Perhaps another time…

September 20, 2016

Ok…I could go on…I’ve done it all in my head, and there is much to consider that can be boiled down well. Of course, I’ve thought a bit more since then…but I’m kind of done with this for myself. It feels more like a block at this point than a driver…at least for now…

Chapter V – Part II

August 10, 2016

D’Anconia will meet Dagny at any time she wishes. As she walks along a desolate, twilight city street where “skyscrapers looked like abandoned lighthouses sending feeble, dying signals out into an empty sea where no ships moved any longer” and unmotivated snowflakes melt into mud, she wonders why she feels the urge to run and meet him like in the old days…

As a child, Francisco D’Anconia would come for one month of summer, enriching Eddie and Dagny’s lives immeasurably. Every year, as soon as Eddie spotted him they would run down the hill, racing in vain to be the first to reach the birch tree that stood between them. Frisco always won. Everything.

As the only son of a great family, Francisco was being raised around the world that was to be his domain. Summer offered his one certain destination: Time with his fellow heirs, the Taggarts, and a strict tutor.

“We are the only aristocracy left in the world – the aristocracy of money,” he said to Dagny once, when he was fourteen, “It’s the only real aristocracy, if people understood what it means, which they don’t.”

It is unclear that Francisco really merely means money…it would make more sense that he is espousing something more deeply attuned to a real production of value. Jim – the only other heir apparent in this equation — does not factor into Frisco’s system. However, Eddie seems to. It is emphasized that Frisco believes his value does not rest in his inherited wealth, but in growing his empire to surpass the greatness he is come from, “The reason my family has lasted for such a long time is that none of us has ever been permitted to think he is born a d’Anconia. We are expected to become one.”

It is not clear if one who was exceptionally skilled in simply parting fools from their money would qualify. Clearly he did just that in a whopping fashion with the San Sebastian mines. However, those victims are folks that we assume he, like Dagny, finds worse than fools.

We learn the story of his great ancestor, Sebastian, who threw his wine into the face of the Lord of the Spanish Inquisition when it was suggested that he should change his manner of thinking. He then left all his riches, including the love of his life, and escaped to the New World. There, he tacked his coat of arms to his shack in Argentina and spent years with a pickaxe breaking rocks, assisted by a few stray derelicts: deserters from the armies of his countrymen, escaped convicts, starving Indians.

We are not sure how Sebastian d’Anconia managed this, precisely. Like the story of Nat Taggart, sheer will, hard work and raw genius hardly seem enough to achieve either the major capital undertaking or the engineering triumph of a mine, much less to establish the pathways of commerce needed to get it running, especially in the South America of the 1500’s with no political connections save the very powerful ones who believe that he should be righteously executed. These practicalities aside, Sebastian is inhabiting a marble palace and running great mines, looking younger than ever, when his faithful love comes to meet him fifteen years later.

When Dagny returns, Eddie is tense, bewildered, and clutching a newspaper. He needs to speak with Dagny, even if she doesn’t like to talk about “him”…

It’s those mines. There’s nothing there, and no indication that anyone with any expertise could possibly expect there to be. The San Sebastian government feels ripped off and furious. Eddie is indefinably afraid. Dagny is trying to fathom…

Despite whatever else he may have become, they know that Francisco is no fool…

Dagny demands that Eddie set up a meeting with “the bastard”

“Dagny,” he said sadly, reproachfully, “it’s Frisco D’Anconia.”

“It was.”

 

They don’t like to show emotion, but we can feel Hank and Dagny getting turned on by their banter over having to get that rail laid in only three quarters of the time she thought she had. He knows he’s got her by the balls. He’ll take an extra $20 per ton for his service…or more? She knows he won’t go higher. He needs to use her as a showcase.

He loves a girl with no illusions about favors. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

He wants to break her. But then who would he have? That’s why…she’s the only one worth working…

She starts to worry about Ellis. She can’t let a guy on his trajectory miss a beat. Hank’s not worried. Doesn’t he care? Why? He knows she’ll do it. She smiles.

Those awful looters make them sick, but they’ll prevail. They’ll just…work…harder…while the idiots all while away…

She watched his tall figure moving across the office. The office suited him; it contained nothing but the few pieces of furniture he needed, all of them harshly simplified down to their essential purpose, all of them exorbitantly expensive in the quality of materials and the skill of design. The room looked like a motor – a motor held within the glass case of broad windows. But she noticed one astonishing detail: a vase of jade that stood on top of a filing cabinet. The vase was a solid dark green stone carved into plain surfaces; the texture of its smooth curves provoked an irresistible desire to touch it. It seemed startling in that office, incongruous with the sternness of the rest; it was a touch of sensuality.

If we weren’t certain her panties were wet yet, we’d know for sure when he shows his vulnerability. He does care. She reads the freight reports. She knows.

And then the tease – of course he’s planning to build a factory there so he can cut out her transportation charges…

Go ahead. I’ll be satisfied with carrying your supplies, and the groceries for your workers…”

Yes. She said that. The freight will be so heavy she won’t miss his steel.

He laughs. We know he’s hard. She’s not like any of those other girls…

…and then they get lost in Jim…she doesn’t understand him. He’s worse than stupid. Hank tells her not to worry about silly things like him. He gets her talking about how she’d survive if he refused to give her rail. He know she’d find way. He’ll never let her down, though…not so long as he’s in business.

…She was wrong about him. He DOES have emotion! He shares her joy. He shares her passion. He is someone she can talk to. This is the type of human she’s been looking for.

Together they watch her Rearden Metal being made. They, alone, share the knowledge of how awesome it is. We can imagine her heart skipping a beat when she sees her “TT” etched into his better-than-steel. He tells her how fast she’ll be able to go on his hard line. She wants diesels next. He’s going for things that really fly…

Chicken wire. Kitchen ware. Ocean liners and telephone wires. He’s been testing his metal and he’s ready to prove it. There’s nothing he can’t make.

They spoke of the metal and of the possibilities which they could not exhaust. It was as if they were standing on a mountain top, seeing a limitless plain below and roads open in all directions. But they merely spoke of mathematical figures, of weights, pressures, resistances, costs.

She had forgotten her brother and his National Alliance. She had forgotten every problem, person and event behind her…

She feels alive.

He made a step back and said in a strange tone of dispassionate wonder, “We’re a couple of blackguards, aren’t we?”

“Why?”

“We haven’t any spiritual goals or qualities. All we’re after is material things. That’s all we care for.”

She doesn’t understand that and is incapable of feeling guilty about it. She worries for him though…there’s danger here for him. He wouldn’t say anything if it didn’t mean something…though he did state it as a simple matter of fact. She looks at him. Her apprehensions vanishes.

“Dagny,” he said, “whatever we are, it’s we who move the world and it’s we who’ll pull it through.”

Chapter IV — Part V

April 4, 2016

Dagny never said I told you so, nor did she get upset when Jim took credit for her stripping the San Sebastian line down to junk equipment. She simply hopes he’ll now let her achieve. Instead, Jim rushes in, thrilled with his own contribution to the railroad. Dagny is horrified at the measure. Jim seems to enjoy her shaking anger even more than any sense of accomplishment in undermining Conway. Quickly, though, a calm washes over her and she stares at him, .

“For the flash of one instant, she thought that here, before her, in James Taggart and in that which made him smile, was a secret she had never suspected, and it was crucially important that she learn to understand it. But the thought flashed and vanished.”

She quickly and purposefully exits, taking some of the wind from Jim’s sails with her.

Chapter IV – Part IV

March 25, 2016

They called it the “Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule.” The Alliance of Railroad members did not look each other in the eye when they approved it. The stated purpose of this Alliance was to “protect the welfare of the railroad industry” by making each member comply with the majority rule of the body. While some had suggested that the reason this body is needed is that shippers and supply manufacturers might try to take advantage of them, nobody, apparently, is really clear on what any union might ever actually be needed for.

Apparently, none of the members liked this particular rule, but like lemurs they voted for it anyway.

They don’t mention specific railroads, they just talk about public welfare. They decry competition, and suggest that younger railroads will find future fortune by running through blighted areas. This is not about the idea that infrastructure might spur development, but rather about putting public service to “struggling inhabitants” ahead of profits.

Rand goes on to explain the argument that, “large established railroad systems were essential to the public welfare; and that the collapse of one of them would be a national catastrophe; and that if one such system had happened to sustain a crushing loss in a public-spirited attempt to contribute to international good will, it was entitled to public support to help it survive the blow.”

…so we get to the explanation of this rule – it’s meant to undermine “’destructive competition’; that in regions declared to be restricted, no more than one railroad would be permitted to operate; that in such regions, seniority belonged to the oldest railroad now operating there, and that the newcomers who had encroached unfairly upon its territory, would suspend operations within nine months after being so ordered; that the Executive Board of the National Alliance of Railroads was empowered to decide, at its sole discretion, which regions were to be restricted.”

The first seems to indicate that Taggart should be somehow compensated for the loss in San Sebastian – which might make sense if it was part of the US government’s way of insuring his participation in an international program. The second is clearly an assault on the Phoenix Durango and its entrepreneur Dan Conway, again to the benefit of Taggart. Only five voted against the law. The rest seemed to hope that someone else would. The members leave quickly and quietly after the vote. Conway seems shell shocked.

Boyle runs into Taggart and says ominously that he’s done his part, now it’s Jim’s turn.

Chapter IV – Part III

March 23, 2016

His stage face gone, Jim meets with Orren Boyle who reports that D’Anconia lost his money, just like Jim. Jim is surprised that this brilliant man who has “outwitted some of the slickest combinations of money grubbers on earth” would now be “taken by a bunch of Greaser politicians.”

Orren says he should call his friend and ask. Jim says he hates him, but has clearly tried. His male secretary of fading youth and well-bred impoverished manner enters, worried about the response he received from Francisco’s secretary:

“’He said that Senor D’Anconia said that you bore him, Mr. Taggart.”

Chapter IV – Part II

March 21, 2016

Back to James, with a headache in his living room, too lazy to find shoes or his watch, or even to remember that he wanted to know what time it was. There’s a woman there, and the description of their relationship makes the lascivious sight Dagny noticed earlier seem somehow better. These guys aren’t even up to lust, let alone love. They copulate merely out of some sense that this is what people do.

Apparently the only things this one, Betty Pope, inherited as a member of “one of the very best families” is a sense of self importance and a condescending attitude. She laments her boring existence, asks Jim to take her to dinner, and chides him that she hears his sister is more the man of the family than he is.

Jim is rushing her out…not allowing her to clip her toenails. She doesn’t mind him coming in to the bathroom to do his business, too, as she twists herself into her clothes. Her day will be empty. He’s got a mission, though. He’s on his way to get Dagny upbraided for ordering that rail. The thought of undermining her progress lifts his mood…maybe he will take Betty out to dinner after all. She doesn’t like Dagny, either.

Then he receives a phone call. The caller, eager to make clear that this isn’t his fault, informs him that his pet San Sebastian line, as well as D’Anconia’s mines, have been nationalized.

Jim is quick to assure the board that his friends in Washington have his back, and that proper compensation will be awarded. He then proceeds to take full credit for Dagny’s reduction of equipment and service, while requesting the heads of a few folks he now blames for building the line.

“The men sat around the long table, listening. They did not think of what they would have to do, but of what they would have to say to the men they represented. Taggart’s speech gave them what they needed.”

“Motive power  — thought Dagny, looking up at the Taggart Building in the twilight. – was its first need;  motive power, to keep that building standing; movement to keep it immovable. It did not rest on piles driven into granite; it rested on the engines that rolled across a continent.”

Dagny has returned from a personal visit to those who should have provided those locomotives some year or so ago. The man spoke for two hours, seemed to find direct questions a sign of ill breeding, and in return had no clear answers to offer. Dagny shudders at the sight of precision machinery left to rot…the type of thing capable of magnificent works that it seems no one is any longer capable of taking care of, let alone producing.

She returns to the office to find a shaken Eddie who has more bad news: McNamara, the man who was to lay the Rio Norte’s tracks, is gone. With contracts left unfulfilled, the best contractor in the country has disappeared. No explanation. He just up and quit. Dagny is desperate to scream, but retains her composure. She’ll figure something out.

Hours later, she leaves the office. Normally satisfied to be the architect of her own satisfaction, this day has left her starving to see something of merit that someone other than she has created. The streets of New York offer nothing…screeching noise called a symphony, a book called “The Vulture is Molting”  about the depravity of corporate greed (which we are to believe is pure slander out to trash noble ones like her), a mindless movie, and a young woman with her dress hanging too low…not in daring but in disarray, the young man holding her arm not to romance her but “out to write obscenities on fences”.

She retreats to her apartment and the Fourth Concerto of Richard Halley. Through this art, Rand speaks her anguish:

“The Concerto was a great cry of rebellion,. It was a ‘No’ flung at some vast process of torture, a denial of suffering, a denial that held the agony of the struggle to break free. The sounds were like a voice saying: ‘There is no necessity for pain – why, then, is the worst pain reserved for those who will not accept its necessity? – we, who hold the love and the secret of joy, to what punishment have we been sentenced for it, and by whom?….The sounds of torture became defiance, the statement of agony became a hymn to a distant vision for whose sake anything “was worth enduring, even this. It was the song of rebellion – and of a desperate quest.”

…”The story of his life had been like a summary written to damn greatness by showing the price one pays for it. It had been a procession of years spent in garrets and basements, years that had taken the gray tinge of the walls imprisoning a man whose music overflowed with violent color. It had been the gray of a struggle against long flights of unlighted tenement stairs, against frozen plumbing, against the price of a sandwich in an ill-smelling delicatessen store, against the faces of men who listened to music, their eyes empty. It had been a struggle without the relief of violence, without the recognition of finding a conscious enemy, with only a deaf wall to batter, a wall of the most effective soundproofing: indifference, that swallowed blows, chords and screams – a battle of silence, for a man who could give to sounds a greater eloquence than they had ever carried – the silence of obscurity, of loneliness, of the nights when some rare orchestra played one of his works and he looked at the darkness, knowing that his soul went in trembling, widening circles from a radio tower through the air of the city, but there were no receivers tuned to hear it.

The critics, it seemed, thought his heroics and ecstasy passé.

His life had been a summary of the lives of all the men whose reward is a monument in a public park a hundred years after the time when a reward can matter.

However…Halley, it seems, lived to see a small taste glory. When he was 24, he wrote an opera. Phaethon. This was an adaptation of the myth where the reckless son of a permissive father did not crash and set the Earth afire, but succeeded. The booing and catcalls back then led to a depressing search for answers which he could not find.

At 43, however, a second opening night met a far different response. Dagny was there as the applause overtook the opera hall and spilled out into the streets. Halley stood there, with an odd and questioning look on his face. The next day critics credited his work “as the product and expression of the greatness of the people”. They say that it’s only right he should have suffered so long; that his suffering was proud and noble. Soon after, Halley quits, selling rights that could have ensured him a comfortable retirement for a modest sum and disappearing without a trace.

…Speaking of suffering, Dagny, lost in the brief ecstasy of this kindred composer, happens to glance at that paper she purchased. Francisco D’Anconia is coming to town. She tries to resist reading it, especially not to the music, but cannot. In it she reads that he says he’s coming for some hat check girl and a good liverwurst sandwich. He will grant an interview with the press, but has nothing to say about a divorce trial that he in the center of, having apparently been an attempted murderess’ lover and inspiration. The press is delighted. They thought he’d avoid this scandal. When asked about the allegations he says that he never denies anything, and adds one more reason for coming: “I want to witness the farce.”

Apparently, while neither the crumbling railroad nor her crippling solitude in competence can break our heroine, this guy can. Dagny collapses into silent, shaking tears.

Chapter III — Part VI

February 19, 2016

Getting, one supposes, to the bottom of things, Ms. Rand brings us back to Eddie Willers. Like Dagny, he prefers those places and things that feel like they are part of the railroad to any kind of executive trappings. As such, you can find him taking his dinner in the basement cafeteria; a place that shines in white light, glass and chromium…a poetic inverse to the dingy penthouse bar where Jim took his liquored lunch.

Eddie has a friend there, of sorts, though he knows neither his name nor what he actually does at the railroad other than ask questions about Dagny. Eddie likes his face and his interest in the company. This is enough for Eddie to make him his most trusted confidant.

Eddie talks about Dagny, her greatness, and how it’s impossible to get in earlier than she does even if Eddie does sometimes manage to stay later…how she’ll save the company by prioritizing repair of the Rio Norte line. Eddie, he’s a simply guy who reckons he’ll just go down with the rail…not that he can really fathom the company ever actually going under. They talk about the unreported number of accidents, including a head-on collision, as well as how they’ve been waiting more than two years for new locomotives.

Motive power – you can’t imagine how important that is. That’s the heart of everything…What are you smiling at?”

Eddie reveals to this man the name of the one competent contractor left, McNamara, who finished the San Sebastian and who will lay the Rio Norte tracks. He also shares that all Dagny does at night is listen to Richard Halley records; that they are the only thing she loves, other than the train…