Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Professional Objectivist

This essay is an indirect meditation on the very broad questions of what it is that makes a place desirable, or entertaining or pleasant.    For some people, it is the weather of S. California with its endless overly bright sunlight and extremely strong opinions about what constitutes success and failure.  For me, there are many issues but one of them, discussed here, is my eccentric sense of what is entertaining.  So, for example, the following afternoon social event which I describe here I found tremendously amusing.  It still makes me smile whenever I think of it.  But I wonder how many other people would find it as rewarding?

For many years I lived in the Upper West Side of New York City in a sublet of an incredible apartment overlooking Riverside Drive and the Hudson River (estuary). I have been fortunate to also live in other places that had high entertainment value, such as Los Angeles in the 1980s when computer animation was but a gleam in a few idealist's eyes, but none so beautiful and rewarding as the apartment on Riverside Drive.

Although my role in the Hayden Planetarium's Digital Galaxy Project was sadly over I still maintained many relationships with my friends there. One afternoon I was invited to join two of them, Anthony Braun and Gretchen Schwartz of the museum, for afternoon tea at some cafe on Columbus Avenue. It was a beautiful day and we sat outside. I am pretty sure that Steve Gano was there that day as well. (1) Gretchen had also invited her girlfriend who we will call Amy. Amy and Gretchen had both been interns for Michael Moore, the famous director of documentaries (and they both hated Mr. Moore with a passion).

Amy had invited her current boyfriend a tall, good looking young man.

So what did Amy's boyfriend do? It seems he was an “intellectual”, and that he worked as an Objectivist philosopher for the Ayn Rand Institute.

Ayn Rand being interviewed somewhere

Now, let me ask you, did you ever read Ayn Rand? Well, I was an undergraduate once, and I read Ayn Rand like everybody else, and was somewhat amused. It did not seem very practical. And I wondered, I truly wondered, who could write that 150 page rant near the end of Atlas Shrugged that went on and on and fucking on? It turns out that Ayn Rand was a Jewish refugee from Stalin's socialist paradise. So a Russian Jewish author of romantic political tracts, we now knew who could write such ummm, well, emphatic material. Ayn Rand, or whatever her real name was, could.

One more thing, to help complete the picture before I comment thereon. It was clear to me that whatever Amy's long term interest in this Objectivist was, her short term interest was, ummm, romantic, which I think puts a more respectable spin on what she wanted from this relationship. That was my impression. A nice looking, big, healthy young man. Such are the lofty motives of so many of our peers and colleagues.

Now, how many Objectivists are there in the world? Well, there are a fair number of people who might call themselves an Objectivist, I suppose. But how many of them get paid for it? Only very few, I think. In the entire world, are there ten professional Objectivists? I doubt it. In all this world are there five professional Objectivists? Perhaps there are five. Perhaps.

So this was truly a great and rare honor. I was having tea with a professional Objectivist!

Now out here in Hollywood I know many interesting and accomplished people. Writers, visual effects supervisors, academy award winners, famous computer scientists, successful entrepreneurs, actors, actresses, poets and porn stars.

But in all these years on the west coast, I never once met a professional Objectivist.

The Ayn Rand Institute


Atlas Shrugged


1. Some of the people who read this blog will know Steve well. He is a graduate of the MIT Media Lab and a veteran of Apple / Kaleida among other ventures.

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