Look at this description of Detroit from today’s Observer:
What isn’t dumped is stolen. Factories and homes have largely been stripped of anything of value, so thieves now target cars’ catalytic converters. Illiteracy runs at around 47%; half the adults in some areas are unemployed. In many neighbourhoods, the only sign of activity is a slow trudge to the liquor store.
Now have a look at the uncannily prophetic description of Starnesville, a Mid-Western town in Ayn Rand’s dystopian novel, Atlas Shrugged. Starnesville had been home to the great Twentieth Century Motor Company, but declined as a result of socialism:
A few houses still stood within the skeleton of what had once been an industrial town. Everything that could move, had moved away; but some human beings had remained. The empty structures were vertical rubble; they had been eaten, not by time, but by men: boards torn out at random, missing patches of roofs, holes left in gutted cellars. It looked as if blind hands had seized whatever fitted the need of the moment, with no concept of remaining in existence the next morning. The inhabited houses were scattered at random among the ruins; the smoke of their chimneys was the only movement visible in town. A shell of concrete, which had been a schoolhouse, stood on the outskirts; it looked like a skull, with the empty sockets of glassless windows, with a few strands of hair still clinging to it, in the shape of broken wires.
Beyond the town, on a distant hill, stood the factory of the Twentieth Century Motor Company. Its walls, roof lines and smokestacks looked trim, impregnable like a fortress. It would have seemed intact but for a silver water tank: the water tank was tipped sidewise.
They saw no trace of a road to the factory in the tangled miles of trees and hillsides. They drove to the door of the first house in sight that showed a feeble signal of rising smoke. The door was open. An old woman came shuffling out at the sound of the motor. She was bent and swollen, barefooted, dressed in a garment of flour sacking. She looked at the car without astonishment, without curiosity; it was the blank stare of a being who had lost the capacity to feel anything but exhaustion.
“Can you tell me the way to the factory?” asked Rearden.
The woman did not answer at once; she looked as if she would be unable to speak English. “What factory?” she asked.
Rearden pointed. “That one.”
Now here’s the really extraordinary thing. When Ayn Rand published those words in 1957, Detroit was, on most measures, the city with the highest per capita GDP in the United States. [...]
Over at the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney writes on the waiver process for Obamacare:
Congress imposes mandates on other entities, but gives bureaucrats the power to waive those mandates. To get such a waiver, you hire the people who used to administer or who helped craft the policies. So who’s the net winner? The politicians and bureaucrats who craft policies and wield power, because this combination of massive government power and wide bureaucratic discretion creates huge demand for revolving-door lobbyists. It’s another reason Obama’s legislative agenda, including bailouts, stimulus, ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, tobacco regulation, and more, necessarily fosters more corruption and cronyism.
As Dan Mitchel at Forbes notes, this replays a scene from Ayn Rand’s epic novel Atlas Shrugged:
Nobody professed to understand the question of the frozen railroad bonds, perhaps, because everybody understood it too well.
At first, there had been signs of a panic among the bondholders and of a dangerous indignation among the public. Then, Wesley Mouch had issued another directive, which ruled that people could get their bonds “defrozen” upon a plea of “essential need”: the government would purchase the bonds, if it found proof of the need satisfactory. There were three questions that no one answered or asked: “What constituted proof?” “What constituted need?” “Essential-to whom?”
[...] One was not supposed to speak about the men who, having been refused, sold their bonds for one-third of the value to other men who possessed needs which, miraculously, made thirty-three frozen cents melt into a whole dollar, or about a new profession practiced by bright young boys just out of college, who called themselves “defreezers” and offered their services “to help you draft your application in the proper modern terms.” The boys had friends in Washington. [Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand]
Was Ayn Rand a fortune teller? No. She was a philosopher who identified the principles that guide action in the human sphere and carried them out to their logical conclusions. And when government bureaucrats are granted the arbitrarily power to regulate commerce, the rule of economic production is replaced by replaced by the rule of political pull.
This year’s conference — OCON 2011 — will be held from July 2–8 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In addition to the beauty of our beachfront setting, the Fort Lauderdale area offers a wide array of leisure and entertainment activities.
This year also marks the 75th anniversary of Ayn Rand’s We the Living, which we will mark with a special panel discussion featuring Drs. Shoshana Milgram, Robert Mayhew, and Onkar Ghate who will discuss the new chapters they have written for the forthcoming expanded edition of Essays on Ayn Rand’s “We the Living,” edited by Robert Mayhew. Two years ago, John Allison former CEO of BB&T delivered a lecture titled “Principled Leadership”; this year his lecture is titled “Teamwork and Independent Thinking.” Longtime Capitalism Magazine writer John David Lewis presents a special perspective on the thought and work of doctors based on his recent experiences as a patient in his new talk, “Individual Rights and Health Care Reform: A Patient’s Perspective.”
Other general session lectures will include: The Objectivist Movement: 50 Years Later by Yaron Brook; Individual Rights and Health Care Reform: A Patient’s Perspective by John David Lewis; Q&A with Interviewees in 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand by Michael S. Berliner and others; The Culture of “Package-Dealing” by Peter Schwartz; What It Takes to Win: A Workshop on Defending Capitalism by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins; an Open Q&A by Yaron Brook and Onkar Ghate; Spaceflight as It Was—and as It Ought to Be by Andrew Lewis.
Optional classes include: Principles by Harry Binswanger; Ayn Rand and the Romantic School by Tore Boeckmann; History of the Supreme Court (part 1): The Least Dangerous Branch? by Eric Daniels; Egoism and Altruism by Gregory Salmieri; Bach and the 19th Century by Thomas Shoebotham; The Nature of Literary Heroism by Andrew Bernstein; Topics in Intellectual Property: The Computer and Biotech Revolutions by Adam Mossoff; The Philosophy of Immanuel Kant (part 2): Kant’s Moral Philosophy by Jason Rheins; To Imagine a Heaven—and How “Sense of Life” Can Help You to Claim It by Tara Smith; The Measure of All Things by Robert Knapp; The History of Ancient Greece: The Early Fourth Century by John David Lewis; The Age of Discovery: Discovering the New World (c. 1300–c. 1600) by Andrew Lewis; and Ayn Rand, Private Investigator: Detection in Fiction and Philosophy by Shoshana Milgram.
There will be a variety of events and social opportunities for conference attendees as well, with opening and closing receptions, and an Independence Day BBQ dinner on July 4 at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa.
Links: OCON 2011 Website
Sneak Preview Film Screening Event: Dystopia Now? The World of “Atlas Shrugged”
Saturday, July 2, 2011; 9–10:45 PM
Come join us for a sneak preview of the soon-to-be-released feature documentary Dystopia Now? The World of “Atlas Shrugged.” Producer/Director Chris Mortensen will screen his controversial 90-minute film on the genesis, impact and continued relevance of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
This extensively researched film includes enlightening interviews with Rand biographers, scholars, prominent businessmen, journalists and others, as well as never-before-seen footage of Ayn Rand. Don’t miss this chance to see the almost-completed film before this fall’s official release. Registration information for this event is available on our Registration Options and Pricing page.
“ I Am John Galt is a hymn to free men, free minds and free markets. It’s a loving look at the heroes who are living those values and moving the world forward. It’s also a crushing no-holds-barred indictment of the parasites who are trying to destroy our world of freedom and prosperity.” — Don Luskin
We are kind of excited about this book because of the interview with John Allison — former CEO of the successful BB&T (a bank that did not need but was forced to accept bailout funds against their will — more on that in a future post). His description “The Leader: John Allison as John Galt, the man who walked away after building America’s strongest bank.”
“From John Allison you can learn not only to live your own life in accordance with Rand’s values, but to teach them to others you work with. At Allison’s bank, Branch Banking and Trust Company (BB&T), every one of the 30,000 employees has been trained in Rand’s value system—from the executive suite to the teller line. Self-evidently, it works.’
“Are you looking for a concrete plan to put the value system of Rand’s heroes to work in your own life? Allison has written one for you, by identifying and articulating BB&T’s 10 core values. You don’t have to work there to put those values to work in your life. Do it on your own, and then put yourself through the ongoing process that all BB&T employees experience: Every six months, give yourself a rigorous self-evaluation based on how you’ve measured up to the values.”
Al Ramrus was a writer-producer with Mike Wallace. According to the Ayn Rand Sense of Life website: “[Ramrus] handled TV interviews with Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winners, Nobel laureates, athletes, gangsters, politicians, statesmen, and—most memorably—Ayn Rand, whose intellect, he says, towered above anyone’s he had ever encountered. Thereafter, Ramrus then headed west to Los Angeles to write prize-winning TV documentaries on historical and cultural subjects, as well as television movies and feature films, including GOIN’ SOUTH and WORLD WITHOUT SUN, winner of an Academy Award® for best feature documentary.”
Below are his comments on John Aglialoro’s “Atlas Shrugged Movie: Part I”:
I don’t remember exactly, but Rand either wrote somewhere, or personally told me, something that strikes to the heart of the movie’s failings. She said that her villains were too inferior, unworthy and impotent to generate really deep and compelling conflict in her heroes. Only someone the heroes loved could do that. And this is exactly what she dramatized in her three major novels.
In the novel, Hank Rearden, though heroic, is one of her most complex and conflicted characters, which makes the romantic subplot plot, his relationship with Dagny Taggert, so dramatic and compelling, filled with conflict. In large part, this was the novel’s personal, deeply emotional story. The movie version didn’t explore this at all. They meet, almost immediately become industrial allies and, in short order, happy Hollywood lovers, leaving the screenplay to wallow almost exclusively, and tediously, in economics, contracts, government regulation, etc.
This didn’t have to happen. The movie runs some 97 minutes, barely enough for an Adam Sandler comedy but not nearly long enough for a serious, epic story, which could’ve easily run another half hour, with sufficient time to develop the characters, including Francisco-Dagny, into flesh-and-blood human beings instead of puppets waving placards. There’s more character development in the “Batman” and “Spiderman” movies than in “Atlas Shrugged, Part 1,” an abortion which mercifully won’t generate a Part 2 or 3. [Ouch!]
After seeing it, at first I felt that the producer, Aglialoro, at least showed considerable courage, risking his own money, and I wished him well with his movie. I’ve changed my mind. A multi-millionaire manufacturer of exercise equipment, he purchased an option for the screen rights to the novel. Fine. But, not surprisingly, he couldn’t attract A-list stars or an A-list director. In fact, he couldn’t attract B- or C-list talent.
With his option-time running out, only a month or two left, he should’ve given up, which would’ve left the field open someday for an experienced, professional movie maker to tackle the project. Instead, hoping to protect his initial investment and make himself a real-life Randian hero, with a screenplay credit no less, he hastily threw together a dreary cast, an anemic budget, a first-time director and, worst of all, a lousy screenplay. He pissed in the well and ruined it in the future for everybody else.
Now, Aglialoro is issuing statements blaming the liberal reviewers for the disaster at the box-office. Maybe it’s not good sportsmanship to kick a man when he’s down, but it has to be said. The guy’s a schmuck.
Ayn Rand and her great novel deserved better.
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Writes Ed Cline in Why John Agilardo’s Adaptation of Ayn Rand’s Novel Atlas Shrugged Utterly Fails:
“Atlas Shugged Movie, Part I producers Aglialoro and Kaslow have done what should not have been done: produced an adulterated product for the sake of “getting it out there,” regardless of its condition, to cash in on Rand’s growing popularity and relevance to what is going on in today’s world. Esthetically, the difference between the novel and the movie is the difference between Michelangelo’s “David” and a Hummel figurine. Or, in terms of literary accomplishment, the difference between the Empire State Building and a 7-11 convenience store.”
Cline does not mince words:
O’Toole’s assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, neither he nor Aglialoro nor Kaslow were “respectful” of the novel. One supposes that their notion of being “respectful” would be, for example, to transform someone like Audrey Hepburn into a Lady Gaga.
Thanks to the bumbling of the Atlas Movie producers, the Francisco d’Anconia of the movie bares little resemblance to the greatness of the character shown in Ayn Rand’s epic novel. The Ayn Rand Novels site has posted an excellent audio lecture by Shoshana Milgram on The Spirit of Francisco, that is definitely worth a listen.
“Francisco, more than anyone else,” commented Ayn Rand in 1961, “seems to have been Minerva in my mind—he came in ready-made.” Her journals on Atlas Shrugged contain few notes on the role of this major figure in the novel, yet he is perhaps her most vivid fictional characterization. Francisco d’Anconia—a key link between Atlantis and the outside world—epitomizes relentless ambition, elegant self-confidence and radiant joy.
This lecture, which draws on Ayn Rand’s hand-edited manuscripts, contrasts her revisions in refining this “ready-made” character, with the changes she made in the characters from all her novels for whom she had prepared extensive notes (such as Hank Rearden and Howard Roark).
The Atlas Shrugged site has an excellent essay from Essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged by Jeff Britting posted on line: Adapting Atlas Shrugged to Film.
Shame the Atlas movie script writes did not consult Mr. Britting who has produced an excellent adaption of Anthem as a play.
Whatever one thinks of the Atlas Shrugged Movie, Part I, one positive of its release is it’s effect on book sales of Ayn Rand’s epic novel.
“Atlas Shrugged and its Ideas is an online manuscript exhibit produced by the Ayn Rand Archives, a special collection of the Ayn Rand Institute. This exhibit features 15 high-resolution reproductions of handwritten pages selected from the manuscript of Rand’s controversial novel. The accompanying text panels highlight ideas dramatized in the novel, which are of ongoing relevance to our day.” — Exhibit Curator: Jeff Britting, archivist, Ayn Rand Archives