Category Archives: Mini-Reviews

Review of Touched by Its Rays

Dan’s Hamptons just published a great review of Walter Donway’s new Rand-inspired poetry collection Touched by Its Rays:

If sitting under a large, leafy tree with a cool drink close by and a book of poetry in your lap is your idea of a perfect afternoon, then perfection just got even more profound. Through the exploration of topics ranging from love and parenthood to art and politics, Walter Donway’s Touched By Its Rays (The Atlas Society, 2008) takes readers on a thoughtful journey into revelations of the human spirit.

While the larger themes in Touched By Its Rays can seem particularly political and one-sided, many of the poems are intrinsically universal. Every parent can relate to “To Ethan,” and anyone who has ever loved can hear himself in “Knowing You.” “Seven Callers Waiting” explores the intricacies that keep us from reaching out to those we care about. “A Dialogue of Fear and Love” delves into the complex emotions surrounding love and fear of rejection. In “A Sense of Life,” Donway uses language to create lasting images of the sea, love and an artist’s pain.

See the full review for more.

We hope to publish a review ourselves, before much longer.

We The Living band on

Regular readers of the Ayn Rand Meta-Blog may remember a singer named John Paul Roney, about whom I’ve blogged before.

John Paul RoneyRoney and his sister, Sarah Saturday, are huge fans of Atlas Shrugged. (In fact, we interviewed Sarah on the subject a few years ago.)

He’s also the remarkably talented lead singer of a new band called We The Living. The band’s name is, of course, a top o’ the hat to their favorite novelist.

I am mid-way through writing a detailed review of their music — including their latest album, the fantastic Heights of the Heavens.

(Their earlier album, from when they still called themselves “The Profits,” is titled Far from You and Your Everyday Noise — and appears to be available only in used copies.)

Today, to my surprise, I learned that the little-known band received a raving plug in — of all places — the celebrity gossip site

If you like Lifehouse or OneRepublic, then you will love this band!

Their name is We The Living and their hail from Los Angeles. [Actually, they're from Wisconsin.]

The song we’ve been obsessing over is this really pretty ballad of theirs called Best Laid Plans.

It should be the theme song to the new Beverly Hills, 90210 spin-off!!!

Such a pretty song.

Enjoy it below!

I would have to agree … together with “75 and 17,” “Best Laid Plans” is one of the finest songs on their new album.

And Wow, what a great break for a great band. I hope this helps bring them the attention they deserve.

Like I said … check it out. If you like music in the vein of John Mayer, U2, David Gray, and the like, this album is a pretty good bet.

And how often do you get to buy music by a fellow admirer of Atlas Shrugged?

Incidentally, be sure to buy the version of Heights of the Heavens with the white cover, which is remastered, rather than the one with the black cover.

I just received my remastered copy in the mail today, and it’s a significant improvement over the original recording.

HBO’s “John Adams”: Definitely Worth Watching

Bob Hessen forwards the following, from a friend in NYC:

If you haven’t already watched the first two back-to-back episodes of “John Adams” on HBO, you must. It’s gripping drama. It is being shown repeatedly, all this week.

The first episode is about the Boston Massacre and the second is on the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I read the book by David McCullough, and it is very faithfully done. Plus, the production values, backgrounds and settings, including the use of Colonial Williamsburg makes it very realistic, visually.

What’s best about it is that the decision to pursue independence was made in the midst of great fear for their lives and property, and the steps were taken in spite of that. They were taking a giant leap into a dangerous unknown. When they finally take the vote on independence and it passes, there is this long silence as they grasp the enormity of what they have done. It’s a great choice by the director.

I’m hoping you get HBO. You don’t want to miss it.

I found that I had this slight anxiety at seeing something so nakedly and unabashedly pro-liberty. As if the overwhelmingly socialist powers that be might see this and do something to stop it or attack it (I don’t know what).

I guess it’s just that seeing it, I’m so taken by the contrast with today’s society. Here is a many-part drama where the characters disagree so vehemently with each other — about the best way to get human freedom. There’s no one thinking about giving anybody a free ride, no one thinking about the poor or homeless, no one talking about universal health care or some such hand-out from the government paid for by taxing us. It’s ALL about liberty.

That’s a bit obvious, but I can’t help being amazed by seeing it. You almost expect Bill Maher, or Al Franken or someone to come on at the end with a commentary that dismisses the whole thing as no longer relevant, but they don’t. I can’t get over it.

Looks like this mini-series may become available from Netflix at some point, for those of us who don’t get HBO.

A Novel Based on Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly’

Fans of Joss Whedon’s excellent but short-lived TV series Firefly can now enjoy a novel with the same characters. Per Dave Itzkoff:

…the world of Joss Whedonâ??s space opera â??Firefly,â? which lasted just 14 episodes in the 2002-3 television season (and spawned the 2005 feature film â??Serenityâ?), lives again in Steven Brustâ??s novel â??My Own Kind of Freedom.â? According to the fan Web site, Brust, the Nebula-award nominated novelist and short-story author, originally wrote â??Freedomâ? on spec in 2005 for a proposed line of â??Fireflyâ?/â??Serenityâ? tie-in books; various economic realities prevented that from happening at the time. But now, Brust has made the novel available for free at his home page, The Dream Café.

And if you’ve not yet seen Firefly, you’re missing out big time. For an introduction, check out Monica White’s review at the Atlasphere.

BioShock and Its Ayn Rand-Inspired Themes

Kotaku Managing Editor Brian Crecente has written a lengthy and interesting article — “No Gods or Kings: Objectivism in BioShock” — on the intersections between the new BioShock game and its Ayn Rand-inspired themes.

Ayn Rand Institute President Yaron Brook is quoted several times in the article.

The article begins:

The sunken city of Rapture, a world of art deco aesthetics, neon sales pitches and looming architecture, is home to more than just murderous splicers and lumbering Big Daddys, it’s also a surprising breeding ground for introspection.

BioShock may have been conceived as a study in nuance, a place for gamers to discover and explore at their own pace, but its dip into the ethical morass of Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophies has brought her beliefs back into the mainstream spotlight and even piqued the interest of the Ayn Rand Institute’s president, Yaron Brook.

Brook, a former member of the Israeli Army military intelligence and award-winning finance professor at Santa Clara University, first took notice of the game when he discovered his 18-year-old son playing it. It’s a fact that didn’t bother Brook despite his son’s objectivist beliefs and the game’s not so positive take on the philosophy.

“My son has to find his own way in life,” he said. “There are certain games I wouldn’t want him to play, like Grand Theft Auto, games that celebrate criminality. But a game that might lead him to think and have him challenge his ideas, I’m fine with.

“Luckily for me he doesn’t agree with the game, he still seems to believe in objectivism”

Objectivism as a central theme in BioShock was actually the result of a confluence of ideas and happenstance. The heart of the game started, as do most of Ken Levine’s games, as the answer to a problem.

“How do we make an environment that feels really complete?” Levine said. “That’s where we came up with a space ship for System Shock. In BioShock we said what can we do similarly and simulate fully as we could a space ship.”

The answer was an underwater city, but that simply formed the game’s outline, the walls that kept a player from remembering they were in a confined space.

Levine wondered what sorts of people might live in an underwater city, what would drive someone from the rest of the world.

“I started thinking about utopian civilizations,” he said. “You have these traditional utopian notions. I’ve always been a fan of utopian and dystopian literature.

“The more I started thinking about making a compelling place and compelling villain, someone who had a real concrete set of beliefs made sense.”

Enter Objectivism. Levine said he had been reading Ayn Rand’s books over the past few years and was fascinated with her “intensity and purity of belief.”

“The surety she has in her beliefs was fascinating,” he said. “She almost spoke like a super villain, like Dr Doom.”
And her characters, Levine believed, projected that same intensity.

“I started to wonder, what happens when you stop questioning yourself? It becomes a set of accepted truths, instead of something you’re constantly using in the lab of reality.”

Keep reading for much more, including Yaron Brook’s explanation of why the game’s characters are unnecessarily flawed.

Walter Donway: “The Struggle for Poetry’s Soul”

Walter Donway just sent the following announcement, which explains the significance of his essay as well as anything I might hope to write:

My brief essay “The Struggle for Poetry’s Soul” just went up on the popular Atlasphere web site. In the essay, I try to suggest why it is important to restore the traditional craft and enduring values of poetry, being lost today in the blizzard of “free verse,” deliberate difficulty, and rejection of popular values such as rhyme and storytelling in so much of contemporary poetry.

With whatever talent I may have, I am trying to explore the diversity, power, and beauty of the traditional discipline and forms of poetry in Touched By Its Rays.

As I suggest in my initial poem in that book, “A Prelude,” perhaps some young person of real talent, and with a whole life ahead of him or her, will read my poems and envision what a great poet might accomplish in days ahead. That is one meaning of Touched By Its Rays.

Of course, a great many contemporary poets, and nearly all critics and teachers of poetry, would be deeply offended by my remarks.

New Bob Burg Book a Top Seller at Amazon

Atlasphere columnist Bob Burg has co-authored a new book titled The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea.

The book topped out at #7 overall at Amazon and is currently #1 in the “Success,” “Motivational,” and “Business Management” categories.

The book is a parable about business success. I’ve not read it yet, but its theme is that changing your focus from getting to giving — putting others’ interests first and continually adding value to their lives — ultimately leads to unexpected returns.

It’s an unconventional take on selfishness, which may be controversial among admirers of Rand’s work.

If that sounds like it’s up your alley, definitely check it out.

For samples of Burg’s articles at the Atlasphere, check out “Default Settings to Big Government” and “Bringing Your Business to the Next Level.”

UPDATE: The book also hit #6 on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list.

Quotes from Clarence Thomas’s Biography

From Atlasphere member Greg Feirman:

I’ve been reading Clarence Thomas’s autobiograpy and he seems to be a big Rand fan.

I read Sowell’s Atlasphere review of the book.

But Thomas also explicitly references Rand in his book:

“It was around this time that I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Rand preached a philosophy of radical individualism that she called Objectivism. While I didn’t fully accept its tenets, her vision of the world made more sense to me than that of my left wing friends.”

- pg. 62, when Thomas was approximately the summer before his senior year of college at Holy Cross

“… I also reread The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, whose scathing criticisms of the dangers of centralized government impressed me even more after working in Washington.”

- pg. 187, late 1985 (37 years old), when Thomas was heading up the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Unbelievable story. Great book.

UPDATE: More from Greg:

Also, if you haven’t seen the 60 Minutes episode with Thomas, I recommend watching it.

Clarence Thomas has such a great presence. You can feel it in his writing too. One book about him it titled Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul Of Clarence Thomas.

But the impression given from reading his book and seeing him is the complete opposite: a man of such pure integrity and clear conscience that you can almost feel that his words are perfect expressions of his inner principles and conviction.

In the interview, one of the quotes that really stood out for me was:

“It is always worth it to stand on principle no matter what the ultimate goal is. Wrong is wrong, even if it’s over a penny.”

It reminds me of the great scene in The Fountainhead:

“Everybody would say you’re a fool….. Everybody would say I’m getting everything….”

“You’ll get everything society can give a man. You’ll keep all the money. You’ll take any fame or honor anyone might want to grant. You’ll accept such gratitude as the tenants might feel. And I – I’ll take what nobody can give a man, except himself. I will have built Cortlandt.”

Clarence Thomas is a modern day Roark in public life.

He is truly a great American.

I would have to agree.

Vadim Perelman’s “House of Sand and Fog”

Last week I watched the DVD of Atlas Shrugged movie director Vadim Perelman’s House of Sand and Fog.

Since he’s going to be the proverbial “god” of the new Atlas Shrugged movie, I figured it would be worth witnessing his previous cinematic work first-hand.

This is a dark movie, no question about it. I can easily imagine some Ayn Rand fans liking the movie, and others actively disliking it.

The writing, acting, and directing are excellent — but it would be hard, and an act of questionable integrity, to squeeze a feel-good movie out of such a tragic novel.

So instead you’re left with a gorgeously filmed and produced adaptation of a sad and disturbing story.

Personally I would recommend the movie highly — but only to someone with a fair tolerance for psychologically dark films.

If you do rent the DVD, I highly recommend watching it again, a second time, with the “commentary” feature turned on.

I’m not normally a big fan of watching the commentary for a movie — but, in this case, it was very well done and I found my appreciation for the movie deepening even more.

The commentary is by Perelman, Kingsley, and the author of the original book — who was positively beaming about Perelman’s adaptation, for whatever that’s worth.

…And it’s probably worth a lot, because it speaks to Perelman’s ability to remain true to a novelist’s vision, while still making a credible and compelling screen adaptation of his work.

I hope to write a fuller review of this movie for the Atlasphere one week soon.