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CanadaOne

Books - What are you reading?

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Good books, classics, have been on my mind lately. We were cutting down a bunch of trees at a famous person's house recently - I'm bound to confidentiality - and while getting a tour of the house from the caretaker, a longtime client who set us up with this famous person,  I noticed the "famous person" had an incredibly nice house but pretty mediocre books. I mentioned this to the caretaker and he looked at me like a total dirtbag, and then said "Come over here".

 

All the furniture was under covers, this was the famous person's country house, and the caretaker pulls a cover off a coffee table in front of the couch and "Boom!" Under the glass cover of the coffee table were six or eight first editions, with at least two Hemingway's and, the one that caught my eye, a first edition of "1984". Holy crap! I asked if I could have it. Five pregant seconds later, the caretaker said, "Uhhh... no."  Okay, I'm allowed to try.

 

Anyway, I've read 1984 countless times and it's one of my favorites. Also recently, a friend, succumbing to my drooling over his library, gave me his hardcover-in-a-case edition of "The Consolation of Philosophy", by Boethius, which is an amazing book by any standard. Certainly one of the best I've ever read, though my previous copy is a used softcover Penguin edition I got for $2. This got me thinking about Thucydides and the Melian dialogue (I mean, what doesn't get you thinking about the Melian dialogue?). "1984" and "The Consolation of Philosophy", both coming after Thucydides work, are a play on it; how the average man can be, even should be, crushed by tyranny for no other reason than the survival of the tyranny, even if the tyranny has no moral or intellectual value at all other than that it simply exists and can, by virtue of power, continue to exist and be tyrannical. Orwell, though his O'brien character, spelled out this somewhat Darwinian conceit in wonderful and dangerous fashion in his discussions with Smith. And Boethius did a masterful job of explaining how the average man should deal with those same inequities of tyranny. But Thucydides, perhaps, was first to best clarify this and set it out, in such a simple and direct way, in a play like fashion in his Melian dialogue. I'd love to have a first edition of Thucydides, but that ain't gonna happen. But I very much enjoy how all three books speak to the same theme with such profound eloquence.

 

That's my reading of late. That and the Vermeer catalogue. Also picked up a second copy of "The Gulag Archipelago" this weekend for my friend's son who is in college.

 

Anyone else into the classics or reading any good books at all?

 

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I don't believe you're a Canadian at all.  I think you're a closet Scotsman.:cool:

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Posted (edited)

I read the comics section of our local newspaper. Very profound humor. 😀

 

Actually, Order Of Battle: The Red Army In WWII, Panzer Division: The Eastern Front 1941-43 and its' sister tome Order Of Battle: Panzer Divisions 1944-45.

 

I plan to use them for reference material for developing tank missions. :salute:

Edited by Thad
Added actual reading material

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I try to keep a good "mix".

I like historical books like Easy Company Soldier, With The Old Breed, Masters Of The Air, Agincourt, and so on.

Also stuff like Brave New World or The Philosophers At The End Of The Universe.

 

When I am not reading something from the above genres I enjoy some "lighter" stuff. Historical novels, fantasy, horror or thrillers.

 

Most of my books are paperbacks though and some hardcovers. Nothing special going on in my collection unfortunately except a special edition of Lord Of The Rings.

Lately I am also buying more on my Kindle due to lack of storage place 😄

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49 minutes ago, DD_Arthur said:

I don't believe you're a Canadian at all.  I think you're a closet Scotsman.:cool:

 

The Scots built this country. :drink2:

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The Guns of August

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Barbara Tuchman. Excellent historian. I've read several of her books.

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Posted (edited)

Recently read the poisonwood bible, 1984, deadeye dick, the things they carried, Kafka’s metamorphosis, and a few others. High school keeps me very busy. 

Edited by angus26
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That's some good reading. I can't remember the name of it, but Kafka has this one-page story, it's awesome. Very, very... Kafka-esque. If I can remember the name, I'll mention it. Haven't read it in years, but I remember listening to a lecture about it and the breakdown was fascinating. The story is just a few paragraphs. Well worth your time. Kafka also has a twisted tale about a torture device on a prison island. Not pleasant, but an interesting read. Can't remember the name of that one either.

 

Going to re-read "The Trial and Death of Socrates", maybe this weekend. It follows well on the theme of the books I mentioned in my first post; a man telling the truth being condemned by intellectually dishonest tyrants because they didn't like what he said and felt it threatened their hold on perceived truth. Excellent stuff. Read the Symposium recently, a wonderful book on love, all kinds of love. And just got Plato's "Phadreus", that is supposed to have the best ode to love ever written. It starts with the worst, gets better and then the best. I'm just about to get to the best. I'm sure I'll borrow a few lines and see how they work. :cool:

 

Aside from Shakespeare, I think Plato has the human condition laid out best.

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I read a few of his short stories, and his book "On Writing" is excellent, but I have never read any of his novels.

 

I have read a lot(!) of A.C. Clarke and Tom Clancy. Used to pre-order Clancy's books at the local book shop back in the day, and when they came in, I'd settle down with some good bourbon and read for hours. Really enjoyed that. :)

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7 minutes ago, CanadaOne said:

I read a few of his short stories, and his book "On Writing" is excellent, but I have never read any of his novels.

 

I have read a lot(!) of A.C. Clarke and Tom Clancy. Used to pre-order Clancy's books at the local book shop back in the day, and when they came in, I'd settle down with some good bourbon and read for hours. Really enjoyed that. :)

Very true, I’ve read quite a few Tom Clancy novels, and they’ve proven to be some of my favorite books ever.

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2 hours ago, CanadaOne said:

I read a few of his short stories, and his book "On Writing" is excellent, but I have never read any of his novels.

 

I have read a lot(!) of A.C. Clarke and Tom Clancy. Used to pre-order Clancy's books at the local book shop back in the day, and when they came in, I'd settle down with some good bourbon and read for hours. Really enjoyed that. :)

 

Me too.

Then he sold out (lending his name to fiction that wasn’t his) then he died.

He’d already become useless before his passing, but in his prime he was my last “waiting for that next book” author.

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4 hours ago, CanadaOne said:

That's some good reading. I can't remember the name of it, but Kafka has this one-page story, it's awesome. Very, very... Kafka-esque. If I can remember the name, I'll mention it. Haven't read it in years, but I remember listening to a lecture about it and the breakdown was fascinating. The story is just a few paragraphs. Well worth your time. Kafka also has a twisted tale about a torture device on a prison island. Not pleasant, but an interesting read. Can't remember the name of that one either.

 

Going to re-read "The Trial and Death of Socrates", maybe this weekend. It follows well on the theme of the books I mentioned in my first post; a man telling the truth being condemned by intellectually dishonest tyrants because they didn't like what he said and felt it threatened their hold on perceived truth. Excellent stuff. Read the Symposium recently, a wonderful book on love, all kinds of love. And just got Plato's "Phadreus", that is supposed to have the best ode to love ever written. It starts with the worst, gets better and then the best. I'm just about to get to the best. I'm sure I'll borrow a few lines and see how they work. :cool:

 

Aside from Shakespeare, I think Plato has the human condition laid out best.

 

Plato actually advocated that we all be ruled by intellectually dishonest tyrants: the noble lie.  And as for intellectually dishonest argument, Socrates in Plato's dialogues is hard to beat. Having first tied his interlocutors into knots and caught them in self contradictions, they then get fed up and ask Socrates what the answer is, to which he answers with some total BS. Everyone else would prefer to get on to the flute girls phase of the symposium so they argue no further....

 

Socrates himself was a quisling who cooperated with the Spartans: he was guilty as charged and fully deserved his hemlock.

 

Plato was wrong about almost everything important in philosophy. But I agree he is well worth reading since he was so influential for so long.

 

I like Kafka better: his stories are horrifying, but also funny, even in translation. 

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45 minutes ago, unreasonable said:

Having first tied his interlocutors into knots and caught them in self contradictions, they then get fed up and ask Socrates what the answer is, to which he answers with some total BS. 

That does not sound like maieutics. :D

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Posted (edited)

At the moment I am reading the book of Svetlana Alexievich: 'The Unwomanly Face Of War'

About the 1 million Russian women serving the army during WWII.

 

I have already read two of her other books: 'Boys in Zink' about the Russian Troops in Afghanistan and 'Voices from Chernobyl'.

Her books consist mainly of  interviews with veterans, relatives, eye witnesses and others involved.

All their stories are  so tragic, cruel and surreal at the same time.

At times all these bizar and horrific narrations get too much and you have to put aside the book.

 

 

Unwomanly Face.jpg

 

EDIT:

While searching for an image of the book I found out there is a new book of her: 'The Last Witnesses, The Book of Unchildlike Stories'.

With personal memories of children during wartime.

Preordering now... :)

Edited by Uufflakke

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Richard Dawkins "The Blind Watchmaker"

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Last book i've read was 'A Farewell to Arms'. I have to admit Hemingway managed to surprise me towards the end of the story.

 

7 hours ago, angus26 said:

Recently read the poisonwood bible, 1984, deadeye dick, the things they carried, Kafka’s metamorphosis, and a few others. High school keeps me very busy. 

 

High school? Can i ask what do you have for compulsory reading over there? I would guess the ones you listed are not necessarily from the compulsory list (?), (though Metamorphosis was, for me). 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, JG4_dingsda said:

That does not sound like maieutics. 😄

 

Just read the Symposium - that is exactly what it is.  You can do it to any of Socrates' positions just as easily, but that would not have served Plato's purpose, would it? 

 

On a positive note, just finished "The Hungry Empire" by Lizzie Collingham. It is about food, particularly how the imperial projects of the European powers, and especially the British,  changed the distribution of staple foodstuffs around the world and allowed Britain to build an industrial base.  She never shies away from the unfortunate consequences of historical change, but neither does she preach, which is a nice change. Highly recommended as is her earlier book about food in WW2.

Edited by unreasonable

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6 hours ago, unreasonable said:

 

Plato actually advocated that we all be ruled by intellectually dishonest tyrants: the noble lie.  And as for intellectually dishonest argument, Socrates in Plato's dialogues is hard to beat. Having first tied his interlocutors into knots and caught them in self contradictions, they then get fed up and ask Socrates what the answer is, to which he answers with some total BS. Everyone else would prefer to get on to the flute girls phase of the symposium so they argue no further....

 

Socrates himself was a quisling who cooperated with the Spartans: he was guilty as charged and fully deserved his hemlock.

 

Plato was wrong about almost everything important in philosophy. But I agree he is well worth reading since he was so influential for so long.

 

I like Kafka better: his stories are horrifying, but also funny, even in translation. 

 

You go, man! :salute:

 

Plato wanted philosopher kings, not intellectually dishonest tyrants. He knew the dangers of fatheads with weak minds and weak morals trying to crush the average man and silence his truth through threats and fear. I mean, who but a fathead would see a system like that as being anything but corrupt? And Plato was no fathead to be sure. He suffered the constraints of the age, in that he was seeing an organizational aspect to the world (if we look at The Republic) when philosophy was being born, certainly at least in written form. Given the tools and environment he had to work with, he did awesomely well. Even if you cite him merely for being colourfully speculative about the world, he was still awesome.  

 

Socrates' style was not necessarily looking for, or being in possession of, "the answer", but in defining the situation more and more exactly, going deeper and deeper, until people discovered they were questioning their own perceived truths and realizing they knew less than they thought they did. Which in itself is wisdom. Hence, his discussion with the Oracle at Delphi. As for the hemlock, that goes back to the intellectually dishonest tyrants. Socrates annoyed the powers that be by speaking the truth, the intellectually dishonest tyrants found it annoying, they thought it screwed with their hold on the people and of perceived truth, so they framed him and killed him. That goes right back to both "1984" and "The Consolation of Philosophy", where dishonest people with no morals thought it best to silence the truth for no other reason that the truth frightened them. The people in charge, with no moral or intellectual honesty, killed Winston Smith, killed Boethius, and killed Socrates. There is a clear pattern of truth to the stories that flows from 3000 years ago right to today.

 

And if you're reading the Symposium, it was the flute boys, not just the flute girls. An open minded lot they were, those Athenians. ;)

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I read two great books recently, one of which had Zeppelins, Gothas, B.E.2cs, and Albatroses :D

 

HG Wells' The War of the Worlds. Britain is at the height of its power, having carved out a global empire through ingenuity, determination, and sheer brutality. But as a cylinder from Mars crash lands near Woking, the British soon find themselves on the other side of colonisation.

 

Stephen Baxter's The Massacre of Mankind. It is 1920, and the Kaiser's troops are at the gates of St. Petersburg. France has been occupied for six long years. Britain grows strong under a military dictatorship, and is certain to join the Central Powers. But what can this new alliance do when one thousand Martian cylinders land in Amersham?

 

 

Edited by FFS_Cybermat47

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43 minutes ago, CanadaOne said:

And if you're reading the Symposium, it was the flute boys, not just the flute girls. An open minded lot they were, those Athenians. ;)

In a sense, yes, so far as for practical reasons they also allowed heterosexual relationships. ;)

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7 hours ago, unreasonable said:

Socrates himself was a quisling who cooperated with the Spartans: he was guilty as charged and fully deserved his hemlock.

 

Oh, wow, not holding back there, do you? Siding with the Ionian power hungry war criminals...;)

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Posted (edited)

Philosopher kings are intellectually dishonest tyrants: Plato is crystal clear about this in The Republic. They have to be because in Plato's view ordinary people are incapable of determining their own best interest, and also incapable of accepting that fact, so they have to be ruled by tyrants using propaganda to manipulate them into compliance. Tyrant, as I am using it here simply means unaccountable absolute ruler, not that their rule is capricious or evil. 

 

Plato is one of the greats because of the depth and clarity with which he treats his subjects, not because of his political recommendations, which are essentially Stalinist, or his other philosophical positions which all revolve around an untenable idealism.

 

Socrates' fate was much more complex than your caricature, which is almost the reverse of the truth. While he was a scapegoat, he was condemned by a citizen assembly of a direct democracy which had only recently escaped the Spartan imposed oligarchy of the Thirty Tyrants, with whom Socrates had some affinity.  He was not "framed", he was accused of impiety, essentially subversion of youth in this context, and what is more he admitted it!  But he demanded that he be rewarded not punished because it was for their and the city's own good.  Some frame up. 

 

"Why Socrates Died" by Robin Waterfield is worth a read.

32 minutes ago, DerNeueMensch said:

 

Oh, wow, not holding back there, do you? Siding with the Ionian power hungry war criminals...;)

 

 Forums and nuance do not go together too well.... as for the flute boys, I expect reading too  much into the classical references of the literati is about as helpful as judging modern sexual morals by  watching the Kardashians. I expect the majority of Athenian gentlemen were not that enamored of pederasty.

 

"The Greeks and Greek Love" by James Davidson  is a rather pink tinged view of these issues (he completely misinterprets one vase picture as a homosexual love scene because he does not know how the shoulder-guards on Greek armour are attached)  but entertaining all the same.

Edited by unreasonable

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24 minutes ago, unreasonable said:

 Forums and nuance do not go together too well....

I just had to grin when I read it, because it came across as a bit out of the blue, and with a grain of satisfactory sadism - but makes sense of course in context of Canadas notion of Socrates as a scapegoat. (And it's not that common to hold that strong of an opinion about someone living 2400 yrs ago.) 

I also don't think all Ionians are war criminals. ;) 

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38 minutes ago, unreasonable said:

I expect the majority of Athenian gentlemen were not that enamored of pederasty.

You're probably right, nonetheless pederasty had a certain ethos promulgated among the literati and was also understood as a cohesive social power to withstand tyranny. There's an amusing passage in the Phaidros (IIRC) where pederasty is literally glorified in this sense, and the story of Harmodius and Aristogeiton (and particularly their state cult in form of the Tyrannicide monument) gives you an idea how deeply rooted this ideology was in Periclean and post-Periclean Athens.

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What is interesting about the Melian Dialogue is its reception today, namely, that it is viewed by many International Relations scholars as the crucial passage in 'The Peloponnesian War' which itself is one of the fundamental texts of Realism to which roughly 70% (according to a survey of FP a couple of years ago) of american IR scholars claim to adhere to. The Peloponnesian War is on the recommended reading list of many branches for high ranking service personnel as well as being taught in many IR curricula especially in the US.

I mean this not in a derogative way on any account. It is just interesting how such old texts are still relevant today, not only in the trivial sense, that we can derive knowledge by reading them, but that they literally inform policy decisions today in s o m e way. Then again, it informs only a theory (Realism) about how the International System works and since, to say it in a vulgar way, Realism claims, that everyone does whats in their best interest (oh, wow, really, do I need a theory to tell me that?), you have to know what really is in your nations best interest, which of course can differ wildly.

I have it on the shelf and read it every now and then in the awesome Landmark edition edited by Robert Strassler, what makes it so good are the maps, contextual essays, and short summaries at the edge of the pages, that allows you to pick up easily where you left off after longer breaks. Damn stop procastinating at last...

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Posted (edited)

@snipertonIndeed: although this is rather different from shagging slave boys.  The Thebans had their Sacred Band, so it was not just Athens that appreciated the educational benefits of homosexual relationships between citizen men and youths, transmitting all that excellence.

 

While we westerners tend to congratulate ourselves on our tolerance, when Milo Yiannopoulos made the same argument recently, it did not end well for him.  Every age has it's own taboos, be sure. 

 

@DerNeueMensch That best interests definition is certainly circular. I remember reading Peloponnesian War in the school library when I was about 14 (in English!) and being profoundly shocked. Previously my ancient history had all been either rather bland Victorian summaries or myths and legends stuff. The description of the civil war in Corcyra was bad enough, but the Melian dialogue section is very disturbing for someone brought up in a Christian tradition (despite being an atheist) and having a view of Athenians as being the good guys.  My interpretation of the true meaning of the  Athenians' argument is not so much that the powerful and weak all act in their own interest, as that the powerful do what they will and the weak do what they must.  A little harder to teach that in West Point.

Edited by unreasonable

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8 hours ago, rolikiraly said:

Last book i've read was 'A Farewell to Arms'. I have to admit Hemingway managed to surprise me towards the end of the story.

 

 

High school? Can i ask what do you have for compulsory reading over there? I would guess the ones you listed are not necessarily from the compulsory list (?), (though Metamorphosis was, for me). 

Those books were my own choice (and recommendations) except for the things we carried (summer asssignment). I’m in AP English, so our school year consists of multiple different readings every six weeks. 

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2 hours ago, unreasonable said:

My interpretation of the true meaning of the  Athenians' argument is not so much that the powerful and weak all act in their own interest, as that the powerful do what they will and the weak do what they must.

Agree. Power with self-restraint and morale is a Christian idea. The rare examples of 'mercy' from Antiquity were remembered because they were the exception, not the rule.

Back to topic, my last read was Jonathan Wilson's 'Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics'. Quite useful in these days 😁

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19 hours ago, CanadaOne said:

That's my reading of late. That and the Vermeer catalogue. Also picked up a second copy of "The Gulag Archipelago" this weekend for my friend's son who is in college.

 

 

 

Which Vermeer catalogue if I may ask?

I can recommend you the 1995 catalogue by Arthur K. Wheelock.

 

Oh and here is my Vermeer "collection". With the 1995 one on top.

 

 

Vermeer.jpg

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4 hours ago, unreasonable said:

While we westerners tend to congratulate ourselves on our tolerance, when Milo Yiannopoulos made the same argument recently, it did not end well for himEvery age has it's own taboos, be sure. 

 

Blimey, this forum has it all.

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I'm finishing up "Target Patton - the plot to assassinate General George S. Patton" by Robert K. Wilcox.

 

I'm re-reading "Nelson's Navy - The ships, men and organization 1793-1815" by Brian Lavery.

 

And I'm listening to "History of the Plymouth Settlement, 1608-1650" by William Bradford.

 

Before this I read a few books on the Soviet Invasion of Finland in 1939. 

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since i got insane long ago i dont enjoy reading or any other fiction for my delusions are much better and believable by me

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7 hours ago, unreasonable said:

Philosopher kings are intellectually dishonest tyrants: Plato is crystal clear about this in The Republic. They have to be because in Plato's view ordinary people are incapable of determining their own best interest, and also incapable of accepting that fact, so they have to be ruled by tyrants using propaganda to manipulate them into compliance. Tyrant, as I am using it here simply means unaccountable absolute ruler, not that their rule is capricious or evil. 

 

Plato is one of the greats because of the depth and clarity with which he treats his subjects, not because of his political recommendations, which are essentially Stalinist, or his other philosophical positions which all revolve around an untenable idealism.

 

Socrates' fate was much more complex than your caricature, which is almost the reverse of the truth. While he was a scapegoat, he was condemned by a citizen assembly of a direct democracy which had only recently escaped the Spartan imposed oligarchy of the Thirty Tyrants, with whom Socrates had some affinity.  He was not "framed", he was accused of impiety, essentially subversion of youth in this context, and what is more he admitted it!  But he demanded that he be rewarded not punished because it was for their and the city's own good.  Some frame up. 

 

"Why Socrates Died" by Robin Waterfield is worth a read.

 

You got game, brother. :drinks:

 

He was accused of impiety, yet he was a pious man. His final act before dying was to ask a friend to make a sacrifice to the gods on his behalf. That's hardly impiety.

 

Socrates improved the youth of Athens by making it clear that one should not accept the truths put forward by people in power, but should question those truths, even when dishonest fools in authority harm you for having spoken the truth, or make threats to make sure you never do it again. Socrates instilled this virtue in those around him, which the dishonest fools in authority saw as a direct challenge to their status. And find me a dishonest fool in authority who won't go red faced apoplectic when someone challenges the manufactured truths he wishes others to perceive. Socrates challenged, the fools (over)reacted, and hemlock ensued. The story is far more a tale human nature than of him specifically. I submit that he was framed, his accusers knew they were framing him, and the whole enterprise was simply to shut him up even if it meant killing him. That's why Plato was pissed at Athens; in his eyes, Athens killed the most honest man who ever lived. It's a story that has played out 1001 times since, in every culture and era. That is why the story survives and resonates - it is a representation of what people experience in real life even today.

 

For my part, I enjoy your posts, and I enjoy your ability to punch back with style.   

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Can I recommend " The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara, it's absolutely superb.  It's maybe not as profound as Plato or Socrates but well worth a couple of days of your time

 

 

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3 hours ago, Uufflakke said:

 

Which Vermeer catalogue if I may ask?

I can recommend you the 1995 catalogue by Arthur K. Wheelock.

 

Oh and here is my Vermeer "collection". With the 1995 one on top.

 

 

Vermeer.jpg

 

:biggrin:

 

Different Vermeer, my esteemed friend.

 

I wouldn't know art if you beat me over the head with it. My Vermeer catalogue is for tree stuff.

IMG_20180712_163703.jpg

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