Fascism, and all other mass movements.
  • Rand’s desire to convert others to her philosophy: By this far along in the novel, one falls into two camps.  The first are adherents to Objectivism.  Each speech reinforces the philosophy, Objectivist nodding knowingly, as he or she basks in the golden light of their One True Faith.  The second camp are full of doubters, skeptics, and people who like well-written fiction.  Much like Jerry Falwell’s comments after 9/11, Rand’s controversial statements could persuade someone to become a card-carrying member of the Communist Party simply out of spite.  “Yes, Communism is awful.  Yes, the Gulags are reprehensible and inhuman.  Yes, planned economies have numerous flaws.  But seriously, fuck her!”  This response isn’t anomalous.  People react this way in numerous other situations, especially when morally duplicitous and mentally questionable authority figures (spiritual, temporal, or otherwise) say something really stupid and infuriating.  Heck, I’m sure Objectivists have reacted similarly to my assertions and observations.  But one can understand and explain a philosophy without accepting it.  That’s called “critical thought.”  It’s also called “having a brain.”

The Mathematical Proof of Atlas Shrugged’s Galactic Suckitude:

Wednesday: I don’t want to be in the pageant.
Gary: Don’t you want to help me realize my vision?
Wednesday: Your work is puerile and under-dramatized. You lack any sense of structure, character and the Aristotelian unities.
Gary: Young lady, I am getting just a tad tired of your attitude problem.

Addams Family Values (1993, Barry Sonnenfeld; screenplay by Paul Rudnick)

One of the foundations of Objectivism involves making assertions based on physical evidence.  A method to attain evidence involves the discipline of mathematics.  Let’s use math to prove how much Atlas Shrugged sucks.  Only tyrants and looter second-raters deny the power of mathematics.  (That and people still embracing the laughable idiocy known as the Laffer Curve.)  2+2=5.  I don’t think so.

Let’s look at the percentage of John Galt’s Speech in relation to the novel.

Percentage of John Galt’s Speech to Chapter VII: 87%

Percentage of John Galt’s Speech to Atlas Shrugged: 5%

(Someone with more heroic literary stamina will have to come up with the percentage of all speeches to Atlas Shrugged as a whole.  I can only recommend ingesting horse tranquilizers and watching installments of the Saw series when commencing with that experiment.)

Every time she has a character recite a multi-page speech, she devalues her literary worth.  Seriously, I understood her philosophy the first time.  No need to beat a dead horse.  Ayn Rand doesn’t act like a philosopher; she acts like a hectoring lunatic.

The upcoming release of Atlas Shrugged, Part I is seen by some as a great triumph.  But John Galt’s Speech was released as a concert film.  Here’s a clip:

Juliette and Atlas Shrugged, or “Wow, these characters sure give horrendously long monologues.”


Atlas Shrugged isn’t the one novel where characters give really, really, really long monologues explicating an allegedly profound philosophy.  By comparison, let’s examine Juliette (1797 – 1801) by Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade.  It’s a doorstopper like Atlas Shrugged, comprising of six parts, and 1193 pages, a few more than Atlas Shrugged’s 1168.

Needless to say, Sade has a much more notorious and maligned reputation than Rand.  Unlike Rand, Sade espouses a coherent philosophy of brutality and power.  Unlike Rand, Sade can write well.  (We’ll get to that later, with some choice tidbits from John Galt’s Speech.)

In Juliette, we meet the eponymous heroine, a greedy atheist hell-bent to accrue pleasure, wealth, and power.  Juliette is a ferocious figure with insatiable appetites untainted by such looter-ish concepts like pain or fear or guilt.  How did she become this way?  By listening to and giving incredibly long philosophical monologues.

The novel begins with our plucky protagonist being raised in the Panthemont convent.  One of her teachers is Madame Delbéne.  Following a series of saucy interactions, Madame Delbéne gives young Juliette a précis of Sadean philosophy lasting seven pages.  Long speeches become de rigueur.  Ironically, for all the similarities between Sadean and Objectivist philosophies, people see Sade as an Antichrist, rarely read and more often demonized.  Rand, by contrast, is held in the highest esteem, even by conservative Christians, who apparently have no qualms about her Richard Dawkins-esque strident atheism.

Not to be outdone, Sade has a philosophical monologue of over 100 pages, dwarfing John Galt’s verbal spasms.  Sade’s writing talent is undisputed, since most criticisms regarding his characterizations and plotting do not apply to 18th century standards of literature.  Expect long philosophical monologues when reading Sade.  He is not Nicholas Sparks nor Jodi Picoult, although all three relish in killing their characters.

But Rand should be held to account by the standards of 20th century writing.  John Galt’s Speech was one long harangue against those opposing modernization.  Yet Rand’s novel reads like a bastard stepchild of a 18th century philosopher and a cheap-ass romance novel … and the results are worse than both.  The bad result stems from Rand’s sub-standard talent using the English language.

Want proof?  I’d like to see an Objectivist apologist explain this elementary malapropism:

“You who lost the concept of a right, you who swing in impotent evasiveness between the claim that rights are a gift from God, a supernatural gift to be taken on faith, or the claim that right’s are a gift of society, to be broken at its arbitrary whim – the source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity.  A is A – and Man is Man.  Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. … Any group, any gang, any nation that attempts to negate man’s rights, is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life.”

Or Ayn Rand said: “A culture is made — or destroyed — by its articulate voices.”  The quote above shows how utterly inarticulate Rand is with her philosophy.  Content aside, she builds this excerpt on a false premise.  What’s the false premise?  Not knowing the difference between the multiple meanings of the word right.  There is right used in terms of morality (right vs. wrong).  There is a right in terms of the law (right to bear arms, speedy trial, illegal search and seizure, etc.).  These definitions are not the same.  Did Rand mistakenly attribute these two different meanings as contradictions?  (Can’t have any of those in Objectivist craniums, now can we?)

Lay off the speed, Ayn, check your sources and do your research!

In the words of Dark Helmet, “So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.”

I’m sorry, but if you can’t understand the basics of American English, it’s hard to take this much-hyped philosophy seriously anymore.  Rand not knowing the operations of her adopted tongue smacks of looter second rater laziness.  Then again, laziness in writing has been a constant refrain of these posts.

“Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Listen chaps, here’s a chance for us all to learn something.  Carry on, John:


  • “A leaf cannot be a stone at the same time, it cannot be all red and all green at the same time, it cannot freeze and burn at the same time.”  John Galt has never touched dry ice.
  • “Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.”  Whither Russell’s Paradox?  “Suppose that every public library has to compile a catalog of all its books. The catalog is itself one of the library’s books, but while some librarians include it in the catalog for completeness, others leave it out, as being self-evident.”  In a logical and non-contradictory way, where would John Galt put the catalog of all the library’s books?
  • “The symbol of all relationships among such men, the moral symbol for human beings, is the trader.”

  • “The name of his monstrous absurdity is Original Sin.”  John Galt, Mormon.  “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgressions.” (“The Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” by Joseph Smith)

  • “The word that has destroyed you is ‘sacrifice.’

  • “If you surrender your power to perceive, if you accept the switch of your standard from the objective to the collective and wait for mankind to tell you what to think …”  Foul!  Objective is not the opposite of collective.  Objective/Subjective; Collective/Individual.  Yet another false premise of Objectivism by Ayn Rand, sub-par writer who doesn’t understand how English works.
  • “When men render their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute, when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it’s picked up by scoundrels – and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil.”  Sounds like a succinct description of what happens whenever Democrats and Republicans sit down together “in the spirit of bipartisanship.”
  • “Stop supporting your own destroyers.” That would make a nice sign for Madison marchers and Jasmine Revolutionaries.
  • “We will open the gates of our city to those who deserve to enter, a city of smokestacks, pipe lines, orchards, markets, and inviolate homes.”  Those who deserve to enter? Is this a new society or a Streisand concert?  All this talk of exclusivity makes Objectivism fit the criteria of crazy cult.  Only Mormons can enter the Salt Lake City temple, only Christians go to Heaven, only devout Muslim men get 72 virgins, etc.

Atlas Shrugged: The Trailer, or a Prolegomena on Heavy-handed Political Satire in Film

February 13, 2011 1 comment

Well … that was underwhelming.  But I’m hardly one to judge a film based on a trailer.  It does remind me of Avatar, especially the dourly over-serious tone and the weapons grade self-righteousness.  The inevitable release of Atlas Shrugged, Part I, after decades in development hell, reveals an old truism about Hollywood.  It is show business.  And business is all about capitalizing on trends.

Let’s take a step back from this and examine the phenomenon more closely.  With the release of the trailer, there will be the motley crew of jellyfish-like leftists waving their hands in the air, gnashing their teeth, and yammering on about such-and-such apocalypse.  The pro-business Right will gloat, drink their martinis, and wallow in the glow of their success.  Finally, finally, finally, after decades of oppression from the Communist Velvet Mafia that secretly controls Hollywood, they released a film based on the book by Ayn Rand – Peace Be Upon Her – that shows the virtue of making money and being selfish.  (The previous sentences had a light dash of sarcasm.  Although given the hyperventilating, anti-intellectual, psychotic-off-his-meds tone of the national political discourse, how can ya tell?)

The focus of this essay will be the phenomenon of the heavy-handed political satire film.  And Ayn Rand can be particularly heavy-handed when it comes to getting her point across.  I’m surprised copies of Atlas Shrugged don’t come with a trowel.

After reading nearly 1000 pages of Atlas Shrugged, one can only hope that the screenwriter has trimmed a little bit from this bloated text.  And perhaps added a joke or two.  Just because one is making a political point doesn’t mean one has to be dour and serious.  The American film going public has a short attention span.

Upon reading Atlas Shrugged, I came to the realization that it resembled Avatar.  The only difference is the politics and that is superficial at best.  Rand’s book is about a miracle metal, Cameron’s film is about Unobtainium.  The tone is what is most bothersome about Avatar.  The CGI and creature design created an amazing array of visuals and a gorgeous alien world, the narrative sucked!  The alien became less alien when the Navi became the Blue Indian Stand-ins riding atop Blue Horse Stand-ins.  The facetious put-down calling the movie Dances with Wolves IN SPACE was true.  The narrative copied Dances with Wolves down to its condescending, retrograde, and racist White Man Set Them Free theme.  The additional stereotyping of the two major human sub-groups into flat caricatures made it even worse.  Every military-type figure was a dumb jarhead and every scientist-type figure was a pansy-ass bookish nerd.

Avatar remains an example of how not to do heavy-handed political satire.

By all accounts, the film They Live shouldn’t work.  Written and directed by cinema master John Carpenter, They Live focuses on an apolitical construction worker who discovers a magical pair of sunglasses.  When he put them on, he sees a zombified world controlled by ghoulish aliens.  The ghoulish aliens espouse beliefs almost exactly the same as Reagan Republicans.  The film’s musical score is simple, the plot equally so.  It stars “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Keith David.  Carpenter lays on his criticisms of Reagan’s economic and social policies with a trowel.  Anyone with half a brain would be able to pick up on the satirical element.  Yet the movie is Pure Awesome?

Why is that?

John Carpenter, like Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, and Maya Deren, owns a seat in the Cinema Pantheon.  He created the slasher genre with Halloween.  He directed the action-comedy-martial arts cult classic Big Trouble in Little China.  Throughout his career, he worked with Kurt Russell, a vocal libertarian.  Kurt Russell is made of pure Awesome.

The magic of They Live occurs because of its light touch.  The political criticisms remain trenchant and serious, but the overarching story has huge dollops of the ridiculous.  The sunglasses?  Casting a WWF wrestler?  The really, really, really long fight scene?  The obviousness?  The ridiculous aspects become resolved with its bent humor.  The film wouldn’t work by casting Robert Redford as the lead.  This is hardly Dog Day Afternoon or Godard’s Weekend.

But seriousness isn’t a roadblock to an effective film with heavy-handed political satire.

Mislabeled as a thriller, Land of the Blind (Robert Edwards, 2006) lays the satire on thick.  In the film, Emperor Maximilian II runs a banana republic-type country.  Tom Hollander portrays Maximilian as a garish cartoon dictator, equal parts savagery and incompetence.  (Hollander also played a cold-blooded technocrat in a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel.)  Maximilian’s world involves wealthy elites who don’t speak the native language, police setting monks on fire, blackface routines, and the Emperor helming atrocious action movies.  The Emperor also keeps charismatic political dissident John Thorne in prison.

Thorne used to work as a writer.  Then through the incompetence of Emperor Maximilian II and populist anger, Thorne is released.  Here is the pivotal point where Land of the Blind stands out among political satires.  The de rigueur critique of rightwing regimes has a long tradition in Hollywood.  The only thing easier than satirizing a Southern preacher figure is to satirize a rightwing dictator.  That’s easy money.  In the film, once Thorne gets power, things actually get worse.  Thorne, played by a bearded arrogant Donald Sutherland, turns the unnamed country into a theocratic hellhole, akin to post-Revolution Iran.  Land of the Blind succeeds in showing the awfulness of rightwing and leftwing regimes.  Hardly an endorsement for the mealy-mouthed centrism so beloved to voters in the United States, the film shows that regardless of where one goes on the political spectrum, the extremes will only bring poverty, atrocity, and despair.  (Something the mass of American devotees of the “lesser of two evils” method of voting should consider the next time they enter a voting booth and do their obligatory duty to further this republic into a neck-deep swill of corruption and incompetence.)

“Why’s he calling me meat? I’m the one driving a Porsche.”

The heavy-handed political satire can be done well on film.  It takes a light touch and a humanistic vision of society.  Like Crash Davis said, “Strike-outs are boring … and fascist.”  Atlas Shrugged has a lot of strike-outs in it.  I don’t agree with its philosophy, but sweet Christ! does it have to be so boring?  That’s the cardinal rule in Hollywood.  A movie flops not so much from any political consideration, but because it bored the audience.

Atlas Shrugged, Part I, good luck!  But if you bore your audience, it’s your own damn fault.  A book based on the philosophy of making money should at least have the good sense in actually making some money.

By the way, where’s Angelina Jolie?  Can’t Objectivism buy A-Listers or are Coen Brothers character actors (John Polito for the win!) the best that can be done?

Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter V: Their Brothers’ Keepers

January 21, 2011 3 comments

Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter V: Their Brothers’ Keepers

Everyone’s a hero in their own way
you and you and mostly me and you

Captain Hammer, “Everyone’s a Hero”

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Pages: 909 – 962

Summary:

Copper cables break throughout the United States and the nation is taken closer and closer to the brink of the Looter Apocalypse.  In the words of Dr. Peter Venkman, “Human sacrifice!  Cats and dogs living together … mass hysteria!”

(Hey, come on, this is also a pop culture blog.  Where else will you get cutting edge references from movies made in 1984?)

As matters become more desperate, people riot and rebel against the government.  The government urges people to stay calm, disregard the rumors of violence, and to eat soybeans.  This last dietary measure created by Emma “Ma” Chalmers in Operation Soybean.

When Dagny meets her brother James, he implies a big plan is afoot.  He tries to keep it a secret.  He stands to gain lots of unearned wealth from the nationalization of D’anconia Copper.  The plan includes nationalization of all D’anconia properties in South America.  Then, in spectacular fashion, Rand takes the lazy way out and uses a radio announcer to narrate the destruction of all D’anconia properties.

Philip Rearden begs his brother for a job, his desire for a job now actually genuine.  Hank, in predictable Hank fashion, refuses and has him booted off the property.

While the word devolves into a more medieval society, utilities dying out and industries going under while mystics and despots control the masses too scared and/or too stupid to think for themselves, Dagny is forced to make a fateful decision.  Following a meeting with the Usual Gang of Looter Idiots, she press-gangs many unskilled laborers to work on the rail line.  Communications had gone out and there was a major risk of disaster.  Trains had to enter and leave the Taggart Terminal with orchestrated precision.  During her orchestrations, she thinks she sees John Galt working as an unskilled laborer.  They meet up by the cavern where she stored his engine and then, to quote Captain Hammer, “Yeah, we totally had sex.”

And what a sex scene it is.  Well … not really.  In probably one of the worst sex scenes ever committed to print, Dagny and Galt boink each other.

The many names of John Galt.

Galt vows to meet her again, when the time is right.  He tells her to give him a signal: a dollar sign at the base of Nat Taggart’s statue.

John Galt: “Yeah, we totally had sex.”

Reflections:

Everyone’s a hero in their own way!
Everyone can blaze the hero’s trail!
Don’t worry if it’s hard, if you’re not a friggin’ ‘tard
You will prevail!

Did I say I wanted to see the characters have sex again?  (As opposed to the longwinded speechifying?)  I take it back.  The major irony is the sex scenes in the beginning of the book were qualitatively better than the Dagny-Galt scene.  (Not like those scenes represented good writing either.)  The early scenes, while not exactly erotica, had a rough-hewn realism.  The Dagny-Galt hookup possessed all the eroticism of a credit card contract.  Let me enumerate the flaws:

  • Plodding pace. The momentum of the sex seemed to occur in geologic time.
  • Philosophical distractions. “The sum of her highest values,” oh yeah, that’s hot.  Seriously, the convoluted philosophical writing smeared itself all over the scene.  It rendered the real physical contact of the two Objectivist Heroes into something cold, abstract, incomprehensible, and boring!  Dear Reader, do yourself a favor and read some George Bataille.  Bataille was a philosopher, poet, anthropologist, literary critic, and novelist.  He also wrote some incredible erotica, not to mention his daring philosophy.
  • Just plain boring. A sex scene between the two protagonists who personify the Objectivist philosophy should not put your readers to sleep.
  • Objective Reality: Don’t believe me?  I’m sure my literary criticism in this matter must really steam the Objectivists out there.  How dare I criticize the smartestest person ever to walk the Earth.  Here’s a passage:

It was not the pressure of a hand that made her tremble, but the instantaneous sum of its meaning, the knowledge that it was his hand, that it moved as if her flesh were his possession, that its movement was his signature of acceptance under the whole of that achievement which was herself – it was only a sensation of physical pleasure, but it contained her worship of him, of everything that was his person and his life – from the night of the mass meeting in a factory in Wisconsin, to the Atlantis of a valley hidden in the Rocky Mountains, to the triumphant mockery of the green eyes of the superlative intelligence above a worker’s figure at the foot of the tower – it contained her pride in herself and that it should be she whom he had chosen as his mirror, that it should be her body which was now giving him the sum of his existence, as his body was giving her the sum of hers.  These were the things it contained – but what she knew was only the sensation of the movement of his hands on her breasts.

Rand is a terrible, terrible writer, a below-average propagandist, and seems hellbent to throttle the English language into submission.  One only has to count the times she uses the terms “progressive” and “humanitarian” in such vehemently negative situations.

It seems unfair to compare Ayn Rand to another Russian émigré writer, Vladimir Nabokov.  Nabokov’s family was forced into exile because the Russian Revolution.  So he’s not a fan.  Nevertheless, Nabokov wrote prolifically (in three languages!) and penned some of the greatest literary works, establishing himself comfortably within the Western Canon.  Rand takes her place in the Hall of Crackpots.

Anyone claiming Rand was a great writer is being either intellectually dishonest or monumentally naïve.  It’s getting harder to call this overwrought, overlong, incoherent mishmash, this Everest of Poorly Executed Pretentiousnes, a novel.  Ayn Rand is to fiction what Coleman Francis is to cinema.

What should have been an awesome Doc Savage-Bette Davis hookup read like a nine-year-old describing calculus.  Any more needless steps in that scene and it would come across like badly translated directions from IKEA.  Do I need to emphasize this any more?  Ayn Rand probably would, since she considers you a “friggin’ ‘tard.”

Quotes:

  • “There had been a time when the railroad was called the blood system of the nation, and the stream of trains had been like a living circuit of blood, bringing growth and wealth to every patch of wilderness it touched.”  Unfortunately, by 1957, railroads were becoming obsolete due to the construction of the Eisenhower Interstate System, a vast public works project (Socialism!).  It is truly ironic how many pro-business conservatives make it an axiom of their libertarian rhetoric to stand against any rail project.  Way to defend the outdated, Ayn!  Even at your peak of popularity, you were about as in touch with reality as C. Montgomery Burns.
  • “There was no way to tell which devastation had been accomplished by the humanitarians and which by undisguised gangsters.”  I know, I get the activities of Dr. Albert Schweitzer and Al Capone mixed up all the time.
  • “For some reason which nobody could define, the death of her son [Kip Chalmers] in the tunnel catastrophe had given her in Washington an aura of martyrdom, heightened by her recent conversion to Buddhism.”  No philosophy is as diametrically opposed to Objectivism as Buddhism.  Buddhism is at root a rejection of the self.  It declares that attachments cause suffering.  Paradise is Nirvana, a term meaning “nothingness.”  On the other hand, Objectivism’s goal of personal greed comes across as monomaniacal and its adoration of gold is masturbatory.
  • “But they – she looked at the face of her signal engineer – they believed that that muscular contraction of a hand was the only thing required to move traffic – and now the tower men stood idle – and on the great panels in front of the tower director, the red and green lights, which had flashed announcing the progress of trains at a distance of miles, were now so many glass beads – like the glass beads for which another breed of savages had once sold the Island of Manhattan.”  That sure is a long way to go for a backhanded insult to Native Americans.  Here’s what she said at a West Point commencement: “They (Native Americans) didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using. What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.”  It sounded better written in the original German: “The Germanic inhabitant of the American continent, who has remained racially pure and unmixed, rose to be master of the continent; he will remain the master as long as he does not fall a victim to defilement of the blood.”  Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf.

Happy Holidays!


Happy Holidays from Coffee is for Closers.

And who can forget the Chipmunks singing those Christmas melodies?