Raznor's Rants

Costarring Raznor's reality-based friends!

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Heroes and People

August posted on his blog sometime ago about a rather childish legal squabble between Ted Rall and Danny Hellman. The sheer idiocy of it, he conveys in his post, has shook him seeing as he looks up to these guys, as editorial caroonists whom he would like to one day call colleagues.

This shook and disillusioned me as well. I really don't know much of Danny Hellman's work, but I'm a great admirer of Ted Rall, and this lengthy law suit seems just foolish. This is a guy who's essays have had a great effect on me, who's comics I've always turned to when I needed a comedic spin on the crap of the world (along with Get Your War On, but those are less frequent). I still admire his work, and August does say he seems to be a decent guy, but still this foolishness seems unbecoming of someone who's profound impact on me comes through his intellegent, well-informed rhetoric.

But I guess it's another case of admiring someone for their work, not their personality.

It reminds me of my relationship to Gottlieb Frege.

Anyone who knows me, and I'm sure most of my readers do - and on a personal level (anyone who doesn't e-mail me and let me know) - will know that I strive to be a mathematician/professor at some point in my life. I wish only to research and teach math at some university or college or something, and maybe on the side be a starting pitcher for a major league ballclub. And logic is one of the most interesting fields for me, so Gottlieb Frege serves as a major influence to me.

Although Frege is mostly known for the way he exited the field of mathematics - Bertrand Russell sent him a problem he had, which later became known as Russell's Paradox, and unable to reconcile what this problem meant to his work, Frege simply quit his study - Frege was still a very strongly accomplished mathematician/philosopher. Russell sent Frege the problem in the first place because he was a great admirer of Frege's work, after all. Frege was the first person to offer a precise mathematical definition for a number, and his Foundations of Arithemetic provided the background needed for Russell's Principia Mathematica, that being among the most influential math text of the twentieth century. If ever in my career I publish something even half as profound as foundation as Foundations of Arithemetic, I'd be quite pleased.

But then, his diaries were published. Martin Davis writes, with hope and optimism, that seeing as Frege had been out of mathematics for more than twenty years when his published diaries were written, and near the end of his life, perhaps he had by then gone senile and insane. But it doesn't affect how disillusioning it is to learn that someone as brilliant as Frege was would write such hate-filled, nazi-sympathizing, nationalistic writing as was found in Frege's diaries. The amount of racist and anti-semetic comments are disgusting and, considering the source, quite frightening.

But what can we do with this? I cannot in my mind condone Frege's attitudes in his late life, even if they were, as Davis hopes, due more to senility than emotion. But nor can I simply reject Frege's work, and ignore his brilliance he so displayed. So I must reconcile these thoughts in my mind.

Once in high school, I was speaking with my drama teacher, Wayne Watkins, about Orson Welles. I mentioned that Welles was, by all accounts, a pretentious asshole. To which Wayne responded, "If your as brilliant as Orson Welles was, you're allowed to be an asshole." And I think that's a good attitude to take. It doesn't matter if I would have hated Orson Welles if I were to meet him, I can still, and should still enjoy his work for the brilliant pieces of film that they were. And that's the attitude one must take with anyone who's work has aspired them to dream. Keep aspiring, and keep wanting your work to be on the level of their work. But these people, the role models, are not you, and their personality, for good or ill, is not your own so shouldn't come into play as to how you admire them.

I guess if August is reading this, what I'd say to you is keep dreaming the dream, man. And e-mail me. For the love of God e-mail me. Some confirmation that my words are going to someone who doesn't know me personally would be nice.


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