Sunday, March 22, 2015

Miscellaneous Weekend Smatterings: Readings and Musings

Confession time. I have a hard time making up my mind regarding what to order when I go out to eat. Everything looks good. It takes a lot of discipline for me to not change my mind after my order has been placed because there are so many other delights listed on the menu in front of me.

That's the problem I had when I began my blog this morning. I started down one path, but when near completion I changed my mind. It was too late to complete something on the Eric Swanson fund-raiser at R.T. Quinlans and I'd guessed that Christa Lawler's frontpage story in the Trib would accomplish more than this blog post anyways. What a nice turnout this afternoon. Packed to the gills, with people coming and going throughout the day to bid on an abundance of generous gifts by artists and others to help defray the costs associated with Eric's medical expenses after his recent stroke.

Polka Dots
Another story that caught my eye this a.m. had to do with Damian Hirst's "Polka Dot" paintings, which are currently on display in the Gagosian galleries around the world. Sometime in recent years I read a story about how Hirst didn't event paint most of his polka dots himself, but utilized students or interns or whatever. Which begs the question, "What's the fun in that?" I know that Michener used a team of researchers to provide the fodder for many of his massive volumes. In short, these celebrity artists and writers become mini-factories and their works simply a bi-product, like Coca-Cola bottles. It doesn't strike me quite the same as a Van Gogh whose pigments were mixed with blood and tears. You can check out his polka dots here.

Patton, Montgomery and Rommel 
For those who enjoy reading war stories Patton, Montgomery and Rommel stands out as a worthy addition to one's reading pleasures. I've been listening to the audio book during my commutes, and I find myself looking for additional reasons to take a drive so I can hear more.

I've read plenty about World War II but do not recall ever having read exactly what Germany's strategy was with regard to its famed North Africa Campaign. Or maybe I simply did not notice it before. Rommel and the German armies were headed to the Middle East to take possession of the oil fields there. Simultaneously the German army cutting through Russia was aimed at the same objective, forming a giant pincer movement. Had they succeeded, the Allies would have been without one of the essential supplies for their war machinery.

The book does an exceptional job of revealing the three personalities, and characters they were. The power of PR is highlighted throughout. Rommel was the first general to become internationally known, and the PR machinery used this man's persona to diminish the confidence of his adversaries. How Montgomery groomed his image and Patton established his is detailed here.

The Philosophy Problem
I get too many eNews to read everything that clutters my inbox to capacity, but there are occasional standouts which do manage to stop my mind-flitting and capture my attention for a spell. One of these was a piece at The Philosopher website titled Wittgenstein, Tolstoy and The Gospel in Brief.

I'd first become aware of Ludwig Wittgenstein through a philosophy class at Ohio U. The only thing I really remembered about him was that he'd taken an interest in the meanings of words. I knew nothing of his personal life, so it was interesting to see that both he and Tolstoy came from the elite wealthy class, but disposed of their wealth and attempted to live as common people doing manual labor.

Although the Gospel in Brief was not published in Tolstoy's lifetime, it clearly comes from the period of his religious and moral writings between 1879 and 1902. It is a fusion of the four Gospels, the purpose of which is to seek an answer to the problem of how we should live. It is both philosophical and practical, rather than theological and spiritual, in its intention.

It's a universal problem that has been wrestled with by philosophers throughout history: How should we then live? What does it mean to be human? And the corollary, why are we here?

Wittgenstein's response to Tolstoy's work affirms the need to find meaning in life, but that science alone can provide no solution to this quest. The article ends with Wittgenstien's own solution to the challenge. It's a good thought-provoking read.

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Well, didn't get near a few of the other topics my mind stumbled upon today, but there's always tomorrow.

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Feedback on my first collection of short stories, Unremembered Histories: Six Stories with a Supernatural Twist has been very positive. I consider these stories to be some of my best work. The book is available here at Amazon.com.

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