Wednesday, July 29, 2009
N: If David Hume, of the Scottish Enlightenment, was to be my grandfather
of yore (he's not), would he be my great, great, great grandfather?
Exactly how many greats would be included?
K: He never married so, at least legally, he's no one's grandfather. A trick question.
In general ...
You can't answer this kind of question in the abstract since you don't know how long any particular generation is. If, for example, he had a child who had a child when he was 16 who had a child when he was 17 ....or he could have had children who didn't have children until they were 30.
If we assume a generation is twenty years AND Hume had a line of descendants -- starting in 1731 when he was twenty AND each following generation had a child at 20 that would make his descendants now something like the 13th generation.
N: How old was James Madison in 1731?
K: He wasn't born until 1751 so the answer is O -- although in some Asian countries one is considered a year old at birth. This is further complicated by the fact that in England (and England colonies) until 1751 the legal year began on March 25 -- due to differences between the Gregorian and Julian calendars.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I love books and I love movies. Though I sometimes love the book so much that I refuse to see the movie [see: Atonement by Ian McEwan], usually I will happily consume both versions. Below I’ve chosen just a handful of my favorite pairings, all particularly suitable for summer reading/viewing in my opinion. And, just to keep things fresh, I’ve thrown in a suggested beverage.
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
PS3553.U484 H68 1998
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Directed by Marleen Gorris
A re-telling of Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf’s groundbreaking stream of consciousness novel, The Hours follows three women during critical moments in their lives. The first lives in present-day New York, another in 1950s California, and the third is Virginia Woolf herself in 1920s England. Beautifully written their stories overlap and intersect in interesting ways. I loved this novel (I also loved Mrs. Dalloway) and found the characters so real and compelling that I was reluctant to see the movie for fear my own imaginings of the characters be tainted. However, I ended up enjoying the movie a great deal. It is visually appealing and the cast is superb (Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney, John C. Reilly, and Miranda Richardson) with Nicole Kidman playing Virginia Woolf. Ed Harris gives a very moving performance of a man dying of AIDS.
I would of course be remiss if I didn’t point out that Mrs. Dalloway and the movie version, uh, Mrs. Dalloway, are also available in the library. While you may have read Mrs. Dalloway in high school, it is definitely worth a second or third read, and I rather liked the movie version with Vanessa Redgrave as Clarissa Dalloway.
Suggested beverage: kir royale (recipe here: http://www.wineintro.com/champagne/cocktails/kirroyale.html)
The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
The Stepford Wives
Directed by Bryan Forbes
You know the story, right? Independent young woman moves with her family from New York City to the Connecticut suburbs only to discover the locals are being turned into automatons. I should say first off that I love me a good 1970s horror/suspense flick. And, I had further interest in this one as it takes place in the area my mom grew up. In fact, I had already accompanied my grandmother on more than one excursion to the Goodwives Shopping Center [I kid you not] in Darien, CT before I was old enough to see it. Still, it’s a good one. It’s sufficiently creepy and campy and Catherine Ross of The Graduate fame is delightful. It’s just right for a hot summer night.
I never would have read the book had someone whose taste I trusted not suggested it. It was written in 1972 by Ira Levin, author of Rosemary’s Baby and The Boys from Brazil (two other book/movie combos), and while it is true I wasn’t expecting too much, I found it surprisingly well-written, suspenseful and subversive.
PS Whatever you do, don’t watch the 2004 re-make of the movie with Nicole Kidman. Truly terrible.
Suggested beverage: martini (recipe here: http://cocktails.about.com/od/cocktailrecipes/r/mrtni.htm)
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Directed by Griffin Dunne
(shoot! I thought we had the movie!)
Practical Magic tells the story of Sally and Gillian Owens, orphans raised by their witchcraft-practicing aunts in a small Massachusetts town. Generations of Owens women have been rumored to cause trouble and be unlucky in love, and the saga continues with these sisters and Sally’s daughters. Alice Hoffman is best known for her American variety of magical realism and this novel doesn’t disappoint. She portrays love sickness in very real ways: a man in loves burns a diner counter with his elbow while another’s cuffs smoke and smolder. The imagery in this novel is beautiful and the characters and conversations are both quirky and convincing. I highly recommend it if you want to get lost for a few hundred pages.
This is one of those cases where the book and the movie are very different. While I liked the book more, the movie is quite enjoyable with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as convincing siblings, a beautiful setting, and a great soundtrack. Even better, the aunts are played by the magnificent Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest.
Suggested beverage: margarita (recipe here: http://cocktails.about.com/od/atozcocktailrecipes/r/marg_cktl.htm)
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
PQ7298.15 .S638 C6613
(Como Agua Para Chocolate) Like Water for Chocolate
Directed by Alfanso Arau
Another magical realist tale, this one tells a classic story of true love in turn-of-the -century Mexico. The protagonist cries so hard in utero while her mother chops onions that she brings on labor and is born in the kitchen, beginning a life entangled in food and cooking. The book is interspersed with recipes. The movie, while lacking recipes and not as charming as the book, is visually appealing, steamy and romantic.
Suggested beverage: Mexican hot chocolate (recipe here: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Beverage/HotChocolate.htm)
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
by Karl Bridges
A brief selection of my summer reading–ranging from technology to terrorism to, well, trash.
Malone, Michael S. (Michael Shawn), 1954- Infinite loop: how the world's most insanely great computer company went insane / Michael S. Malone. Location: Bailey/Howe Books (3rd Floor) HD9696.C64 A8657 1999
A brief history of Apple Computer and, incidentally, modern computing. Ever wonder why Macintosh, despite its brilliant marketing, has such a paltry share of the computing market? This explains it.
Green, Henry, 1905-1974. Pack my bag. Location: Bailey/Howe Books (3rd Floor) PR6013.R416 Z468 1952
A brief memoir of life in an English boarding school. Fifty years ago Henry Green was someone everyone read. Now no one has heard of him. Green was a brilliant modernist who combined a life as a writer with a second career as a manufacturer of brewing and distillery equipment. He wrote a whole series of novels – Blindness, Loving , Nothing – notable for their wonderful use of language. Highly recommended.
Phares, Walid, 1957- Future Jihad : terrorist strategies against America / Walid Phares. Location: Bailey/Howe Books (3rd Floor) HV6432 .P493 2005
Remember the war on Terror? This is a great one volume introduction to why we are where we are now with intelligent suggestions about what happens next. Points out that, because of our lack of understanding of language and culture we miss the point: There isn’t widespread disagreement in the Arab world that the West must be destroyed – just an argument over the means and timing.
I read this every day. One cannot understand western civilization and culture without having a good knowledge of this text. Without it most of English literature, at least until the late 19th century, will be largely not understood.
Anthony Trollope The Warden. PR5684 .W26 1859
The most perfect novel ever written in the English language. Period. Full stop.
McMorris, Jenny. The warden of English : the life of H.W. Fowler / Jenny McMorris. Published: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2001. PE64.F69 M36 2001
And speaking of periods. The life of the author of the classic book Modern English Usage. A fascinating look at a life in words. Nowadays no one cares much about spelling (or grammar) but once it mattered. This was the man who defined proper usage for several generations.
Matthew Reilly, Ice Station
Conspiracy, combat, mutants, and secret government projects – set in Antarctica. A high stakes, high action thriller. Lots of guns, explosions, and killing – and a deadly Marine named Scarecrow out to save the day. (and if you like it, this is the first of a series and arguably the best) Available at our local Barnes and Noble since we don’t have any of his novels. (cough, cough, hint, hint)
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Lucifer’s Hammer. PS3564.I9 L8 1983
By now this book seems somewhat dated. However, if one is able to overlook the more or less 1970s environment of the novel it’s a great read about what happens when a comet strikes the Earth and ends Life as We Know It.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I thought I'd follow up Sharon's excellent list of documentaries with a list of a few of my favorite narrative films within the library's collection. In order to avoid my legal responsibility, as a former film student, to list Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Casablanca in any top film list, the following is a completely random selection of five films that I enjoy...
The Third Man - 1949
While investigating the suspicious death of his childhood friend, an American pulp novelist becomes entangled in the seedy underworld of post-war Europe. The fact that this film was largely shot on location in the ruins of war-ravaged Vienna, gives it a haunting quality unique even among the best film noirs. Add to this Graham Greene's screenplay, Carol Reed's directing, and the acting of Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles, and you have as close to a perfect film as there is.
Barry Lyndon - 1975
Relates the sordid life of its title character, an 18th century rogue intent on ascending to the peak of 18th century European society by any means necessary. This is my personal favorite out of all of Stanley Kubrick's films. However, be forewarned that it is definitely a heavyweight, at a full 185 minutes long. So set aside an entire evening, and enjoy.
Brazil - 1985
Follows the life of a mid-level bureaucrat within an absurdly Orwellian society, as he becomes increasingly compromised by his search for a mysterious woman that haunts his dreams. There are actually two versions of this film available in our collection, as this film was famously taken away from its director, Terry Gilliam, and re-edited by the film's concerned financiers. I strongly recommend watching the director's cut.
The Prestige - 2006
Two rival late 19th century magicians, with a tragic personal connection, vie with each other to create the world's most astonishing illusion in an era when scientific innovation makes anything seem possible. This excellent film was the victim of unfortunate timing, as it came out virtually simultaneously with The Illusionist, which proved to be too much magic for the general public, and split these films' modest target audience in half.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - 2007
This is a film I recommend very cautiously, for the following reason. I really like westerns. Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn't make westerns anymore because apparently nobody else goes to see them. If by some miracle a western is released, I will happily sit in my seat devouring my popcorn long after the two other people in the theater have left in disgust. So, it is possible that my bias may have blinded me to the fact that this film is truly bad. With that being said, I consider this film a flawed masterpiece that inverts the clichés of its genre by examining the consequences of the celebrity status attained by western icons like Jesse James, as well as the glorification of violence often associated with their fame. I am unbiased enough to concede that the film's often rambling narrative should have been tightened up considerably, but I think it’s still well worth seeing. At the very least, please consider watching this film (or the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, Open Range, etc.) as an altruistic act, to help save the western genre from total extinction.