Free Markets, Free People

Miscellaneous

Atlas Shrugged movie: sounds like the next Starship Troopers to me

As a Halo player, I sometimes think back to the book that started the “armored super soldier” genre, Starship Troopers. Published in 1959, it was ground-breaking, and won a well-deserved Hugo award for Robert Heinlein. I think Heinlein would recognize elements of his story in the Halo series.

I’m happy, though, that he didn’t live to see Paul Verhoeven make a complete mess of the movie based on Starship Troopers, because the only thing he would recognize in that movie are some character names.

Some consider it a decent action flick in its own right, but Verhoeven had about as much understanding of Heinlein’s underlying story and philosophy as our resident imbecilic political science professor has understanding of economics, i.e., none to speak of. Verhoeven just dusted off the traditional Nazi metaphors, gave his soldiers from 200 years in the future the same basic weapons soldiers use today, and added some space ships and sex.

This year’s candidate for the Starship Troopers treatment is Atlas Shrugged.

To forestall a whole lot of redundant comments, let me first say the following about Atlas Shrugged:

1. It’s an important book. In surveys, it often finishes #2 behind the Bible as the book people say was most influential in their lives.

2. It’s got some valid points. If you don’t see parallels between Rand’s characters and situations and much of what we see around us today, I have to question your astuteness.

3. It’s so-so as literature. The characters are mostly cardboard-cutout quality. The heroes are super-human and the villians are pure evil (except for Dr. Stadler, who symbolizes the mushy middle). This gives the story-line a comic book feel. The long diversions into philosophical preaching can be tedious. One sermon by John Galt comes in at over sixty pages, and might as well be a book in it’s own right, though I’m guessing it wouldn’t sell much.

All that said, I respect the book. I’ve read it twice, and actually got more from it the second time around. I do recommend it as required reading if you want to understand the psychology of leftism, as analyzed by someone who was all too aware of it’s ultimate effects in the Soviet Union.

Now, on to the movie version.

You can see the director discuss the movie in this five minute video.

As you can tell, he doesn’t say much. Almost everything he says is generic “You have to cut stuff out of anything this long to make a movie.” Well, yeah. But what you cut and what you leave is what’s important. Not to mention what gets what gets changed, as Starship Troopers demonstrated.

There was a danger sign when he said “I’m still figuring things out as I shoot this.”

I thought it was interesting that John Galt’s face isn’t going to be seen in the movie. The credits at this point list that same director as playing the part of Galt (presumably just giving him a voice).

He does spend a bit of time about the theme of taking responsibility. So maybe I’m just being overly pessimistic, and he’s being coy about where he’s really going with the movie to forestall catcalls from our politically correct media.

However, what I see in the video doesn’t give me much confidence. The book is about hard edges, and black-and-white morality. These characters look soft-edged. Rearden needs a Harrison Ford type, though Ford is way too old. It was long rumored that Angelina Jolie would be Dagny, and while she may also be up against the age barrier, she was in the ballpark for the right type.

These people are supposed to be tough, independent, and prepared to take on the whole world. Maybe that’s what they’re chatting about, but somehow I doubt it. Based on what the Rearden actor said, they’re exploring their “relationship”. Oh, goody.

It is possible to make good books into good movies. Hopscotch, Catch 22, some of the episodes of Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, and some of the better movies from Jane Austen novels would be examples. What these books do well is capture the spirit of the book. Catch 22, for example, has to leave out a lot of stuff because the book is pretty long, but Buck Henry and crew do a great job of capturing the surrealistic spirit of the book.

Based on what I’m hearing from this director, I’m pessimistic that he can do the same for Atlas Shrugged.

Now you could argue that the hard-edged spirit of Atlas Shrugged just doesn’t work for modern audiences. I think that’s silly; I think that’s what audiences are craving in today’s gooey, politically correct world. I’m in serious doubt that we’ll get it in this movie. Here’s hoping I’m wrong about that.

My New Toy

So I somehow lost my phone (i.e. it was stolen) which I wasn’t totally enamored with anyway, and bought a new one today. After speaking with Dale about his recent purchase, I went down to the Verizon store and got … the Droid.

I may actually upgrade to the HTC Incredible, but for right now I am liking the full, slide-out keyboard, and I’m not sure how much I care about a faster processor or 8MP camera (compared to the 5MP on this phone). I’ll give it a few days and see what I think.

In any case, regardless of which phone I end with, I definitely prefer the Droid platform to my Blackberry Storm. The Blackberry was always a little clunky and had frequent software malfunctions. Plus, I could never have written a post for QandO on it, which is a really nice feature.

Well, we’ll see how it goes …

Car Bomb Attempt in Times Square

The details are still a bit sketchy, but NYPD has evacuated Times Square after discovering a car bomb.

Police said a Nissan Pathfinder at West 45th Street and Seventh Avenue was loaded with a bomb made of electrical components, three propane gas tanks and two additional gas canisters. They received the call about the suspicious vehicle around 6:30 p.m. and blocked the area from West 43rd to 47th streets along Broadway and Seventh Avenue with metal railings. Parts of 48th Street were also closed.

A press conference from NYPD is scheduled momentarily.

UPDATE (22:24 PST): Apparently, the bomb had been activated.  The vehicle was smoking, and an NYPD mounted officer kicked off the evacuation.  No injuries, and NYPD cleared Times Square in record time.  I suspect NYPD will have some questions for the vehicle’s owners, but it seems the license plate on the vehicle didn’t match the one originally issued.

According to MSNBC, cameras captured the car being parked at approx. 6:30PM ET and smoke coming out a few minutes later.

UPDATE (23:19 EST): Press Conference:

An T-Shirt vendor, who is a Viet Vet, called the cops.  Cops arrived, saw smoke, and evacuated the area, then called the bomb squad.

Bomb materials and such were found in the car.

It seems like the materials, though, are evidence of an amateur job.  Gas cans, propane tanks, consumer fireworks, etc.  In other words, it wasn’t stuffed to the gills with nitrates.

Mayor Bloomberg says the set-up was “amateurish”.  So, it seems like more of a whack-job doing something nutty, than some sort of al-Qaeda deal.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

While my patronymic is McQuain (totally Scottish), I am a true Scotch/Irish descendant (and, of course, quite proud of being a true redneck as defined as “Appalachian Scotch/Irish”).  My mother’s maiden name was Mackey – about as Irish as one can get.    So, with my ties to the auld sod established I wish everyone a happy St. Patty’s day (especially you, Pogue). 

Of course none of that really matters today, since this is the one day of the year that everyone is Irish.

I’ll be having a Guiness, or two, later in the day to celebrate everyone’s elevation for the day.

Enjoy.

~McQ

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Happy New Year!

Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy and prosperous new year from the QandO guys.

To those who read us (and watch and listen) – thank you.

To those who comment – on either side of an issue – thank you.

Blogging is, unless you make a living at it, a labor of love. And trust me, QandO is a labor of love.

It has been creaking along for 8 plus years now – that’s old in blog years. When QandO first started it was one of the few blogs out there. Now it is one of the millions, literally, but still has an excellent reader base and, at least in my opinion, one of the best commenter bases around. Since we switched to Word Press, we’ve recently passed the 20,000 comment threshold. And unlike the old platform, we have a handle on comment spam – you’ve not had to wade through 3,600 spam comments.

Anyway the labor of love continues into the year 2010 (my goodness, I never thought I’d see the 21st Century much less the year 2010) and it is with thanks for your continued readership and participation.

~McQ

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A wee bit of Terminator-style creepiness

A company named Boston Dynamics has developed a robot that mimics the way a human being walks – well, at least the way a slightly tipsy human being walks:

It was built to “to test military suits used to protect soldiers in chemical warfare”, and you can read the rest here.

Seeing that tipsy walk with red tennis shoes and a droid-looking body on top was mildly creepy. I can’t believe they missed the opportunity to increase the effect by putting an Arnold Schwarzenegger mannequin head on top.

(Found on GeekPress)

Questions And Observations #6

For new readers, Questions and Observations is, in full, what QandO means.

  • Still pining for that “public option” Bunky? Well you might want to take a gander at a public option our government has been operating for quite some time. That would be the Indian Health Service for Native Americans. It would be no pun to say the natives are restless about the service they get.
  • Irwin Stelzer lays out 7 lessons learned from Cash for Clunkers. My favorite is “government forecasters are really bad at their job”. Wow, there’s a surprise. Anyone – can you name a single major program that was touted by government at one cost that didn’t actually end up costing far, far more than their estimate?
  • It appears that President Obama’s pledge that “95% of Americans won’t see their taxes go up one dime” is being modified to add “but I didn’t say anything about a nickle – or a bunch of nickles”. Yes, given the rosy deficit projections that we’ve seen it appears higher taxes – much higher taxes – are now in the “when” not “if” category. As the Brookings Institute’s William Gale said:

    “If you rule out inflating our way out of the problem and defaulting on the debt, there are two ways: Cut spending or raise taxes”.

    Of course, I’m on the “cut spending” bandwagon personally.

  • Here’s an announcement that should warm the cockles of your heart – Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc., the California Housing Loan Insurance Fund (CaHLIF) and Freddie Mac, have put together a program that allows teachers working within the state to purchase a home with a downpayment of just $500. Wait a minute – isn’t that exactly the sort program that supposedly got us into this mess in the first place?
  • Investors Business Daily finds that its rather roundly panned claim that Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have fared well under the NHS is, in fact, correct, but certainly not for the reason that he isn’t British. In fact, Hawking didn’t fare well at all with the NHS which didn’t even provide what anyone would call minimal care for his condition. His care ended up being provided for by private donations and private health care providers.
  • Apparently Democratic Colorado Representative Betsy Markey didn’t get the talking points memo in which President Obama claims there won’t be any cuts to Medicare benefits. Either that or she’s actually read the bill and in a fit of honesty said, to a constituent asking about that very point:

    “There’s going to be some people who are going to have to give up some things, honestly, for all of this to work. But we have to do this because we’re Americans.”

    Actually we don’t have to do this and for precisely the same reason.

  • The real astroturfing of townhalls has begun in earnest as Organizing For America – the successor to the campaign’s “Obama For America” – begins to finally stage a supposed “grassroots” push back against the rabble from the other side. Of course OFA claims they’re all about grassroots movements. BTW, if you’re wondering which side is which at a townhall, OFA is the “grassroots” organization with same color t-shirts and the preprinted signs.
  • Wandering through Europe, Roger Simon is hardly surprised that the predominant English language news channels carried there are the BBC and CNN International. What did surprise him was discovering English language Al Jazerra and finding it more balanced and better than the BBC or CNN International.
  • Anyone know who or what really saved the whales? Well it wasn’t Greenpeace – whales were saved well before Greenpeace ever became an organization. No it was actually capitalism and the petroleum industry which saved them. When petroleum became available in large quantities and at a low cost, the whale oil business went extinct almost over night. You’re not likely to read that in any environmental, animal liberation, “man is an eco-tumor” literature you might pick up. But think about it …

~McQ

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Questions And Observations #5

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For new readers, “QandO” is short for “Questions and Observations”.

  • “Scientific proof” that Islam is the “correct religion” thanks to an electron- microscope. Yes, “molecules took beautiful shapes everytime they are exposed to air vibrations from reading the holy Quran or saying the word islam or the muslim call to prayer.” But is there scientific consensus?
  • Apparently Hamas and al-Qaeda are fighting it out for the Gaza strip. 13 dead and 100 injured. Only al-Qaeda would declare Hamas as being “too liberal”. So how will the San Francisco anti-Israel protesters protest this? My guess is that somehow Bush will be the blame. Also note how hard the report tip-toes around identifying the Hamas opponents as al-Qaeda
  • 60 Brooklyn New York seniors gave Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner an ear-full, with one of them calling him a crook who was trying to bankrupt the country. Weiner’s response? “You have a lot of good talking points”. Yeah, my guess is her “talking points” were in reaction to his talking points. You have to hope the Dems keep handling all of their constituent protesters in such an appallingly ham-fisted manner. Hard to turn old folks in a deep blue district into racist red-necks though, isn’t it?
  • Zomblog does a terrific retrospective of the Bush/Hitler meme during the last 8 years that exposes the faux-outrage of both the media and the left for what it is. It’s a rather interesting reminder of how casual and how widespread it was. Just as interesting is the amnesia that both the media and left are seemingly suffering right now.
  • Lefties are up in arms with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey after he came out in a WSJ editorial against Obama’s health care reform. You see, Mackey’s company self-insures and provides its own health care coverage. And it works. Mackey tops it off by saying we should be moving toward “less government control and more individual empowerment”. Liberals are enraged and boycotting, believing Mackey is biting the hand that fed him. I guess the entrepreneurial capitalist won out over the sniveling collectivist. He knows what got him where he is and it wasn’t government. Me? I’ve never shopped at Whole Foods, but I’m going to now.
  • In all of this health care stuff, let’s not forget about cap-and-trade. The Heritage Foundation has a new analysis out. If the bill is passed and signed into law as is, look for a 58% increase in gas prices, a 90% increase in electricity prices, and a $3000 per family increase in goods and services. At a national level, we’ll see a loss of 9.4 trillion in aggregate GDP between 2012 and 2035 as well as a loss of 2.5 million jobs by 2035. Other than that, it’s a peachy keen bit of legislation.
  • And for our “bad salesman tip” of the week – remember when you’re trying to sell government health care as an alternative to private health care, alway invoke UPS and FedEx as the good example and the USPS as the screwed up example. Heh … sometimes you just have to know when to shut up.
  • Congressman Bart Stupak, D-MI validates the contention that most of the Democrats put party over country. Stupak told Detroit News columnist Frank Beckmann that protests weren’t going to deter him from voting yes on health care. He said, “We’re not going to allow a small, vocal minority to dissuade us (from) our goal.” IOW, “screw you folks, I’m just going through the motions in these townhalls, Nancy Pelosi has my vote”

~McQ