Law and Conversation

November 15, 2010

Read This! Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

Today’s Read This! recommendation features “Man’s Search For Meaning,” by psychotherapist Viktor Frankl.  A law professor I know characterized this book as “one of the best books on the planet,” and he’s right.

Frankl tells the story of his experiences as a concentration camp inmate in the Holocaust and then uses his story to make a convincing and beautiful argument that the strongest force driving people is the search for meaning and purpose in their lives.  It’s a book that merits reading and rereading. 

On Friday I posted about my plan to read Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” over the weekend.  Now that I’ve done so, I’d include it on any list of great Holocaust literature or list of seminal graphic novels.  It’s fascinating to see how the cartoons of people as mice, cats, pigs, and dogs (and one frog) work so well with the characters’ conversation to convey Spiegelman’s father’s harrowing story of the Holocaust as well as his son’s own story of how he came to draw and write the book.

Speaking of the Holocaust, there are wonderful YouTube videos of another concentration camp survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer, playing the piano at the age of 106 and telling the story of how music helped sustain her.

And speaking of graphic novels, last week I posted about another graphic novelist whose books I love, Lynda J. Barry.  Nathalie Atkinson at Canada’s National Post calls Barry a “happiness bomb!” in her article of November 12, “Everything is illuminated: Tagging along on Lynda Barry’s magical mystery tour of Toronto.”  Barry is in Chicago today, giving a talk at the Art Institute.

What stories have helped you find a deeper meaning in aspects of your life?

August 27, 2010

Thieves, plunderers, and musicians

The Chicago Tribune reports on a happy ending, with the aid of the newspaper’s Problem Solver column, for a violist whose prized instrument was stolen more than ten years ago.  As columnist Jon Yates wrote, Northwestern University law professor Robert Bennett recited blackletter law that a thief cannot convey good title to stolen property.

The old saw, “Possession is nine tenths of ownership,” can trump the law when it comes to repatriation of property stolen decades or centuries ago, as Colin Woodard shows in his article, “The War Over Plunder: Who Owns Art Stolen in War?” from The Quarterly Journal of Military History.  Many treasures are simply of unknown provenance, including many artifacts held by museums:  their origins and creators may be undisputed, but what happened after their creation and the paths they took to get to the museums where they now reside are often murky, if not impossible to ascertain.  One famous example of museum property whose rightful ownership is bitterly disputed is the Elgin Marbles, in the possession of the British Museum since the early 19th century.  You can read more about that controversy here, here, and here.

The stolen viola’s rightful owner spoke movingly in Yates’s article about what her instrument meant to her.  Two other books that illustrate why, to a musician, just any instrument won’t do are Vikram Seth’s “An Equal Music” and Perri Knize’s “Grand Obsession.”

June 4, 2009

Summer (well, almost) concerts

Filed under: Music — Helen Gunnarsson @ 1:21 pm
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More than ten years ago, my husband and I read a newspaper story about a 13-year-old kid playing piano professionally at a restaurant in Highwood, IL, on Chicago’s North Shore.  I play piano myself and was mightily impressed by the account of the boy’s holding down a regular gig as a professional musician at such a young age. 

A few years after that, my husband became friends with another lawyer in a Chicago law firm when they worked on a case together; they now have a standing racquetball or tennis date every weekend.  Small world—turns out the kid we read about years earlier is the lawyer’s son.  He’s Eric Stang and isn’t a kid anymore—he’s a very nice young man with a degree from DePaul University’s school of music and has his own band, the Eric Stang Band.  They’re playing tonight in downtown Highland Park, IL, from 7-9 PM in the Port Clinton plaza off Central Street, as part of HP’s summer concert series.  From the publicity flyer:  “Led by local song writer/keyboard/vocalist Eric Stang, this band has built a solid reputation for high-energy musical performances that combine rock, pop, jazz, and a little bit soul.” 

Having been treated to several of Eric’s informal performances as well as having seen Eric and his band in previous years, I can attest that they’re terrific and well worth the trip.  Check out Eric’s website at , which has booking information as well as a link to purchase Eric’s fine CD, “Red Line.”

April 26, 2009

A cappella singing

Filed under: Music — Helen Gunnarsson @ 3:51 pm
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Coming across this article in the Wall Street Journal reminded me how much I love a cappella singing, including medieval, barbershop, folk, spirituals, and other styles. Talisman A Cappella, a group from Stanford University, is probably my absolute favorite at the moment; check it out at . Readers, what are your favorites?

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