Information, Answers & Reviews

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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Altered Books

Playing With BooksAmazon's blog Omnivoracious is a great read to keep up with not only what is happening at Amazon, but also generally in the publishing world, complete with reviews of reviews, author interviews, and other literary minded topics. Today's post was exceptionally astonishing and beautiful. Profiled is Chicago based artist, Brian Dettmer, who sculpts old books into amazing works of art. Check out both the blog entry and his website to see the images. I don't want to generally advocate cutting up books, but his end result is truly extraordinary.
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Judgment day: Intelligent design on trial

Yesterday I watched, "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial." This is a documentary about the Dover, Pennsylvania's public school system and its legal battle over whether or not to teach "Intelligent Design" alongside evolution. Of course there are two sides to every story, but one would not expect a small public school system to be in federal court on constitutional challenges to the first amendment.

On one side are the public school science teachers who prefer to only teach evolution in their classrooms because they believe that "Intelligent Design" is the same thing as biblical creationism. On the other side you have parents and a couple members of the school board who believe that evolution is a theory and that "intelligent Design" is just another alternative theory that should at least have some honorable mention.

Normally such matters would be resolved locally but this case makes it all the way to a federal courtroom to prove either that Intelligent Design is science, or that Intelligent Design is a cover for biblical creationism.

It's a tense documentary but a good one.

Atlas of Remote Islands

Atlas of Remote IslandsJust in time to get us dreaming of summer travel comes this quirky but lovely book about out-of-the-way places. Judith Schalansky grew up in East Germany when it was still situated behind the Iron Curtain. Forbidden to travel, she began a lifelong fascination with atlases and maps. The very names of these islands pull you in: Robinson Crusoe, Takuu, Possession Island, Lonely Island, Pagan, and Diego Garcia.

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March 2011 Books Plus Discussion

Let the Great World SpinThe seasons are turning again, and it's almost time for our 2011 One Book One Bloomington selection--Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin. Set in 1974, this National Book Award winner chronicles the day Philippe Petit tightroped across the space between the two World Trade Towers. In masterful prose, McCann chronicles how various strangers reacted to this event. It's a book about the interrelationships between the residents of a great city, and how one man's quest for adventure brings hope, fear, and wonder to the people standing below. Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times called it "one of the most electric, profound novels I have read in years."
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Just Kids

Just KidsOne of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs begins with the lines,"I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel/You were talking so brave and so free." Patti Smith's memoir of her coming-of-age with artist/photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is partially set in this hotel with its unique history and cast of characters.
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