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Everything posted by khaight

  1. I'm an ARI supporter and have been for many years. My bookshelf currently contains titles by or edited by Mimi Gladstein, Stephen Hicks, David Kelley, Tibor Machan, Robert Nozick, Douglas Rasmussen / Douglas Den Uyl, Chris Sciabarra, George Smith, George Walsh, Michelle Kahmi / Louis Torres, George Reisman, Jerry Kirkpatrick, Murray Rothbard, Nathaniel Branden and Robert Bidinotto, among others. I'm sure there's at least one author there 'forbidden' to ARI supporters according to the standard model. I've never kept this sort of thing a secret. I've been awaiting excommunication for over a decade at this point, but it has yet to materialize. Some of those books have been of more value to me than others; some were an utter waste of time and money. But I've never worried about whether I was "supposed" to be reading them; my concern was simply whether reading them seemed like a worthwhile exercise ex ante. This idea that there is some sort of index of prohibited books is a very widespread meme that is, in my experience, not supported by the facts.
  2. Overall I enjoyed Stone of Tears the most. I give it bonus points for the way it started. The plot of the first novel centered around trying to prevent the villain from opening a magic box that would grant him tremendous power. The second book starts with the heroes standing around the open box, scratching their heads and saying (in essence) "So now what do we do? Close the box, or what?" That just strikes me funny for some reason.
  3. Mine was The Fountainhead. Apparently I'm a traditionalist. I started with the fiction, devoured it, and then worked my way through the non-fiction. (Although I still haven't read We the Living for some reason.)
  4. I picked up the first season of Alias on DVD, and my wife and I enjoyed it tremendously. (In fact we watched 11 episodes straight at one point.) It's well-acted, well-produced, well-written and features intelligent protagonists using their minds to defend the United States from criminals, thugs and terrorists. What's not to like? That said, I was somewhat disappointed with the second season; they simplified the underlying conflict significantly and by the end it was starting to show signs of X-Files Syndrome (when the complexity of the back-story and the constantly-changing alliances starts to overwhelm all other aspects of the show). I haven't watched the third season as yet, so I can't comment on that.
  5. A few of my favorites that haven't been mentioned already: Quiz Show - A 50s period piece nominally about the quiz show scandals. (Quiz shows of the time were secretly giving the answers to their questions to the contestant they wanted to win, thus fixing the results.) Although based on a true story, the film rises above its naturalistic roots to present a compelling tale about the nature and importance of integrity, and its role in living a happy and productive life. On the basis of his work in this film, I nominate Ralph Fiennes to play Gail Wynand in a hypothetical remake of The Fountainhead. The Truman Show - Jim Carrey stars as an Everyman who, unknowing, is living inside an artificial world as the star of the most popular TV show on Earth. The most enjoyable part of the film for me was the concretization of the fact that a lie cannot be sustained indefinitely because it conflicts with reality. Given vast resources and a literal lifetime in which to work, the director and producers of the show cannot prevent Truman from penetrating the veil they have drawn over his eyes. The Game - This one I like simply for the intricacy of the plotting.
  6. Nominal science fiction can degenerate into deus ex machina as well. A recent and particularly egregious example is Peter F. Hamilton's "Night's Dawn" trilogy. The final volume is called The Naked God, and is quite literally a God in the Machine that resolves all the outstanding plot points. Still, I'm willing to cut a lot of slack to the genre that gave us the works of Robert Heinlein.
  7. As best I can tell, Goodkind is far and away the most commercially successful Objectivist author since Rand herself. His "Sword of Truth" novels pretty consistently hit the NYT bestseller lists. I've always been bemused by how many Objectivists seemingly have never heard of the guy. The early novels in the series don't show many signs of Objectivist influence, but he really cuts loose in Faith of the Fallen. A lengthy (and in my opinion by far the best) part of the book is an extended concretization of the principle of the harmony of interests, as the protagonist fights his way up from poverty by building and running a black-market business inside a repressive totalitarian state. On the flip side, I also found the novel jarring because many of the characters started acting in ways that were psychologically inconsistent with what we learned about them in prior novels. That's poor writing. I haven't read the two most recent books in the series, so I can't comment on the extent to which they express or demonstrate Objectivist principles. I imagine another reason why he's hated by the speculative fiction elite is that he reportedly broke into print by sending the manuscript of his first novel to a publisher, who read it and immediately offered him a quarter of a million dollar advance. That kind of seemingly effortless success at becoming a top-tier genre author probably sticks in the craw of the many writers laboring in the mid-list.
  8. A primary focus on maximizing profits can also lead a business into pitfalls, if that focus leads to a loss of long-range perspective. A company can often enhance its profits in the short term by taking actions (such as reducing quality) whose repurcussions are not felt until later. In my experience, good businesses conceptualize their primary goal as "maximizing long-range profits by doing X", where X is the specific value the company provides to its customers. As always, context and a focus on reality are essential. If the market changes in a way that renders X less valuable, the company needs to notice and switch its focus to maximizing long-range profits by doing Y instead.
  9. I like to call these kinds of things "'2+2 = 5' questions". The right response to them is to point out that the underlying premise is false. Sure, if 2+2 were five, then 2+2 would be five -- but it isn't. If the world were really the way the Bible described, faith would be superior to reason -- but it isn't. If economics and history worked the way Marx claimed they did, communism would be a morally superior system -- but they don't and it isn't. The facts that make capitalism morally superior to communism are the same facts that make it impossible for communism to exist and function the way Marx said it would.
  10. I guess I'll toss my hat into the ring. I'm a software engineer living with my wife and pet bird in San Jose, CA. My initial introduction to Objectivism was from a girl in high school. She pestered me for six months to read The Fountainhead, claiming that it was "the most rational thing" I would ever read. She was mostly right. I went through a libertarian/anarchist phase in college, but I got better. I've been studying Objectivism on-and-off for the last 10 years or so. (Some of you may remember me as a semi-regular on humanities.philosophy.objectivism back in the mid to late 90s, back when it was occasionally good for something.) More recently I've been in an 'off-again' phase, concentrating on my career and integrating Objectivist insights into my everyday thinking processes. I stumbled onto this forum via Diana Hsieh's blog, and it looks pretty interesting. Smart people, polite and engaged in interesting discussions. One more post and I'll make "Novice".
  11. When I was a young child, I asked my mother "What religion are we?" She paused for a long time and then said "Protestant". Neither of my parents were actually religious in any significant sense, though. My father is actually virulently anti-religious as a result of his first marriage. (It fell apart when his wife converted to some fundamentalist form of Christianity and he wouldn't join her, as best I can tell. He doesn't talk about it much.) My grandparents were all active in their local churches; my paternal grandfather said grace before every meal until the day he died. My maternal grandfather was quite disappointed when he found out I was an atheist, although he did become somewhat reconciled when it became apparent over time that I nevertheless had a strong moral center. He never did give up on trying to get me to join the Freemasons, though. The only times I can remember going to church apart from weddings and funerals were when I was younger and grandparents were visiting. Kyle Haight
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