Archive for June, 2009

Bamboozling, the Sequel

Errol Morris posted a follow-up article to his original series today: “More Bamboozling”


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I first read about this over on Bookshelves of Doom earlier today, and then it was featured in the ALA newsletter thingy I get each Wednesday, so clearly I must mention it as well.

There’s a current production of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother at the Griffin Theatre in Chicago! *swoons*

Here’s some morgue shots, and here’s a review in Time Out Chicago.

I so want to see this!!! (Maybe it can tour and come to the Children’s Theatre?)

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I put this book on my request list because of all the chatter I had been hearing about it, both in blogs and in Twitter (and even a few things in Actual Physical Journals). And I have to say, I was not disappointed.

A treasured only child, Ai Ling is now of a marriageable age, although she’s not quite sure she wants to be betrothed just yet. Her parents were lucky enough to marry for love, so why can’t she? And after a few failed betrothal meetings, Ai Ling is more determined than ever to remain free. Then her father is unexpectedly recalled by the Emperor, and has to leave his wife and daughter behind. He expects to be back in three months, but does not return at all. Ai Ling’s life is further disrupted when a lecherous merchant wants to make her his fourth wife. Appalled and terrified, she decides to run away and rescue her father.

And that’s when things get really interesting! Ai Ling is joined on her quest by Chen Yong and his younger brother Li Rong, and together they battle monsters and demons as they journey on to the Emperor’s city.

Ai Ling is a feisty heroine, but I find her flaws to be most endearing: she is impetuous and impatient, and always sure she knows best; in other words, she’s just like any 17-year-old. She also loves to eat, which is nice, but given the mouth-watering descriptions of food in the book, it’s hardly a surprise. And my very favorite thing about Ai Ling is that she remains a flawed, believable, real person, even after all of this fantastical stuff happens in her life. Her main goal, which never waivers, is to rescue her father so that her family can be complete again. I really really like that.

Oh sure, she learns lessons, and grows, and develops feelings for a boy, but she’s still the same impetuous and impatient Ai Ling at the end of the story that she was at the beginning.

I hope to see another book some day about Ai Ling, as I really enjoyed my first excursion into Xia.

I absolutely love the cover:

And this is probably one of the best book trailers I’ve seen (and I’m not generally a fan of book trailers):

The contest I’m entering: silver phoenix set free, which has the following prizes:
1) an original framed brush painting plus a signed copy of the book or
2) a $100 gift card to a book store of your choice plus a signed copy of the book.

Source: review copy from publisher

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I Love Getting Mail

Today I got a package at work. It contained The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, which I won in a Twitter contest last week. It’s autographed, which I had forgotten about, and I’m excited to read it!

I also recently got Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins. She had sent this to me a long time ago, but through the mysteries of the postal service (and quite possibly a miscommunication at work) it only showed up on my desk last week. I’m looking forward to reading this as well.

I’ve bumped both of these to the top of my to-read pile. I just have to finish all the books I’ve already started, of course…

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Last week the New York Times ran a seven-part series by Errol Morris about the famous Vermeer forgeries that surfaced in the Netherlands before and during WWII. The series starts with art, and moves on from there; it’s really quite fascinating and engrossing.

“Bamboozling Ourselves” by Errol Morris:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

I read The Forger’s Spell when it came out last year, and really enjoyed it. It’s very well written, and you don’t have to have an artist’s understanding of how art works in order to enjoy it. The Man Who Made Vermeers is on my desk, waiting to be checked out, because I want to learn more about the case now that my interest has been re-engaged.

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Surinder Sahni is smitten with Taani as soon as he meets her. An unexpected tragedy strikes during her wedding celebrations, leaving Taani’s betrothed dead, and her father at death’s door after a massive heart attack. Her father begs Taani to marry his former student Surinder so he can die in peace, knowing she will be well looked after. Taani reluctantly agrees, but tells Surinder that while she will be a dutiful wife to him, she can never love again.

Surinder and Taani return to Amritsar, and begin their life together. Surinder tries to be the best possible husband to his adored Taani, but unsurprisingly, she is very unhappy. As time goes on, however, she manages to make the best of her new life. Then one day, she sees something that sparks her interest and brings back a shadow of her former self, and Surinder agrees to let her sign up for dance lessons in the hopes that she can be happy again.

Knowing that he falls hopelessly short of the filmi heroes she admires, Surinder decides to disguise himself (with some help from his best friend Bobby) and join the dance lessons as well. Confident in his brash new identity of Raj, Surinder feels free to tell Taani everything that is in his heart, especially since she does not realize that her annoying dance partner is really her uninspiring husband in disguise.

But when Taani starts to develop feelings for Raj, things get complicated.

Best Learning To Dance montage since “Footloose:”

It’s fluffy, it’s predictable, it’s a little bit trite, but the charm of the lead actors helps the movie to rise above its shortcomings. My one complaint is that the whole setup is very unfair to Taani, even if it stems from the very best of intentions.

NYT review (I had thought this review was more critical, but I can longer find the phantom review I sort of vaguely remember reading a few months ago…somewhere. Oh well.)

Official Site

Source: personal copy

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I am not what you would call a “math person.” I’m perfectly capable of doing math, and I made it all the way through (more or less successfully) to trigonometry in high school, so it’s not that I wasn’t “smart” enough. It just didn’t particularly interest or engage me.

And then there was pre-calculus, my own personal mathematical Waterloo, encountered at the very end of my junior year. It utterly and completely failed to penetrate my brain. I was rather spectacular in my failure, if I do say so myself.

However, we moved at the end of my junior year, and one of the very few redeeming factors at the high school I attended for my senior year was that I did not have to take math, as I had more than fulfilled their pathetic graduation requirements. So I didn’t.

I was only required to take one math class in college, and I chose to take Gateways to Mathematics, which is about as fluffy and liberal artsy and non-mathy as the course title may lead you to assume. This was our textbook, for the love of dog. (It’s actually quite a good book, and really does an excellent job of explaining mathematical concepts, but it’s not at all what you would expect a college-level math course to use as a textbook.)

For my final project in that class, I wrote a paper on Fermat’s Last Theorem. Yes, that’s right, I turned in essays for math class. Fermat’s Last Theorem states that no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation a^n + b^n = c^n for any integer value of n greater than two. It’s also a key plot point in the play “Arcadia” by Tom Stoppard, which I also mentioned in my essay.

The Folger Theatre in DC (part of the Folger Shakespeare Library) is currently staging a production of “Arcadia”, which has been extended through June 21. The math consultant for the production is author–and mathematics professor–Manil Suri. I really enjoyed The Death of Vishnu, although it’s been quite a while since I read it, and I own The Age of Shiva, although it’s still languishing in a TBR pile.

Here he explains about the math used in the play:

His full blog post about his experience (including the video, and lots of links) can be found here.

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