Atlas Shrugged Part I

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Atlas Shrugged Part I

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Thu Apr 14, 2011 1:41 pm

The movie Atlas Shrugged Part I opens tomorrow:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W07bFa4TzM

While there are so many different interpretations that can be applied to the Ayn Rand novel depending upon where on the politico/socio spectrum your beliefs lie, I will simply note that the central character in the novel is a female railroad executive. From the trailer, it appears that railroads, even passenger carrying railroads, will have a role.

Here is a review that will be in The Wall Street Journal tomorrow; it certainly appears to be, at best, "mixed::

http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2011/ ... -so-did-i/

Brief passage:

    Meanwhile, members of that tribe of “Atlas Shrugged” fans will be wondering why director Paul Johansson doesn’t knock it off with the incantations, sacraments and recitations of liturgy and cut to the human sacrifice.

    Upright railroad-heiress heroine Dagny Taggart and upright steel-magnate hero Hank Rearden are played with a great deal of uprightness (and one brief interlude of horizontality) by Taylor Schilling and Grant Bowler. They indicate that everything they say is important by not using contractions. John Galt, the shadowy genius who’s convincing the people who carry the world on their shoulders to go out on strike, is played, as far as I can tell, by a raincoat.

    The rest of the movie’s acting is borrowed from “Dallas,” although the absence of Larry Hagman’s skill at subtly underplaying villainous roles is to be regretted. Staging and action owe a debt to “Dynasty”—except, on “Dynasty,” there usually was action.

    .....An update is needed, and not just because train buffs, New Deal economics and the miracle of the Bessemer converter are inexplicable to people under 50, not to mention boring......
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Re: Atlas Shrugged Part I

Postby lpetrich » Fri Apr 29, 2011 2:42 pm

'Atlas Shrugged' producer: 'Critics, you won.' He's going 'on strike.' | 24 Frames | Los Angeles Times
It's gotten lots of bad reviews and it's not done very well at the box office. In fact, it's done so poorly that its producer has been reconsidering his plans to make parts 2 and 3.

'Atlas Shrugged' Producer Promises Two Sequels Despite Terrible Reviews, Poor Box Office - The Hollywood Reporter
After thinking it over, he may continue, though he is concerned about the cast and crew dispersing. He plans to release them on April 15 next year and the following one. I think that he might make parts 2 and 3 together, as the producers of the Lord of the Rings trilogy did.

Weekend Box Office Results for April 22-24, 2011 - Box Office Mojo
Earnings dropped by a factor of 2 from the previous weekend, its first one.

Has anyone here seen it? Does it contain any video of European or Asian high-speed trains? A 200-mph train filmed from up close would be visually impressive.
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Re: Atlas Shrugged Part I

Postby 2nd trick op » Fri May 06, 2011 9:16 pm

Some observations, from someone who has been proud to identify himself in basic agreement with the objectivist philosophy for over forty years.

Rand could rightfully be characterized as a philosophical antidote to the writings of Marx; the primary difference was that while she held that the driving force in most human interaction is economic, she did not subscribe to the central Marxist tenet that a particukar outcome would be the inevitable result. Regrettably, she did not live to witness the collapse of organized Marxism.

I feel that anyone who wants to do a serious study of the objectivist movement might start with the 1949 film versiion of The Fountainhead. with Gary Cooper in the role of protagonist Howard Roark. The summaries presented at Roark's trial emphasize the integrity of objectivist/libertarian core beliefs, basically, that the pursuit of state power to subjugate an individual in the name of some hard-to-define "common good" can never be justified via an ethos based on pure reason. The current and usual Pavlovian outcry attacking Rand as a shill for "big buisness" and "fat cats" ignores the point that Rand had a regrettable lack of understanding of day-to-day corporate culture, and most of the corporate world held a disdain for her beliefs as as "too simplistic".

And just as the inevitable presence of contaminants in small portions will corrupt any experiment involving the laws of physics, most of us decide, sooner or later, that a philosophy that "The world begins and ends with me." leads to a pretty empty personal life. Rand herself wasn't always a good role model. but unlike the people at the opposite pole, she did not seek access to the state's legal monopoly on the use of force to attain her goals. Since almost everyone recognizes the need for some sort of safety net, the point is usually moot, save for the fact that almost all the major events in what Churchill called "the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime", involved misuse of state power.

It's worth noting as weil, that Rand seldom paid much attention to the replacement of proprietary capitalism by finance capitalism, a development in which it could be argued that the railorads were forced into the dominant role by the fixed nature of the enterprise.

It's my personal hope that, while it has little hope of financial success, the Atlas Shrugged trilogy can be completed as a historical reference, The only paralell that comes immediately to mind for me would be the 1956 version of Moby Dick which Jack Warner reportedly made with more in mind than the box office.

But then, Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab is a lot easier for the folks in the seats to recognize.
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Re: Atlas Shrugged Part I

Postby lpetrich » Sat Oct 25, 2014 12:54 am

The creators of this movie have created its two sequels, II and III, with the latter one including "Who is John Galt?" They had a separate cast for each one, giving us three Dagnies and other such multiples.

Movie reviewers have panned all three Atlas Shrugged movies, and the third one especially has some crude production values, like using lots of stock footage and still pictures. I can dig up links to reviews of all these movies for anyone who might be interested.

Here is how the AS movies have done at the box office by the standard stated by Francisco d'Anconia in his "Money Speech":
  • I: $4,627,375
  • II: $3,336,053
  • III: $846,704
Sources:
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Re: Atlas Shrugged Part I

Postby lpetrich » Sat Oct 25, 2014 1:23 am

2nd trick op wrote:The current and usual Pavlovian outcry attacking Rand as a shill for "big buisness" and "fat cats" ignores the point that Rand had a regrettable lack of understanding of day-to-day corporate culture, and most of the corporate world held a disdain for her beliefs as as "too simplistic".

Look at who her heroes were in Atlas Shrugged: leaders of big businesses. It's the sort of image that hero-worshippers of business leaders like to push of their heroes, that they are John Galts and Dagny Taggarts and Hank Reardens and Francisco d'Anconias.

Blogger Adam Lee has been gradually reviewing the entire book: Atlas Shrugged. He has had a lot to talk about, but I'll mention one railroad-related bit that he mentions: Atlas Shrugged: Signal Passed at Danger. One of the heroes of AS, Dagny Taggart, is stuck on a train that has stopped an hour for a red signal. She goes to its locomotive, berates the train crew there for not proceeding, and then orders them to proceed.
“This is the Taggart Comet,” she said. “The Comet has never been late.”
“She’s the only one in the country that hasn’t,” said the engineer.
“There’s always a first time,” said the fireman. ...

“Lady, I don’t intend to stick my neck out,” he said.
“He means,” said the fireman, “that our job’s to wait for orders.”
“Your job is to run this train.”
“Not against a red light. If the light says stop, we stop.”
“A red light means danger, lady,” said the passenger.
“We’re not taking any chances,” said the engineer. “Whoever’s responsible for it, he’ll switch the blame to us if we move. So we’re not moving until somebody tells us to.”


Adam Lee:
Now, I’m not a railroad engineer, but it seems to me as if the crew are the ones in the right here. Although the text paints them as being cowardly and unreasonable, I’d think this is what a good driver should do. If a signal on the line tells you to stop, even if there’s no obvious reason, does it really sound like a good idea to just decide it must be broken and proceed through it?
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Re: Atlas Shrugged Part I

Postby BR&P » Sat Nov 01, 2014 8:11 pm

While in a literal railroading sense, passing that red signal was wrong, it should be remembered that this is NOT a book about railroading. The author was not a railroader nor even a railfan, and the railroading in the book should not be viewed in a textbook (or rulebook) context.

The concept Rand was addressing in that situation was the reluctance of some to take definitive action and responsibility. It is present today in our political, corporate and social structure - even on some railroads. Pass the buck, let someone else deal with it, who am I to make THAT decision?

We see one variation of that deficiency when we allow political correctness to alter or eliminate some fact or occasion "because it may offend someone". There is discussion of "absolutes" in the book, and we sadly lack the testicular fortitude to say - for example - this is the USA, and we will fly OUR flag over the school instead of the one for the country many of you students came from. (And yes, in pure railroad context that red signal would be an absolute signal which means you don't go past it no matter what.)

There are other "mistakes" if taken purely as a railroad story. The engineer Pat Logan randomly operated at several different parts of the system - he must have had quite some pull with the union to bridge seniority districts, and amazingly was qualified on different areas. Another goof mentioned - and I THINK it's at the same red signal on the Kansas Western noted above - she climbs into the cab of a steam locomotive, and it says something about staring out the large windshield ahead of them. Unless it's a cab-forward, I can't think of any steamer which has large windows ahead. :wink:

But overall the book makes a lot of damn good points, and while it certainly does not contain a magical answer to all our problems, application of some of the principals espoused would make an amazing difference in our society. If one takes the time to read and re-read Galt's 4-hour speech until it is understood, it's amazing how many situations in today's real world bring parts of that to mind.

To end on a railroad note, so this does not get locked for straying too far, I'll offer this. Today's railroading relies on computers, scanners, automated car readers, electronic waybilling and so on. But there was a time years ago when pencil and paper ruled, and paper waybills accompanied every car on its journey. It was always a temptation to find some weathered boxcar or gondola which had about entirely lost its markings, and make up some stencils and spray-paint "TTL" for initials, ("TT" was already in use by Toledo Terminal) and perhaps even a large "Taggart Transcontinental" on the sides. Today of course that would instantly be caught. But back then it's quite possible the car could have traveled for months and thousands of miles with only Rand's readers in on the joke. No, it never was done, but it would have been a classic! :P
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Re: Atlas Shrugged Part I

Postby lpetrich » Mon Nov 03, 2014 5:21 pm

BR&P wrote:While in a literal railroading sense, passing that red signal was wrong, it should be remembered that this is NOT a book about railroading. The author was not a railroader nor even a railfan, and the railroading in the book should not be viewed in a textbook (or rulebook) context.

So it should be interpreted allegorically rather than literally?
The concept Rand was addressing in that situation was the reluctance of some to take definitive action and responsibility. It is present today in our political, corporate and social structure - even on some railroads. Pass the buck, let someone else deal with it, who am I to make THAT decision?

There are much better ways to make that point in a railroad-operations context. Like a dispatcher who has to decide which train to send out first but who prefers to pass the buck about it to some middle manager.
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Re: Atlas Shrugged Part I

Postby 2nd trick op » Mon Nov 03, 2014 5:38 pm

I read Atlas Shrugged in the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college -- after being introduced to Ayn Rand's work by a group of young campus conservatives and libertarians (though the Libertarian Party would not officially launch for another three years). A lot of those people are still active over forty-five years later.

Rand was a philosopher, a pro-free enterprise, pro-individual rights counterpart to the cancer that is Marxism, and its inconsistent and unprincipled derivative, (pseudo)-"progressivism". A few other people in the broad-spectrum conservative movement (Goldwater, Reagan, Buckley, Friedman) were at or near the height of their influence -- and many others were waiting in the wings.

Speaking not as a blind ideologue, but a person with strong beliefs, my main concern when the first part of the Atlas Shrugged trilogy was released was that the rest of the story be presented in a logically-consistent format that would endure, regardless of the box-office. That concern has been satisfied.
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Re: Atlas Shrugged Part I

Postby 2nd trick op » Tue Nov 04, 2014 3:26 am

With regard to the incident cited, it's been a long time since I read Atlas Shrugged,, but if memory serves me correctly, the scenario involved a failure of the interlocking complex at the Taggart passenger terminal. Under those conditions, "yard rules" would have applied, allowing movements known to be unobstructed at restricted speed until open (and presumably unaffected) signaled main line was reached -- no foul.

Also, the story made reference to laborers to be stationed at the locations of of non-functioning signals., presumably with flags, lanterns, and a system of communication.

When I shared my railroading knowledge with my Objectivist friends, they were quick to point out that Rand was told that much of the (mis)regulation cited in her work paralleled events in the real world; in addition, the long-published and well-respected conservative economic journal The Freeman published a serial called Throttling the Railroads, by Clarence Carson and the Foundation for Economic Education, and later released in book form, around the same time.
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Re: Atlas Shrugged Part I

Postby BR&P » Tue Nov 04, 2014 8:48 am

I am not sure where she ordered the crew to pass a red signal. I was thinking it was while headed west on the Comet, but that's not it. The part I was thinking of involved the frozen train while detouring on the "Kansas Western" tracks. However, there is no mention there of passing a red signal.

There WERE orders given to disregard signals and speed restrictions, but that was not by Dagny Taggart. It was by others and resulted in the disaster at the Taggart Tunnel.

Maybe Ipetrich can tell us where in the book that incident was.
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Re: Atlas Shrugged Part I

Postby lpetrich » Tue Nov 04, 2014 9:04 am

It's page 23, and it's in the middle of a trip that Dagny Taggart had been taking aboard a Taggart Comet. "She looked out the window: the train stood still in the middle of empty fields." Not exactly a railroad yard.
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Re: Atlas Shrugged Part I

Postby BR&P » Tue Nov 04, 2014 12:07 pm

Got it - thanks!
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