Archive for December, 2010

Atlas Shrugged

This will likely be the first in a series of posts about Atlas Shrugged. I started reading Ayn Rand’s tome in August but due to the advent of Fall Semester I was forced to pause my mental feast until Christmas break.

First things first, how was it?

A.S. is a 1000+page, 3-part novel about what happens when the great men charged with the burden of carrying the world on their shoulders refuse to perform their task. These are the industrialists, the men of the minds, the inventors, the great minds that shape the progress of stability of society.

At its focus is Dagny Taggart, the operating vice president of the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad empire, and second-in-command only to her incompetent brother James due to her gender. James and his buddies in government and various positions of social power have taken it upon themselves, in grand democratic tradition, to right the wrongs that a free market inevitably imposes on those who are less capable and are endowed with less means by enacting social programs that rob the rich and give to the poor. Or at least, that’s what they will tell you their doing.

In all actuality, they create programs that allow them to continue as non-contributing zeros while the giants of industry support them in their ineptitude.

As more and more good men find it impossible to make a living under such insurmountable government meddling the economy begins to fracture and society as whole begins to disintegrate as capable men seem to be disappearing off the face of the earth. All the while, Dagny’s unconquerable dedication to her railroad and the preservation of something she can’t quite define drive her to continue laboring while the country itself dies.

That is the most basest level, and its hard to recap the other plethora of levels to this book without becoming long-winded. Simply put, you just gotta read it.

A.S. is Rand’s love letter to capitalism, the free market, and human will. She creates a world where man’s reward is garnered by his need rather than his merit and the disastrous consequences of such a dogma. In it, society is divided into 3 groups: the looters, who seek to gain without having deserved anything; the strikers, brilliant men who society attempts to destroy while simultaneously riding on their shoulders; and the comman man, incapable of scientific greatness, but able to appreciate the efforts of others and give an honest labor and appreciation to those that have made luxury in the world possible.

It is thought-provoking, frustrating and heavy stuff, and Rand doesn’t not rush through the events. Instead, she takes full advantage of the pages to draw out the suffering consequences of a single government action, political maneuver, and tragic accident to the point that you, the reader, want to scream at the characters to open their eyes.

But what’s more, is that even in the frame of a blatantly obvious allegory, Rand creates a feeling of genuine terror as the men in her novel seem all-too-familiar, and their ideas all-too-recognizable in the world around us. The same arguments about unfair advantages and undeserved hardships that social progressives use today to draft policies of hope and change are all present in A.S. and slowly contribute to the destruction of the modern world.

Extreme? Yes. And even for members of the choir, like myself, Rand’s preaching can come off a bit heavy-handed at times. Still, the brilliance of A.S. is just how simple it is. When men are rewarded for incompetence, what motivation is there to be great? And when men lose the desire to be great, how can society thrive, continue, or even survive?

Few novels have changed the way that I look at the world, but I suspect that I’ll be thinking about A.S. for the rest of my life. A-

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Since the christmas break has officially begun I can’t really say that I don’t have time to blog. So, to start things off I figured I’d get back to my roots and do a movie review.
For those of you who have not partaken of the visual/campy ecstasy that is Disney’s Tron (the old one) all you really need to know is that computer wiz-kid Kevin Flynn gets pulled into a cyber world where programs are personified and attempts to bring down the evil Master Control program that has turned the digital world into his own serf-filled empire. On the way Flynn participates in some gladiator-esque games, rides around on a light cycle and enlists the help of a program named Tron whose sole purpose is to fight for the “users” (digital lingo for human beings).

The film (made in 1982) was a failure of colossal proportions (think: Gigli) and in time thanks to the advent of kids on pot and fanboys obsessions with all things trippy, the movie has gained a mass following of cult fans (a la Tremors).
Which brings us to 2010 and Tron Legacy.

We find Sam Flynn (son of Kevin) essentially orphaned (his father vanished some 17 years earlier) and enjoying the simple life while raking in the benefits of being majority shareholder of his father’s company without the responsibility of having to actually run the thing. After a mysterious page from Daddy’s abandoned arcade, Sam goes a snooping and gets (you guessed it) miraculously pulled into a digital world where programs are personified. It doesn’t take long before he’s picked up by the program authorities and (wouldn’t you know it) forced to participate in gladiator-style games. Turns out the new boss in town is a program named CLU, made in the image of Sam’s father, who as it turns out, was trapped in the digital world years earlier by CLU, and now father and son must work together with the help of the ludicrously attractive Oliva Wilde, a program that Kevin has taken under his wing, to stop CLU from dastardly plans and return to the real world.
Tron Legacy is, simultaneously, sequel and remake to Tron. While the story line has been cronologically extended to fall in a narrative line. The basic plot structure and development mirror the first film in all-too-familiar ways. Man enters world, plays gladiator games, joins up with help on the inside, hops aboard a weird train/umbrella transport thing and comes to a climatic close at vertical pillar of light with man holding his magic frisbee up in the air. They are essentially the same movie, only the new version has the digital advantages of today to make up for the weaknesses of the first film. Instead of some laughable comic book feel, the sight and sound of Tron Legacy is an absolute delight, one that (for me) made up for the weak storyline.
In the end, this movie was exactly what I expected. Many in my group vehemently detested this film but I walked away entertained and look forward to what this series will do after Tron Legacy makes its expected millions. In an ideal world, I would have loved a little more inception-esque head scratching that this digital world could potentially provide, but I was satisified with the high octane cg-feast to the smooth pump of Daft Punk. It may have run a little long in some scenes, but Tron Legacy is escapism film at its purest, taking you to a whole new world and filling it with beautiful things. B

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Sorority Row

15. Go through the tunnels
16. Go into one of the Sorority houses
17. Kiss a girl who smokes (I could live without completing this one)

I’ve been talking about this for four years and finally, today I went inside one of the sorority houses. One of my sports writers needed to borrow a recorder from one of my features writers (who lives in the Alpha Chi Omega abode) so I went along with them.

It wasn’t exactly the magical event that I imagined would carry me through the threshold but it works. No underwear pillow fighting going on. It was actually quite nice and homey inside. I think a girl was playing hymns on the piano. HYMNS! Such a learning experience. I just might go back sometime.

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