Over the last few years, a trilogy of movies has been released based upon Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. I was asked by the movie company to review the first installment (you can read my review here), but I’ve not seen the 2nd and 3rd installments. Nor have I paid much attention to what was done in those two installments. Suffice it to say that many Objectivists (i.e., people who follow Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and love her novels) have condemned the trilogy (in some cases, because of some of the advisors and others associated with the production, including David Kelley and Nathaniel Branden). Not having seen parts 2 and 3, I’ll not comment upon them. However, I am interested in the question of whether it is even possible to convert Rand’s 1100+ page novel into a three-part movie that does the book any justice. Would it be necessary – as some hold – to convert the book into a mini-series?
Today, I performed a little analysis. The methodology would rightly be considered weak and incomplete, but it provides one with at least a sense of the nature of the task faced by a person trying to convert the book into a movie. Read more
Tomorrow, “Atlas Shrugged Part 1” will make its first appearance on Canada’s silver screens. Thanks to the generosity of one of the film’s producers, Harmon Kaswell, I was able to watch an advance copy of the film so as to provide my readership with a Canadian Objectivist’s review. Read more
Canadians play a significant role in the history of the spread of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism. Yet, as of March 22, 2011, the list of theatres in which “Atlas Shrugged, Part 1” will be screened includes none in Canada. That has to change and, given that “Atlas Shrugged, Part 1” hits the silver screen on April 15, 2011, it has to change now. Read more
Designed by Paul McKeever
Definitely in the Public Domain
Your author is writing just after midnight, having watched two programs on the tellie: “American Idol” (one of Mrs. McKeever’s favourites) and TV Ontario’s “The Agenda” with Steve Paikin (one of mine: a current affairs show for the ivory-tower sort). It’s been moving, and wonderful.
First, let me say this. I am a great lover of music. It was my first calling, and arguably remains my greatest love. On tonight’s “American Idol”, Simon Cowell had it right (as usual). From the first note of David Cook’s “Baba O’Reilly”, I knew he had found his niche. Being a person entirely swayed by Sam Cooke’s never-to-be-repeated (except by Steve Perry) vocal stylings, I was utterly gripped by Syesha Mercado’s rendition of Sam Cook’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” (thumbs down to Randy Jackson who, clearly, was just plain wrong in his assessment). But David Archuleta left me with a smile on my face so unconscious it compelled me to think something (once I realized that I was smiling): it is human to feel good; to feel happy; to be filled with an admiration for another that is rewarding to oneself; when one witnesses greatness. David’s performances of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” and Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” had me standing by him, and loving him tenderly. My comment to Mrs. McKeever, regarding the second performance, was that David’s performance was “so sincere”. I believe it is wonderfully human when, in his choice of songs and manner of performance, an artist delivers a vocal performance of the highest technical quality without any spiritual pretense, and with an expression of an honestly-felt joy. But Mrs. McKeever qualified my rosy assessment: she rightly pointed out that, although I was smiling, there are those who will condemn Archuleta’s performance out of sheer hatred for the good; out of envy; out of a belief that survival requires one to tear down good work and happiness and to equate it with the mediocre and the false. A wise woman that Mrs. McKeever.
Second: TVO is a television station in Ontario, Canada, that is funded by the Ontario taxpayer. Despite the latter fact, its finest program, “The Agenda“, is actually…fine (NOTE: I’ve been interviewed by The Agenda’s host, Steve Paikin, twice: see here and here). Tonight, The Agenda’s topic was free speech and Canada’s Human Rights regimes. The guests were internationally-renowned columnist Mark Steyn, and three Muslim graduates of Osgoode Hall Law School (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) who complained to Ontario’s Human Rights Commission about Maclean’s Magazine‘s publication of excerpts from Mark Steyn’s popular recent book, America Alone. I agree with the students that the views of many Muslims are not the same as those of many Islamic theocrats and terrorists who live in Canada and abroad. I agree that Mr. Steyn’s articles give people information pursuant to which they worry about – even hate – Islam, and those who, favourable to Islam, want to eliminate Western philosophy, individual freedom, the separation of irrationality and state etc. from the West. I agree that some people will over-generalize, and become hostile even to Islamics who truly respect and want the separation of god/religion/the supernatural/mysticism and state. And, to the extent that the students and those they defend are being painted with the wrong brush, I regard them as having been misrepresented. However, that misrepresentation – so long as it does not amount to defamation of a particular individual – is not something about which the government ought to be involved. Accordingly, the students’ assertion that Mark Steyn was misrepresenting things when he referred to the government’s actions as being a matter of criminal law rather than human rights law is entirely irrelevant and misleading. The issue is not criminal law vs. human rights law but: law vs. no law in respect of speech such as that which is at issue with Steyn and Maclean’s Magazine.
Part 6 of TVO’s program last night.
In the West, according to Western philosophy, the government ought not to prohibit speech on the basis that it is merely false, that it is hurtful to ones feelings, or that it might give some moron a reason to violate another person’s freedom. In the West, according to Western philosophy, we punish the violation of a person’s freedom, not the speech pursuant to which a moron might violate a person’s freedom. For students who distinguish themselves from Islamic Jihadists to argue that the government ought to punish or prohibit such speech is for them to condemn Western philosophy, and – even if unwittingly – to wage a war against the West. Given the ferocity with which they asserted their views, dare I say, a “Holy War”?
And so it was with great admiration that I watched Mark Steyn expose the three students for what they were: young people engaged in an effort that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, serves not the interests of Western philosophy, individual freedom, and the West, but of the Jihadists. Had these three students spent as much time denouncing theocracy, and defending the West’s commitment to free speech, as they spent trying to force private publications to print their articles, they would have done for Muslims in the West a much greater service than they have done. At the end of the day, their efforts instead merely prove Mark Steyn to be right.
David, a youthful and shining example of greatness succeeding and rousing the happiness of those of moral soul, refueling them for another day of pursuing their own happiness; Mark ensuring that such happiness remains possible by giving no quarter to those who, feared because of the statements of theocrats and Islamic terrorists around the world, call upon Western governments to condemn Western philosophy. To each I say “Thank-you”.
David Cook sings “Baba O’Reilly”
Syesha Mercado sings “A Change is Gonna Come”
David Archuleta sings “Stand By Me”
David Archuleta sings “Love Me Tender”
An intelligent young fellow with whom I am acquainted recently made his first video production and posted it to youtube.com . In the video, he was well-dressed and delivered a speech to the camera using a teleprompter. He asked for constructive criticism, and I provided him with the following, which I share with you in the hope that you too will find it helpful should you – like me – be a youtuber:
1. Throw away the teleprompter…and the written speech. Instead, if you want to use written materials, use cue cards to structure the key points in your argument so that your argument doesn’t fall into digressions. Use them only to remind yourself of what you wanted to talk about next. And, do not replace a written speech with a memorized one: construct it as you go. The result will be: you will be transformed from a person who we can watch as he reads something to his shadow, to a person who is speaking directly to us.
Test what I’ve just suggested: do a video on the exact same topic, but without any written materials, and imagine, while you are speaking, that 100 people are all watching and listening to you live. Then watch it, and judge which of the two videos you find more interesting, engaging etc.
2. I’ve been a guest/panelist on TV shows since 1999, but I’ve been producing my own youtube videos only since October of 2006. Over the last year and a half, I’ve come to realize the importance of remembering to ask myself this question: “What value does a visual signal add to my presentation?” In other words, I’ve come to believe that reading a speech while standing in front of a camera gives the viewer no value other than that he could obtain by reading your speech on a blog, or listening to it on an audio podcast. I’ve been trying to train myself to make a video only when I think visual information will add value to what would otherwise be a mere textual or auditory presentation.
The value in question might simply be a visual scene that helps to put the person’s mind in the right context to receive your message. So, for example, if you are speaking about the use of nuclear weapons, it might be helpful to show the viewer the weapons, and/or their use, while you are speaking (or interspersed between things you say). If you are speaking about bad art, SHOW some. If you are speaking about “god”, show gods in their various, arbitrary configurations (i.e., from the white-bearded cloud rider, to the sea-dwelling guy with a trident)…and don’t be afraid to make the audience laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. For example, as I was typing about the trident, I imagined Neptune photoshopped into the painting “American Gothic”…silly, but entertaining if one is speaking about, say, “God in America”.
3. If you are the sort of person who uses his hands or other physical gestures while speaking to emphasize points or draw interest: use them in the video. Used appropriately, they are added value. Imagine how much better it would be to actually SEE Ayn Rand explaining her philosophy while standing on one foot!
I do not claim to have followed the above recommendations myself at all times. As video production amateurs, we youtubers are learning as we go. It is certainly the case that many of my videos – especially the earlier ones – failed to keep in mind the importance of using video as a way to add value that does not exist in mere written or audio formats. Hopefully, you will view my suggestions, above, as useful short-cuts along the learning curve.
P.S., I include a video below as an example of using video to present visual information that adds value to the verbal message.
An example of using video to add value to verbal content.
Just a quick note to anyone who needs some refueling, or who simply loves to smile (who doesn’t?) while watching a movie that is not a comedy.
I just finished watching the last hour or so of a movie titled “The World’s Fastest Indian“. Having missed the beginning, I can nonetheless tell you that it is based on the true story of New Zealander Burt Munro who, in 1967, set a land speed record on an Indian motorcycle (one initially built in the 20s, which he modified for the task with unparalleled ingenuity and dedication).
The movie’s sense of life is wonderful. Burt (Anthony Hopkins) has little money to his name, he earns his passage to the USA by working as ship’s chef. Spending little, working hard, and relentlessly pursuing his dream of beating 200 MpH on his bike, he eventually makes it to speed week at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, only to learn that – unbeknowst to him – he was supposed to have registered over a month earlier.
I don’t want to spoil the movie because it is just too valuable to waste (don’t go googling for spoilers…this one’s a rare gem: protect its value by remaining as ignorant of it as possible until you watch it). Suffice it to say that I had a smile of intense happiness on my face for almost the entire part of it that I did catch and, at several points, my eyes welled up with tears of joy (ahem: I didn’t let any fall).
If you hunger for a movie that embraces the world and the rational pursuit of ones own happiness in it, this is one movie you will not want to miss. I should add, in this connection: I almost did. The movie, apparently, was released in 2005. I would say “better late than never”, but that would wrongly imply that seeing it earlier would have made the experience better. The truth is that I will be buying this film on DVD, and I’ll be watching it several more times over the remainder of my life. If you truly love your life, I suspect you will too.
It looks more and more likely that Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” will finally make it to the big screen. A recent interview estimates that it will do so in the Fall of 2009.
So far, I’ve only heard that Angelina Jolie had been cast to play the part of the novel’s heroine, Dagny Taggart. However, my understanding is that Jolie is pregnant, and that some are speculating a change of cast will be required.
Jolie’s obviously a good looking woman, but I tend to wonder whether she is tom-boyish enough to play Dagny. Long commutes to work have given me the time to put together a partial cast for the movie. I’ve mocked up a movie poster with that partial cast depicted, for your consideration, dear reader (see below).
Your comments welcome, as usual. And, if you happen to have anything to do with casting for Atlas Shrugged, please: do give these actors/actresses consideration.
Hugh Akston – Ed Harris
Francisco d’Anconia – Gerard Butler
Dr. Floyd Ferris – Michael Emerson
John Galt – Matthew McConaughey
Cuffy Meigs – Jordi Mollá
Wesley Mouch – Alec Baldwin
Hank Reardon – Daniel Craig
Lillian Reardon – Jennifer Connelly
Dr. Robert Stadler – Harrison Ford
Dagny Taggart – Evangeline Lilly
Jim Taggart – William Fichtner
Eddie Willers – Paul Campbell
Ellis Wyatt – Josh Holloway
The Young Brakeman – Hayden Christensen
On the basis of a “status” entry on my Facebook profile, a facebook friend (Natasha Blair) asked whether I didn’t like “The Golden Compass”. The book’s author, Philip Pullman, is a self-styled “atheist”. He reportedly made comments to the effect that the purpose of his book series “His Dark Materials” (of which The Golden Compass is the first book) is to turn children into atheists. Based primarily on such reports, religious communities (especially Catholics) have spoken out against going to the movie version that was released recently in theatres.
Having received other enquiries about my views on the book/movie, I thought I’d share here what I wrote on Natasha’s wall…with a few additions.
I watched “The Golden Compass” at the theatre the other day, and I’m almost finished the book. The movie is not perfectly faithful to the book, but it is pretty similar. In each case, the story is chock full of talking animals, flying witches, and grumbles about the church…but no grumbles about allegedly supernatural things, apparently. So far (and I’m only on the first of several books in the series), Pullman appears to be attempting to champion free inquiry, and to condemn the Catholic church as the enemy of free inquiry. However, his choice to use talking moths and bears, and magical flying witches, to make his point undermines his case against the church – and against religion and God – entirely. Preventing free inquiry is but a non-essential: it is but a side-effect of religion’s assault on the efficacy of man’s rational faculty. Reason, not “free enquiry”, is the intended victim not merely of “the church” but of all advocates of “the supernatural”.
By making his case with supernatural characters, Pullman cannot help but imply to children that supernatural beings might exist. If that inference can easily be made by children – and it can – then tirades about the church stifling “free inquiry” fail to imply anything more than a call for the church not to stifle free inquiry…a call for the separation of church and state. Such a call is not the same as – and will not be inferred to be the same as – a call to be rational, and to reject beliefs in “the supernatural”.
Putting aside essential arguments, one is certainly left asking: “Why on earth should I refrain from adopting a belief in a supernatural being called ‘god’, but entertain a belief in supernatural beings that take the form of talking bears and flying witches?”.
I had hoped that the series might serve children well by demonstrating the importance of not engaging in any form of dishonesty – with oneself or with others – about anything, including the facts of reality. Instead, the series appears little more than a pro-mysticism, anti-Catholic tirade…something resembling a battle to separate the Catholic Church from the governance of Britain. Yawn.
Perhaps Pullman will turn his guns on irrational beliefs, such as the supernatural, later in the “His Dark Materials” series. On the basis of what I’ve read/seen so far, however, it seems rather unlikely. The field remains open for a pro-reason book for children.