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Category Archives: Atlas Shrugged

Menter: Will Aspens reopening shrug off the virus? – Aspen Daily News

Posted: May 15, 2020 at 7:50 am

This week I am reprising a slightly modified version of a column I wrote in this paper almost eight years ago titled Aspen shrugged (Aspen Daily News, July 19, 2012). Its substance seems more appropriate now than ever. Socialism and free market economics intersect more acutely in Aspen than perhaps any other place on earth. Without adaptation, Aspens fragile balance of unparalleled governmental subsidies for locals, and an international tourism economy playing to the jet-setting, uber-wealthy capitalist class, may be in jeopardy. Can such a system, dependent on safe and efficient air travel, and relying almost entirely on the intangibles of experiential value, survive the emerging coronavirus-triggered economic disruption?

Ayn Rands self-proclaimed magnum opus Atlas Shrugged uses as background for her philosophy of objectivism a fictional world where capitalists are denigrated by ministers of a centrally controlled economy. In this dystopian domain individuals work for the benefit of the collective. As the capitalists disappear into hiding, the worlds economy collapses.

Atlas imperfectly references the titan from Greek mythology, who in modern interpretations is forced by Zeus to hold the world on his shoulders. Rands symbolism of a shrugging Atlas represents the worlds productive capitalists shrugging off responsibility for anyone but themselves by retreating to a mountain hideaway and refusing to help rebuild an economy they did not destroy.

Theorizing an opposing world view to Karl Marxs workers paradise, Rand envisioned a world where people act out of selfish rationality to achieve their individual interests, in contrast to Marx and Friedrich Engels, who openly promoted the Communist Manifesto to portend a stateless and classless worldwide communist society where the individual was subordinate to the collective. Rands world view was seared into her consciousness through personal experience with the failed Soviet interpretation of Marxs communism. Not unlike Marx, Rands belief in the superiority of her economic and political philosophy was the definitive sign of her narcissistic intellectualism.

If Marx and Rand are foundational polar extremes of modern political and economic thought, then Aspen is the modern petri dish for the interplay of their philosophies. While few Aspenites would identify as communists or objectivists, mostly placing themselves somewhere in between, it remains true that few communities are so geographically separate and also so economically and societally segmented as Aspen.

On the valley floor reside mostly workers. The workers mostly, but not exclusively, inhabit tidy government-subsidized, garage-less homes. On the elevated surroundings reside mostly the capitalists as Rand might refer to them. The capitalists mostly reside in exquisite privately owned homes, some with garages so big, theyre larger than an average workers entire home.

The workers of Aspen are united in the sense that their livelihood relies upon consumption, which like gravity, flows from the higher elevations to the valley floor. This activity generates the taxes needed to provide the subsidized housing, transportation, child care, and recreation that make Aspens idyllic working-class life possible in one of the nations most expensive zip codes (although according to Business Insider, as of 2019 Aspen no longer even cracks the nations top 25).

Conversely, as if defying gravity, political power rises from the workers on the valley floor who exact the taxes needed to support their idyllic (it isnt really, hence the quotation marks) working-class lifestyle from the capitalist class, so long as they continue enjoying the view. Rand might not consider these as examples of objectively selfish behavior, but given the system in place, thats what it looks like to me. More importantly, there is exactly nothing requiring this systems perpetuation.

Reflecting neither Marxs utopia, nor Rands dystopia, Aspens delicately balanced, capitalistically funded socialism relies on one commonly shared notion. While the people here are real, the place defies reality. In traditional economic terms, Aspen produces almost nothing of value yet retains some of the highest property values on the planet. This understanding of value is both notional and contrived.

Aspens notional economic value lies exclusively in its ability to deliver one product, the Aspen experience. Its contrived economic value flows from the government subsidies generated by the demand for that experience, which over the past many decades has far exceeded available supply. But will future demand remain so high? All economic systems have a half-life, and Aspens monied visitors and government-subsidized, private-sector workers cannot exist without each other. It is Aspens intertwined economic values, notional and contrived, capitalist and socialist, that make Aspens economy work, and the kicker is, its a system that produces nothing that any consumer cannot live without or get at a lower cost someplace else.

In a coronavirus world, will Rands capitalists continue to willingly pay any price to parachute into Aspen to ski, listen to beautiful music and annually conjure a festival of ideas, financing the resort communitys government-subsidized locals' lifestyle? The notion seems less objectively rational than ever.

Would Marx recoil at the sight of Aspens sell-out socialism, where service to and control over capitalism have heretofore simultaneously made possible his otherwise futilely pursued workers paradise? Or would he decide its demise was a painful but necessary step for the purity of the collectives cause? My guess is the latter.

Most importantly, will Aspens delicately balanced, capitalist-funded socialist paradise (by now you know the reason for the quotations) and tourism-based economy shrug off the coronavirus pandemic and return to some adaptation of normality? Or, like after the silver boom ended a century ago, will Aspen begin a return to quieter years? I hope its the former, but only time will tell.

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Menter: Will Aspens reopening shrug off the virus? - Aspen Daily News

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The Code and the Key – National Review

Posted: at 7:50 am

(Enisaksoy/Getty Images)Lessons from human nature about writing, politics, and Donald Trump

I worked one summer as a kitchen boy in a Wisconsin summer camp. It was one of those jobs from which you fall down at night near too tired to sleep. A previous occupant of my bunk had left behind a copy of Atlas Shrugged. So I spent the summer, between work and sleep, reading the perfect companion for my teenage summer.

I dont care for short stories. I prefer the heft of the doorstop book, reassuring me that I can immerse myself in the fantasy for a good long time. Yes, yes, I think. Thank you. Take me. Anywhere but here . . .

My companion for the lockdown is The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet, written by David Kahn in 1967 and updated by him in 1996. One thousand pages so interesting that my mind will not reject them even though they are informative.

My new novel, not yet released, is Forty Years at Anstett, a fictional account of one mans life at a New England prep school. In it, a young man returns from imprisonment in Japan during the RussoJapanese War. The fellow applies for the job of instructor of languages. He has no academic credentials, but a very practical one: He was forced, in prison, to learn Japanese, Russian, Chinese, and, more important, how to learn languages. He challenges the Head (my protagonist) to point out the dullest lad in the school, to name a language, to leave the applicant alone with the boy for an afternoon, and then to assess his progress in the new tongue.

Well, the Head says, Latin or Greek. Id say Latin; its simpler as it shares our alphabet. No, the applicant says, its simpler to teach Greek. A new alphabet is a code. What twelve-year-old boy has ever been able to resist a code?

Not I, certainly. It seems Ive spent my professional life fashioning them and solving them, and have found the process commutative, which is to say, the study of one is the study of the otherit works in both directions.

Heres what I mean. Raymond Chandler wrote, in his essay The Simple Art of Murder (1939), that it is near impossible to craft a good murder mystery, as it requires two otherwise unconnected skills: the ability to write beautifully and the ability to fashion a code.

He is near right in his observation. The two skillswhile not mutually exclusive per seare unlikely to be found fully developed in any practitioner, because to achieve excellence, he or she would have to devote all energy to one or the other. I know of no great contemporary instrumentalist who is also a great composer.

The intersection of cryptography and literary merit is discoverable, though, in one very particular craft, and it is my own: writing drama.

For the drama has much in common with the detective novel. The clues in each must, scene by scene, be displayed to the reader in such a way that their importance will become both clear and acceptable only when the protagonist (and, so, the reader) has finally arranged them, correctly, at the works conclusion. If a clue is omitted, the writer is cheating; if it is too apparent, he is a hack.

Oh, yes, it was there all the time is the revelation capping not only the story of Sam Spade and his Maltese falcon, but that of Oedipus.

Ive always understood my job as a playwright as crafting the code. I came to this understanding through watching the audience.

In the various storefront theaters of my youth, I was offered the opportunity to make a living superior to mine as a cabdriver, if and as I could please the audience: not the critics, not the universities, but the paying audience.

I could write sufficiently well to keep em in their seats, but I was not going to get out of the Yellow Cab Company, I saw, unless I could do something additionally, which was (and is) to lead the audience unconsciously, at the plays end, to a revelation, which is to say, to a thrill.

Most plays, and all dramas, conclude, Well, I suppose life is just like that. This is sufficient to get the audience back into their cars, but by half the drive home, the play is forgotten. It may have diverted, but it did not thrill. This is to say, it did not deliver anything that could not have been foreseen. One says of such plays, They came in humming the plot.

Well, I wanted to trade the delights of the Yellow Cab Company for those of Broadway. So I sat down to the study of a code, and the code was, and is, human behavior.

I now learn from David Kahn the same lesson I saw in the storefronts: The cipher cannot be resolved without possession of the key.

Human behavior is fairly clear. One did or did not do or say this or that; one keeps marrying the wrong guy, or forgetting ones car keys, Aunt Mae always arrives late, and so on.

The attempt to interpret these actions, to determine the underlying assumptions, and, so, possibly, arrange them for the understanding of the group, the family, or the individual, is a search for a unifying key.

Psychoanalysis is, essentially, cryptanalysis. It is the attempt to find the key that will render intelligible, that is, arranged into a cause-and-effect progression, a string of various otherwise puzzling actions. It is fairly useless as a clinical tool (for, finally, the solution is as moot as is, in most cases, the complaint). But it is a handy theoretical tool, for a dramatist/cryptanalyst. He may walk the cat both backward and forward, discovering, in his own, unconscious creative process, the hidden key, which resolves his disparate perceptions and creations (an event, a line, an interchange) into that whole that may at the plays end be revealed as a progressionthat is, as a surprise.

This key is called the plot.

The practical codebreaker differs from the psychoanalyst in this: It is not his job to evaluate and act on the decoded information, but only to strip away the code.

Applied to psychoanalysis: Rather than asking What was the repressed trauma to which cause I can assign these symptoms? we may ask What was the process that caused that particular trauma (plaintext) to be so encrypted; that is, what is the key?

For, even if the hidden trauma is correctly determined, this can mean nothing more than that it has been identified in a way sufficiently satisfying to doctor and patient as to be acceptable; and the very fact that the patient accepts a psychoanalytic solution (which, again, is merely suppositional) might argue for its falsity. Diagnostically, he leaves the analysis not having had his life changed by revelation but gratified in his assessment not only of his own reasoning but of his courage in being able to accept a (putatively) new idea.

Similarly, modern drama and entertainment, and the so-called news media that flog it, present as a cure for (inescapable) human anxiety various solutions that, in their inaccuracy and inconclusivity, induce the individual to commit to further, more-drastic (which is to say, more-macabre and more-bizarre) restatements of the original diagnosis: E.g., you are not anxious, you are legitimately appalled, and frightened, as who would not be, as the world is ending (burning up, poisoned, overpopulated, run by Monsters).

The committed liberal, leftist, or analysand is like the government establishments that have devoted so much time, energy, and treasure to the creation of a code that no evidence could convince them that it has been broken and so must be replaced.

Drama carries an acceptable, but not a transformative, solution. Only tragedy has the power to transform, its revelation shocking the hero/sufferer (who is only the representative of the audience) into an absolutely new life. This life, however different from or lesser than the previous one, has this great benefit: It can be led truthfully, without either shame or anxiety, as one no longer fears discovery. The neurotic individual or organization fears not that its code may be broken but the knowledge that it already has been.

A mass movement coalesces around previously unconnected forcesthose that, absent a catalyst, cannot combine to any effect. Its formation will be predated to account for a supernatural beginning, but this merely raises the question Why now?

Islam, Christianity, and, in the 20th century, Marxism and Fascism emerge and proliferate exponentially, creating a new polity, spreading first through the joy of novelty, then through the herd instinct, and, finally, through force directed at the unconvinced.

A doctrine that cannot be proved, and whose only benefit is membership in a herd of the similarly professing, must (like a neurosis) be vehemently defended, as its refutation would threaten the individual not only with expulsion but with shame at his complicity, which is to say, with self-knowledge. But this, again, just raises the question: Why does this or that belief or delusion emerge and metastasize at a particular time? What is the relationship between the individual and the mass movement?

Tolstoy asks the question in the epilogue to War and Peace. He observes that 5 million Frenchmen didnt march into Russia just because Napoleon told them to. There is some relationship between his and their folly, but the relationship is unclear. The question, he tells us, is What is power? For, if they did not march because of his orders (a proposition that is, on reflection, absurd), why did they march?

Why did the young of my post-war generation embrace the various doctrines of free love, anti-Americanism, dissent, and mass movement, which, here as everywhere in the West, have matured as leftism, its various doctrines as absurd and obviously destructive as Napoleons (or Hitlers) invasion of Russia: open borders, free health care and education, and a universal salary not only for our citizens but (given open borders) for the entire world.

Ive been puzzled for a while by the absence in this virulent movement not only of a handy name (for leftism defines the thing only in relation to its opposite) but of a leader.

In the upcoming election, the Left has proposed, and its adherents have accepted, no candidate onto whom can be grafted even the most basic and most provisional attributes of charisma, wisdom, or record (however factitious) of accomplishment.

Why has the Left, intent on destroying the West, put forth no leader, and why has no leader put himself forward to fill the vacuum of power? What does the Left have, in place of a Marx, a Hitler, a Lenin, or, indeed, a Roosevelt or a Churchill? One who could state and embody its principles and thereby unify a country or a party? Perhaps the Lefts inability to propose a leaderand, so, a coherent (even if loathsome) visionis not a problem but a solution.

The question, then, is: To what problem?

For four years Ive found the massteria (Professor Harold Hill, The Music Man, 1957) around Trump healthy, as energy directed thus was unavailable for the Lefts beatification of a new leader (a fhrer). How fortunate for the country, I thought.

The national emergency has given me some leisure to think and consider; it was awarded by a virus. My question of the Virus is Why now?

The virus could not have spread globally without universal air travel, the national wealth that created such travel, and the disposable incomes that allowed individuals to take trips.

The Black Death reached Europe through rats on merchant ships from the Orient, the Spanish flu was spread here largely by servicemen returning from Europe, and so on, and so on.

Each, perhaps, could be seen as occurring through, or spreading because of, some stage of progression or, say, maturity, in the economy, or, to flirt with eschatology, in the Progress of the World.

The individual lifespan lengthens, and now the elderly are faced with diseases unknown to or rare among grandparents who would have been dead at a similar age.

Traffic congestion, attendant pollution, anxiety, and so on are the result of urban success. The highways take the mass of the newly solvent to the suburbs, the commutes become intolerable, and the old cities die, or exist (all the old capitals of commerce) as tourist attractions, or amusement parks, with the super-wealthy maintaining their skyboxes above the entertainment, as in The Masque of the Red Death.

The liberal, elite cities and states raise taxes, because they must, as their tax base disappears. As the services disintegrate, the rich follow the middle class out and leave the cities to the homeless, their ranks engorged by the aliens attracted to the notion of something-for-nothing (as who is not?), which is to say the Garden of Eden before the Fall.

There it is, before our eyes, but those who call attention, like our friend Laocon, are swept back into the sea, and the wooden horse, inside which the voices of enemy soldiers are heard, is dragged inside the city.

The unabated loathing of Trump must be considered a delusion, for how could one man be responsible not only for treason, collusion, malversation, and other crimes that, though they might be practiced individually, would, in their conjoined execution, each cancel the efficacy of the other (e.g., armed robbery and embezzlement)? Consider that in addition to this endless litany of his human corruptions, he is, coincidentally, indicted as responsible for the weather and the spread (if not the inauguration) of a global pandemic.

A comparison of Trump Psychosis with adoration of Hitlerthough perhaps appropriate mechanically, that is, in terms of power exerted on the mobis inexact in terms of utility. For the apotheosis of Hitler united the Germans behind a shared vision; he personified, and gave voice to, a nationalist desire for revenge, pride, and power, in which vision, and through its supposed benefits, the individuals could participate.

But the revanchist Left is not opposed to Trump as the avatar of the Right, of capitalism, of Americanism (once called patriotism). They cannot object to his policies per se, because the policies, one by one, are demonstrably superior in practice to any the Left has employed and, in reason, to any they have suggested. Their objections are all ad hominem, alleging various isms, which epithet may be applied, given but little inventiveness, to any of his words or acts. (As they may to any of yours or mine.) To suggest it is his acts that enrage the Left would be as to understand the Islamist attacks of September 11 as architectural criticism.

The Trump resistance began in the first hours of his presidency and has continued unabated by either reason or fatigue. There are no dissentient voices on the left, for any suggesting consideration, let alone dissent, have been expelled, vilified, and canceledthey are thus no longer on the left. Perhaps in this the disease starts to proclaim itself.

Leo Marks was a British codebreaker at Bletchley Park, during the Second World War. In his book Between Silk and Cyanide (1998), he writes about the codebreakers disease: Engaged as they are in trying to break the code, it is their last thought at night, and their first on awakening. Many of them became illphysically or psychologicallyfrom the strain.

Marks was in charge of decrypting the messages sent by Allied agents parachuted into Nazi-controlled Holland. He was, he writes, driven mad by the suspicion that the Allied agents had been captured and turnedthat is, that they, and so their codes, were being manipulated by the Nazis. He could find no error in the transmissions, but his suspicions would not go away. One morning he awoke and realized that the problem (that he could find no errors) was, of course, the solution: It would have been impossible for an Allied spy in Nazi Holland to transmitin haste and in hiding, risking deathwithout errors in the transmission. The agents had been captured or turned, he concluded.

There are no errors in the unity of the Left, which may be a key to the solution of their irrational, implacable loathing. Trump is hated as the most prominent example of one whos not afraid to employ reason. He has been canceled but ridicules their verdict.

It is not his plans (the Left doesnt hear of them) or his accomplishments (they are discounted, attributed to others, glossed over, or dismissed as nefarious) that are loathed, but the man himself, as he had the temerity to hold himself superior to the zeitgeist.

The zeitgeist is the Decline of the West, which had been sweeping the world since the American apogee, victory in World War II, and the advent of the most prosperous economy in history.

Things age, mature, and die. Fascism was a 20-year-long dictatorship, expanded through murder and terror. American exceptionalism and prosperity are the overwhelming story of the 20th century; it was not spread by the sword, and it will not die by the sword. Lincoln said that all the massed armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined could not take a drink from the Ohio, but American culture has been decaying throughout my lifetime, as must any organism. Mr. Trumps presidency has lengthened the American experience by some number of years. That number will be debated by the civilizations that succeed us, who will wonder at our fall, as the educated once did at that of Nineveh and Tyre.

Tragedy, to be compelling, must address a prerational experience or unity. A Hokusai painting of a wave makes us nod in recognition, as we do at a resolution of a Bach fugue. We cannot explain or dissect our experience of understanding, but it is undeniable. True art creates in us the same feeling of fulfillment, its possible description just beyond the rational mind.

The technician might explain it technically, the musician employing the cycle of fifths, or the painter some theory of color or proportion, but this merely puts the problem at one remove. For, after the technical reduction, even the expert cannot quite answer the question of why: Why, for example, is the eye so pleased by the golden mean? Like any great truth, our understanding of art must devolve into metaphysics or an assertion merely leading to an infinite regression.

The human mind will and must assemble phenomena into cause and effect. We will intuit or ascribe a causal relationship to two events that, to another, have no possible connection: Aunt Edna did not call on my birthday because shes furious I didnt sufficiently praise her new frock; Germany is troubled because of the Jews; we are suffering a pandemic because Trump did or did not act quickly enough, and an economic disaster because he did.

Psychoanalysis (and politics) attempts to address or capitalize on our human suggestibility, particularly on our frenzied willingness to assign our disquiets to another. Solutions offered thus flatter our ability to identify a problem, suggest its cure, and remind us to come back tomorrow for another dose.

Drama acts similarly, engaging us in the assurance that the cause of all problems is evident, and that our reason will suffice to cure them. The Bad Butler did it; Deaf People are People, Too; Love Is All There Is; and so on. If we enjoy the mixture, it must (and will) be taken regularly.

Tragedy provides not reassurance but calm through the completion of a mechanical progression. Its end is probative, for it is the disposition of all the variables (the code) stipulated at its beginningmathematically, there is no remainder.

The journey of Oedipus begins because there is a plague on Thebes; it is the kings job to conquer it. Without the initiating impulse (the stated problem), the play becomes merely a drama, it cannot be a tragedy, and we take away from it not that peace from recognizing the human condition but the lesson Do not sleep with your mother.

Can our current national emergency be viewed as perhaps a classical tragedy rather than as sordid drama? We see that the various factions are fighting over a disordered kingdom; each employs (to its own degree) the universal tools of indictment, incitement, appeal, reason, conspiracy, deception, and so on (assignment of these to taste). Considering ourselves as the dramatist, we can prognosticate an end: civil war, dissolution and chaos, conquest by a foreign power, return to a new and healthier polity actually based on the Constitution . . .

But such an end, to satisfy as tragedy, must be understood as the resolution of that specific problem absent the appearance of which we would not have a play. (Hamlets father dies.)

But in our case, what brought about the plague of Thebes?

The builders of the Tower of Babel suffered from hubris. They thought that they could aspire to heaven and raise themselves above human concerns, and that the various conflicting impulses of humanity would go away if we all spoke with one tongue. This tongue, of course, would be that of the builders, and I will leave comparisons with globalism to the reader. But it is no sin to be prosperous, and even the most committed Marxist wishes only to regularize (that is, reduce) the wealth and consumption of his neighbor.

What is the precipitating event or situation whose resolution would be one of those mooted above? We know our current pandemic came from China, and from trade with China. And every schoolchild knows that April showers bring May flowers, Mayflowers bring Pilgrims, and Pilgrims bring typhus.

The demagogues of the Left have discovered anew the ancient secrets of corruption, collusion, and decay, and, like all their predecessors, delight in their discovery: indicting their opponents for their own crimes.

We had, on April Fools Day 2020, two events warring for pride of place in our reconstruction of the tragic cryptogram: the pandemic, and the election of Donald Trump. But tragedy cannot have two precipitating events. (See the childs excuse I didnt do my homework because the dog ate it, and my mother has the flu.) Two explanations are none.

We must choose one, determine how the two are, if not identical, then conjoined (My mother has the flu, she usually feeds the dog, she could not, the dog became hungry and ate my homework), or discard them both and begin our work again, remembering Tolstoys admonition that the first or most apparent manifestation of an event is not necessarily the cause: The savage seeing the puffs of smoke first might conclude that they caused the locomotive.

The Left insists that our national disruption is caused by the election of President Trump, which affront would be resolved by his removal from office.

But if the successful results of their machinations brought us to civil war or economic collapse, then the effect would be out of adjustment with the supposed cause. (See the all too common explanation of spousal murder: You would have shot her too if you saw the way she looked at me.)

That message was fictionalized in Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand lived through the Russian Revolution, in St. Petersburg, and spent her working life, in fiction and nonfiction, writing about the horror.

Here is another report, by Alexander, Grand Duke of Russia, first cousin to the czar, from Once a Grand Duke (1931):

What was to be done about those princes and countesses who spent their lives going from door to door and spreading monstrous lies about the Czar and Czarina? What was to be done with that scion of the ancient family of Princes Dolgoruky who sided with enemies of the Empire? What was to be done with the president of Moscow University, Prince Troubetskoi, who turned that famous institution of learning into a radical campus? What was to be done with that brilliant Professor Milukoff, who felt it his duty to denounce the regime in foreign lands, undermining our credit abroad and gladdening the hearts of our foes? . . . What was to be done with our press who met with rousing cheers every news of our defeat on the Japanese front?

The message on Nebuchadnezzars wall was You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Trump Mania is not a message, but a key, serving to obscure an underlying message.

The key (the accusations of the Left) disguises an underlying terroroperating here just as the near-psychotic, immobilized by a terrifying, free-floating anxiety, extemporizes specific phobias in an effort to gain some control.

It is not that I am losing my mind in unnameable panic, he thinks, but that Martians, or mice, food additives, or Jews are trying to destroy me.

The Lefts loathing of Trump differs from their other attempts at constructive phobia in this: He is not an event, a phenomenon, an attitude, or a group, but an actual human being.

He has supplanted previous attempted solutions to panic, but universal and vicious loathing comes close, in its virulence, to revealing the key, and thus the presence of an underlying code.

He is a mere human being who has the temerity to disregard the taboo.

In the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, some brave soul might speak up for one accused of witchcraft; but no one would have dared to say, and few to think, There is no such thing as witchcraft.

The Lefts hatred of Trump reveals their code. They here are like the ghoul Rumpelstiltskin, whose power disappeared when the victim said his name.

Trump is loathed because he is feared, and he is feared because he named the monster.

The Monster is the zeitgeist, that is to say, the Left.

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The Code and the Key - National Review

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The Science Fiction Writer John Scalzi Readily Quits Reading – The New York Times

Posted: at 7:50 am

The author, whose new novel is The Last Emperox, says, Life is short and there are many other books.

What books are on your nightstand?

I made a New Years resolution to spend more time reading than I do staring at Twitter, so as a result the turnover on the nightstand (including the books on my phone, which has a nightstand charging cradle) is pretty rapid right now. Currently there: All This Could Be Yours, by Jami Attenberg; Docile, by K. M. Szpara; Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson (reread); and, on the phone, Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel (Im sooo late); Uncommon Type, by Tom Hanks; and the upcoming The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), by Katie Mack, which Im reading in PDF galley form because the end of the universe is professionally relevant to me.

Whats the last great book you read?

In terms of books already generally acknowledged as great, that would be The Face of Battle, by John Keegan, which was one of the first serious books of military history to take on the history of battle from a grunts-eye view of things. The book was incredibly useful when I wrote Old Mans War, and I come back to it whenever I start researching for a military-oriented work. Im very bad at guessing which contemporary works will be seen as great books, and often I am deeply surprised which ones get the label over time.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

I bounced hard off Jane Austen growing up, but so many friends are so deeply in love with her writing and I have enjoyed her filmed adaptations enough that I thought Id give her another try. So I picked up Pride and Prejudice, and soon enough set it back down again. The problem is not her, its me: The rhythms of writing and speaking and even just how commas are used have changed enough that for me reading most pre-20th-century work feels like sitting on a lurching train, getting knocked about. Shes a great writer, without doubt, and also, not for me. I love her films, though (and much prefer the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice over the 1995 BBC mini-series, which is heresy).

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

In my office, on my chaise longue, with one of my cats on me, on a spring or fall day where the temperature is nice enough to have the windows open, and there is a nice breeze (and also Ive taken my Claritin for the day; I live in rural Ohio and we have all of the pollen). But honestly I can read just about anywhere, and have, and will again, just watch me.

Whats your favorite book no one else has heard of?

In science fiction: Raising the Stones, by Sheri S. Tepper, a quasi-sequel to her novel Grass (also exceptional, with Dune-level worldbuilding), which has very interesting things to say about masculinity and society, and is very sadly out of print. Grass, however, is in print. Get it.

What book should everybody read before the age of 21?

There is no single book everyone should read before age 21; there is, I suspect, the one right book for each person which, if they read it at a young age, makes them fall in love with reading for life. I endorse doing what we can to find that one book for each person, rather than stuffing the same book down everyones throat. With books, one size does not fit all.

What book should nobody read until the age of 40?

I mean, I grew up in a house where the rule for books was if you can reach it, you can read it, and used that same rule for my kid, so, meh, theres not one? There are books you bounce off of at 15 that speak to you at 40, and vice versa. The only way youre going to find them is to try them. Im not in love with segregating out books by age. Let books speak to readers.

Which writers novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets working today do you admire most?

Today? N. K. Jemisin (novelist), Alexandra Petri (journalist), Daniel Lavery (memoirist), Pamela Ribon (screenwriter/novelist), Roxane Gay (essayist/editor). Ask me again in a year. There are so many writers to admire, for their work and for who they are in the world.

Sci-fi writers are often writing about the present even when their books are set in the future. Who do you think gets the present (or the future!) particularly right?

Oy. Well, William Gibson seems to be doing a depressingly good job of calling out where the world is and is going; Charlie Stross gets the future of today so right that sometimes he has to rewrite his work-in-production because current events overtake his fiction; Mira Grants Newsflesh trilogy seems to be on point right about now, too, in terms of the politics and culture of this exact moment.

What do you read when youre working on a book? And what kind of reading do you avoid while writing?

When I write fiction, I read nonfiction and generally avoid other fiction, for the simple reason that my brain will attempt to absorb the voice of the author and then output it through my typing fingers. This is not great for anyone. Several years ago I read a book of China Mivelles and then sat down to write a new chapter; what came out was dreadful, and not the good sort of dreadful that Mr. Mivelle is so adept at. I had to write about 3,000 words just to get back to me.

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?

No. If theyre not hurting anyone, why feel guilty about ones pleasures? Why condescend to your own desires and belittle yourself that way? I write in a genre that for decades people felt like they had to make excuses for reading who benefits from that? Read what you like; like what you read. If someone tries to give you crap for it, its their problem, not yours.

Any comfort reads?

I reread James Clavells Shogun a lot when I travel; I tend to think of it as epic fantasy as I am unsure of its historical and cultural accuracy. Speaking of epic fantasy, Katherine Addisons The Goblin Emperor is always a joy to reread; I leaned on it a lot when creating my own unready imperial ruler for the Interdependency series, the last book of which is out very soon now. And I always have at least one Susan Orlean book on my phone for when Im stuck in the airport and in the mood for nonfiction; the current one I have at the ready is The Library Book. She writes books that are comforting and fascinating at the same time. Thats a good skill to have.

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

When I was younger I would give Mark Helprins Winters Tale to people I wanted to be better friends with (and/or I had a crush on); its a book so lovely on a sentence level that it took me six reads to focus on the story. Im still friends with most of the people I gave the book to, and married one of them, so thank you, Mr. Helprin?

Whats the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

That Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was the original nice guy (used in the internet sense of the phrase, which means emphatically not), falling in love with women who werent interested in him, then turning into a creepy abusive jerk when rebuffed. (See: Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love, by Andrew Shaffer.)

Which books got you hooked on speculative fiction? Are there any science fiction books you would elevate to the canon?

As a kid the three authors who served as my entryway to the genre were Madeleine LEngle (A Wrinkle in Time), Susan Cooper (The Dark Is Rising) and Robert A. Heinlein (Citizen of the Galaxy), who were writing books aimed at younger readers. Authors writing for younger readers, and the books that captivate those readers, often get dismissed as being part of the science fiction canon, which I find problematic for all sorts of reasons (the canon of speculative fiction is itself currently in for massive revision). If I were nominating for canon, Id look at Y.A.: J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games) and Scott Westerfeld (Uglies) are obvious candidates from the last couple of decades. Mind you, my vote wont count; the future of the specific canon will be decided by people younger than me.

Do you distinguish between commercial and literary fiction? Wheres that line, for you?

Theres no line between commercial and literary fiction; its a Venn diagram with considerable overlap. The best approximation I can make for literary fiction is simply fiction written (intentionally or not) for other writers, who will be paying attention to fiddly nuances other readers might not care about. But you can do that and still be massively commercial (and likewise intentionally write for a wide audience and still sell nothing). Ultimately no one knows anything and some books hit and no one can tell you why. Luck matters more than we like to admit.

How do you organize your books?


What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I would be surprised that anyone would be surprised at any book I have on my shelf. I read widely and also publicly and frequently endorse reading as many different things as one can, so it shouldnt be surprising to find lots of different books in my home. Maybe people might look at me askance for Atlas Shrugged, since Ive written about how Ayn Rand valorizes a genocidal sociopath in John Galt, and I think its a really bad sign when ostensible adults take her philosophy seriously (and even worse when theyre elected to office). But Ill tell you what, Rand could make a pot boil; theres a reason her brand of nonsense sells.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

Voracious. Would, could and did read anything I could get my hands on, which set the tone for the rest of my life. Aside from previously mentioned writers and books, probably the most important book for me growing up was The Peoples Almanac, by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, which I consumed when I was 6 and sparked a love of knowing a little about a lot of things. Learning how to find out more came later.

If you were to write something besides speculative fiction, what would you write?

When I sat down to write my first novel, I couldnt decide between writing a science fiction novel and writing a crime/mystery novel, la Gregory Mcdonald (Fletch) and Carl Hiaasen. So I flipped a coin, and it came up heads, which was the side I chose for science fiction. I frequently wonder what my life would be like now if it had landed on tails. The good news (for me, anyway) is that I like my life and the people in it. And anyway, I write science fiction crime novels now my Lock In series so I get to have my literary cake and eat it too.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didnt? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

When I was a teenager, friends swore I would identify with Holden Caulfield, so I read The Catcher in the Rye and was furious my so-called friends thought I had anything in common with that entitled jerk. And I absolutely remember the last book I put down without finishing; it was last week. I frequently put down books Im not enjoying. Life is short and there are many other books. I dont publicly say which books they are; thats rude and someone else may love that same book.

Youre organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

See above, regarding the writers I admire. With that said, I am sorely sad I did not meet and converse with Molly Ivins, Roger Ebert and Nora Ephron when they were alive. I imagine a dinner party with all three at their respective heights would be delightful in every sense of the word.

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Betsy DeVos Prevents Future Larry Nassars By Nixing Obligation To Report Sexual Assault – Above the Law

Posted: at 7:50 am

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The NCAA isnot impressed with the Department of Educations new rules to better protect students from sexual harassment and assault under Title IX. Apparently, the organization is not convinced that limiting the number of mandatory reporters will magically make student athletes safer from sexual violence. And if the billion dollar non-profit that hoovers up cash selling athletes images while excommunicating them if they accept a free pair of sneakers is recoiling in horror, chances are the DOEs new rule is pretty bad.

As ESPNs Paula Lavigne notes, the changes finalized last week relieve coaches and athletic staff of the pesky obligation to report allegations of sexual abuse or assault the schools Title IX coordinator. Last year the Department fined Michigan State $4.5 million for systemic failure to address horrific abuse of gymnasts by Dr. Larry Nassar, and yet the new regulations seem to have been designed to create more people who can look the other way with impunity.

But Secretary DeVos has a perfectly good explanation for a rule that would have allowed Jim Jordan to (allegedly) chortle about wrestlers being molested by the Ohio State Universitys team doctor with no obligation to do anything about it, and it is AUTONOMY.

Every situation is unique, and individuals react to sexual harassment differently. Therefore, the Final Rule gives complainants control over the school-level response best meeting their needs. It respects complainants wishes and autonomy by giving them the clear choice to file a formal complaint, separate from the right to supportive measures. The Final Rule also provides a fair and impartial grievance process for complainants, and protects complainants from being coerced or threatened into participating in a grievance process.

Perish the thought that an athlete whose scholarship and athletic career are dependent on staying in the good graces of the coaching staff be coerced or threatened into participating in the grievance process by mandatory reporting requirements!

The new regs only impose the reporting obligation on staff who have authority to institute corrective measures, a power which schools can optionally confer on athletic staff. Clearly the Departments curriculum includes fantasy novels where organizations voluntarily increase the pool of staff members who can incur millions of dollars in federal fines and civil damages. Nevertheless, NCAA rules will still impose a reporting requirement on all collegiate athletic staff.

The campuses will retain the responsible employee mandatory reporter standard that they have because thats the better practice, W. Scott Lewis, co-founder of the Association of Title IX Administrators told ESPN.

The department is not under an obligation to conform these final regulations with NCAA compliance guidelines and declines to do so, sniffed the Department in its response. And then it went back to discussing a plan to protect students from sexual assault by passing out millions of copies of Atlas Shrugged, useful as a weapon to fend off an attackerand a paean to the vaunted autonomy Secretary DeVos values above all else.

New Title IX regulations change how colleges must respond to sexual misconduct complaints [ESPN] New Title IX regulations no longer require coaches to report sexual misconduct [Yahoo]

Elizabeth Dye (@5DollarFeminist) lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.

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Treat others well, and other things learned while on lockdown – Las Cruces Sun-News

Posted: May 11, 2020 at 10:55 am

Randy Lynch, Your view Published 1:27 a.m. MT May 10, 2020

Randy Lynch, Sun-News editorial columnist(Photo: Robin Zielinski)

Heres some of what Ive learned during this pandemic lockdown. In no particular order:

To expand on that latter point, our political leaders using crises like this pandemic as just another tool to beat down their opposition while building themselves up. One side paints the other as selfish, money-hungry bullies who dont care if people die as long as they get to go back to work, get a haircut and do what they want with no concern for others. The other side paints that first side as cowards and "sheeple"who want to strip away our freedoms, create a totalitarian state and who are showing their allegiance to big government simply by putting on a mask when going out in public.

Governors treat us like children, deciding which businesses are essential and which ones dont matter enough to be allowed to operate, no matter how safely they are being run. They tell us where we can and cant go, how many people we can be around and what were allowed to do while never once considering any higher standard than the use of their debatable power.

Meanwhile, the president does the same sort of thing by forcing businesses he deems essential to remain open, no matter how those companies wish to proceed. Its like something out of "Atlas Shrugged." (Wheres John Galt when you need him?!)

Pro-business advocates go to county commission meetingsdemanding that businesses be allowed to reopen claiming they can do so responsibly and safely while they themselves refuse to act with any level of responsibility; refusing to wear masks and, not only failing to keep any distance between them and others, but posing for pictures huddled in close with others showing the same disregard for any precautions. Leading by example has been replaced with, "Do what I say, not as I do."

Meanwhile, the majority of us are living somewhere in the middle; trying to take care of ourselves and our families and others who we see in need while trying to behave responsibly and not take needless chances just to make some point. We try to act like adults while those on the two polarized sides still play the same tired old partisan games.

Once last thing I hope we learn before this is all over: that we dont have to pick sides and behave in an either/or fashion. We can make the choice to behave like adults and treat others, no matter what side theyre on, like actual human beings.

Randy Lynch writes/hosts The Midnight Ride blog ( and internet radio show on Radio New Mexico ( Contact him at

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COVID-19 and the Future of Educational Freedom – The Objective Standard

Posted: at 10:55 am

Editors note: TOS does not endorse the authors views on unschooling. For an enlightening exchange on that subject, see Lisa VanDammes reply to a letter in the Spring 2008 issue of The Objective Standard.

It is an odd juxtaposition that at a time when families are isolated in their homes, lacking the freedom to go about the ordinary routines of life, many are experiencing greater educational freedom. As cities shelve compulsory attendance mandates, curriculum directives, and annual testing requirements, parents are catching a glimpse of education without forced schooling.1 They are leveraging a multitude of online learning resources and spotting the ways in which their childs creativity and curiosity rebound when allowed to explore more individualized curricula.2 Many parents are seeing that their children are happier, more focused, and more imaginative when not required to spend their days attending traditional school, and some of these parents may want to continue supporting their childs learning at home post-pandemic.3 In this period of confinement and social distancing, families are discovering the expansive education opportunities outside of conventional classrooms.

Because of COVID-19-related lockdowns, hundreds of millions of young people have been discharged from traditional school settings.4 Some are following the same curriculum and attendance requirements that they otherwise would, but others have been unleashed from such strictures. Some families are using this unusual circumstance to withdraw their children permanently from local school districts, opting for independent homeschooling instead of the remote schooling that many municipalities are offering. One such parent shared with me the e-mail he sent to his school districts superintendent officially withdrawing his son. His mood and vitality flipped like a switch when we told him this remote schooling was over, he wrote. It also uncovered his apathy toward [traditional] schooling in general.

The modern homeschooling movement began in earnest in the 1970s, first among countercultural leftists who were dissatisfied with government-controlled schools and chose not to send their children to them. The homeschooling population swelled during the 1980s and 90s, particularly as religious conservatives began to educate their children at home and pushed for legal recognition of their right to do so. Over the past four decades, homeschooling numbers have soared to nearly two million students in the United States, moving from the sidelines to a mainstream education option.5 Todays homeschoolers are more demographically and ideologically diverse than they were even a decade ago, and the homeschooling population is increasingly reflective of American society more generally.6 Although religion still plays a role in many families decision to homeschool their children, much of the recent growth in the practice comes from urban, secular families who value a more individualized approach to learning.7 According to the most recent federal data, more parents are choosing homeschooling out of concern about the school environmentspecifically in regard to safety, drugs, and negative peer pressure.8

And then theres the often dismal academic performance of students in government schools. The most recent results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often called the Nations Report Card, reveal that two-thirds of American students are not proficient in reading, and U.S. history and geography scores have declined as well.9 Although current research on homeschooling has its limitations, given its reliance on surveys and a lack of control studies, most peer-reviewed studies show that homeschoolers outperform their peers and have more positive life experiences, including greater career satisfaction and personal fulfillment.10 Another recent study shows that todays homeschoolers take greater advantage of the resources in their communities and thereby cultivate more useful knowledge and valuable relationships than many of their traditionally schooled peers.11 On average, they more often visit local libraries and museums, and they attend more cultural activities, such as musical, theatrical, and athletic events.

As many are learning, homeschooling no longer requires a two-parent household in which one parent stays home to teach. Today, homeschoolers increasingly take advantage of hybrid homeschooling models; low-cost, in-home micro-schools; self-directed learning centers; virtual learning; community classes; and apprenticeship programs.12 These and other innovations make homeschooling a viable option for more families than ever. Education-choice mechanisms such as education savings accounts and tax-credit programs also help more families to choose alternatives to conventional schooling by defraying costs of learning materials, classes, books, tutors, and more.

The government response to the COVID-19 pandemic clearly is accelerating the shift away from conventional schooling and toward homeschooling. A recent survey by EdChoice found that 52 percent of respondents have a more favorable view of homeschooling than they did before the outbreak.13 And with greater freedom to explore their interests, many children are learning to cultivate their passions and purpose like never before.

Although homeschooling has been legal throughout the United States for about thirty years, opponents of homeschooling continue to push for greater government oversight and even presumptive bans on the practice.14 If parents and policymakers wish to protect and promote liberty, they must push back against efforts to regulate or ban this educational approach. Given the impact of a good education on a childs life trajectory, those concerned with freedom and progress will be hard-pressed to find an issue more important than defending the rights of parents and children to decide how best to pursue this value.

In Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged, protagonist Dagny Taggart witnesses children in a valley who learn outside of educational systems devised to stunt a childs brain, noting that they had the eager curiosity that would venture anywhere with the certainty that life held nothing unworthy of or closed to discovery.15 Although, during a lockdown, we cant venture far, parents nonetheless have an opportunity to help rekindle such eager curiosity in their children, giving them the setting, resources, and confidence to make the discoveries that will enrich their lives and ours.

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With a glass of wine and a dry joke, Jim Young entertains at Sand Hollow Winery – The Newark Advocate

Posted: March 24, 2020 at 5:18 am

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Jim Young, vintner and owner of Sand Hollow Winery and Sand Hollow Speakeasy, opened Sand Hollow Winery in 2012.(Photo: Sara C. Tobias/The Advocate)

HEATH Sand Hollow Winery lies nestled on a quiet country lane, tucked in a small valley among 83 mostly wooded acres. Its easy to get that it-hardly-seems-like-Im-in-Licking-County feeling. Its an idyllic setting for wine and nature lovers alike.

Interestingly, however, owner and vintner Jim Young originally had a different idea when he bought the property. I was looking to get away from people, he (sort of) admitted, and ended up entertaining them. Go figure.

Young, by the way, is known for his dry sense of humor. Jims art of telling tales has endeared many a wine customer, noted his wife, Cindy Steen. Hes able to draw people into his stories even if hes talking about paint drying!

Speaking of drying paint, theres another, newer location for Sand Hollow Winery. This one is in downtown Newark, where you can take a step back in time to the prohibition era.Young (aka Mr. Speaks) likes to call it a speakeasy and you need a password to gain entry. (Check his web site to get the password, and dont tell anyone you dont trust!) Its all vintage Jim Young humor and creativity.

Sand Hollow Speakeasy offers whiskey, wine, and beer behind their bar in Newark.(Photo: Sara C. Tobias/The Advocate)

Now 68, Young grew up in Newark, graduated from Newark High School in 1969, went to Ohio State to study finance and then went to work for his father in his construction company.

The construction business, he said, gave me the knowledge that, if you start with a good foundation and build on that, you will have a good chance, not great, to be successful.

He switched gears when he started publishing niche newspapers in Newark 50 Plus and Our Town among them. In the midst of his publishing phase he started making wine. He opened Sand Hollow Winery in 2012.

The winery was just another chapter in my entrepreneurial book, he said, though he did add, A winery was my first foray into a retail business.

Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?

A. Meeting new customers that were recommended to us by old customers or our social medias 4.8 star rating. Being able to give that new customer an exceptional wine tasting experience that matches up to their expectations. Converting devoted sweet drinkers to our very drinkable dry white and red wines is an added bonus. If they smile or laugh during that process it makes my day.

Q. What are you most proud of about your career?

A. In the 8 years we have been open, definitely the returning customers and their recommendations to others to try us out.

A copy of a prescription for alcohol hangs in Sand Hollow Speakeasy in Newark. (Photo: Sara C. Tobias/The Advocate)

Q. What has been the biggest challenge in leading Sand Hollow Winery?

A. Fortunately the challenges have been few. Keeping up with the growth of the winery and speakeasy is definitely the biggest challenge. The exceptional staff from Andy, Char, Sam, Theresa, Tracie, my creative wife Cindy and one-of-a-kind customers that pitch in at crucial times make it all work!

Q. What would you like people to know about Sand Hollow Winery they may not know?

A. We have the best 5 cheese pizzas west of Italy to go along with our Italian style wines.

Q. How has Sand Hollow Winery changed through the years?

A. The biggest change was the addition of another winery, a 1920s style speakeasy in the newly restored downtown Newark area across from the historic jail. You walk up to a peek hole in the door, give the password and enter into the past, enjoying not only wine on draft, local craft beer and prohibition era whiskey and gin. You can also get your picture taken in a clawfoot gin tub with the appropriate props.

Q. What is your favorite movie?

A. Paint Your Wagon. Its a musical made in the late 60s with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood singing, not very good I might add, during the California gold rush era. Brainless entertainment but with a strong message about loyalty.

Q. What is your favorite TV show?

A. The Blacklist. Actor James Spader is an immoral criminal that does good. He has the best sense of humor while preparing to kill his victims.

Q. Whats your favorite type of music?

A.All genres.

Q. What is your favorite book, one youd recommend others read? And why?

A. Atlas Shrugged a 1957 novel by Ayn Rand. This fictional story about the struggles between socialism and capitalism could be very easily true today.

Q. What is your favorite sport or activity to participate in?

A. Hiking Just got back from a trip to the Grand Canyon and Red Rocks in Sedona.

Q. What is your favorite sport to watch?

A. OSU football, especially when they win.

Q. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

A. Flying

Q. What is your favorite meal?

A. Turkey with homemade noodles piled on top of mash potatoes.

Q. Who is the person you most admire in your life, and why?

A. Gib Reese. He was always doing something to unselfishly help individuals or the residents of Licking County.

Q. Who is a public figure you most admire?

A. Ben Franklin

Q. Whats your dream vacation?

A. Anywhere, but away from a crowd of people.

Q. If you could be in any other job or profession, what would it be?

A. College professor

Sand Hollow Winery is located at 12558 Sand Hollow Road in Heath. The Sand Hollow Winery Speakeasy is located in downtown Newark at 57 S. 3rd St.For more information, call 740-323-3959 or log on

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Atlas Shrugged: Part I (2011) – Rotten Tomatoes

Posted: March 8, 2020 at 2:46 pm

Critics Consensus

Passionate ideologues may find it compelling, but most filmgoers will find this low-budget adaptation of the Ayn Rand bestseller decidedly lacking.

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Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling) runs Taggart Transcontinental, the largest remaining railroad company in America, with intelligence, courage and integrity, despite the systematic disappearance of her best and most competent workers. She is drawn to industrialist Henry Rearden (Grant Bowler), one of the few men whose genius and commitment to his own ideas match her own. Rearden's super-strength metal alloy, Rearden Metal, holds the promise that innovation can overcome the slide into anarchy. Using the untested Rearden Metal, they rebuild the critical Taggart rail line in Colorado and pave the way for oil titan Ellis Wyatt (Graham Beckel) to feed the flame of a new American Renaissance. Hope rises again, when Dagny and Rearden discover the design of a revolutionary motor based on static electricity - in an abandoned engine factory - more proof to the sinister theory that the "men of the mind" (thinkers, industrialists, scientists, artists, and other innovators) are "on strike" and vanishing from society. -- (C) Official Site

Jun 29, 2014

Finally, someone actually made the adaptation of Atlas Shrugged come true. The first part of Atlas Shrugged consists of the 10 chapters from part 1 of the book, we are introduced to Dagny Taggart the savvy headstrong businesswoman who struggles to overcome the regulations from the government (and her own brother) to maintain the family business in railroad company, she saw the opportunity to revive the company through the use of a new type of steel invented by Henry "Hank" Rearden to lay the tracks. Despite the public tried to do everything to stop her, she held on to her belief and it was a success. She then discovered a revolutionary motor which could convert static electricity to kinetic energy along with Hank, but the motor was incomplete and abandoned by the inventor. As she tried to track down the inventor, government moves closer and closer to destroy her. I was thrilled to see this film as I've read the book and regarding it as one of the highest achievements in human history, but the film simply did not live up to the standard I expected nor as the standard of the book. The script did not come even close to what the book has written, yeh I was excited to hear the dialogues that followed the lines from the book but they were slightly altered for the sake of the less intelligent; the film was really rushed that it missed out a lot of the important details from the book. I mean, how can you transform 300 pages of words into a movie that only last 102 minutes? Even Dead Until Dark was adapted to 12 hours of True Blood and it was only 292 pages long. The film only covered the surface of the novel without going into the theories of Objectivism, Ayn Rand would be so mad if she was alive today and saw the film (as she did with The Fountainhead) The best part of the film was the casting, each character was exactly as what I would imagine for them to look like (except Hank would is blond in the book) Taylor Schilling was simply divine, I wouldn't find anyone else to play Dagny than her, she did a marvelous job. Grant Bowler was perfect too! (Kiwi pride) but the best casting award has to go to Rebecca Wisocky, she was perfect to play Hank's devious moocher wife. The main theme was great, it gave me the chills. The set design was simply yet great, extremely dystopian yet balanced out the limitation of having such a low budget. Overall, ambitious yet felt short.

Jun 25, 2013

Interesting. Slightly confusing. Apparently, a continuing saga...

Dec 29, 2012

"Atlas Shrugged: Part 1" starts on September 2, 2016 with the derailment of a train on a critical stretch of track in Colorado that is going to delay gas shipments to the east coast for at least a couple of weeks. Making matters worse is that the steel shipment that Taggart Transcontinental so badly needs to effect repairs has already been back ordered for two months. So, Dagny Taggart(Taylor Schilling) overrides her brother James(Matthew Marsden) by going with an untested process that Henry Rearden(Grant Bowler) has developed. His being flush with business does not mean his wife(Rebecca Wisocky) has to like the bracelet he made for her, however.Admittedly, I am a sucker for dystopias, especially those where the main form of transportation is via train. And "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1" does use that plot device to neatly update from the past to the current near future. Weirdly enough, this political movie is set at the time of a Presidential election(my money is on Cuomo vs. Christie, by the way) without mentioning one at all, taking the easy route to try to implicate Obama in all of the world's sins. For the record, regulation is meant to save business from its worst impulses, like insuring that tracks are replaced more often than once a hundred years, even as I think regulating the size of soft drinks is more than a little silly. If only shaky politics were the worst of this movie's sins, it would not be so bad, but alas it is, seeped in talky amateurism and animatronic acting that includes even the veteran character actors in the cast.

May 06, 2012

I've never read the book but I had some concept of what this was about. It left me a little bit confused and hanging at the end.

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A non-political question: Was there a book that changed your life? –

Posted: February 2, 2020 at 6:46 pm

When a big city newspaper asked readers to share the title of a book, one influencing how you think, act or look at the world, the editors were overwhelmed by more than a thousand responses. Most readers chose fiction over non-fiction guides as windows into their thinking or as change agents to challenge their rock solid views.

Age was no definer. If Dr. Seuss, On Beyond Zebra, a fantasy alphabet for pre-schoolers, had captured you as an audience, by all means, share the story. A reader, age 70, did. For him, the Seuss alphabet, a tongue-twister and challenge to repeat, had delighted him as a 7-year-old. He was charmed, he wrote, by rolling fantasy words off his tongue: Floob for the letter F, zatz for the letter Z.

The reader of decades recalled the giggles of his childhood as he read to his own children and grandchildren. On Beyond Zebra reminded him the imaginations of the young should be encouraged by the adults in the room.

One 9-year-old wrote to the newspaper as witness to the charms of the book Eloise, the story of a savvy young girl, who, in the face of absent parents, depends on the staff at the hotel where she lives. Eloise is wise beyond her years, and, on pages depicting her life, she is living proof, for city children, family can be found, created even in a place as big as New York.

The writers letter to the newspaper affirmed the neighborhood adults in her own life as borrowed kin with kindnesses to recommend them.

In our grown-up world of realities, death is a subject we avoid. The recollection of Dr. Paul Kalaniths personal journey When Breath Becomes Air, after a diagnosis of lung cancer, led a reader to confront her aversion to serious talks with her aging parents.

After reading Dr. Kalaniths moving story, she set about asking the hard questions regarding her mothers and fathers wishes and committed to the nurture needed in the realities of their days, opening new conversation about their end-of-life questions and seeing them through their frailties with more understanding and patience.

One letter to the newspaper looked back over a lifetime of reading and singled out, of all choices, a cookbook Julia Childs, Mastering the Art of French Cooking as chapters re-ordering a life.

The readers story centered on her promising beginning, living in a city as a new bride, excited over a serious first job. She was 21, a career woman, (she thought), until she discovered she was pregnant.

It was 1964 when a woman with child was not welcomed in the corporate world. Her firm fired her, but, as a peace offering, an office manager sent her off with Julia Childs cookbook. After a miserable two months of nausea, the young wife, stuck at home, forced herself to read a chapter of the book and deal with the inner parts of a raw chicken.

By the time her baby was born, she was a serious student of French cooking, perfecting a passable souffl. Years later, she wrote of a life more loyal to weight control, but of a confidence found in mastering difficult recipes. While friendless, she dried her homesick tears and set about whipping cream in a shoebox-sized kitchen.

In an interesting twist, a reader singled out a book with a message she could not accept. For her, Ayn Rands, Atlas Shrugged read as a tome on personal self-reliance, setting aside the realities of interdependence in relationships, the need for the nurturing of children or an obligation to those lost in a busy world.

Reading the book strengthened the readers resolve to be involved, rather than self-focused. She wrote to credit the novel as a change agent in her life, one helping her to see outreach as needed connection and pushing her to speak out in her community.

I once read a small book to a grandchild, a boy, who loved any story that rhymed. Quiet as a mouse, he sat, snuggled against me, until I turned the last page, then he reached to close the book and covered his ears.

It took a while before I understood he avoided the last page of the story because he did not want it to end. None of my reasoning could change his mind. I gave up on my pleas once I remembered I had taken a paper clip to a chapter of William Styrons novel, Sophies Choice, to avoid reading the words I knew would seal the fate of two children in the plot.

The small boy to whom I read is now 18. He is still prone to stop and open a book bound and close at hand. Luckily, a future of reading promises him endless chapters, pages of words, perhaps the very ones, destined to change his life.

Judy Elliott is a longtime

resident of Marietta.

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Opinion: Ayn Rands views are nothing to celebrate – San Antonio Express-News

Posted: at 6:46 pm

Opening my newspaper last Friday, I was quite surprised by J. Gilberto Quezadas op-ed, Heed the truth in Atlas Shrugged. Although I respect differing opinions, I felt duty-bound to express my resentment against the content not the messenger.

Ayn Rands works, such as Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead, are philosophical tracts disguised as novels. And I am sure that former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan who was one of her devoted acolytes listened to her every word while she lectured about the virtues of an unregulated free-market, rugged individualism and the elimination of social programs.

To Rand, anyone who relied on social programs (that pernicious Social Security system, Medicare, farm subsidies, public education, government pension programs, food stamps, WIC program, etc.) were, to use her term correctly, parasites.

The real heroes to Rand were those smart enough to use the capitalist system to amass great wealth, whom she considered to be paragons of virtue and superheroes of capitalism. They did not depend on handouts and were arguably prosperous because they used their reason to achieve greatness as espoused in her philosophy of objectivism.

Rands philosophy of objectivism has no redeeming purpose other than promoting the economic interests of people bankrolling it because the sole function of her philosophy is to justify wealth, explain away poverty as the result of ignorant parasites, and normalize the cruel attitude of the powerful and wealthy.

Here is what Jesus told a rich man, according to Matthew 19:21: If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

What did Ayn Rand think of this? On The Phil Donahue Show in 1979, Rand argued that believing in God is an insult to reason and her objectivism principles.

In fact, Rand herself taught that there was no such thing as the public interests, and Social Security and Medicare only steal from creators and illegitimately redistribute the wealth.

Probably unknown to supporters of Rand is that when she reached her twilight years, she benefited from Social Security and Medicare because of mounting medical bills after surgery in 1974 for lung cancer caused by her heavy smoking. Cosmic irony has a way slapping you in the face.

If you benefit from Medicare, Social Security or even get a government pension check with free medical expenses like our U.S. senators, please dont be a hypocrite and bash Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Im sure Rand would never have said God bless America! since she was an avowed atheist.

Julian S. Garcia is a retired schoolteacher and former associate editor of ViAztlan: An International Journal of Arts and Ideas.

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