Michael Stuart Kelly

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Everything posted by Michael Stuart Kelly

  1. Dragonfly, That was a pretty clear exposition of what should be included in a concept. I happen to agree with you that a concept can be added to, fundamentally changed or overturned once we learn what we don't yet know, but to say that it automatically includes information that has not yet been discovered is silly. On definitions, I agree with Rand (and you seem to also). From ITOE, Chapter 5: I dug up the original essay by Peikoff, but I don't have time to reread it with full concentration just yet. I will do so and get back to this thread. You might be interested in one of the harshest criticisms so far of Peikoff's essay. It is from a post by one Gary Merrill on a newsgroup, sci.philosophy.tech,sci.philosophy.meta, dated Aug. 2, 1993. It is titled "Rand’s work: style and quality." He was discussing the poor standards of scholarship in Rand's references from literature, making special complaint against her broad all-inclusive statements about other philosophers and their ideas. Michael
  2. Now that Nathaniel Branden is posting on this site, I would LOVE to hear what he has to say about role models in literature - and specifically Ayn Rand's literature. And especially in light of his insights on sub-personalities. (Hint, hint, hint... 0/ ) Michael
  3. It's been a long time, but I read quite a bit about Scientology years ago. The most hostile but informative site on Scientology I found is called "Operation Clambake" at the following address: http://www.xenu.net It is still up and is run by a guy from Norway named Andreas Heldal-Lund. There is a Wikipedia article about this site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Clambake Here is a very funny quote from the article: Michael
  4. Ellen, you wrote: Please forgive me for making back-to-back posts to you, but I wanted to separate this one from the humor in the one above. Also, that statement of yours has had me thinking for a bit. You know, I made a confession that I went overboard with moral denunciation in order to justify intellectual laziness. It didn't feel like laziness at the time, but as I reflected on it, that is exactly what it was. One of the reasons I strongly reject the kickass school of arguing with colleagues right now is because of a lesson I learned from this. But first, let me say that by making such an admission, I have committed a cardinal sin in Objectivism. I have admitted to a recent moral failing - and it is not even one from my youth, when I was still full of piss and vinegar. And not only is that a SIN, it is not, er... fashionable to say it. It kind of leaves Objectivists with a raw taste in their mouths. They want to feel superior, but given my recent history of writing, I'm one of the people who are NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT. You can easily look down on a bumpkin or newbie. Somebody like me poses a much harder problem. (btw - I am not referring to those on this forum, but to a bunch of Objectivists I have engaged over the last year, and please just look the other way about the fat head.) I discovered this friction by admitting failure on other occasions, where I simply forgot that I would be greeted with confused hostility. I started thinking about this because when I was younger, I also used to harbor the standard Objectivist emotion of always wanting to be right - especially morally right, regardless of how wrong I was. What happened was that I became seriously addicted to substance abuse twice in life for long periods of time, and in order to get out of that - meaning literally and physically survive - I had to give up that emotion and look at what was really going on inside myself. In the circles where I learned much about myself in order to recover, like AA and NA, that emotion was called pride. So I had to give up my pride in order to get better. Say that to any normal Objectivist and you will get a kneejerk that would do a mule proud. But there it is. There is good pride and bad pride. Wanting to be right all the time - even morally right - regardless of what you just did is bad pride. Also, setting yourself up (or anybody at all) as morally perfect is bad pride. Do I still feel the emotion to be right when I am not? A little, but now it is like a minor itch or an urge to yawn. Nothing earth-shattering. What has taken its place is a sort of innocence in admitting mistakes (so I can correct them) - and a rock-solid self-confidence. This admission of mistakes has become so second nature so that I hardly notice it when I do it. That's one reason I have never "withered" under scathing sarcastic remarks when I have admitted that I slipped on the banana peel. I either apologized or let loose with a bellylaugh. What was in my head at those times was that I needed to find out what the problem was in order to fix it - and the rest simply didn't matter. It was gist for bantering and learning something. Now back to giving up the kick-ass discourse approach and Daniel. Yes he was condescending as all get-out and I was loud-mouthed as all get-out. You see, regardless of who you are, if you start caring strongly about the ideas you are discussing and don't pay attention to anything else, you tend to pick up the environment around you and inject it into your discourse. That is part of what moves crowds. A crowd manipulator induces them to consider highly important ideas and gives them an emotional model to run on. He shows them the emotion by doing it himself - he weds the idea and emotion by inflamed or impassioned urgings - and most of the crowd then follows the leader. Even you. And this gets stronger and even more automatic as more people do it. Well that's exactly what I did and what Daniel did. He was somewhat more restrained than I, but he certainly held his own in cutting monkeyshines. I don't think all this ugliness would have come out in a different environment - and you know what? I think we would have been just as passionate about our ideas as we were in that one. Except, maybe we would have stayed on topic more. And we both might have learned a lot more from each other. Does this mean that I now think making a strong moral denunciation is bad? Nope. If you are talking about Bin Laden or Jack the Ripper, "evil scumbag" is way too mild an expression. There is a scale of evil that needs to be considered. Lesser evils, like wrong ideas that are not acted upon, require the use of another word, not evil. (I thank Barbara for emphasizing that to me once.) It is necessary to learn to control your emotions while still allowing yourself to feel them. It is GOOD to do that. It is BAD to snap and snarl - or even gush - at the slightest provocation. I believe learning this is what's called growing up. Now that I look back and remember those exchanges with Daniel, I have learned something more about myself. I have learned that it is necessary to make a conscious choice. It is necessary to consciously reject kickass loudmouthing as the norm. If I don't make that choice, if I don't look at cause and effect regardless of how good it feels at the moment, I will automatically adopt that obnoxious posture if it is around me. I find that I am more impressionable than I thought. I am more open to being influenced than I would like, and I guess that I'm not an invincible superman after all. And, on reflection, I really don't like myself much when I get loudmouthed and obnoxious. So I simply decided to stop. Kickass loudmouthing is not a means of cognition. I can't speak for Daniel, but I would bet good money that he thinks very similar to me on this. Michael
  5. Ellen, you wrote: I have to find out if my position - or his - is falsifiable. As the saying goes, "The false, er... truth shall set you free." //;-)) Michael
  6. Roger, Have no fear about what you are doing. After I get some time to organize my thoughts on musical epistemology, I will gladly share them with you in order for you to have much food for thought. Your work on the statistical angle is greatly needed and my only intention is to help highlight and separate the issues. Rock on and keep an eye out for me for when I catch my breath. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. Michael
  7. Roger, You just wrote the funniest line I have read this year: LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL... Ain't it the truth? Anyway, there are a few comments I would like to add to your spot-on analysis. The first is the "brain-rot" that Mike Lee mentioned. I think of the mind as something organic that grows stronger with exercise - like muscles. But proper training is essential. I once knew a guy who worked out lifting weights without having any kind of supervision. The result is that his right back, chest and arm muscles were much larger than the ones on his left side. When this deformity finally dawned on him, he became so embittered against weight training that he did not do corrective exercises to let his left side catch up. Thus he condemned himself twice to being deformed. Another place I observed imbalanced exercise is in at the few Rosicrucian meetings I attended and living within a Rosicrucian social culture for a couple of years (one of my exes was a master). Part of the Rosicrucian study is to attempt to develop ESP in several areas through specific exercises. What I noticed is that if a person had an emotional imbalance, this imbalance would get observably worse the more they studied and exercised. A lot of people stayed normal, of course, but I met some real fruitcakes who only got more and more neurotic over time. I find the way some people adopt Objectivism is a parallel to these kinds of harmful exercise and makes people morally lopsided - usually evidenced by them mouthing off before they think objectively, if they ever do. Many I have seen exercise the normative side so much that they atrophy the cognitive side. Their laughter goes down the drain also. (The blog queen you mentioned has not yet entered a state of cognitive atrophy, from what I have observed, but she is exercising her cognitive identification on several topics less and less - and has even stated that she needs to program her subconscious to learn not to laugh at "inappropriate" matters.) Thus a moral condemnation will pop out in a heartbeat while the accuser will be extremely sloppy in actually identifying what he is denouncing. This is so widespread that it almost needs no further examples. They are all over ALL of the Internet forums (except here, of course ). Thus I think that some Objectivists (not all - or even most), literally mutilate their minds by improper and imbalanced exercise. Another thing I have seen up close is the crowd mentality Barbara wrote about in the psychology of suicide bombers in the Articles section. The twist in Objectivism is that a person is called on to surrender his thinking to the guru of the moment (or Rand when a local guru is not available) while being fed the illusion that he is adopting a philosophy of independent thought. Moo. Then there is the issue of intellectual laziness. Yup, Roger. Pure laziness. (This runs parallel to the lack of productivity you mentioned.) Rand often gave the impression that a good deal of her views came from sitting and thinking - not from reading and studying. Her sloppy scholarship, and her proud display of it (usually critiquing a book about a source like Kant or Rawls, rather than their original writings), leads followers to the conclusion that all they have to do to understand something is to think about it. Studying it is not essential. But no one can fake knowledge to himself, no matter how much he lies to himself about what he knows. Thus it is easy to declare another person as evil if he gets too close to being unmasked. I have seen this time after time. And if the intellectual adversary leans toward the obnoxious and is overly condescending (like a certain Popperian who has been recently discussed on OL), I will admit to being guilty of this myself. (As an interesting aside, I became friendly with Daniel Barnes offline right before he asked for his account to be canceled on the old SoloHQ due to the overly vicious attacks and a request from the site owner that he leave. We still disagreed on much, but we started a dialogue that was much more in line with my nature - and his nature too believe it or not, as he was not obnoxious or condescending to me at all. We even joked a bit about hell freezing over. I am thinking of writing him again, but lack of time prevents me so far - as arguing with him demands a lot of time.) So let me admit out loud that blasting him in moral terms was a whole lot easier than reading Popper - and the result is that I have a twinge of residue guilt that makes me want to read Popper to make sure that I was right. I have already skimmed over a couple of websites and I have my eye on a couple of books down at the bookstore that I have thumbed through. (So far, I feel that my accusation of "primacy of conscious" root to it all is still valid, but I really need to do a lot more study to feel absolutely sure.) I have more to say on this, but time is short right now. Michael
  8. Ellen, Hear, hear. I have had the same experience with Herr Dragonfly (despite my fat head). Michael
  9. Kitten, Thanks for posting this. I will do a full article on this book later because it illustrates many ideas that could actually work against overcoming addiction. But let me make one comment here. If you are a pro-reason or Objectivist addict who is seeking something from rational atheistic literature on why you are out of control and how to get out of the hell you are now in: DO NOT USE A MILLION LITTLE PIECES by James Frey for any kind of advice or guidance. It is a sure-fire recipe for relapsing. More later. btw - Kitten, it is only a good read as a circus. Nothing more. It's about one bad-ass tough-guy dude vomiting a lot and undergoing all kinds of superhuman suffering (like two back-to-back tooth caps, then two back-to-back root canals - all without anesthesia), craving that makes him eat more than any human being could possibly fit in his stomach, etc., but being casual and nonchalant about it all. Oh yeah. He only stops because he chose to stop, despite the three months in a recovery clinic. Michael
  10. Dragonfly, You wrote this comment to Roger: There is a context in these types of discussions that often gets overlooked, so matters can become a bit sidetracked. From what I see, Roger is writing a book and just now fleshing out and trying out new ideas. He is not trying to lay down the law yet. This is an insecure time for any creator. You are trying to contribute in the best manner you know how, by providing well thought out observations that could save him weeks of work going off in a wrong direction. And obviously, you do not want to blow his high. If this context is not kept in mind, he could easily start thinking that all you want to do is debunk him and you could start thinking that all he wants to do is to propose an idea that still needs work and stubbornly cling to it - simply in order to not be wrong. Thus a fertile discussion like the one now going on can transform into a hostile contest. I think of Roger's state of mind in creating a new work right now - and sharing the creation process with others - as sort of like fishing. If you make movements that are too abrupt and too loud, the fish get scared off and nobody catches anything. Please understand that this comment of mine is merely an observation on style of discussion and not intentions. I know both you and Roger are high-level high-quality people, whom I personally admire, and I would hate to see a misunderstanding over something like this, especially as it would literally be a misunderstanding and nothing more. Let's give Roger a hand and help his book become something very special, which it shows every sign of becoming. (I know that is what you are doing, too.) I am saying all this just to stay on track. Michael
  11. Ellen, I suppose I deserved that for being too facile, but you're right: a bit of tongue-in-cheek was also involved. I haven't read Aristotle in the raw yet about aesthetics, but the most important aesthetic concept I have come across of his, if I understand it correctly, is that of catharsis, which provides tremendous emotional benefit to the spectator. This, of course, is not even covered in Objectivist esthetics (without the "a" for some reason), yet the emotional runoff is completely true. That is a principal source of the feeling of being refreshed or having taken a bath on consuming good art. At least Rand did talk about the importance of climaxes in literature. Anyway, to go a bit deeper into the mirror idea, I was setting up a divide in my mind where - on one side - people use art to see themselves reflected - not on the surface level, but on a level where they can understand things, even when such things are about unfamiliar people, places and motivations. The reflection is in the approach and not exactly in the character presented. It would be something like, "I can understand how a person who thought that, or did that, can exist," or "That is partly the way I see the world," or on rejecting an artwork, "That is completely false." (Just as an inane aside, though, from one angle, ALL artwork is false by definition.) That epistemological process approach is the reflection I see. Now on the other side of the divide is what you called "inspiration," which I understand in that context as people using art as something to be emulated. The words Objectivism uses are things like "heroic," "to be looked up to," and so forth. Rand even included volition as the defining characteristic of esthetic type. The danger of this is that it can become a mold - like a rude, antisocial, super-achiever who refuses to feel pain - and you can wreck your life trying to be like that. (I know this from empirical experience.) What I find interesting is that the "process reflection" or "epistemological mirror" in my sense can include heroes and villains, but also includes so much more. The "inspiration only" angle eliminates the simple pleasures I get from contemplating something without apparent meaning and knowing that the world is a good place to be in and that I belong in it. This last, to me, is one of the major foundations of why art is so important to human beings. I should do more thinking on this also... Michael
  12. Ellen, Why not make your statement in the Objectivist manner? (Er... based on written Objectviism, not the Objectivists.) "What I seek from literature is a mirror, not a mold." Michael
  13. Dayaamm, Dragonfly!!!! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL... And here I said I loved you guys. Imagine what would have happened if I said I didn't... Michael
  14. Ellen, Thank you. Yes, it has been a long haul. I am used to saying that if I died right now, I could not complain. Despite doing a lot of stupid stuff, I packed a lot of living in my years. I intend to write about all these things - but not as THE WISE ONE. Hell, I am still learning. There is so much to learn that I feel like I've only scratched the surface at times. But my life is all I've got, so I have to make do with that. Barbara, your praise literally makes me blush. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Philip, Thank you so much for your appreciation. I'm glad I touched you. I don't want to disappoint you, but I have never intended to be Ayn Rand, Aristotle or John D. MacDonald. I am simply Michael Stuart Kelly, no more and no less, and that's all I want to be. However, Rand and others are not the only ones who have thought. I have done a lot of thinking of my own over the course of my life - much of it based on Objectivist premises and most all of it lived intensely. I have much to shed light on because I actually lived what most others talk about, and I can report what worked and what didn't in my life. Since I stayed out of the loop for over 30 years, I missed all the animosity and the grand leaps in the face of glory of so many trying to be the new Ayn Rand. I sometimes forget how common that phenomenon has become. My nonfiction should be seen right now as attempts to come to grips with certain issues, not as attempts to teach others what I do not know (which is where I put the vast majority of the Objectivist nonfiction I have read on the forums). This implies a certain intellectual humility and innocence that I find woefully lacking in the Objectivist world. I also found out that not using the Objectivist jargon confuses many, yet I insist on keeping my language simple. (I tend to use it when I get aggressive with an Objectivist, but I am trying to curb that.) There are so many, many guru wannabees out there. I am not one of them. Consider me more as a fellow traveler in life who is reporting on what he experiences and what he thinks. I have no need to save the world. I have a great need to make my little corner of it as honest and open to meaning (as Ellen stated) as I can. So unfortunately, you will see some nonfiction crop up from time to time. Just skip it if it bores you or confuses you. I have to get it out, though. It is part of who I am. Ciro - LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL... Michael
  15. Dayaamm! I have so much else to write, but this keeps me salivating. Roger, I'm going to weigh in on this later, however I have a couple of comments right now. The first is that I do not think a statistical approach seeking a thesis is the best one. I remember reading a wonderful book years ago on motives from Wagner's Ring trying to statistically catch the emotional tie-ins from the number of times and way the motives were used in the dramatic situations (I remember it being by Deryck Cooke.) However, he was hampered by the fact that the emotions came from the drama, not from the human mind. To me, the correct approach is epistemological, then do the statistical stuff (which I believe will be fascinating at any rate, so please don't let these comments slow you down). You used a word I have been using for years, yet I don't see many use it: "musical vocabulary." In order to acquire this vocabulary, there must be musical concepts. What is a musical concept and how is it formed? For instance, rhythm (since this is strongly being talked about right now). There were some fascinating studies done by Gestalt psychologists I read about years ago where they monitored people listening to a steady metronome beat. After a while, the people would begin to hear a stress on the first of every two beats or the first of every three, despite such stress not existing. This shows that the mind automatically organizes sensory material in this manner. After all these years, there are probably many more studies like this. I would be highly interested to see if any work has been done on mapping the effect of sound on the amygdala, for instance. (The amygdala is our emotion trigger in the brain.) I will go into this a bit later, (I have oodles to say) but this discussion is fascinating to me. I once was going to write a book on musical epistemology, so I have been thinking about these things for a long time. Michael
  16. James, Thank you for posting this. It has been years since I read this book, but I really liked it back then. The first essay on the history of romantic love is very different in style than the rest of NB's writing - and it is charming. I have heard that among Objectivists, there is a high marriage failure rate. I wonder if the partners in the failed marriages had read a book like this - or at least contemplated the ideas in it. Michael
  17. Ellen, Well, I went over and read what Mike Lee said. It cracked me up, to tell you the truth. What exasperation! I sure hear him loud and clear - and I do hope he joins in the comments here, since he joined OL recently. I believe this site, OL, is a step in the right direction away from all the "brain-rot," although let me be clear that I have NO INTEREST WHATSOEVER in becoming a guru or leader of some kind of movement. Neither does Kat. I just want a place to interact with people I care about - or could care about in the future - regarding things I care about, or could care about in the future. (Objectivism is one of those things - one of the main ones.) Or even just shoot the breeze and be pleasant. There are a few differences in concept that I tried to instill here - most are intentional - but let me mention a few. To start with, Objectivism is used to justify hatred and arrogance much of the time - and here, I am trying to foster respect and love. (I don't care if that does sound touch-feely. It's what it is.) I personally care about and love (to greater and lesser extents) every active poster on OL, and many of the inactive ones. All this will only increase over time. I think this is felt around here too. I know that the resonance twitching my antenna in return is that I am highly esteemed and that makes me very, very content. I am not ashamed to say that I love strongly and love being loved. Frankly, is there anything better than that as a background for intellectual development and discussion? For creating? We are all important here, both to ourselves and to each other. This isn't talked about much and I am probably making one or another uncomfortable just by saying it, so I will not dwell on it. Let's leave it at the fact that we simply do that here. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words anyway. I think the "brain rot" Mike mentioned from adopting Objectivism comes from a strong attempt by many Objectivists to overcome psychology with philosophy. They make a perfect mish-mash over this distinction. Kevin Haggerty, in a recent email to me, made an extremely insightful comment - that there are two types of people who study and derive value from Objectivism. (I am using my words, not his, but they essentially mean the same thing.) There are those who try to impose Objectivist principles on themselves and they usually become aggressive, bitter, negative, and constantly make strong hair-trigger moral denunciations. Then there are those who look inside themselves and try to see the reality there, while fitting that knowledge in with the Objectivism they learn. These people usually tend to be kind, attentive, respectful, highly intelligent and listen before they speak (and they do not lack in passion, either). Basically, those who deny the reality of their own minds as a whole pay a heavy price in unhappiness - and those who accept it in all its glory and defects and use it for building their lives - these are the Objectivist people who become happy. (The first kind will arrogantly sneer that he is happy and strongly denounce anyone who says he isn't, usually with a sarcastic laugh...) This distinction really hits me hard when I see one of the negative-type Objectivists talk about addiction. (I know that field intimately.) The first thing he says is that addiction is nothing but choice and that there is nothing heroic about overcoming it. Usually, he uses words like pathetic, vomit, evasion, and so forth. What he gets wrong is that there are many parts of the mind, not just the volitional part. Those parts that are affected (and, in my view, diseased) can be treated either by using conscious choice, or by imposition from outside, such as being interned in a clinic by force (or even a few other methods like chemical treatments). I don't want to go into addiction per se here, merely mention that the study and treatment of these parts of the mind have very little to do with conscious volition as exercised morally. They can become so degraded that the faculty of volition itself is short-circuited. This is pure psychology. You cannot cure addiction with philosophy alone. That's the truth. You can condemn it though. To cure it, you have to use responsible and intelligent psychology, then gradually add the philosophy as the mind gets stronger. Volition is used both in the psychology part and in the philosophy part - but it is not the whole story to recovery. Thus heroism should never even be brought up, much less condemned, when talking about recovering from addiction. It is not heroic to get well from cancer, for instance - although the "will to live," the "not giving up," and the focus on deriving great value with the time left by the diseased person could be seen as a heroic attitude. In that sense, this could apply to an addict too, except that the "heroic" concept becomes very dangerous to him, as it is a trap for an easy relapse. So the recovering addict himself normally will be the first to say that he is not a hero. Yet whenever a hardcore negative Objectivist hears the word "addiction," without being prompted, he practically always pops out with a loud over-the-top moral denunciation against addicts being considered as a heroes when they stop. I believe this is because he senses somehow that it is important to belittle the problem of addiction because it is psychological and not moral, and he has a strong need to feel "above" psychology. He needs to constantly prove to himself that philosophy is more important that anything else in life. Just about everybody on this site is a person who is not afraid to look into himself/herself and see what is there before messing with it (especially before pouring in precooked ethical principles right out of the can). This kind of self-honesty leads to overall good vibes and general tolerance. I think the difference between psychology and philosophy is not a minor one to the people here. They know the difference from living it in their own lives - and both psychology and philosophy are important to them. Another huge difference is talent. There is a whole lot of talent running around here. I have made it plain both online and off that I intend to nurture all this talent to the best of my ability to see that it grows in people and that works are produced. I include myself among those with talent who need to grow. Bad vibes are not good for fostering talent and, as Roger mentioned, most everyone seems to feel a need for restraint on the bad vibes so as not to contaminate this fertile atmosphere and haven. (Once again, I use my words, but I think he essentially means this.) I could go on, but I don't want anybody to get a fat head. (I know mine is starting to swell, so it's time to stop. Michael with a fat head is not a good thing.) Michael
  18. Pamphlet - The Moral Antagonism of Capitalism and Socialism Mentioned by Ayn Rand in a letter to Barry Goldwater on June 4, 1960 as one of the political pamphlets used for Objectivism students.
  19. Jody, Here are two links to the Hellen affair. http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/2004/08/unn...y-evidence.html http://angermanagement.mu.nu/archives/040701.html On rereading it, it is as Ellen said - NB kinda slipped on a banana peel. Still his last words to the Rand-personality-worshipper were: And her last words on that topic were: If you check out the comments (or "Noodles" as may be the case) to both links above, you will find some highly amusing parts. One poster mentioned that in Judgment Day NB changed his "voice" to different subpersonalities along the narration, most especially to an adolescent subpersonality during the incest passages. When questioned about what "incest passages" he was referring to, he mentioned "... the juxtaposition of NB's 'To my father - Ayn Rand' with passages expressing adolescent angst about his sexual relationship with Rand." Another poster claimed "He has an ego the size of a small country and no ability to keep his pants on." LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL... Reading through the comments, though, is actually a bit irritating. I just skimmed them again and they reminded me way too much of the "heavy" atmosphere of certain recent anti-Branden debates on other forums. Our own Roger Bissell weighed in back then with highly intelligent comments (as is his norm), but he discussed other subjects. What is particularly funny is the complete inability of these people to see a practical joke as merely that - and the zealous fanatical moralizing over a goof that was played on them, even if the cigar did blow up in NB's face because of automatic email functions. But the cigar blew up in their faces as well, and THAT IS NOT SOMETHING YOU DO TO THE GOOD PEOPLE OF RANDLAND! As I said before, to me, that just made it funnier. In my mind, I can see the growing realization on the faces of the ones goofed on until the final "Gotcha, you bastard!" moment, then all the scurrying around to slay the dragon. I'm sure the telephone company made out quite well that day... Dayaamm! Michael
  20. Gary, Nathaniel finally answered this post, however he is still having a bit of a problem understanding this freeware package. So he asked me to put his answer in the proper place. (He even hoped his request would not be misconstrued as exploitation of child labor. Dayaamm! ) The answer to you from Nathaniel Branden is given below. Michael (Edit - I deleted his post here in mine. We finally worked out some bugs and his answer is in his own post below.)
  21. Ellen, For some reason that makes it even funnier to me. Talk about slapstick! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL... Dayaamm! A wonderful opportunity for a good-natured poking in the ribs was completely wasted. The pouting that went on after that reminded me of kids in grade school or kindergarten. I don't know Nathaniel all that well yet, but from the banter that is now going on in emails with him, I get the impression that he has a sense of humor that is vastly different than the Randroid brigade. He is very playful. My own experience with hardcore Rand-personality-worshippers is that they only laugh when they can find something morally contemptuous to laugh at, so even a chuckle from them comes off as derisive. And they get really pissed by belly-laughs from others. (I have a theory that they are really, really envious of the good time and sheer joy another expresses when he cuts loose with a belly-laugh because they are spiritually plugged up, but more on that later.) Apparently they take the Toohey description so much to heart (that you destroy the good by laughing at it) that they forget that you actually can laugh at something good that is funny and still love and respect it. You know, the old idea of laughing with someone and not at them. You can do that with things too. There was an entry awhile back from the Rand-personality-worshipper of the hour - about Plato and a sense of humor or something like that - where she explained that she needed to "program her subconscious" in order to get rid of the impulse to laugh at funny things when such things were "inappropriate," thus she could become a better little Randroid. I got goosebumps of creepy-crawly reading that one. So why do I even read her? Probably for the same reason we all read each other. She sometimes posts some really good stuff. But also for the knuckle-headed stuff too. In the words of Roger Rabbit, "She makes me laugh." Michael
  22. Let's be absolutely clear on definitions. Honest = Anyone who agrees with anything I say is true. Dishonest = Anyone who disagrees. O:) Michael
  23. Roger, Aw, come on. Since when were you ever so modest? You know full well that you deserve to be a full-fledged "dishonest bastard" too. It's in your nature... (Ya think trombone has something to do with it?) Michael
  24. Roger, Actually the "dishonesty" kneejerk is so predictable by Rand-personality-worshippers (a type of Objectivist) that you can set it up and it becomes very funny slapstick. Have you ever seen a comedian say that he can walk on water? He goes up a ladder to a tank and you know he is going to fall in. But after a huge build-up, he steps out on the water and sinks. And for some reason, it is funny as all get out. (Probably the Rand-personality-worshipper would call the people who laugh "dishonest" about something or the other for that reaction...) There is an infamous episode - the "Hellen affair" - where NB set up that particular Rand-personality-deifier. He did the "dishonest" thing whole-hog, even having a person post over there under a false name. He gave the situation three chances before an accusation of "dishonest" popped out. If you read that passage, you get the feeling that you are looking at the comedian who will walk on water. For as "objective" as the Rand-personality-deifier wished to be, you know that she (or another of her ilk) will have to sink. She claims that she will be objective (or metaphorically, walk on water for that kind of mentality), and she even tests the waters. But sink on time she does. Out pops the accusation of "dishonest" (and she even called NB a "prick" later - and, of course, the ever damning "dishonest"). btw - How she found out was that he fessed up at the end. I still crack up at that goof... Michael
  25. Chapter 18 – Master Plot #12: Transformation Transformation is a character plot. It is close to the metamorphosis plot, except the transformation is internal, not physical. Tobias remarks that the study of humanity is the study of change. But some things do not change. From the book: “Time, however, hasn’t altered certain aspects of humanity, and we share much with a Greek citizen in Athens three thousand years ago or an Egyptian trader in Memphis five thousand years ago. The denominators of basic human psychology have remained the same. We’re born, we grow up and mature and we die. The transformation plot concerns the process of change during the many stages of life. The protagonist moves from one significant state of character to another. The change in character is the result of the action (however what he does is governed by what he thinks). The main character is different at the end than at the beginning. What the transformation plot does is focus on the nature of the change and “how it affects the character from the start to the end of her experience.” Since different people react differently to the same situations, the core of interest is how the main person is affected by a situation (as people are affected differently, also). Tobias gives five examples of situations that prompt transformation: 1. Lessons of the adult world. 2. The lessons and impact of war. 3. Search for identity. (Tobias gives the dark side, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Invisible Man, but I see this category rich for Objectivists, like leaving the fold of religious or cultural groups where they grew up, or abandoning a collectivist mentality.) 4. Dramatic moments of transition in life (like divorce, death of a loved one, a time when using violence is unavoidable for a nonviolent person, etc.). 5. Someone tampering with the protagonist’s life (like in Pygmalion). (How’s this one also for Objectivists? How about a plot where a depressive collectivist is force-fed Objectivism? Or vice-versa? Wonderful comedy idea…) It might be interesting to do some serious thinking on this and come up with other possibilities than just these five. (For instance, in “The Kiss,” which Tobias analyzes, there is a small accident – a strange woman kisses the protagonist by mistake, and that spins him into an inner crisis. So “chance event” could be a sixth category.) Works mentioned “Indian Camp” by Ernest Hemingway “I’m a Fool” by Sherwood Anderson The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane Catch-22 by Joseph Heller A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells Ordinary People by Judith Guest “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (play, then musical and movie as My Fair Lady) “The Kiss” by Anton Chekhov Movies mentioned The Last Picture Show The Paper Chase Kramer vs. Kramer Straw Dogs (from the book Siege at Trencher’s Farm by Gordon Williams) Act 1 (or Phase 1) – Setup The protagonist is shown before the change. The incident that prompts a crisis, and thus the change, is presented. This is called the initial transforming incident, or inciting incident. The first effects on the protagonist of the incident unfold. Tobias cautions the author to keep to action and reaction, and cause and effect. (It is also important to foreshadow the transformation, showing there are lessons to be learned or insights to be made, etc.) Act 2 (or Phase 2) – Complications This act shows the “full effects of the transforming incident.” As this is a process plot, the process of transformation is developed by degrees. Being a character plot, self-examination is used greatly. From the book: “Whatever actions the character takes are a direct expression of what the character thinks. The character’s nature determines the action…” Act 3 (or Phase 3) – Climax and resolution This act shows the incident that defines the outcome of the change (final transforming incident or clarifying incident). Tobias mentions that in this act, it is common for the protagonist to have learned a lesson, or learned a lesson other than what he thought he would learn (where illusion is replaced by reality). He also is usually a bit sadder but wiser. (This last is not a very Objectivist outcome, although it does have roots in human nature.) Growth and understanding occur. Checklist 1. This is a plot that covers “the process of change as the protagonist journeys through one of the many stages of life.” 2. A portion of the protagonist’s life is isolated, concentrating on moving from one significant state to another. 3. Focus should be on the nature of the change and how it affects the protagonist, both before, during and after. 4. Act 1 – Here the initial transforming (inciting) incident that prompts a crisis and starts the process of change is presented. 5. Act 2 – The effects of the transformation develop (the process unfolding). Lots of self-examination is made. 6. Act 3 – Final transforming or clarifying incident. This is where the change is completed. The protagonist understands his experience and how it affected him. 7. Often wisdom comes with a bit of sadness. My comments One extremely good piece of advice that Tobias unwittingly gave in the middle of the Act 1 discussion is a comment that a character was “primed” for an event to affect him. Tobias was discussing the disproportionate impact of a mistaken kiss on a Chekhov character. Had he not been “primed” (given proper description of his psychology and actions illustrating it), then the extreme impact would have fallen flat. A common criticism about Ayn Rand’s characters is their black-and-white nature. This is because they rarely show any significant transformation. The good guys seem to be born that way and so do the bad guys. The only thing the heroes usually do is learn about the world (or “man’s nature”) for becoming wiser than they already are, not learning about an inner state so that they can move on to another more mature state (or better one). In other words, transformation-wise, Rand’s good guys generally learn how to become “gooder” and the bad guys learn how to become “badder.” That’s all. I think that is why writing her kind of character is so hard for another person to do without coming off as being completely derivative and mediocre. I remember looking through Rand’s Journal and seeing “the curse” popping up as an initial character trait for heroes. This curse is always some innate goodness that the character has, but does not thoroughly understand, and is unable to betray. The main Rand character that comes to mind where a personality transformation did happen is the subplot of the Wet Nurse in Atlas Shrugged. What made his transformation exceptionally poignant is that he was killed right after the transformation was complete. Rand might have written this to highlight the evil of altruism, but to me, the whole Wet Nurse subplot in itself is one of Rand’s finest dramatic creations. In short, I see the transformation plot is a great one for Objectivists to use and show some originality, i.e., writing something that does not come off as a weak imitation of Rand. Edit - After my first read of this chapter, I mentioned “coming of age” above as another name for this kind of plot, but that was not correct. So I deleted that reference. A transformation plot concerns adults. “Coming of age” is a maturation plot.