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About jim543

  • Birthday 04/13/1949

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    Chicago, Illinois
  • Interests
    Reading, Classical Music, Theater, Cinema, Poetry and Literature.

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  • Full Name
    James Henderson

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  1. jim543

    My Verses

    Beautiful and thoughtful, delightful to read. I am moved by your verse.
  2. His books influenced me from my days in college. I am thankful for his life.
  3. "Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson My day was one that seemed to careen from one area of interest to another with not much connection between them. I began the day with continued reading of Cormac McCarthy's novelThe Crossing, the second volume of The Border Trilogy. In the late morning I took a break to attend a performance of the great Romantic ballet Giselle by Adolphe Adam. This was shown at the AMC River East theaters in a 3D film from the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburgh. Returning home I ended the day preparing discussion questions to accompany a reading of The Double Helix by James D. Watson. The finest memoir of a scientist I have encountered. Now what do all of these activities have in common? You might say, well, nothing. But on reflection I would disagree for each of the activities include and even have as an important part of their essence, the attribute of beauty. The beauty of Giselle is obvious as it is the epitome of Romantic ballet and set the standard for decades to come. It is more difficult to discern the beauty of McCarthy's novel or Watson's memoir, yet it is there in each one and is an important part of the essence of the work. Cormac McCarthy is a prose stylist of the highest order and his ability to blend dream-like prose poems with gritty realism is amazing both in its beauty and its existence. It is a wonder that he succeeds, but he does. While James Watson had the unenviable task of attempting to communicate complicated scientific ideas, yet also succeeded in his own way, and in doing so shared the beauty of nature as exemplified in the double helix. So a day of contemporary American fiction and nineteenth century Romantic ballet and great science writing was brought together by a simple idea: the beauty inherent in it all. What a day!
  4. A Dream of Daring by Gen LaGreca "When men understand that their greatest gift is their intelligence, that their glory is to use it, that their own will is their trusted guide to chart their course, that their labors are theirs to choose, that the fruits of them are theirs to keep, and that surrendering this immense power to the rule of others is beneath the dignity of man---that is when the new age will soar to heights unimaginable." (p 281) While reading A Dream of Daring I was reminded of John Stuart Mill who wrote in chapter three of On Liberty (“On Individuality, as One of the Elements of Well-being”) a passionate defense of individuality and diversity, and the liberty that allows them to flourish. Gen LaGreca in A Dream of Daring has written a passionate historical novel where the wings of the idea of freedom of thought, liberty, and individual responsibility allow the hero and heroine to achieve their dreams. Added to the historical setting of the antebellum South is a suspense-filled murder mystery with plot developments, including the theft of Thomas's revolutionary invention, building to an exciting action-filled and emotionally satisfying ending. More important are the ideas that motivate the characters furnishing a foundation for the story. This makes A Dream of Daring a great novel. The author demonstrates-- through the actions of the hero, Thomas Edmunton, and the heroine, introduced as "Solo"; but also the actions of their antagonists-- a battle of good versus evil, the willingness to take bold action versus the foolish consistency of attachment to a dying cultural tradition, and the importance of moral principles for man's survival. The characters are developed effectively beginning with the hero who at the onset of the novel is "out of step with the world around him", but who gradually discovers both why that is true and what the implications of it are. The demonstration of the importance of freedom, responsibility, and learning occurs not only through the heroic actions of Thomas and Solo, but also through those of the supporting characters, particularly Jerome who flourishes once he is given the freedom to pursue his passion by Thomas. The development of characters and the ideas they represent is presented as sort of mystery of discovery echoing the mystery of murder and the theft of Thomas's invention. It is the interplay of these ideas, the development and growth of the characters, and the resolution of the action that impressed this reader. The author wrote with a lucid prose style and enriched the story with mythological and literary references. These factors combined with the power of ideas lifted the novel beyond the bounds of history and suspense and into the realm of inspiration. It was a journey that could only be taken on the wings of ideas. A Dream of Daring by Gen LaGreca. Winged Victory Press, Chicago. 2013
  5. The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time by David L. Ulin “I go back to the reading room, where I sink down in the sofa and into the world of The Arabian Nights. Slowly, like a movie fadeout, the real world evaporates. I'm alone, inside the world of the story. My favourite feeling in the world.” ― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore Several years ago I read a wonderful book, Distraction, by the philosopher and author Damon Young. His book describes the success of several great thinkers and writers in living a thoughtful life filled with freedom from distraction. One of the hallmarks of the lives he described was reading. It is this act, which David Ulin describes as "an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction, a matter of engagement in a society that seems to want nothing more than for us to disengage"(p 150). This observation is near the end of Ulin's essay on why books matter, The Lost Art of Reading. Some of us have not lost the art, but may need a reminder of its importance. For reading is more than entertainment, although it often is entertaining; it may also be invigorating, meditative, or even a spiritual life enhancing experience. Above all, as Ulin argues, it is a way to get in touch with ourselves in this instant as we connect with the thoughts of authors that may have lived millenniums ago. The essay focuses on reading a through a variety of metaphors. Reading is "a journey of discovery"(p 13). The journey is different for each individual but one example highlighted by the author resonated with me. It was the immersion of Frank Conroy in books when he was a boy.His journey began with what seems a chaotic passage through book and authors both great and small, heavy and light, but it was a start and a wonderful way for Conroy to get the lay of the land. To enter into a world that would provide him with a place that was apart from the distraction of society became a foundation on which he could build his own life as a writer. David Ulin remembers his own library of books as a " virtual city, a litropolis, in which the further you were from the axis, the less essential a story you had to tell.(p 17). It was this view of books as a city that he translated later into remembering cities by their books and populating his reading life with a vision of the world based on his own tastes and aspirations. This is something that each of us as readers may do in our own life. The essay takes you through encounters with readers like Ulin's own son, who has to read and reluctantly annotate Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby, with the encouragement of his father. But he also discusses writers like Anne Fadiman who is among the greatest connoisseurs of reading and writing that I have encountered. And we are regaled with a story about reading David Foster Wallace, a contemporary writer of revolutionary tomes. There is even a discussion about reading on a Kindle which is not necessarily a bad thing except there are a lot of worthwhile books that are not available on a Kindle, so the book is safe for the moment. As a reader I found this essay encouraging and invigorating. It is a reminder of what I love about reading, what I would love to reread, and where I may go to continue my own journey. Just as I enjoy the freedom from distraction that reading can bring, I wonder at the infinite worlds that are opened when we take time to get in touch with ourselves in the pages of a book. The Lost Art of Reading by David Ulin. Sasquatch Books, 2010.
  6. Ayn Rand Explained by Ronald E. Merrill Revised and Updated by Marsha Familaro Enright "Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture an intransigent mind, and a step that travels limitless roads. ... Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark. In the hopeless swamp of the bot quite, the not yet, and the not at all, do not let the hero in your soul perish and leave only the frustration for the life you deserved, but never have been able to reach. . . . The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours." - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p 993. The title tells it all. Marsha Familaro Enright's revision and update of Ronald E. Merrill's book provides an explanation and an overview to the life and thought of Ayn Rand. The author demonstrates a substantial breadth of knowledge about Ayn Rand and her work. In addition to the overview of Ayn Rand and her work the author presents examples of people in many different walks of life that have been influenced by Ayn Rand's thought along with a brief history of the growth of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. As someone who has read most of Ayn Rand's fiction and non-fiction I was impressed with the depth of understanding and the insights of the author. She compares Ayn Rand's fiction with examples of other authors when relevant and explains clearly the development of the philosophical outlook represented by the characters in Rand's major works. She also presents some of the common criticisms of Ayn Rand's philosophical views in lucid prose that makes clear the nature of the issues and the power of Rand's ideas to refute them when they are properly understood. Above all, her presentation and discussion of the ideas and the views of critics of Ayn Rand show a reasonableness that demonstrates the true nature of Objectivist thought and honors her subject. This approach was refreshing and all too rare in an age when irrationality is held as the norm by many. Ultimately, any explanation of Ayn Rand must focus on the power of ideas. These are presented clearly here and the reader is encouraged to read her work and think for himself about the value of those ideas. The nature of Ayn Rand's ideas is presented in a way that I found engaging and hopeful. I believe that readers both new to Rand and those who have read much of her work will benefit from the insights provided in Ayn Rand Explained. Ayn Rand Explained by Ronald E. Merrill, Revised and Updated by Marsha Familaro Enright. Open Court Publishing, 2013.
  7. The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics by Michael Shermer The market economy needs no apologists and propagandists. It can apply to itself the words of Sir Christopher Wrens epitaph in St. Pauls: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. [if you seek his monument, look around.] Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, p 850 There is more information in the 261 pages of The Mind of the Market than there is in most books more than twice its size. That is both an advantage and a disadvantage in the sense that the book held the reader's attention even though the fecundity of ideas sometimes bordered on the overwhelming. Michael Shermer, the author of The Mind of the Market, is the publisher of Skeptic Magazine and the author of nine previous books. In this book he attempts to capture the "Mind" of the Market while arguing against previous visions of how the market works while surveying scientific theories that he believes may be used to replace these earlier visions. He includes discussions of some of the best known psychological experiments regarding human behavior (Milgram, et. al.) yet his attempt to connect them to an overall theme was weak. I came to the book receptive to his support of free market economics. His penultimate chapter, entitled "Free to Choose" - a direct reference to Milton Friedman's classic text of the same name - is the culmination of his defense of the market; however I was not convinced that, with all the scientific theories and studies used as examples of "evolutionary" economics and the neuroscience of the market, he made a convincing case. Many of the pieces of the book seemed to just hang there, fascinating little essays on some aspect of science or how "Homo Economicus" no longer exists (or perhaps never did!).