Category Archives: Metaphysics

My articles: Atlas Shrugged Movie Update and more!

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Atlas Shrugged’s Film Director

Congratulations to the late Ayn Rand on the 50th Anniversary of the publication of her masterpiece, “Atlas Shrugged.” It is still selling well and influencing the thinking of more people than ever.

I finally saw the movie, “House of Sand and Fog,” directed by Vadim Perelman. He has been selected to rewrite the screenplay by Randall Wallace (who was hired torewritethe screenplay by Jim V. Hart),and to direct the movie version of “Atlas Shrugged” starring Angelina Jolie as Dagny Taggart.

SinceI learned that instead ofthetrilogy that the producers initially planned, themovie is just going to be a singlestandard-length feature, I gave up all hope of it being even remotely representative of the 1,084-page novel. Remember, a screenplay for a two hour movie is about 100 pages long, with wide margins on both sides of the page whenever there is any dialogue.

I believe that Angelina Jolie is a talented actress who is capable of, and likely dedicated to, doing justice to the role of Dagny, despite any political differences she may have from Ayn Rand, soher casting did not have anyimpact on my pessimism.

But now that I’ve seen the director’s previous movie, I have even less hope for “Atlas Shrugged” to convey even the sense of life or essence of the novel.

This is the central conflict in “House of Sand and Fog”:

The government evicts a womanfrom her home unjustly, causing her tobecoming homeless anddetermined to reclaimher house,when an immigrantpurchases it at a government auction as a major step in his effort to use real estate to begin to raise his family’sstandardof living in the United States. Both are flawed but good people, and the film details the choices each one makes that result in a downward spiral.

“House of Sand and Fog” is the poster child for the “malevolent universe premise,” which Ayn Randcalled the viewthatman cannot achieve his values; it is theidea that successes are the exception, and that the rule of human life is failure and misery. This premise is antithetical to her philosophy, which holds that the universe is auspicious to human life if a man adheres to reality.

The movieshows human beings’ ordinary self-interested actionsto cause conflicts that result in tragedy due to tragic flaws in the characters, or on a more simple level,because of miscommunication and a government property-tax error.

“House of Sand and Fog”also suggests a mystical “determinism” philosophy. As Ben Kingsley stated in an interview with Charlie Rose, the film represents the Ancient Greek or Roman view that the Gods enjoy placing mortalstogether with precisely those others who would cause the maximum conflict and harm, just for thesport of watching the events play out.

I can find some good things to say about this movie and its director, however. First, the movie can be viewed as a critique of property taxes and of government auctions ofunpaid-tax-based foreclosed real estate. In this way the film supports the idea of an individual’s right to his own property. Certainly the bureaucrats in government are essential to causing the central problem in the movie.

But this message would have been clearer if the eviction was not the result of a mistake, but rather the result of standard state policy.

Another positive value in the movie is the way Ben Kingsley’s immigrant character is portrayed. His is one of the most dignified, self-respecting, noblecharacterizations I have seen in any movie.

Additionally, Vadim Perelman has an excellent ability to give proper weight to the emotional value of a scene by staying with it, rather than cutting away quickly. His unhurried pacing of the film gives the audience time to think and feel, unlike so many films today.

Another quality I appreciated is that there is no sarcastic or ironic humor in the dialogue.Perelman doesn’trandomly throw inmodern slang or cynical attitudes the way so many other filmmakers do these days. The characters say what they mean, eloquently, at times with beautiful language, and without irony. (That is not to say that the film has no “swear” words.)

Artistically, the film is sound. It is an almost perfect representation of the malevolent universe premise. The seriousness of thestory is given its proper weight.It is emotionally harrowing.You grow to care about the characters and see them as real people. (That is, as long as you believe they have volition and are not the playthings of the Gods). Vadim Perelman is a good director, based on this film.

Can Perelman switch his sense of life from dark to light? If so, and if the “Atlas Shrugged” script grows to 4 hours or more, perhaps there is hope.

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Time In Ayn Rand’s Words/Zigory’s Priorities

Hereare Ayn Rand’s own words about the subject of time, from “Ayn Rand Answers”, edited by Robert Mayhew:

“My view is, in effect, Aristotelian…there is no such thing as independent time or space. The universe is finite, and the concept of time applies to the relationship between entities. Specifically, time is a measurement of motion, which is a change of relationship between entities within the universe. Time cannot exist by itself. It exists only within the universe; it does not apply to the universe as a whole. By ‘universe’ I mean the total of what exists. The universe could have no relationship to anything outside itself: no motion, no change and therefore, no time.”

A couple of thoughts about yesterday’s post: You should know that the situationof cramped apartmentsand the need to have roommates is typical in New York City, unlike some other cities. Also, I forgot to mentionmy move to Florida and back after7 months(because Disney’s salary–and seemingly that of every non-professional job in Florida at the time–was too low to cover expenses).

I don’t regret the priorities I chose over time, and theadventures I’ve had,and now I thoroughly enjoy my new family and home and long-term writing projects (plusthe podcasting and blogging).Parenting and teaching my children, being able to share with them and my wife enjoyment of ahouse and yard in a pleasant park-filled neighborhood,are at the top of my value prioritiesalong with my writing/arts projects. I made the right decision in devoting the time to improving my situation and to searching for the right mate.

Those who start out with parents or uncles able and willing to assist financially do have a great advantage in terms of saving time, but eventually those without such advantages achieve their values as well, in a relatively free society like the United States. But sometimes I imagine how much easier things would be without New York’s rent regulations/controls that effectively keepartificially low-rent spacious apartments off the market (secretly passed along from family member to family member, close friend to closefriend, as if a rare treasure–or keptunused rather than relinquished),and incredibly high taxes that turn decent salaries into poor ones.

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Time: Metaphysical and Personal

I read a fascinating reply Ayn Rand made to a question regarding the nature of time, in the book “Ayn Rand Answers”, which isa collection of her extemporaneous remarks during Question and Answer sessions after her lectures or classes. Among her points (from memory since the book is not in front of me) is that time is a tool man uses to measure motion, and is only relevant within the universe. One cannot discuss time outside of (apart from/ “before”) the universe, it is onlya meaningful concept within the universe. This is an approximation of what she said. She (unlike me, perhaps) madeher ideas very clear, even though she was speaking off the cuff.

Ihave at times in my thinking,wondered, if the universe began at a point in time, then what existed before the universe, and how far back does time go?What could the concept “before time began” possibly mean? (The concept “before” depends on the concept of time, so nothing could occur “before time”). Ayn Rand’s idea that time is simply a conceptual tool used to measure motion within the universe helps to answer these questions.

On a more personally relevant level, time management (within each day, and within a lifetime)is a skill that every productive person needs to address (at times). I have achieved many of my difficult goals over the years, yet some are still ongoing projects. What are the time-users (as opposed to the derogatory phrase time-wasters) that make some projects take longer?

In retrospect, in my life the biggest time-users have been family, romance, illness, moving from home to home,and learning/recreation (books/media/arts). In earlier years of my life, my parents, grandparents, etc. would oftenschedule difficult-to-avoid events (on holidays, for example) or need difficult-to-refuse assistance. As I got olderI becameself-sufficient, living on my own,and more able to refuse many of the time-consuming events.

A big time-user before my marriage and children included the seemingly endless search for a soul mate;going out of the house, meeting people,dating, placing and answering personal ads over and over…Even after I met her and dated her, I didn’t realize she was the one until after spending several years apart,during whichI had a chance to formulate exactly what qualities my ideal mateneeded tohave (honesty, a happy outlook–my sense of life–and strong intelligence)and what qualities were not important (almost everything else).If I had been clear about that earlier, I could have saved a lot of time.

Another enormous time-consuming black hole: Living in New York, as my income grew I kept moving from apartment to apartment. I disliked having to live with a roommate, and disliked living inonlythe smallest rooms or the most inconvenient or unattractive neighborhoods, but by moving frequently, and changing jobsfrequently to increase my income,eventually I was able to live in my own apartment, in a nice and convenient neighborhood. Then, when I became the partner of my soul mate, I moved in with her. Then we made the jump from renting to buying a co-op apartment, which doubled in value very quickly, so wefinally sold it and bought a house. All of this moving around makes one feel uprooted, it requires packing and unpacking which take up months before and after each move. It’s not conducive to the completion of long-term projects. But I am happy that I didn’t settle for the unbearable, since the qualities of my home environmentare very important to me. A certain amount of light, space, security, aesthetics do matter.

Finally, before this blog post gets too long (“before?”), once I hit age 40, it seems that finding and seeing doctors and specialists about the endless series of mostly minor health problems that seem to arise after that age is another major time-consumer. I cannot logically avoid it, yet it is very annoying at times. Not to mention the time taken by the ailments themselves.

I hope that your use of time to read my blog or hear my podcast is time that you find enriching and worthwhile, i.e., a good use of your time. (But if not, please don’t waste your time!) Later!

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