Monday, 9 May 2011

‘Swoosh’ Pavilion, by Architectural Association students

swoosh-pavilion-at-the-architectural-association-lfa2008_aapav_1 It’s encouraging to discover that this is what is getting students excited these days. The home of avant garde bollocks and deconstructed trash, London’s Architectural Association School of Architecture (aka AA), now sees students pursuing spatial adventure through geometric development. Witness for example this construction recently decorating Bedford Square, ‘The Swoosh Pavilion,' an easily de-mountable summer pavilion and shading structure.

More info here.

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Price-fixing, flag burning and Jinty McTavish’s emotional incontinence

_McGRath Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath offers inoculation against the nonsense appearing in recent stories and headlines.

This week: Price-fixing, flag burning and Jinty McTavish’s emotional incontinence

  • DOMPOST: “Cost of calls and texts to drop – The Anti-Commerce Commission dictates what competing telecommunication companies can charge others for use of their network, hoping this will reduce mobile “termination” charges…

THE PROBLEM: The government wants to make mobile phone calls cheaper. That’s fine.
    But it’s not their job to encourage people to use cell phones. Their job is to protect our individual rights. This price-fixing decree violates individual rights by interfering in the free commerce between privately owned companies, who should be able to charge each other what they damn well like.
    You can bet if the telco companies colluded and undercharged mobile termination rates, there would be allegations of a conspiracy to make people dependent on mobile phones and then raise user charges once the poor helpless public are ‘hooked.’
    This price fixing move by the Anti-Commerce Commission could make it cheaper for kids to text each other in class, thus increasing the likelihood that it will happen. With state school classes already disrupted by the kids who don’t want to be there but who are held captive by leaving age laws, does the government want it even more likely that kids will be distracted via cheap texting?
    Anyway, there is no guarantee that the telcos will lower their mobile termination charges despite the price-fixing by that has been forced on them. Nor that they will continue ot offer the same services at these compulsorily-lowered prices…

THE SOLUTION: Leave the telco market open to all comers. Make it easier to set up a competing mobile phone company.Accept that Telecom may have an advantage in owning a lot of the network infrastructure (granted, I would be the first to admit I don’t know much about who owns how much of ‘the network’) but leave the market to sort itself out.
    Competition and the prospect of profit breeds innovation. It is likely that a future competitor in the mobile phone market will come up with technology that makes the current mobile network obsolete, and sends prices through the floor, just as the price of wide screen TVs has plummeted in recent years.
    For the sake of free trade, disband the Anti-Commerce Commission.

  • OTAGO DAILY TIMES: “Temperatures rise as climate discussed – Dunedin City Councillor Jinty McTavish effectively tells Dr Jock Allison, former director of the Invermay Research Centre and global warming heretic, to STFU and accept the opposite view simply because a majority of the scientific community apparently believe it at this point…

THE PROBLEM: Local government should not concern itself over matters over which they, and their ratepayers, have no control. The global cooling of the past 12 years is unrelated to the production of CO2 and other ‘greenhouse’ gases by the people of Dunedin City. Correlation is not the same as causation.
    Just because a majority hold some opinion to be true does not make it so. Scientific proof makes it so. And the hypothesis of AGW is just that—a hypothesis; it is not a theorem or a law.
    Councillor Jinty McTavish should stop turning on the water works when she discusses the weather—using emotion devoid of reason in trying to make a point threatens to make her a laughing stock. Or more of one.
    Carbon taxes, emissions tax scams, whatever you call them, are all a disincentive for industry to produce, a disincentive for people to use energy to improve their standard of living, and a scam to enrich Albert Gore and other parasites who have never done an honest day’s work in their lives, but who want to punish producers for producing.

THE SOLUTION: Let people devise their own solutions to global warming, if they see it as a problem. Some people enjoy hotter weather; let them. Many farmers could make use of rising CO2 levels and higher temperatures. Let them.
    Don’t use the weather as a basis for taxing people. To paraphrase my predecessor as Libz leader, socialism doesn’t work, no matter what the temperature. It didn’t work in Siberia, it wouldn’t work in Libya, it will not work here.
    Encourage (by getting out of the way) the production of more near-zero-emission hydro-electric dams and nuclear power stations instead of hideously expensive, temperamental and deadly wind turbines and even more deadly solar panels.
    Allow private hydro dams and small scale nuclear energy production.
    High electricity prices will encourage energy conservation. Laws don’t need to be passed to fix prices, nor to subsidise lethal installation of home insulation.

IN SHORT: Let consumers sort out their own response to the “horror” of changing weather patterns. The government has bigger fish to fry, like reversing the unsustainable borrowing and spending that is infinitely more of a threat to future generations of New Zealanders than a few tenths of a degree of global cooling ever could.

THE PROBLEM: Some people still think flag burning should be outlawed. But this attitude is at odds with the liberal Western (particularly British) view that people should be able to express their opinions by whatever their means, while respecting the property rights of others.
    Burning a flag in a public place is fine, as long as the owner of the flag gives his/her permission. An individual has no property rights over the land in a public place and so has no basis to object to someone burning a flag there.

THE SOLUTION: If you are offended by someone burning a flag, then don’t look. Ignore them, as publicity only fans the flames of their activism. Wave your flag instead.
    There is nothing sacred about a flag. Nor a Bible. Nor a copy of the Quran. Burn the lot of them, I say, especially if you’re cold and there is a power cut.
    The McCullyist view that freedom of speech is all right as long as it doesn’t offend others is simply BS. It’s precisely speech that does offend that needs freedom’s protection.
    The test of whether someone’s flag-immolation crosses the line is whether objective (measurable) harm has been done as a result. If so, compensation is in order. If not, the offended party should exercise their own freedom of expression to protest, remembering that their own freedom ends where the property of others begins.

"The [American] First Amendment exists to insure that freedom of speech
and expression applies not just to that with which we agree or disagree,
but also that which we find outrageous. I would not amend that great
shield of democracy to hammer a few miscreants. The flag will still be
flying proudly long after they have slunk away."
- Colin Powell, U.S. Army General

Friday, 6 May 2011

Musical Ramble

A short ramble this week—a ramble through some relevant musical gems.

First, Robert Johnson was born one-hundred years ago this week—which makes just eighty years since he went down to that fateful crossroad and made a deal that changed modern music…

It’s not dark yet…

And finally, get ye to the Venusberg…

Thursday, 5 May 2011

‘Perigo!’: The ‘Atlas Shrugged’ Special


Who is John Galt? Who was Ayn Rand? What is Atlas Shrugged?

Find out tonight on Perigo! as Lindsay marks the release of the movie based on Rand's epoch-changing best-seller.

PERIGO! Thursday on Stratos 7.30pm. Freeview 21 & Sky 89

NOT PJ: 3D or Not 3D

_BernardDarnton This week Bernard Darnton reviews a film he slept through.

FILM TECHNOLOGY TOOKANOTHER leap forward this week with the announcement of special “2D” glasses that convert 3D films into an amazing unblurred 2D experience. The relentless march of technology never ceases to amaze me.

Gadget site Red Ferret announced this stunning new development, explaining how the cunningly designed glasses block one of the two images projected onto the screen in a bog-standard 3D film and convert it into glorious flat-o-vision.

This gave me an idea for an even better technology in which both lenses of the glasses are replaced by black cardboard. Films would be rendered in zero-D, instantly improving the vast majority of them.
Avatar, for example. It was Avatar’s hype that brought 3D back into fashion and yet it would be so much better in zero-D. I only went to it because I thought it was a documentary on the incarnations of Vishnu.

(This might sound like utter nonsense but this sort of thing happens to me all the time. When I was working in Porirua and commuting from the Hutt Valley, one of my workmates had a meeting to go to and asked me the best way to get to Avalon. At the time I was reading Foucault’s Pendulum and my head was full of esoteric religious nonsense. I thought he meant Avalon the Celtic paradise. It never occurred to me that he wanted to go to Avalon the suburb in Lower Hutt. I looked at him for a moment and said, “You can’t just go there - you have to be a Celtic warrior and die in battle.” He stared at me for an even longer moment and then backed off to ask someone who wasn’t utterly batshit crazy.)

True story. Anyway, Avatar.

Avatar is an action-adventure movie in which a group of humans, called “Americans,” invade a foreign planet populated by a peace-loving people known as “the Arabs” to steal an unobtainable mineral called “oil.” They blow up a tree and the star of the film turns blue (that bit at least was Hindu god-like) and goes native. I think that’s what happened. I was asleep for a lot of it and, if I’d had the benefit of the zero-D glasses, I might have been able to sleep through a bit more of it and really put that three hours to good use.

Even with my sporadic wakefulness it was quite clear that the film had a message to ram home. Americans are nasty and they shouldn’t blow up trees that belong to other people, even if those people speak another language and look like ten-foot tall smurfs. Director James Cameron explained that the film was in fact very patriotic because it’s patriotic to slag off your own country if your own country is crap. Or something. I was asleep during that interview too, with good reason.

Cameron also said, “We know what it feels like to launch the missiles. We don’t know what it feels like for them to land on our home soil.” Except for that one time when some guys stole some Boeing 767s and crashed them into American landmarks killing thousands. Admittedly, if Cameron can’t remember that event then the last decade of American foreign policy probably looks belligerent.

Not that the War on Terror hasn’t got a stupid name, and hasn’t at times descended into a shambles, but Americans aren’t just crashing around the world to steal oil or to kill people for fun. They are primarily, if not always directly, trying to prevent another 9/11.

Fortunately, the message of moral equivalence hasn’t sunk in. That much was clear in the jubilant scenes on Tuesday night, when we heard that US Navy Seals had delivered Osama bin Laden the bullets he so richly deserved - something that many of us were happy to see with or without special glasses.

Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column appears here every Thursday. Except when it doesn’t

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Brash v Harawira

Don Brash and Hone Harawira face off with the Walrus in the chair. Watch it here:

Part One.

Part Two.

“End the War on Drugs,” says the Law Commission

Well, almost.

2001's 22 most wanted.

There’s still 15 to go.

[Click to enlarge]

Man, the Builder

_Quote I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline. Particularly when one can’t see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window – no, I don’t feel how small I am – but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.”
                       – Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

[Hat tip Temple of the Human Spirit]

Monday, 2 May 2011

Quote of the day: “An infinite amount more where that came from”

“Most of the state’s wealth comes from ordinary people working hard and then giving a huge chunk of their income to the government, so spending it is a sacred trust not an endless opportunity to squander it all on gimmicks and whims and political stunts…”
           - Danyl at Dim Post - “An infinite amount more where that came from


I’m going to be busy today [updated]

I’m going to be busy today. Here’s why.

Obituary: Willa Cresswell

CRESSWELL, Willa (nee Clarihew).
Died peacefully after a long illness, with family at her side. Loved mother and mother-in- law of Lyn and Andrew, Peter and Carol, Bhim and Shammi. Much treasured cousin of Barbara. Thanks to staff at Metlifecare Highlands and the dear friends whose visits meant so much to her. In lieu of flowers donations to the Bible Society or Child Cancer Foundation and can be left at the service. A celebration of Willa's life will be held in the Chapel of Manukau Memorial Gardens 357 Puhinui Road Papatoetoe, on Monday 2 May 2011 at 2pm.

UPDATE: Thanks to you all for your kind and generous thoughts.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Act Party 3.0

Yesterday represented one step forward and three steps back in producing a party with values I could endorse.

Ejecting the man-with-the-midlife-crisis and calling for the Spendthrift Double-Dipper from Dipton  to be properly reined in was a great start.

Sadly however what would have been a clinical coup producing a party representing accountability and financial rectitude has been poisoned at birth by Don Brash’s bizarre insistence that Minister-of-Rhyming-Slang John Banks be given the post of Act’s anchor in Epsom.

Which will see the man who campaigned on stopping rate rises and who then raised them every year of his reign—the man who left Auckland ratepayers $887 million in debt when he left office—carrying the flag for financial responsibility.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a joke.

But not a very funny one.

UPDATE: Unusually, Cactus Kate and I agree:

_Quote Here is where I will … state this [new Brash-led  party must] NOT under ANY circumstances include John Banks… Banks is just awful. He makes you want to consider voting Len Brown.

Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two

Remember Round One?

Thursday, 28 April 2011

NOT PJ: Goodbye England’s Brain

_BernardDarnton With only a minimum of arm twisting, I persuaded Bernard Darnton to pull the finger out and start typing again. Here then is his (ir)regular column for this week.

Goodbye England’s Brain

As part of Not PC’s extensive coverage here is our exclusive guide to everything you need to know about the Royal Wedding.

It is on Friday.

Do not go anywhere near a television after 10pm.

Thank you. That is all.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: ACT’s last hope for survival

_McGRathLibertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath invites you down to his clinic for an inoculation against this week’s stories and headlines on issues affecting our freedom.
This week: ACT’s last hope for survival

  • DOMPOST: “Brash Still Certain He Can Beat HideACT’s president backs Rodney Hide, but two MPs—including party co-founder Roger Douglas—prefer Don Brash as party leader…

THE DOCTOR SAYS: No two ways about it, Rodney Hide must go as ACT leader if the party wants to avoid obliteration in the coming election.
    And the longer Mr Super-Shitty fights the inevitable the more obvious it is that he has no-one’s interests at heart but his own.
    As leader of the Libertarianz Party, I have offered Don Brash our support, as per the press release below.
    But that support has a proviso. It would be a mistake for Brash to promote the bigoted John Banks as a candidate in the Epsom seat. This crusty conservative, this failed mayor, this economic ignoramus—responsible for leaving Auckland ratepayers nearly one billion dollars in debt when he left mayoral office—has as much to do with the ACT Party’s founding principles as a dancing chimpanzee.
Or as Rodney Hide.

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath

    Bring Back Brash, Says Libz
        Libertarianz leader Richard McGrath offered his enthusiastic support to Don Brash
    in his bid to oust Rodney Hide as ACT leader.
        "I welcome Dr Brash, a man of principle and courage, back into politics and wish
    him well in his efforts to revitalise the ACT Party," he said.
        "Rodney Hide has single-handedly destroyed in a few short years a political party
    that promised much in its early days but has steadily lost traction because it compromised
    its core values and alienated its supporters."
        "Unless ACT replaces its leader, it will be toast at the next election," McGrath added.
    "Don Brash offers ACT a slim chance of salvation in November, otherwise the party
    will probably fold."
        "The ACT Party should consider it an honour to have Dr Brash courting them, and
    should immediately join him up prior to a showdown with Mr Hide."
        Dr McGrath said Don Brash shares many of the values espoused by the Libertarianz
    Party, namely a reduction in the size and scope of government, increasing privatisation of  
    education and welfare, and one law for all. Values that the ACT and National Parties were
    once said to espouse as well.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

You’ll miss me when I’m gone

No blogging today. Sorry. I’m in Christchurch for twenty-four hours with no intention of putting finger to keypad.

Feel free to have a conversation amongst yourselves while I’m away.

Or, unless you’d rather do “he said she said” about the fortunes of the disappearing ACT Party, check out the Objective Standard’s (U.S.-based) Week in Review.

Monday, 25 April 2011

ANZAC DAY: Reflections on war

War appears to be as old as mankind, but peace is a modern invention.
      - Sir Henry Maine (1822-88)

Charles Sargeant Jagger's Royal Artillery Monument at Hyde Park Corner, London

ANZAC DAY GIVES US THE opportunity to pause for a moment to reflect on war.

“It is well that war is so terrible,” said General Robert E. Lee after the slaughter at Fredericksburg, “otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”

But fond of it humans have been for most of our history. For thousands of years war has been an intrinsic part of the social and political order. For most of human history, armed  conflict has been the accepted method by which ambitions are achieved. It took more than mere wishes to change that tragic history. It was not simple pacifism that did it. It was only the realisation (developed over many centuries) that the interests of human beings are essentially harmonious that eventually allowed the “invention of peace”—however sporadic has been its application.

Wars are not natural events or accidents, like earthquakes, landslides or hurricanes. No, like economic depressions, totalitarian dictatorships and murder by concentration camp, wars are neither acts of nature nor 'Acts of God': Wars are acts of man -- of men who seek to achieve their values by violence, resisted by those who rise to defend their own lives, their values, and their sacred honour.

Wars are the result of aggression by those who see value only in force, and who see other human beings as chattel.

Let’s be clear about war’s nature. War is brutal, destructive and unutterably horrific. It is heart-breakingly tragic. It destroys homes, families, lives, ambitions, dreams. It is the ultimate in human waste. It consumes entire nations in producing equipment of ever-increasing savagery whose only object is to be shot, blown, flown and driven into other people. War, as another great general observed, is hell.

War very rarely has winners, only those who have lost the least. War, as The Age once said, "is a dangerous and terrible thing, which should only ever be seen as a last resort."  In short, war is the second-worst thing on earth.     

They are the second-worst thing on earth only because the very worst thing on earth is tyranny: an act of war by governments against those they are supposed to protect. It is with the existence of tyrannical governments that wars of conquest and campaigns of terror begin—indeed, throughout history, it is tyrannies and slave states which have always begat wars.

It is those who seek their values through violence that make war possible; it is the existence of such entities that make wars of self-defence and liberation necessary.

IT IS NOT ENOUGH simply to declare oneself against war and wish war's destruction would go away. Wishing away war is easy, though ineffective; the reason is that wishing away war’s aggressors is impossible.

Pacifism itself only rewards aggression.  Pacifism kills.  If we are to ensure peace, peace with justice, then as paradoxical as it may sound it is necessary to oppose aggression and resist tyranny. By force, in self-defence, when necessary.

When aggressors seek Lebensraum, then appeasement only rewards their aggression—and only fuels further aggression.  When barbarians unleash hatred and murder, then pretending their intentions are peaceful only invites their contempt, and their further aggression. Peace with tyrants is never genuine peace because tyranny itself respects no borders. So when slave pens are allowed to flourish, then peace means peace without safety—and peace without justice.

Peace without justice rewards the tyrannical, rearms aggressors, and is an injustice to those whom the tyrants enslave and kill—not to mention a threat far and wide.  Every semi-free country has the right to defend itself against these aggressors; every semi-free country has the right (but not the duty) to liberate the slave pen. 

As long as tyranny is abroad, then wars of self-defence will still be necessary. As long as some human beings choose to deal with other human beings with the whip, the chain and the gun -- with stonings, fatwahs and holocausts -- with the torture chamber, the dungeon and the gulag -- as long as some men continue to enslave and attempt to enslave others, then wars will continue to happen, we must continue to be ready to defend ourselves … and we should all remember to pause occasionally, even once a year, to thank and respect those who take on that job.

As George Orwell is supposed to have said,

_Quote People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

He speaks, of course, of “rough men” acting in your defence against those aggressors who would do you violence. As David Kopel concludes, speaking in this context, if you want to give thanks for peace then thank a soldier.

IF WE HAVE THINGS WORTH living for -- and we do -- then for that much at least we all have things worth defending. As Thomas Jefferson observed over two-hundred years ago, the price of our liberty is eternal vigilance. Two-hundred years later, nothing has changed. If war is horrific, then tyranny is worse.

In the name of liberty, then let us resolve to remember—and oppose—the roots of all wars. In Ayn Rand’s words:

_QuoteIf men want to oppose war, it is statism that they must oppose. So long as they hold the tribal notion that the individual is sacrificial fodder for the collective, that some men have the right to rule others by force, and that some (any) alleged ‘good’ can justify it—there can be no peace within a nation and no peace among nations.”

Take time today to remember those who fought for your freedom, both intellectually and on the ground. They did more for peace than anyone who protests for it ever has.

Lest we forget. 

Sunday, 24 April 2011

‘Atlas Shrugged: Part 1,’ The Movie - A Review by Michael Moeller [updated]

Guest post by Michael Moeller. Warning, contains SPOILERS

atlas-shrugged-still1c Over fifty years after Ayn Rand’s novel  Atlas Shrugged was first published, and more then thirty years since work first began on a film script for it, I felt Etta James’ song “At Last” playing in my head as I drove to the theater last Friday to see Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 on the screen for the first time. I was abuzz with excitement at the possibility of finding a “thrill to press my cheek to.” But alas, as the movie unfolded, my cheek felt an icy touch as the lifeblood drained from its dramatic body.

On the philosophical level, the moral outlook of the book was not comprised in any significant way. Hank Rearden states, unapologetically, that “my only goal is to make money.” The filmmakers did not turn the movie into a utilitarian apologia that self-interest also serves the common good. Or worse, with Oliver Stone once-rumored as expressing interest in making the film, one could imagine the protagonists serving up paeans to the “public welfare.” I came away satisfied at least that the philosophy was not corrupted.

On the artistic level, however, the film fails substantially as a drama. As Rand wrote in The Art of Fiction, a plot is a “purposeful progression of events” where each event is logically connected to the preceding event leading up to the climax. The events are not mere exposition, but ideas dramatized in action where the actions leave the reader wondering what will happen next. I.e., they create suspense.

Unfortunately, the movie’s progression of events lacks purpose and a coherent direction. The choice of scenes appears scattershot, thus draining the drama and suspense from the novel.
For instance, the screenwriters decided to include the subplot involving John Galt’s motor. Here, though, Rearden discovers the mysterious motor through (off-screen) investigation, in advance of his car trip with Dagny. Later in the film Rearden and Dagny examine the factory and the motor in-person. This is followed by scenes of them meeting with Ivy Starnes, Eugene Lawson, and William Hastings’ wife, which include multiple superfluous scenes of car traveling back-and-forth on desolate valley roads.

AtlasShrugged (1)Not only has the fortuitous discovery of the motor been pre-empted by Rearden’s preliminary investigation, but the scenes tracking down the motor’s owner add nothing to the back-story of the motor. The viewer knows as much about the motor at the end of their trip as he does after Rearden’s initial investigation. Those scenes simply fill precious screen time.

Instead, those scenes could have been cut. The dramatic struggle to get the John Galt Line built could have been given more emphasis, which was purportedly the focus of this movie. Instead, the effects of the looters’ polices on the John Galt Line, and the protagonists’ struggles to overcome them, are imbibed along with exposition while critical scenes to the main storyline are cut.

atlas-shrugged-movie-poster_21 For instance, as Rearden and Dagny are standing before the tattered old bridge, Dagny states she could use a new one, but doesn’t have the time to build one with only six months left. Rearden responds that she could build a new one with Rearden Metal in only 3 months, and she responds: “Let me check my budget.” She needed it, Rearden says he can do it, and then it appears during the run of the John Galt Line. That’s it.

This is merely one example of including superfluous scenes while short-changing the supposed focus of the film: the struggle to build the John Galt Line. We have the Reardens’ anniversary party with no clue as to why it is important, and the bracelet exchange was drained of emotive impact. The viewer gets a brief glimpse of characters before they disappear, such as Owen Kellogg and Robert McNamara, with no background (besides brief narrative) as to why they are important, nor does one see the impact their loss has on the operations of Taggart Transcontinental.

No Dan Conway and his refusal to sell the rail to James Taggart. No dramatization of Dagny’s struggles to find signals, railroad spikes, locomotives, her work crew abandoning her, etc. No effect of Ben Nealy replacing Robert McNamara. No Eureka! moment from Rearden when he makes the bridge feasible with a radical new innovation – right when his business is being destroyed by the passage of the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, and yet still able to provide a beacon of strength for Dagny. Just to name a few.

Thus, the prudence, foresight, and ingenuity of Rearden and Dagny are sucked dry from the building of the John Galt Line, and from their characters.

Many have probably seen the trailer of Dagny’s confrontation with the union boss who refuses to let his members work on the John Galt Line. After this scene, the movie then cuts to Rearden and Dagny boarding the train and the running of the John Galt Line. The emotive impact of Dagny’s success is lessened by not showing her small triumph when all the Taggart workers volunteer against the wishes of the union boss, so much so that they need a lottery to pick the train crew.

Imagine signing up for a sightseeing tour of New York City, and being sped through the city on a train running at two hundred miles an hour while the window shades move up-and-down at random. That’s the feel of the pace and one’s grasp of what is happening and why. In this excellent review, the author provides a much more logical and cogent progression of events that develops the main plot and subplots within a reasonable timeframe, and in a manner that adds drama and suspense.

In The Art of Fiction, Rand also emphasizes bringing the abstraction that is a character to life via concrete actions and dialogue. The characters motives are teased out by these means. And, since art is selectivity, everything said and done denotes something significant about that character that the author thinks is important to convey.

Now consider the first brush with Ellis Wyatt in the movie, which shows him in Dagny’s office with his feet up on the desk while reading a newspaper. As Dagny enters, he throws the newspaper aside, waves his arms awkwardly as if trying to balance himself on a beam, and then begins to rail against the demise of Dan Conway and this “Anti-dog-eat-dog bullshit.”

Is this dynamic entrepreneur from the novel — who had a look of “violence” and such a ruthless integrity that he would rather burn down his empire than let it be taken over by the looters? No, his mannerisms and dialogue have all the attributes of a petulant middle-manager who has not gotten his way and feels the need to ream out an underling — right after his coffee break.

Or consider the filmmakers’ portrayal of James Taggart. He appears in the movie as young, handsome, and well-dressed. In the novel, we first see Taggart with a contorted posture, balding, and the look of middle-age while in his mid-thirties. Miscasting a character based on physical appearance is not a game-breaker and can be redeemed if the essence of the character is skilfully concretized in words and action.

In the novel, however, Rand portrays Taggart as fundamentally weak, constantly evading the necessity to think, and helpless in the face of looming crises, especially when confronted by Dagny. In the movie, the viewer sees a rather poised Taggart that often overshadows a soft-spoken Dagny, played by Taylor Schilling. Dagny’s lack of onscreen presence, of gravitas, does not help the contrast. (If there's a doubt about Schilling’s performance, I urge the viewer to consider whether this Dagny would say as a young woman at a ball: “What men? There wasn’t a man there I couldn’t squash ten of.”)

But more so than the actor’s onscreen presence, the depth of Taggart’s character is victimized by scene selection. The movie shows the boardroom scene where Taggart takes credit for Dagny pulling all assets from the San Sebastian Line before the Mexican government nationalizes it. However, the movie cut the prior scene with Taggart and his girlfriend, Betty Pope. In that scene, Taggart and Pope express mutual contempt for each other after just having had sex. Taggart begins that scene lethargic and mentally unfocused, but comes to life at the prospect of undermining his sister before the Board. His self-satisfaction is quickly deflated when he receives a phone call telling him the San Sebastian Railroad has been nationalized, and then we next see him praising his own foresight before the Board.

This scene also provides a stark contrast to the sex scene with Rearden and Dagny after the John Galt Line run. Sex expressing the celebration of life, as opposed to mutual contempt and futility.

Instead of the Betty Pope scene, the movie depicts the nationalization of the San Sebastian Railroad in a news clip stating that the line has been nationalized and showing soldiers marching under some building with a Mexican flag on top of it. A scene that powerfully conveys Taggart’s motives and goals is replaced with cheap narrative. The net effect on the character of James Taggart is that he is transformed from metaphysically impotent man into a simple Hollywood cut-out of a conniving backroom dealer.

By the same methods, the movie trims down the depth of each character, including the two protagonists. The greatest loss, perhaps, is to Francisco d’Anconia, whom I regard as one of the most compelling characters in all literature.

The viewer first catches glimpses of Francisco appearing at bars/parties surrounded by an entourage of beautiful women, sometimes with cameras flashing. He has a scruffy three-day beard and semi-shaggy hair down to his eyebrows — the “cool” look one sees displayed on the cover of GQ. In his first encounter with Dagny after the nationalization of the San Sebastian mines, Dagny begins the scene by throwing a drink in his face. Francisco chuckles and flippantly says: “That’s refreshing.”

This is how the audience is introduced to the aristocratic-looking character described as “the climax of the d’Anconia’s” who’s talents had been “sifted through a fine mesh” from generations of mastery of production. Does this properly capture the man to whom it is impossible “to stand still or move aimlessly?” Is this the man who, as a twelve year old boy, used rudimentary calculus to erect a system of pulleys to hoist an elevator to the top of a rock? Or the man who began as a furnace boy at the age of sixteen and ended owning the factory by age twenty, while educating himself on the stock market to finance the venture?

Without any of Francisco’s back-story in the movie, nor any display of his unmatched ability, the viewer doesn't experience the disconnect between the productive genius and the playboy now throwing extravagant parties for the brain dead. The air of mystery surrounding his conversion has vanquished. The movie version of Francisco really could be a pop star from the cover of GQ. He certainly looks the part.

When Francisco confronts Rearden at his anniversary party, one gets the impression he was transported from another film. Not only is the dialogue awkward and stilted, as if parts were pieced together with Scotch tape after the novel’s conversation was put through a paper shredder, but his character appears jarring and incongruous because there has been no build-up illustrating his intellectual perspicacity.

Amateurism permeates even small touches of detail. The car crisscrossing the country in search of the motor’s mystery is a…Toyota Camry? In the book, it's a sleek Hammond coupe. The producers couldn't rent something like a Bentley Azure or Maserati Gran Tourismo to illustrate the heights Dagny and Rearden have reached?

limbaugh-atlas-shrugged-thumb1Sadly, this encapsulates the movie versus the book. Under Rand’s artistic guidance, one feels the dramatic motor roar to life on each page, yet the progression is expertly controlled. Hairpin plot turns on the cliff’s edge are skilfully navigated, yet invite challenge, thrill, and a suspenseful outcome. In the hands of the filmmakers, the viewer is taken on an ordinary ride from point A to point B, often getting lost along the way.

My song had changed on the ride home from the theater. Resonating in my soul were B.B. King’s words: “The thrill is gone, the thrill is gone away.”

UPDATE:  Tony White reckons there is a way to watch the film and still enjoy it.

And with Atlas Shrugged, the novel, now shooting through the roof again on the Amazon best-seller lists on the back of the film (regardless of its quality or lack thereof), it’s the ideal opportunity to to take advantage of all of this recent interest in Ayn Rand and Objectivism. Rational Jenn explains how one sassy lady is grabbing the opportunity with both hands.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Earth Day message: Sky not falling [updated]

Given that this is 'Earth Week'—a time, this year, when old religion and new religion collide-- it seems a good time to revisit the predictions made by the most prominent environmentalists in conjunction with the very first Earth Day way back in 1970. How do their dire man-hating prognostications fare looking back from forty years on? [Hat tip Ian J., from the archives of Ron Bailey.]

“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind."
      • George Wald, Harvard Biologist

“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.”
      • Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

“By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”
      • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

“Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
      • Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.”
      • Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day

“Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
      •  ‘Life’ Magazine, January 1970

“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
      • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

“At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.”
      • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist.

“Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.”
    • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

“We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the nonrenewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones.”
      • Martin Litton, Sierra Club director

“By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’
      • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

“Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.”
      • ‘New York Times’ editorial, the day after the first Earth Day

“Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”
      • Sen. Gaylord Nelson

“We have about five more years at the outside to do something.”
    • Kenneth Watt, ecologist

“The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”
      • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

So what can we say about this litany of bogus apocalypse?

That it takes more than just misanthropy to interpret the future.

That predictions of pestilence should be taken with a grain of salt.

That scientists predicting disaster should be held to account for actions taken in their name—“action” consisting largely if not exclusively of govt action banning private action.

That Earth Day is a good time to remind ourselves that if life in earth in the human mode is possible, then it is possible only by exploiting the material the earth provides. That the earth itself is an immense solidly packed ball of chemical elements and compounds whose surface is all we’ve been able to scratch, and that just barely—that apart from what has been lost in a few rockets, the quantity of every chemical element in the whole world today is the same as it was before the Industrial Revolution—that it is only man’s ingenuity that turns these densely packed chemicals into resources to further human life—and that without that ingenuity and that effort we would all be in the position of human beings before that beneficent Revolution: of life being nasty, brutal and short.

And, perhaps, that man-hating worry worts will always be with us, that they existed long before the Industrial Revolution even began.

And, despite their best efforts, we are all still here—and the human environment is the  very best its ever been.

Let’s give thanks for that to every dirty mine, every smelly smoke stack, every smoky power station, every logged forest and every well-used waterway—and to every inventor, capitalist and entrepreneur who made them possible.

UPDATE:  Just to add irony to insult, it’s also instructive to know that the  Earth Day co-founder killed and composted his girlfriend.

‘Perigo!’ #5: The Don Brash Edition [updated]

image001Rumours abound over what Don Brash might be doing next. Will he start a new party? Will he take over ACT? Will he stay home with his feet u by the fire?  What, what, what, what, what?

What better time to have him face an in-depth interrogation by Lindsay Perigo. Watch the confrontation on last Thursday’s show right here, right now:

UPDATE: Brash also talks to Guyon Espiner on Q+A on Saturday. And by Miriama Kamo. Good opportunity to compare interviewers—who gets more from their guest?

Thursday, 21 April 2011

It’s Easter. [updated]

IT'S EASTER. GOOD FRIDAY. A day off. A day out. A day to get nailed up and talk about torture.

A day to sing hymns, sit in traffic and eat hot cross buns and Easter eggs. A day not to go shopping, of course, because today is one day the religionists still have control over us. A day when flunkies fan out around the country bearing clipboards,  hoping to fine someone for the crime of selling someone a pot plant, or a pint of milk. Seeking to sacrifice shop-owners to the God of zealotry.

Meanwhile, the Christians who insist on this sacrifice of shop-owners to the gods of unionism and bureaucracy celebrate the sacrifice of their ideal man two-thousand years ago.

Any way you look at it, it’s hardly a happy story to celebrate.

EVERY RELIGION HAS ITS own core myths portraying the very heart of their beliefs. The pagan Greeks told stories of their gods, those Attic super-men, consuming Ambrosia and gambolling on Olympus.  The Norse heroes told stories of their gods lustily wenching and feasting in Valhalla while waiting for Ragnarok.  And the Christians? They tell about the time when their god sent his son down to be nailed up to a piece of wood.

As a myth, it’s hardly something to celebrate.

The Easter Myth is central to Christianity, and all too revealing of the ethic at Christianity's heart. 

Art reveals that core. Look at that painting above, by Salvador Dali. A great, powerful, awe-inspiring, revealing piece of art.  What does it represent? It represents man-worship -- the presentation of an ideal.  Note how the main figure is larger than life and seemingly immune to pain or destruction; a figure, incongruously in this context, portrayed without pain or fear or guilt.

The figure at left is Dali's wife Gala, who looks up at the Christ figure with a look of literal man-worship. If we have a question here, when looking at a man nailed up to a piece of wood, it might be this: "How can you worship the destruction of your ideal?”  “Why would you celebrate his torture?” Fair questions, especially when confronted with splatter-fests like Mel Gibson’s Passion, which lovingly depict every act of torture and every drop of blood in high-definition Technicolor.

That’s what paining and film can do. How about music?  Bach’s St Matthew Passion musically and beautifully dramatises this Myth while revealing the true nature of it.The Passion’s thematic centre occurs when Jesus appears before Pilate and the mob.

_QuoteWhen Pilate asks the crowd who should be freed, Barbaras or Jesus. The crowd replies, "Barabbas!" and Pilate asks, "When what should I do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?" The crowd shouts, "Let him be Crucified!" This final shout is musically rendered in such an awful way that the hearer is almost struck dumb. One can feel the terrible doom being called down. Pilate then asks (in Part 56), "Why, what has this man done?" His question is answered by what is probably the loneliest Soprano ever, who says, "He has done good to us all, He gave sight to the blind, The lame he made to walk; He told us his father's word, He drove the devils forth; The wretched he has raised up; He received and sheltered sinners, Nothing else has my Jesus done."
    Following this is an even more poignant aria that begins, "Out of love my Savior is willing to die." After that the chorus repeats the sentence, which is made worse by what we have just heard.

Just think, Christians revere Christ as their ideal, and Bach has his chorus and soloists praise him, worship him, and eulogise Him – this, above all, was their hero (Bach tells us); a man known only for good deeds; the man they believe their god sent to earth as an example of the highest possible on this earth -- and then they and that god went and had him killed. Tortured, Crucified.

That's the story. This, says Bach in the true honesty that great art reveals, is what Christians revere: The murder of their ideal man.  

It’s an astonishing ethic to celebrate, isn’t it: the sacrifice of the ideal man just to appease and placate the mob.

THE SACRIFICE, YOU SEE, is the thing. Sacrifice is the central ethical thesis of Christianity—so important that an all-powerful god was supposed to sacrifice his own son (who is also himself) to himself just to make the important point: that sacrifice of a higher value—of the very highest—to everything that crawls on earth is central to the Christian ethics.

In the Easter Myth giving voice to this ethic of sacrifice, we are invited to praise the willing sacrifice of the man they hold up as their ideal to a mob of the vilest  sinners--sacrificed as a point of ethical and religious necessity in the most vile and bloodthirsty way imaginable.

It's of no avail whether in the Christ myth we hear that he was arrested for blasphemy, or for preaching without a police permit, or that he came to replace one stone-age form of witch-doctory for another. It's of no avail because none of those points are central to the Easter Myth, or of the central Christian ethic portrayed therein: they’re all just plot devices to get the story to Golgotha, and the god-son nailed up.

That is the vile story we are invited to admire and the ethic we are enjoined to emulate. What would Jesus do (WWJD)? Why, he would give his very life up to the mob, and his very body up to be tortured by it. Why? To save (somehow) all you miserable sinners.

The sacrifice, you see, is the thing. And just to be clear:

_Quote “Sacrifice” is the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue. Thus, altruism gauges a man’s virtue by the degree to which he surrenders, renounces or betrays his values…

That a story is celebrated in which a divine sacrifice, a human being, a son of the “all-powerful” is offered up in the most vile, most bloodthirsty way possible--to "save" a mob who, according to those same Christians, are created as vile sinners--and to "appease" a bloodthirsty and omnipotent God who intended all this to happen, and (according to the story) sent this ideal man down to earth to make sure that it did …. now if that's not a vile story, even if t'were true, then my name is Odin.

And there's certainly nothing enlightening there on which to base an ethics. And base an ethics on it the religionists certainly do. One they insist is “sublime.”

No wonder the religionists see nothing to apologise for today when priests quietly sacrifice young children to their own misbegotten lusts.

HANS HOBEIN’S ‘CHRIST AFTER CRUCIFIXION’ lays bare the reality of the sacrifice even more directly than Mel Gibson’s splatter movie.

It’s not a pretty painting, as this detail makes plain:

A good subtitle for this 1521 painting might be ‘A Christian Confronts Reality.’  That, at least, was how the Russian novelist Dostoyevsky felt when confronted with this naturalistic depiction of the battered Christian corpse in 1867: confronted with the horrific reality of crucifixion and its results, Dostoyevsky was struck by the importance of this confrontation for his faith, and inspired to dramatise in his next novel what that confrontation meant. Said his wife, “The figure of Christ taken from the cross, whose body already showed signs of decomposition, haunted him like a horrible nightmare.  In his notes to [his novel] The Idiot and in the novel itself he returns again and again to his theme.”

Holbein confronts the Christian viewer with a powerful choice: One must either believe that God raised this ravaged body from the dead, and that the Christian myth, therefore, “offers hope for humanity beyond this life”; or else accept that the dead stay dead, that such an event did not and could not occur, that reality is what it is – with all that follows therefrom. As Dostoyevsky has a character in The Idiot explain it,

_QuoteHis body on the cross was therefore fully and entirely subject to the laws of nature. In the picture the face is terribly smashed with blows, swollen, covered with terrible, swollen, and bloodstained bruises, the eyes open and squinting; the large, open whites of the eyes have a sort of dead and glassy glint. . . .
   Looking at that picture, you get the impression of nature as some enormous, implacable, and dumb beast, or, to put it more correctly, much more correctly, though it may seem strange, as some huge engine of the latest design, which has senselessly seized, cut to pieces, and swallowed up–impassively and unfeelingly–a great and priceless Being, a Being worth the whole of nature and all its laws, worth the entire earth, which was perhaps created solely for the coming of that Being!

Good art need not be a thing of beauty, but it must have something to say.  This certainly does that. If you believe the Creation myth and all that goes with it, the idea that all this was designed by something supernatural and omnipotent, then you must believe this torture too was designed. That it was intended.  That the God who once insisted that Abraham sacrifice his own son now makes the mob insist on the sacrifice of their ideal.

Let me ask you again, Don’t you think it astonishing to celebrate this barbarity?

IT WOULD BE EVEN MORE astonishing if that were what Easter really meant.  Thankfully, it’s not.

In Pagan times you see, Easter was the time in the Northern calendar when the coming of spring was celebrated -- the celebration of new life, of coming fecundity.  Hence the eggs and rabbits and celebrations of fertility. Indeed, the very word "Easter" comes from Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, and means, symbolically, the festival celebrating the rebirth of light after the darkness of winter. 

But with the coming of Christianity, the celebration was hijacked to become this veneration of torture and sacrifice.

And the story itself was not even original.  In the Norse myths (to quote just one of many similar myths) the head god Odin hung himself on the World Tree Yggdrasil—not to sacrifice himself to himself, but to achieve greater understanding. As the Icelandic Edda tells the story,

I ween that I hung of the windy tree,
Hung there for nights full nine;
With the spear I was wounded, and offered I was,
To Othin, myself to myself,
On the tree that none may ever know
what root beneath it runs.
None made me happy with loaf or horn,
And there below I looked;
I took up the runes, shrieking I took them,
And forthwith back I fell.
Then began I to thrive, and wisdom to get,
I grew and well I was;
Each word led me to another word,
Each deed to another deed.

As Joseph Campbell observes,

_QuoteNo one can miss the parallels here to the Gospel themes of Jesus’ three hours on the Cross (3 x 3 = 9), the spear in his side, his death and resurrection, and the boon of redemption thereby obtained. The phrase “and offered I was/To Othin, myself to myself” is interesting in the light of the Christian dogma of Christ and the Father as One.”

These are the stories the Christian myth supplanted.  And in hijacking the pagan celebration of spring,  they overtook a joyful celebration of growth and fertility, of peace and new understanding, and added to it a new ingredient: the ethic of sacrifice -- the murder and torture of tall poppies -- the sacrifice of the Christian's highest possible for the sake of the meanest most rotten 'sinner,' whose redemption Christ's murder was supposed to buy.

To put it bluntly, the Easter myth that Bach dramatises so well is one of suffering and sacrifice and murder, and the collusion of a supposedly omnipotent and omniscient god in the murder of his own son -- and if you subscribe to the whole sick fantasy then that is what you are required to believe—to believe in every rotten, blood-dripping detail. For in the name of religion Bach shows us that the good (by Christian standards) must be sacrificed to the rotten; the constant to the inconstant; the talented and inspirational to the lumpen dross -- the ideal to the worthless.

For Christians, then, Easter is a time to revere that sacrifice and to remind themselves (and us) of the centrality of sacrifice to their fantasy. Oh yes, there's a 'rebirth' of sorts in their fantasy, but not one on this earth realm, and not before a celebration of intense pain and suffering that supposedly bought redemption and virtue for those who possessed neither.  

As Robert Tracinski says so bluntly, "Easter's Mixture of the Benevolent and the Horrific Reveals Religion's Antagonism to Human Life." And so it does.

IT’S SAID BY SOME THAT the real point of the Crucifixion Myth is not the torture but the resurrection; not death or the manner of it, but life.  This is just nuts—but then, without the resurrection, there is no Christianity.

The myth erected by Paul on the back of some poor slaughtered Jewish prophet is intended to tell you how to live your life. To do so it offers a tale of torture grafted onto a fairy story about resurrection. (WWJD, eh?)

Even in the unlikely event the whole tawdry tale from earth to sky were proven true (and I invite you to take the Easter Challenge to tell us all precisely what happened on Easter), what would it prove for life here on this earth: It would still tell the story that the bloodthirsty Sky God who inflicted that torture on his son requires of you unconditional fawning of him, and unconditional sacrifice of yourself to others. As I said, that's just vile in and of itself, let alone as a basis on which to construct an ethics.

So it's an ethics based on a fairy story and founded in rottenness.

No wonder the early Christians grafted the tale about a murdered Jewish carpenter on to the Pagan Easter festival (which really did celebrate rebirth and fertility and new life) and then weaved the two together in this way--because they hoped to somehow that sacrifice is life-affirming instead of life-destroying. Sadly, however, all that their story shows is that unless you add a the supernatural to your fairy story, the result of sacrifice on this earth is not life and fertility and rebirth, but death, and destruction and torture.

In other words, if you want to erect a morality for life on this earth , then a good place to start is not one based upon sacrifice and suffering and torture. Not unless you wish to ensure the destruction of everything that you value.

THERE IS ANOTHER STORY that stands in complete contrast to this one however, that is in all senses its polar opposite. Unlike the anti-heroes of Bach's Passion—who murder their hero in a vain attempt to save their desiccated souls—or Dostoyevsky’s—who torture themselves with thoughts of a mechanistic “malevolent universe” in which they are somehow “trapped”—the heroes of Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead shun sacrifice and suffering and the temptations of another world, and venerate instead their own human powers on this earth. 

The hero of that novel, Howard Roark, appears in court before another baying mob, in a similar position dramatically in which Bach places his own hero. Thrown to the mob and fighting for his life in court, rather than acquiesce as Bach’s hero does, Roark states instead—as clearly and categorically as he knows how—his own terms.

_QuoteI came here to say that I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number or how great their need.
    "I wished to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others.
    "It had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing.
    "I wished to come here and say that the integrity of a man's creative work is of greater importance than any charitable endeavor. Those of you who do not understand this are the men who're destroying the world.
    "I wished to come here and state my terms. I do not care to exist on any others.
    "I recognize no obligations toward men except one: to respect their freedom and to take no part in a slave society.”

This time, the hero says, the sacrifice demanded by the mob is rejected.

The contrast to the other story is stark,wouldn’t you say?

The ethic of The Fountainhead, one for which each of the leading characters fights in their own way, is one in which genius has the right to live for its own sake.  The contrast with the demand of Christianity that The Good inheres in the act of suffering and dying for the expiation of others could not be stronger, or the question more important!  Rather than demanding and worshipping the sacrifice of the highest to the lowest -- or as Nietzsche did, retaining the ethic but reversing the beneficiary of the sacrifice by demanding the sacrifice of the lowest to the highest -- the ethic of The Fountainhead insists that The Good is not to suffer and to die, but to enjoy yourself and live -- without any sacrifice at all of anyone to anyone else.

In my book, that really is an ethic worthy of reverence.

NOW, I'M ALL TOO aware that if you believe the Easter Myth, then anything I say here is going to pass right by you. 

You might call my "world view" a "mechanistic one," which is odd really because because it's that view which is taken by Dostoyevksy in the passage I cite above (where he whines about being "trapped" in a malevolent "mechanistic universe").

But the universe is not "mechanistic": it is knowable; it is not causeless; it is open to our manifest human powers—it is  not a mechanistic nightmare in which we are trapped, but a benevolent one in which we can both achieve our values and keep them, with no sacrifice at all from anyone, by anyone or to anyone.

I would have thought any honest commentator would find that idea compelling—if, that is, he weren't already imbued with the fatuous corruption of ethics that upholds sacrifice and suffering as a "noble" moral ideal.

SO IF, DESPITE MY best exhortations, if you still insist on venerating sacrifice this weekend and making yourself suffer, and especially if you're intending a bit of crucifixion yourself (or even just a mild bit of flogging or self-torture) then here are a few simple Easter Safety Tips for you from the Church, which are not unfortunately intended as satire. They include advice on how to whip yourself safely, how to flay others without major injury, and which size nails to use to have yourself fixed firmly to a piece of wood. 

And accept Richard Wagner’s sublime ‘Good Friday Spell’ from Parsifal, and a gorgeous Parsifal Fantasia, as balm to soothe your wounds both mental and physical.

And  for all the bureaucrats who are working while they insist that others don’t, here's that Nick Kim cartoon again celebrating the sacrifice of the Easter Bunny...


Have a happy holiday!

PS: By the way, did you know that Jesus was Yahweh's 111th Killing? Pretty cool god, huh?

_QuoteIt's hard to imagine something worse than a father planning to kill his own son. Except maybe a father killing his son in order to keep himself from torturing billions of others forever.
    ‘‘He that spared not his own son’ shouldn't be trusted by anyone.

UPDATE: Good Christian folk complain that “it’s not about the torture,” that “it’s all about the resurrection.”


Who are you trying to kid.

Good Xtian folk LOVE the torture.

Good Xtian LOVe the suffering.

It really is all bout the suffering—all about sacrificing human joy to human pain.

No surprise then that suffering is the very thing thing that unites the crusaders against abortion (a hatred of sex plus a love of suffering) with the crusaders against voluntary euthanasia (a hatred of human choice plus a love of suffering).

The total, evil, vicious bastards.

On this day of rebirth, Easter Sunday, in the weekend named after the Persian goddess of fertility, I suggest we replace that Xtian symbol of torture, the cross, with this unabashed symbol of human joy below. Who’s with me?

HumanSpirit Image source: Temple of the Human Spirit