Dauntless Crusader

The beauty of technology

Posted in Miscellaneous, Science by Phillip Andrew-Locke on July 18, 2010

I am in love with technology. I marvel at the fact that a computer is outdated pretty much the moment one buys it, that the innards of our equipment and electronics today improve exponentially each year, that video game graphics have transformed from Super Mario 64′s first 3D environment to modern day motion sensor gaming technology.

One kind of person I despise deeply is one who condemns technology as a detriment to the planet and to mankind by distracting man from his roots and polluting the Earth with that which is “unnatural.” I reject this assertion. Doesn’t he see the magnificence of man reflected in his instruments, beautiful not in spite of their unnaturalness, but because of it? That tingling, exhilarating sensation of life felt when regarding creations from nanomachines to modern spacecraft, how can he not feel the same–how could he not only ignore their value, but also denounce them as evil to humanity?

I, for one, do not wish to live in a state of maintaining the status quo, a life of primitive stasis.

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The Driver

Posted in Capitalism, Literature by Phillip Andrew-Locke on July 16, 2010

The Driver, by Garet Garrett, is a novel of economic adventure. It follows an unnamed young man who entered the railroad business because of his article on a collectivist named Coxey who leads a march of angry supporters, and even through his career as the secretary and friend of the ruler of the financial world he is called Coxey as an ironic nickname. The financial god is a man by the name of Henry M. Galt, who, with his keen insight and passion for efficient, profitable railroads, takes over the business and successfully wrings out of his resources the best railroads ever existed and even averted a recession in the era of the Panic of 1893. The book recounts Galt’s battle with Wall Street and the government, overturning a plummet of Great Midwestern stock and overcoming a governmental bid for trust busting.

Galt’s scene with the Committee ready to indict him for holding monopolistic interests is brilliant, not unlike Howard Roark’s courtscene or Hank Rearden’s trial, though not in the same, majestic manner but just as heroic. Henry Galt is much more realistic than any the industrialists in Atlas Shrugged–though, he is more like Nat Taggart than like Dagny, in the sense that Great Midwestern is more interested in building and extending than Taggart Transcontinental. Henry Galt isn’t daunted by his fight against competitors, public opinion, those wishing to dethrone him; eventually, he not only regains what he has lost (and more), he also instills a stupefied awe, coupled with some sort of terror, in them, at the fact that Henry M. Galt is indestructible.

The personal life of the narrator and Galt’s family, while interesting to a degree, serves little purpose in the novel aside from taking a look into how Galt’s rise in wealth and power had affected those around him. While mostly supportive, his family gave him some grief in the novel, as Galt knows of his wife and his daughter’s entreaties to enter society from which they have been ostracized yet remains oblivious to the means of achieving this goal, which ends up sometimes hurting them more than helping. The narrator’s romantic life is strange and rather irrelevant, and without giving anything away,  I will say that I found little of importance in the last chapter.

In short, I highly recommend The Driver. The writing is not particularly superb, but Garrett does a very good job relating the characteristics of Galt and offers insights on Wall Street that are worth it. A Mises Institute endorsed novel, The Driver is a refreshing read on economics, business, and finance.

Atlas Shrugged movie in the works

Posted in Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Movies, Objectivism by Phillip Andrew-Locke on July 15, 2010

I don’t go to the movie theaters often. The most recent movie I went to was with some of my friends to see Iron Man 2, which was a great investment. The movie before that, however, was The Golden Compass back in high school, which was, without a doubt, not worth my ten dollars–movie ticket and food included. The book, from what I remember from middle school, was much, much better.

The next time I go to the theaters will probably for Atlas Shrugged, which IMDB suggests is coming out sometime next year. I hope that it will reinforce the impression of the movies that Iron Man 2 so forcefully wrenched from the grasp of The Golden Compass. Since I’m not in tune with the movies, I don’t know many of the actors who will appear in the movie: Paul Johannson as John Galt, Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart, and Jsu Garcia as Francisco d’Anconia elicit no reaction from me except one of slight confusion. I wouldn’t have minded if Angelina Jolie was cast as Dagny, since she professes to sympathize with Objectivism–in which case, Brad Pitt might have tagged along as well. My encounters with Brad Pitt’s movies have generally been positive, even though I had bad experiences with Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Burn After Reading.

There are some major potential shortcomings about the movie. I read somewhere that Atlas Shrugged will be cut into four movies, but I don’t know the truth of that source. Ayn Rand supporters will find their way to the theaters for the movies, so there is a definite consumer base, but make one wrong move and the movie will have not only the liberals against it (such as the writer of this article: Atlas Shrugged is a Dangerous Bad Idea etc. etc.) but also the Objectivists. In addition, the writer of the screenplay, Brian Patrick O’Toole, hasn’t had a large history in Hollywood; in fact, his only three movies accounted for on the site, Basement Jack, Evilution, and Cemetery Gates, are rated 3.8, 4.2, and 4.0, respectively, on IMDB. I admit that since I haven’t seen any of these movies to make a personal assessment, I shouldn’t take these ratings very seriously. All I am prepared to say right now is that O’Toole has had a history in writing [slasher] horror films and has before him a lofty goal–and he will be a great man if he pulls it off.

Galt’s actor, Paul Johannson, is the director of the film, according to IMDB. Again, while he has been prominent in the show business (acting and directing One Tree Hill, which I have heard good things about), I don’t know much about him regarding his directing skills.

I know there are going to be some nasty, nasty remarks on Objectivism and Rand after this movie is complete–the beginnings of a massive ideological war have already shown themselves in many derisive articles and the increasing sales of the book.

Let’s see where this leads. Bring it on.

A brief look into sensational news

Posted in News by Phillip Andrew-Locke on July 13, 2010

Every day when I pass through the Yahoo! front page to access my email, I am struck by horror at the articles that it displays on its front. Today, it was “Lebron James gets booed at a wedding.” My morbid curiosity made me click the arrow on the bottom of the rectangle to see if Yahoo! can redeem itself. I found “Ironic initials for driver’s baby” and “What your desk says about you.” Alas, I found it hopeless. I bet the Onion’s writers has lots of fun with their articles because they write them for the purpose of being ridiculous; I don’t hate Yahoo! enough to believe that it publishes all the articles that it does with a straight face.

Granted, Yahoo! does publish solid news. But it is also true that much of the solid news don’t make it to the front display and settle for subordinate positions below it, and even if one article does make it, it sits alongside “Wrong way to cover a sneeze.” Sensational news printing is also not an exclusively a Yahoo! phenomenon.

Reading sensational news is, for the most part, not valuable. Knowing that a new type of chili is so spicy that it can be made into a weapon is unnecessary, unless you are in the chili research department for the government or you are playing “Bluff the Listener” on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.

However, it is not valuable in the same way that a thriller novel or a plot-less video game is not valuable: all three can still be quite enjoyable. But don’t let any of them get in the way of what you want or need to do. Sensational news is very rarely, if ever, worth your job, your homework, your much-needed grocery trip, or your child.

Femininity, as defined by reason

Posted in Ayn Rand, Objectivism by Phillip Andrew-Locke on July 12, 2010

I came across on the Ayn Rand Lexicon a curious description of femininity taken from an essay that Ayn Rand wrote titled “A Woman President,” and I remembered the time when one of my very good female friends told me that despite the great influence that Ayn Rand has had in her life since deep in high school, she will never be able to accept Rand’s idea of women worshipping men. At the time, I expressed some slight surprise, as I had always thought of Rand as a great sexual equalizer, with her intelligent, competent female characters in her novels as well as her plays (especially Kay Gonda in Ideal), and subsequently replaced the thought with my economics homework.

Here I have reproduced the passages taken from The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship—the desire to look up to man. “To look up” does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority. It means an intense kind of admiration; and admiration is an emotion that can be experienced only by a person of strong character and independent value-judgments. A “clinging vine” type of woman is not an admirer, but an exploiter of men. Hero-worship is a demanding virtue: a woman has to be worthy of it and of the hero she worships. Intellectually and morally, i.e., as a human being, she has to be his equal; then the object of her worship is specifically his masculinity, not any human virtue she might lack.

Ayn Rand’s description of the female sex in the first paragraph came as no surprise to me; a rational relationship is one in which each party respects the other and considers the other his intellectual and moral equal. This means that one can’t be in a relationship with a looter or a second-hander without compromising one’s own values. What was particularly interesting was Rand’s idea that rational women must partake in “hero-worshipping”–my deduction was thus: “the essence of woman is hero-worship,” a woman who does not hero-worship does not fulfill her “essence” and is thereby irrational and/or committing  evasion of some sort, and thus in order for a woman to be rational, she must hero-worship. She neglects to address the role of female heroes in the female psychology, though I presume that Rand found them to be irrelevant. Because masculinity is key; imagine a woman with a male equal–according to Rand, the woman is the one who will worship the man simply because of the fact that he is male.

Let’s continue:

This does not mean that a feminine woman feels or projects hero-worship for any and every individual man; as human beings, many of them may, in fact, be her inferiors.

This is true. We have already established that the male and female counterparts of a relationship must be equals.

Her worship is an abstract emotion for the metaphysical concept of masculinity as such—which she experiences fully and concretely only for the man she loves, but which colors her attitude toward all men.

So, a woman’s worship of man stems from the dominant role of a man in sex. Her knowledge of this biological male role affects her judgment of other men, who regardless of being relates to her love (whether real or ideal, like Dagny Taggart’s unnamed ideal of John Galt in Atlas Shrugged) simply by the fact that they are all male.

This does not mean that there is a romantic or sexual intention in her attitude toward all men; quite the contrary: the higher her view of masculinity, the more severely demanding her standards. It means that she never loses the awareness of her own sexual identity and theirs. It means that a properly feminine woman does not treat men as if she were their pal, sister, mother—or leader.

Simply put, this conclusion is absurd. The conclusion that I drew from the given premises is that women should not treat men who are their equals as if she is their leader, or in other words, women should not attempt to dominate those who have an upper-hand by being the dominant part in a sexual relationship, for men, we have nature on our sides; all else being equal, we will end up a little heavier on the “power balance” because that’s how our gender has evolutionarily developed. But what about the men who are inferior? Why shouldn’t “a properly feminine woman” take control, when she knows that she is superior to all the men around her?

Rand continues to state that as President, a woman would have no one superior to her to worship, thereby contradicting her essence and leaving her in a state of stress and meaninglessness. She never says that a woman cannot do the work; in fact, she states that women can do just as well or even better than a man in a position of leadership. Yet the vacuum in which the female President lives without a hero to worship, she claims, would be so taxing on her that as President, she would be sacrificing her self-interest, her mental health.

This is an incorrect conclusion for several reasons, including, namely: 1. The hypothetical of the possible nonexistence of equal or superior men;  2. Peikoff once said in a podcast that one’s hero should be fictional rather than real, because a hero is not subject to human mistakes and there will never be the need to reconcile possible, essential alterations in the man when the man is set in stone, in fiction, and I agreed with the statement. Why is this case any different?; 3. Randian counterexamples from her literature.

I will elaborate on these reasons in later posts. I think I’ve done enough typing here for today.

P.S. Rand’s “About a Women President” is not a subjective piece of work, and I don’t claim that it is. I do hold that while her premises were mostly true, her conclusion is invalid.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Ayn Rand. Her works have irrevocably changed my life ever since I was introduced to Atlas Shrugged as a teenager. However, I have to side with my aforementioned friend on this. It is what my reason concludes.

Goodbye, generic opening post.

Posted in Miscellaneous by Phillip Andrew-Locke on July 11, 2010

What most amused me today was opening the Wikipedia page on the FIFA World Cup and seeing the champions listed as Netherlands, before the game had even begun. A few hours later I checked back, and the mods had changed the page to a semi-protected state that restricted “excessive vandalism.”

I’ve always found watching sports to be not unlike, for me, watching a performance of Rachmaninov’s piano concertos or Ken Jennings win yet another Jeopardy! game (I confess that each time I see him lose I feel depressed for a few minutes). Even though I express no interest in watching sports myself nor do I pretend to, I find sports a meaningful past time. One thing I don’t understand, though, is how one can be so attached to a certain team–given that no tangible connection exists between the individual and the team–despite consistent failure. And another thing I don’t think I will ever understand (or care enough about to seek understanding) is why professional poker airs on ESPN.

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