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Objectivist metaphysics and epistemology are perfectly integrated axioms. From that the latter grows philosophically the former does not, except through real science, not the phony science Rand thought philosophy was.

--Brant

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Objectivism is not a top-down philosophy like Marxism, though Rand wanted it to be but as in freedom. She correctly centered it on the ethics but those ethics are her hero's not the great unwashed.  H

Ellen, I see some. The Notre Dame  Cathedral is definitely a human species thing. It was not built by one man or woman. It was a group effort over generations--the best of mankind--from the 1100'

Michael:  I’m looking forward to this project of yours.  Cool stuff.  

13 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

I started listening, then ran right into a brick wall at 1:57.

So sayeth The Peikoff:

Hmmmmm...

And here I thought, according to Rand (see here), philosophy was the study of the fundamental nature of the universe. Not what it ought to be, but what it is. 

"A is A," sayeth the wise lady. Not "A ought to be A."

:) 

Michael

Then you didn't hear the best part, which is up your street, I'da thought. "Unity" from " mutiplicity" by the ancient philosophers goes some way to explain the metaphysical parallels (and departure) between religion and Objectivism, God and existence, you have often mentioned before. So not any theory of LP's , he only reports it, concisely, pointing out the far-reaching effects. Yes, I heard that odd lapse, it is not consistent with anything else I read or heard from him.

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  • 1 month later...

An update on this project.

I have a lot of material pre-prepared, but I'm waiting to start the blog because of hosting reasons.

My blog host is Hostgator, but I'm totally dissatisfied with what they do. The load times are awful, etc. This seems to be the case with EIG (Endurance International Group) companies. EIG is a monster dragon from India that goes around swallowing up hosting companies (who still keep their names under EIG) and making good ones mediocre. 

So I'm dealing with studying specs, different companies, etc. 

Good things coming, though.

Here's a taste of one of the issues I will be dealing with (and applying it to Rand's works as I go along):

That particular rabbit hole goes far, far deeper than it looks.

:)

Michael

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4 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

My blog host is Hostgator, but I'm totally dissatisfied with what they do. The load times are awful, etc. This seems to be the case with EIG (Endurance International Group) companies. EIG is a monster dragon from India that goes around swallowing up hosting companies (who still keep their names under EIG) and making good ones mediocre. 

So I'm dealing with studying specs, different companies, etc. 

I think my hosting company may also be subsumed by another conglomerate of hosting providers, but I can still recommend Ifastnet.com -- zero down time, zero issues of capacity, zero problems. It has a huge suite of design and database and plug-in helpers.

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Thank you, William.

I looked around and, among people who I have been following, their opinion of ifastnet is not great. Most say its support sucks. :) If I understood correctly, it seems to be an Argentinean hosting company. However, I imagine for small beginning sites it is quite good. If the specs it advertises are only half true, it looks better than Hostgator.

There are several places I've been reading around about hosting. There's lots of misinformation out there. (I've since learned that "unlimited" never means unlimited and specs always come with a hidden story. :) )

One of the most helpful and more reliable places I've found is a Facebook Group called "WordPress Hosting." They talk about a lot of different hosting companies in pretty good detail without being a place for geeks.

I'm seriously looking into Incendia (https://www.goiww.com/) and Cloudways, although this last is still confusing to me. People say such nice things about it, but it seems clunky when I start looking.

I'm still reading and learning, though.

Michael

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  • 3 weeks later...

I might as well put this here in this thread since I will be using this thread as a main reference on the blog. (btw - I already have the domain and the name. It will be called MSK Writing Blog. Not poetic, I know :) , but it's clear enough. I'm hosting it on Cloudways, so the site will not have any load delays when one navigates through it. Trying to understand Cloudways correctly has been one of the main reasons I have been taking so long, but it's worth it.)

Anyway, here's something that will be included in my discussions of story and writing techniques.

First, a video I liked a lot that I just saw:

6 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I saw this video last night.

. . .

... Mark Leary gave me a frame for much of the bullshit that happens on forums and in social media.

The issue is rules of social exchange.

Some people imagine the rules of social exchange are only what is in their heads and they collide with people who are committed to their own set of rules for how others need to act in social settings.

Then, after pressure builds, they lose it over bullshit.

This is a pattern I have seen way too often to ignore.

It's even why a lot of people--ones who have preached for decades exactly what President Trump has done recently--can't stand him. He doesn't act like the way they want people to act in social exchanges.

They want to be the ones to lay down the rules, not him. And substance doesn't matter. Their thing is who controls the rules.

When people say you need more conflict in a story, this is perfect as a way to generate it.

5 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

This is a note to myself.

There is a book I found extremely enlightening (for my fiction writing), but I was always confused about one point. The book is called Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain by Douglas Fields. There's a lot of technical stuff, but the innate part of our rage circuits start at specific neurons on the hippocampus. They've even done experiments on rats where they drill a hole in a rat's head, insert a fiber optic thread that ends on a specific neuron, say, one that makes the rat become blind with rage, then send pulses that trigger the neuron. They can then turn the rage on and off instantly with a switch. Switch it on, the rat goes apeshit. Switch it off, the rat instantly calms down.

Fields identified 9 neural circuits that prompt a person to snap. But instead of fiber optic threads, the trigger happens by built up pressure. Over time, with enough pressure, this finally triggers the circuit to overpower the rest of the brain and the person will engage in something physical, usually bad, and it will be automatic. (But sometimes a good action can follow, like when a person immediately jumps in a river to save a drowning person, then doesn't remember jumping in.)

He used an acronym for the nine circuits.

L = Life and limb
I = Insult
F = Family and friends
E = Environment (territory)
M = Mate
O = Order (rules of society)
R = Resources (food and shelter)
T = Tribe
S = Stopped (stuck)

For fiction writing, if you apply pressure to one or more of these circuits on a character in a story and keep piling it on, there will come a natural climax where the character will erupt. That's been my focus. (Paddy Chayefsky, the screenwriter for Network, basically said this was his goal of writing, without the neuroscience, of course.)

But I was always confused about O (order, rules of society). Mark Leary's explanation finally made it make sense to me. There is no such thing as society innately in the brain, but there is an innate neural groove where how to deal with other members of the species can develop through learned behavior. Note, this is not learned behavior on a blank slate, the way Rand says. It is learned behavior within a neural template, a groove, a premade form of sorts.

I was so impressed with Leary's video above, I got his two "Great Courses" on human nature at Audible. (I have a subscription where I get one credit a month. They ran a sale where I can get two audiobooks for one credit and, by chance, they were offering the audio of these two courses. So I snapped them up.)

And now a word from our sponsor. :) 

Here are the two courses (sold through Amazon with my affiliate link) if anyone is interested:

Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior (2013)

Why You Are Who You Are: Investigations into Human Personality (2018)

Note, if you buy them separately, they come to about 50 bucks.

The Audible membership charges you a little under 15 bucks a month for one credit. As Audible was running a two for one sale and these titles were part of the sale, I got both courses for this month's credit. In other words, instead of getting them for 50 bucks, I got them for 15.

I think the 2 for 1 sale will last until July 4, but there are a lot more Great Courses available than just those two in the sale.

Also, Audible lets you buy a 3 credit package for about 12 bucks a credit, so if I had any spare money left over right now, which I don't, I would get 6 more of these suckers for 12 bucks for each two. That's a huge drop from 50 bucks each two.

I'm pretty sure I can make the July 4 cutoff, though. If I do, I don't know about you, but I will go for it.

:) 

Michael

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  • 1 month later...
On 6/3/2019 at 4:02 PM, william.scherk said:

[...] I can still recommend Ifastnet.com -- zero down time, zero issues of capacity, zero problems.

Ha! Ifastnet is in hour nineteen of an outage ...

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William,

I went with Cloudways.

Still figuring some things out because the learning curve for a non-techie is a bit high, but as I go along, I'm beginning to like their organization of elements a hell of a lot more than cPanel. The jargon is thick, but once you learn what something means and how to work with it, things are really easy and simple.

The hard part for me is in the basic things.

For example, at Cloudways, you get a choice of several cloud companies, but you have to set up your own server (a virtual server) to get anything online. You can set up as many servers as you want. (Cloudways meters use from all the different companies and servers I use, then presents one bill--and, believe it or not, it is very inexpensive compared to a dedicated server with cPanel.)

But wait. All the servers I want? What does that even mean in terms of what I do? That's a hell of a concept for someone who has used cPanel for years (Hostgator and OL's hosting before it went to the IPB cloud). But wait again! It gets worse. I can not only set up as many servers as I like, I can choose a different cloud company for each until I have used all the cloud companies they offer.

My first thought was why on earth do I need more than one server? I've always been able to put all my sites on one server at hosting companies with cPanel. Then, what are the relevant differences for me between the different cloud companies?

You really have to dig to find that obvious stuff out. Even now, I'm not so sure about the difference between the companies other than price. So far, I've gone with the first option, Digital Ocean, because it is the first and it's the cheapest. It works. But I'll learn more as I go along. The good thing is I can change the different companies at will.

And servers? As a throwaway thought in an instruction article full of technical shit--and almost nowhere else, they mentioned that you will do better creating one server per site. Thanks a lot, guys... :) 

It's tough, but I'll get there...

btw - This complication is a wonderful opportunity. After I get rolling, I'm going to sell Cloudways as an affiliate (I'll have a separate site for that). All I have to do is set up basic instructions for beginners like me as I figure things out--and put that into plain English with analogies and references to what most people like me are used to--and I think it will sell itself.

Michael

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On 8/11/2019 at 10:43 AM, william.scherk said:
On 6/3/2019 at 4:02 PM, william.scherk said:

[...] I can still recommend Ifastnet.com -- zero down time, zero issues of capacity, zero problems.

Ha! Ifastnet is in hour nineteen of an outage ...

This past week my hosting account became decoupled from the internet -- anything uploaded since three days does not appear, cannot be served. Pages updated since Aug 23, or new pages since simply are not 'viewable' via HTML. And of course the support-ticket system has disappeared into a black hole.

I am moving my materials to a new site at Hostpapa, the top-rated Canadian outfitter. 

Michael, how is the site-building going with Cloudways?

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1 hour ago, william.scherk said:

Michael, how is the site-building going with Cloudways?

William,

Very good. I'm the reason I'm behind right now, not the technical burdens.

:)

But I'll be fixing that soon.

Here is the single most important piece of advice I have learned in all my studies about what to look for in a hosting company. I am talking about hosting companies with a semi-decent reputation in countries that are relatively stable, of course. :) 

Verify whether there is a support staff that is on call 24/7 and whether it is decent. 

All the rest can be managed. But if you are in a crisis and nobody is around to help, or only people of modest technical knowledge living overseas who have difficulty speaking English are available, or there is some mandatory chat feature you have to use that doesn't seem to work all the time, you are offline. Period. And in suck it up mode. Look around and see what other customers say about the technical support.

That is fundamental and should be first, second and third concern in the hierarchy of important features. All the rest build out from there.

Michael

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On 8/11/2019 at 11:24 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I went with Cloudways.

Still figuring some things out because the learning curve for a non-techie is a bit high, but as I go along, I'm beginning to like their organization of elements a hell of a lot more than cPanel. The jargon is thick, but once you learn what something means and how to work with it, things are really easy and simple.

I generally learn just past what I think I need to know, in techie terms. Today I learned the barest minimum about a Hostpapa offering, Cachewall. I learned about dynamic cloud-cacheing, and that an additional above-host service, "Power Protection's CDN," was operating in full power to stymie me.

Unlike iFastnet presently, Hostpapa has 24/7 actual people at the ready via live-chat, support-tickets/email, and 1-800 number.

Today I communicated with three people in turn, and by this time tomorrow I will have shed some grief.

Quote

The hard part for me is in the basic things.

For example, at Cloudways, you get a choice of several cloud companies, but you have to set up your own server (a virtual server) to get anything online. You can set up as many servers as you want. (Cloudways meters use from all the different companies and servers I use, then presents one bill--and, believe it or not, it is very inexpensive compared to a dedicated server with cPanel.)

But wait. All the servers I want? What does that even mean in terms of what I do? That's a hell of a concept for someone who has used cPanel for years (Hostgator and OL's hosting before it went to the IPB cloud). But wait again! It gets worse. I can not only set up as many servers as I like, I can choose a different cloud company for each until I have used all the cloud companies they offer.

My first thought was why on earth do I need more than one server? I've always been able to put all my sites on one server at hosting companies with cPanel. Then, what are the relevant differences for me between the different cloud companies?

You really have to dig to find that obvious stuff out. Even now, I'm not so sure about the difference between the companies other than price. So far, I've gone with the first option, Digital Ocean, because it is the first and it's the cheapest. It works. But I'll learn more as I go along. The good thing is I can change the different companies at will.

I forgot to highlight your good advice about support. That was my number one criteria.

Quote

And servers? As a throwaway thought in an instruction article full of technical shit--and almost nowhere else, they mentioned that you will do better creating one server per site. Thanks a lot, guys... :) 

It's tough, but I'll get there...

btw - This complication is a wonderful opportunity. After I get rolling, I'm going to sell Cloudways as an affiliate (I'll have a separate site for that). All I have to do is set up basic instructions for beginners like me as I figure things out--and put that into plain English with analogies and references to what most people like me are used to--and I think it will sell itself.

I may be your first client if Hostpapa's cacheing gives more grief.

A final irony or telling item is that 1), I still haven't learned how I can reach iFastnet support, and 2),  their cacheing blockage dropped away without notice yesterday. If only I had not been impatient.

I had a thought that we could have a contest for OL scriveners when your Rand-Writing blog/CMS comes online. Something like: "Write a 2000-word 'first chapter' using the criteria and structure-notes given."

Then, depending on the moderation, we can all sink our teeth into lauding/rubbishing the results ...

My inspiration suggests a "near future" setting, with a mysterious or occluded set of events confronted by the first introduced quasi-Randian characters.

Now off to do some scary multiple-files-at-once global variable editing. One directory down, 34 to go. Yes, I have a backup, but.

I'll be done ... later.

Edited by william.scherk
Error error grief error fix
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21 hours ago, william.scherk said:

I generally learn just past what I think I need to know, in techie terms.

Who has ever had 'router troubles'?  At one point a few years back, after having done everything, it occurred to me to unplug the router and then plug it back in. 

Here's another option for router troubles ...

 

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  • 8 months later...

An update.

I have not forgotten this project nor abandoned it.

I just have a few more things to get through before I believe I will do a great job. And I don't want to start without being sure of that. Here are a couple, then a golden nugget at the end of this post.

 

The first thing I need to finish is John Truby's The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller.

I own several audio courses by Truby, even his writing software (which I bought years ago), and have seen videos and read articles galore by him. He always comes up with stuff that makes me think.

I have had Anatomy for ages, but I was never able to get into it until just recently. Why? Because, unlike elsewhere, Truby is boring in this book. And I think I know why. First, he mostly runs on introspection for his writing rules (somewhat like Rand) and presents these ideas with little back-and-forth analysis. His manner is, This is the way it is and everything else is wrong. There is no drama, just a bunch of rules and examples.

The second, more serious for me, is that this book, like most technical books, is a book of lists with commentary on each item. The problem is, there seems to be a sweet spot for commentary, not too long and not too short, to hold audience attention, at least mine. Truby's commentary is too short and reading one item after another the way he does it gets tiresome real fast. I could skim, I suppose, but this stuff is too valuable for that. So I have chosen to stay in full focus, but man is it a slog.

There is a good part, nay, a great part. Most of what Truby says is either Randish at root or examples from Rand can easily fit his templates, even though that observation would probably piss him off. (He appears to me to not be a fan of hers, albeit I don't ever recall him talking about her. He appears to me to lean progressive.)

A very quick example of the great is his idea of "designing principle." This falls under premise and it comes in two parts. The first part is what he calls a "story process." The second is a unique addition to, or spin on, that process. A normal story process is a trip on a river, or the steps in a coming of age story, or a day in the life of [fill in the blank], or a cop investigates a crime, and so on. Even a Joseph Campbell-like hero's journey works. A story process is akin to a standard template or cliché.

But then you have to add the secret sauce to get a designing principle, an element that makes it unique. You flip the cliché or template on its head, like in The Fountainhead where, for the romantic story, a lady pursues a man by playing hard to get (the story process), but she adds trying to destroy him because she loves him so much and doesn't want him to be hurt by the world (the unique part).

That book, by the way, has one of the most original overall designing principles I have come across. It is a coming of age story (the story process). In a typical coming of age story, the protagonist learns how to adapt his or her growth to an unchanging world, to reality. In Rand's version, society comes of age and adapts to an unchanging individual (Roark), including those around Roark like Dominique and Wynand.

This fits well with my studies on how to engineer hits. The hit formula is to take something that is familiar to all and accepted by all, then add something unusual or original, but exciting or moving to it. Rand did this constantly.

There is a lot more in this book, but I have to go through it slowly due to it being boring and profound at the same time. So I do a few pages a day. That works for me. Your mileage may vary.

 

The next thing is an amazing course I am taking on the neuroscience of story: The Magical Science of Storytelling by David JP Phillips. Rather than give an overview, David has a TED Talk with millions of views that does a great job of it. (I posted this video above, but it's worth seeing again. It's that good. And the course is far deeper.)

Obviously, there are things here that apply to Rand's form of fiction writing. And there are many more in the course. I can't wait to think through, then show how she prompts dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, etc., in the reader's brain through her literary techniques.

 

Now, to further show I have been busy on this project, here is a golden nugget for writers who want to learn from Rand's writing rather than ape it, who want something practical they can do and repeat to develop a skill. I came across an interesting article by Caroline Breashears in the Journal for Ayn Rand Studies called Why James Taggart Is No Prince Charming: Ayn Rand and Fairy Tales.

The gist is that fairy tales are impersonal, many characters don't even have a name, and are aimed at everyone. The outcomes generally involve status in a social group or family (either obtaining status like marrying a prince, or restoring status like coming home safely). Rand looked down on these outcomes and considered them sappy and mediocre. Myths, on the other hand, are about individuals in specific situations doing unusual things. She didn't like that they often ended in tragedy, but she did like the stoic and heroic attitudes and attempts of the individuals. 

Rand used both fairy tales and myths as "designing principles" by referencing them or using their formal templates in her fiction. But she also varied them (generally the endings) according to her own view of life, that is, exalting the excellent and unusual while denigrating the mediocre and ordinary. If you are familiar with Rand's fiction, I'm sure you can think of several examples off the top of your head. If you can't, the article gives a lot of examples.

The golden nugget, though, is that Rand used fairy tales for villains and myths for heroes.

So if you want to write like Rand without aping her and include fairy tales, myths, folk tales, fables, religious stories, ancient history and so forth as templates or metaphors, etc., separate one category for villains and another for heroes, get clear in your mind about why each has been so assigned, then change the actual stories and templates to fit this new designing principle. In many cases, this will help your story write itself. It will certainly suggest events and character attitudes.

More later.

Michael

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  • 3 weeks later...

This came from another thread. It's a copy/paste from the old Atlantis group (with thanks to Peter for keeping this stuff alive).

5 hours ago, Peter said:

From: John Hospers To: movies wetheliving Subject: MOV: Chaplin Date: Sat, 17 Nov 2001 12:49:23 -0800

Esp. to Richard Allen: No, Rand didn't care for the 'silent comedians'.  Several times in our conversations the topic of Chaplin came up - all negative.  At first I thought that his political leftism  was the main issue - that along with his preference for girls a generation 'too young' for him.  These all had an influence on her low estimate of Chaplin.

But the main thing was his art, not his life:  it was repellent to her that Chaplin celebrated (or seemed to) the 'hero' as helpless victim,  not in charge of his fate but being buffeted about on the whims of circumstance, always reacting but not initiating action.  She didn't find his antics cute or even funny.  Not only did she dislike 'Modern Times' as an indictment of capitalism, she found his parody on Hitler in 'The Great Dictator' (after the 'little tramp' had been abandoned) unworthy of even a single smile.

Rand on comedy was a trip all to itself.

But according to her stated views on comedy (that it is destructive, thus it should be used best against the morally reprehensible--I'm paraphrasing), her dislike of "The Great Dictator" is odd. What could be more morally reprehensible than Hitler?

🙂

I don't want to harp on the "Rand was inconsistent" theme (God knows, enough people do that), but her negative attitude about Chaplin's parody of Hitler shows something important about comedy itself. I've mentioned the story triangle before.

 

On 10/2/2018 at 1:08 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I did a different version of my own for fiction writers for a course I am making. (I'm going the route of drawing up a course in order to teach myself. :) )

10.02.2018-00.22.png

Six relationships.

The problem with most authors is that they have a relationship with their story, but don't even reflect on the relationship of their story to them, much less the other four relationships.

I think, in these relationships, if one of them is clouded with so much negativity, they only elicit active (high valence) "downer" emotions like hatred, contempt, revulsion and so on, there is something in the brain that does not allow the laughter reflex to kick in. And boy did Rand hate real communists.

There is a story about Barbara Branden that is relevant to this idea. Back in 2008, I posted a thread on OL:

Porn for Women

It was about a humor book on Amazon. It is basically a bunch of pictures of hunks doing housework, worrying about the baby, etc. with big smiles on their faces. 🙂 

Now here's the thing. Barbara would not look at the thread. I told her it was not what she thought, but she wouldn't look. Kat even told her and she wouldn't look. Ayn thought porn was disgusting, so I imagine Barbara assimilated that attitude from her. Barbara did not hold it against us, but she refused to look.

 

And this leads me to think about one of the functions of the human brain--to shut out parts of reality. This goes all the way down to the sensory level. Part of sorting sensory inputs in order to make abstractions is to ignore a lot of them. The sense organs are bombarded with gazillions of inputs, yet only a small fraction of them make it to awareness and memory--except perhaps to the inner gatekeeper. And the inner gatekeeper says, "Go no farther." If we did not have this inner gatekeeper, we would be paralyzed from input overload.

Leveling up in brain processing complexity, there are topics that are so abhorrent to people--and this varies a lot from culture to culture and individual to individual--that the main subconscious response is to block it from further brain processing.

This is something to think about when writing humor. And even more, about comedy Rand-style.

She could get quite funny at times. In one work, Ideal, a Christian preacher used a metaphor of a spiritual gas station and you could fill up your own spiritual tank from the three gas pumps labeled Faith, Hope and Charity. 🙂 But there are things that have to be avoided.

Why? That's a topic for later reflection. This post is a start.

For the record, I, myself, don't avoid such topics or situations. I have a happy-go-lucky disposition and a lot of things are funny to me, but not in a destructive manner.

 

One final note--this is a caution that has nothing to do with writing. I wrote the following back in 2006. We can use philosophy to override certain innate drives and alter our brain wiring through neuroplasticity.

On 6/25/2006 at 3:46 PM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Rand was generally a sourpuss when it came to traditional humor. By projecting this into a philosophical principle to cover ALL humor, she turned one of man’s basic drives into a built-in defect that needs to be programmed out of him. This is nothing more than a variation of Original Sin. Her theory stands if applied only to mocking. If applied to other forms of humor, it is “wrong.” I prefer “incomplete,” since mocking is a form of humor.

But many Objectivists take this view to heart as complete and turn into sneering, snide, snarky assholes who wouldn’t know how to react if they slipped on a banana peel themselves. They would pout and sulk if someone laughed. Look at what they do when they are wrong.

A very good example of Objectivist spiritual suicide involves the dastardly Hsieh. Here is a quote from her blog on November 28, 2005 called “Malicious Humor”:

Hsieh said:
Personally, I've found such humor to be so common that I have some trouble noticing the more subtle variations, even in myself. Yet it's important to train your subconscious against such malicious humor. To allow it to remain means undermining your own and others' passion for and commitment to the meaningful values and virtues in life.

When I read that back then, I thought, “My God! She is on a consciously chosen path of self-inflicted brainwashing.” Instead of protecting herself against undermining her own passion for the good, she is short circuiting her capacity for joy. Look at her steady stream of denouncing posts if you want to see evidence of the result.

I stand by the thought in that excerpt, and as I hinted, neuroscience is bearing me out, but on reading some of my adjectives back then, I cringe at my early style. I sound like a hick trying on new dress clothes for the first time. But whatcha gonna do? 🙂 

Michael

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  • 2 months later...

Here's something interesting I found.

I wonder if Ayn Rand ever read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I'm reading it now and I'm almost certain she did. They both used a childhood memory of an oak tree struck by lightening and destroyed in an odd manner to represent the theme of their work (in Ayn Rand's case, in Atlas Shrugged). And they both used this passage right near the beginning.

 

First from Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. The passage is from Victor Frankenstein's narrative as written down by Captain Robert Walton in a letter to his sister while exploring the North Pole region. He had rescued Victor Frankenstein from freezing to death.

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When I was about fifteen years old we had retired to our house near Belrive, when we witnessed a most violent and terrible thunderstorm. It advanced from behind the mountains of Jura, and the thunder burst at once with frightful loudness from various quarters of the heavens. I remained, while the storm lasted, watching its progress with curiosity and delight. As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump. When we visited it the next morning, we found the tree shattered in a singular manner. It was not splintered by the shock, but entirely reduced to thin ribbons of wood. I never beheld anything so utterly destroyed.

Before this I was not unacquainted with the more obvious laws of electricity. On this occasion a man of great research in natural philosophy was with us, and excited by this catastrophe, he entered on the explanation of a theory which he had formed on the subject of electricity and galvanism, which was at once new and astonishing to me. All that he said threw greatly into the shade Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus, and Paracelsus, the lords of my imagination; but by some fatality the overthrow of these men disinclined me to pursue my accustomed studies. It seemed to me as if nothing would or could ever be known. All that had so long engaged my attention suddenly grew despicable. 

By one of those caprices of the mind which we are perhaps most subject to in early youth, I at once gave up my former occupations, set down natural history and all its progeny as a deformed and abortive creation, and entertained the greatest disdain for a would-be science which could never even step within the threshold of real knowledge. In this mood of mind I betook myself to the mathematics and the branches of study appertaining to that science as being built upon secure foundations, and so worthy of my consideration.

Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by such slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity or ruin. When I look back, it seems to me as if this almost miraculous change of inclination and will was the immediate suggestion of the guardian angel of my life—the last effort made by the spirit of preservation to avert the storm that was even then hanging in the stars and ready to envelop me. 

 

Next from Atlas Shrugged (Eddie Willers).

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He did not know why he suddenly thought of the oak tree. Nothing had recalled it. But he thought of it and of his childhood summers on the Taggart estate. He had spent most of his childhood with the Taggart children, and now he worked for them, as his father and grandfather had worked for their father and grandfather.

The great oak tree had stood on a hill over the Hudson, in a lonely spot of the Taggart estate. Eddie Willers, aged seven, liked to come and look at that tree. It had stood there for hundreds of years, and he thought it would always stand there. Its roots clutched the hill like a fist with fingers sunk into the soil, and he thought that if a giant were to seize it by the top, he would not be able to uproot it, but would swing the hill and the whole of the earth with it, like a ball at the end of a string. He felt safe in the oak tree’s presence; it was a thing that nothing could change or threaten; it was his greatest symbol of strength.

One night, lightning struck the oak tree. Eddie saw it the next morning. It lay broken in half, and he looked into its trunk as into the mouth of a black tunnel. The trunk was only an empty shell; its heart had rotted away long ago; there was nothing inside—just a thin gray dust that was being dispersed by the whim of the faintest wind. The living power had gone, and the shape it left had not been able to stand without it.

Years later, he heard it said that children should be protected from shock, from their first knowledge of death, pain or fear. But these had never scarred him; his shock came when he stood very quietly, looking into the black hole of the trunk. It was an immense betrayal—the more terrible because he could not grasp what it was that had been betrayed. It was not himself, he knew, nor his trust; it was something else. He stood there for a while, making no sound, then he walked back to the house. He never spoke about it to anyone, then or since.

Eddie Willers shook his head, as the screech of a rusty mechanism changing a traffic light stopped him on the edge of a curb. He felt anger at himself. There was no reason that he had to remember the oak tree tonight. It meant nothing to him any longer, only a faint tinge of sadness—and somewhere within him, a drop of pain moving briefly and vanishing, like a raindrop on the glass of a window, its course in the shape of a question mark. 

 

Notice the similarity of construction of these two passages.

1. Flashback to youth.

2. Lightening strikes an oak tree during a storm at night.

3. The next morning the child goes to see the damage and discovers the odd remains.

4. Passage on how this impacted the child's thinking and feeling at the time.

5. Passage on what this means personally to the adult in the present.

 

I see too many similarities for coincidence. I can't be 100% certain. but it looks like Rand used Shelley for inspiration here. This would be in line with Rand's writing advice to isolate passages from other writers that made an impression on you and study how they made their effect. And, based on my studies of writing and literature, this is exactly the way one great artist "steals" from another. A frame stays in place, but details, style, meaning and so on are different.

btw - The writing in Frankenstein is fantastic. Elevated and intelligent. Not boring. And not bad for a young woman in 1818.

Michael

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Interesting catch.
No clue if Rand ever read FRANKENSTEIN, but I remember her name-dropping it in THE ROMANTIC MANIFESTO...it's hard to tell either way from this if she read it, but was at least aware of it (how could she not be?). But she did at least refer to the monster as "Frankenstein's monster", and not the monster as Frankestein, as many do, so there's that...

"The Horror Story, in either variant, represents the metaphysical projection of a single human emotion: blind, stark, primitive terror. Those who live in such terror seem to find a momentary sense of relief or control in the process of reproducing that which they fear—as savages find a sense of mastery over their enemies by reproducing them in the form of dolls. Strictly speaking, this is not a metaphysical, but a purely psychological projection; such writers are not presenting their view of life; they are not looking at life; what they are saying is that they feel as if life consisted of werewolves, Draculas and Frankenstein monsters. In its basic motivation, this school belongs to psychopathology more than to esthetics."

Ayn Rand. The Romantic Manifesto (Kindle Locations 1640-1644). Signet. Kindle Edition.

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I got curious to see if she mentioned FRANKENSTEIN anywhere else, so I looked at JOURNALS OF AYN RAND. Lo and behold, in her notes during the writing of ATLAS SHRUGGED, there's a mention. But not just a mention of the monster, but of creators, energy, and of "horror". Her comments about horror in RM may have made it seem that she wouldn't use such a reference in her own work.  But she applies the "horror" aspect in ATLAS to the "parasites". And the appeal of the "creator" aspect of FRANKENSTEIN makes sense, since that subtitle was "The Modern Prometheus", and John Galt was described as "the Prometheus who changed his mind." (Not to mention that the hero in ANTHEM chooses the name Prometheus...)

(I wonder if there's a connection for Rand between Frankenstein, energy, creators, and Prometheus, and her admiration of Isabel Paterson's THE GOD OF THE MACHINE?)

 

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So the parasite’s wish, in factual terms, is to destroy the creator. To enslave the creator is to destroy him. (“The purpose of the fraud was to destroy the creators. Or to harness them. Which is a synonym.”) Therefore, John Galt grants the parasite his wish: he removes the creators. He doesn’t destroy them, of course, but they do not exist as far as the parasite is concerned; they take no part in his world, they contribute nothing, they do not interfere with him or oppose him. He gets what he wanted—a world without creators. Then the horror follows—the destruction of the world—the logical consequences of the parasite’s principle of death; and the parasite’s inner horror must match, if not surpass, the horror of the world’s material collapse. (This is for the last scene with James Taggart and the priest.)

The parasite could exist only so long as he had the creators to lean on, to be fed by, to exploit; in this sense, the creators were responsible for him—by permitting him to do it. This is just like totalitarian economics that can exist only on the energy stolen from the free economies, who thus create their own Frankenstein monsters. This is what John Galt wants the creators to understand and to stop. This, then, is the meaning of John Galt’s strike.

 

 

Ayn Rand; Leonard Peikoff; David Harriman. Journals of Ayn Rand (Kindle Locations 8785-8788). Plume.



 

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Michael, I think you might be on to something; FRANKENSTEIN is also mentioned in THE ART OF FICTION (along with Dr. Jeckyll, so it shows that she read BOTH books...)
 

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The best example of this kind of fantasy is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The literal subject of the story—a man who changes himself physically into a monster—is impossible, but this is only a symbolic device to convey a psychological truth. The story is a study of a man with contradictory premises. By drinking a special medicine, Dr. Jekyll indulges in the fun of turning himself into a monster. At first he is able to control the process, but then he reaches a stage where he cannot control it anymore, where he turns into the monster whether he wants to or not. This is what in fact happens to bad premises: at first they might be hidden or controlled, but if unchecked, they take control of a personality. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a brilliant psychological study projected into a fantastic form. The issue of the story is rationally applicable to human life, and very important.

"A similar example is Frankenstein, the story of a Frankenstein, the story of a man who creates a monster that gets out of his control. The meaning of the story is valid: a man must bear the consequences of his actions and should be careful not to create monsters that destroy him. This is a profound message, which is why the name Frankenstein has become almost a generic word (like Babbitt)."

Ayn Rand; Tore Boeckmann. The Art of Fiction: A guide for writers and readers (Kindle Locations 2877-2879). Plume.

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21 minutes ago, ThatGuy said:

Michael, I think you might be on to something; FRANKENSTEIN is also mentioned twice in THE ART OF FICTION.

T,

I've read The Art of Fiction a couple of times, so I didn't think to look it up, but I just did. In context, I ended up remembering the Frankenstein reference. Without context, I had simply forgotten about it.

Here is the passage I found on searching the book. It's under "Fantasy."

I included the part about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because Rand talks about it as if she had read it, not just watched movies based on it or was using it as a popularly known story. This would imply that her comment on Frankenstein means she is talking about the book (which also means she read it).

So, in terms of fantasy, Rand said:

Quote

The author indulges in metaphysical exaggeration, but the meaning of the story is applicable to human life.

The best example of this kind of fantasy is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The literal subject of the story—a man who changes himself physically into a monster—is impossible, but this is only a symbolic device to convey a psychological truth. The story is a study of a man with contradictory premises. By drinking a special medicine, Dr. Jekyll indulges in the fun of turning himself into a monster. At first he is able to control the process, but then he reaches a stage where he cannot control it anymore, where he turns into the monster whether he wants to or not. This is what in fact happens to bad premises: at first they might be hidden or controlled, but if unchecked, they take control of a personality.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a brilliant psychological study projected into a fantastic form. The issue of the story is rationally applicable to human life, and very important.

A similar example is Frankenstein, the story of a man who creates a monster that gets out of his control. The meaning of the story is valid: a man must bear the consequences of his actions and should be careful not to create monsters that destroy him. This is a profound message, which is why the name Frankenstein has become almost a generic word (like Babbitt).

She called the message of Frankenstein profound.

Yeah... she read it.

🙂

Michael

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On another point re Peifkoff, in his DIM Hypothesis, he calls "misintegration" the Frankenstein monster. All the parts of a whole are there and stuck together, but the whole is not integrated.

I bet he talked about Frankenstein with Rand during his years with her, or better, she talked and he listened and gushed.

🙂 

Michael

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  • 3 weeks later...

The following is one technique I will be using a lot in my work on analyzing excerpts from Ayn Rand's fiction. Unfortunately, it is a duplicate from another discussion, but I just see no sense in rewriting it at this point.

2 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:
1 hour ago, william.scherk said:

I'd be appreciative of more autobiographical stories and elaborations -- where you write about you and for you. I would be happy for lots of memoirish-ness "put to paper" ... this is where your genius lies, in the telling.

William,

This is only an aside, but I cut down on that for a specific reason. I'm not afraid of exposing my inner life or the people in my past. I think I've proven that. But I stopped for the most part because I needed to focus on learning how to create fictional characters and events--that is, write fiction instead of memoir. I have an enormous block about that. Thankfully, a shitload of study (which has taken far too long to settle in my stubborn brain) is dissolving that block. 

(You should see what I've got outlined fiction-wise. 🙂 )

Once that is totally fixed and I get a few published fiction works under my belt, I will get back to writing stories from my life. There are many I have not yet told.

 

Main Block

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about when I say block: plot (or better, sequence of main events).

In a memoir, I don't have any trouble with this at all. I lived the events, so I don't have to dream them up. This happened, then that happened, then that happened and so on. Why? Well, because that's what actually happened. My only job is to select the events that are interesting, goose them up a bit with mood, emotions, colorful descriptions and so on, connect them with a theme and I've got a nice little piece that will entertain and, hopefully, be meaningful for a reader when relating it to his or her own life.

In fiction, when I have the whole universe to choose from, I get stuck. And when I use story templates, I get to a point where I lose interest because woodenness sets in. 

 

The Two Plots

I finally found a simple description of the two basic kinds of plot that changed everything for me. And I mean everything. When you read writing books, you get as many kinds of advice about plot as there are authors, but most talk about an outer development and an inner development.

But then I look at the literature and see that some characters, like James Bond, for instance, have no inner development (except when he lost his new bride to Goldfinger's bullet and his recovery process in the next book.) James Bond is basically what is called a "steadfast character," meaning he is the same at the beginning of the story as he is at the end. There is no character development. He kicks the ass of some really bad guys by using brains, ability and a high pain threshold, and enjoys himself enormously in the intervals between fighting them.

So how the hell do I fit that in trying to understand plot?

I can do this same kind of running into a brick wall with Aristotle's three part system, the hero's journey, the character place and problem system used by pantsers, and on and on. Meanwhile, the block grows...

Well, this concept of two types of plot blew that to smithereens. It gave me a foundation and starting point to use as criteria for what events and characters to choose and how to chose them. I got this clarity from a course on nonfiction writing. It's one of the The Great Courses called "Writing Creative Nonfiction" with the pretty and smart professor Tilar J. Mazzeo (who, incidentally, outside of writing instruction books on writing, writes history books, mostly about businesswomen in areas like champagne and perfume, but also writes about wine and food 🙂 ). I have learned more about fiction writing from this course than I have from many, many of the fiction writing books I already studied, although I admit, maybe all that study made me ripe enough for Mazzeo's ideas to break through.

Enough rambling. I can hear everyone reading this thinking, what are the two goddam types of plot?

OK... OK... They are linear and circular.

Happy?

🙂 

(Mazzeo mentions a third, but it's basically story within story, like a frame story, but each element will still be one of the two kinds of plots.)

Linear plot: This is one event after another until a problem of some sort is dealt with. For an easy example of a linear plot, there is the mystery story. You need to find out who killed the corpse and go from event to event until that happens. Then you tie up the loose ends by arresting the dastardly villain, or he escapes, or you don't even find him and stop looking (the weakest lamest shit you can write, but it's still a way to tie up a loose end). The end.

Circular plot: This is a journey (physical or mental) where the protagonist leaves a familiar environment, does whatever he or she does out there in the unfamiliar, then returns, most often changed or bringing something that will change the familiar place. The hero's journey is a perfect circular plot.

The linear plot is better for event-driven stories and the circular plot is better for character-driven stories where the character changes. This is not a hard and fast rule, but things can get weird for the reader if, say, a character change is the point in a linear plot. The character is unhappy and tries this or that to fix it. Finally he has an epiphany. The end. 🙂 This story kinda needs a familiar anchor for the character (and reader) to relate to.

Obviously, these two plots can be intertwined in the same story and each main and secondary character can have his or her own plotline (which will be one of these two plots). And there are some other variations that can happen. But that's about it. Simple and applicable to all stories.

You have no idea how this cracked open the block in my head. It's even going to make my later memoir writing a hell of a lot better.

I have similar things I have learned involving all the different aspects of fiction writing. But that plot block was the most foundational.

Anyway, end of example.

 

Fun

Writing for me is fun, except when I have run into that damn block. (Have you noticed that I like to banter a lot? No block there... 🙂 ) Now that the block is dissolving, writing made-up stories is starting to be fun, too. Even when I think about using story templates. Now I know what to do with them.

I just realized that this post should be copied to the Writing Techniques section. I think I'll copy it to the write like Ayn Rand thread since I use this stuff to analyze her fiction.

I don't know how useful this will be to budding fiction writers who admire Rand and want to write like her, but for me it was a game-changer.

It even shines light on her system of generating plot from Aristotle's Final Causation idea.

I want it here for my own reference, but if you get some value from it, too, that's awesome.

I believe this is the kind of elementary stuff that beginning writers get shortchanged on when trying to learn writing from Objectivist instruction books and courses on writing, including Rand's.

Michael

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  • 1 month later...

Speaking of duplicates, this post from another thread has to go here:

2 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:
On 9/22/2020 at 1:25 PM, Peter said:

Skullfully done Michalobe. One more post? Can anyone make a sentence or two out of these clashing, oxymoronic  phrases?  Fine mess.  Terribly nice. Pretty ugly.  Small crowd.  Found missing.  Bird dog.  Accidentally on purpose.  Bad sport.  Jumbo shrimp. Paid volunteer.  Plastic silverware.  Preliminary conclusion.  Tragic comedy.

It was pretty ugly. A small crowd outside Senator Graham’s house, though terribly nice I am sure, was found missing with empty tranquilizer darts all over the ground.

 

20 hours ago, tmj said:

In this age of alone togetherness  a young adult on a blind date is like being a paid volunteer in some kind of orchestrated chaos centered around awkward intimacies and chance meetings in order to placate demands placed by social norms. This could not have been highlighted more than by the stark contrast of the paper tablecloth and plastic silverware juxtaposed along side the leaded crystal stemless goblets of the restaurant. Increasingly few were the times Lisbeth didn't feel the dull stab of vain embarrassment when her glance would linger on her pretty ugly fingers , and she would be forced to accept that her hands resembled exactly the image of an order of jumbo shrimp cocktail. Her preliminary conclusion that the evening would end in a fine mess was slightly bolstered when the terribly nice, though somewhat hyperactive waiter announced in front of the small crowd that her companion was found missing at another table followed by the tragic comedy of his arrival at his seat with his preordered shrimp cocktail.

I'm going to throw this post in the section about learning how to write fiction like Ayn Rand.

Why?

Recognize this?

Quote

He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. The lake lay far below him. A frozen explosion of granite burst in flight to the sky over motionless water. The water seemed immovable, the stone flowing. The stone had the stillness of one brief moment in battle when thrust meets thrust and the currents are held in a pause more dynamic than motion. The stone glowed, wet with  sunrays.

:)

Michael

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  • 3 weeks later...

This video isn't a great fit for a thread devoted to writing like Ayn Rand, but it does show a technique she uses.

I like this guy Jonathan Pageau because of his takes on symbolism. He's not just a little good. He's a lot good.

 

Revolutionary agendas and popular stories

His idea is that with the modern woke culture, since it is revolutionary by definition, the woke storytellers don't create their own stories, but instead, take over the ones in the culture and inject their agenda onto it. Revolutionaries, after all, take down the ones in power to take over. This is reflected in how they are going about taking over universal icons and themes.

Thus Batman becomes a young lesbian. Thor becomes a fat beer-drinking slob as the woke heroes go out to take care of business. Young women are always the ones to beat up on adult white men. And on and on. 

Rand did this kind of thing in her fiction, especially in Atlas Shrugged, with mythology and legends (Atlas, Prometheus, Atlantis, Robin Hood, Minerva, Fountain of Youth, Phaëthon, Garden of Eden, Final Judgment, etc.). She took myths and legends and flipped them around to suit her themes and agendas.

This is a propagandist form of storytelling and she did it well. I can't find the quote right now, but in discussing propaganda, Ayn Rand once said she was trained by the best, meaning people in Communist Russia. If I remember correctly, she was also discussing this in the context of fiction writing. So it is no slur to say she included propaganda in her fiction (like propaganda for capitalism). She did that on purpose.

Propaganda in this usage is a category of approach, not a degree of quality. It is a purposely one-sided presentation of a topic that is heavy on rhetoric and persuasion.

 

Pros and cons

The virtue of using this form is that it allows you to make a story that is familiar to everyone (the popular story host), but you also add something new (the agenda parasite). This is a form for creating success that is taught in many places. Mix the popular with the new. 

Also, for this to work, you should make sure the original popular stories your "parasite story" will feed on (God, what a horrible image :) but it is accurate), are relevant to the audience you are addressing.

For example, adding woke themes to stories of fly fishing will not create much impact. This can be done easily, but, despite lots of magazines and TV shows, etc., about fly fishing, there are not too many fly fishing stories the general public cares about.

The problem with this form of storytelling is that you eventually run out of hosts, or worse, the trick becomes a cliche that no longer has any impact. It becomes like telling the same joke with different details all the time. (Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side. Why did the bear cross the road? To get to the other side. Why did the wizards cross the ocean? To get to the other side. And so on.)

So, according to Pageau, the only way to keep a woke parasite theme alive and inhabiting a host is to start the story with a normal situation, then after the audience is bonding with the characters and familiar story lines, slip in the woke stuff. That actually becomes a series of plot points.

This is the way Rand shined with her own use of this technique. For example, she didn't start by presenting Ragnar Danneskjöld as a leader of a merry band of rational and moral thieves who fought against an unjust collectivist ruler. That would have been on the nose, to use screenwriting jargon (which is the problem with making a young lesbian Batman). 

She presented Ragnar as a modern-day pirate using advanced technology, then plopped him in front of Hank Rearden alone at night, and only then had Ragnar tell Hank he was on a crusade to destroy the legend of Robin Hood. Only at that point did Rand layer in the twist (a Robin Hood that steals from the poor to give to the rich) according to her political and thematic agenda--the poor meaning taxes and tax-subsidied goods destined for the poor and the rich being rich producers, not cronies.

This is a great technique when used well. And Rand did use it well. It is easy to make crummy mediocre stories with it, though. Just look at modern superhero movies. They are more spectacle than anything else, which is why they make money. High-tech explosions and effects mixed with professional wrestling and soap opera, so to speak. All in spandex. But story-wise, they are formulaic and they suck most of the time.

Michael

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