Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jim Henson meets Ayn Rand [Important update]

Jim Henson argued with Ayn Rand in an ARPANET discussion forum in 1976. Along with Yoko Ono. I had no clue that this existed. Massive thanks to Luis for the pointer.

*** Update, erratum, and apology. Twitter commenters said fake; I searched around. And I found this on the ARPANET Discussion Forum webpage. There is no link to this page within the main site, but it comes up on Google. Here it is:
Disclaimer
The parties responsible for presenting the textual information on this website, and in other formats that appear as part of this project, disclose that their intention is to create the thoughts and emotions of the various characters presented through The Arpanet Dialogues in an effort to stimulate debate about the current state of world affairs from the perspective of hindsight.
I apologise for not having searched this out more thoroughly earlier.

Update 2: Here's a discussion of the project. Clever. But it would have been nice if they'd have linked to the disclaimer from the front page.
And here's io9 on it, via Russel Brown.

In hindsight, Ronald Reagan's voice sounded the most out of synch with the Reagan that plays in my head - a bit more cardboard than I'd expected. But the fake Rand sadly didn't seem that far out. For other fake Rands, do read Mozart Was A Red, by Murray Rothbard.

Original post follows below.
***
Artist Sidney Nolan, also in the discussion, asked Henson which was his favourite puppet.
JIM HENSON
Each character is special for me they represent different aspects of myself. Kermit the frog is perhaps closest to me. An altar ego of sorts.

AYN RAND
What does that say about you.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Big laughs. He is exceptional.

JIM HENSON
I dont know. I don’t think too much about it.

YOKO ONO
My favourite is Big Bird. He is so tall and gentle.

AYN RAND
To be honest I find it to be senseless entertainment. I prefer the celebration of men and what they can achieve.

JIM HENSON
Do you have children Ms Rand.

AYN RAND
What do children have to do with what I prefer.
Later:
JIM HENSON
Ms. Ono you are too idealistic I think.

AYN RAND
I agree.

SIDNEY NOLAN
I think Ms. Rand is even more idealistic at heart.

JIM HENSON
And sad.
And Ayn later misses the point:
JIM HENSON
I think Ms. Rand and my character Oscar the Grouch would have a lot to talk about actually. I am laughing out loud at this idea.

AYN RAND
Why would I want to talk to him. What has he achieved or trying to achieve.

JIM HENSON
He has achieved what I think is the ultimate goal of your way of thinking.
...
Isolation. Contempt for others. A hard heart. Yet even he can muster a bit of empathy every now and then.
...
AYN RAND
I am not isolated. I have no contempt for others. Millions of people read my books and find my thoughts inspirational. I hardly spend my time on the sidelines in a trash can grumping.

JIM HENSON
Not yet anyway.
Read through the whole transcript and tell me it wouldn't be hard to programme a bot whose output would be indistinguishable from Rand's for 80% of her contributions. I've a soft spot for Rand. And I disagree  with Henson about the "ultimate goal" of Rand's project. But Henson takes this one.

Other ARPANET Dialogues:
  • Marcel Broodthalers, Jane Fonda, Ronald Reagan, Edward Said, 1975. Lots of fun "What's this whole chat thing for" discussion at the start between Reagan, Said and Broodthalers. A sample:
    EDWARD SAID
    What are the implications [of online chats]. This will revolutionize they way people do business. Culture perhaps. Someone from Japan can have a conversation with someone from California. What about China.

    RONALD REAGAN
    Wouldnt you rather pick up the phone and call.

    RONALD REAGAN
    All this damned typing.
    Said has the best imagination and foresight about what ARPANET could lead to. The novelty of corresponding by instantaneous text with people you've never met before, whose voices you don't know and whose faces you can't place - it's commonplace for us, but not so much 40 years ago.


5 comments:

  1. You can watch Mozart was Red with a role played by Jeffrey Tucker on youtube

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mGpMpaHGM4

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  2. "I am not isolated. I have no contempt for others. Millions of people read my books and find my thoughts inspirational. I hardly spend my time on the sidelines in a trash can grumping."- Rand

    Funny. But there was NO way! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. ....oh boy. That quote that convinced me it was a joke was the same tweet that set you off! Hah*10

    ReplyDelete
  4. You're right - that doesn't sound like her. First, she did have contempt for many others. And second, she never would have validated herself by that millions find her thoughts inspirational.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Quite so.

    Loved that Rothbard play; Never saw that before. Me and some people I know could have used that 10years ago or so...

    ReplyDelete

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