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Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - 6:53amSanction this postReply
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Congratulations for even thinking to include Asimov (my choice) and some other non-conventional choices outside of philosophy and politics.



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Post 1

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - 1:52pmSanction this postReply
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Tough call.
0) George Orwell -- classic and for me, now, later, it is not the mere mechanism of oppression but the more subtle factors, the "duckspeaking" and other foundations of our current totalitarianism.

2) Ludwig von Mises -- Never completed Human Action, but never tried to read it from cover to cover.  I read the Epistemology and then many selected sections based on the index.

3) Isaac Asimov -- I have read mnore of him than all of the others put together.  His mysteries and science fiction mysteries were as important as the straight SF, the robot stories and so on.  However, that is balanced by my awareness of Asimov's Fallacy named by L. Neil Smith: a quardrillion individuals are still individuals and therefore no mathematical laws can be written for future history.

4) Carl Sagan --- my choice, based on my understanding of "greatest impact."  His Cosmos presentation, "Backbone of the Night" led me into ancient numismatics.  I wrote over a dozen articles on these topics, won several literary awards and spoke at conventions.

6) Milton Friedman -- Capitalism and Freedom was all right back in 1970 or so, but I understood the basic fallacy of "monetism."  Monetism might be a handy metric for a private issuer -- which we all are, really -- but as a so-called "national policy" it is erroneous a priori.

7) Jane Jacobs  -- close second.  I found her book, The Economy of Cities, brilliant, but did not read anything else.

8) Ronald Reagan -- well, his economic policies brought me back to the mainstream economy, and there was a lot else, but that was more like having comfortable shoes or a cool new jacket than actually making a difference in who I am inside.





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Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - 4:54pmSanction this postReply
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I knew Asimov as a non-fiction writer and read every one of his non-fiction books in the township library before I entered the seventh grade. But I am not a fan of his sci-fi.

I was always a fan of Stephen J. Gould, but found his politics tendentious and condescending. While he sometimes stretched to make a point, the breadth of his inductive scope was incredible.

I am a huge fan of Orwell both as an essayist and a novelist. His memoirs Homage to Catalonia and Down and Out in Paris and London are outstanding. He has my enduring respect for his ability to put truth above his own assumptions in every instance. His essay, "Shooting an Elephant" is perhaps the best non-didactic moral anecdote known to me.

Sagan was my greatest hero for his incomparably spiritual series Cosmos, until I read Rand. I lost a lot of respect for him when I learned the extent of his left wing views and activities, but otherwise, he holds the greatest place in my heart, even today, next to

Ronald Reagan, who, for all his myriad flaws, had the greatest positive material effect on the life of each of us here.

Ted Keer



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Thursday, May 17, 2007 - 10:19amSanction this postReply
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I picked Asimov, it's because of him that my interests in computer science, and artificial intelligence were sparked.

And when I was a little (about 9 to 12, can't remember the exact age), I read one of his last books, Atom, which was a book about particle physics. It was an amazing read considering how little mathematics was in it, and even at that age I could fully comprehend what he was explaining. Very few authors can do that in my opinion, and he was one of them. Of all the Non-Objectivists (next to Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman) he was probably the most pro-reason individuals out there. I love this one quote by him,"If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them."

It's been my view ever since.



(Edited by Bridget Armozel
on 5/17, 10:22am)




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Post 4

Thursday, May 17, 2007 - 1:12pmSanction this postReply
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I picked other. Richard Feynman is not on the list?

Jim

(Edited by James Heaps-Nelson on 5/17, 1:13pm)




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Thursday, May 17, 2007 - 2:14pmSanction this postReply
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Sorry, that's why I included "other, please comment." I would gladly replace Gould with Feynman and Mencken with Isabel Paterson. The people named were chosen based upon my own influences and those popular with others. All are deceased, and flourished during the last century.

Ted



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Thursday, May 17, 2007 - 3:13pmSanction this postReply
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Nor is Heinlein, who is better than asimov any day of the week....



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Thursday, May 17, 2007 - 3:37pmSanction this postReply
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Frank Lloyd Wright was the other major influence on me.
--
Jeff



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Post 8

Thursday, May 17, 2007 - 9:05pmSanction this postReply
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J H-N:  picked other. Richard Feynman is not on the list?
Good choice!  Like many others, I knew who he was and I bought Surely You're Joking when it came out.  I bought What Do You Care? after that and in the mean time started reading the first to my daughter for bedtime stories.  Just a few years back, I was working at a science museum and we got in a comic book -- ahem, "graphic novel" -- of What Do You Care? and I sent it to my daughter, by then 24 years of age.

"Cargo Cult Science" (his 1974 Caltech commencement address) was a chapeter in Surely You're Joking and is also a stand-alone publication in many places, including here:
http://wwwcdf.pd.infn.it/~loreti/science.html

Because of Feynman, my daughter and I worked out a mind-reading trick and also bought other magic tricks at a local shop.  She still uses some of them working as a bartender.  Having learned how the simple things are done, I have seen even Penn & Teller do what was now to me obvious.

Feynman's condemnation of modern science textbooks is another classic story.




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Friday, May 18, 2007 - 8:33pmSanction this postReply
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I chose Milton Friedman because I was introduced to him almost immediately after Rand. If I had to work from someone who was not totally in line with Objectivism it would be him.



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Post 10

Sunday, May 20, 2007 - 12:26amSanction this postReply
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Hands down, Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov and the novel Lolita (and others and some nonfiction).

I challenge any admirer of Rand to read Nabokov and NOT exult at his blissful, delirious, glorious prose. He was a king of creation on a Randian scale; I have encountered beauty that reached similar heights elsewhere only in music (in Sibelius).

Following are Sagan, Ray Bradbury, and maybe someone remembers an old poster named Jeanine Ring...

Michael



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Sunday, May 20, 2007 - 9:37amSanction this postReply
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Jeanine has her Salon of Liberty over on Yahoo......and still keeps tabs on this site every so often....



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Sunday, May 20, 2007 - 1:15pmSanction this postReply
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Mike Y.,

I listed Asimov and Orwell not simply as novelists, but also as non-fiction writers (one, a popularizer of science, the other a moralist gadfly of the left) and as advocates of reason. While I certainly have no problem with someone liking Nabokov (indeed, I sanctioned you for your effort in describing a value about which you are passionate) I don't know how Nabokov could be seen generally as an influence. Do you simply strongly like him? Are you a writer who is influenced by him?

Also, I watched about half of Lolita. I found it snide and ultimately repulsive. Is the style of Nabokov's writing so much better than the ugly story that ultimately made me turn off Kubrick's adaptation?

Ted Keer

Also a link to Ms. Ring, anyone? (Thanks Robt.)

(Edited by Ted Keer
on 5/20, 3:47pm)




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Post 13

Sunday, May 20, 2007 - 2:55pmSanction this postReply
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http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Salon_Liberty/



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Post 14

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - 12:34amSanction this postReply
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Keer,

Nabokov's influence on me is hard for me to pin down and express accurately in a few words. 

VN showed me how a creative mind could so radically succeed at reaching his own artistic satisfaction armed with a conviction of the necessity of his own happiness (and also armed, luckily, with a dazzling facility with words).  I understand that a similar level of talent and work probably goes into works of architecture, or music, or entrepreneurship, philosophy, or engineering, but the genius behind these accomplishments was less readily apparent—to me anyways—than it was in VN’s  writing.

I’m trying to better express why this was important to me.  Hm.  Think about the phrase ‘radical success.’  Success of what sort?  What happens when it’s writ large or radical?  Rand introduced me to the heights that should theoretically be possible (but which frankly I seldom beheld in her fiction; the artistic level of the prose was just not as satisfying for me as I thought it could have been), and VN was the Exhibit A that proved her wildly correct. 

If I may brag a little further, Nabokov would likely have been a friend to Objectivist ideas.  Classically liberal, fiercely independent of mind, indifferent to criticasters, an enemy of tyranny (and a Russian émigré).  Interestingly, VN would have bristled at such categorizations; he was denunciative of a reliance on easy, pedestrian, ‘grand’ ideas and the literature of social intent.  This obvious tension with Rand, while embodying many of the virtues she prized most, I think provides the most interesting counterpoint between two thinkers’ ideas I’ve ever encountered.

Yes, the book is better than the movie.  I don’t get why because I think VN helped write the screenplay.  Also keep in mind that your estimation of Nabokov could differ wildly from mine.  And the language with which I’ve been describing my feelings do not necessarily describe the books; they can actually be rather recherché and arcane.  One of my best friends didn’t like Lolita.  I know others who do, and they’re often leftists and not hard reasoners….

Robert Malcolm,

I actually check SL more often than RoR!

(demonstrating that that first sentence is so true,)

Michael




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Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - 9:53amSanction this postReply
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Mike Yarbrough: "I challenge any admirer of Rand to read Nabokov and NOT exult at his blissful, delirious, glorious prose."

Nabokov was a good stylist with a disgusting sense of life. Ayn Rand thought so too (see Ayn Rand Answers).

I challenge any Objectivist to love Nabokov's sense of life and  understand what it means to be an Objectivist. Impossible.




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Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - 5:41pmSanction this postReply
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Jon, since sense of life is so personal, I guess I can understand how Mike Y. might like him so much if his writing is so technically impressive. I enjoy reading G. K. Chesterton in a lot of circumstances where I disagree with the underlying point he wishes to make. Not having read Nabokov, and having assumed Rand's analysis was sufficient based on my distaste for the movie adaptation of Lolita, I haven't bothered to read him, and so can't speak with any authority. I wonder if Mike Y. can suggest either some non-fiction by Nabokov or a more noble story?

Ted



Post 17

Sunday, May 27, 2007 - 10:36pmSanction this postReply
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Keer,

Nabokov afaik did not write any didactic nonfiction. He was a professor of Literature at Cambridge, Harvard, Wellesley, among other schools, and his lectures from that time are published in Lectures on Literature. He wrote an essay introduction to the book, called "Good Readers and Good Writers," (available online) which is probably the most instructive material I know he's written. VN responds more candidly on a broad number of subjects in a collection of interviews called Strong Opinions. And he's written an autobiography called Speak, Memory, and a number of introductions to his novels.

I think this covers the nonfiction. Of these, I've only read Strong Opinions. I'm fairly sure you won't find VN writing didactically anywhere. He avoided pedagogy and pedantry almost totally for aesteticism. Again, this maddening absence of a utilitarian attitude in someone who seemed to be /so right/ elsewhere--this snobbishness, this whatever--contributes to his status as an enigma, and his enduring scholarly criticism...

The novel Bend Sinister concerns the struggle of a brilliant philosopher in an absurd Ekwilist (Equalist) dystopia, and I hear the protagonist of the novel "Glory" makes the title eponymous.

I could present some criticisms of VN, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy him hugely.

hope you get to do the same,
M



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Monday, May 28, 2007 - 10:38amSanction this postReply
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Mike,

Actually, one of Nabokov's works is listed on a critics' list of the best non-fiction of the last century. I don't have the title but will look it up.

Ted



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Wednesday, May 30, 2007 - 8:04pmSanction this postReply
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     It'd have to be Asimov for me, re his non-fiction (usually article compendiums each originally written for pulps of the time) and definitely his 'robots' short stories.

     Heinlein was often thought-provoking but I'm not aware of much non-fiction by him. I didn't care much for his later books starting with STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND...but, kept reading him anyway.

LLAP
J:D




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