Five reasons you should take the train to Colorado [MOVIE MOMENTS]

Around 15 years after reading Atlas Shrugged for the first time, the moment I was waiting for arrived: the movie came out. If you missed it, there’s a good reason. Unlike big-budget flicks, this $10 million “effort” opened in only 299 theaters, with the prayer hope outside shot that word of mouth among the philosopher’s novelist’s propagandist’s writer’s followers would cause demand to surge and lead to the sort of financial success that would make Ayn Rand proud.

In a movie about trains, of course, there was a travel angle, as high-powered business folks zipped across the country to investigate the root of all evil and find ways to protect themselves from “looters” (i.e., government and people looking for handouts). And since the book ultimately points toward Colorado, as the rest of the movies in the planned trilogy will, the travel angle becomes even stronger.

Let’s look at five travel moments from the recently released film; some are good for a chuckle:

1. The airlines failed: okay, setting the movie in 2016 meant that there would be certain challenges, as rail transportation would have to be made a viable long-haul alternative to air transportation. Using an oil crisis based on Middle East instability was a clever way to go about this. To have a bit of fun, I’d have used poor service and operations as the driver for airline collapse. It’s at least as realistic as blaming an inconceivably severe spike in oil prices. And, the “Objectivists” working the flick could have taken pot shots at unions, bailouts and a paucity of ambition.

2. Dare to get lucky: if you can make a train go 250 miles per hour, you deserve a little “rail-high club” action. And if you built the bridge that made it possible, you’re first in line. It really is that simple. The sex scene that followed the train travel moment on the recently renamed John Galt Line shows that (a) some people are proud to reward personal achievement and (b) sex between two stiff and awkward people will be, well, stiff and awkward.

3. Road trips can be fun: of course, they really should have a purpose, such as dashing off to Wisconsin to look for a space-age engine. Nothing beats driving there from Wyoming to check out an abandoned factory, even if the time does pass faster on the big screen than it would in reality. When you get back to Wyoming, after the return trip, nothing tops a meal prepared by a former philosophy professor who has “dropped out.”

4. Remember you reading material: I’m still shocked that Dagny Taggart, the flick’s protagonist, stepped off a train and picked up a newspaper. I know, right? Are they still going to be around in 2016? I guess the prospect of finding a newspaper five years from now is about as realistic as doing so after a long train ride (though, in fairness, she only schlepped from New York to Philadelphia).

5. The best destination in the world: in half a decade, you’ll only want to go to Colorado, it seems. Well, you won’t want to go there if you’re lazy, stupid or more interested in political results than cash in the bank.

SPOILER: Atlantis is in Colorado, so leave your dive gear at home.

[photo via World’s Biggest Writing]

Ayn Rand fanatic travels to send GPS message

In today’s politically polarized climate, die-hards will do anything to get a leg up in the battle for communication. Larger crowds are sought, along with bigger signs, louder voices and greater media play. The days of slapping bumper stickers on random cars are giving way to more sophisticated stunts, and Nick Newcomen just set the bar higher with an unusual road trip.

Newcomen put 12,328 miles on his car while crossing through 30 states to write “Read Ayn Rand” on Google Earth with his GPS device. Mashable writes:

Newcomen – who explained to Wired that he undertook this mission simply because he is a Rand fan – took more than 30 days to execute this task, using a GPS logger (Qstarz BT-Q1000X) to create the letters. He started in Marshall, Texas, where he began writing out “Rand,” and then drove on (turning off the GPS whilst not writing) until the entire, “Reading Is Fundamental” sentiment was complete.

Ayn Rand’s (rather anemic) philosophy puts forth the primacy of the individual over the group and believes that merit should be the sole arbiter of success. She was also a big fan of keeping the government out of just about everything, which is why many are using her words and works as a rallying cry against the current administration in Washington.

Of course, I’ve always wondered how Rand herself would have felt about the cult of personality that has evolved around her work. She had no shortage of lackeys while she was alive – including Nathaniel Branden and Alan Greenspan – and she seemed to be pretty happy to be lauded. On the other hand, a fairly strict interpretation of her philosophy would result in the criticism of efforts such as Newcomers, as it would encourage people to go accomplish stuff on their own and give up the fanboy fawning.

One final criticism: if he were a real fan, he would have ended his trip to Colorado with a bracelet made from Rearden Metal on his wrist.

[photo via World’s Biggest Writing]

Only in Boston: Party like it’s 1776

Boston’s crazies concerned citizens love to come out and play when there’s political capital at risk. I saw and attended many protests when I lived here and saw first-hand the energy percolating ahead of the die-in before the start of the Iraq war. Yet, one’s convictions are mere street theater to someone else … and in regards to the latter, Boston ever fails to deliver.

As I wandered through the city yesterday, eager to see the North End with an unobstructed view (I left Boston before the highway was fully sent below the ground), the noise carried up Congress Street softly but easily. As I approached, specifics became clear, including the shrill cries of a woman on the curb in front of Faneuil Hall, “If you want socialism, move to China!” … though the local accent brought it closer to “Chine-er.”

This is the Boston you must see when visiting, even if only once. Of course, Boston has a long history of both civil and hostile disobedience, from the jettisoning of tea into the harbor to the busing scandals of the 1970s and beyond. What I encountered yesterday is an essential flavor of the city and should sit well above Fenway Park on any itinerary.


The crowd yesterday had a decidedly conservative bent – the “Nobama” folks were well represented. The locals have always had a strong loud dissenting conservative community that never fails to mobilize when it feels justice must be served. What results is a mix of professions, economic classes and sanity levels that in its own unique way is a testament to the ability of beliefs to unify.

Though not nearly of the scale of the major protest events in our country’s history (most aren’t), this one was still sufficient to slow the tourist traffic around Faneuil Hall, but not beefy enough to upstage the adjacent breakdancing troupe. Signs were nonetheless held aloft, and zeal oozed from every pore on the tightly laid brick underfoot.

For a devotee of civil liberties, the sight was intoxicating, even if it was only because the debate had truly been brought to the public. It was the essence of the American experiment in the place where it was born.

Doubtless, freedom can’t choose its own spokesmen, and many of Lady Liberty’s representatives yesterday afternoon symbolized the necessary consequences of giving everyone a voice – think of it as the kernel of beauty inherent in tragedy (or vice versa).

As I crossed the street and approached the crowd, I encountered an older gentleman. He had take a knee and was working studiously with a marker and a piece of poster board, ensuring the legibility of the large block letters that would convey his message: “READ ATLAS SHRUGGED.” It wasn’t surprising to find an Objectivist (i.e., a follower of the beliefs expressed by Ayn Rand) at a protest over the healthcare bill. All smiles, he explained his position before taking a spot in the public display with the ostensible goal of maximizing his visibility. John Galt, sadly, was not in attendance – or at least didn’t reveal himself (maybe he’ll co-opt the airwaves later).

Across the street, atop the stairs next to City Hall, I was able to view the scene in which I had immersed myself only moments earlier. The change in perspective was incredible. On the ground, you’re essentially planting your nose inches from a Monet: you’re up close but missing both the magnitude and the message. Above and away, you sacrifice the energy but can appreciate the entirety.

The chance to witness – or participate in – a Boston street rally isn’t something you can schedule in advance, unless you’re planning a trip around controversial legislation. When the opportunity arises, though, it’s worth deviating from your Freedom Trail jaunt, if only for a glimpse.