Monday, April 23, 2012

Atlas Shrugged, Part II (Not Showing at a Theatre Near You)

Yay!!!! Atlas Shrugged, Part II, is filming at this very minute! I can't wait for it to appear in theaters this coming fall so that I can save $14 by not buying a ticket to see it!

The Reason Magazine article linked to above is unintentionally hilarious. Read the following excerpt, especially the statements by co-producer Harmon Kaslow:

“In a move that might prove controversial to fans of Part I, this new movie has been entirely recast—not a single actor reprises their role . . . 'The message of Atlas is greater than any particular actor, so it’s one of those pieces of literature that doesn’t require in our view the interpretation by a singular actor,' Kaslow says. “But just from a practical standpoint when we set out to make Part I we had a ticking clock where if we didn’t start production by a certain date John’s interest in the rights could lapse." 

Wow! LOL! First of all, this is an unbelievably cutting and insulting remark toward the hard-working actors who appeared in Part I ("This movie is bigger than you are, Taylor Schilling! ") Nice one! Actors love hearing that! (We all know how small their egos are!); and then he adds salt to the cut: "Besides, uh, we were in a rush when we cast you. You see, baby, we had this legal deadline we had to beat regarding the option we held  on the novel; so casting you was sort of like . . . like . . . like a shot-gun wedding. We had to do it quickly or not make the movie at all. We really had no choice."

Sure you had a choice. You could have started the project much earlier and given yourself more time to do things right. If it was true that there was "drop-dead" date for the option to run out, the producers could have done a workaround, for example: cast one actor only, let's say, a supporting role such as Eddie Willers. Just shoot some of the scenes requiring Eddie Willers and nothing else: by definition, you've fulfilled the terms of the option (you have, after all, started production) and now you're under less of a time constraint to do the other things right, like casting the right talent for the leads, polishing the screenplay, etc.

No. This workaround is too obvious for them not to have considered it. What imposed a time constraint was not the option deal, but the producers' fat egos: their desire to make a political statement by getting Part I out in time to premiere on April 15, Tax Day. That was the real deadline.

Always the apologist for cult mind-control, Ed Hudgins of The Atlas Society recently blogged this on SOLO regarding the role of his boss, professor David Kelley, in the film's production: 

"David Kelley [h]as spent time in California on the set to make sure the script is consistent with Objectivism."

LOL! Kelley was in California not to ensure that the script was dramatic and exciting and something that would hold an audience's attention; not to ensure that the shooting schedule is maintained; not to ensure that everything is on budget; no, he is there as an ideological, Soviet-era political cadre officer, ensuring compliance with the Objectivist canon.  See the blog post in Around the Randroid Belt titled "Objectivism in One Word."

In the 1950s, producers of certain Hollywood films were concerned about public demonstrations against provocative content (mainly because it would hurt box-office). They therefore willingly submitted their films for review and "vetting" by a Catholic censor board calling itself The Legion of Decency. Stanley Kubrick's excellent early film, "Lolita," with James Mason, Shelley Winters, Peter Sellers, and the young and very seductive Sue Lyon, actually has some opening text — appearing before the title crawl if I remember correctly — that says something like, "This film has been approved by The Legion of Decency."

David Kelley is a one-man compliance officer for the "League of Objectivist Decency." Shame on him for assuming the role of judge and jury.  He should stay off the set and let the people whose job it is to make the movie, do their job of making a movie.

Following the example of "Lolita," perhaps AS-2 should begin with a still frame of text saying "This film has been cleared by The Objectivist League of Decency." (In other words, "It's safe to watch, Randroids. You won't be offended by seeing some personal statement by the director or screenwriter that might deviate from your preconceived expectations regarding a novel you've read 20 times and have memorized.")

The rest of the Reason Magazine article continues in the same unintentionally funny vein, especially the quotes from Harmon Kaslow:

"We didn’t have the luxury at that moment to negotiate future options with the various cast members."

LOL! Wow! Apparently, Harmon Kaslow assumes we all just fell off the turnip truck! Um, Harmon, it isn't solely up to you and the production team  to negotiate future options with the talent. This is Hollywood, remember? All working actors have agents, and it will be up to the agents to make very serious inquiries and proposals regarding future options on behalf of their clients, especially in multi-film projects. That's how agents make their living!

We "didn't have the luxury . . . ?" Can you imagine, for example, Taylor Schilling's agent telling her "Listen, honey, take the AS-1 gig. I have no idea if this will lead to more work for you in Parts II and III — I asked, but Harmon Kaslow told me he was in a rush and just doesn't have the luxury of thinking about the future, or negotiating an option for you. Don't worry about it; whatever happens, happens."

No actor would accept excuses like that from an agent; no agent would accept excuses like that from a producer; which is why I don't believe a scene like that ever occurred . . .  which means I think Harmon Kaslow is bullshitting us.

"Their eagerness to keep the project moving made arranging schedules with the dozens of speaking roles in Part I hugely impractical, so they chose instead to concentrate on making sure the look of the movie created the world they needed it to create. As Kaslow put it, “we just gave ourselves a clean slate put together what we think is a real terrific cast."

I'm sorry, but I've read this last paragraph about 12 times and I still can't determine what it's about. Let's parse it:

"Their eagerness . . ." This refers to the eagerness of the producers.

"to keep the project moving . . ." This refers to the supposed option deadline; i.e., apparently, if the producers did not start production by a certain date, they would lose the option to the novel; meaning, they would lose the right to make the movie in the first place. OK, let's assume we are being told the truth about this.

"made arranging schedules with the dozens of speaking roles in Part I hugely impractical" — For the life of me, I can't figure out what the fuck this sentence means! "Made arranging schedules" — what schedules? Does the writer mean auditions? Talent auditions for the leading roles in Part I? If so, does it strike anyone else other than me as weird that the producers claim they didn't have time to complete a proper audition phase to cast their film? And are they talking about Part 1 or Part 2? The sentence seems to specify Part 1; if so, then it seems to be saying that the producers were so concerned with simply getting the film out — any sort of film, so long as it had the right "look" — that they took an unbelievably cavalier attitude toward the casting. Indeed, even if this is simply an excuse for justifying the re-casting in Part II, that first statement of Harmon Kaslow is indicative of the level of cavalierness:

"The message of Atlas is greater than any particular actor, so it’s one of those pieces of literature that doesn’t require in our view the interpretation by a singular actor,"

Hey, Harmon! That's assuming that only you (and a few other Randroids) will comprise the ticket-buying public! What about everyone else? Do they believe that Atlas Shrugged The Movie, for which they've just spent money buying a ticket, is greater than any particular actor? Or is it more likely (as I believe) that they will find it jarring to have Dagny portrayed by one actress in one film and another actress in its sequel . . . with no dramatic explanation in the screenwriting permitted, of course, because the narrative is so tightly constrained by Comrade David Kelley and his Compliance Squad.

The Reason Magazine article goes on to mention how encouraged Aglialoro was by the sales of DVDs. Usually, in Hollywood, these sorts of numbers are published and available somewhere; not here, though. So I suspect that the only people purchasing these DVDs are members of the Randroid Belt who waft in and out of sites like The Atlas Society, which peddles the DVDs, as well as other merchandise ("Who Is John Galt?" t-shirts, for example).

So it appears to this lone-wolf movie critic that the producers of the AS trilogy decided early on — probably when they saw the collapse of the box-office for AS-1 less than two weeks into its run — to market a cinematic version of their Bible specifically to their acolytes; a ready-made audience, as it were. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Atlas Shrugged The Movie, Part III were made direct-to-DVD; for as long as Randroids are going to be almost the sole market for the film, why bother negotiating all those irksome licensing deals with theatre-owners for public exhibition? Who cares about the public? Just market the film directly to Randroids!

(The one propagandistic advantage to letting the two sequels have public runs rather than marketing direct to DVD is that, when they inevitably fail at the box office and get panned mercilessly by critics, the members of the Randroid Belt can sniffle and point their fingers at the critics and complain how corrupt the critics' premises and aesthetic sensibilities are, and blame the sequels' failure on them. That, of course, might actually help boost DVD sales to members of the Randroid Belt, since the movies will now have romantic "battle scars" inflicted by the moochers and looters.)

Nothing wrong with any of this, of course, and by doing so, one now has the liberty to re-cast again and again, to one's heart's content; for acolytes will be looking at the movie not as a movie — the way the normal public would experience a film, i.e., as a stand-alone entertainment experience — but as a simulacrum; they will judge the movie by how well it mimics a literal reading of the novel. 

The implication of all this, however, is that it makes the AS sequels no different from the special feature films made by and for explicitly religious groups. Just as there's a genre of popular music known as "Christian Rock" so, too, there are specifically Christian films (as well as specifically Orthodox Jewish films), specifically illustrating Biblical themes that often go direct-to-DVD and are meant only for a small, select, religious audience. These are true "niche films" produced for, and marketed to, "niche audiences."

Atlas Shrugged, The Movie is a niche film. The project may not have started out that way, but that's what it became. And it took the collapse of the box-office of Part I to convince producers to continue with production of parts 2 and 3 with the explicit intention of making them niche films and marketing them to a ready-made niche audience, i.e., members of the Randroid Belt.

Again, there's nothing wrong with any of this, but it does point up the closed, cult-like nature of the Objectivist movement — or what's left of it.

The one person who must be extremely saddened by all this is Ed Hudgins at The Atlas Society, and frequent blogger on Sense of Life Objectivists (SOLO).  He PROMISED readers at that site to keep them apprised of "breaking news" regarding production when he boasted of the following:

"Linz, et al. -- I’m planning to provide insider updates on the film as they become available . . ."

"Insider updates," eh?  We actually got nothing from Hudgins since that boast on 5 February 2012 at Sense of Life Objectivists. Instead, we learn from a completely different source — Reason Magazine — that Atlas Shrugged, Part II, is already more than ten days into lensing! 

Hudgins also made the following asinine statement regarding Yours Truly:

"Of course, Darren apparently has far more detailed and reliable insider info than me on the exact nature of David Kelley’s contributions to the first film and his current and future tasks concerning the second film"

He made that statement after I had pointed out on SOLO that David Kelley's role in AS-1 appeared to have been that of an ideological compliance officer, ensuring that the production (including the screenplay, and without doubt, the creative choices made by the director and the editor) complied with, i.e., was consistent with, a canonized body of opinion by Alisa Rosenbaum. At the time, Hudgins chuckled at my suggestion, but as pointed out above, he now admits to the following regarding Atlas Shrugged, Part II:

"David Kelley [h]as spent time in California on the set to make sure the script is consistent with Objectivism."

Thanks for admitting I was right, Hudgins, you fat-headed dolt. But I'm going to expand on this last statement of yours a bit, because you're so fucking ignorant about filmmaking that you're blind to the uncomfortable implications of what you've just admitted: 

If Kelley really is acting as Chief Compliance Officer, then his footprint cannot be constrained only to the screenplay, because everyone involved in the creative team (the director, the actors, the editor, the production designer) is constantly engaged in making creative choices during the production of the movie. 

What if — as happens all the time during the shooting of a movie — the director decides to take a few creative liberties with the screenplay? What if the director says to the talent in some particular scene, "You know something? I thought it was simply your delivery, but now I see that these lines themselves are stilted and just don't work. We'll throw them out, and I want you to say this, instead . . ." And then gives the actor some ad hoc lines to say that, in his creative judgment, work better? What if the director — as Sidney Lumet did in his excellent '70s film "Dog Day Afternoon" with Al Pacino — throws out parts of the script entirely and tells two actors in some particular scene, "Look, you two have worked together and done scenes together for years. You understand what this scene is about, emotionally and psychologically on the part of the characters you portray. Make up the dialogue as you go along; I want to see how it works." And in that film, the way it worked was so good in Lumet's judgment, that he kept the impromptu, off-script scenes in the final cut . . . and what was even funnier, was that the screenwriter — whose original work had been greatly altered by both Lumet and the actors by the time it reached the screen — nevertheless won an Oscar for "Best Screenplay"! In his creative autobiography, Lumet claimed that they all had a good laugh over that, but what are you going to do . . . turn down an Oscar?

The point is, Kelley's involvement as Compliance Gestapo cannot stop merely at the stage of the screenplay; it must bleed over into the director's choices and the editor's choices, too, because personal judgments and choices on the part of these key creative team members can (in principle, at least) greatly alter the meaning of events in a film, as they might have originally been intended by the screenwriter. This happens all the time in filmmaking.

The upshot of this is that we will be seeing David Kelley's tone-deaf, ham-fisted influence throughout Atlas Shrugged, Part 2, just as much as we did in Part I. (Can't wait . . . !)

Anyway, sorry, Hudgins! Maybe the honchos at The Atlas Society will let you break exciting "insider updates" to the rest of us outsiders by keeping you in the loop on Atlas Shrugged, Part III . . . when they re-cast the film yet again.
Until then, Eddie, we hope you enjoy Part II.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Yentavist Alert: Ellen Stuttle Stutters & Stumbles

This is typical of long-time Randroid Belt members: even in attempting to reply to a fellow Randroid Belt member, they pass the buck and seem to be unaware that they haven't answered a thing.

The reason this occurs is that, around the Randroid Belt, it isn't really ever necessary to refute, rebut, or substantively reply to an opposing argument (that would be difficult since all Randroids are notoriously ill-informed about most things, and most Randroids are notoriously ill-informed about all things); the main thing is to strut about in such a way so as to convince other members of the Randroid Belt how sincere one is in one's extreme disagreement with the opposition, and how shocked and disgusted one is that anyone could even hold such an opposing view.

Just spend a little time on any typical site floating aimlessly around the Randroid Belt — Sense of Life Objectivists, Objectivist Living, Diana Hsieh's Noodle Food, etc. — and you'll quickly find this to be the case.

There are a number of psychological reasons for this, but one of the most obvious is that Randroid Belters mentally operate most often on the level of "buzz" words — shibboleths. Instead of pheromones, for example, Randroid Belters recognize one another by way of certain words spoken in a certain way, or written with a certain emphasis: words like: "integrate" or "differentiate" or "context" (often preceded by the qualifier "full"). These are the equivalent of pass-words (or, alternatively, closely guarded Masonic handshakes) that members of a secret society, for example, might have to say to an armed security guard at the front door in order to let him know that you are "One of Them" and allowed onto the club premises.

Today we have the pleasure of witnessing Ellen Stutter attempt to answer Xray's query:

"What is it that Darren does not understand about the Seconcd Law of Thermodynamics?"
Instead of answering it in a straightforward way, such as "Darren asserts X about the 2nd Law, when the latest edition of Halliday & Resnick assures physics students that the truth of the matter is Y", Ellen Stutter passes the buck by essentially saying:



To answer in advance any silly responses to Stutter's Stumble, I'll post this brief excerpt from "Ayn Rand and the Myth of Chemical Evolution" [linked]. But first, take note:

I was careful to point out in that post that there are different ways of looking at entropy, depending on whether we are looking at the energy in a system, or whether we are looking at its arrangement of particles.  The former has PHYSICAL UNITS (such as "joules per degree-kelvin"); the latter is simply a PURE NUMBER; but aside from that, the mathematical relations are IDENTICAL. The former way of looking at things is part of classical thermodynamics; the latter is part of statistical mechanics. They are simply two ways of looking at the same thing. Additionally, as I also point out, they are linked: as an array of particles becomes more randomly dispersed, energy becomes LESS AVAILABLE for use (entropy — irrespective of how it is measured, thermally or configurationally — increases); as an array of particles becomes less randomly dispersed, energy becomes more available for use (entropy, whether thermal or configurational, decreases).

I wrote:

"There are different ways of thinking about entropy, but they all involve the idea of "states of disorderliness" of a system. Disorderliness, not orderliness. As a system becomes more disorderly, its entropy is said to increase; conversely, as a system becomes more orderly, its entropy is said to decrease. If the metric one uses to measure disorderliness is a macroscopic one like "energy," then entropy can be thought of as the amount of energy in a system that is unavailable to perform work; if the metric one uses is a microscopic one like "the configuration or arrangement of particles comprising the system," then entropy can be thought of as the inevitable tendency for the particles comprising a system to move from some initial arrangement that is improbable toward an arrangement that is more probable. The microscopic and the macroscopic are related, of course, for as a configuration of particles moves from one of low probability to one of high probability, less energy is available in the system to perform work. The arrangement of particles that corresponds to the maximum amount of unavailable energy is one that has the least order, i.e., that arrangement which is the most random and the most probable. Thus, the Second Law of Thermodynamics dictates that Time's Arrow move any system of particles from states of orderliness to states of increasing randomness. In other words, the inevitable result of time on any system is to cause it to have more disorder and more random configurations amongst its constituent elements."

Just for fun, let's don our funny caps with the Randroid Belt Listening Devices and tune into what the great Yentavist is webcasting:

"I got around to reading the rest of the thread where thermodynamics became the main topic.
I found a number of Darren's posts enjoyable to read, especially those in which he was calmly explanatory when answering you, and tangentially he triggered some thoughts along lines relevant to my thinking about volition. However, he made the mistake over and over of substituting "entropy" in what he calls in his blogspot post the "logical" meaning for "entropy" in the thermodynamic meaning and, by equivocating between the two, arguing invalidly from the one to the other. Hence I concluded that he doesn't understand the physics meaning."
Already answered. See above. Yes, "logical entropy" is not the same thing as "thermal entropy" but only in the sense that the heads-side of a coin is not the same thing as the tails-side. They are different, but nevertheless, different sides of the same coin. The configurations within an array of particles — water molecules, say — will not achieve a lowered state of logical entropy by increasing the thermal entropy; as the latter increases, so does the former.
I'm not sure if Peter quite caught the equivocating, though he hints at it, but his language does some conflating also. Marcus caught it in posing the bomb example.

Peter Putz and Mucus-Brain Marcus are two of my favorite Randroid Belt know-nothings; highly amusing chaps, both of them.  Peter Putz claimed that photons from sunlight are ultimately responsible for the housekeeper's directed energy toward organizing books alphabetically (in which case, of course, the housekeeper is merely a kind of passive conduit); this would mean that photons from sunlight were also ultimately responsible for the directed energy expended by Alisa Rosenbaum over a 10-year period when she sequenced lots of alphabetic characters into a meaningful chain that she titled "Atlas Shrugged." Obviously, the logic Peter Putz applies to the lowly housekeeper he should apply to the mighty Alisa Rosenbaum. That is . . . if he were consistent.  

And that great, literate, insightful, innovative talent, Mucus-Brain Marcus, claimed that by setting off a source of random energy in the apartment — a bomb, say — the resultant damage and chaos would represent an INCREASE in the "energy" of the apartment, because (if I understand his ramblings correctly) the various apartment furnishings, such as the tenant's aquarium, were now "at a higher level" than previously — in other words, the fish were now splattered on the ceiling along with shards of glass.  Mucus-brain is probably mistakenly thinking of some abstraction of "potential energy": the higher an object is, the greater its potential energy.  The point is to take into account AVAILABLE energy; energy that is available for use in the system. For example, are the bed-springs stuck into the ceiling and walls in a random manner useful in any way? No. To make them useful, the housekeeper (or someone) would first have to expend directed energy in setting up a ladder, climbing it, pulling out one spring after another, and then expending yet more directed energy in re-assembling the bed-springs into a configuration that could be used for sleeping on (assuming this could be done at all).

The entropy in the apartment has increased tremendously by setting off a bomb; and this is so whether we think of the entropy in terms of heat distribution (classical thermodynamics) or in terms of the organization of the array of elements such as bed, books, furniture, suits and ties hanging in the closet, etc. (statistical mechanics). Thermal entropy and configurational entropy have both increased . . . because (once again) they are simply two slightly different ways of looking at the same thing.

Anyway, so much for Ellen Stuttle's stutter & stumble.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Understanding Objectivism in One Word

I've just ordered this new book through my local Objectivism study group.

I have to admit, though — I actually bought it for the clear and instructive pictures.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reading Ayn Rand Through The Foucauldian Cut of Nietzchean Genealogy

I am starting with The Fountainhead just because I am. Atlas Shrugged is even more so. Both these novels incised a Foucauldian "cut" through the best selling literary Dominating Discourse of their day. No neither were literary masterpieces of cultural eminence. No matter. -  Neither were the Campbell Soup Cans of Warhol, but they cut into art history and ushered in POP art.

 Warhol "cut" into  Art History
But that's not the point. Both were "cuts" in the Dominating Discourse. What she wrote was not allowed. The DD determines who can say what, when it can be said, what can be said, how it can be said, who can say it and where it can be said. If this is all new to you then I refer you to the work of Michel Foucault and all his works, the first two being The Order of Things and The Archeology of Knowledge.

Foucault seized upon Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals, saw genealogy as a tool to order knowledge into cuts.

"Knowledge is not for knowing; knowledge is for cutting." - Michael Foucault

Nowhere does anyone see that this is what Rand did. Only she did not universalize it as Foucault did and apply the Nietzchean tool to all knowledge. Instead Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals sank deep in her mind to change the way she thought. Nietzsche puts an end to God by saying God is deadBaudrillard comments on this way of phrasing it. Nietzsche challenged God to appear. He dared God. He did not say there was no God. He said God is dead, a much different meaning.

Rand was completely convinced by Nietzsche's reasoning to declare herself an atheist, and Objectivism held atheism as a tenet. Rand finally broke with her friend, supporter, teacher and much more, Isabel Patterson, over this issue. Patterson believed in a creator, Rand did not, and they argued for years over it, until Rand just distanced herself from Patterson.

It is Nietzsche's tight reasoning using genealogy that interfaced with Rand's mind and her thinking. It did the same with Foucault. It began French post modernism thinking, replacing Levi-Strauss's structuralism theory.

This is how to read Rand through Nietzsche, not by media sound bites of what someone has picked up about Nietzsche. Rand backs away from Nietzsche in her journals, Foucault skims over him until the last years of his brilliant and powerful intellectual career, and finally says that he regretted not acknowledging Nietzsche's contribution to his work earlier in his career. The reason is obvious since no one wanted to stand beside Hitler's praise and misuse of Nietzsche, concerning the Holocaust, which Nietzsche would have disavowed if anyone had carefully read his Genealogy of Morals.

The philosophical, economic, psychological, social, aesthetic Dominating Discourses served to smother these novels as best they could. But when the Dominating Discourse changes, it is total. This is where Kuhn's Paradigm Change often gets confused with Foucault's cut, which is much more comprehensive. These novels cut, they cut through all the discourses of the above. This is its supreme importance. But only thinking genealogically will allow you to observe and see it.

An object does not exist until and unless it is observed. - William Burroughs

Nowhere on any page of these two biographies, or any reviewers, or Rand's disciples, is any of this seen. Foucault is not in the bibliographies nor the texts, nor the footnotes, nada anywhere. In fact neither Burns nor Heller seem aware that there is such a thing as post modern thinking. Burns's bibliography is so excessive it is obscene. It's scholarship is an embarrassment. I am not surprised that she was granted access to the ARI archives. She posed no threat at all. She did, however, provide endless tidbits of information. Information is NOT knowing.

Nietzsche is in Burns's bibliography as Thus Spake Zarathustra but no Genealogy of Morals. In Heller Nietzsche is in her bibliography under Beyond Good and Evil. She does mention Genealogy of Morals, but does not include it in her bibliography.

Rand is primarily a post modern theorist, who presented her theory via fiction. When she turned to non-fiction it disappeared. So we have it and at the same time it is masked, camouflaged, revealed and concealed.

My New AVI

I dunno.

Does that suit make me look fat?

Warmest regards and sincerest thanks to curioushairedgal.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Leonid's Balls

One of the smaller bits of space-junk whirling mindlessly around the Randroid Belt calls itself "Leonid", whose name means "Son of a Lion."
This great leonine intellect recently roared the following on Sense Of Life Objectivists (SOLO):
"Stochastic process is not contingent. Each and every stochastic state in every given time is determined by interaction between all entities involved and couldn't be other. However the number of entities is so big that we unable to establish cause-effect connection. Mathematical procedures or telegraph process could be contingent but they are man-made, So is chess game, soccer game, a philosophy a symphony, a painting and many other products of man's mind."
In other words, according to this bright light, there is no such thing — no real causal force in the physical universe — as chance or randomness. According to this bright light, "chance," "randomness," and "stochastic state" (these terms can presumably be used interchangeably) are simply "placeholders", or "markers," for strict, mechanistic, physically determined causes that human minds simply happen not to know at the time they are thinking about the event or events in question. Thus, "chance," "randomness," and "stochastic states" are terms that mark our ignorance of the "real" causes involved, the word "real" being reserved by prior philosophical commitment to strictly mechanist, deterministic events.
So, for Leonid (as for everyone else floating in the Randroid Belt) words like "chance," "randomness," "stochastic state," etc., point to a state of consciousness (a deficient state, i.e., a state of ignorance); not to some aspect of material, objective reality, comprising matter and energy. A knee-jerk Randroid would probably phrase what I've just written thus: "The concepts of 'chance,' 'randomness,' 'stochastic state,' etc., are epistemological concepts, not metaphysical ones. They relate to some condition or state of man's mind, and not some aspect of physical, material Existence."
Now, if "chance", "randomness", and "stochastic state" are placeholders for our lack of knowledge concerning real mechanistic deterministic causes, what, precisely, are "mechanistic determinist causes"?
Son-of-a-lion doesn't say. But there is a commonly accepted idea in the philosophy of science as to the criteria for strict determinism:
An effect is said to have been "strictly determined" by a cause if we can predict with precision and accuracy the state of the system at time t=n by knowing nothing except (1) the initial state of the system at t=0, and (2) the overarching principle or law that governs the relevant aspect of the system.
I mention the "relevant aspect" of the system because there may be many irrelevant ones, too; e.g., if we are interested in how a billiard ball of mass X will vector away from a cue-stick after having been struck by it with force Y, we needn't take into consideration the color of the billiard ball, since the property of color is taken to be irrelevant to the properties we are interested in — changes in motion and position.
Indeed, in the case of the motion of the billiard ball at some arbitrarily chosen time t=n, we can predict with great precision and accuracy many things — the ball's acceleration, its direction, its deceleration, the angle it will strike the side of the billiard table, etc. — simply by knowing the initial conditions of the ball-stick-table system, and Newton's laws of motion.
So when Son-of-a-lion avers that the concepts of "chance", "randomness", and "stochastic state" are useful only as placeholders, he means that in certain explanations of events — actually, in most explanations of events — human minds lack either the knowledge of the initial starting conditions of the system (including an accounting of which entities are relevant and ought to be included in the system), or they lack sufficient knowledge of the overarching general law or principle that governs the entities in the system, or both.
All Randroids believe this. It's a requirement for membership around the Randroid Belt.
Additionally, they believe that, in cases of this kind, knowledge of the number and kinds of relevant components of the system, and knowledge of the general causal law governing the relevant components, are possible to achieve in principle. What prevents one from knowing these things is not any inherent "unknowability" about the system; rather, it is practical considerations, such as the state of technology and the precision of our measuring tools, as well as more obvious things, such as the amount of time and money available for directing into such investigations.  Son-of-a-lion complains that it is the problem of "the number of entities" being "so big" which requires that we substitute the "approximate" knowledge of probability for the "exact" knowledge of determinism; but that which is claimed to be "so big" in 2012 might not be "so big" in 2062. Therefore, in principle at least, according to Randroids, all statements about events that are expressed as probabilities today are inherently expressible as statements of strict determinism.
This would mean that instead of accepting the idea of 3 fundamental types of causes in the universe — strict determinism, goal directedness, chance — Randroids accept only  the first two. To repeat: "Chance" for a Randroid is simply a name for our lack of specific knowledge of the criteria pertaining to the first.
The great advantage to this belief is that it makes one feel good, safe, and "in control"; for even if a Randroid knows absolutely nothing about the state of a given system, he could always claim that the knowledge of deterministic causes and completely predictable effects is "there", "objective", and "in" the system; he just lacks the time, funding, and precision instruments with which to discover them.
The great disadvantage to this belief, alas, is that it happens not to be true. In other words, it is NOT true that all physical events can, in principle, be reduced to tight, neat, causal chains in which a clearly known specific cause produces one and only one specific effect under the guidance of a grand, overarching law or principle. That Randroids ardently hew to this belief marks them as not only naive, but as inherently anti-scientific. Their position is a reactionary throwback to a much older viewpoint, no different from "naive materialism" and "simple reductionism" of the 19th-century.
To understand why this is so, we can consider the following hypothetical experiment by the great quantum physicist, Alfred Landé, known as "Landé's Blade."
A heavy ivory billiard ball rolls down a hollow, inclined tube; immediately on exiting the tube, it encounters a thin metal blade. The straight-line motion of the ball is now interrupted by having to roll atop a very thin, sharp, piece of metal, causing it to wobble either to its left or to its right, and to fall into a waiting box positioned on either side of the blade. We see that the blade adds a "randomizing" cause to the billiard ball's otherwise strictly determined motion along a straight line (guaranteed by the constraint of the tube).
Now, assuming the blade has been positioned precisely in the middle of the tube's exit opening, and the ivory billiard ball is a "fair" one (i.e., not biased in its mass in any particular direction), then our understanding of probability would lead us to conclude that there is a 50% chance of the ball falling in the left box or the right box. For the sake of brevity, we'll call the first event an l-ball and the second an r-ball.
After rolling, let us say, 10,000 billiard balls down the tube, Landé's Blade would guarantee that about 5,000 of the balls would find their way into the right-most box, and 5,000 into the left-most one.
A Randroid studying this experiment would probably say the following:
"If we had the time, money, and precision measuring instruments (such as very powerful microscopes that see down to the level of individual atoms), we could observe the individual forces inside the tube that affect the way in which the billiard ball is rolling, the way in which encounters the "lip" of the end of the tube, etc., and the way in which the sharp edge of the metal blade affect it, as well, thus permitting us to predict — in principle, at least — with 100% confidence, into which box the ball will drop on any given trial. Therefore, the idea that something called 'chance' governs which box the ball will drop is ultimately mistaken; 'chance' is simply a name covering our lack of specific knowledge of these atomic-sized and more fundamental causes."
The problem with such an explanation is this: the final effect is the same; i.e., 50% of the time the ball drops to the right, 50% of the time it drops to the left. What we need to explain is not why one particular ball, on one particular roll, falls to the left or to the right; we need to explain why there is statistical stability: why ON THE AVERAGE, about half of the rolls result in l-balls and why half in r-balls, and why THIS IS ALWAYS THE CASE.
Perhaps the best insights into the significance of Landé's Blade comes from Karl Popper, writing in his collection of essays on science titled "The Open Universe: an Argument for Indeterminism." [Linked]  In a chapter dealing with the problem of trying to erase probabilistic statements by looking for hidden deterministic laws that will give us a sense of certainty and stability, Popper writes the following:
"No physicist that I know of has seen this problem more clearly, or done more to show what is involved here, than Alfred Landé [NB: see his "Probability in Classical and Quantum Theory" (1953)  and "Foundations of Quantum Theory" (1955)]  His argument is designed to show that we must accept probabilities of single events as fundamental, and as irreplaceable by any statement except by other probability statements. Moreover, his argument shows that even if we combine a prima facie deterministic theory with statistical assumptions concerning initial conditions, we only get an infinite regress; and an interpretation which sticks to this assumption is bound to become untestable, metaphysical (or 'purely academic' in Landé's terminology)."
[Emphasis added]

Or we might say that an interpretation which sticks to this assumption becomes a rigidly held dogma around the Randroid Belt, whose members habitually substitute untestable metaphysical statements for scientific ones.
"Landé's argument may also be used to criticize the doctrine that probability considerations enter into science only if our knowledge is insufficient to enable us to make predictions with certainty.In order to see the weakness and even the irrelevance of this doctrine, let us assume again that we are faced with an arrangement as described by Landé, with balls dropping onto a steel blade, and a 50:50 ratio of r [right] and l [left] balls."
For the sake of clarification, note well what the steel blade in the experiment is really doing: it is segregating r-balls from l-balls, determining or deciding (and feel free to interpret those words either literally or metaphorically, as it makes no difference to the outcome) the path, or "fate", of each ball as it emerges from the end of the tube. So Popper uses the word "blade" in his argument to mean "anything in the arrangement that performs the action of segregating an l-ball from an r-ball," and which determines or decides the path, or "fate," of each ball as it rolls down the tube. The only difference is that each successive "blade" we might discover acts on the ball at an earlier stage of its trajectory down the tube, and can thus be seen as a more fundamental or determinative "blade" than the metal one which only segregates the balls "at the last moment," as it were. Keep this usage in mind, for Popper will soon speak of an "optical blade" that a hypothetical determinist — such as a Randroid — might assume to be acting on a ball at an earlier stage than the metal one, and thus being more of an ultimate "cause" for the ball becoming segregated to the left or to the right.  Popper continues:
"Let us further assume that we have an optical blade with the help of which we can know with certainty of every oncoming ball whether it will be a right ball or a left ball. This undoubtedly makes it unnecessary to invoke probabilities so far as the prediction of each single ball is concerned. But it does not in any way affect our problem. The balls, we may assume, fall to the right or to the left of the steel blade exactly as before, with the same 50:50 ratio, and with the same statistical fluctuations; and the problem of explaining statistical results, and that of explaining our ability to predict that future sequences will lead to similar results (provided the conditions are unchanged), remain precisely the same as before, in spite of the fact that we now know every single result in advance.
But does not our advance knowledge of the r and l balls enable us to change their ratios? We may assume that the balls come through Landé's tube sufficiently slowly, and sufficiently space from one another, to observe them with the optical blade and to remove each r-ball by hand (putting it in a box, say). As a result, we shall obtain only l-balls instead of a 50:50 ratio. Thus, on the basis of our precise knowledge, we can control our statistical results as we like.This argument is certainly correct. But we shall still find that the ratio of the l-balls to the balls now put away in the box [NB which were the early-detected r-balls that we removed before they had a chance to encounter the metal blade and fall into the r-box, and which Popper now calls box-balls] is 50:50, as before; and the problem of explaining this ratio, and the statistical fluctuations, remains unchanged: it has again been merely shifted.
The 50:50 ratio, it will be clear by now, depends upon the objective experimental conditions [NB: the physical arrangement we established when we decided to perform the experiment], and has nothing whatever to do with our knowledge, or lack of it. In so far as we changed the experimental conditions — replacing the r-balls by box-balls — there was a change in the results [NB: that is, we were able to get ONLY l-balls]; and in so far as we did not change the conditions, leaving the tube and the blade untouched, there was no change."
In the same chapter, Popper goes on to say that probabilities — which he renames "propensities" — should be viewed not as placeholders for our lack of exact knowledge of assumed deterministic causes, but rather as real, physical, objective causal traits or causal properties, not of any one individual element within an arrangement of elements, but of the entire arrangement itself. The 50:50 ratio of l-balls to r-balls is not some atomic or chemical property of ivory, but a property of the entire experimental set-up comprising: ball+inclined tube+metal blade, acting in concert.
I agree with Popper, and believe his approach to this problem is original and an important contribution to our whole way of conceiving of probability: i.e., probability, chance, randomness, stochastic state, or propensity, as an emergent property among aggregates of entities, and not some physical property inherent in the chemistry or atomic composition of any single one of them.
We conclude, therefore, that the universe contains at least three distinguishable kinds of causes, each cause being unique and non-reducible to the other two:
1. Strict determinism; 
2. Goal-directedness; and 
3. Chance.