Monday, March 26, 2012

Lucky Lindsay

Congratulations to Maestro Lindsay Perigo of SOLO! We heard the gossip around the Randroid Belt. Best of luck in your new life, Linz!  Brava!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Objectivist Michael Stuart Kelly Pimps Ayn Rand and Hacks You

This is the video that got jeremiah banned from objectivist living AND got his linux computer hacked
At objectivist living the administrator Michael Stuart Kelly is an authoritarian watchdog that follows you around and replies to your every post and comment. Did you have a mom or dad that did that? I hope not. Perhaps a dog that followed you everywhere. Allowing you no freedom of expression. Or an icky boyfriend or girlfriend.

As soon as you disagree with Michael Stuart Kelly he gets nasty. He's just a soft little boy inside who throws stones and then gets all righteous when you toss them back at him. Ever run across these types online?

Yeh. I know you have. The next thing he does when you answer him back is, he limits you to 5 posts a day. Then the brownshirts come after you in glee and since you have only 5 posts, if the software is not gaming you which it does most of the time, you are overwhelmed. You can combine a bunch of defenses in one post. Or you can be very Nietzschean and throw a bunch away. Comments that is, not a bunch of defenses.

If you continue then BEWARE! Your computer may get hacked. Mine was. Starting at objectivist living through South America (MSK lived in Brazil you know for 32 years.) Maldives and finally resting on its laurels in London, the hacker basked in enjoyment.

It's fun to watch that computer number screening down the screen, going to all those nifty places and home to London. Only fun if someone is taking care of your hacking problem. I was lucky. Jeremiah was not.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Big Bang Elicits the Big Yawn from Randroids

The nice thing about the Randroid Belt — that ring of debris comprising Web sites and their regular contributors revolving around the central sun of Ayn Rand in a decaying orbit — is that it's mainly empty space with little or no gravity holding anything (such as an argument) together. 

Bad for them. Good for us. We take a running-jump, spread our arms, and soar into the vacuum of  inter-Randroid space until we land on a smallish, rockyish, uglyish piece of Randroid Real Estate calling itself "SOLO", an acronym for Sense Of Life Objectivists.

We have been here before and know the terrain well.

A recent visitor to SOLO named Tom Burroughes left the following post (a response to a paper by Stephen Parrish from 2008 in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies available as a free PDF download here), causing major out-gassings from the bowels of the Randroid interior:

"I have more thoughts on how Stephen Parrish, a US-based academic who holds religious views, has criticised Objectivism and its treatment of religion.
[The following] paragraph struck me that when you are debating with someone who believes in a God …that it is a waste of time beyond a certain point. I suddenly realised that Parrish, though no doubt clever, . . . "

LOL! Dear readers, I have been around the Randroid Belt long enough to know that when a self-styled Randroid asserts that someone on the intellectual opposition is "clever," it means nothing more than (1) the Randroid did not grasp his opponent's arguments, or (2) the Randroid did grasp his opponent's arguments and was completely stymied by them. Judging by the overall excellence of Mr. Parrish's arguments in the above downloadable PDF, and the general floundering by Mr. Burroughes in his response, I would say that the latter simply cannot answer the former.

It's as simple as that.

(As an example of another typical psychological reaction on the part of Objectivists when debating or discussion something with them, consider this: within recent memory, I posted to SOLO a 1-question quiz on some very basic music notation challenging one of the Randroid regulars there to prove his musical knowledge by answering the single question correctly. After failing to do so, he asserted that the question itself must have had a "trick", i.e., he was apparently suggesting that I had fooled him into answering a question incorrectly by posing a question the answer to which he simply didn't know.

I'll point out that this sort of thing is typical of Objectivists and other sundry Randroids; i.e., if they don't grasp something, or if they are mistaken in their grasp, or if they grasp something and it's quite apparent to them that it conflicts with Objectivism, they claim they have been tricked — that is, their opponent had a dishonest intent and committed intellectual fraud — which is a defense mechanism ideally suited to not doing what their own philosophy commands them to do, which is to check their premises. It never occurs to a Randroid that the process of checking one's own premises might lead to having to abandon some article of faith regarding Objectivism itself.)

Mr. Burroughes continues:

"[Parrish] is also making some bizarre points and surely reinforces my own jaundiced views of how some people frame arguments for religion:
"Also, physical reality can in fact sometimes be caused to exist in a certain manner by consciousness. For example, I consciously chose to be here typing on my computer rather than staying in bed, and this makes the physical world a somewhat different place than it otherwise would have been. The only way to deny this is to say that consciousness has no effect on physical reality, and is thus epiphenomenal. I don’t think this is what Objectivists really want to say; they agree that man’s mind can affect the physical environment. Of course the way that we cause things is quite different from God’s creating the universe; but again God is a quite different, and much greater, being than we are." 
Huh? How is the world "a different place?" by Mr Parrish moving from his bedroom to his office other than that he has moved from A to B as a result of deciding to do so? 

That's exactly what Parrish means by "different"; no more, no less. He didn't say "better"; he didn't say "worse." The world becomes different when the arrangement of elements changes to some other arrangement . . . I believe that's what the 2nd law of thermodynamics is all about: the world constantly changes as its elements move from arrangements of low probability (order, structure) to arrangements of high probability (disorder, undifferentiated uniformity). 

Parrish is not trying to make a profound scientific point; just an obvious metaphysical one: one of the things consciousness can do in addition to merely observing reality is, by means of a property of consciousness called "will", it can move itself, and the physical entity that accompanies it, from Room A to Room B. That's a configurational change in the universe, if only a very small one.

Burroughes continues:
The point surely is that we apprehend the world, 
Parrish doesn't deny that one of the things consciousness can do is "apprehend".
and our minds forms conclusions, 
Parrish doesn't deny that one of the things consciousness can do is "form conclusions."
and we act to achieve a certain goal (go to the office, call a friend, launch an IPO, etc). 
Parrish doesn't deny that we can act to achieve a certain goal. Burroughes denies, however, that we can act by means of our conscious will without having the desire or need to "achieve" any goal. We might simply be pacing our home aimlessly to kill time while we wait for a family member to undergo surgery. And while Burroughes might object that by claiming that, ergo, our goal is to kill time, the point is, no goal was set to "go to the office" or "go to the living room"; we simply walked, and our immediate goal was more likely "don't bump into a wall or a door", and we simply found ourselves in the living room at one moment and the office the next. The point here is that, even aimless following of one's conscious will leads to the arrangement of elements being different at one time from another.

A simple point that is apparently lost on Burroughes entirely.

And of course this changes physical reality in that sense. That is true, but also uncontroversial and as Parrish acknowledges, no-one would contest that.

But Parrish's point is that even such an uncontroversial and uncontested act flies in the face of the officially held view by Objectivism on consciousness, which is that (1) it observes only, and (2) it is therefore incapable of effecting change in physical reality.
All the while, we hope to meet our goals by treating reality as it is, not as we would want it to be. That is the vital point. For instance, if I decide to float a company on the stock exchange and ignore the prevailing state of the market or the rules governing it, disaster follows.

Burroughes appears to be speaking of entrepreneurship here. Entrepreneurs need very little information, if any, about the "prevailing state of the market", because everything an entrepreneur does (or more precisely in Misesian terms: everything the entrepreneurial function does) is geared toward the FUTURE STATE OF AFFAIRS, OR FUTURE STATE OF THE MARKET, NOT THE "PREVAILING STATE" OR THE PAST STATE. The "prevailing" state of the market is the result of past value scales and exchanges. There's no profit — no potential entrepreneurial profit — in exploiting that because there's nothing to exploit.

Entrepreneurs have certain expectations regarding the future that others just don't see, or don't feel, or don't channel. However one wishes to put it. If it were only a matter of reading the "prevailing" state of the market, there would be lots and lots of highly successful entrepreneurs, since we're all privy to more or less the same amount and the same quality of information. That successful entrepreneurship requires a kind of clairvoyance regarding an expected future state of the market shows why there are so few really successful entrepreneurs; why the failure rate is so high for entrepreneurs; why the rewards are so great for the successful ones; and why it's a kind of talent, and cannot really be taught (despite many university courses claiming to do so).

If Mr. Five-by-Five, Porky Perigo — a sort of Jabba-the-Hut of Objectivism — left my blog up on SOLO, Burroughes will see a link to an old lecture by economist Israel Kirzner on entrepreneurship that he gave at FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) sometime in the 1980s. It's worth watching.

Burroughes stumbles on:

Of course, as he acknowledges, Rand and others glory in how people change the world by re-arranging the stuff of nature to suit their purposes, by constructing buildings or machines, farming the Earth, writing computer software, sequencing the human genome, or whatever. But in order to do this successfully to meet human aims, people must observe the old adage that "nature, to be mastered, must also be obeyed". If a blacksmith, say, wants to create a metal part by the use of fire, then he has to understand that fire is going to burn his hand off unless he takes precautions regardless of whether might subjectively prefer that it does not. That is what Rand means when she says "existence exits". If we ignore the real world because it does not fit our desires, our desires will lead us eventually to existential disaster. That is what Rand and others mean when they assert the primacy of existence. She is not denying that humans can effect change in the world when they use their minds.
It is one thing to say that we can use our minds to help us change the stuff of nature in a certain way, but it would be quite another to suggest that we can do so by changing, say, the physical laws that govern the world. 
According to Mr Parrish, gods are able to do this (indeed, this is a definition of a miracle, like Christ being able to walk on water or convert water into wine).
According to Mr. Parrish, there is no logical necessity to the laws of physics because to think them different from what they are entails no logical contradiction. He's right. That immediately suggests the question of why, then, the laws of physics happen to be what they are when there's no restriction on them being something else. 

Here's just one example:

Carbon is formed from the nuclear reactions inside of stars — carbon-based life IS composed of "star-stuff" — but to get from helium to carbon requires many unstable steps, so it's unlikely that the same sort of synthesis that formed, e.g., helium out of hydrogen would just keep on going until an element like carbon appeared. Astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle realized that the only way, realistically, for carbon to form inside a star would be if 3 helium nuclei simultaneously fused together. That, however, would be an extremely unlikely collision, yet we know that stars, in fact, do produce carbon. If Hoyle was right about the triple fusion, how could such an unlikely event happen inside of stars routinely?  Building on work by earlier scientists, Hoyle discovered that the natural vibration rate of atoms — nuclear resonance, similar to the acoustic resonance of vibrating string instruments — greatly lowers the improbability of this occurrence.

Basically, the process is like this:

Two helium nuclei undergo fusion. This occurs because of a "sympathetic vibration" or nuclear resonance between the two helium nuclei.

The element that is formed from 2 helium nuclei is called "beryllium", which is an element that also exists here on Earth, but with an important difference: terrestrial beryllium has an extra neutron that makes it stable. Stellar beryllium does not have this additional neutron and is so highly unstable that it self-destructs in 0.000000000000001 (one-quadrillionth) of a second. In order for carbon to form, a 3rd helium nucleus would have to fuse with beryllium within that 1-quadrillionth of a second.

The way this occurs is by means of a second resonance, this time between the unstable beryllium and a 3rd helium atom. The resonance between unstable beryllium and free helium is of just the right frequency to allow the 3rd helium atom to fuse with the beryllium, forming carbon . . . the basis of life.

A few years later, it was discovered that another important element for life was also created by means of an unlikely resonance among nuclei: oxygen.

Sir Fred Hoyle had always considered himself an atheist and a materialist. Nevertheless, he was so impressed by this discovery of two different harmonic resonances among 3 atoms that just happen to allow the creation of an essential element of life (i.e., carbon) that he wrote the following:
If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just about where these levels are actually found to be… A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.
I do not believe that any scientist who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside the stars.
One of those consequences, by the way, is life.

The cause of nuclear resonance, by the way, is something called the "Strong Force," the fundamental forces holding protons and neutrons together, and one of the 4 fundamental forces in the universe.

If the Strong Force were just a bit stronger, or just a bit weaker, the necessary resonance between helium-helium and beryllium-helium would not exist and therefore neither would carbon. If carbon didn't exist, life would not exist.

Randroids remain stolidly phlegmatic on hearing things like this, and their usual response is to yawn and say "So? Existence exists. And if it didn't, we wouldn't be here to ask questions about it."

The mystery of physical constants being what they are — yet not by any any sort of necessity — might be illustrated this way:

A violin has 4 strings, tuned in perfect 5ths to E, A, D, G. The wooden pegs used for stretching, or tuning, the strings, do not have "stops", "catches," or ratchets on them; the pegs stay in their holes simply by friction, so they can be turned any amount, more taut or less taut. The traditional tuning for playing western classical music — E, A, D, G — is a highly improbable arrangement of the tuning pegs. If you came across a violin in some uninhabited woods, and after carbon-dating it, concluded that it was many, many hundreds of years old, if the strings were, astonishingly, tuned to perfect 5ths of E, A, D, G, would you really conclude that such tuning "Is what it is" and was simply the product of chance? True, a tuning of E, A, D, G, is mathematically as unlikely as any other tuning; but no other tuning allows the same ease of playing everything from Bach to Prokofiev, so wouldn't the intervals of perfect fifths not only be improbable mathematically speaking, but surprising, given that they allow so many other things to occur? And wouldn't such surprise entail a prima facie argument against the idea that such perfectly tuned intervals were products of chance, or the inherent physical properties of strings and wood?

I think so. And what is true of the surprise we would experience at finding such a tuning on a violin is the same sort of surprise we would — and should — experience at finding a similar kind of tuning among helium and beryllium nuclei.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Seen on SOLO:

A blogger named Xray writes:

Circular reasoning is a fairly frequent fallacy in discussions with ideologists and those holding onto cherished beliefs (both non-secular and secular).
Quite so. Circular reasoning lies at the very foundation of the Darwinian paradigm; a fact criticized numerous times by skeptics of the hypothesis, as well as cited approvingly by its advocates. The difference is that the former believe it undercuts the rest of the hypothesis while the latter believe it's simply "repeating the obvious." As the saying goes, "It's not a bug; it's a feature!"

Xray continues:
If for example you ask a devout believer "What can you provide as evidence that your "holy scripture" is the word of God?" , and the believer replies: "In the first chapter of the holy scripture, it says verbatim: "All that is written here is the word of God", it is circular reasoning because that which the questioner wanted to subject to critical examination (the alleged "truths" in the scripture) is fallaciously presented by the believer as the truth.

Another example would be if we ask a devout Darwinist "Why did some species survive" and the believer replies "Because they were fit!"  And if we further inquire, "Fit? What do you mean by 'fit'? What is the criterion of 'fitness' and by what means can you discern whether or not a given species is, indeed, 'fit'?" If the Faithful Darwinist replies "I know a given species is 'fit' because it survived," then that would be another example of circular reasoning: "survival" is explained by reference to "fitness" and "fitness" is explained by reference to "survival."

Its not a bug, it's a feature! The Darwinian Faithful believe their circular reasoning is justified; their circular reasoning is better than someone else's circular reasoning. But, of course, A is A; circular reasoning is circular reasoning. If such reasoning renders vacuous a claim made on behalf of religion, it renders vacuous a claim made on behalf of Darwinism.

Study Objectivism and You'll Speak English Gooder

Linked to Objectivist Living:

Go to: "Read First Chapter Free" at the right of the page. Navigate to the 6th page, last paragraph:

"Does any of them have a trace of momentary plausibility to you?"

An excerpt from: Understanding Objectivism: A Guide to Learning Ayn Rand's Philosophy
based on lectures given by Leonard Peikoff;
transcribed from audio tape and edited by Michael Berliner

Objectivist grammar, anyone? Leonard Peikoff bragged about Michael Berliner's editing talents (and, in turn, Berliner bragged that he edited only for style and grammar, not philosophical content), yet Berliner has a bit of a problem making a verb and its nominative (the pronominal adjective "any") agree in number.

"Do any of them have a trace of momentary plausibility to you?"

Much better. Berliner could have written "Does any one of them have a trace of momentary plausibility to you?", which construction would make "any" into an adjective modifying the nominative "one", the sense being "Any one of them does have momentary plausibility." Without "one," however, the sense is "Any of them do have momentary plausibility."

Then, again, we learned English grammar on Earth. Maybe Berliner learned his on Uranus.

You Could Die Laughing at This (or Get a Doctor to Help You)

(Originally Posted Friday, 16 March 2012)

Over the past few days on SOLO (, there has been a debate raging reminiscent of the sort of badly written screenplays for which I used to write "coverage" when I briefly worked as a reader for various producers in Hollywood; i.e., the narrative starts nowhere, goes nowhere, and ends nowhere. 

A minor randroid on SOLO referring to itself as "Leonid" waxes enthusiastic about suicide, provided that it be moral. And how, pray tell, does this Leonid distinguish a moral suicide from an immoral one? It writes:
I think [suicide's] justified if and only if life becomes its own opposite . . . an agony.

Um, but, isn't that what anyone committed to killing himself would claim; i.e., that his life had become the opposite of life, and that he was in agony? Yes, I think so. Does the Leonid believe that, therefore, an immoral suicide would be one committed frivolously, just for shits-and-giggles? As in "La, la, la, la, la, la, la! What a fine, sunny day it is today! Instead of tandem-biking with my best friend and having a picnic in the park, I think I'll go into the closet and hang myself. Yes, I've always meant to give that a try, and I'm feeling so positive and expansive, I think it's time to do it. Heigh, ho! What fun!"

Would that be an "immoral" suicide? Has the Leonid thought this through? Does the Leonid even know what he's talking about? We suspect not.

Another randroid at SOLO calling itself, for some reason, "Mark Hubbard," suggests that having the actual freedom to walk into his own closet any time he feels inclined to do so, and hang himself with the straps of his straitjacket is insufficient. He requires the state to support his efforts by passing legislation in which this freedom is "protected"; something like, e.g., "We, the State, do hereby declare that Mark Hubbard (as well as anyone else in our glorious dominion) has the explicit right to enter his own closet, on his own decision, and hang himself with his own belt until dead." 

Which hypothetical immediately brings up this question: Is there anything standing in the way of his doing this right now, even without such legislation? Has he tried? Is his closet guarded by the state? Has the state installed "security" cameras in his closet to ensure that Hubbard not enter it for the sake of hanging himself?

Um, we think not. In fact, we think that suicide is not the issue at all in this debate. 

But before continuing, let me say this: having known many Objectivists for many years, first InLife and later, OnLine, I can testify to the fact that they are big talkers, i.e., bullshitters. It's usually harmless because they are mainly occupied bullshitting themselves and other Objectivists, the cause probably being that their psyches generate a rich fantasy life, in which they imagine themselves as one of Ayn Rand's characters . . . perhaps some young, promising writer, or actor, or composer, or inventor, happily doing Midas Mulligan's laundry in Galt's Gulch in order to participate in The Great Strike against the Looters and Moochers. How exciting! "Yes, I am one of them!" they cry. But my own experience tells me they are, in fact, abject cowards. They blow lots of hot air regarding their supposed right to kill themselves in order to prove their "integrity" toward life because they imagine John Galt and Howard Roark saying the same thing; however, the entire thing is an act. It's actually a form of play.

No. Objectivists who argue how it is a right to commit suicide would never have the courage of their rhetoric and actually hang themselves, or defenestrate themselves. They already have the freedom to do so, ergo, they don't require the state to declare that they also have the right.

No, no. What these randroids actually want is something quite different.

They want the state to grant the right of someone else — for example, a doctor — to kill them upon their request. That's a different issue entirely.

If a randroid were terminally ill (God forbid!), and if the physical agony were so great that he concluded it made day-to-day life unbearable, I can tell you right now that he would never shoot himself, or hang himself, or hurl himself off the roof of a tall building. They already have the freedom to do so, but they haven't the courage. What they actually want is to be able to go to some nearby "clinic" and request a service from a doctor, or some other medically trained technician, such as, e.g., "I'm terminally ill and in great pain. Here's a check for $250.00. Please put me to sleep and inject me with poison. Oh, you don't take checks? Put it on my credit card."

That's what they want. Objectivists hide behind the rhetoric of "suicide" and the supposed "right to die with dignity", but what they really want is the right for someone else to commit murder if requested and compensated by the intended victim.

There are many problems with such a system. Just one of them is that, given the fact of interventionism, i.e., that there has, for many years, been a close relationship between the State and Medicine, and especially given the fact that the State licenses doctors, the question naturally arises as to whether the State should approve one of its own licensees whose practice includes killing patients on their request. Especially, since the licensing and approval process, being (both traditionally and currently) a State function, is financed by taxes. Does this not implicate taxpayers, at least indirectly, in the state-sanctioned killing of those who want others to end their lives for them? Yes, I think it does. And I think taxpayers would (and should) object to the State's use of their money being spent on a bureaucratic process that results in approving and licensing a medical expert's use of technically sophisticated means to kill someone simply because he requests it. 

That's only one problem with the system (there are others), but it's one that randroids and other "right to die" advocates constantly evade.

So when the Mark Hubbard on SOLO complains that Ken Orr vehemently disapproves of state-sanctioned murder-upon-request-by-victim, we neither agree nor sympathize with the Hubbard. We know nothing about Mr. Orr except that, on this particular issue, he is right: the function of the state is to protect rights, and since life is the source of rights, the primary function of the state is to protect life. The protection of life, not the protection of dignity.

Got news for the Hubbard, who drones on about the difference between "rights" and "responsibilities": Yo! The State is not responsible for your dignity! You are responsible for your dignity. If you feel the need or desire to off yourself because of some anguish, physical or mental, that is crushing your dignitas, you already have the freedom to do so. Just have the courage of your convictions and do it. But don't ask someone else, such as a doctor, to do it for you.

Did Diana Hsieh Shumthin'?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Here are some examples of meteoric out-gassings on the Randroid Belt site known as Noodle Food, authored and administered by Diana Hsieh (

A questioner admits to reading Atlas Shrugged; then admits that, though enjoying the novel, he finds the characters "flat". He does not say "boring" or "uninteresting"; he says "flat." He wishes to know why these characters are constructed the way they are (e.g., could it be because they represent abstract ideas?). 

A "flat" character does not mean a "boring" character. It's a technical term in literary theory popularized by the novelist E. M. Forster in his monograph on writing titled "Aspects of the Novel." According to Forster, a "flat" character is a kind of token: his or her psychology and values do not grow, change, evolve, or come to any kind of crisis during the course of the narrative because characters — like plot points — have functions within the story; it is simply not the function of a flat character to steal attention away from the main character(s) — the protagonist(s) and the antagonist(s) — by growing, changing, evolving, or reaching any sort of "crisis" within the story in which they must exercise his or her will, and come to a decision — or initiate an action — that would be surprising, i.e., a new pattern of behavior inconsistent with their previous pattern. "Flat" characters remain who they were throughout the entire course of the story, because they are there simply to provide a particular kind of obstacle (or point of affinity) for the main characters. They are part of the stock-in-trade of every playwright, screenwriter, short-story writer, and novelist. They are a particular kind of narrative tool.

All of this is utterly lost to Hsieh, who mistakenly thinks that to call a character "flat" is an insult. It might be technically incorrect to call a character "flat" from the standpoint of craft in a given context; but it's not a put-down. If a music student incorrectly identifies a chord as a diminished 7th when, in fact, it is a Neapolitan 6th, the identification is simply mistaken as a matter of musical craft; it's not an insult. 

As an offscreen sidekick named Greg Perkins reads the question aloud to Hsieh, they both begin to laugh, roll their eyes, and snort with embarrassment, as if to to say "Really!! How COULD anyone be so stupid as to think THAT!" As someone who earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Hsieh surely must have been tasked with teaching graduates or undergraduates. Remember those rare teachers who began their Q&A sessions after a lecture by saying "Don't be afraid to ask questions. There's no such thing as a stupid question in this class. Ask anything you wish." Well Hsieh ain't one of those kinds of teachers! Apparently, there are stupid questions in her class, and she will let the questioner and everyone else know it by laughing, snorting, and rolling her eyes.

As if that weren't enough, she then asserts a vicious ad hominem argument by impugning the honesty of anyone who could possibly think such a thing as what the questioner is asking. In this instance, she claims that those who think the characters in Atlas Shrugged are "flat" are simply dishonest; they dislike Ayn Rand; ergo, they're not giving the novel "an honest reading." See for yourself, O Noble Randroid Belt Watchers. It's on her video at 1:24, and again at 2:18, at which time she asserts that to claim the characters in Atlas Shrugged are "flat" is nothing but the reader giving voice to his prejudices. 

Then she moves from insulting the questioner (who, just in case you were wondering, was not I), to being completely irrelevant by replying to a question that wasn't asked: she waxes enthusiastic about all the "good but ordinary people" in Rand's major novels, such as the character of Mike in The Fountainhead, or Cherryl in Atlas Shrugged, in order to dispel any nasty rumors that Rand writes only about mega-wealthy industrialists. Good. But that has nothing to do with whether or not the characters are "flat" or "round". 

So far, she's managed not to reply to what the questioner actually asked, having opted instead for dismissive chortles and insulting ad hominems.

A bit later, in response to a follow-up question read offscreen by Greg Perkins regarding the idea that the story-line in Atlas Shrugged is simply propaganda for the sake of "getting across an idea," she repeats her ad hominem argument, asserting that whoever thinks such a thing is simply "dishonest." 

The truth is this:

All stories, by their very nature, are propaganda; either explicitly or implicitly.

When the film version of "The Grapes of Wrath" was released, the censors in the Soviet Union refused to permit the movie to be exhibited in the USSR. That's rather strange, given that the story of the suffering of the Joad family at the hands of greedy bankers and insensitive capitalists should resonate very well with the Marxist worldview. It turns out, however, that the reason the film was banned in the USSR is that there are a number of scenes in which the Joads load up their car — (ahem!) their personalprivate-property car — and move to a different location of the United States, without need of any sort of internal passport, or without asking any bureaucrat's permission. Is this not propagandistic on the part of the American filmmakers, given that no one in the Soviet Union at the time owned a personal car (except party elites); no one could move about freely without obtaining the proper permission from some bureaucracy, and without official papers permitting relocation; and the masses had generally been indoctrinated into believing that capitalism would make it impossible for a poor family like the Joads to obtain such luxuries as a personal automobile for their own private use? 

In other words, even "The Grapes of Wrath" implicitly propagandized on behalf of a certain political viewpoint (and probably not the one the American filmmakers intended, either). 

A Russian film student once told me that when he lived in the former Soviet Union, occasional American movies would be permitted to be exhibited, and Russian audiences would gape in wonderment at certain things in the movie, concluding that the whole thing must be a simple exercise in American propaganda for capitalism. For example, there might be a perfectly innocuous scene in which a "typical American family" has dinner together at their dining room table. Then the phone rings. The son runs up from the table to answer the phone located in the foyer. It's his friend. He runs upstairs to chat privately with his friend on another phone in his bedroom. The mother, suspicious of this new friend's unexpected phone call, runs downstairs, into the basement, and secretly listens to the son's conversation on another phone. Good grief, Comrades! How many phones does a "typical" American family have? Are we, a typical Russian audience watching this movie, expected to believe that even a typical American family nonchalantly owns three telephones? Many Russians don't even own one!"

You see? Even a B movie about suburban family life in the USA has implicit, unintended propaganda in it that will easily be noticed by a Russian audience bringing a very different set of life experiences to their viewing of it. 

Clearly, none of this has anything to do with impugning anyone's honesty.

Enough about Noodle Food. Its authoress is merely one among many know-nothings in that vast chasm called the Randroid Belt. 

Whoever asked the question on Diana Hsieh's blog deserves a much better, much fuller, and more relevant reply. Here to provide one is none other than E. M. Forster himself, quoted at length, from his monograph on literary technique entitled "Aspects of the Novel" (1927): 
"We may divide characters into flat and round. Flat characters were called 'humorous' in the 17th century, and are sometimes called types, and sometimes caricatures. In their purest form, they are constructed round a single idea or quality: when there is more than one factor in them, we get the beginning of the curve towards the round. The really flat character can be expressed in one sentence such as 'I never will desert Mr. Micawber.' There is Mrs. Micawber—she says she won't desert Mr. Micawber, she doesn't, and there she is. Or: 'I must conceal, even by subterfuges, the poverty of my master's house.' There is Caleb Balderstone in The Bride of Lammamoor [by Sir Walter Scott]. He does not use the actual phrase, but it completely describes him; he has no existence outside of it, no pleasures, none of the private lusts and aches that must complicate the most consistent of servitors. Whatever he does, wherever he goes, whatever lies he tells or plates he breaks, it is to conceal the poverty of his master's house . . . Or take Proust. There are numerous flat characters in Proust, such as the Princess of Parma, or Legrandin. Each can be expressed in a single sentence, the Princess's sentence being 'I must be particularly careful to be kind.' She does nothing except to be particularly careful, and those of the other characters who are more complex than herself easily see through the kindness, since it is only a by-product of the carefulness."
"One great advantage of flat characters is that they are easily recognized whenever they come in— recognized by the reader's emotional eye, not by the visual eye, which merely notes the recurrence of a proper name. In Russian novels, where they so seldom occur, they would be a decided help. It is a convenience for an author when he can strike with his full force at once, and flat characters are very useful to him, since they never need reintroducing, never run away, have not to be watched for development, and provide their own atmosphere — little luminous disks of a pre-arranged size, pushed hither and thither like counters across the void or between the stars; most satisfactory."
There follows an extended and brilliant analysis of several Jane Austen novels. Forster then wraps up the discussion of characterization with a brief summary of "round characters": 
"The test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way. If it never surprises, it is flat. If it does not convince, it is a flat pretending to be round."
If it never surprises, it is flat. Now ask yourself: does James Taggart ever surprise? What about Lillian Rearden? Wesley Mouch? Orrin Boyle? John Galt? I think not. I think all of these characters — and many more in Atlas Shrugged — are truly flat characters; something Rand fully intended, in order to set in high relief the roundness of Dagny and Hank Rearden. 

Whoever posed that question to Diana Hsieh: I hope the above was a more satisfactory reply.

"I Owe, I Owe, It's Off to Work I Go . . ."

One of the mighty randroids flitting about that gaping maw in the vacuum of space known as the Randroid Belt is the atheist-at-large, supernova-sized intellect behind that subtle bestseller amongst randroids entitled, "Atheism: The Case Against God."

Rumors flying around the Randroid Belt suggest that he now suffers the simultaneous wrath of his landlady and the IRS. We don't know whose wrath is worse (though we can guess), and we don't know why this should be. However, we would like to help.  It's the altruist in us.

I therefore urge those sympathetic to such admittedly embarrassing predicaments to read the following advertisement for a new book — destined, I think, to be a bestseller, at least in the Randroid Belt — and consider purchasing it after its impending publication (date to be announced later). I understand that all proceeds accrue to a special charity established by the Atheist Alliance Association for precisely these sorts of situations.

Introducing the Randroid Belt

Somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter floats a yawning chasm of space debris; broken bits of useless rock orbiting our sun en masse. Astronomers call this chasm an asteroid belt.

Floating around the World Wide Web and orbiting their own sun en masse are broken bits of useless intellectual junk we call a Randroid Belt. This flotsam has various names, depending on its origin; names like "Objectivist Living," "SOLO," and "NoodleFood," to name just a few.

From time to time, we'll tool around this void and comment on bits of Objectivist net-junk as they hurtle past us on a collision course with their central star — just for laughs. There's so much to choose from, even though the Randroid Belt itself is mainly empty space.