Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Selections: Ten Capitalistic Works (including: TODD ONSTAGE TODAY!) Book Selections of the Month (February 2011)

1.  Before getting to the actual capitalist books, a capitalist performance art piece must be noted: Don't Tread on Me, directed by Chelsea Knight -- and featuring me among the performers (you can see the director directing me in the nearby photo, in fact).  That's today at 3pm (well before any stupid sporting events) at Momenta Art, 359 Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg (and for cowardly Manhattanites, note that the Bedford Ave. stop is the first one into Brooklyn on the L train at 14th St. and that the performance -- which is FREE -- should be over within an hour).  It's the perfect way to celebrate Ronald Reagan's hundredth birthday -- and remind yourself what sort of principles Republicans should be sticking to instead of engaging in globe-damaging protectionism for the sake of one Alabama sleeping bag company, like Sen. Jeff Sessions.

I will be reading excerpts from Reagan's fantastic 1964 pro-Goldwater speech "A Time for Choosing," a.k.(quite rightly)a. "The Speech."  One of my fellow performers will recite from a Palin speech -- though not from her unduly, even absurdly criticized "blood libel" comments (if being falsely accused of being part of a murderous conspiracy that took the life of a child is not the time to use the wholly philosemitic phrase "blood libel," I don't know what is -- and I care enough about editing to notice that more than one media outlet, including Politico, irresponsibly made it sound as if the phrase "blood libel" is routinely deployed by anti-Semites, when in fact it is the anti-Semites who think there was actual blood, not a libel, and so have no reason to use the phrase, any more than 9/11 Truthers would have reason to use the phrase "nonsensical conspiracy theories," save ironically).

(Without the live performers, the installation aspects of the piece -- including video of me -- will also run from noon to 6pm each day this coming Thur.-Sun., the 10th-13th.)

2.  Though I am not an Objectivist, I loaned the aforementioned director, a very open-minded leftist keen on fostering more civilized political dialogue, the copy of Objectively Speaking that I received from the Ayn Rand Institute.  It's a book of most of the major interviews done with Rand over the years, even ones from newspapers who talked to her when she was just an opinionated young Russian immigrant girl. 

(And if you are a sick little monkey and this Rand volume doesn't contain the kind of blatant references to sadomasochistic sex you've grown to expect from Rand works such as her Nietzschean play, which I saw recently at Hofstra, Night of January Sixteenth -- in which the main couple bond via rape threats and later her wearing of a scalding-hot platinum dress warmed in a fireplace -- I am informed of the existence of a book called Sex for America: Politically Inspired Erotica, though I have not read it.  It may contain what scum like you need.  As Valentine's nears, recall my entry from last year about the rough sex tropes in Atlas Shrugged, which are more pervasive than a casual first encounter with the novel might suggest.  I haven't read the graphic novel adaptation of Rand's more chaste Anthem, pointed out to me by Ali Kokmen, who also notes the video trailer for it.)

3.  Speaking of opinionated Russian immigrants who admire Objectivism, my friend Michael Malice, who likely cannot be stopped, has co-written another book, Concierge Confidential: The Gloves Come Off -- and the Secrets Come Out! Tales from the Man Who Serves Millionaires, Moguls, and Madmen, about all the shocking things co-author Michael Fazio had to know to be truly helpful to hotel guests.  And I am in the acknowledgements, always good for sales.

4.  Malice and I met -- along with several other interesting people, as it happened -- at one of Jeffrey Friedman's small annual seminars for libertarians, and Friedman's journal Critical Review recently published an issue on problems with deliberative democracy (people may just get more nutty the more they debate, to make a long story short), a copy of which I left with green local-democracy enthusiast Pagan Kennedy in Allston, where she swears she is not running for alderman. 

5.  At long last, the movie adaptation Atlas Shrugged: Part One is on the way in two months (Tax Day, April 15, to be precise), likely playing only in a commie-run art house theatre near you, ironically, but we'll see.  And we'll see if $10 million and a cast of near-unknowns is enough to get the long-overdue job done. 

Taylor Schilling, the woman playing Dagny, is apparently dating Zac Efron.  That could help with publicity.  The fact that the screenwriter has thus far done horror movies and videogame reviews actually slightly encourages me.  A poet would make me more nervous.  It also occurs to me that with the budget being so tiny, they should simply set it in THE PRESENT (hope, change, etc.) instead of attempting some art deco alternate universe. 

And if they're trying to save money, they should just let libertarian thinktank staffers play all the extras and bit parts for free.  'Cause you know they'd do it, though it'd look like a world overrun by Asperger's cases instead of second-handers and parasites.  Well, then again, that could work. 

The Ayn Rand Institute released a volume last year called 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, with various celebrities explaining her influence on them, including Raquel Welch, who, had she played Dagny back in the 1960s, might very well have altered the entire course of human history for the better, possibly preventing the Johnson and Nixon presidencies and hastening the collapse of Communism.  Welch says of Rand's novels, according to an ARI press release:
"They encouraged me a lot to continue being strong-minded and courageous. I felt like I was a loner and somebody who did have a vision of the kind of woman that I wanted to portray.  In many cases, people would want me for a role, physically, but they wouldn’t want my persona.  They would want to water the role down and make it cute.  I never liked cute women.  I always thought that women should be extraordinary and magnificent."

6.  I enjoyed the anthology of Malcolm Gladwell essays What the Dog Saw, and though he may not be a libertarian, I can't help thinking his economics/stats/skepticism approach to analyzing things is a healthy trend in the culture.  I was particularly pleased by the essay about FBI psychological profilers and how much of what they do is just random guesswork accompanied by post hoc claims of success when they get a few guesses right, the tried and true formula that keeps so-called "psychics" (not to mention those other con artists called "religious prophets") in business.  Good to know.

In another essay, he contrasts the research-oriented investing of (libertarian) Victor Niederhoffer with the notoriously agnostic approach of Nassim Taleb, author of Black Swan (which is not about evil ballerinas, so if you read it, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise). 

There's also an essay in the volume about music that sounds like other music -- using "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "More Than a Feeling" as an example (surely someone out there has done a mash-up called "Smells Like a Feeling").  He does not mention the alarming similarity of Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldier" to the earlier Banana Splits theme song, but apparently I am not the first to notice it.

7.  Sci-fi author Joe Tripician e-mails to inform me of his book Balkanized at Sunrise, the true story of how he was hired to keep the president of Croatia from being indicted for war crimes. 

8.  Eccentric and reclusive historian Martin Sklar was nice enough to send, along with many of his notes, a copy of his equally euphoniously-named wife Nao Hauser's novel Bronoff's Rules about a disgraced Wall Streeter climbing back to success with the help of the plucky classroom full of immigrants to whom he's teaching English. 

9.  On a similar note, Jim Lesczynski, one of the saner people I saw at a small Ron Paul-style libertarian event in Manhattan several months ago, wrote the novel The Walton Street Tycoons, about a group of kids who become successful business owners despite the efforts of their town to regulate them out of business.  I admire his willingness to depict the government playing hardball with children, since that's how real governments, which are remorseless predators, operate, despite what your delusional pro-government friends tell you.

10.  And let it not be forgotten that Proud to Be Right is still on sale, the essay anthology book, edited by Jonah Goldberg, containing my long-awaited "Conservatism for Punks" piece. 

One of the young punks turned quasi-conservative who helped inspire the piece (who I interviewed when he was a "straightedge" teenager in Jersey in 1997 and got to know again a decade later when he was a bespectacled academic on the verge of becoming a blogger at First Things, without me realizing for quite some time it was the same person) was Sam Goldman, and he reviewed the book for last month's New Criterion

(Piecing together the fact that older-Sam had once been younger-Sam -- while at a party talking to a friend of his who mentioned their old New Jersey punk days in an off-hand fashion -- was perhaps the moment in my life closest to having Racer X pull his mask off and be revealed as the long-lost brother.  Then, he and the friend, for old time's sake, bumped fists and said, "No gods, no masters," which is not the First Things house slogan, though it might improve the general moral climate there if it were.)

The philosophical tension between my essay and those of the less-libertarian contributors was noted in American Conservative back in November as well. 

Coming up in next month's Book Selections entry, for those tired of the focus on the right: Death of the Liberal Class and, more generally, How to Disappear.


Joe Tripician said...

Thanks for the post, Todd!

john said...

It's almost the default that anyone having a case against Objectivism for any number of reasons, those who just "need to make it wrong," attack Rand for her supposed sexual aberrations. If they want it to be rape, or in the case of the above diatribe "sadomasochistic sex," they totalize certain scenes and minimize the tender, fiercely bonded ones. Nevertheless, it is with sad humor those of us not afraid of the soul penetration required for truly passionate sex view the defaulter's outrage. One fears you may be afraid to take or be taken by your lover. Get this, read it, know it, live it: Ayn Rand said: "If it was rape it was rape by engraved invitation."

By the way, your previous diatribe reveals your motive: you need Rand to be wrong for reasons of disfavoring her character's motivations for fierce competition in capitalism, almost to the point of wishing there were a law against it. I'd respond to that prior piece, but it was already well slammed by a poster there, Andy George. I notice you were silent on his points.