Beginning My Deep Dive Into Tolkien

“The road goes ever on.”

Misty Midwest Mossiness

A dear friend of mine sent me off on a wonderful Tolkien tangent last week when she replied to my Podcast Pickup post and directed me to the Prancing Pony Podcast.  I quickly scanned the last half dozen posted episodes and settled on #038, also entitled “I Will Choose Free Will” – which immediately gave me a Rush earworm.  Not one to be daunted by a nearly two hour podcast (we are dealing with ‘epic’ fantasy here), I gave a listen to the ongoing discussion of The Silmarillion, specifically Chapter 21 and Túrin Turambar.  I pulled out my ebook edition and quickly skimmed Chapter 21 to remind myself of the story.  I really enjoyed the insights and the banter of the hosts.  It took me several days to completely listen to the episode, but by the end I was hooked and a plan began to form in…

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You Bet Your Life

Probably a faster read than Pensees itself.

Misty Midwest Mossiness

Cover Image of Making Sense of it all: Pascal and the Meaning of LifeGoodreads SynopsisAn instructive and entertaining book that addresses basic life questions. Relating numerous personal anecdotes, incorporating, intriguing material from the films of Woody Allen and the journals of Leo Tolstoy, and using the writings of the seventeenth-century genius Blaise Pascal as a central guide, Morris explores the nature of faith, reason, and the meaning of life. His lucid reflections provide fresh, fertile insights and perspectives for any thoughtful person journeying through life.

Read the week of May 7, 2017 by the grace of one of the wonders of the modern world: Interlibrary Loan

My Thoughts

Morris did an excellent job of pulling together Pascal’s Thoughts and presenting powerful arguments in support of his famous Wager.  For me, it ended up being a reaffirmation of my personal faith, a honing of my reasoning and renewed focus on my life’s purpose and direction.  This is the first of many tangential…

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Movie Review: Collateral Beauty, directed by David Frankel (Four Stars)

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theatrical release poster

Movie Review: Collateral Beauty, directed by David Frankel

Four Stars

“This doesn’t feel right.” “I know. But when something starts with a six-year-old dying, nothing is gonna feel right.”

A complex, yet satisfying contemplation of love, death and time. Not all morose and weepy, it has its motions of emotion. Clever script by Allan Loeb. Filmed in New York City in winter, it feels both intimate and connected.

“Just make sure you notice the collateral beauty.”

Will Smith can act: who knew? Though this movie drew the lowest opening weekend box office of Smith’s career, it’s a better movie and not all about him. If anything, it’s more like an essemble theater piece, with some players in multiple roles.

“But you never know, nothing’s ever really dead if you look at it right.”

Virtual Family Bake Off

My niece is a great bread artist.

Misty Midwest Mossiness

I received a call from my son Thursday evening.  This is a somewhat unusual occurrence as the last time I spoke to him was on the occasion of his 31st birthday back in early February.  In our defense, we are both busy professionals working much more than your typical 40-hour work week, so we don’t have a lot of spare time for idle chit-chat.

Derek and Ton Ton Derek and Ton Ton

We exchanged pleasantries and got caught up on the latest antics of their new pet Rottweiler, Ton Ton, when he popped the question.  You know, the one you always expect when your offspring call you because they never call you unless they … wait for it … want something.  But this time, my son surprised me.  He wanted my Italian Herb bread recipe.

Seriously?  This was too easy and too good to be true.

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Book Review: The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas J. Fleming (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas J. Fleming

Four Stars

“In their loves and losses, their hopes and fears, they are more like us than we have dared to imagine.”

A worthwhile addition to the histories of our founding. Superficially what seems trivial reveals deep of relevance for understanding both the founders and the product of their labors.

“Newspaper ethics in the nineteenth century did not put a high value on accuracy. ‘Faking’ a story … was accepted journalistic practice.”

The universal themes seem to be of men driven almost to monomania, often to the neglect of wives and family. In several cases, it is impossible to know the man without knowing the wife. Most were dedicated to their spouses. Sadly, those who had sons or grandsons almost universally begat individuals who embarrassed them, improvised them, and broke their hearts. Their daughters seem to be woven of finer stuff.

“Nothing is ours which another can deprive us of.” Thomas Jefferson

Well-conceived, well-researched, well-written.

“Dolly [Madison] concluded that a woman who waded into the contentious side of politics aroused the always lurking hostility between the sexes and won no friends for her side of the argument.”

Book Review: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Four Stars

“Sometimes even bad advice can point a man in the right direction.”

Eight stories bound to stretch your imagination if not your horizons.

“Maturity means seeing the differences, but realizing they don’t matter.”

Original, thought-provoking fiction in a range of times and contexts.

“When you love someone, you don’t really see what they look like.”

 

 

My Seven Wonders of the World, #3

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Temple Mount of Jerusalem

 

(AVRAHAM GRAICER, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index)

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem has been a focus of history and religious devotion and fanaticism for three millennia. Three faith’s hold it to be the site where Abraham offered his son (Genesis), though they disagree which son was offered. It was the site of Solomon’s, Zerubbabel’s (Nehemiah?) and Herod’s temples in the tenth and sixth centuries BC and first century AD.

Some assert that Herod’s Temple was only the second, as the building of the third temple will supposedly trigger the Apocalypse, but historically Herod’s Temple was the third Jewish temple built on this site. Calling it a reconstruction of Zerubbabel’s sanctuary would compare to Continue reading

My Seven Wonders of the World, #1

Noodling around the internet “researching” something else, I ran across a New Wonders of the World list. Based on a poll run by an outfit in Switzerland, it was mostly a popularity contest. Several of the listed “wonders” can be rejected outright: neither the Statue of Liberty in New York nor Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro are wonders. Large statues, but neither the largest nor the most significant. Too modern. Ditto the Eiffel Tower. Petra and the Taj Mahal at least showed endurance.

So, I jotted down a list of seven wonders, then realized that I had actually seen only four of them. How can I judge the wonder-value of something I’ve only seen in photographs? Therefore, I started over, listing seven manmade structures which moved me when I experienced them. Rather than just list the seven, I’ll devote a short article to each. Along with a picture. Unfortunately, I visited some before the era of digital photography and, while I took pictures of each, I’d be hard pressed to find them now, and they’d be slides, prints or negatives.

The current mode would start at number seven and work up to number one, but that doesn’t work because, even if any of you have seen them, there can be only one greatest manmade wonder of the world. Even the ancients agreed. In fact, this group of structures was ancient when the ancients made their list. And is the only surviving wonder of the original list. I’m referring, of course, to:

1. The Great Pyramids at Giza, Egypt.

giza-pyramids

commons.wikimedia.org

The Giza Pyramids are perhaps the only “gimmee” on the list. No one who sees them can miss their gigantic proportions and simplicity of form. When I saw the Pyramids in March 1983, I was prepared beforehand to be underwhelmed because I expected them not to live up to the hype. We stayed at the Mena House Hotel (a significant historical site itself) just down the hill from Khufu’s Pyramid. (The Mena House starts on the edge of the picture, by the golf course.) The first afternoon we walked up the hill to see for ourselves.

Approached that way, Khufu’s Pyramid shields those of Khafre and Menkaure. Khufu’s Pyramid isn’t just big, it’s so big that your sense of proportion is jarred. Impressive? It’s as impressive–no, more impressive in person. In addition to the three great pyramids Continue reading

On Human Nature and Political Ideologies

Not so simple as the Great Thinkers think.

Misty Midwest Mossiness

This paragraph in the “Human Nature” chapter of my Introduction to Philosophy textbook speared me, considering the turmoil before, during and continuing after our most recent elections. It’s a long paragraph so bear with me. I’ll split it at points to add more white space for emphasis and where my mind flipped thoughts from ‘right’ to ‘left’ instead of its usual on-edge position:

Your perception of human nature determines even how you think we should set up our society. Ask yourself this, for example: Should our society be based on capitalism or socialism?

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