Information, Answers & Reviews

Four Huts: Asian Writings on the Simple Life

Four HutsHow did people live long ago? What qualities were essential to the idea of home in classical China and Japan? Did people aspire to a simpler life even before the invention of engines, computers, and electricity? Finally, does a life lived simply promote happiness? This slim volume answers all of these questions.
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Catfish

Wow! This will most likely win an Oscar and probably be the best documentary film of 2011. And no, this is not a documentary about fishing. It's too difficult to describe it without giving away the ending. Even if I describe how it starts, you'll already be lead to think about what the conclusion will be. Read more »

Cleopatra: A Life

CleopatraForget what you know about Cleopatra - she was neither Egyptian, nor did she commit suicide with a live snake (though it remains a tenaciously romantic symbol) - and discover a much more complicated and interesting person. She was not the beauty as Elizabeth Taylor would make us believe, but was able to charm two of the most powerful men in history, and was lucky enough to bear sons by both. Stacy Schiff argues in this new remarkably readable biography, Cleopatra: A Life, that her death marked the end of an empire, the end of a dynasty and the end of ancient history. Read more »

National Book Critics Circle Awards 2010

Goon SquadThe National Book Critics Circle Awards was announced this week. This award is to promote the finest books published in English for the previous year. The winners include:

Fiction:
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Biography:
How To Live: Or, A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell
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We're No Angels

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We're No Angels possesses perhaps the dryest humor of any movie I've ever seen. The film stars Humphrey Bogart as Joseph, Aldo Ray as Albert and Peter Ustinov as Jules escaped criminals from Devil's Island prison and passing themselves off as convict workers until they escape from the island onto a passing ship. In an effort to hide themselves they work for an inept storekeeper and his family. For some unknown reason they take a shine to the family and help them through both their financial and personal problems. They are aided in their efforts by their companion Adolphe, a small Eastern Coral Snake kept as a pet by Albert. Read more »

Downton Abbey

The year is 1912 and news of the Titanic's sinking has reached the fictional English estate Downton Abbey, home of the Earl of Grantham and his family. Unfortunately, the closest male family heirs were on board the ship and are presumed perished. Downton Abbey follows the family from this point forward as they deal with inheritance issues as well as the trials of day to day life.

The Lottery

If you've been following the news I'm sure you are well aware of the state budget crises and the effect this is having on teachers and other public service employees. Adding to their woes are two new documentaries about public schools and education. I had a chance to see "The Lottery". Read more »

Animal Kingdom (2010)

There are several things that make Animal Kingdom a great crime drama. Have a list:

    1. Is there a better title for a movie about a crime family slowly tearing itself apart than Animal Kingdom? Truthfully? If you can think of any I would be very curious to hear them.

 

    1. Guy Pearce is still making movies! Just back in Australia! And surprise, surprise they're the best movies he's been in since Memento!

Me, Myself & Prague: An Unreliable Guide to Bohemia

PragueAt age 39, Australian Rachael Weiss takes a hard look at her life. On the plus side she's published one book; on the negative side, she works temp jobs, has no husband or significant other, and is just scrapping by. Though school counselors deemed Rachel the "gifted" one as a child, her younger sister is a very successful dentist who teaches fitness classes on the side. She's also raising a concert violinist and a miniature Beckham. Her brother achieved partnership in a law firm and has three beautiful, talented kids of his own. What's a gal to do? Rachel decides that a year hanging out in a Paris garret will help her pen the great Australian novel, plus find a handsome foreigner with high cheek bones. But alas, Paris does not fit her budget.
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Repackaging the Classics

Wuthering HeightsHow important is the cover of a book? Will romantic new covers and bonus quizzes like "Are you destined for a love like Catherine and Heathcliff's?" be enough to appeal to young adult readers? HarperTeen thinks so. They have recently rereleased several classic books including Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, and Romeo and Juliet with covers no doubt reminding teen girls of the Twilight series.
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