CLoM » April 2010 Archive
Atlas Shrugged, Part VI » Meet the family
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Good old Atlas Shrugged. It's always there for you. Like the serial killer in your bathroom.
|“||He saw lights in the windows of the living room, when he approached his house. The house stood on a hill, rising before him like a big white bulk; it looked naked, with a few semi-colonial pillars for reluctant ornament; it had the cheerless look of a nudity not worth revealing.||”|
Well I've pretty much done this to death, but... it isn't like a big white bulk, it is a big white bulk. We have to stop doing this, Ayn.
|“||He was not certain whether his wife noticed him when he entered the living room. She sat by the fireplace, talking, the curve of her arm floating in graceful emphasis of her words. He heard a small break in her voice, and thought that she had seen him, but she did not look up and her sentence went on smoothly; he could not be certain. "but it's just that a man of culture is bored with the alleged wonders of purely material ingenuity," she was saying. "He simply refuses to get excited about plumbing."||”|
Oh god, so much here to look at.
- Notice that, even though his wife's dialog here is pretty much irrelevant - it exists only to show that she's talking - what she says is still a political soundbite from a viewpoint that only exists in Ayn Rand's head.
- Notice that, even though his wife should be describing something from a sympathetic viewpoint, the words she uses may as well have come directly from the mouth of Ayn Rand.
- This is a pretty bad way to introduce a character. We read 'she was talking [and her arm was moving]' and then we have to wait for a couple of paragraphs to find out who she is talking to. The effect is pretty surreal. We never get a good reason why her arm would move in such a weird way. Her arm is floating, people.
|“||Then she turned her head, looked at Rearden in the shadows across the long room, and her arms spread gracefully, like two swan necks by her sides.||”|
Lady, your arms are fucking odd.
|“||They all turned to him - his mother, his brother Philip and Paul Larkin, their old friend.||”|
Sadly in this case, Philip and Larkin does not equal Philip Larkin. This has prejudiced me against these people already. If I actually met them the conversation would go like this -
- PHILIP - So I made an absolute mint offloading it in the foreign market.
- MEI - Whatever. You're not Philip Larkin.
|“||"I'm sorry," he answered. "I know I'm late."
"Don't say you're sorry," said his mother. "You could have telephoned." He looked at her, trying vaguely to remember something.
"You promised to be here for dinner tonight."
"Oh, that's right, I did. I'm sorry. But today at the mills, we poured" He stopped; he did not know what made him unable to utter the one thing he had come home to say; he added only, "It's just that I . . . forgot."
"That's what Mother means," said Philip.
Well as I'm sure you've guessed, this is sort of the theme of this section. These people are Hank Rearden's family, and this section is about them picking on him and being generally annoying for reasons that make no sense in the real world. Pretty much everything they do is portrayed like a political failing on their part. And there's a lot of this stuff to get through.
|“||"Oh, let him get his bearings, he's not quite here yet, he's still at the mills," his wife said gaily. "Do take your coat off, Henry."||”|
The number of times Mrs Hank is described as doing things 'gaily' is pretty extraordinary. Ayn Rand basically only found one adverb that fit what she was imagining, and decided to use it for every description anyway.
|“||Paul Larkin was looking at him with the devoted eyes of an inhibited dog. "Hello, Paul," said Rearden. "When did you get in?"
"Oh, I just hopped down on the five thirty-five from New York." Larkin was smiling in gratitude for the attention.
You're not Philip Larkin.
"Who hasn't got trouble these days?" Larkin's smile became resigned, to indicate that the remark was merely philosophical. "But no, no special trouble this time. I just thought I'd drop in to see you."
Paul Larkin is a friend who depends on Hank for things. Ayn Rand will soon show us why that is evil.
|“||His wife laughed. "You've disappointed him, Paul." She turned to Rearden. "Is it an inferiority complex or a superiority one, Henry? Do you believe that nobody can want to see you just for your own sake, or do you believe that nobody can get along without your help?”||”|
God. I particularly like how the second sentence she says is butchered completely just so that she can say 'inferiority complex' instead of 'inferior' . However, I am made slightly hopeful by the fact that Ayn Rand is unable to properly psychoanalyze one of her Mary-Sues. This is a good sign, I think.
No, wait, that can't be right.
|“||He wanted to utter an angry denial, but she was smiling at him as if this were merely a conversational joke, and he had no capacity for the sort of conversations which were not supposed to be meant, so he did not answer. He stood looking at her, wondering about the things he had never been able to understand.||”|
Yeah, social conventions you don't understand exist just to annoy you. You should probably invent a philosophy that condemns them.
|“||Lillian Rearden was generally regarded as a beautiful woman. She had a tall, graceful body, the kind that looked well in high-waisted gowns of the Empire style, which she made it a practice to wear. Her exquisite profile belonged to a cameo of the same period: its pure, proud lines and the lustrous, light brown waves of her hair, worn with classical simplicity, suggested an austere, imperial beauty. But when she turned full-face, people experienced a small shock of disappointment.||”|
No one who is opposed to the Good Guys is allowed to be attractive. They have to make do with elaborate clothing rituals.
|“||Her face was not beautiful. The eyes were the flaw: they were vaguely pale, neither quite gray nor brown, lifelessly empty of expression. Rearden had always wondered, since she seemed amused so often, why there was no gaiety in her face.||”|
'Empty of expression' = no interest in industrialism. A terrible crime indeed, and one which will directly make you unattractive. I am sure we have all noticed how people who are not industrialists have ugly eyes.
|“||"We have met before, dear," she said, in answer to his silent scrutiny, "though you don't seem to be sure of it."||”|
When your wife feels the need to explain who she is, you've probably been staring too hard. I'm just saying.
|“||"Have you had any dinner, Henry?" his mother asked; there was a reproachful impatience in her voice, as if his hunger were a personal insult to her.
"Yes . . . No . . . I wasn't hungry."
"I'd better ring to have them--"
"No, Mother, not now, it doesn't matter."
"That's the trouble I've always had with you." She was not looking at him, but reciting words into space. "It's no use trying to do things for you, you don't appreciate it. I could never make you eat properly."
I think now is the time to consider my main criticism of this section. Which is... why they hell does Hank Rearden actually associate with these people? They're not like apparent friends with passive-aggressive tendencies, they're full-out sniping harpies who literally never say anything nice to him. More than that, most of the things they say are things that would stop a conversation dead in real life. No one can really get away with being this rude in casual conversation. It doesn't make any sense at all that he would marry one of them and allow two of the others to live with him.
Ayn Rand invents these people as an example of why affectionate relationships are bad (seriously, that's what we're leading up to) but not only does the argument not follow, the premise itself is self-evidently made up. It is just plucked from her head and pulled into a quasi-realistic shape.
|“||"Henry, you work too hard," said Philip. "It's not good for you."
Rearden laughed. "I like it."
Sure, OK. Let's consider this rationally, shall we? So far we have observed that Rearden's work consists of -
Sure that all makes perfect sense. As an aside, I would like to question the emotional stability of creating a character who mirrors your work ethic and then having people tell them 'you work too hard'.
|“||"That's what you tell yourself. It's a form of neurosis, you know. When a man drowns himself in work, it's because he's trying to escape from something. You ought to have a hobby."
"Oh, Phil, for Christ's sake!" he said, and regretted the irritation in his voice.
I would probably say the same thing. But then, that's because armchair psychology makes me want to cut things. Clearly Ayn Rand is not with me on this, or she would not have put so much armchair psychology in this chapter.
Hey Ayn, how about less of the armchair psychology?
|“||Let me consult my magic 8-ball.||”|
|“||Oh bad luck, the 8-ball hates you.||”|
|“||Philip had always been in precarious health, though doctors had found no specific defect in his loose, gangling body. He was thirty-eight, but his chronic weariness made people think at times that he was older than his brother.||”|
It's amazing how no one mentioned to me that Ayn Rand's philosophy also condemns illness. She seems to think the entire physical condition of the body can be overruled by the brain. For a movement that takes such pains to describe itself in terms of rationality, objectivism is pretty superstitious. If Ayn Rand had made medicine instead of books, she would've been a faith healer.
|“||"I had a pretty good time today, Phil," he answered, smiling - and wondered why Philip did not ask him what it was.
He wished one of them would ask him. He was finding it hard to concentrate. The sight of the running metal was still burned into his mind, filling his consciousness, leaving no room for anything else.
Aw, look. Hank is self-conscious about his interests. If his interests weren't so dehumanizing, this might be an attractive feature of his personality.
Is "I had a good time watching something being named after me" really consistent with "I work so hard I can barely move, but that's just how I roll baby"?
|“||"You might have apologized, only I ought to know better than to expect it." It was his mother's voice; he turned: she was looking at him with that injured look which proclaims the long-bearing patience of the defenseless.||”|
The way Rand says 'that look which...' makes me think she expects me to know what the following gobbledygook means. I mean... 'the long-bearing patience of the defenseless'? That's asinine. It should be 'long-borne' for a start. She isn't actually bearing a long, I mean. And ideally it should actually mean something when you read it. What is the self-proclaimed long-bearing patience of the defenseless? Is it a crossword clue?
|“||"Mrs. Beecham was here for dinner," she said reproachfully.
"Mrs. Beecham. My friend Mrs. Beecham."
"I told you about her, I told you many times, but you never remember anything I say. Mrs. Beecham was so anxious to meet you, but she had to leave after dinner, she couldn't wait, Mrs. Beecham is a very busy person. She wanted so much to tell you about the wonderful work we're doing in our parish school, and about the classes in metal craftsmanship, and about the beautiful wrought-iron doorknobs that the little slum children are making all by themselves."
It took the whole of his sense of consideration to force himself to answer evenly, "I'm sorry if I disappointed you, Mother."
Ayn Rand wants us to see Hank as an unfairly victimized guy in this part, but he's barely making an effort to be civil. Everyone has conversations where someone says 'I met [someone you don't know] today', and we all manage not to just go 'what?'. How difficult is it to nod and smile, and say 'I see' every now and then?
Plus, why does the slum children anecdote make him so internally angry? I can't make any sense of this part. Is it just the fact that his mother is talking to him that's making him angry? That's the only thing I can think of, but that can't be right, because it makes him seem like a dick.
|“||"You're not sorry. You could've been here if you'd made the effort. But when did you ever make an effort for anybody but yourself? You're not interested in any of us or in anything we do. You think that if you pay the bills, that's enough, don't you? Money! That's all you know. And all you give us is money. Have you ever given us any time?"||”|
It says a lot that, in Randworld, this isn't a legitimate complaint. Human stuff is pointless. Make more money.
|“||If this meant that she missed him, he thought, then it meant affection, and if it meant affection, then he was unjust to experience a heavy, murky feeling which kept him silent lest his voice betray that the feeling was disgust.||”|
This is going somewhere. And it's not going to a nice place.
|“||"You don't care," her voice went half-spitting, half-begging on. "Lillian needed you today for a very important problem, but I told her it was no use waiting to discuss it with you."||”|
- 'her voice went half-spitting, half-begging on' -> That's appalling. I mean... god. Did Ayn Rand actually dictate this off the top of her head and then just publish the result?
- 'Lillian needed you today for a very important problem, but I told her it was no use waiting to discuss it with you.' -> Hank Rearden should invent some kind of device to allow people to talk to other people at remote distances. It will be called... the Remote Talker.
|“||He turned to her. He stood in the middle of the room, with his trenchcoat still on, as if he were trapped in an unreality that would not become real to him.||”|
- He turned
- He was standing
- He was in the middle of the room
- He was wearing a trenchcoat
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Random Details Night.
'as if he were trapped in an unreality that would not become real to him' -> Hooray for feelings described as if they're technical qualities.
|“||"It's not important at all," said Lillian gaily; he could not tell whether her voice was apologetic or boastful. "It's not business. It's purely non-commercial."||”|
There's that word again.
|“||"What is it?"
"Just a party I'm planning to give."
God damn it, Hank, show a little enthusiasm. You can't keep up your victim act if you reply to everything with a blank thoughtless question. It just looks like you can't be bothered to pay attention to people.
|“||"Oh, I know! But couldn't I make a formal appointment with you, way in advance, just like any railroad executive, automobile manufacturer or junk - I mean, scrapdealer? They say you never miss an appointment. Of course, I'd let you pick the date to suit your convenience." She was looking up at him, her glance acquiring some special quality of feminine appeal by being sent from under her lowered forehead up toward his full height; she asked, a little too casually and too cautiously, "The date I had in mind was December tenth, but would you prefer the ninth or the eleventh?"
"It makes no difference to me."
She said gently, "December tenth is our wedding anniversary, Henry."
They were all watching his face; if they expected a look of guilt, what they saw, instead, was a faint smile of amusement. She could not have intended this as a trap, he thought, because he could escape it so easily, by refusing to accept any blame for his forgetfulness and by leaving her spurned; she knew that his feeling for her was her only weapon. Her motive, he thought, was a proudly indirect attempt to test his feeling and to confess her own. A party was not his form of celebration, but it was hers. It meant nothing in his terms; in hers, it meant the best tribute she could offer to him and to their marriage. He had to respect her intention, he thought, even if he did not share her standards, even if he did not know whether he still cared for any tribute from her. He had to let her win, he thought, because she had thrown herself upon his mercy. He smiled, an open, unresentful smile in acknowledgment of her victory. "All right, Lillian," he said quietly, "I promise to be here on the night of December tenth."
You're both cowardly jerks.
- Hank supposedly never misses an appointment if it is business related. How then, are we expected to see the forgetting of his anniversary as an innocent lapse of memory? This is the thing - Hank Rearden clearly doesn't actually care about his wife and family, and it is understandable because they are irritating strawmen.
- Maybe the first instance of Ayn using 'feminine' as a pejorative. I feel like explaining why this is stupid would be almost tautological, and it's pretty pointless anyway.
|“||He put his hand in his pocket. When he touched it, the reality of the bracelet swept out everything else; he felt as he had felt when the liquid metal had poured through space before him.||”|
That's the exact same phrasing, too. I remember because I made a point of drawing attention to how weird and wrong it sounded.
|“||"I brought you a present, Lillian."
He did not know that he stood straight and that the gesture of his arm was that of a returning crusader offering his trophy to his love, when he dropped a small chain of metal into her lap.
Regarding the second sentence - w ... t ... f.
Sometimes Ayn Rand writes bad things but you can vaguely work out what she means. Other times, like now, she seems to write things just to sound like 'writing', without giving any thought to what the meaning is. This is genuine word salad here. Worse than that - this is word salad and borderline purple prose as well.
Note - for the sake of drama, Ayn has him drop the thing into her lap instead of, for example, handing it to her with his hands. I would love to see a movie of this, just to see how they cope with the awful theatrics like this part.
|“||Lillian Rearden picked it up, hooked on the tips of two straight fingers, and raised it to the light. The links were heavy, crudely made, the shining metal had an odd tinge, it was greenish-blue.||”|
- Lillian Rearden is hooked on the tips of two straight fingers. Who knew.
- Whoa whoa whoa whoa. Even if you allow for that little mistake, how the fuck is a straight finger supposed to hook anything? Jesus fucking Christ, Ayn. Read your fucking work before you publish it.
- I can at least imagine what the metal looks like from this. That's something.
|“||"What's that?" she asked.
"The first thing made from the first heat of the first order of Rearden Metal."
"You mean," she said, "it's fully as valuable as a piece of railroad rails?"
He looked at her blankly.
Hank is a hard-headed businessman who is developing a distaste for unnecessary social conventions - except now he is judging this chain on a sentimental basis, while his strawman wife is the one who refuses to see it as anything other than functional. I can't help thinking that Ayn Rand got mixed up a bit here.
|“||"The intention's plain selfishness, if you ask me," said Rearden's mother. "Another man would bring a diamond bracelet, if he wanted to give his wife a present, because it's' her pleasure he'd think of, not his own. But Henry thinks that just because he's made a new kind of tin, why, it's got to be more precious than diamonds to everybody, just because it's he that's made it. That's the way he's been since he was five years oldthe most conceited brat you ever saw - and I knew he'd grow up to be the most selfish creature on God's earth."||”|
Earlier I said that Mrs Rearden's behavior is unrealistic and would not pass without comment in real life. I consider this paragraph to be more than enough proof for that.
- MRS REARDEN - You're the most selfish creature on God's earth.
- HANK REARDEN - Please live in my house.
|“||"No, it's sweet," said Lillian. "It's charming." She dropped the bracelet down on the table. She got up, put her hands on Rearden's shoulders, and raising herself on tiptoe, kissed him on the cheek, saying, "Thank you, dear."
He did not move, did not bend his head down to her. After a while, he turned, took off his coat and sat down by the fire, apart from the others. He felt nothing but an immense exhaustion.
Actually, he also felt humiliated and impotent, which is why he wrote this book about it.
|“||He had offered his mother unlimited means to live as and where she pleased; he wondered why she had insisted that she wanted to live with him. His success, he had thought, meant something to her, and if it did, then it was a bond between them, the only kind of bond he recognized; if she wanted a place in the home of her successful son, he would not deny it to her.||”|
He couldn't deny her. He has to be entirely blameless in this absurd situation, otherwise Ayn Rand's revolting scenario won't be as one-sided as she wants it to be.
|“||"It's no use hoping to make a saint out of Henry, Mother," said Philip. "He wasn't meant to be one."
"Oh but, Philip, you're wrong!" said Lillian. "You're so wrong! Henry has all the makings of a saint. That's the trouble." What did they seek from him? - thought Rearden - what were they after? He had never asked anything of them; it was they who wished to hold him, they who pressed a claim on himand the claim seemed to have the form of affection, but it was a form which he found harder to endure than any sort of hatred. He despised causeless affection, just as he despised unearned wealth. They professed to love him for some unknown reason and they ignored all the things for which he could wish to be loved.
Here's the conclusion of Rand's mini-thesis. The behavior of these unfeeling stereotypes is caused by the fact that they feel affection towards him. And obviously, affection is a bad thing anyway, but this situation just proves how bad it is. Being affectionate towards someone implies that you expect them to give you money, advice, a home, and socially acceptable gifts. Obviously.
Bonus lulz in the 'actually it would be nice if they loved me for the specific things I want to be loved for' insert. Sure Ayn, because that's so totally consistent with the rest of your argument. I thought objectivists were supposed to be against expecting sympathy from people?
What is this garbage, anyway? What kind of human being decides that they 'despise causeless affection'? How devoid of feeling and basic empathy do you have to be to do that? Would I actually have to be a sociopath to understand this principle? Because I have to say Ayn, from where I'm standing causeless affection might be the only thing worth keeping in humanity. Affection isn't some business arrangement that you can judge on objective merits. It's not some thing that can be sorted into little piles of 'earned' and 'not earned'. All affection is irrational. All affection is 'causeless' - by any metric you would approve of, at least.
|“||He wondered what response they could hope to obtain from him.||”|
Whatever. You're definitely not Philip Larkin.
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Chronological thoughts of Mei
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Here is fun.
“”What I like about morning is not having to do things. Like write about Atlas Shrugged.
“”Today is boring but at least I'm not writing about Atlas Shrugged.
“”It's only eight o'clock. I could start writing about Atlas Shrugged now, but I don't really have to because I have hours of time.
“”OK, Mei. It is time to start writing now.
“”Oh wow, look at that interesting mouse.
“”Wow it's getting quite late. I wonder if I would be finished by now if I'd started writing earlier?
“”I seriously should be writing right now.
“”If I wanted to post before midnight in UTC I should have started planning my update... half an hour ago. That can't be right.
“”Wow, the rational wiki is slow.
“”I really like this soup.
“”Meh. There will always be more time. I'll write things later, when I'm not so tired.
Guess how this turned out.
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Atlas Shrugged, Part V » Clip show
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Now with even more shrugging. Cleans whites and colors. Tell your friends.
This section is mostly Hank Rearden flashbacking. Or flashing back. One of those things.
|“||He walked, keeping one hand in his pocket, his fingers closed about a bracelet. It was made of Rearden Metal, in the shape of a chain. His fingers moved, feeling its texture once in a while. It had taken ten years to make that bracelet. Ten years, he thought, is a long time. The road was dark, edged with trees. Looking up, he could see a few leaves against the stars; the leaves were twisted and dry, ready to fall.||”|
This is not the first time we've encountered these socialist trees. It's about time someone knocked the leaves off these socialist trees.
I let it pass before, but seriously... why 'Rearden Metal'? It's the most dull obvious name you could possibly call a metal invented by someone called Rearden. And it doesn't even make sense: since when is anything called 'X Productname'? We don't drink Coca-Cola Drink, or drive the new Ford Car. The idea that, of all people, a shrewd businessman would do this is just ridiculous. 'Rearden Metal' is not a name that will set the marketplace on fire.
|“||There were distant lights in the windows of houses scattered through the countryside; but the lights made the road seem lonelier.||”|
I wonder if Hank Rearden is lonely. No, that's reading far to deeply into the text. I must not be so quick to jump to conclusions.
|“||He never felt loneliness except when he was happy. He turned, once in a while, to look back at the red glow of the sky over the mills. He did not think of the ten years. What remained of them tonight was only a feeling which he could not name, except that it was quiet and solemn. The feeling was a sum, and he did not have to count again the parts that had gone to make it. But the parts, unrecalled, were there, within the feeling. They were the nights spent at scorching ovens in the research laboratory of the mills - the nights spent in the workshop of his home, over sheets of paper which he filled with formulas, then tore up in angry failure - the days when the young scientists of the small staff he had chosen to assist him waited for instructions like soldiers ready for a hopeless battle, having exhausted their ingenuity, still willing, but silent, with the unspoken sentence hanging in the air: "Mr. Rearden, it can't be done" - the meals, interrupted and abandoned at the sudden flash of a new thought, a thought to be pursued at once, to be tried, to be tested, to be worked on for months, and to be discarded as another failure - the moments snatched from conferences, from contracts, from the duties of running the best steel mills in the country, snatched almost guiltily, as for a secret love the one thought held immovably across a span of ten years, under everything he did and everything he saw, the thought held in his mind when he looked at the buildings of a city, at the track of a railroad, at the light in the windows of a distant farmhouse, at the knife in the hands of a beautiful woman cutting a piece of fruit at a banquet, the thought of a metal alloy that would do more than steel had ever done, a metal that would be to steel what steel had been to iron the acts of self-racking when he discarded a hope or a sample,not permitting himself to know that he was tired, not giving himself time to feel, driving himself through the wringing torture of: "not good enough . . . still not good enough . . ." and going on with no motor save the conviction that it could be done then the day when it was done and its result was called Rearden Metal these were the things that had come to white heat, had melted and fused within him, and their alloy was a strange, quiet feeling that made him smile at the countryside in the darkness and wonder why happiness could hurt.||”|
- 'He never felt loneliness except when he was happy.' -> What.
- OK, I can vaguely see how that could be possible, but I'm still pretty sure we can just put this down to Ayn Rand not knowing what loneliness is like. Oh god, I've just realized... this is just another facet of Rand's 'success is anti-social' memeplex. Yuck, get it off me.
- 'What remained of them tonight was only a feeling which he could not name' -> Enough with the 'nameless feelings' stuff. You don't need to analyze your character's feelings in unequivocal terms... especially if the resulting text is 'this character's feelings couldn't be analyzed'. Real people do not think 'I have a nameless feeling which is solemn'. Ever.
- More than half of this paragraph is a single sentence that goes on and on without justifying the space it takes up. Pick out any individual detail in this stream and you'll find that it is badly conceived and arbitrary, like the details were just picked from the air in the first draft and Rand stuck with them ever since. The thing is, stream-of-consciousness style text should be of the same quality of the rest of the text -- being unfocused and random isn't an advantage here. Just the same as the rest of the text, someone will eventually have to read it, and if it is badly written they will not be impressed. Plus I'm sure there are better ways of conveying this character's mindset without using up this much text.
- It can't have escaped your notice that Hank Rearden's business practices are pretty awful. He doesn't investigate anything scientifically here, he just chooses one particular thing he wants to be true (ie, 'it is possible to make an alloy that is better than steel') and finds the solution through an incredibly wasteful brute force investigation. His only virtue is that he happens to be right. In the real world, this is not a good way to research anything, and holding this up as an example of a good industrial work ethic is plain delusional.
|“||After a while, he realized that he was thinking of his past, as if certain days of it were spread before him, demanding to be seen again. He did not want to look at them; he despised memories as a pointless indulgence. But then he understood that he thought of them tonight in honor of that piece of metal in his pocket. Then he permitted himself to look.||”|
- 'he despised memories as a pointless indulgence' -> Wow, what a jerk. The more I read of it, the more it seems Objectivism is only a verbose way of saying 'I don't really like humans'.
- Try reading those last two sentences aloud. Nice rhythm, huh? It's like it was written like that specifically to prevent any kind of flow between the sentences. Like they might leak into each other if you don't keep them rigid and pointy.
|“||He saw the day when he stood on a rocky ledge and felt a thread of sweat running from his temple down his neck. He was fourteen years old and it was his first day of work in the iron mines of Minnesota. He was trying to learn to breathe against the scalding pain in his chest. He stood, cursing himself, because he had made up his mind that he would not be tired. After a while, he went back to his task; he decided that pain was not a valid reason for stopping, He saw the day when he stood at the window of his office and looked at the mines; he owned them as of that morning. He was thirty years old.||”|
- 'He was fourteen years old and it was his first day of work' -> Wow, that's crazy immoral. Let's all take a moment to reflect on this. I mean... this isn't Hank Rearden saying 'I was a child laborer', this is Ayn Rand saying 'child labor is neat'. I regret that I am too tired right now to express exactly how revolting this is to me. Go to hell, Ayn.
- 'he had made up his mind that he would not be tired' -> Sure, because that's how it works. Hey, here's a question - if you can decide whether to be tired, why do you ever decide to be tired? It seems like you could get so much more work done if you didn't sleep at all. You could probably write twice as many crypto-fascist fantasy novels. Seriously, think about it.
- 'he decided that pain was not a valid reason for stopping' -> It's different if it's real pain and not pain in a book.
Also, how did he get to be the owner of a mine from such a pitifully low position? Why would he invest all his energy in a career avenue like that?
|“||What had gone on in the years between did not matter, just as pain had not mattered.||”|
Aha! I knew you could hear me!
|“||I can't hear you.||”|
If you can't hear me, you wouldn't answer.
So Ayn, what's the deal with all the stupid names in this book?
|“||He had worked in mines, in foundries, in the steel mills of the north, moving toward the purpose he had chosen. All he remembered of those jobs was that the men around him had never seemed to know what to do, while he had always known. He remembered wondering why so many iron mines were closing, just as these had been about to close until he took them over. He looked at the shelves of rock in the distance. Workers were putting up a new sign above a gate at the end of a road: Rearden Ore.||”|
Now you know -- people don't go out of business because of unsustainable methods of production, they go out of business because they are not properly Motivated and Determined.
(Ayn is ignoring me again ;_______;)
|“||He saw an evening when he sat slumped across his desk in that office.||”|
|“||It was late and his staff had left; so he could lie there alone, unwitnessed. He was tired. It was as if he had run a race against his own body, and all the exhaustion of years, which he had refused to acknowledge, had caught him at once and flattened him against the desk top. He felt nothing, except the desire not to move. He did not have the strength to feel - not even to suffer. He had burned everything there was to burn within him; he had scattered so many sparks to start so many things and he wondered whether someone could give him now the spark he needed, now when he felt unable ever to rise again. He asked himself who had started him and kept him going. Then he raised his head.
Slowly, with the greatest effort of his life, he made his body rise until he was able to sit upright with only one hand pressed to the desk and a trembling arm to support him.
- Why would being in a managerial position make him so tired that he literally can't lift himself up? Did he fire everyone in the mine and start moving all the ore around in person?
- Ayn, there's only so many ways you can rephrase 'He used all his energy and then gave himself some more by being awesome'. For a change, maybe you could write something plausible?
|“||He never asked that question again. He saw the day when he stood on a hill and looked at a grimy wasteland of structures that had been a steel plant. It was closed and given up. He had bought it the night before. There was a strong wind and a gray light squeezed from among the clouds. In that light, he saw the brown-red of rust, like dead blood, on the steel of the giant cranes - and bright, green, living weeds, like gorged cannibals, growing over piles of broken glass at the foot of walls made of empty frames. At a gate in the distance, he saw the black silhouettes of men. They were the unemployed from the rotting hovels of what had once been a prosperous town.||”|
Why are all the plants in this world outspokenly political?
There are green weeds that are like 'gorged cannibals'. I'd really like to know exactly how much like gorged cannibals they are. Because I can't picture it.
|“||They stood silently, looking at the glittering car he had left at the gate of the mills; they wondered whether the man on the hill was the Hank Rearden that people were talking about, and whether it was true that the mills were to be reopened. "The historical cycle of steel-making in Pennsylvania is obviously running down," a newspaper had said, "and experts agree that Henry Rearden's venture into steel is hopeless. You may soon witness the sensational end of the sensational Henry Rearden." That was ten years ago. Tonight, the cold wind on his face felt like the wind of that day. He turned to look back. The red glow of the mills breathed in the sky, a sight as life-giving as a sunrise. These had been his stops, the stations which an express had reached and passed. He remembered nothing distinct of the years between them; the years were blurred, like a streak of speed.||”|
More and more this stuff reads like excerpts from Conservapedia. This could be a diatribe about the 'Best of the public' meme.
So called experts denounce the steel industry! But Henry Rearden boldly restarts the industry by supplying enough hot air to make operating a steel mill profitable by default! When will liberals stop worshiping expertise??? --Achaffinch (talk) 22:50, 28 April 2010 (UTC)
|“||Whatever it was, he thought, whatever the strain and the agony, they were worth it, because they had made him reach this day - this day when the first heat of the first order of Rearden Metal had been poured, to become rails for Taggart Transcontinental.||”|
- 'they made him reach this day'? We're straying into the territory of 'deliberately awful' now.
- Companies with godawful names gotta stick together.
|“||He touched the bracelet in his pocket. He had had it made from that first poured metal. It was for his wife. As he touched it, he realized suddenly that he had thought of an abstraction called "his wife" - not of the woman to whom he was married.||”|
I've literally never heard of anyone realizing anything like this before.
- HANK: Hello dear. Whoops... you were abstracted for a bit there!
- WIFE: ...
|“||He felt a stab of regret, wishing he had not made the bracelet, then a wave of self-reproach for the regret. He shook his head. This was not the time for his old doubts. He felt that he could forgive anything to anyone, because happiness was the greatest agent of purification. He felt certain that every living being wished him well tonight. He wanted to meet someone, to face the first stranger, to stand disarmed and open, and to say, "Look at me." People, he thought, were as hungry for a sight of joy as he had always been - for a moment's relief from that gray load of suffering which seemed so inexplicable and unnecessary. He had never been able to understand why men should be unhappy.||”|
- 'a wave of self-reproach'? How about 'he reproached himself'? Why do his feelings have to arrive like messages from someone who lives a long way away?
- 'He felt that he could forgive anything to anyone, because happiness was the greatest agent of purification. He felt certain that every living being wished him well tonight. He wanted to meet someone, to face the first stranger, to stand disarmed and open, and to say, "Look at me."' -> You know what? I can't really criticize this. It's nice. It flows ok, and it refers to something which exists and is meaningful. It describes a feeling that I've had, and which I haven't actually read anyone referring to before. I mean... I know Ayn Rand is going to follow this up by having everyone inexplicably victimize Hank (see my next post) and it'll all turn out to be a cheap political trick, but right now I'm going to ignore that and concentrate on the positives.
- 'He had never been able to understand why men should be unhappy' -> Personally I can't understand why anyone would enjoy playing Halo, so obviously that means it is impossible that anyone enjoys playing Halo. Clearly there is some underhand motive for all these people to pretend they enjoy playing Halo. We're through the looking-glass here people.
|“||The dark road had risen imperceptibly to the top of a hill. He stopped and turned. The red glow was a narrow strip, far to the west. Above it, small at a distance of miles, the words of a neon sign stood written on the blackness of the sky: REARDEN STEEL. He stood straight, as if before a bench of judgment. He thought that in the darkness of this night other signs were lighted over the country: Rearden Ore - Rearden Coal - Rearden Limestone. He thought of the days behind him. He wished it were possible to light a neon sign above them, saying: Rearden Life.||”|
There's still enough time for this to turn out to be a Windows 7 commercial.
|“||He turned sharply and walked on. As the road came closer to his house, he noticed that his steps were slowing down and that something was ebbing away from his mood. He felt a dim reluctance to enter his home, which he did not want to feel. No, he thought, not tonight; they'll understand it, tonight. But he did not know, he had never defined, what it was that he wanted them to understand.||”|
- He didn't want to feel reluctance? Wow. How do you even parse that in your own brain? It's like an infinite loop of badly written angst.
- Hank is sad because he knows his family do not sympathize with his philosophical choice not to feel sympathy for anyone. This perfect sense makes.
- End of scene, huzzah!
So yeah, in the next scene we get to meet Hank Rearden's family, who are all ridiculous strawmen. It is a solid 8 on the Annoyance scale, and well worth tuning in for. Until next time.
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[ main page ]Warning: Display title "CLoM » Muntjac" overrides earlier display title "CLoM » Atlas Shrugged, Part V » Clip show".
You thought I was joking about the Muntjac, right? Yeah so did I, but apparently I was wrong.
A Muntjac is a small deer.
Muntjac are nature’s loan sharks. Be aware of them at all times, because they will often attempt to outsmart you and exploit your naivety. Never accept an offer of lunch from a Muntjac, or any similar proposition. It is reasonable to assume this is the first step in a confidence trick. If you are put in this position, simply tell the Muntjac that you are late for a busy meeting. The Muntjac will be trying to give an impression of friendliness and will not press the issue. In situations where you are engaging with Muntjac who will not respect your personal boundaries, you should raise your voice and attempt to make the conflict known to those around you. Do not give the impression that you are crying for help, simply let the Muntjac become aware that you are in a public place where a hostile crime is not a wise course of action for him. Be careful to allow the Muntjac to make a dignified exit. If the Muntjac feels trapped, or that you are being aggressive towards him, he may not consider his actions rationally, and the situation may become violent.
With careful planning and a sure hand, you can reverse the power dynamic and practice deception upon a Muntjac. It is a bold maneuver that should not be attempted without prior expertise on the subject of Munjac, so do not attempt this if you are new to the concept. The key throughout is to remember that the Muntjac is inherently dishonest and so does not trust any person who appears to be misrepresenting themselves in any way. Changing your story or getting a lie wrong is a surefire way to blow any credibility you had with the Muntjac.
First of all, attempt to engage the Muntjac on a neutral topic, such as sports or soft drinks. Do not allow the Muntjac to begin any rigid theme of conversation, as you will have to lead the conversation later on, and it will be difficult to do this if the Muntjac has already launched upon a topic to talk about.
Being careful not to give signs of dishonesty, follow these steps -
- Tell the Muntjac you have arranged to meet a man in order to pay a safety deposit, but are unable to make the appointment.
- Tell the Muntjac you will pay them heavily if they remain in this location and deliver the deposit for you. The Muntjac may not believe you entirely, but it is not importance. It may even be wise to give the impression that you would not really like to leave him with your money. You only need to explain the situation and keep the Muntjac occupied for a short while.
- Allow some time to pass.
- Bring out $350 dollars, and count it. Remark in dismay that you are $50 short, and that you won't be able to pay your deposit, let alone compensate the Muntjac for his generosity.
- Incited by the appearance of real money, the Muntjac will offer to contribute the rest of the deposit. The Muntjac imagines he will leave soon after you do, and the whole sum will be his in any case.
- Agree to this. Take his money, and place it in an envelope. Then, place your own money in the envelope. At this point, exchange the envelope for another with identical appearance. This will be tricky in a physical sense, but is conceptually straightforward with the use of strong visual cues, such as the appearance of a sticky label that has been imperfectly removed.
- Allow some more time to pass.
- Thank the Muntjac for his generosity and take your leave.
There will be more Atlas Shrugged tomorrow. Next week: squirrels, and their nationalist tendencies.
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Atlas Shrugged, Part IV » Hank Rearden
[ main page ]Warning: Display title "CLoM » Atlas Shrugged, Part IV » Hank Rearden" overrides earlier display title "CLoM » Muntjac".
Hooray for Atlas Shrugged! Hooray for not being able to sleep, at all, even though I'm pretty tired. Hooray for both these things equally.
|“||It began with a few lights. As a train of the Taggart line rolled toward Philadelphia, a few brilliant, scattered lights appeared in the darkness; they seemed purposeless in the empty plain, yet too powerful to have no purpose. The passengers watched them idly, without interest.
The black shape of a structure came next, barely visible against the sky, then a big building, close to the tracks; the building was dark, and the reflections of the train lights streaked across the solid glass of its walls.
- “shape of a structure”? Well that’s just great. This whole “describing everything bit-by-bit because it’s dark” thing reminds me quite a lot of how I used to write when I was about 12. I had this really awful sci-fi “novel” I was working on, and at least 90% of what I remember about it was really really over-emphasized descriptions of people looking at buildings and landscapes. The thing is, you can’t really slow things down to a crawl and describe everything slowly, because it doesn’t even vaguely approximate to how the characters should be experiencing it. Unless they're descending to the face of an alien world, in which case it is fine.
- Why is the “structure” distinct from the building? There’s something weird going on here and I intend to get to the bottom of it.
- “reflections of the train lights streaked across the solid glass of its walls.” - I can imagine this just barely, but again I feel like I’m doing most of the work. Case in point - my imaginary vision of this glass facade is streaked with rain, but that is clearly something I’ve just invented. Seriously, there must be a good, evocative way of describing this vision, because it seems like a promising idea. More and more I get the feeling that Ayn Rand isn’t particularly bothered about immersion and effective imagery — some writers struggle for years to get things from their head to the page, but Ayn Rand stops as soon as it gets difficult. I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised — the book exists mainly to argue a political viewpoint, not actually do anything artistic. Eh.
|“||An oncoming freight train hid the view, filling the windows with a rushing smear of noise. In a sudden break above the fiat cars, the passengers saw distant structures under a faint, reddish glow in the sky; the glow moved in irregular spasms, as if the structures were breathing.||”|
- More teenage writing hallmarks — nothing you see is allowed to be identified until you’re finished describing how it looks. You can’t say anything like “...and behind that was the red brick of the library”, it has to be “...and behind that was a broad sloping oblong of red brick, it’s eastern faces catching the sun” ... eventually followed by “it was the library” if you’re really lucky. I’m pretty sure Ayn doesn’t intend to ever tell us what these mysterious distant buildings are, even though they sound like they might be an alien invasion.
- To be honest, this chapter so far reads like one of those acid sequences from a Disney film. The light is changing dramatically all the time, and everything you can see is abstract. Was that the effect you were going for, Ayn? I know that things passing in front of a train window is a unique and arresting effect, but you don’t seriously have to describe it this heavily. I feel like the “viewpoint” characters have their faces pressed against the glass.
|“||When the freight train vanished, they saw angular buildings wrapped in coils of steam. The rays of a few strong lights cut straight sheafs through the coils. The steam was red as the sky.||”|
Yeah. What I’m picturing is basically a rainforest.
|“||The thing that came next did not look like a building, but like a shell of checkered glass enclosing girders, cranes and trusses in a solid, blinding, orange spread of flame.||”|
I would guess that it isn’t a building.
Oh god, we’re back to the “dressing up direct information like analogies” thing again. That first bit, for example, would be “the thing that came next was not a building” if it was being completely honest with itself. The second half of the sentence just does the same thing again. “Like a shell of checkered glass enclosing [stuff]”? It’s not like that, it is that. Who writes like this? This is just bizarre.
|“||The passengers could not grasp the complexity of what seemed to be a city stretched for miles, active without sign of human presence. They saw towers that looked like contorted skyscrapers, bridges hanging in mid-air, and sudden wounds spurting fire from out of solid walls. They saw a line of glowing cylinders moving through the night; the cylinders were red-hot metal.||”|
- That first sentence is horrible. It’s like she took two innocent sentences that had never met each other, cut them in half, and then stuck the bits together. “they could not grasp the complexity of what appeared to be a city stretched for miles”? What the fuck, Ayn.
- “bridges hanging in mid-air” - Well, we have two options here. Either there are platforms in mid-air without suspension, or there are some normal bridges. It actually turns out that bridges, just by virtue of being bridges, have the whole “hanging in midair” thing fitted as standard. That is kind of what a bridge is.
- “They saw a line of glowing cylinders moving through the night; the cylinders were red-hot metal” - Finally she says something directly, and fittingly enough I have not a clue what she is talking about. I’m just going to assume that cylinders of glowing metal are something you see in a factoryish place like this. I could make a snarky comment about molten metal needing to be in a container, but to be honest I know very little about smelting steel. My education so far has emphasized things which are not in the sphere of smelting.
|“||An office building appeared, close to the tracks. The big neon sign on its roof lighted the interiors of the coaches as they went by. It said: REARDEN STEEL.||”|
“Lighted” again? Seriously? Did they not have the word “lit” in the fifties?
|“||A passenger, who was a professor of economics, remarked to his companion: "Of what importance is an individual in the titanic collective achievements of our industrial age?" Another, who was a journalist, made a note for future use in his column: "Hank Rearden is the kind of man who sticks his name on everything he touches. You may, from this, form your own opinion about the character of Hank Rearden."||”|
That’s what you get for sharing a carriage with strawmen.
|“||The train was speeding on into the darkness when a red gasp shot to the sky from behind a long structure. The passengers paid no attention; one more heat of steel being poured was not an event they had been taught to notice.||”|
- “one more heat of steel being poured”? You’re kidding, right? That’s literally the worst construction I’ve ever seen. I’m not even exaggerating. That is just poor, Ayn. I’m appalled and disappointed.
- “not an event they have been taught to notice” - You expect us to believe that a crowd of ordinary people would not look at a flash of light because they lack the Fierce Industrial Spirit needed to grasp it’s value? This sentence is just like a black hole of stupid.
- “red gasp” - You know, for a worshiper of “logic”, Ayn Rand has a pretty serious weakness for mixing the senses in her imagery. It’s vaguely endearing. Like if she’d written the book with a unicorn-decorated pencil. She might be trying to destroy the foundations of empathy, but it's ok because underneath she's a sulky teenager. Scientifically proven.
|“||It was the first heat for the first order of Rearden Metal.||”|
Wait, is “heat” a technical term?
OK, I’ve just briefly looked up steel smelting, and I don’t see any use of the word “heat” as a verb. “Heat treating” exists, but it doesn’t seem to bear any resemblance to what Ayn is talking about. I'm going to file this under "Hm".
|“||To the men at the tap-hole of the furnace inside the mills, the first break of the liquid metal into the open came as a shocking sensation of morning. The narrow streak pouring through space had the pure white color of sunlight. Black coils of steam were boiling upward, streaked with violent red. Fountains of sparks shot in beating spasms, as from broken arteries. The air seemed torn to rags, reflecting a raging flame that was not there, red blotches whirling and running through space, as if not to be contained within a man-made structure, as if about to consume the columns, the girders, the bridges of cranes overhead. But the liquid metal had no aspect of violence. It was a long white curve with the texture of satin and the friendly radiance of a smile. It flowed obediently through a spout of clay, with two brittle borders to restrain it. It fell through twenty feet of space, down into a ladle that held two hundred tons. A flow of stars hung above the stream, leaping out of its placid smoothness, looking delicate as lace and innocent as children's sparklers.||”|
- “the first break of the liquid metal into the open came as a shocking sensation of morning” - Seriously, Ayn, stop trying to be poetic. It’s freaking me out. You’re not writing gothic fanfiction.
- Way too many colors here. I can see why black and red would be useful, but “pure white color of sunlight” is a dead weight. You don’t need it for anything, and it fails to evoke anything whatsoever.
- I was already pretty sure Ayn wasn’t going to describe any aspect of industry in a way that would make it sound dangerous, or in any way that would sound vaguely like an unpleasant environment to work in, but it still surprised me that she actually describes molten metal as “friendly”, “obedient” and “innocent”. This book has propaganda about the personality of metal. Don’t listen to those selfish socialists who would tell you that molten metal is dangerous. Molten metal is our cute little friend, like a cartoon pixie, or a wise-cracking dog. THIS IS NOT THE REAL WORLD HOW DID I GET HERE.
|“||Only at a closer glance could one notice that the white satin was boiling. Splashes flew out at times and fell to the ground below: they were metal and, cooling while hitting the soil, they burst into flame.||”|
- I come from the nineties, and I have seen loads of stock footage from factories. I’ve never seen molten metal look deceptively unlike molten metal. The molten metal I’ve seen always looked molten, metallic, and really really seriously hot.
- Having introduced us to the existence of boiling metal, and then moved for a closeup description of how it splashes when boiling, Ayn Rand feels the need to remind us that we’re still talking about metal. If I tried to edit this down, I’d end up with “the molten metal splashed over the edges (it was metal) and fell to the ground”.
|“||Two hundred tons of a metal which was to be harder than steel, running liquid at a temperature of four thousand degrees, had the power to annihilate every wall of the structure and every one of the men who worked by the stream. But every inch of its course, every pound of its pressure and the content of every molecule within it, were controlled and made by a conscious intention that had worked upon it for ten years.||”|
- It’s a pity you had to convey your down-to-earth common-sense ideas about industry by writing a science fiction novel. It almost seems like 100% unregulated industry might not work so smoothly in a world where you can’t invent magic metal to help your friends out.
- Why did we need to know that this metal could kill all the nearby men? I really wasn’t wondering about that. I am now, though, because although I concede the possibility, I really can’t see how the situation would arise. Did they challenge it to a fight? Is the metal actually explosive? Is Ayn Rand such a shallow person that she reflexively describes an efficient product by speaking in terms of mass destruction? (Hint: yes)
- Hank Rearden makes his metal by telekinesis. This is sort of cheating.
|“||Swinging through the darkness of the shed, the red glare kept slashing the face of a man who stood in a distant corner; he stood leaning against a column, watching. The glare cut a moment's wedge across his eyes, which had the color and quality of pale blue ice — then across the black web of the metal column and the ash-blond strands of his hair then across the belt of his trenchcoat and the pockets where he held his hands. His body was tall and gaunt; he had always been too tall for those around him. His face was cut by prominent cheekbones and by a few sharp lines; they were not the lines of age, he had always had them: this had made him look old at twenty, and young now, at forty-five.||”|
- I have completely lost track of the light sources involved in this scene. It started out pretty chaotic, but by now it’s just completely mental. Trying to make sense of the lights in this scene is like playing chess with a psychopathic genius squid. Somehow there is a “red glare” “swinging through the darkness of the shed”, and it is cutting “a moment’s wedge” across the eyes of Hank Rearden. You know, if I were him I wouldn’t stand for such behavior in my factoryish place. Hank Rearden, you tell that red glare to fuck right off.
- Since there is a train in this equation, I would have assumed the “swinging” meant the light tracing an arc across the inside of the building as the train passed... but no dice - the red glare is from the steel heating. How can molten steel make any kind of light effect that can be described as “swinging”? I haven’t the slightest.
- More examples of irrelevant details being politicized — being tall becomes “too tall for those around him” (those socialists and their crazy height regulation schemes).
- Again, one of the protagonists looks younger than their years. I guess this is going to happen a lot.
|“||Ever since he could remember, he had been told that his face was ugly, because it was unyielding, and cruel, because it was expressionless. It remained expressionless now, as he looked at the metal. He was Hank Rearden.||”|
- Why does every sentence have to contain an encrypted version of the objectivist philosophy? Not only is Hank Rearden’s appearance a direct indicator of his work ethic, but it is so accurate that people tell him off for personality traits based only on his expression.
- I like the “he was Hank Rearden” bit at the end. It sort of works. It’s just dropped in, without making too much fuss over it, and it fits rhythmically.
- Also, about the Hank Rearden thing. Ayn, please could you not refer to Hank Rearden as Hank Rearden for ever and ever? People have first names so that you can refer to them quickly, and the effect of doing this in text is immeasurably more natural than referring to people by their full names all the time. Please at least think about it.
|“||The metal came rising to the top of the ladle and went running over with arrogant prodigality. Then the blinding white trickles turned to glowing brown, and in one more instant they were black icicles of metal, starting to crumble off. The slag was crusting in thick, brown ridges that looked like the crust of the earth. As the crust grew thicker, a few craters broke open, with the white liquid still boiling within.||”|
- “went running over with arrogant prodigality” Ayn, what the hell are you smoking. This molten metal has more personality than anyone else in the book so far. This is not actually standard writing practice, and some people might class this as extremely weird. I hope the metal is a recurring character.
- “Then the blinding white trickles turned to glowing brown, and in one more instant they were black icicles of metal, starting to crumble off” — Yes, because I can definitely picture this.
- OK, I kinda like the “white liquid still boiling within” bit. The imagery isn’t really pressed home, and it doesn’t need to be, because the idea is very direct and image-based on its own. I wouldn’t have chosen “within” though. We’re describing something very immediate that demands your attention, so formal words like “within” aren’t really appropriate. I would have gone with “under the crust”, which is very drab on first glance, but it also very direct and to the point, and allows you to mention the crust without doing it the way Ayn has (at the beginning of the sentence, as “As the crust grew thicker”).
- You don’t need to introduce the “crust” image by explicitly saying “X that looked like the crust of the earth”. Just saying “the crust” gets it across just as well, especially since the mention of “craters” backs it up so well.
|“||A man came riding through the air, in the cab of a crane overhead. He pulled a lever by the casual movement of one hand: steel hooks came down on a chain, seized the handles of the ladle, lifted it smoothly like a bucket of milkand two hundred tons of metal went sailing through space toward a row of molds waiting to be filled.||”|
- I see he pulled the lever with a “movement of one hand”, and not with the non-movement of two feet, as I would have assumed.
- Maybe I’m being overly picky, but the fact that I don’t have any idea how this factory works makes it difficult to see these activities as anything other than a series of random events. Or maybe I’m just saying that because a man just came “riding through the air” and sent some molten metal “sailing through space”. I tend to feel a bit disconnected from reality when that happens.
|“||Hank Rearden leaned back, closing his eyes. He felt the column trembling with the rumble of the crane. The job was done, he thought.||”|
In this style of third-person narrative, the text can already function as the “focal” character’s inner monologue, without needing bits like “he thought” stuck after them. It’s much smarter to cover a character’s thoughts in plain text, in the narrative, and it makes for a warmer reading experience in my opinion. But I might be wrong - it’s an issue of style as much as anything else, but the way it’s written here just doesn’t seem right to me. Read that paragraph as if the last sentence was just “The job was done” and see what you think.
|“||A worker saw him and grinned in understanding, like a fellow accomplice in a great celebration, who knew why that tall, blond figure had to be present here tonight. Rearden smiled in answer: it was the only salute he had received. Then he started back for his office, once again a figure with an expressionless face.||”|
Rearden smiles... but the twist is, he stops smiling after a bit.
|“||It was late when Hank Rearden left his office that night to walk from his mills to his house. It was a walk of some miles through empty country, but he had felt like doing it, without conscious reason.||”|
Stop right there. This looks like it could optimistically be viewed as a scene break, and you know what that means.
End of post! Hurrah! //party music//
I actually enjoyed this one more than the others. It was basically all description and no dialog, so there was really nothing I was forced to cut out. On the last post, I had to cut loads because it was all circular dialog and there is no logical way of criticizing the same moronic idea over and over again without getting repetitive. This section is better, I think.
Next post — how to deceive a Muntjac. This is a necessary skill for surviving in the wild, as Muntjac are skilled at grifting.
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[ main page ]Warning: Display title "CLoM » Batman!" overrides earlier display title "CLoM » Atlas Shrugged, Part IV » Hank Rearden".
These are some movies I have seen. I have summarized them so you can enjoy them again, or for the first time if you have not seen them before now. All very accurate and good.
THE DARK KNIGHT
- JOKER - I represent the petty hatred and inhumanity of our society. There is genuinely nothing you can do to stop me.
- BATMAN - You forgot one thing, Joker.
- JOKER - Oh yeah?
- BATMAN - I'm writing this movie.
- JOKER - Well fuck.
- RA'S AL GHUL - Batman! To be truly righteous you must kill the evildoers!
- BATMAN - Never! For this you must die!
- RA'S AL GHUL - Wait hold on a second.
BATMAN & ROBIN
- MR FREEZE - It'll be a cold day in hail before you defeat me, Batman. It's a shame we can't just grit along - I'm an ice guy really. You just have to get to snow me... the truth really freeze your mind. Alas, I suppose I have to chill you. This morning I hope you remembered to frost your teeth, because you're about to kiss your toy b-icicle goodbye. Isn't it about time you cold for help?
- BATMAN - I'm going to do violence to you now.
- ROBIN - Batman! To be truly righteous you must kill the evildoers!
- BATMAN - Wrong! I don't kill anyone ever. And what did I tell you about talking?
- ROBIN - You said "no talking, ever".
- BATMAN - That's fucking right. Now go start my car.
- TWO-FACE - Hey guys.
- BATMAN - Say your prayers, geek.
- TWO-FACE - Jesus fucking piss Christ you fucking killed me you asshole. What the fuck, man?
- PENGUIN - Hey I've just noticed this movie doesn't have a main villain. That must be why I'm never fighting anyone. Well hey, a guy could get used to this.
- BATMAN - Eat lead.
- PENGUIN - Oh fucking hell.
- JOKER - Nothing doing. I didn't sign up for this. I'm going to sit here and be a law-abiding citizen, and you don't get to kill me.
- BATMAN - I get a tank in this movie.
- JOKER - I've seen this movie and you do not get a tank. Where the hell did the director go?
- BATMAN - I killed him for his insolence. He draws bats in a way I do not condone. I am the death of all goths.
- JOKER - Mr Burton? Helloooo? I want to taaaaalk to you...
- BATMAN - Computer, prepare the BatTank. Extra missiles today.
Wow, Batman is a jerk.
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RE: time & space
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Somehow I managed to be asleep for almost all of the last 24 hours, leaving me very little time in which to write. I did actually write several things while asleep (I am not joking) which were mainly about wordplay and politics, but it was impossible to retrieve them once I had woken up. I don't know why I didn't consider this while I was writing. When I did wake up my last meal had turned mouldy, which is implausible and for which I expect an apology from physics. I mean seriously, I wasn't asleep for that long. I am not gullible, physics.
As is sort of policy for CLoM, I will now show you a video I have enjoyed recently  It is pretty good, and I am watching it again right now.
I hope to make my next update an actual thing. Maybe more of Atlas Shrugged? Hm. If you have any suggests, feel free to put them in the talk page and I will consider them carefully. Thank you for listening.
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Lion awareness day
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I can't write an actual update here, because there is a lion right behind you. Seriously, but don't look because he'll get angry.
Luckily I have prepared a lion-proof tent for this situation. The walls are made of sharks, which are the only animal known to hunt lions, and there is a decoy zebra nearby.
In the interests of sharing, I have prepared a lion checklist which might be helpful to you in this situation.
- Check for lions.
- Is there a lion?
- If so, proceed to step 2
- If not, remain calm, prepare area for the event of lions, possibly rent movie, depending on your mood and occupation.
- Is there a lion?
- BEWARE OF THE LION
- You may not be in immediate danger from the lion. If the lion is only crossing a road or waiting at a park bench it may not be interested in you.
- If the lion is unable to get through a door, it will most probably attempt to confuse you or persuade you to unlock the door. Do not listen to the lion. Regardless of what bargains or logical conundrums it puts to you, do not open the door.
- If lion is distracted, take your leave politely, citing the political climate. Lions are keenly interested in politics.
- If the lion is not distracted, attempt to distract the lion by shouting and pointing.
- Do not attempt to ingratiate yourself to the lion. Lions are dismissive of gifts or compliments.
- If you are unable to escape the lion, try to attack it primarily with a sword. Lions lack finesse at swordplay.
- Be aware of your rights as a citizen. If you are scared simply explain your problem to the lion and firmly tell it to leave you alone. It has always been illegal to maul people, and the lion has no reasonable justification. Remember that bad things do not happen to people like you.
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“Meism”, being serious now, is my take on moral skepticism. Maybe I should have called it something else, especially considering the fact that the old Mei memes are getting pretty overexposed these days. I barely even say “Mei is useful” myself, and I still get random people being annoyed at me because of it. I always assumed I would be ruler of the world before that became a serious problem. I need to get in touch with whoever does Barack Obama’s memes.
(Seriously, call me. I am not a crank.)
Plus right now is probably not the best time to write a manifesto of my core beliefs. It’s not like my core beliefs are particularly settled. I tend to veer between extreme political viewpoints at the drop of a hat. And right now is even worse than usual, because I am wired on coffee and liable to make listening to The Perfect Kiss by New Order a central feature of my manifesto. Seriously, give me a reason and I'll do it.
My starting point is the idea that nothing can be ultimately proved. You’ve heard this a thousand times before, I guess, and I’d be really surprised if you didn’t already know what you think about it, but it bears repeating in this context. This principle is based primarily on the lack of an objective standard of proof, but also on the subjectivity of evidence. The next step is key - rather than leave the field of “accepted facts” empty, we can expand it in an experimental fashion by relaxing the standards of proof. That probably sounds bad, but you already do it so don't complain.
In the privacy of your own home, you can accept any standard you like, but it is important to keep in mind that the standard of evidential reasoning behind each fact we accept basically dictates its value. Proof by logic is better than proof by experiment. Proof by experiment is better than proof by criminal investigation. Proof by criminal investigation is better than proof by fortune telling. In theory.
The “evidential category” decides whether you can reasonably expect anyone to agree with you. This is more interesting and influential, in a practical sense, than whether or not you can agree with the fact yourself. You can believe anything you like, because you're only deceiving yourself, but asking another person to agree with something means you should actually earn it. To act on an irrational belief only implies that your standard of proof is lowered. To act on a belief on behalf of someone else implies that their standards should fit yours. It assumes responsibility for another person's beliefs. For this reason this type of action is qualitatively different from an action that affects only yourself. It is self-evidently insupportable.
At the risk of turning into Ayn Rand, I think this line of argument gives us a moral principle which is as near to objective as we can possibly get. This is possible because it makes a judgement on the validity & justification of certain types of argument. It does not make a statement requiring proof, it only cites the lack of proof for a particular category of statement.
Hence, the central feature of Meism (it's a joke, don't growl at me) is a assertion of individual rights that does not imply a departure from basic scepticism. I quite like it.
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Symptoms of Mei Volume XI
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Introducing new concepts
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Some words are pretty good. I like "subsequent". However not all words are good. I do not trust all words. Look at "iridescent" for example. I mean... what is it doing? It can't be doing anything good. If we were to have a council of words, I would put forward a motion to evict "iridescent".
But I like most words. The main problem I have with words is the words that do not exist. Often I will say something to a person, and some of the words I will use will turn out not to be real. This is a bad thing to do socially, as it causes people to look upon you as weird. You don't want people to know what kind of made-up words exist in your head. That can't be good. This subject and all related subjects are a constant burden to me.
Words that don't exist can be a prolonged problem. In searching for a single word to sum up my most important beliefs, I have previously been frustrated. There is just a pretty serious shortage of words that sum up all the things that I want to tell people. For a while I thought the word "gradient" would work, but it turned out other people didn't really get it. However I have recently discovered a new word (very recently released) which covers pretty much everything.
(two syllables, rhymes with 'grayest')
As you can see, I had to invent a new word in order to describe something. This was not what I planned to do today, but I am always open to new ideas. It is not a popular word right now but I think it will get the job done. A Meist is someone whose beliefs are informed by Meism, which is a belief system based upon the precepts of Mei. Meism emphasizes the importance of skepticism at an extremely basic level, while also retaining elements of heuristic absolutism. Meism also implies a belief in the importance of art, but this is not formal and scholars of Meism do not consider it a canonical element of the belief system (see also: Meish Triad).
My next post will cover more about this concept, and some other concepts that relate to it. Right now I have to stop typing, because there is no actual time for me to be typing in. You can request for me to continue typing, but that would imply a violation of physical laws. If you want that on your conscience then go right on ahead.
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What is going on at Mei?
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Keep up to date with what is going on at the extremist blog Cunning Log of Mei with our rolling reports of the strange, contradictory or humorous activity there. We report, you decide which entries make it to the top of Best of CLoM by using the red and green arrows to vote. If you are contributing for the first time please read the instruction manual. Some of these things did not happen online, and so were not possible to link to. Our voting system might be under attack by Mei.
|15||Mei cannot open any jar. Update: a helpful person opens jars.|
|5||Mei is rebounding from a door again.|
|8||Now that explains everything.|
|6||Mei is NSFW. Luckily, no one cares.|
|5||Mei provides the last word on the ancient art of oversleeping. Update - She then combines this with a flawless example of the 'forgetting everything ever' technique, earning her a total of 36 points from the judges.|
|10||You need to get out more, Mei.|
|6||Just when you thought the Meistubs couldn't get any worse.|
|2||Mei is overshadowed by a surprising guest writer. UPDATE Bad news for Murray fans - as of April 18th, it appears that Mei is reluctant to let anyone this popular share her skeletal blog for more than a day. All is quiet on the western front, sadly.|
|-2||Mei is never too busy to fall over and spill things.|
|8||Use the effing preview button, Mei.|
|8||Mei buries the wiki in movelogs.|
|8||Mei makes a small fortress out of books.|
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Playlist of Mei III
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Just another playlist.
- DJ Shadow - Best Foot Forward
- DJ Shadow - Building Steam With a Grain of Salt
- DJ Shadow - The Number Song
- DJ Shadow - Changeling
- DJ Shadow - What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4)
- DJ Shadow - [untitled]
- DJ Shadow - Stem/Long Stem
- DJ Shadow - Mutual Slump
- DJ Shadow - Organ Donor
- DJ Shadow - Why Hip Hop Sucks in 96
- DJ Shadow - Midnight in a Perfect World
- DJ Shadow - Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain
- DJ Shadow - What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1)
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Web 3.0 - The end of the world, but in a nice way
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This is a thing I'm starting. I am starting this.
Previously the internet has been largely dictated by the forces of "no force at all". We find this deeply suspicious, and wish to replace this not-a-force with an actual force. At the moment the internet has no actual representatives, no native citizens, no economy and no borders, despite being fundamentally separate from any other community. The internet is regularly belittled by citizens of the world, despite the fact that they are subservient to it. The exports of the internet are received with entitlement and sometimes hostility.
This must all change. We intend to make the internet a distinct nation in its own right, under the sovereignty of no other nation. The internet will have a populace, a government and a standing army. The internet will extent its services with negotiation, rather than operating under an arrangement of virtual slavery. The governors of the internet will receive diplomatic immunity. Where web communities might once have been dominated by squabbling and poor communication, we envision the creation of a clear hierarchy with a unified mission. This update will be devoted to explaining what this mission is and why we need it.
What has been wrong for so long will be righted. The name of the system that achieves this is Web 3.0. When Web 3.0 is finished, the result will be a Nation of Letters.
Here is the list of current citizens of the Web:
You can add yourself in the comment section if you wish. I would have used this space to develop a new vision of civil structure, but with only one citizen it could be seen as redundant. We can develop our civil structure as new people enter the nation. Unlike any other state we will have the luxury of preparing our legal structure in a circumstance where the number of citizens is extremely low. Where others were forced to adapt previous models and appease their serfs, we can dissect the moral principles of government and reconstruct them in the style of inventors, not landlords.
In order to join Web 3.0 you may have to make serious changes to your lifestyle. To communicate with people on Web 3.0 you must wear a tie, a formal jacket and at least one shoe. The region of your socks is a private matter.
Communities that already exist in Web 2.0 will require serious structural modification to meet these standards. YouTube will be allowed to exist on the understanding that it apply restrictive membership. 4chan will be replaced by one teenager in a room.
Several old words will be rendered obsolete in the upgrade to 3.0. A short list with replacements follows.
- destruction -> To be replaced by destroyal, for it's richer sound. This one is very important. Write it down.
- presumably -> To be replaced by assumably.
- legality -> merged into legalism
- normality -> becomes normalism
- high concept -> becomes hignept
- most winning -> becomes winningest. An example would be "this prize reserved for the very winningest of winners".
What I've described will eventually become a reality. It is probably too much to expect for unity across the internet, but in time we will see the establishment of sovereign states that exist only in cyberspace. The technology already exists to make this an inevitable result. The internet has given us limitless powers to communicate, and the potential of complete anonymity. It is increasingly possible for websites to defy the law of the outside world, which we have seen recently in the case of WikiLeaks. To make another example - to defy the Chinese government, you need only make one successful post on the internet. For the government to prevent this, they must make thousands of actions a day. Our procedures of prosecution for web-based crimes are already absurdly dated, and can not logically be updated to allow separate physical countries to control what happens on the internet. The internet will become impossible to regulate by our legality, and from there I argue that it will regulate itself, to an extent, based on its distinct community.
What defines a state is the ability to not be immediately consumed by another state. That is all. And now we have that, running under Windows.
For predicting the future and possible doom of civilization, I hope to be offered some sort of lucrative lecturing post. Please remember that part.
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A small collection
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Today our update is a collection of excerpts from posts that are incomplete, docked, or fictional. I like most of these, but they are not connected to anything. Literally, anything. This probably isn't a real update, but it made me smile so it can't be all bad.
THE BIG DEBATE, PART 1
GROUPS OF PEOPLE
There is consensus that votes shouldn’t be considered an indicator of consensus. Not that we voted on that.
NO ONE NEEDS WEBCAMS THAT MUCH. STOP PUTTING WEBCAMS ON EVERYTHING.
The same thing happens with “group compositions” — by which I mean any creative work which involves the pooled contributions of many people. RationalWiki would be an example, but it’s a pretty broad definition, and things like death metal bands and multinational corporations also qualify. To prove my point, here is a death metal band singing about multinational corporations. That proves everything I was talking about.
If you work on a large project and your role is quite loosely defined, you might feel like you should sway the project itself towards an ideal you like — which might not bear much resemblance towards the project as it stands. An example of this would be editors of Wikipedia who feel it is necessary to move the project away from what it is — possibly by increasing the care paid to individual articles (as opposed to always expanding without getting carried away by the details) or by making the criteria for contributors more strict.
These people have attached themselves to a project which already has hard definitions of what is allowed and approved (ie, anonymous contributions are welcome, a pragmatic non-rigorous attitude towards research and citation is encouraged) but wish to change these definitions rather than begin a new project with their own values in mind. It is quite strange behavior, really. It implies that they find it unthinkable to leave the project itself. It implies that their alliance to the project isn’t really connected to its objective definition. You might not find that interesting, but I do.
02.2 = [02.2.1] + [02.2.2] + [02.2.3]
02.2.1 = “Can’t you see ” / “When will you learn ” / “How long until you realize ” / “Why can’t you accept that ”
02.2.2 = “authoritarianism doesn’t solve anything?” / “this elite group is only a puppet of Nx?” / “no one cares about your sad little internet fanclub?”
02.2.3 = “For fucks sake.” / “Wankers.” / “Prick.” / “Fuck off.” / “Fuck you.” / “Fascist cunt.” / “Piss off.” / “Twat.”
THE BIG DEBATE, PART 2
A NORMAL CONVERSATION / REWRITING ATLAS SHRUGGED
“Read the sign on my desk, Ed.”
“Now read the sign on your desk.”
“...I don't have a desk.”
LIST OF PEOPLE WITH NO LEGAL NAME
This one was a bit of a non-starter to be honest.
THE BIG DEBATE, PART 3
It is frightening how little of this is invented. On a side note, I really think CLoM should have more fictional updates. It would be good for my random highlight template to have a few quotes from things that do not exist. I approve of this idea.
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There are three jokes in this update
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One of our readers (I think there are about four of you now) has suggested that my last update, which was mainly based on the letter z, was of poor quality or disappointing in some way. Obviously I cannot stand for this. My vengeance must be swift and inflexible, much like a lead pipe or a dead hummingbird. Clearly I owe Tetronian an explanation, or possibly an air strike. In the end I opted for an explanation, which is probably for the best when you consider that I do not really have any air strikes.
Yesterday I was tired because I spent most of my RW time looking at code and renovating CLoM. I was considering doing an update where I listed and talked about our new features, but then I was contacted by myself, who said 'that's a stupid idea'. However, since it seems appropriate, I will list and talk about them now, just since it's quick and you might not have noticed them.
- Monthly archives! No longer will all of CLoM appear on one page, like a seriously massive pile of text threatening to suffocate your computer. The lower amounts of text per page will grant you extra free time, which you can use to learn how to cook, if you want to do that.
- Automatic updating! Now I can post updates just by creating the page. This feature was helpfully troubleshooted by Nx, who is very helpful and a nice person. We have ascertained that I will probably not destroy the wiki by using this feature. You may have taken this for granted, but it looked like it was going to be a close thing for a while.
- A special template for navigation! Which I really should make look better. At the moment it is just a message box and it looks very not quite right.
However, Tetronian has a point. Mei should stop being tired all the time. I do have ideas about how to generally improve the quality of CLoM. Although probably none of them will completely eradicate the presence of tiredness in Mei.
SPECIFIC THEORY OF IMPROVEMENT
Recently I have been working on a secret CLoM project which would make the quality of everything around here much higher. As well as this, it would also make updating much easy, and actually requiring less work for better results - if I could actually get this project off the ground. This could take ages, or it could take a couple of days. It depends on factors I do not entirely understand. Basically, if I get it working, it will be good. Possibly great. Watch this space.
But as well as this, I have also been working on more vague and unformed ideas about improving CLoM, and that is what this update is really about.
GENERAL THEORY OF IMPROVEMENT
My first instinct was to revolutionize humor. However, I discovered this would mean work, so instead I will only rotate it by about thirty degrees. If anyone asks, I will say that I rotated it by 390 degrees, which implies a full revolution. In that circumstance it is technically correct to say that I have revolutionized humor, which is good because I definitely intend to say that. Only an extremely picky person would criticize someone who has rotated humor by more than 360 degrees. To criticize someone on those grounds, you would need to be more picky than Mei herself, which would make you pretty damn picky.
I was going to quantify pickiness to argue this point completely, but I got distracted by legislation.
THREE JOKES THAT I MADE FOR THIS UPDATE
I have compiled some sample jokes for people to sample. This does not relate to my secret CLoM project, just my general desire to improve things. They are based on classic formats for jokes. Basing things on conventional formats is a very successful formula, and I want to try it out. Here goes.
- X - Knock knock.
- Y - Who's there?
- X - Me.
- Y - OK. Come inside, it's raining.
- X - Thank you.
- X - Why did the chicken cross the road?
- Y - I don't know. Why did the chicken cross the road?
- X - I don't know. It's a chicken.
- X - Doctor doctor, I think I'm a pair of curtains.
- Y - You are in the middle of a severe psychotic episode. I'm afraid I have no choice but to commit you to our psychiatric ward for observation, for a period of at least six weeks.
- X - But I have a dissertation due at the end of the month.
- Y - I'm sorry. In your current state there is a serious risk you will harm yourself or others. It wouldn't be responsible behavior for us, as health care providers, to allow that to happen. Your college most likely has procedures in place for circumstances like these, and we can vouch for you if necessary. Don't worry about your belongings, they will be safe here until one of your relatives is able to collect them. Your roommate will be notified immediately, and she can bring you anything you need. For now, try not to worry about anything. For the time being you will be in a safe place, and when you feel better you can resume your life as normal. There is really nothing to be afraid of.
There is a reason these are classics.
Obviously these are very rough versions of what I would like to eventually achieve. I am thinking of redrafting Joke 1 to emphasize the fact that it is raining. The rain is a very important concept in this scenario, and it was what attracted me to this joke in the first place. The current version does not sufficiently convey the rain, or the effect that the rain has on X, and as such I don't think it is living up to its potential.
Jokes are always so fiddly. My secret project has much better jokes than this.
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This update was ignored by an honest Mei
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Behind the Scenes at Cunning Log
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LIST OF IDEAS FOR UPDATES
- How to build an igloo
- Organising colors by wavelength
- Organising colors by brute strength
- Organising colors by cover of darkness
- List of fish (very helpful for fishermen)
- Describe how Canadian literature sheds light on the modern view of colonialism.
- Research Canada
- Where is Canada anyway?
- Buy atlas
- List of lists which have a finite number of entries
- List of lists which do not have a finite number of entries
- List of lists that appear on both above lists, in full or partially
- List of lists that do not appear on the previous list
- List of lists that appear on the previous list, but not the original one
- List of milk (very easy because I already have experience in milk)
- ...Behind the scenes at Cunning Log?
Mmmmm. Too lazy even by my standards. Let’s do the Canada thing instead.
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Playlist of Mei II
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- Autechre - Nuane
- Autechre - VI scose poise
- Autechre - 6IE.CR
- Autechre - Corc
- Autechre - plyPhon
- Autechre - Augmatic disport
- Boards of Canada - Roygbiv
- DJ Shadow - Building steam with a grain of salt
- DJ Shadow - Changeling
- DJ Shadow - Midnight in a perfect world
- DJ Shadow - You can’t go home again
- Gridlock - Pallid
- Gridlock - Displacement
- Gridlock - Atomontage
- IOSYS - Artificial children
- Joy Division - She's lost control
- Kanye West - Paranoid
- Lazarus Blackstar - The tragedy of the monochrome man
- Nine Inch Nails - The four of us are dying
- Pink Floyd - Echoes
- Pixies - Something against you
- Pixies - Velouria
Hooray for all of the above.
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Yume Nikki, Part I -- Cast of Characters
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I have been trying to work out a good way of approaching the world of Yume Nikki in a logical order, and I have decided it is impossible. Pretty much any way I do it, it is going to seem random and out of order. But I have come to realize that this is a pretty accurate way of describing the Yume Nikki experience, and so I am now OK with it. I have decided to start with a list of the central, most notable characters, since that will give you a sense of the most important things in Madotsuki's dreams, which I think is a good way of establishing the context of my future posts.
None of these characters do anything except stand perfectly still, or in some cases, walk around a little bit. No one says anything. No one reacts to your presence at all. All the names come from fans. Pretty much all personalities are guessed at... but when you're talking about a mutilated monochrome humanoid hundreds of feet tall, personality is not very relevant.
There are inevitable lapses in this list. Since everyone in the game (and there are lots of “people” here) is essentially functionless, what counts as a notable character is very subjective. My list (which is pretty short) covers only the most popularly known characters, along with one which is less popular but makes up for it by being fucking terrifying. All the things in this list are landmarks as much as characters, so they should give you a good idea of the conceptual shape of the game world, if nothing else.
- Poniko is a blonde girl who lives in a very normal bedroom which is hidden at the end of a long trek through a pink and purple mountainous world. Like everyone in the game, she does not react to you at all. She just walks around in her room and looks kinda bored. There are about three places in Yume Nikki that feel “happy” somehow, and Poniko’s home is one of them. In this place, you can hear actual music, rather than a four second loop that will make you feel like there is a cold tap dripping on your neck. If you walked in while someone was playing Yume Nikki, and they were in this room, it might seem like a pretty normal RPG. The music actually sounds a bit like Pokemon, to me. It has that happy innocent feel.
- Somewhat concerningly, Poniko is the only character in the game apart from Madotsuki who looks like a human being. Everyone else is either deformed or plain wrong. I’ll give you a couple of seconds to wrap your head around that.
02. SECCOM MASADA
- A monochrome guy who plays the piano on a spaceship . The Yume Nikki fandom has transformed this tiny character into some kind of elegant gothic mentor character, like Tim Burton cubed. I’m really not seeing this. The sprite itself is very basic compared to more developed characters like Poniko and the Toriningen, and it looks like it was meant to be self-evidently unattractive. He has eyes that point in different directions, his clothes are very minimal, and his hair is unkempt. Fanart makes him look like Trent Reznor, and turns his googly eyes into an expression of hapless cuteness, which is actually kinda fun.
- However, there are a couple of things pretty much everyone has failed to notice about Masada.
- He and his home are entirely black and white, which means they are part of the White Desert - the worst and most disturbing part of Madotsuki’s head. The White Desert looks like it was drawn by a child, and seems to be mainly made out of dismembered people and oozing white things. So yeah. I can’t really get my head around the idea that something in this area of the dreamworld is supposed to be positive.
- Masada’s “6___9” eyes motif is actually used in lots of other places in Yume Nikki... as a shorthand for “pain”. There is a frozen screaming face in Eyeball World which has its eyes in this position. There are strange creatures that cough blood, in an area covered in footprints, which also have their eyes in this position. There is also a completely different type of frozen screaming face in Eyeball World which has a similar expression. If nothing else, Yume Nikki will open your eyes to the potential variation in frozen screaming faces.
- Basically, I can’t see how Masada could be a pleasant memory for Madotsuki. Everything about the White Desert screams “these people are dead”.
03. THE AZTEC GODS
- It's not a real party till the Aztec Gods get involved. :3
- I hardly ever see this commented on. It’s a shame, because it’s one of the most used themes in Yume Nikki. You will see Aztec Gods almost as much as you will see blood and staring eyes. If you count the Aztec Gods which are bleeding and staring at you with their eyes, the number is even greater. They are also one of the more interesting themes to me, because they make no sense at all. Seriously, why would Madotsuki have such a deeply internalized awareness of Aztec-esque imagery? Anyone can hazard a guess as to what the butchered corpses in the White Desert are supposed to be, but the Aztec Gods are just inexplicable. Since they all have a strange “watching” theme to them, I would suggest that they come from paranoia, but Yume Nikki already has loads of imagery that effectively covers that theme.
- Aztec Gods are most often found in the backgrounds of areas, usually scrolling automatically, so they appear to float past you slowly. They never move. You can also find them on carved stones in many of the “fantasy” themed worlds. The TV in Madotsuki’s room has a random event attached to it in its dream incarnation, which causes your entire screen to be covered in scrolling images of an Aztec God vomiting a zig zag. I already knew about this, and it’s not really a surprising event, or even at all graphic, but for some reason it made my skin crawl. I mean... it’s on TV. How the hell is this supposed to be happening? The normal event for the dream-TV is bad enough (an eye that is so big it fills the small screen and doesn’t even look like an eye until you’ve been looking at it for several long seconds) but this one is horrible.
- There is also a stone box in the middle of the “wilderness” that contains a similar event, but with a huge image of a staring monkey god whose colors flash like your computer is dying . Just like the TV event, this one creeps me out mainly because of the context and implications. Is the monkey god supposed to be inside the box? How would that work? You can’t see him from outside, and he fills the whole sceen, so did Madotsuki have to put her head inside the box to see him? Oh god.
- Everybody knows Uboa! Uboa is like the mascot for Yume Nikki. Or the ambassador, even — because I’m guessing about 90% of Yume Nikki fans found the game through a video of the Uboa event on youtube. Probably this one  because it rocks. Go on, watch it.
- Uboa is supposedly the scariest thing in the game. It isn’t really, but it’s still pretty creepy. Basically it’s a random event — there is a lightswitch in Poniko’s house, and if you turn the lights off, there is a 1/64 chance that...
- The colors will invert and go weird.
- Random eyes and faces will appear at the window and on appliances.
- The music is cut, and replaced by a panicky air rushing sound.
- Poniko will be replaced by a bizarre, indescribable face, as big as she was, and entirely black and white.
- All of this happens instantly. If you don’t know about it in advance it could probably give you a modest heart attack. Luckily, everyone knows about it in advance... but it still creeps us out, because it’s just so full-on, random and plain weird. I have yet to see any convincing interpretation of the expression on Uboa’s face. It’s like a detached sneer on the face of someone experimenting with severe muscle relaxants. Furthermore, it doesn’t have a body, but it does appear to have a sort of “hood” shape around the bottom of the head. What. The fuck.
- When Uboa appears, you can no longer leave Poniko’s room. If you interact with Uboa, things only get worse...
05. COLOSSAL BLEEDING GOD
- Interacting with Uboa will warp you to an entirely new scene. Madotsuki now stands on top of a Uboa, whose face is mangled, in an endless sea of white fluid, while in the background, filling the entire screen, is Colossal Bleeding God.
- I must admit, I named this guy right now, because no one has given him a name before. I think the name is pretty self-explanatory.
- Uboa doesn’t scare me at all, but Colossal Bleeding God does. For me, this is the worst part of the game. The scene here is impossible to leave unless you pinch yourself and wake up. You can walk sideways over the waves of white stuff, but the ground will just loop forever, while Colossal Bleeding God floats serenely past in the background.
- It’s difficult to describe what CBG looks like, because the whole thing just doesn’t correspond to anything that exists in reality. It looks vaguely like a humanoid figure, but it has a hands where one of its feet should be, a whole extra arm for good measure, and weird holes in its back which spray out blood like a waterfall. None of it moves at all. It seems to be “standing” on its four arms and one foot, and its hands seem to be gripping the white stuff underneath it, but it also looks like the white stuff is coming up to meet it, even though the whole thing is frozen. Basically, you can stare at this thing for hours and you will still have no clue what you’re looking at. But whatever it is, it’s horrible.
- This is also part of the White Desert. The only colors are black white and blood, and the music is the White Desert theme, which is mostly silence, except for these weird intermittent dissonant hisses. This might be the creepiest ambient track I’ve ever heard. It’s like the audio equivalent of staring at a bloody crime scene. But that might just be because of what I associate with it.
- Toriningen are still scary, but much less scary than anything in the White Desert. Toriningen are bird people — they are teenage girls with beaks, who appear quite happy and friendly. They move around like normal people, and wear nice trendy clothes. However, unlike pretty much every other character in the game, if you stab them they will not die. Instead, their eyes turn purple, their tongue lolls from their mouth, and they chase after you . An angry Toriningen can actually harm you, which makes them unlike anything else in the game. They don’t actually hurt you — they just teleport you to an inescapable area, so that you have to pinch yourself and wake up.
- The worst part is, some of them are already angry when they meet you, for reasons that will never be explained. NO ONE TOLD ME THIS.
- I didn’t actually realize anything could attack me in Yume Nikki. I had gotten used to wandering around looking at the scenery, and consoling myself with the thought that, however horrifying and evil something looked, it was never actually interested in me, and was probably frozen in place. My first encounter with an angry Toriningen went something like this.
- MEI: Ooh, a new door.
- SFX: ~Door~
- SFX: Creepy evil music.
- MEI: OK. I don’t like it here.
- MEI: Hello, who’s this? I am mildly interested.
- MEI: She’s actually walking towards me. That’s stran— HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK
- SFX: ~~THUMP~~
- MEI: What? Where am I? No fair. ;_____________;
- Why are they angry when they meet you? What the hell? It kind of made sense to me that there could be a character who would react realistically to Madotsuki’s knife. Most things just disappear, and they all make the same screaming sound, which seems to me to be a pretty blatant hint that Madotsuki doesn’t actually have any memories of stabbing things. However, it seems like she might have attacked someone like a Toriningen at some point, and it didn’t help her at all. This all makes sense. What does not make sense is that they would be angry to start with. What’s happening? It’s like some parts of the dream world have different pasts associated with them — like by traveling to the creepy “face plaza” (where I met my evil Toriningen) you enter a memory that takes place after Madotsuki has already attacked a Toriningen.
- I don’t like this idea. When I started playing Yume Nikki I decided I wouldn’t use the knife on anything. I don’t think you need to kill things to complete the game, and my reasoning was that Madotsuki’s dreams are bad enough already without me going around killing things indiscriminately. I thought this would protect me somehow. I mean, Yume Nikki isn’t real, and it can’t change anything in reality if I behave one way or another, but my own dreams aren’t real either, and I would never kill anything in my dreams. A thing doesn’t have to be “real” for you to relate to it, or treat it with respect. Madotsuki isn’t real, but I feel sorry for her anyway, and I’m not going to stab her memories. But if some of them are pre-stabbed, where does that leave me? If I can make Madotsuki’s memories worst just by travelling, then I’ve already done some pretty terrible things, even though I thought I was completely innocent.
- This is quite worrying, but it’s still heaps better than talking about Colossal Bleeding God. Let's not talk about Colossal Bleeding God.
I’m feeling kinda spooked and weird now, so I am going to use this video  as an antidote. I recommend you do as well. It will be fun.
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Symptoms of Mei Volume X
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Symptom: I often forget to write things in this space. Then I run out of time and fall asleep spontaneously.
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Species of WebFauna, Part II
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A post I wrote a while back. I'm going to just post this pretty quickly. Then I have to go out and do some Teen Alcoholism.
11. INSANE OSCILLATING CHIMERA
- I don’t have anything written for this, but you’ve got to admit, the name is cool. Come on, just look at that name.
12. EXTREME TAXPAYER
- Judging by his comments, this guy supports the government all by himself. Usually an indignant buffoon, the Extreme Taxpayer doesn’t have much time for people who don’t pay taxes, and will urgently remind you of the greater importance of people who pay taxes, a group that incidentally includes him, because of the huge amount of important taxes he pays. Don’t even try to pay more taxes than him: he has an infinite capacity for paying taxes.
- Extreme Taxpaying is a dangerous sport, and should only be attempted by cardigan-wearing Tory sheepdogs.
13. SURPRISINGLY FAST DETECTIVE
- The Surprisingly Fast Detective appears on a discussion and soberly asks everyone a question. An example would be “Hey, do you guys think Sarkozy is trying to undermine our sovereignty? I’m worried, man. I think he might be trying to undermine our sovereignty.”
- The fact is, this guy has already decided what he thinks. Even though he really thinks he is considering the matter impartially, he is only asking this question so he can listen to someone else who agrees with him, and is not really paying attention anyway. Any comment, no matter the content or relevance, will push him into certainty, and his next comment is bound to be something like “Thanks guys. I never trusted Sarkozy anyway. It makes you think, right?”
- This guy is such an idiot, and needs a good hard slap.
14. OUTRAGEOUS GUY
- You can’t handle Outrageous Guy. Maybe it’s because he’s a goth, or because he’s gay, or because of his support for radical unpopular politicians like Barack Obama, but you just can’t handle him. He will appear, and tell you about himself for hours, and then you will slightly annoy him somehow, and he will leave in disgust. You just proved you can’t handle Outrageous Guy. God, why are you such a dick?
15. CONSPIRACY DEAREST
- A paperthin shell of cynical chocolate with a thick, infantile center. The Conspiracy Dearest has the bold cynicism to assert that everything is secretly under control. Unlike the deluded populous, the Conspiracy Dearest sees that everything that appears random or horrible is actually explainable by the influence of omnipotent human government, who make sure everything is alright and nice. Don’t be so credulous as to suggest that human society is actually ruled only by chaos and petty hatred, because the Conspiracy Dearest will be forced to refute you. It’s hard, but you have to grow up and accept that everything is fine.
16. SUPERCOOL HYPNOTIC DUDE
- A rather specific thing, this one. The Supercool Hypnotic Dude appears somewhere and puts forward an original proposal, while subtly phrasing it as if he is agreeing with an established consensus. The result will surely be instant capitulation! An example would be “Yeah, this picture is whack. Anyway, I go with deleting it.”
- Nice try.
17. LIVING BILLBOARD
- A Person Who Inexplicably Types Every Word With A Capital Letter At The Beginning. Not Only Is This Deeply Weird, It’s Actually Much Harder To Do, Which Suggests That The Living Billboard Does This Out Of A Special Effort To Fit In. Seriously, What The Hell?
18. BIONICALLY ENHANCED CHAD
- You know how it goes. You’re bored, talking to this dumb guy who can’t use his shift key, and who doesn’t realize anything exists outside his window. It’s all very normal: he’s stupid, but sort of likeable.
- All of a sudden — what the fuck? This guy is secretly a genius at one specific thing, and doesn’t think it’s strange or even notable. You enter a deathmatch with him and he moves like Xit Vono on wheels. Or maybe you watch him play chess and he beats people in five moves. Or he’s one of those people who write music effortlessly. Or he’s one of those cheerful happy students who can get As on any exam just by thinking about it. But despite that, he is still palpably unintelligent.
- None of that was irony. These people really exist, and it isn't fair.
19. SET-PIECE PRATFALLER
- “Haha, I have signed up to this website and left an angry comment! Look, everyone is so mad at me! What fools. Now, to sign in again and refute this gibberish they have offered me.”
- “...wait, what was my password again? Fuck.”
- I have no evidence this type exists, but it would explain so much. So very much.
20. STORM TROOPER OF HAPPINESS
- The Storm Trooper of Happiness is just a normal guy who knows that suffering doesn’t exist. You and him will get along fine as long as you don’t try to convince him that you’re unhappy or unable to support yourself financially. He doesn’t buy that hippy bullshit.
21. SUPPORTER OF RAPISM
- People who are cautiously positive on the subject of rape and abuse. This viewpoint is mysteriously underrepresented in non-internet discussions, hopefully because of bloodshed. This species of WebFauna is unique in that it should be punched in the face as much as possible.
22. DWIGHT V. WRITER
- What happens when extremist philosophies gain mainstream popularity? In Dwight V. Writer’s latest self-published thriller, The Eagle and the Serpent, he shows us the answer. Stacy Hott is a sassy journalist who is not afraid to use her womanly charms to get her scoop. She is frustrated and unappreciated by her sexist boss, but all that changes when she meets Gordon Vicarious, a world famous author and would-be whistleblower. When the pair attempt to foil Barack Obama’s plot to stamp out Christianity, the result is an epic battle that cuts to the heart of the culture wars. Rarely has the conflict between socialism and rationality been portrayed with such nuance. The proud recipient of one 5-star review on Amazon, The Eagle and the Serpent is taking the literary world by storm!
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Birthday of Mei
[ main page ]Warning: Display title "CLoM » Birthday of Mei" overrides earlier display title "CLoM » Species of WebFauna, Part II".
It is supposed to be the 8th of April right now, because this is the update for the 8th, but it is actually the 9th as I type, because of time. Which means it is technically my birthday (hooray) but I should not really write about it, because my birthday is tomorrow in a sense.
Stupid time. I hate time.
--03:18, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
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Yume Nikki, Part Zero
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So where can you go to read someone dissecting Yume Nikki — possibly the best game ever made. FACT — and showing you exactly what is so great and amazing about it? Well... lots of places actually. There is a slightly sparse wiki about Yume Nikki, and a dedicated imageboard, and a japanese forum I haven’t looked at. There are also dozens (I’m not joking) of fanmade sequels in production, a whole sea of fan art, thousands of words of extra-canonical speculation, and random posts on dedicated blogs all over the web. But dammit, none of those things were written by Mei. The world needs a Yume Nikki resource that was written by Mei. Even if the world doesn’t want that, that is what it’s getting, because I am Mei and I make these things happen. There is only one person who embodies the final arbitration of what Mei might or might not write, and that person is me. I mean, because I am Mei myself.
So since I am bored, and a completely mental fan, I am going to compile as much information as I possibly can. I will do this in the form of a Log. Obviously, I am partly doing this because of the tiring nature of my other longterm projects (playing that videogame mod, talking about Hornetman16, dissecting Atlas Shrugged, being a hypochondriac), so this could be seen as procrastination. Do not worry though: I estimate that eventually I will have so many projects happening at once that the older ones will seem easier and more appealing to me. In this way, everything will get finished even if I am actively avoiding finishing them. I think.
It made sense before I said it.
SECTION 1 - "WTF IS YUME NIKKI?"
What? Why the hell would you even say that? That's so rude, go away now.
Anyway, Yume Nikki is an awesome freeware RPG game thing, which has rudimentary art and exactly zero gameplay. It is amazing and fantastic. You can't do anything except walk around and look at things, which is amazing. You get lost all the time, it's not finished, and it hasn't been updated for about five years. It makes me feel warm but also makes it difficult to get to sleep. It's the only game I know that can depict a human personality convincingly. As far as I'm concerned, it renders an entire genre of gaming obsolete. Not by technical supremacy or overall excellence, just by knowing something important that everyone else missed. This game is Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I may have talked myself into a corner here. Um. Anyway.
Luckily, even if you don't know what I'm talking about, there are only a handful of things you need to know about Yume Nikki.
- Your name is Madotsuki!
- Madotsuki won’t leave her bedroom.
- Madotsuki has strange and chilling dreams that make up 99% of the game.
- Madotsuki is hidden by this spoiler link at the end.
It is a heartwarming tale of social phobias and loneliness. Hooray for that. This summary might have seemed a little brief, but really these four points are the only things you can be sure of in the game. There’s no talking, no actual backstory, and nothing you can read except Madotsuki’s name in the savegame menu. And that is only there because RPG maker requires a string for that. The main point here is that there is not much to read. Really, there is nothing you can do except wander around Madotsuki’s subconscious and look at things. Or, other times, you can wander around and try desperately not to look at things. Both are appropriate in different situations.
I could have added a fourth point, which would have been “Madotsuki plays the famicom”, but I feel like I owe it to you not to mention that. It doesn’t really seem to be on the same scale. It would be misleading to suggest that playing the famicom is an important part of this game. It sort of really isn't.
SECTION 2 - "SO WHAT'S TO WRITE ABOUT?"
Yume Nikki is intriguing in two extremely potent ways.
- It provokes irrational fear.
- It provokes the human desire to explain irrational fear.
Point 1 is written about everywhere. Point 2 is what really intrigues me. If I really do eventually make this a full series of Yume Nikki exploration I will explore both these points equally, but point 2 is what will make the series unique. So far no one has written about Yume Nikki's emotional impact in an analytical, external way. I could do that. ^________^
But not right now. Right now I am just writing an introductory thing to test the waters. I still need to think about what order to tackle things (all the dreams have paths into each other, which means progress is seriously non-linear) and how much emphasis to put on theorizing and canonicity. I also need to think about whether or not anyone except me seriously wants to read this. Although I will not think about that for too long before ignoring it again. This is Cunning Log of Mei, not Cunning Log of People Who Aren't Mei. Think about it.
FOOTNOTES IN CLoM? NOW I'VE SEEN EVERYTHING!
- Or you could make your existing crypto-fascist fantasy novels twice as long. OH WAIT STOP NO.
- This is grassroots Meism. Mei = Mei. The buck stops with Mei. And so on.
--23:59, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
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[ main page ]Warning: Display title "CLoM » Late Mei" overrides earlier display title "CLoM » Yume Nikki, Part Zero".
Late again. This time I am late because I am adrift in time and space. It is hard to write a log in those conditions. Anyway, usually I would be hibernating at this time of the year. Considering these things, it is lucky I am not much later.
Now here's DJ Shadow  We need more DJ Shadow in this log.
--08:31, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
--Edited 08:34, 7 April 2010 (UTC)
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The tiredest Mei there ever was
[ main page ]Warning: Display title "CLoM » The tiredest Mei there ever was" overrides earlier display title "CLoM » Late Mei".
--02:03, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
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Playlist of Mei
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Some songs I heard today.
- Autechre - Bike
- Autechre - Cichli
- Autechre - O=0
- Autechre - d-sho qub
- Boards of Canada - An eagle in your mind
- Boards of Canada - In a beautiful place out in the country
- Converge - Color me blood red
- Converge - Last light
- David Bowie - Oh you pretty things
- Godflesh - Love is a dog from hell
- Gorillaz - Welcome to the world of the plastic beach
- New Order - Temptation
- New Order - Bizarre love triangle
- Pg.99 - In love with an apparition
I think I've forgotten a few. There's a lot that I remembered, and then a big period where I can't remember anything. I was going to link to videos, but that would take ages.
On reflection this is mainly 90s electronica with some other noisy and random things.
--22:33, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
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Cunning Log of Bill Murray
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Visited Sasha today, with filter paper as requested. Joe is still hanging around, and offered to show me the course sometime. I told him I used to play on the course all the time, and he said "oh". Sasha doesn't keep bottled water, so I made do with grapefruit juice. It is too bitter to have with breakfast, but it's no problem. Sasha mentioned something about Garfield, and I laughed.
It is getting hotter, and Joe can't get his sprinklers to work. Just like last year, Joe. Joe never uses his outdoor faucets, but he expects them to work like brand new when he needs them. The faucet he's using is rusted to hell, but I didn't have the heart to tell him. We spent half an hour puzzling over it, and then we went indoors again because it was too hot.
--Bill Murray, 08:45, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
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[ main page ]Warning: Display title "CLoM » Tired Mei" overrides earlier display title "CLoM » Cunning Log of Bill Murray".
I can't run around everywhere and then write a log. There is only so much sugar I can store in my body.
It is complicated, but the right thing to do would be to write log posts when I am awake. Right now my policy is doing them while mostly asleep. This is a bad policy.
Instead of Atlas Shrugged or games, you should watch this guy playing .flow . Incidentally, I have been playing .flow a lot recently. I don't know if you noticed. I like it - it is a cyberpunk tribute to Yume Nikki, which is always a good idea.
--05:47, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
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Atlas Shrugged, Part III -- My Postmodernist Hat
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I'm late again, aren't I? In this post I wear different hats.
- Note - I have cut out a lot of useless dialog in this post. I did so before, but there is more gone now. None of it lead to any interesting discussions or fun, so it's not important. I just hope you can still tell what's happening the excerpts. If you can't follow it, I apologize. You should mention it on the talk page, and I'll explain which parts I missed.
|“||She sat on the arm of the big chair facing James Taggart's desk, her coat thrown open over a wrinkled traveling suit. Eddie Willers sat across the room, making notes once in a while. His title was that of Special Assistant to the Vice-President in Charge of Operation, and his main duty was to be her bodyguard against any waste of time. She asked him to be present at interviews of this nature, because then she never had to explain anything to him afterwards. James Taggart sat at his desk, his head drawn into his shoulders.||”|
- “His title was that of Special Assistant to the Vice-President in Charge of Operation” — This is getting silly now. The only reason this is here is to emphasize Dagny's impressive title a little bit more. I really fail to see the point. And as if this title isn’t bizarre enough, it has to be prefaced with “was that of” instead of good old “was”. Sure, because without that part, the sentence was just too straightforward.
- James Taggart’s posture is becoming increasingly outlandish.
|“||"Oh, did Orren Boyle say he'll—"
"I've ordered the rail from Rearden Steel."
The slight, choked sound from Eddie Willers was his suppressed desire to cheer.
Not the actual cheer, just the desire. What, you don’t think desire makes a sound? You’re having a laugh.
|“||James Taggart did not answer at once. "Dagny, why don't you sit in the chair as one is supposed to?" he said at last; his voice was petulant.||”|
- I think this is the first time in this book that I’ve seen someone referred to by their first name.
- Another abysmal semi-colon. This one is like having my hand randomly struck with a hammer while reading.
- “[robotic etiquette advice]” he said petulantly. — I’m starting to think Ayn Rand was secretly a surrealist.
|“||Taggart sat looking down at his desk. She wondered why he resented the necessity of dealing with Rearden, and why his resentment had such an odd, evasive quality.||”|
Come on Dagny. It’s because he’s a socialist. We’ve done this bit already.
|“||If she were insane, thought Dagny, she would conclude that her brother hated to deal with Rearden because Rearden did his job with superlative efficiency; but she would not conclude it, because she thought that such a feeling was not within the humanly possible.||”|
- “If I were insane” is always a good place to start a train of thought. To be honest, I think if I were insane, I would want to do something more fun. “If she were insane, she would douse him in brandy and leap from the window” is more what I would expect. Live a little, Dagny.
- “not within the humanly possible” — Yeah. Well sorry, it turns out the world is full of people whose thoughts bear no resemblance to yours. There is no situation where you can say “No one could possibly think that”.
|“||"That we always give all our business to Rearden. It seems to me we should give somebody else a chance, too. Rearden doesn't need us; he's plenty big enough. We ought to help the smaller fellows to develop. Otherwise, we're just encouraging a monopoly."
"Don't talk tripe, Jim,"
Again, James starts describing quasi-socialist principles, but he phrases them like he thinks they’re sound business advice. It’s like Ayn Rand thinks that “collectivists” actually want to be pure-blood capitalists, but fail because they don’t have the right amount of Responsibility & Confidence.
This is the first place where we see Ayn Rand’s uniquely nuanced view of the economy. Orren Boyle is a “smaller fellow” because he is bad at his job. Hank Rearden is cornering the market because he is very good at his job. In this world, there is no such thing as delayed reaction. There is no such thing as an alienated workforce. There is no such thing as misplaced zeal. There is no such thing as an honest mistake. There is no such thing as marketing. There is no such thing as disability. There's no such thing as hype.
It’s much simpler than our world, isn’t it?
But really, my mind is still boggling at this plot point. James Taggart wants to wait indefinitely for a bad supplier — a decision which will result in him personally having less money — but he doesn’t really have the principles that lead to this decision. He’s not saying “I’m going to patronize one of the little guys so I can help him out”, he’s actually saying “I’m going to boycott one of the big guys even though there isn’t an alternative.”
|“||"If we give Rearden such a large order for steel rails—"
"They're not going to be steel. They're Rearden Metal."
She had always avoided personal reactions, but she was forced to break her rule when she saw the expression on Taggart's face. She burst out laughing.
Sure. You always avoid personal reactions, except when they’re involuntary, like they always are. Plus, she’s still calling him Taggart. Dagny, that is also your surname.
|“||Rearden Metal was a new alloy, produced by Rearden after ten years of experiments. He had placed it on the market recently. He had received no orders and had found no customers.||”|
Here, Ayn Rand does something which is slightly more interesting than the rest of the chapter — she attempts to describe a situation in which a successful product is not successful in the marketplace. In the real world, we don’t need to do this, because there are a thousand and one ways this could happen, but if you want to build a moral system where economic success is an indicator of personal worth, this is going to be pretty high on your To Do list.
Ayn Rand’s answer is: it’s because of people like James. James is too cowardly to be the first to adopt Rearden Metal, so he wants to rely on the prevailing opinion. There is a bit of a hole here — where does the prevailing opinion come from in the first place? James cites the work of “metallurgical authorities”, who are “ skeptical” about Rearden Metal, but it’s unclear who these people are. Are we supposed to assume that they are a government-run body, and therefore completely unreliable and probably evil? We’ll never know, because Dagny treats James’s reference to them as an evasive maneuver, and demands that he stop talking and agree with her.
There is a grain of truth here, actually. “Don’t consider someone authoritative unless they’ve shown their work” is a very good principle... as long as you don’t follow it up with “consider me authoritative instead.”
|“||"The consensus of the best metallurgical authorities," he said, "seems to be highly skeptical about Rearden Metal, contending—"
"Drop it, Jim."
"Well, whose opinion did you take?"
"I don't ask for opinions."
"What do you go by?"
This part sort of hangs together, at least. I mean, it’s still delusional but it’s at least quite snappy...
|“||"Well, whose judgment did you take?"
...until this bit.
|“||"But whom did you consult about it?"
And also this bit.
|“||"Because it's tougher than steel, cheaper than steel and will outlast any hunk of metal in existence."
"But who says so?"
"Jim, I studied engineering in college. When I see things, I see them."
Ah. Here we come to Ayn Rand’s favorite thesis. There are really two implications here:
- There is no such thing as subjectivity.
- There is no such thing as misjudgment.
Rand would probably deny point 2. I’m sure she would say that, rather than denying misjudgment, she is arguing that human judgement can be accurate in many cases. I agree, but it is important to add that we are usually incapable of identifying these cases. Even if you’re not attempting to be wholly objective and empirical, it’s always sensible to consider what might happen if you are wrong about something. Even if you’re pretty much certain, you should think about how you could be wrong. There is nothing “disempowering” about this. If anything, it’s one of the most empowering principles humanity has developed. It is the root of science, logic and philosophy, and it should be the root of a great deal else.
Point one is simpler, and requires me to put on my Postmodernist Hat.
- [postmodernist hat on]
The root of Objectivism is the argument that reality is objective. The exact opposite of this stance, broadly speaking, would be postmodernism, which generally argues that reality is subjective. I am a postmodernist (look at the hat) and I think I can provide a fairly reasonable critique of Objectivism.
- Before I begin, I should mention something. Even though I am a postmodernist myself, I am under no obligation to ally with or justify the opinions of anyone who calls themselves a postmodernist. There is a lot of rubbish put under the umbrella of postmodernism, and I intend to ignore all of it. I'm also a feminist, but I don't have to justify Camille Paglia.
Firstly, I don't care whether reality itself is objective. Strange as it may sound, it isn't relevant. Reality may well be objective, and it seem very likely -- but we would never know, because we are not in contact with it. Regardless of whether reality is objective, human perception is not. This, in my opinion, is the core of postmodernism. It's not the most popular or well-known part, it's just the part that is true. Objectivism, as outlined in this book, relies on perception being objective -- "when I see things, I see them" -- and without this link, the rest of the chain is meaningless. You can decide you are certain of something, but that's as far as it will ever go.
Atlas Shrugged is vaguely aware of its ideological opposition, and attempts to refute it quite a lot. These attempts seem to boil down to 2 categories.
- Declaring that "man's mind" is an authority in of itself.
- Depicting "collectivists" and generally uncertain people as weak, nihilistic, mislead, or unable to succeed financially.
1 is self-evidently hollow. 2 is a logical fallacy. Neither of these are important to my point -- what is important is the lack of a third category, which we will get to in a moment.
Now here's the important thing: postmodernism cannot be attacked directly. Postmodernism, in any meaningful sense, is nothing more than the statement "you can't be sure of that". Some people have trouble with this, because they assume we think this principle is itself objective. It clearly isn't — it’s a pragmatic observation. It’s a working theory based on the observation that nothing has been proved objectively.
And if you want to refute it, you can. It’s very simple. Just prove something. Anything.
Not by Ray Comfort style semantics like “existence exists”. Not by arrogant parochialisms like “have confidence in your judgement”. If you believe there is such a thing as objective certainty, show it to me. Show me a moral principle that can be derived purely from physical science. Show me any human sensation that can’t be imagined or hallucinated. If you propose certainty, the burden of proof rests firmly on you.
Ayn Rand is attempting to refute the statement "you can't be sure of that", by answering "I can". The only correct refutation of this statement would be "I am". That is the third category. Instead of chanting “it’s been proven”, prove it. Then we’ll talk.
- [postmodernist hat off]
|“||"Well, if it were any good, somebody would have used it, and nobody has." He saw the flash of anger, and went on nervously: "How can you know it's good? How can you be sure? How can you decide?"||”|
Is “if it were” an attempt at idiom, or just a weird mistake?
(Or worse... is “if it were” correct, and am I actually an idiot? The more I say it, the more plausible it sounds. Uh-oh...)
|“||"We're still the best railroad in the country. The others are doing much worse."
"Then do you want us to remain in the hole?"
"I haven't said that! Why do you always oversimplify things that way? ... "
I’m starting to like James. Occasionally he says things I really agree with. “Why do you oversimplify things” is a pretty plausible argument for use on Objectivists. It’s just a pity this conversation is taking place in Ayn Rand’s head, where legitimate complaints never receive answers.
|“||He did not like the way her eyes moved to look at him and remained still, looking, for a moment.||”|
I don’t like that either, because it sounds horrible. I think Ayn is doing this on purpose by now. She knew I would eventually read her book, and she wanted to hurt my eyes with sentences like this. Well, mission accomplished Ayn, you big jerk.
|“||"I refuse to consider, I absolutely refuse to consider the possibility of the San Sebastian Line being nationalized!"
"All right. Don't consider it."
At this point I should mention - Objectivists think “I refuse to consider reality!” is an actual political viewpoint that people have, and are aware of. It’s a pretty clear inference, actually — if you believe that reality itself provides objective moral and political principles, the only possible reason for people to disagree with you is if they are against reality itself. Ayn Rand thinks her critics are saying “I agree that reality objectively supports your views, but I disagree with reality”.
You couldn't make it up, except she did.
|“||"I don't give a damn about your opinion. I am not going to argue with you, with your Board or with your professors. You have a choice to make and you're going to make it now. Just say yes or no."||”|
I love how the opinion of “professors” is worthless next to Dagny’s idealistic certainty. How very... Conservapedian.
|“||"That's a preposterous, high-handed, arbitrary way of—"
"Yes or no?"
"That's the trouble with you. You always make it 'Yes' or 'No.' Things are never absolute like that. Nothing is absolute."
In the real world James is right, because the things he is saying are correct. In Randworld he’s wrong, because he’s the bad guy. That’s all there is to it.
|“||She had turned to go, when he spoke again — and what he said seemed bewilderingly irrelevant. "That's all right for you, because you're lucky. Others can't do it."
"Other people are human. They're sensitive. They can't devote their whole life to metals and engines. You're lucky — you've never had any feelings. You've never felt anything at all."
As she looked at him, her dark gray eyes went slowly from astonishment to stillness, then to a strange expression that resembled a look of weariness, except that it seemed to reflect much more than the endurance of this one moment.
"No, Jim," she said quietly, "I guess I've never felt anything at all."
Another fairly realistic criticism from James. Throughout this conversation, Dagny has repeatedly said things like "I don't care about that, I just want to make money", so this kind of reaction is only to be expected. You can't construct a worldview that denies empathy without making a few people angry.
There's probably a lot more to dissect here, but I find myself unable to engage with it properly. These principles are all so thin that when I criticize them I feel like I'm doing most of the work. It's like they're empty balloons and I have to supply all the air before I can burst them.
Plus, wearing my Postmodernist Hat for so long has made me confused and blurry.
|“||He was about to leave her office, when he remembered a matter he had not reported. "Owen Kellogg of the Terminal Division has asked me for an appointment to see you," he said.
She looked up, astonished. "That's funny. I was going to send for him. Have him come up. I want to see him. . . . Eddie," she added suddenly, "before I start, tell them to get me Ayers of the Ayers Music Publishing Company on the phone."
The Ayers... Music Publishing Company...?
The Ayers Music Publishing Company.
The Ayers Music Publishing Company.
The Ayers Music Publishing Company.
The Ayers Music Publishing Company.
I have typed this five times now, and I’m still so very far from enlightenment. The Ayers Music Publishing Company.
|“||"The Music Publishing Company?" he repeated incredulously.||”|
The Ayers Music Publishing Company.
|“||When the voice of Mr. Ayers, courteously eager, inquired of what service he could be to her, she asked, "Can you tell me whether Richard Halley has written a new piano concerto, the Fifth?"
"A fifth concerto, Miss Taggart? Why, no, of course he hasn't."
"Are you sure?"
"Quite sure, Miss Taggart. He has not written anything for eight years."
"Is he still alive?"
"Why, yes?that is, I can't say for certain, he has dropped out of public life entirely?but I'm sure we would have heard of it if he had died."
"If he wrote anything, would you know about it?"
"Of course. We would be the first to know. We publish all of his work. But he has stopped writing."
"I see. Thank you."
“Eddie, get me the Head Man of the Ministry of All Musics.”
“Yes Miss Taggart.”
“Hello, this is the Head Man of the Ministry of All Musics. What things can I tell you immediately?”
“Tell me things about Richard Halley, specifically his The Fifth concerto for piano and Fifth.”
“Such a thing does not exist. Richard Halley has not been heard of for years. Even his legal and professional representatives probably don’t know what he’s doing.”
“That’s you, isn’t it?”
“Yes, that’s what I meant. Even we probably don’t know what he’s doing.”
“But if he did do something, you would know, right? If he wrote more music, you would know?”
“Of course not. If he likes music he probably also writes casually, for his own enjoyment. Does this composer like music, Miss Taggart?”
“It’s hard to tell. This is an Objectivist novel.”
“Oh, I see. Sorry, I didn’t know.”
|“||When Owen Kellogg entered her office, she looked at him with satisfaction. She was glad to see that she had been right in her vague recollection of his appearance — his face had the same quality as that of the young brakeman on the train, the face of the kind of man with whom she could deal.||”|
There’s only one type of Good Person in this book.
|“||"You had asked me once to let you know if I ever decided to change my employment, Miss Taggart," he said. "So I came to tell you that I am quitting."||”|
After this line, there’s about a page or two of extremely tedious conversation where Dagny asks random yes-or-no questions about why he’s leaving and Owen refuses to tell her anything interesting. This really does read like Ayn Rand just wanted to make the scene longer, and it’s pretty annoying. Luckily, we’re going to skip to the “interesting” bit.
|“||"Kellogg, is there nothing I can offer you?" she asked.
"Nothing, Miss Taggart. Nothing on earth."
He turned to go. For the first time in her life, she felt helpless and beaten.
"Why?" she asked, not addressing him.
He stopped. He shrugged and smiled — he was alive for a moment and it was the strangest smile she had ever seen: it held secret amusement, and heartbreak, and an infinite bitterness. He answered: "Who is John Galt?"
Notice how the meaning of the phrase has changed from “I don't know” to “we want your business and way of life to fall apart because you disagree with us slightly”.
On a brighter note, we are now at the end of the first chapter. Hooray for that! This is a good thing, because I have typed the word "objective" far too many times now. I think I have probably used up my quota, and if I wrote another post today, I would have to use a different word, like "objecty". Clearly it is time for me to rest, and restock on words.
--04:18, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
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[ main page ]Warning: Display title "CLoM » April Fuel" overrides earlier display title "CLoM » Atlas Shrugged, Part III -- My Postmodernist Hat".
Yeah, so I kinda took a day off for April Fool's Day. I don't really know why. No one else in the world thinks of AFD as a national celebration.
Instead of criticism, illness or videogames, you should watch this video of a guy drawing .
This actually is sort of distantly relevant to your interests, and this handy diagram will show -
- Yume Nikki
- Kaibutsu drawing for fun and profit
- Yume Nikki
(Ignore the timestamp date. It is April 1st still in my world.)
--06:00, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
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Warning: Display title "CLoM » April 2010 Archive" overrides earlier display title "CLoM » April Fuel".