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Michael Stuart Kelly

Report on TAS’s 50th Anniversary Celebration of Atlas Shrugged

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Report on TAS’s 50th Anniversary Celebration of Atlas Shrugged

by Michael Stuart Kelly

Kat and I traveled to Washington DC on Thursday, October 4, 2007 and returned to Evanston (near Chicago) on Sunday, October 7. Before all else, here is my own sweet Kitten in the car we rented. I am not posting the one of me because I look too fat in it (I have no idea why it turned out that way…)

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The 50th Anniversary Celebration of Atlas Shrugged was staged by The Atlas Society on Saturday, October 6 at the Renaissance Hotel and the Cato Institute. You can see more pictures (including the speakers and audience) and an excellent different report of this event on Robert Bidinotto’s blog here. As is evident, this report is a personal one, more like impressions of travels rather than simply a write-up. I did not take notes, so I am relying on memory. If I have missed something important, that is why. I have mixed in some personal information, events and thoughts as I go along. I did this on purpose because this whole experience was so meaningful to me that making it personal is appropriate.

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The banquet room at the Renaissance Hotel.

This is approximately how the room looked

at the banquet we attended, but we also sat

at round tables like these with much simpler

adornment for most of the conference. (Like

I said, see Robert Bidinotto’s report for

seeing pictures of it filled.

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The Cato Institute building

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The entrance to The Cato Institute. We attended a packed stand-up reception

through those doors you see (on the ground floor) and Barbara and Nathaniel

gave their talks on an improvised cattycorner stage in the front right corner.

On Friday, before the celebration, we visited Barbara Branden. Unfortunately the visit was all too short and our time with her during this trip was way too limited. We talked mostly about writing and procrastination. She mentioned a very funny story about a writer in winter who kept procrastinating against a deadline because he was sure he had enough time to write his piece, then, when he was right up against his deadline, he decided he desperately needed to clean his white duck shoes for the summer. Barbara is even dearer to us than before and this all-too-short time was definitely was not in the plans. She is in fine shape and just as insightful as ever. I will get to her comments that brought the house down later.

Before I get to the celebration proper, Kat and I had our own celebration on Friday night. We went out to visit with Ciro (pronounced “chee-ro” with a hard “r” and accent on the first syllable) and dine at his new restaurant, Ciro Ristorante Italiano. It is in Aldie, VA (near his pizzeria in Centreville) about 30-40 minutes outside of Washington DC (near Rt 15 on Rt 50).

Most everyone who posts on Objectivist forums knows Ciro. I personally hold great respect and affection for him and all I can say is that this increased enormously. He is a man of few words and holds great wisdom. I was especially enchanted by his recounting of an episode with his second grade teacher, who told him to periodically go do something nice for someone, but do not talk. Small things like stroking someone’s hair or picking up something the person dropped. No talking. He said this made him a generous person. That is how to do it and teach generosity without altruism. I will give a separate write-up about our visit with Ciro. Leave it to say that the evening was sheer elegance with great company and great food. A night to remember and cherish.

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Ciro, me and Kat at the end of a delightful visit and meal. The painting on the wall in back

is by Michael Newberry.

The next morning, before getting to the conference, Kat and I decided to turn in the rented car. Then we made the mistake of eating breakfast at McDonald’s on F Street beside the car drop-off at the Verizon Center. I had never seen anything in a McDonald’s like what I saw there. It was full of homeless people (in addition to some normal customers) and they were loud, rude and stinky. The furniture was ragged and dirty. It felt and smelt like a slum. I suppose this was the gods castigating us for eating at McDonald’s after the wonderful meal the night before and the fantastic conference ahead. It was almost a taste of the world in Atlas Shrugged after the men and women of ability walked out. Dayaamm! It was a good thing we had to walk a few blocks to get to registration as we were able to walk off our irritation.

Finally the big moment came. When we went to register, we were surprised at the long line. New people had shown up, bringing the total participant count to about 300. These were not just any old 300 individuals, either. They were essentially the cream of the non-orthodox Objectivist and libertarian world with some mainstream celebrities thrown in. It was one hell of an audience and list of speakers. As I said, I am going from memory so I might get some small details or wording off a bit as I go along. But the essence will be correct.

The program started in the beautiful conference room at the hotel with Ed Hudgins making opening remarks. He mentioned that when he was planning this event, he wondered which focus on Atlas Shrugged would be best: how writing it impacted Rand’s life, her writing in Atlas, the book in academia, the ethics, loving life, the connection with the Founding Fathers, the view of achievement presented, the politics, the economics, etc., and he finally asked himself, “Why not have it all?” And that is exactly what he did. I might add he did it brilliantly.

Here is the TAS link to the announcement of the event giving the program. Unfortunately the bios of the speakers are not given on that page, but we were given a printout called “Speaker Biographies.” I will include bio links to whatever I can find as I go along. Also, each panel included a Q&A session. A few especially interesting comments were made during these sessions and I will mention the ones that caught my attention.

As an aside, we received a commemorative plaque featuring a drawing by Talia Greenberg and coffee mug presenting artwork by David Sims. In our event folder was a copy of The New Individualist with subscription information. Although I have a subscription, I was particularly pleased to get this because my copy this month had had the cover mangled and half ripped off in the mail (it was literally missing)—i.e., one of those things not big enough to make a fuss over but big enough to be plenty irritating. Now life is as it could and should be.

Panel 1 (morning)

Nigel Ashford

He was the “Panel Chair” (basically the person introducing the speakers on the panel and being traffic cop in the Q&A’s). Ashford is the director of the Institute for Human Studies at George Mason University (in Arlington, Virginia). He has an English accent you could cut with a knife and was so enthusiastic and upbeat that I think scheduling him for the wake-up position on the program was perfect. If you want to get an idea of the perk and passion of what we saw as we were slowly coming to full morning consciousness, go to this

on YouTube. You can see him from 1:10 to 1:38. Now imagine that about 10 times more chirpy and cheerful. By the time he finished his own introduction, we were all bright and bushy-tailed and just as in love with Rand as he was.

Anne HellerAtlas and Rand’s Life

I cannot find a link for Anne Heller, so here is some information gleaned off the handout. She “has been an editor, writer or reporter for many prestigious publications, including The Antioch Review, Esquire, Redbook, Lear’s, Vogue, Condé Nast Puiblications, The New York Poetry Review, and TriQuarterly. She has collaborated with Suze Orman on two recent books, The Road to Wealth and The Laws of Money.” Of course, as any Objectivist already knows, she is the author of an upcoming biography of Ayn Rand. Here is a small sample of her previous writing (about Fred Cookinham’s walking Rand tour in New York—incidentally he was at the celebration).

Anne gave a charming speech about some events in Rand’s life that ended up finding manifestation in Atlas. One thing that comes to mind is the physical description of Cyrus, the magazine hero Rand loved as a child. He was presented in the magazine with open shirt, sleeves rolled up, etc. Does that sound like a Rand hero? Anne also talked about the moment the soldiers came barging into Rand’s father’s shop and sealed it off. This is easily seen in Rand’s fiction in many places. She told of several other episodes.

I was especially pleased to see her connection to Suze Orman in the printed bio, since I had mentioned to Barbara in my visit to her the day before that I just discovered this author and liked her very much. I later talked to Anne about it and she was very enthusiastic about Orman.

Mimi GladsteinAtlas and Rand the Writer

Mimi Gladstein is well known to Objectivists for her volumes on Rand’s writing. She made some highly insightful observations about the Hollywood “male gaze” of the time in Rand’s works, where women get naked but men keep their clothes on. She also did an analysis of Rand’s descriptions and showed how they were like perspective shots in movies. Darned if this isn’t part of Rand’s technique.

David KelleyAtlas in Academia

David needs no introduction since he is chief cook and bottle washer of TAS. We all know of the problems Rand has had in being accepted in Academia, but he came up with an angle I had not thought about. He mentioned that philosophy people in Academia are usually highly specialized to the extent that they would not only be focused on ethics, for instance, but also on the particular ethical theory of one philosopher or a school. Since Rand covered the entire field, there is literally no place for that in the higher echelons of Academia. I really like hearing that kind of analysis instead of the standard “us against them” stuff.

As an aside, Kat and I left a pretty penny behind and bought his Art of Reasoning. I went up to David and said, “I just contributed to your income, so now I want an autograph.” He laughed and wrote me a very warm inscription on the volume.

In the coffee break, I was able to have a nice long conversation with Robert Campbell. There is something about this guy that really touches on my frequency. We think very much alike and see eye-to-eye on many issues, although one difference is he has done a lot more scholastic reading than I have. It is always a pleasure to talk to him because I get the feeling that I am headed in the right direction in my autodidactic academic studies.

Panel 2 (morning)

Douglas Rasmussan was the Panel Chair. I was very pleased to see him because I keep seeing his name crop up in Objectivism-land and, of course, I have The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand edited by him and Den Uyl. Since the link on his name gives no picture and it is not fair to say I saw him but you can’t, here is an excellent one (you have to scroll down).

Tibor MachanAtlas and Ethics

This is the first time I have ever heard Tibor speak. We have communicated off line and at times I run some of his writing on OL. I also met him (but did not hear him) at the TAS 2006 Summer Seminar. My mental impression was completely different than what I saw. I always imagined a rather stodgy almost grumpy delivery. What I saw was a man enthusiastically passionate and an excellent public speaker. His talk on Rand’s ethics was along the lines one expects from his writing. This should be easy to imagine because I cannot think of anyone in the Objectivist/libertarian world who has not read something by Tibor. One moment in the Q&A jumped out at me, though. As I reported elsewhere on OL:

Probably one of the highlights of the event I attended in terms of our own discussions was when Tibor Machan was asked in an Q&A about the is/ought problem. He mentioned Hume's argument and stated that Hume basically was claiming that one cannot deduce a conclusion regarding a fact that is not given in the premises, so in this instance he is correct. There is no ought in the premises, so no ought can be deduced from them (as in a syllogism). However, there is a big difference between deducing is from ought, which can't be done, and deriving is from ought, which not only can be done but should be done.

Rand never claimed anyone can deduce is from ought, but she did claim that one can derive is from ought.

For those whose eyes glaze over at the sound of this, don’t worry about it. It was very important to me to hear that, but it is not all that important in the big scheme of things.

William ThomasAtlas and Loving Life

It is always a pleasure to see Will Thomas speak. If I had to mention one predominant characteristic in his delivery, it would be sincerity. The man is sincerity incarnate. He is also in love with life in a manner that is all his own and a joy to behold. One of the things I find most endearing with Will is his total focus on the positive. He was the perfect person to talk about the love of life of Rand’s heroes and in Objectivism in general.

David MayerAtlas and the American Revolution

On looking up bios, I saw that David Mayer has a pretty cool blog. I was not familiar with his works and, frankly, I was impressed by his approach to positioning the American Constitution within the boundaries of individual rights without losing contact with the reality that there are some really dangerous and nasty bad-guys out there. From his manner, it was easy to perceive his complete familiarity with the literature and spirit of the Founding Fathers from their eyes. That is no small feat. He saw this spirit given modern expression in Atlas Shrugged.

A moment in the Q&A jumped out at me when a person asked Mayer about the Confederacy in the Civil War. From the way the question was framed, the questioner tried to induce granting the moral high-ground to the Confederacy. There is a school of libertarian thought that thinks the South should have seceded and that Lincoln was one of the most evil villains in American history. The first time I ever encountered this argument, my jaw dropped open in astonishment. Since then, I have learned that some libertarians are very passionate about defending this position. Rather than get involved in polemics, Mayer simply stated that he thinks that preserving the Union was in line with what the Founding Fathers had intended for the country. It was a breath of fresh air for me to hear a libertarian say this.

Lunch

Kat and I had lunch at Barbara’s table. She sat next to Mimi Gladstein and Kat tried to get a picture of the two. Unfortunately, Old Man Murphy was around and the battery to her camera was too weak. I am sorry we have no picture of Barbara from this event to present, but there are a couple of very good ones on Robert Bidinotto’s blog. The other people at the table were really nice, as was everyone we met at the event. Charles Murray was the luncheon speaker and Ed Hudgins introduced him.

Charles MurrayAtlas and Achievement

I think one of the most impressive indicators of the high quality of this celebration was the fact that The Bell Curve and that whole controversy was not mentioned once during Murray’s talk. (At least, if it was, I did not hear it.) The focus was on Rand and Murray’s own work. I was enormously impressed with this man. He went out on a limb in a manner few best-selling authors ever do. He mentioned that in preparing for this lecture, he started looking through his own recent book, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 BC to 1950, and he was astonished to see that critical parts of it were directly derived from Rand’s ideas in his subconscious. He displayed his own well-worn copy of Atlas Shrugged. I cannot think of a popular intellectual who has ever had the humility to do this before with an already published work.

There was a highly emotional moment at the end when Murray expressed a deeply-felt doubt and Barbara Branden stood up, telling him that his doubt was not anything at all important in terms of Rand as she knew her. I will not spoil this moment for those who purchase the DVD of the event. I presume this moment will be included.

Panel 3 (afternoon)

Robert Bidinotto was the Panel Chair.

Here is a picture of Robert from the Cato reception a little later.

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Kat, Robert and me at the Cato reception where the Brandens spoke.

There is not too much to say about him. He performed his panel chair duties with the smooth and easy competence that has become his trademark.

Edward YounkinsAtlas and Economics

There is not much to say about Edward Younkin’s presentation, either. It was the pinnacle of correctness. He basically related events in Atlas Shrugged to different aspects of economics. Presumably all present were familiar with the examples he mentioned, so this was an easy talk to relate to.

Ed SniderAtlas and the Entrepreneur

The highlight of Ed Snider’s talk was his story about how he had come to know Ayn Rand. After giving how he had encountered and identified with her literature, he read his first letter to her where he expounded on the possibility of spreading the study of her works in colleges and even asking about the best way to purchase another 100 copies of Atlas Shrugged (so he could distribute them to friends and colleagues). Then he read her reply, which basically was an invitation for him to meet with her.

It was kind of amusing that the Q&A (when he was addressed) focused on his sports ventures, but there it is. He did mention that one of his main ventures has never accepted public funding. I do not know if this extends to his other ventures, but from his demeanor, I would bet it does, or at least there are some very compelling circumstances if not.

Rob BradleyAtlas and Business Ethics

Rob Bradley, now president of Institute for Energy Research, is the former speechwriter of Ken Lay at Enron and is well-known to the TAS audience from his April 2006 interview in The New Individualist with Roger Donway called The Fall of Ken Lay. Obviously there was a focus on Enron (and this was reflected in the Q&A), but I was interested to learn from his talk that business ethics is not really an academic subject in universities. One can hardly find a course. It is inspiring to see how someone who has been that close to the belly of the corrupt corporate beast analyzes what went wrong through the lens of Rand’s ideas.

Panel 4 (afternoon)

John Fund was the Panel Chair. Although his duties were introductory, he was quite funny. He told a story about addressing some environmental organization or other in Colorado (if I am not mistaken) and mentioning to them the total costs to the environment that the Fiji bottled water they were drinking entailed. It was not as if there was no pure water where the meeting was held and shipping it from 7,000 miles away was a dire need.

Fred SmithAtlas and Politics

I don’t remember too much about Fred Smith’s talk, but that is not his fault. I was having one of those low blood pressure “down” moments when visions of a bed with pillows kept floating before my eyes. Kat pushed me several times as I was nodding to keep me from becoming embarrassing. It’s horrible to say this, but that’s what happened. I do remember that his talk was well received, so I guess I owe one to Fred. Sorry about that.

Edward CraneAtlas and the Fight for Freedom

Edward Crane, president of Cato Institute is one funny guy. I don’t remember too many of his quips since I was coming out of my semi-coma, but I do remember thinking that he had a near-perfect sense of comic timing. I was most taken with him because of his humility (in the good sense) and sincerity. I was especially touched by his mentioning that the rift between orthodox Objectivism and libertarianism was “hurtful,” as many top libertarians were staunch Rand admirers and influenced enormously by her writing. He highlighted some of the differences between Objectivists and libertarians, stating that all Objectivists are libertarians by definition, but not all libertarians are Objectivists. In the fight for spreading freedom, these differences are not important at all.

Edward HudginsAtlas and the Future of Objectivism

One of the things I most noted about Ed’s inspiring talk was that the theme of schisms was left to the end and he did not focus on what or why they had occurred. On the contrary, he mentioned that he had met with Yaron Brook recently (he did not specify about what) and that the time for working against one another in the Objectivist movement is ending. I dearly hope he is right. Given the probability of the movie’s success, if an avalanche of newcomers arrive on the Objectivist scene and see schisms still blossoming in a manner that has transpired up to the present, many will simply call Objectivism a cult of crazy people and move back to a previous religion in their lives or some other philosophy.

Reception at Cato Institute (late afternoon)

There were lots of people at this reception. Walking on the way there, I managed to talk a bit with Alec Mouhibian, a talented young journalist now living in Washington DC (see his blog here) and I think I sold him on going to Ciro’s restaurant sometime in the near future. I also had the great pleasure to meet one of my favorite online people (who comes and goes on OL depending on his time), Charles Anderson. He is one of the nicest people you ever want to know and smart as a whip. There were too many people I talked with to mention them all, but the one overriding emotion that was present in everybody was a deep warm intelligent benevolence. It was sheer pleasure to be among them all.

Nathaniel Branden – Reflections

It is always great to hear Nathaniel Branden speak. Ed Hudgins was serving as a kind of standing chair and he essentially interviewed Nathaniel with some questions that were specific to Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged. One of the most insightful things Nathaniel mentioned was Rand’s two attitudes towards her magnum opus. The first was that she had actually produced a work of genius and the second was that she was more honest than most and anybody could have produced something like it if they looked at matters as honestly as she did. He said he used to tease her about this. Genius or anybody at all? You can’t have both. Of course, he, as well as I (and practically everyone there), believes that Atlas Shrugged is a magnificent work of genius. After the talks, I cornered him and took a picture.

Incidentally, Leigh, Nathaniel’s wife, is a most pleasant person and is doing a great job of keeping him in line. They did not bring their dog this time and we joked about it in the hotel elevator later. The last time I saw Nathaniel and Leigh (at the TAS 2006 Summer Seminar), he mentioned that he used to think he knew what love was until he got the dog. When I brought this up, he made a point of making an exception for his wife. That was cute.

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Kat, me, Nathaniel and Leigh

Barbara Branden – Reflections

Barbara’s speech was one of the moving highlights of the event. She was so swamped afterwards that it was near impossible to get a picture without competing for space with a lot of people, so Kat and I decided to let her savor the well-deserved admiration she was receiving. We did squeeze in to give her hugs and kisses, though.

Barbara told some anecdotes from around the time of the completion and publication of Atlas Shrugged, and then mentioned the devastating impact the public’s immediate reception of Atlas had on Rand, especially the fact that not a single person of first-rate stature and mind said anything good about it in public. She asked us to keep in mind the terrible price Rand paid, refusing to ever write fiction again, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of her greatest achievement. As Robert Bidinotto observed, there were a lot of misty eyes when she finished.

One of the things I most enjoyed about the presence of Barbara and Nathaniel at this event was an overwhelming outpouring of love for them from the public. There might have been some people critical of them leftover from the PARC smear campaign, but I was unaware of them. What I saw was the public treating them as beloved celebrities. This warmed my heart and I would like to think that my efforts on OL—and the efforts of all who contributed articles, reviews and posts—played a part in this by helping to discredit that piece of incompetent vituperative trash contaminating excerpts from Rand’s journal that circulated in a part of the Objectivist world. It was an enormous pleasure to see the Brandens cherished as they could and should be by Objectivists.

Gala Banquet (evening)

Kat and I decided to dress up a bit for the banquet, so we arrived after most everybody was seated. Fortunately there was room at the table where the Enrights were (along with Clarence Hardy and a girl named Nadia), so we simply invited ourselves aboard. It is strange that we live in Evanston—to the north of Chicago—and are not closer to the Enrights. They always have some cool Objectivist activities and organizations running. It is true that the south side of Chicago can seem like another country away, but in reality, it is close enough to tango. We shall remedy this situation in short order.

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Felicia, John and Marsha Enright. This is what Kat and I saw for most of the banquet

when we were not looking at the speakers. Beautiful people.

John StosselAtlas and America Today (see here, too.)

John Stossel was amusing as he always is. The one gaffe of the whole day was committed by Ed Hudgins (who introduced him). Ed said Stossel did a report of the dihydrogen monoxide hoax. I am certain that Ed got this mixed up with the

. I feel comfortable reporting this as a playful poke in the ribs because of the sheer brilliance of Ed’s performance in putting this whole shindig together. From what I have heard from others, this celebration was one of TAS’s finest events ever. From what I saw, I believe it. Stossel was gracious about the mishap and explained that this is something like he does, but alas he did not do it.

Since I am in a mischievous mood, here is Stossel’s famous slap interview with the wrestler Dr. D. I was dying to go up to him and ask him about it, but with a show of great restraint uncommon for me, I managed to hold my peace. But, boy, did I want to.

I found Stossel’s following statement interesting. He received a total of 19 Emmy awards when he was a liberal, but has not received one since he became a libertarian. He also mentioned that he became libertarian from watching the actual results of government regulation during his reporting career, where he would report on a problematic unregulated situation, then go back years later and see that the problems had actually gotten worse under regulation. So he started asking why.

David Kelley asked him to do his famous skit about asking audience members if they would allow a colorless, odorless, highly explosive and toxic substance into their house as an alternative source of energy. The clincher is that he is talking about natural gas and he is setting the audience up. He started by asking Michael Burns’s wife what kind of stove she had, but she said she did not know, even after he offered her alternatives like electric and gas. That almost blew the gag. Ah, the joys of being rich. To jump a bit ahead, when Burns’s turn to speak arrived, he stated that he was grateful his wife was asked that because he now knows that she knows they have a stove in the kitchen—so she is starting to think in the right direction.

Atlas Film Panel

John Aglialoro – Executive Producer

Howard Baldwin and Karen Baldwin – Producers (from Baldwin Entertainment Group)

Vadim Perelman – Director

Michael Burns – Vice Chairman of Lionsgate

John Aglialoro gave a rather solemn speech at first. It was paused and reverent, the restraint conveying more deep emotion than any studied delivery or flamboyant rhetoric ever could. I am almost hesitant to mention this aspect because I have rarely seen it among Objectivists in the manner he presented. Usually reverence goes with Rand-worship but this was different. I felt a sense of stunned astonishment and wonder. He has had one hell of a long battle and here it was finally happening. The sense of what I witnessed is properly portrayed by Rand (of course) in Atlas (p. 35). It is a passage about Hank Rearden.

He walked, keeping one hand in his pocket, his fingers closed about a bracelet. It was made of Rearden Metal, in the shape of a chain. His fingers moved, feeling its texture once in a while. It had taken ten years to make that bracelet. Ten years, he thought, is a long time.

Well fifteen years is an even longer time. That duration has elapsed since Aglialoro’s original investment of one million dollars for the movie rights to get to his speech that night. He mentioned a closet full of useless scripts he accumulated along the way. I can only wonder at the enormity of his frustration and heartache along that path. It takes a special kind of man to keep going. He also stated that for the first time he felt a coming together of the right people to actually make the film in the manner it deserves to be made. I had an enormous amount of respect for John Aglialoro before seeing him talk, but it increased by a large magnitude afterwards.

Before, I have always had a small reservation about him due to his poker playing. Far be it from me to hold to any kind of false moralism, but I find it hard to reconcile celebrity gambling with Objectivism. On reflection, though, I have known many great men in my life who were high-stakes gamblers. It seems that they challenge chaos that way and winning under those conditions serves some kind of inner emotional need. I do know celebrity poker takes great self-discipline and tremendous focus. Maybe only a gambler could have had what it takes to pull off the Atlas Shrugged movie project.

The Baldwins spoke eloquently, but did not add much by way of new information. One thing that was amusing was Howard Baldwin’s tale of closing the deal with Michael Burns in a Catholic church right under a priest’s nose. He had mentioned this before, but this time he lingered over the details. I get the feeling that Karen Baldwin is the peacemaker in meetings behind closed doors. Her remark that the movie will be geared towards those who have read the book and those who haven’t was kinda cute.

Finally we got a look at the man on whose shoulders the artistic part rests, the recently hired director Vadim Perelman. He is a young man and I expected him to be tense or bored or above it all. On the contrary, he was completely at ease and just about as full of self-confidence as I have ever seen. He did not make any kind of statement about adhering to Objectivism, but he did say that he held many of Rand’s ideas dear, even before reading her work. He has also been tested on adapting books to movies and came through with flying colors (although the philosophical slant was vastly different in his former films). He also stressed that his history of growing up in a Communist country and escaping at a young age gave him a strong empathetic feel for Rand’s message and how she said it.

He is not writing his own script, but modifying the one made by Randall Wallace. From the sounds of how the panel talked, there seems to be a great sense of everybody shooting for the same goal and no hard feelings at all from Wallace about this. Perelman is supposed to finish the modifications by the end of October. It is to be about 140 pages or a bit longer (one page being about one minute). There was some mention that the complete film could go as long as three hours. Shooting is projected for next year, about 90 days all total, and it should come out in theaters in 2009.

When asked about cigarettes in light of today’s negative view of them, Perelman mentioned that the cigarettes with the dollar sign are used for a plot point. When asked about how to get around the heroine having more than one serious love affair in a single film (which is a big no-no in Hollywood), he mentioned that Dagny’s affair with Francisco was treated as a thing of teenage childhood and her affair with Galt is firmly alluded to, but set in the future after the end of the film. I think this solution is perfect within the constraints of a single film. Rand made a similar compression in The Fountainhead (although the context was very different) by eliminating Dominique’s marriage to Peter Keating altogether.

I already wrote something about my impression of Perelman earlier and part of that bears repeating:

I didn't stick around to pick Perelman's brains, but what I heard during the Q&A impressed the hell out of me. He KNEW his subject matter cold. Probably the most inspiring thing the guy said was not in his words, but in his perplexity. When asked how he intended to present the heroism of Rand's characters, he answered in a perplexed manner and without hesitation, "Like Ayn did." Then, after thinking it over for a second, he amended, "I know that seems like a flippant answer, but..." Then he went on to discuss it in more detail. His emotional reaction essentially verbalized as "is this even open to question?" showed how deeply he is committed to preserving Rand's vision in a very difficult undertaking.

Another real pleasure came when Michael Burns took the microphone. One rarely gets to see a Hollywood moneyman up close and it was a delight to learn that he had been influenced by Rand early in life. He is not in this just for the money, although he is in it for the money.

(As an aside, the number of important people on this day coming out of the closet, so to speak, about Rand’s influence on them was astounding.)

Everything about Michael Burns smells of hard-nosed competence. When someone asked Perelman why a single movie was being made instead of a trilogy or TV series, Burns took the microphone and said he would be glad to do that if someone would wire him 180 million dollars. I was amused at the general awkward pause this provoked, or at least it felt that way, even among the overwhelming enthusiasm of the atmosphere. When I looked around, I could see the expression on the face of everybody that, if verbalized, would say, “Well (ahem), that is something to think about.”

There is a lot more that was said, but I do not want to spoil the upcoming DVD of the event, except maybe to mention that David Kelley’s role as philosophical consultant was highlighted. (He and Perelman are now spending long hours on the phone.) I want to add that I felt what John Aglialoro felt about the coming together of the right people.

Consider the above a teaser and, as is obvious, I cannot recommend the DVD of the event highly enough (when it comes out). Those who obtain a copy will undoubtedly have an item they will treasure and view more than once or twice or three times.

Final Remarks

David Kelley

As Robert Bidinotto and Ed Hudgins have already reported, David offered a special toast to Ayn Rand. I can do no better than quote Robert (from here).

After the Hollywood panel wrapped up, David Kelley, founder of The Atlas Society, concluded the festivities with a heartfelt toast. He recalled the scene in Atlas Shrugged when Dagny Taggart, operations director of Taggart Transcontinental railroad, is asked by entrepreneur Ken Danagger what she would most want to hear from other great individuals in history. Dannager answers his own question. "Miss Taggart, you'd want them to look at you and to say, 'Well done.'"

Kelley raised his glass and said, "To Ayn: Well done."

The impact this event has had is already starting to be seen in mainstream media coverage. I will not give the links here because I predict they will grow too fast to keep up with. Also, they are given elsewhere on OL and on Robert Bidinotto’s blog (which I have linked to several times).

Kat and I returned to Chicago without much ceremony the next day. We were exhausted, both emotionally and physically. It was strange to think so much that was so fascinating and so important had been packed into a single day.

As I said at the start, this report is my own person account and I hope I managed to give you, the reader, a piece of myself along with my impressions. I have tried, although it is nearly impossible, to convey the sense of great substance alongside the feeling of correctness this event generated inside me. But I saw it written on the faces of most everyone who attended.

A constant complaint in the Objectivist world is that Objectivist movement efforts are rarely mainstream happenings. Well, here we had bestselling authors, a major TV personality, CSPAN filming the event, MSM newspaper coverage, millionaires, university professors, high-level think-tank advisors, major players in the movie industry and a host of important people from all over the country (and a few from abroad)—all gathered together to celebrate Ayn Rand’s achievement. Kat and I had the privilege to be among them. With this event, we who attended also celebrated ourselves and the best this life has to offer: a dream for a better world of rational achievement and exaltation within our grasp. We who dream are being taken seriously, by God.

In the secret recesses of my heart, this is what I have always believed that Objectivism is. It was a blast seeing it made real.

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Thank you folks. I am glad you enjoyed my report.

I am going to take a small poetic license with Erica Schulz, since she took some pictures for us and we did for her and I don't think she will be offended. Obviously this license runs both ways, so Erica, if you read this, please feel free to make use of anything on OL you wish for your own readers.

Kat and I met her and really, really like her. She has always appeared to me as a person I would want to meet someday and I was not disappointed. On the contrary, she is a marvelous and bubbly person in person. I think of her as good vibes incarnate. I also met Dean Gores from RoR (who is, as I have always said even during some online silliness, a good kid—and he is, he even looked like a lot of fun up close), and Kevin Kirkwood (who bought a copy of Kelley's The Art of Reasoning at the same time I did and we had a really pleasant chat). Kat and I discussed with Erica and Dean about them going to Ciro's restaurant and I am more than pleased they did and enjoyed it. I hope Ciro's becomes an "must do" place to go for Objectivists when in Washington DC or surrounding area (and no, I am not getting a commission for saying this :) ).

I urge you to go to RoR and read Erica's comments about the event if you want some more finely worded impressions, but here are her photos. They are so good I simply cannot resist doing this. From the following post:

EricaandRobertBidinotto-Atlas50.jpg

Erica with Robert Bidinotto

EricaandEdHudgins-Atlas50.jpg

Erica with Ed Hudgins

EricaandClarenceHardy-Atlas50.jpg

Erica with Clarence Hardy

EricaandNathanielBranden-Atlas50.jpg

Erica with Nathaniel Branden

EricaandBarbaraBranden-Atlas50.jpg

Erica with Barbara Branden

EricaandTiborMachan-Atlas50.jpg

Erica with Tibor Machan

EricaandmeandKat-Atlas50.jpg

Erica with me and Kat

EricaandKevinKirkwood-Atlas50.jpg

Erica with Kevin Kirkwood

EricaandDeanGores-Atlas50.jpg

Erica with Dean Gores

The following photo comes from this post:

EricaandCiro-Atlas50.jpg

Erica with Ciro

Erica, these are simply fantastic. I hope to be able to do something really nice for you in exchange for my excess of enthusiasm in posting them.

I also want to state that Fred Smith's talk is going to be on the CSPAN broadcast on Saturday, so I have a chance to make up my lapse as reported.

Michael

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Michael,

I'd also like to thank you for a terrific report. I remember in the old days we'd try to get people to take the plunge and go to a Summer Seminar and it takes a good amount of convincing to get people to a distant Objectivist event. Reports like yours allow us to enjoy the event vicariously and also communicate to people who've never been to an Objectivist event. I'm also much more likely to attend some of TAS's shorter events in the future. I tend to like longer events because I tend not to be very sharp the first day after a travel day and I like the longer time to really get to know people.

Jim

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Michael, thank you for the good words.

You have forgotten to mention that Erica is not only very intelligent but also very beautiful. :)

Ciro

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You have forgotten to mention that Erica is not only very intelligent but also very beautiful. :)

Ciro,

I ain't nearly done with you yet (I write certain kinds of things slowly). You are right that Erica is very beautiful, but I am not supposed to say that.

(Looking over my shoulder to see if Kitten is around...)

:cat:

Michael

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Great report! I think I've said that before. I have said it was the best Objectivist event I have attended. It maybe the best Objectivist event ever. Some of the wonderful speakers at this event will not be at future events. Sadly!

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Thanks to MSK for a highly readable, personally-spun commentary. And for the pictures! Our only shared point of contact (apart from the top-tier speakers) seems to be the Enrights, who are indeed lovely and intelligent people, and with whom I worked long ago on Nomos magazine.

I share your foible, by the way, of zoning out during some speakers {grin} and have thus accumulated many tapes from Libertarian Party conventions, over several decades, of the people I supposedly heard *sigh*

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On the Book TV web site you can view the 50th Atlas events. I don't know how long it will be on but if you haven't seen it or want to see it again you can watch it. It's well worth while.

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Thanks, Chris - just watched it! I especially liked Mimi Gladstein's talk.

Interesting that at the end, they gave a link to aynrand.org........ I really hope that someday TAS and ARI will become friendly affiliates, but I didn't think it was already the case. :tongue:

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Report on TAS’s 50th Anniversary Celebration of Atlas Shrugged

by Michael Stuart Kelly

Michael, you gave a splendid report -- it was the next best thing to being there! I definitely want to order the DVD once it's available, because both Becky and I have been too busy to catch the proceedings on C-SPAN2 or, of course, to come to D.C. for the real thing -- and your report sealed the deal. :-)

The photographs were really fine, too -- especially those of Erica et al. What a doll!

You mentioned two of my oldest and dearest Objectivist/Libertarian friends, and I just want to make a brief note about what you said about each of them...

Panel 2 (morning)

Douglas Rasmussan was the Panel Chair. I was very pleased to see him because I keep seeing his name crop up in Objectivism-land and, of course, I have The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand edited by him and Den Uyl. Since the link on his name gives no picture and it is not fair to say I saw him but you can’t, here is an excellent one (you have to scroll down).

I met Douglas Rasmussen (as well as Becky Beals, who has been my wife for 17 years now) in 1969 at the University of Iowa, when he was a senior in philosophy, and I was a graduate student in music. We hit it off immediately, and we have corresponded and phone-chatted and visited frequently over the years. He has aced me into a few Liberty Fund seminars, and he has always encouraged my own para-philosophical attempts, a number of which have actually been published! Doug was the best man at my first wedding -- though I don't hold that against him! :-)

Doug is a Neo-Aristotelian, but also heavily Rand-influenced, and he has spoken to the Ayn Rand Society meetings at the APA conventions, as well as to IOS/TOC/TAS Summer Seminars. His books co-authored with Douglas Den Uyl are quite interesting and challenging for those seeking a deeper understanding of how the Aristotelian and/or Objectivist worldview pertains to ethical and political philosophy. Especially see their most recent book, Norms of Liberty. What they say about rights as meta-normative principles -- in contrast with regular ethical principles -- is quite clarifying.

Tibor MachanAtlas and Ethics

This is the first time I have ever heard Tibor speak. We have communicated off line and at times I run some of his writing on OL. I also met him (but did not hear him) at the TAS 2006 Summer Seminar. My mental impression was completely different than what I saw. I always imagined a rather stodgy almost grumpy delivery. What I saw was a man enthusiastically passionate and an excellent public speaker. His talk on Rand’s ethics was along the lines one expects from his writing. This should be easy to imagine because I cannot think of anyone in the Objectivist/libertarian world who has not read something by Tibor. One moment in the Q&A jumped out at me, though. As I reported elsewhere on OL:

Probably one of the highlights of the event I attended in terms of our own discussions was when Tibor Machan was asked in an Q&A about the is/ought problem. He mentioned Hume's argument and stated that Hume basically was claiming that one cannot deduce a conclusion regarding a fact that is not given in the premises, so in this instance he is correct. There is no ought in the premises, so no ought can be deduced from them (as in a syllogism). However, there is a big difference between deducing is from ought, which can't be done, and deriving is from ought, which not only can be done but should be done.

Rand never claimed anyone can deduce is from ought, but she did claim that one can derive is from ought.

For those whose eyes glaze over at the sound of this, don’t worry about it. It was very important to me to hear that, but it is not all that important in the big scheme of things.

Tibor and I became mutual fans of one another about 1970, and we have stayed in touch ever since. When he edited Reason Papers, he always welcomed my submissions, and that kind of support and encouragement is like gold, and I'll always be grateful to him for that. Other than Nathaniel Branden, I don't know a single other Libertarian or Objectivist who has been as prolific and tireless as Tibor. Together, their published works would cover a large portion of a living room wall. (I don't think that's much of an exaggeration.) Tibor, too, has been a frequent speaker at ARS and IOS/TOC/TAS functions, even though, like Rasmussen, he is not officially affiliated with them. And I have the distinct pleasure of being able to open my own local newspaper, The Orange County Register, to the op-ed section and read a Tibor Machan column at least once a week!

I do have to point out one error in the above report, Michael. You actually got the order reversed when you were talking about the is/ought problem. It should have read:

There is a big difference between
deducing
ought from is, which can't be done, and
deriving
ought from is, which not only can be done but should be done...Rand never claimed anyone can
deduce
ought from is, but she did claim that one can
derive
ought from is.

Again, Michael, thanks for the great report and the very enjoyable photos. I hope to see you and Kat -- and all you other fine folks -- next summer, out here on the West Coast, I hope!

Best always,

REB

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I do have to point out one error in the above report, Michael. You actually got the order reversed when you were talking about the is/ought problem. It should have read:

There is a big difference between
deducing
ought from is, which can't be done, and
deriving
ought from is, which not only can be done but should be done...Rand never claimed anyone can
deduce
ought from is, but she did claim that one can
derive
ought from is.

Roger,

Thank you for that correction. It was made from being tired, not from misunderstanding. I presented this on another thread discussing it with some who think Rand was all wrong (and others no) and I was still recovering from the event. Not one of them corrected me. That is a pretty good indicator of how carefully they read my posts. I will keep that in mind when I discuss things with them in the future.

I am going to post this over there.

Dayaamm!

Michael

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Roger,

Thank you for that correction. It was made from being tired, not from misunderstanding. I presented this on another thread discussing it with some who think Rand was all wrong (and others no) and I was still recovering from the event. Not one of them corrected me. That is a pretty good indicator of how carefully they read my posts. I will keep that in mind when I discuss things with them in the future.

I am going to post this over there.

Dayaamm!

Michael

Don't kid yourself that it wasn't noticed, Michael. I, for one, noticed it but didn't care to extend the courtesy of correcting it in the midst of the charges you were occupied with leveling against me and others and your multiple misreports/misreadings which were considerably more important to the thread. I assumed, on that particular error, that you actually knew better and had merely mistyped and that anyone with any understanding of the subject would likewise chalk the transposition up as a typo.

Ellen

___

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Clarence Hardy of TAS told me TAS will be putting the appearance by the Brandens on their web site within the next two weeks.

Do any of the rest of the readers of OL have Fred Smith's experience pick up Atlas at random and find you're on page 500 when someone tells you have to go to bed.

Edited by Chris Grieb

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