Archive

Posts Tagged ‘guide’

CCLaP Fridays: On Being Human: Battlestar Galactica and Caprica


This week, I continue my ongoing series “On Being Human” with “Battlestar Galactica” and “Caprica,” two Syfy TV series that explored the struggles between humanity and the machines that rebelled. |

CCLaP Fridays: On Being Human: Warhammer 40K Space Marines


I continue my CCLaP essay series “On Being Human”, this week exploring the dark world of Warhammer 40K and the Space Marines.

Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter X: In the Name of the Best Within Us


Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter X: In the Name of the Best Within US


Pages: 1147 – 1168

Summary: Dagny, Hank, and Ragnar break into the secret facility and save John Galt.  Dagny confronts a guard and gives him a philosophical ultimatum.  At least that’s what Rand probably intended.  Unfortunately, it comes across like yet another dogmatic Abbot and Costello routine.

After saving John Galt, they fly back to Galt’s Gulch.  Kay Ludlow reads Aristotle, Judge Narragansett works on rewriting the Constitution, and Hank and Francisco discuss the creation of new locomotives and the high rates Dagny will charge.  (Women, am I right?)

Finally, John Galt prepares the path to re-enter the “outside world” by drawing a dollar sign on the desolate ground.

Sorry, this never stops being funny.

Lest we forget, Eddie Willers got stuck on a train in the middle of nowhere.  After numerous frustrations, he says the titular line of the chapter amidst yet another hissy fit.

Reflections: It’s been a long turgid road, but we finally made it.  We finished Atlas Shrugged before it finished us.  There’s not much to say except that this was the most overrated piece of garbage since The Phantom Menace.  At least the Phantom Menace had a pod race and a decent light saber battle.  If anything, Atlas Shrugged works as a primer of how not to write a novel.  Even leaving aside Rand’s childish philosophy and her bloated ego, the novel is entirely lacking in characterization and drama.  One needs those things in novel writing if the novelist doesn’t want to put the reader to sleep.

The philosophy itself is a failed attempt at cod-Nietzscheanism: Galt as the heroic Übermensch beyond the ken of ordinary looter morality; ferociously anti-democratic; and achingly nostalgic for Greco-Roman classical ideals.  (I would compare Ayn Rand to Leni Riefenstahl, Nazi propagandist and filmmaker, except that Riefenstahl had talent.)  In the end, Objectivism comes across like a gilded Satanism.  Like Satanism, Objectivism fuels a hackneyed rebelliousness.  Extolling the virtues of greed and selfishness may sound badass at first blush, but this is just worshipping gold instead of Satan.  (At least professed Satanists like Marilyn Manson have talent.)

What do you expect from a “philosopher” who names herself as a unit of South African currency?

Objectivism is as badass as Pat Boone donning a leather jacket and doing Metallica covers.  George Carlin puts it another way.  On the topic of feminism, he states, “Changing your name isn’t a radical act.  Castrating a man in a parking lot is a radical act.”  When one owns media conglomerates, has Congressional leaders in their pocket, and possesses extreme wealth, it is rather silly having one think of oneself as a rebel.

In the end, what Atlas Shrugged needed was a good editor … or two.

Finally, the calls for freedom and personal pleasure eventually lead to things like Dave Foley’s “Groovy Teacher.”

If Objectivism is about anything, it’s about doing heroin and having affairs with 18 year olds, or very mature 17 year olds.  That would explain the behavior of Silvio Berlusconi and Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The band Karma Rocket from the TV series Party Down sings their hit “My Struggle,” voicing the pain and anguish of Objectivists in their struggle to act like greedy selfish babies.  What better way to end an analysis of this horrendous book?

Quotes:

  • “Calmly and impersonally, she, who would have hesitated to fire at an animal, pulled the trigger and fired straight at the heart of a man who wanted to exist without the responsibility of consciousness.”  Makes me think of that Austrian vegetarian and animal lover who had serious deficiencies in people skills.

  • “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade …”  Good to know Objectivists are in favor of slavery, child pornography, and heroin trafficking.  If it’s what the market demands …

 

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.”

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 VI: The Concerto of Deliverance


“On the roof of a structure above the gate, he saw, as he came closer, the slim silhouette of a man who held a gun in each hand and, from behind the protection of a chimney, kept firing at intervals down into the mob, firing swiftly and, it seemed, in two directions at once, like a sentinel protecting the approaches to the gate.  The confident skill of his movements, his manner of firing, with no time wasted to take aim, but with the kind of casual abruptness that never misses a target, made him look like a hero of Western legend–and Rearden watched him detached, impersonal pleasure, as if the battle of the mills were not his any longer, but he could still enjoy the sight of the competence and certainty with which men of that distant age had once combatted evil.”

Reflections: As it should be obvious to anyone reading this blog, I concur with Matt’s opinion.  Reading Atlas Shrugged is nothing short of a punishing ordeal.  This isn’t even fun anymore.  The lazy bloated writing, done to support a philosophy that idolizes severity and efficiency (O! the irony!), makes for slow laborious usurious reading.  It’s usurious in that I’m getting less out from the effort it takes to read this monstrous shit-monument.  I hope that I can get through John Galt’s lengthy speech without wanting to nail a steel tent spike through my skull.

Warning: Do not read Atlas Shrugged and operate heavy machinery.

The present chapter doesn’t assuage my fears.  The most aggravating thing about this chapter was the lack of characterization.  Ma and Bro Rearden come on bended knee to Hank, pleading for help.  Unfortunately, Philip really doesn’t want a job and Hank’s mother still acts like a castrating shrew.  It seemed like Rearden’s family genuinely saw the error of their ways and pleaded with Hank for forgiveness and mercy.  I almost came to appreciating these characters on a human level.  “Hey, they saw the error of their ways.  People can change.  Maybe there’s more to this book than nakedly pornographic agitprop?”  All for naught.  It was all a con job to get a handout from Hank.  The family members remain static caricatures, the dire times making them more and more shrill.

The only character that does “change” is the Wet Nurse, aka The Non-Absolute, aka Tony, aka Empathy Bait.  The absurdly protracted death scene is somehow engineered to elicit the reader’s sympathy.  “Aw, the young kid, never had a chance.  Stupid colleges and their gol-durned book-learnin’!”  But isn’t that rather paradoxical (not to mention manipulative and obvious)?  The foundation of Objectivism is its rejection of Altruism, since the act of giving is anathema to selfishness.  Fine.  How does that work for a modern fictional narrative?  If I’m supposed to feel sympathy for Non-Absolute’s death, shouldn’t I give a damn?  As it stands, I don’t.  Not out of any orthodox adherence to Objectivist doctrine.  The lack of change in the Rearden’s family of repellent leeches and in Non-Absolute’s contrived death did the opposite of create empathy.  It created a hatred that burned like a acetylene torch.  After 1000 pages, endless speechifying, characters so absurdly good they practically shit marble, and characters so evil Stalinist propagandists are telling Rand to take it down a notch, my sympathies lie with no characters, none of their situations, and none of this cod-Nietzschean meets Eurotrash macho-slut lookism.  The best thing to occur in this narrative would be for a comet to hit the planet annihilating all life.  A little bleak and nihilistic I readily admit, but at least then, Rearden, D’anconia, and Galt could shut the fuck up already!