Category Archives: Mini-Reviews

Ayn Rand and Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” Thesis

From a new article at Desicritics.org titled Book Review: Malcolm Gladwell and Ayn Rand:

[I]f you simply dig a little under the words Gladwell uses, such as “instincts,” “snap judgments,” and “thinking without thinking,” what you will realize is that Gladwellâ??s thesis is not novel in any significant sense, at least not to someone who is well-versed with Ayn Randâ??s philosophy of Objectivism.

Ayn Rand had decades ago stated that one must “trust your subconscious” while engaged in the task of writing. However, like much else of what Rand said, this little instruction to trust oneâ??s own subconscious mind can be extended beyond the context of writing and applied to practically every realm and action in life.

See the full article for more on the parallels between Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism and Malcolm Gladwell’s thesis in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

Andy Garcia’s “The Lost City” Is Excellent

Earlier this week my wife and I watched The Lost City (June 2006), starring Andy Garcia, who also produced and directed the movie.

It’s was best movie I’ve seen in months.

The film is Garcia’s own personal love letter to Cuba — the Cuba that existed before Fidel Castro’s “revolution.” It is a pulsating world of lively music, palpable sensuality, and tight-knit families.

The writing and acting are excellent throughout, and the cinematography is spectacularly beautiful. The movie is highly stylized — the opposite of naturalism, you could say.

Fidel Castro really takes it in the chin in this film. Predictably, mainstream movie reviewers panned the movie for its failure to conform to Hollywood’s preferred version of Cuban history, i.e., that Castro was leading a “people’s revolution,” etc.

Humberto Fontova — who was born in Cuba, like Garcia — wrote an article for NewsMax characterizing the left’s reaction to the movie:

Earlier, many film festivals refused to screen it. Now many Latin American countries refuse to show it. The film’s offenses are many and varied. Most unforgivable of all, Che Guevara is shown killing people in cold blood. Who ever heard of such nonsense? And just where does this uppity Andy Garcia get the effrontery to portray such things? The man obviously doesn’t know his place.

And:

Andy Garcia and screenwriter Guillermo Cabrera Infante knew full well that “the working poor” had no role in the stage of the Cuban revolution shown in the movie. The anti-Batista rebellion was led and staffed overwhelmingly by Cuba’s middle and, especially, upper class. To wit: In August of 1957 Castro’s rebel movement called for a “national strike” against the Batista dictatorship — and threatened to shoot workers who reported to work. The “national strike” was completely ignored.

Another was called for April 9, 1958. And again Cuban workers blew a loud and collective raspberry at their “liberators,” reporting to work en masse.

“Garcia’s tale bemoans the loss of easy wealth for a precious few,” harrumphs Michael Atkinson in The Village Voice. “Poor people are absolutely absent; Garcia and Infante seem to have thought that peasant revolutions happen for no particular reason — or at least no reason the moneyed 1 percent should have to worry about.”

What’s “absolutely absent” is Mr. Atkinson’s knowledge about the Cuba Garcia depicts in his movie. His crack about that “moneyed 1 percent” and especially his “peasant revolution” epitomize the cliched idiocies still parroted by the chattering classes about Cuba.

While political upheaval drives the movie’s plot, the movie itself is valuable and enjoyable on multiple levels — many of which have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with “life as it might be and ought to be.”

I recommend it highly.

The movie is available for purchase from Amazon.com. You can watch the trailer — which doesn’t really do the movie justice — at Apple. And you may also enjoy NPR’s interview with Garcia about the movie.

Facing New York – Rock & Roll Individualism

From the article “Striving for Individualism” in today’s San Francisco Examiner:

Facing New York has had plenty of opportunities to make more money. While music-industry people have offered lucrative deals in exchange for control over their work, the band members passed, wanting to remain true to themselves.

Howard Roark, a character in Ayn Randâ??s â??The Fountainheadâ? (an inspiration for the groupâ??s name) dealt with a similar struggle. Members of the group shared and admired Roarkâ??s control of creative decisions even at the expense of money, says guitarist, keyboardist and lead singer Eric Frederic.

From the band’s MySpace page:

Facing New York is a psychadelic rhythm & blues band from the year 2020. 2 guitars + 2 basses + 2 drum sets + 2 Fender Rhodes + 2 Roland Junos + 4 close friends = a band obsessed with â??nextâ? and hopelessly devoted to the black music and prog rock from the early 1970s.

Check out their site or their MySpace page for more info. Their song “Full Turn” opens with a cool guitar riff.

NPR Interview with 300′s Frank Miller

Based upon the trailer, the new movie 300 appears to glorify virtues like strength, courage, and determination. No wonder, then, that so many liberal reviewers are dismissing it.

The following excerpt, from a recent interview with Frank Miller (upon whose graphic novel the movie is based) on National Public Radio, seemed pretty telling. (I can’t find a way to link to it directly, but the transcript appeared in the comments, at Mar 9 12:58 pm, from a post by Dean Barnett about the movie.)

From the interview:

NPR: [â?¦] Frank, whatâ??s the state of the union?

FM: Well, I donâ??t really find myself worrying about the state of the union as I do the state of the home-front. It seems to me quite obvious that our country and the entire Western World is up against an existential foe that knows exactly what it wants â?¦ and weâ??re behaving like a collapsing empire. Mighty cultures are almost never conquered, they crumble from within. And frankly, I think that a lot of Americans are acting like spoiled brats because of everything that isnâ??t working out perfectly every time.

NPR: Um, and when you say we donâ??t know what we want, whatâ??s the cause of that do you think?

FM: Well, I think part of that is how weâ??re educated. Weâ??re constantly told all cultures are equal, and every belief system is as good as the next. And generally that America was to be known for its flaws rather than its virtues. When you think about what Americans accomplished, building these amazing cities, and all the good its done in the world, itâ??s kind of disheartening to hear so much hatred of America, not just from abroad, but internally.

NPR: A lot of people would say what America has done abroad has led to the doubts and even the hatred of its own citizens.

FM: Well, okay, then letâ??s finally talk about the enemy. For some reason, nobody seems to be talking about who weâ??re up against, and the sixth century barbarism that they actually represent. These people saw peopleâ??s heads off. They enslave women, they genitally mutilate their daughters, they do not behave by any cultural norms that are sensible to us. Iâ??m speaking into a microphone that never could have been a product of their culture, and Iâ??m living in a city where three thousand of my neighbors were killed by thieves of airplanes they never could have built.

NPR: As you look at people around you, though, why do you think theyâ??re so, as you would put it, self-absorbed, even whiny?

FM: Well, Iâ??d say itâ??s for the same reason the Athenians and Romans were. Weâ??ve got it a little good right now. Where I would fault President Bush the most, was that in the wake of 9/11, he motivated our military, but he didnâ??t call the nation into a state of war. He didnâ??t explain that this would take a communal effort against a common foe. So weâ??ve been kind of fighting a war on the side, and sitting off like a bunch of Romans complaining about it. Also, I think that George Bush has an uncanny knack of being someone people hate. I thought Clinton inspired more hatred than any President I had ever seen, but Iâ??ve never seen anything like Bush-hatred. Itâ??s completely mad.

NPR: And as you talk to people in the streets, the people you meet at work, socially, how do you explain this to them?

FM: Mainly in historical terms, mainly saying that the country that fought Okinawa and Iwo Jima is now spilling precious blood, but so little by comparison, itâ??s almost ridiculous. And the stakes are as high as they were then. Mostly I hear people say, â??Why did we attack Iraq?â?? for instance. Well, weâ??re taking on an idea. Nobody questions why after Pearl Harbor we attacked Nazi Germany. It was because we were taking on a form of global fascism, weâ??re doing the same thing now.

NPR: Well, they did declare war on us, butâ?¦

FM: Well, so did Iraq.

Intriguing.

I read Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire last year and enjoyed it a lot. The Spartans are truly inspiring, and the movie 300 seems to be the latest example of their particular brand of inspiration.

At least, the trailer makes it appear that way.

UPDATE: Diana Hsieh writes that 300 was ultimately disappointing. And she’s got some good arguments about why.

UPDATE 2: On the other hand, the movie receives a glowing review from Aaron at Rebirth of Reason:

Most significantly, 300 presents heroes without doubt or apology. There are no anti-heroes to be found, none just going through the motions, no muddled or conflicted ‘heroes’ succumbing to this or that weakness or folly. The rhetoric of Leonidas and others inspire, touting reason, freedom, and deriding the mysticism not only of the East but of the Greek’s own gods and Oracle. Their confidence is unshaken, resolve unrelenting, and words matched by actions to the last stand. Not just imagery, not just presentation, but heroism and sense of life make this film awesome.

Movie Recommendation: The Lives of Others

From 1960s Rand associate Bob Hessen:

I warmly recommend THE LIVES OF OTHERS, dealing with East Germany before its collapse in 1989. The secret police (the “Stasi”) spy on the lives of everyone suspected of being disloyal to the regime or the ideal of socialism. Ulrich Muhe, who won a Lola, the German equivalent of an Oscar for his brilliant performance, detects a trace of independence and non-conformity in a leading playwright and his actress girlfriend, so he begins round-the-clock surveillance of their apartment, spying on every conversation and intimate moment. But his adversarial attitude softens when he discovers that his boss, who approved the surveillance, has sexual designs on the actress. The story is exceptionally suspenseful and superbly acting. This movie earned eleven awards in Germany last year — and I shall be rooting for it to win an Academy Award as Best Foreign Film this year.

It opened last week in Menlo Park and presumably is playing nation- wide, but there is no telling how long it will play, so see it soon if it appeals to you.

Travels and Travails of the “We the Living” Band

In November I finally bought a copy of the album Far from You and Your Everyday Noise by a new Wisconsin band called “The Profits” — since re-christened “We the Living” and scheduled to release their first national album under the We the Living name in March or so.

Their original album reveals an incredible musicality in their performances — mostly acoustic stuff in the vein of John Mayer or some U2 songs — and they happen to be Ayn Rand fans, too. In fact, lead singer and songwriter John Paul Roney is Sarah Saturday‘s younger brother.

Since buying their Far from You album, I’ve rarely taken it out of my CD player except to make copies for the kitchen and the car. It’s a delightful collection of songs, with catchy melodies, alternately witty and thought-provoking lyrics, and good production value for a first album.

Today I visited their blog and noticed this hilarious post from a few days ago, about their recent trip to the musical mecca of Los Angeles.

I plan to review their (old and new) albums soon for the Atlasphere. Meantime, give these guys a look. Their MySpace page has some good songs on it.

Better still, buy their album now and count yourself lucky to experience a truly talented and promising band while most of the world is still oblivious.

Atlas Shrugged, World Is Flat Reviewed in URI School Paper

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was recently touted in the student newspaper of the University of Rhode Island, The Good 5¢ Cigar.

Normally, that might not be of much interest outside the student body of URI. But the review, which also includes a discussion of Friedman’s recent The World Is Flat, is not merely complimentary. It is objective, well written, and draws some interesting parallels to and distinctions from Friedman’s book.

Kudos to Joe Markman for that.

‘A Scanner Darkly’ Features the Fountainhead

Sent to us by an, er, anonymous movie enthusiast:

Last night I saw the new SF film A Scanner Darkly. I thought it was totally incomprehensible and awful and was tempted to demand a refund. In one scene, a character attempts suicide, accompanied by a bottle of wine and a copy of The Fountainhead — which latter gets an enormous amount of screen time. (Although the film is presumably set in the future, itâ??s still the pre-Centennial quality paperback cover — but that error makes as much sense as the rest of the movie.)

Please donâ??t connect this report with my name as I donâ??t want to be informed that I wasnâ??t smart enough to understand the utterly confusing screenplay!

Heh. Yeah, despite the compelling pseudo-animations, it does look like a downer, based on the trailer.

Interestingly enough, The Fountainhead gets a little screen time even in the trailer for the movie. Here’s a screen shot:

fountainhead-scanner-darkly.jpg

That does seem like a rather conspicuous placement of the book. More like he’s brandishing a copy than reading it.

UPDATE: Here’s another review (no Rand background to my knowledge) from someone who liked the movie more.